Goodbye, Therapist. Hello, Zombie. Yeah, that’s right. I turn into a zombie after therapy. Can’t help myself. It’s so, well, kinda’ traumatic to be parading around in the psychological nude in front of a stranger. Talk about accelerated intimacy! But…it’s got to be done. So after each session I resign myself to thirty-six hours of being virtually a zombie.
This was the session I was dreading. The one to which I had to bring a childhood picture of myself. A kind schoolmate offered to scan pics of me from her yearbook collection. It’s all I’ve got.
Looking at my first-grade picture, my therapist kindly cooed over it. Holding it up he asked, “Was she a bad little girl?”. His question hearkened back to Therapy #7. Two weeks ago I’d shared that I felt shamed by my parents. “You were a sinner from birth,” I was told. Dad always spat out the word “sinner” with a snarl. Where others believe that good people may choose to do bad things, I was taught that bad people did bad things because they were bad. There was no distinction made between a bad person as compared to other flawed human beings VS a bad person as compared to God. It’s just one of the many reasons my self-esteem is, well, shit!
“No,” I replied, softly, “she wasn’t a bad girl, although she did stick paper down the heat vent once.”
“Oh no!” my therapist scoffed. “How did your parents ever cope with such a delinquent!?”
I had to laugh. It was just the first of the many times I laughed during this session.
“I’m such a workaholic!” I told him. “I don’t feel valuable or worthwhile unless I’m doing something of value. Writing. Pyrography. Housework. Whatever.”
Digging deeper, I realize that being forbidden freedom for so long is part of the root of my workaholism. “They said they were protecting me from the bad world. But how could I not assume it was something about me. While other twenty-somethings ‘deserved’ to be granted freedom…I didn’t. It wreaked havoc with my self-esteem. So I worked to prove myself. To compensate. I’m still wildly over-compensating.”
Monkey See, Monkey Do
“Life feels like something I have to conquer,” I continued. “A destination. Something I have to prove. But I’d rather feel that life is a journey and enjoy it.”
“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’?” my therapist asked.
It seems that we tend to do what we’ve been taught, modeled and shown by our parents. And vice versa. And come to think of it, that’s very true in my life. No one ever seemed to have any dreams for the future. No real goals. Hardly any hobbies. Just work, work, work. The idea was to keep your head down, indulge every kind of paranoia to keep anything bad from happening, hoping to get through life unscathed.
That’s. Not. Living.
I want to live!
Dear Younger Self…
What I love about therapy is how it gives me different viewpoints on life that capture my imagination. Therapy #8 was no exception.
My therapist pointed out that, given an average lifespan of eighty years, I’ve already lived half my life. What a shock! My life has just begun! That’s how I feel. There’s so much more to do. More experiences to have. And, most importantly, more places to visit. Oh the gypsy life for me!
“If you were eighty and were writing a letter of advice to your thirty-six year old self,” my therapist said, “what advice would she give?”
I dunno. That takes some thought.
“What would the thirty-six year old you tell that little six-year-old in the picture?” he smiled.
He doesn’t call me a smart-ass for nothing.
Just a Vacuuming Fiend
Finally we get down to brass tacks.
Workaholism + OCD = Not a Happy Camper!
“My house is driving me crazy!” I cry. My 2006 condo in the city stayed perpetually clean. But I sold it. Now, my tiny, over-crowded 1912 cottage in the country on a dirt road with two adults and two dogs rushing in and out. Not. So. Much.
And it’s driving me (and my OCD) crazy! The thought of having company sends me into a furious frenzy as I overtax myself cleaning things no one will ever notice. What will people think of me!?! I’m literally in tears.
“Screw ’em,” my therapist says succinctly.
That makes me giggle. I like it.
Then he points out something fascinating: I’m Projecting. It seems it’s not just a narcissist’s favorite trick. I do it too.
In fact, I’ve been projecting my anxiety about having the perfect house onto everyone. My husband, Michael. Friends. The guy who services my husband’s medical equipment.
The truth is they don’t give a shit about my house. It may be cleaner than most of the houses they visit. I’m the only one freaked out about it…and projecting my anxiety onto them.
That thought took my breath away. It was a whole new way of looking at projection.
Without going all Sheldon Cooper-ish on your ass entropy basically says that everything runs down. Left to itself, things become more and more disordered.
I’ve noticed it. My best friend and I have long commiserations about it. We don’t have to do anything. Just sit still…and our houses fall to pieces around our ears. (Personally, I think it has something to do with husbands. Mine is something of a packrat. And her husband absent-mindedly wanders around the house shedding layers of clothes like an onion. I’ve watched him do it!)
“Everything goes to shit,” my therapist monologues. “Left alone, things go to shit. If you don’t take care of your body, it goes to shit. If you do take care of your body, it goes to shit a little more slowly. It’s called entropy.”
It’s a fascinating concept. Liberating. No eighty-year-old lay on their deathbed whispering, “Oh, if I’d only vacuumed the carpet a few more times.” No! They’re ruing the places they didn’t go, the experiences they didn’t have and the songs they haven’t heard.
I don’t want those regrets! So I’m working on embracing entropy. After all, who am I to fight the Laws of Nature?
On the way out the door, my therapist says, “Tell Michael that the meaning of life is 42.” LOL!