Why am I easy to leave? My therapist says I am making assumptions. She tells me this with excitement as if the sheer act of telling me this will cause my assumptions to vanish. They don’t. Last week I sat with her and felt so depleted. It was as if my entire body wanted to cry and be wrung out. I resisted. I thought no, only a boyfriend can see me break open, only a man.
What am I hiding from the women in my life? My tenderness, my dependency? I sat with my therapist and talked about my assumptions and my fear of being left as I watched her watching me run my fingers through my hair. She seemed intrigued so I continued to do it, not the entire hour, but long enough so she thought she was seeing a nervousness, a habit, both new and involuntary.
Maybe it was related to my nerves, my desperate need not to cry, my want to take her eyes off my face. I realized how ugly I must look straining just to keep myself composed. The truth is that more than carelessness what I wish I had in that moment was the bravery to let myself go, to let my tears fall in ways both appalling and accurate.
I’ve always worried that my therapists don’t think I have problems. Like the one I saw in Brentwood, who had logs stacked up in the corner of the room and would light up a fire as soon as I arrived. The one who wore black tights and a miniskirt, the one whose office felt like a treehouse in the wild, in reach of the great LA sky.
I worried especially about her, that she thought I was functioning just because I was insightful. That she thought I was in love with my boyfriend just because she saw me kiss him goodbye.
Whereas, my apartment was just a space for me to cry and drown, a place where I tried to write about my twenties and all my various transitions.
I tried so hard to write about what I had lived through but always struggled to formulate even a few sentences. I was always way too exhausted. In retrospect, I think rubbing up against my feelings was just too painful for me. This explains why every time I sat at my desk my mind and body totally shutdown, what was happening was I was trying to protect myself from all the parts of myself and my life that I wasn’t ready to realize.
I wasn’t ready to be honest about what did and did not happen in all the cities I moved to. I wasn’t ready to see my relationships for what they were, to see my boyfriends as men I outgrew and stayed with, so helplessly clinging to. I wasn’t ready because the men in my life were, for years, what I counted on to change me. I made them promise things, promises they could never live up to.
I was always disappointed with them. But, who was I fooling? A city can’t make you happy. It’s nothing but buildings and land. It’s nothing but what you put into it. And the reality is neither can a man. I think I knew this, I was just too stubborn to be sensible. I feared singleness and solitude.
Because of this, I waited for the relief and rapture of a great life to come to me. I waited for years. I don’t recommend it. If you aren’t out there in the world, it’s easy to be forgotten. I eventually forgot how to be myself. What my therapist helped me realize about life is that there’s things that change and there’s things that don’t. My story has really been about the things that don’t. At least this was the story I became entangled in in my early to mid-twenties, the story of what I couldn’t get rid of, the parts of me that I couldn’t shake, that I couldn’t overcome.
The thing was that, while I was in LA trying to complete my MFA thesis, I was trying to write from the vantage point of being past that all, past the conflict. I was trying to position myself from the vantage point of having lived and survived, of having prevailed with streamers shooting out into the sky. What a mistake. I was trying to be somewhere I wasn’t, I was trying to rush my own emotional recovery, a process that really needed my effort were it to ever really change.
What I learned was you can’t write with insight you haven’t yet acquired, with insight you don’t yet deserve. This is obvious to me now, my obliviousness I mean. I can see it in a picture taken the day I graduated, the day I was reading to an auditorium a chapter from my thesis, the part where I overcome my battle with anorexia, where I talk about starving for something elusive and unspeakable. There I am in the picture, reading about an 80 pound body while I was only ten pounds more. Jesus.
There was no honesty in those pages, there was no commitment to excavating the pain and the purpose of it. I think that’s why it was so difficult to write or function away from my therapist’s treehouse in Brentwood. It was difficult, almost impossible, because I knew I was lying. I knew I was holding back. How could I write about bettering myself when I was still in such weak health? I couldn’t. No one could.
It’s a sad thing thinking about those years in graduate school, about coming with a story I wasn’t ready to write. I remember classmates and mentors telling me that, too. Telling me I just wasn’t ready to go there, telling me that I was writing myself into a circle. I hated them and maybe I believed them, too.
My goal now is to be ready, to be able to look back on my life and say that was then and this is now and now is greater. I am better. I am not broken-down over my keyboard but writing with a rewarding sense of clarity and hindsight. I want to read my story over again and, from the audience, I want someone to photograph me speaking into the mic, looking down at the pages of my life, at my story of recovery, and I want anyone who’s listening or who comes to see that photograph, I want them to be able to say, I believe her. Her life is no longer the same. She knows the effort it takes for a woman to get over herself.