She realized she’d been jiggling her foot. She had no idea how long she’d been jiggling it. But there it was. Gyrating in front of her, a pogo stick at the end of her ankle sitting at an odd angle on her other knee. Despite seeing it, despite realizing she should stop, it continued. It took a forceable effort to slow it, then stop it, then shift her leg up and off her other knee, lowering the restless foot to the ground.
“Are you uncomfortable?” the therapist finally asked.
“No,” she answered, realizing it was a bit of a lie, but not entirely. She wasn’t uncomfortable in the office, or with the therapist, so no was a perfectly honest answer. She was, however, uncomfortable in her body, in her being, and so no was not entirely accurate.
“You aren’t usually silent,” the therapist observed, “is there something troubling you tat hasn’t been put into words yet?”
“That’s a good way to say it, I suppose,” she responded, tilting her head a bit to the right as she thought about the words to use. “I’m having a hard time,” she finally said.
There was another silence. She knew the therapist didn’t like to fill these silences, preferred that she speak or use the silence to work through whatever she needed to. She was a bit surprised the therapist had broken the last one, but then again, there weren’t usually silences for long and certainly not for nearly half the session, which is where they were at.
“I’m having a hard time being,” she clarified.
When it became clear she wasn’t going to say more than that the therapist asked for clarification, “being…?”
“Being. Just being. Existing has become difficult,” she said.
“What has changed to make it difficult?”
“Nothing. Nothing that I can think of anyway. I’m pretty sure everything is exactly the same as last week,” she looked down at her hands in her lap, they were fingers holding fingers, her fingers, hanging on to one another. She laid her hands flat and wiped them along her thighs. “It hasn’t just become difficult, it’s always been difficult,” she said, emphasizing ‘been’ by picking up her hands and pushing them together and outwards, like an offering.
“If it’s always been difficult why did you originally say it’s ‘become difficult’?”
She sighed, loudly, somewhat exasperated at the use of her own words being turned around and offered up as proof that she didn’t know what she was talking about. “Okay, fine. It has become more difficult,” she said, emphasizing the ‘more’ by drawing out the o and making it sound like a multi-syllabic word. She lapsed into silence again, this time crossing her arms over her chest, an unintentional protection of her heart.
“I see. Sometimes we choose words with our subconscious. Are you feeling threatened by me?” asked the therapist in the same flat tone.
“Threatened? No. Should I be?” she asked, somewhat surprised by a question that wasn’t a twist of what she’d said.
“Sometimes our body language communicates for our subconscious. I see that you’ve changed positions from one in which you were open and receptive to conversation to a closed-off and protective position. It made me wonder if you are feeling threatened by me,” explained the therapist.
Realizing her error, a second time in one sitting in which her body was giving her away, she quickly put her arms back down, hands in her lap.
“I get the sense that you have something you need to tell me but that you’re unable or unwilling to do so,” said the therapist.
She shrugged her left shoulder, “days like today I come here and I have no idea what I’m going to fill the hour with and I think maybe it’s time to stop coming,” she said, surprised at her own honesty, surprised that she’d been thinking that. Her foot came back up to her rest on her knee without her notice.
“People often get to a point where they don’t feel they need therapy any longer. That’s wonderful. It usually comes after they’ve gained some insight into why they decided to start therapy in the first place. Do you feel you’ve gained insight into why you started coming to see me?” asked the therapist calmly, no twitch in facial expression at the bomb being dropped, no change in tone.
“I honestly don’t remember why I started coming. And I feel like I leave every week not having gotten anywhere and wondering why I keep coming back. But today,” she took a deep breath, “today I just feel like we’re wasting each others time.” She noticed her foot was jiggling again, but didn’t try to stop it.
“Wasting each others time? You think I am wasting your time and you are wasting mine. You are paying me for my time, so there’s no waste to my time. Can you tell me how I am wasting your time?” asked the therapist, still calm, betraying nothing at the thought of losing a client.
