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.
* * *
I’m discouraged. Depressed, maybe.
Tell me anyway. Part of the therapy.
Well, I’m really tired. That heat wore away at me like sandpaper.
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.
The house is a mess.
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.
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.
Your marriage works. Your kids love you. You’re a pretty good therapist.
You help most of the people who come to you.
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.
It’s important. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
You and your quotes. Who said that?
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.
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.)