The magnitude of what my therapist is telling me is legitimately sobering, and I sit on the couch with my leg crossed over the other, and gravely nodding my head. Yet I have also privately amused myself because I have twisted her words to sound like “giving head” and “coming.” I’m a little immature — and I haven’t been with another man in a little bit over a year.
“What?” my therapist asks. She’s grinning now because I’ve started laughing out loud over my private amusement.
This actually happens quite often during therapy: suddenly, I’ll stare off into space, or I will spontaneously break out in little chuckles because of some random thought. As anyone with any awareness of popular psychology can already determine, this is not so much a defense mechanism as it is a way of dealing. My therapist describes it as “going away,” as in: when we talk bout something that hits deeply, something that brings up intense emotions that cannot be avoided and that we must instead sit with, that we must explore, it feels as if my mind, my whole being, is overwhelmed. And I look away, spacing out. Or laugh.
Now, I tell her what’s on my mind.
“I haven’t gotten laid in a while,” I say. “Sorry, what you said made me think about that.”
And then the admission: “I’m immature.”
I try to deliver this line with a bit of charm and comedy, and here I am envisioning myself as Samantha on Sex and the City, or one of the characters on Friends.
Now my shrink, too, laughs. But instead of talking about my lapse into misplaced humor, we get back to the original subject matter about the difference between therapy and giving advice. Her conclusion is true. I have been seeing my therapist for a number of years, for so long that I have begun to think of her as a friend (and in the multi-layered parlance of internet language, even my BFF), and that could not have been possible if all therapy were about were giving advice. What therapy is about is insight and the time it takes for the person going to therapy to reach that insight, which cannot be rushed, which is complex and has no schedule, no time frame.
Which was why I had my little misadventure with Scientology the other week.
We did not spend my session yesterday badmouthing Scientology; rather, we looked at what works for me and what doesn’t work for me… well, that’s a little bit of a lie. As my BFF, my shrink did willfully giggle with me about Scientology. I brought up this, and how weird was that, and while I was recounting those recent memories she would just stare at me, grinning, with wide eyes that kept her professional distance as she thought of me with what I could only assume was: You are one crazy son of a bitch.
One of the reasons why I wanted to try this Scientology thing is because I was momentarily seized by impatience. Here, by “momentarily,” I mean the last couple of weeks, in which my new job, despite the fact that I love it, has also been a source of stress. This stress has been added to a long list of ongoing issues, ongoing issues that have made therapy very useful and a constant in my life — except that I had a moment or, if you will, a mood swing. And in that mood swing, I suddenly wanted to veer radically from therapy and my Christian heritage.
Even though therapy isn’t about judgment, and my shrink is someone I know so well that she would never scold me, I still went into my session feeling contrite. I had even bowed my head and said, “I’m really sorry.”
I had canceled an appointment with her so that I could go take a Scientology course. On my voicemail to her, I had explained that it was simply a class that I couldn’t reschedule, mentioning nothing about Scientology, and my use of the word “class,” along with the urgent tone that I assigned to it, gave it the innocence of school. I made no indication that the class I was taking was really part of an organization that 70% of responders to a Vanity Fair poll described as “not a true religion.”
The first time that I was ever labeled a “searcher” was in college, by a fan of another blog that I kept, back in the old Diaryland days. I was in my early twenties then and I found the compliment flattering, validating. Now, it seems like a cliche, and despite the fact that in my heart I know that it is an accurate word to describe myself, still I blush whenever it is employed. To think myself a “searcher,” or a “starving artist” or — God forbid — a “writer” would dare to place me in the majestic company of Emily Dickinson, Jack London, and James Baldwin. No.
Being a searcher is an occupation that is unpaid, and dangerous. You get no compensation for your quest for self, and you are sometimes led into experiences that are very far from your realm of comfort — an undiscovered country that may have been necessary to chart, but that makes you go running back to the homeland that you suddenly realized you never wanted to leave, after all. That was how I felt about therapy and my Christian heritage (and the wonderful Presbyterian church of which I have been a member since the summer of 2011, though I have been proudly a Catholic my whole life). Suddenly, I realized the difference between what I was used to, and what was right for me — a conclusion that was central not only to my searching, my growth, but that also aligned with the very philosophy of therapy.
My shrink doesn’t leave any stone unturned. Before I know it, we are going back to my immature remarks and it is then that I find myself describing my recent foray into online dating.
“It’s not easy,” I confide. “I’m actively making myself start every day signing into my account, looking at my matches, and then writing e-mails. It’s like job hunting, almost. And no one’s written back yet.”
There is an upside that I explain to her like this: “By the time I’m finished writing all of those e-mails, I have to go to work. And I don’t have the energy to write letters to my imaginary boyfriend anymore.”
Well, of course I’m writing this, but as you can see it’s not addressed to him. Some of my last few blog posts have opened with either an image or a video, and with those posts I have intended to convey a new style of “postcards” to replace the never-to-be-sents that I used to write to Linc. Despite the context of the postcard format, I haven’t gone anywhere. I am still in San Francisco, still living my life, but this new style I am employing is meant to describe new destinations of emotions and experiences: postcards from the everyday.
I do have to admit that this morning I grew despondent over how I’ve sent so many e-mails, clicked the “wink” button on a few profiles, and still my own profile has received less than a handful of views and, even worse, my inbox remains empty — which is ironic, given that my heart seems perpetually full of turmoil both good and bad. While I wait for at least one Mr. Right to show up — no, I’m not really looking for The One, not right now, anyway; but I do have daydreams on going on a couple of dates and having to endure the merry stress of figuring out which guy I like best, heh heh — I am busying myself with observations of the culture of online dating.
If culture relates to the unique behaviors that distinguish groups of people from one another, then online dating is certainly a culture. For example, I’m fascinated by how men always incorporate into their profile some variation of the expression “takes care of his body.” This most recent foray into online dating is something that I am taking very seriously to the degree that, as I wrote, I have been diligently browsing all my matches and consistently sending out e-mails; yet I’ve done it before, in fact have been doing it for years. In all those years, that expression has always figured into every other profile, and I’ve always wondered what, exactly, it is supposed to mean. The literalness of it is evident enough, but what I mean to wonder about is whether the author is subtly trying to exclude, say, overweight people. If you happen to have a modest gut protruding from your shirt, then does that automatically mean that you have not taken care of yourself? What if your idea of zoning out is to go to a movie alone or immerse yourself in a book, all away from your partner — would that qualify as some kind of mental instability that means you are not taking care of yourself? What does “takes care of his body” really mean?
In moments like this, I wonder if a searcher can find love online, or anywhere.
Today’s do-or-die ballgame will be played while I am at work and on top of my normal work duties we are also hosting an event. (It has been a very busy October. We have had events nearly every night of the work week, and in these last few weeks it seems like every time I check my work e-mail, someone wants to kill me. When I confided this feeling to my boss, he admitted that he has also felt just as stressed, particularly about checking his e-mail. To know that someone as important as him felt the same way was a little bit of a relief, but it also made me sad for some reason, maybe because he’s such a nice guy and, also, that no one ever thinks that working in a bookstore can be so demanding. Yet it is. It is.) .
To tell you the truth, I want to ignore the play-by-play but it’s impossible to do when nearly all of your coworkers are also Giants fans and they keep the web browsers on all the computers tuned to GameDay. Work can be hard enough without worrying if the favorite baseball team that your imaginary boyfriend plays on is going to be eliminated from the pennant run.