“I came here for answers. It’s been, what? Six months? Six months and no answers. Nothing is different today than it was when I came in six months ago,” she realized she’d started crying and was surprised. She hadn’t cried in at least a year, not at a movie or a book, not at any of the horrible atrocities being committed everywhere on a daily basis. She touched a hand to her cheek and looked at the water on her fingers. Crying. Huh.
“Can you review for me the questions?” asked the therapist.
Like my very own fucking Yoda, she thought before saying, “why do I keep meeting the same horrible guys? Why do I keep dating the same horrible guys? Why do I keep falling in love with the same horrible guys? And why do the same horrible guys keep breaking my heart?”
“Yes, when you first came in you mentioned you had a habit of picking the wrong partners. I didn’t realize until right now that you felt that was the most pressing issue or the issue we’ve been working on all this time,” said the therapist. “We’ve discussed many issues, none of which have seemed to trouble you more than others. Can you tell me why this issue of partners is deemed the reason you started coming to therapy?”
“Nobody wants to be alone forever, doc. Nobody. I love having time to myself but that’s different than being completely alone. And it turns out I’m either dating the wrong guy or I’m alone. I don’t want to be alone forever, and I don’t want to keep dating the wrong guy. I can’t keep living like this,” she said, running her right hand through her hair and then slapping it down over her ankle.
“I agree. Why is the issue of your partner more important today than the issue we discussed last week of your self proclaimed ‘go nowhere job’?”
“Because I can always change jobs. If I really want to do something else, I can just apply and get a different job. But with guys, I can’t just apply for a new boyfriend after reading about him online.”
“Isn’t that exactly what online dating is?” asked the therapist.
“I mean, kind of, I guess….”
“So you can meet a new partner online and you can change your job online. Why is the partner issue more important this week than the issue we discussed a few weeks ago, your lack of motivation in the evenings and on weekends?”
“Because if I had a job I didn’t hate I’d have more energy after work and if I had a boyfriend I liked I’d be going out with him on the weekends,” she said.
“I see. So you came to therapy to find a better boyfriend and a better job?”
“Not exactly, I mean, yes, in the long run, yes,” she stammered, “I need to figure out why I keep committing to people and things that make me unhappy. But I’ve been coming in here for six months and I still don’t know why I do that,” she said, sitting forward, putting both feet on the floor, and opening her eyes wide as she realized she’d gotten closer to why she was there, why she was really there.
“I do believe that may be the core question,” said the therapist with a small smile, a very slight facial betrayal of what was an otherwise emotionless facade.
“That’s my ‘pattern,’ right?” she asked, “they always say you have to see your pattern to fix it, and this is mine, right?”
“I suppose you could call it that. I like to think of it more as the things and or the people we hide behind when we’re too afraid to know the truth.”
“So everything we’ve been talking about is connected? My job, the guys, the lethargy? It’s all the same thing? It’s all stuff I’m hiding behind so I don’t face the truth? The truth of what?” she asked, leaning forward eagerly.
“That’s what we need to discover,” said the therapist.
“You mean you don’t know?” she asked incredulously. “I thought that was your job? I thought I tell you all this stuff and you tell me what my problem is and I fix it?”
“My job is to help you discover what your problems are. My job is to help you discover what the fixes are. I can’t tell you these things, you wouldn’t believe me. My job is to help you see them for yourself. Your job is to see them and not run away from them.”
She sat quietly for a minute, thinking about this new revelation. She wasn’t making progress because she wasn’t willing to see the problems. She thought she was talking about the problems but really she was just babbling on and on about symptoms. What she needed to do was see the disease itself. Stop treating the symptoms like individual ailments that required medication. So what did all her symptoms boil down to?
“Why don’t I want to see, even though I am coming to therapy for exactly that reason?” she asked.
“If we can discover the answer to that question, you will have answers to all the rest.”
~~~That’s one hour~~~