Bert’s therapy

Finally the heat broke, so I went out for a walk. 

It was the sort of day that reminds you of summers in childhood, of how life felt without the permanently clenched fist in your midsection.  Lawns bright with sunlight.  A solid blue sky you want to swim in.  Breeze like a kiss.

So I’m walking along, enjoying all this, listening to the Corrs through my earphones, and I feel a tap on my shoulder. 

Bert sidles up next to me.

I need some therapy, he mutters.

I sigh.  For just one hour I’d have liked to have skip the whole neurotic thing.

But your monkey’s your monkey.

“Sure,” I tell him.  “Walk along with me,” and I pull out my earphones. 

* * *

What’s up?

I’m discouraged.  Depressed, maybe. 

How come?

You know.

Tell me anyway.  Part of the therapy.

Well, I’m really tired.  That heat wore away at me like sandpaper. 

I know.

And I’m sick to death of this insurance audit.  What’s it now, six months?      

Something like that. 

I’m sick of not having money.  Or a vacation.  It really hurt to skip Vermont again this year.

I know.  For a day or so I thought you might lose it.

Me too.

What else.

The house is a mess.

As usual.

Still bothers me.

I know.  What else.

The block’s back.

Yeah, I noticed.   What’s up with that? 

I got discouraged by the lack of comments.


What’s that mean?

Nothing.  I’m listening.   Go on.   Is there more?



I’m sixty.  (Sighs.) 

Yes, we are.

Sixty fucking years old.

I know.

Thought it’d be easier by now.

I hear you.  I feel you, as the kids say. 

So.  What would you tell a client like me?

Good question.  Let me think.

You get people like me?

All the time. 

So what do you tell them?

Well, first I guess I try to reframe things.  Help them see what they’re not seeing.

And what am I not seeing?

How lucky you are.

Excuse me?

Your marriage works.  Your kids love you.  You’re a pretty good therapist. 

Am I?

You help most of the people who come to you.  

I guess.

You like what you do for a living.  You own your own home.  You’re not sick, or crippled, or divorced, or in Afghanistan.


You worry about money, but your bills get paid. 


Right.  The house embarrasses you, but it’s your house.  Remember what renting was like? 


And you have options.  Writing is still an option.  You’re a step closer to writing for money than you’ve ever been.    And you managed to start Monkeytraps in the face of all this other crap.

That’s true too.  So why don’t I feel better?

Oh, that’s easy.  You’re tired.

That’s it?

It’s important.   “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

You and your quotes.  Who said that?

Vince Lombardi. 

So what do I do?


How?  I have work to do.

Find a way.

That’s what you’d tell a client?

Pretty much, yes. 

Sounds too simple.

Simple, yes.  Easy, no.  For one thing, it takes courage.   You’d have to give up controlling all the crap you just mentioned.


You’d have to let go of the bills and the practice and the house and the blog.  In your head, I mean.  And have faith that the sky won’t cave in.   

(More silence.)

And you’d have to act like you deserve a rest.  Which you’re not at all sure that you do. 

No, I’m not. 

I know you’re not.  Do it anyway.

How can I?

No choice.  You have to save yourself.  If you don’t, who will? 


Too late to get parented.  It’s all your job now.

(He frowns.  I wait.  He scratches his head.  I wait some more.  Now his eyes open.  He looks at me.)

Hey.  I know why I hate this.


It’s an AFGO.

Yes, it is.

Another fucking growth opportunity.


I hate them.

Yeah.  Me too.  Anything else?    

(He squints at me, like he suspects a trick question.  Shakes his head.  Leaves.)

(I put on my earphones, turn up the Corrs, and resume trying to swim up into the solid blue sky.)

8 responses to “Bert’s therapy

  • chuck p

    At first, i thought ” I cannot comment because I have economic security” and perspective is what we are really about. Then I remembered that I have no good health security as a serous diagnosis at anytime, can seem to change things fast. Feeling poorly is what we all face at times and no amount of control activity can eliminate such times. But it is alive to recognize these times as a temporary condition, even though it may seem like permanent. That is the possibility we forget and perhaps others can remind us of. In community there is a broader consciousness which can bring a more balanced perspective.

  • Sue B

    I’ve known you for I think 8+ years. Anyway one thing you said a long time ago and it really saved me in more ways and times than I can count is, “have faith that everything will work out the way it’s suppose too”. You know what? It did,it has and all I can say is Thank You!!!!
    Oh yeah, I turned 50 this year, that sucks so “I feel you”.
    Take a vaca sounds like you REALLY need it! If not for you then do it for Bert!!!

  • marsha

    Wow, I am so fucking healthy..and lucky..and happy!
    Okay, not always happy…but always aware of how lucky I am.

  • Twitch

    I love your blog!

  • Kim

    So, growing up is hard on everyone, huh? I’m getting there, Steve! 40 is a going to be MY year! You’re an inspiration and a blessing to my life… Thank you…

  • Susan P.

    Wow. This could have been me talking to my inner monkey. It’s funny. In one day I got too blogs, both of which dealt with the need to and the difficulty of just resting. Why is this so hard?? My body is screaming for me to just go sit down or something. Give it all a rest. But instead I have this dumb Energizer Bunny marching around in my head – keep going, keep moving, no time to waste, so much to do. So even now in my life, when I don’t have a full-time job even, when my kids are grown (never mind the grandkids – that’s another story), this push to stay busy and to ignore the need to rest continues. I was amazed when a dear friend said that she actually LIKES being tired!! Can you imagine? She feels tired, and she takes a nap. Imagine that! When I feel tired, worn out with all my worries, I feel inadequate.
    Thinking out loud here, but I guess what I really want to say is that I appreciate your candor and willingness to be vulnerable on the page so that we all can learn right along with you, Steve. I love your blog, too, and I missed it last week. I even missed Bert. You know, he’s not so bad once you get to know him, and anyway, he’s just the insecure kid in us, don’t you think? I love the part when you tell Bert that he has to parent himself. I’m trying to do that, and when I succeed, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. FREEDOM!!!!! So thank you, Steve, and Bert, for letting us in on this important conversation. Still I am learning. I think Michaelangelo said that, Bert.

  • Kelley

    Good Morning Steve,
    It’s been awhile since I’ve had the time to sit and really enjoy your blog. Today I had the chance. I always love to read what you have to say (in your own unique way). You make me LAUGH and cry!!! I think you are the bravest person I know!!!! To be able to share what you are feeling “real stuff” the kind of STUFF we all have. You and Bert are quite the team!!!!

  • The illusion of control « Monkeytraps

    […]  About the other day.  After we talked I felt better. […]

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