Friday, August 7, 2015
It’s approaching 10:30 on a sunny, sticky New York City morning. I’m in an Über on my way to meet my mom. I’m running late. She’s running late, too. We’re about to get hypnotized—together.
I wait a minute or two outside of the hypnotherapist’s office until mom arrives. I’m antsy—I didn’t think I was nervous before, but my hands have started to sweat. I’m pacing. I see my mom. She looks pissed.
“The damn subway was delayed so I had to take a cab. And then the damn driver took the most roundabout route. Sorry I’m late. Jesus, it’s hot out, isn’t it?”
I laugh. It’s funny how similar we are—always late. Always overheated. Always anxious because we’re late and overheated. And always pissed at the world for our always-late, always-overheated anxiety.
“It’s okay, I just got here. Are you ready? I’m sure it’s nice and cool inside.”
It’s nice and cool inside—thank god.
I talked to Isa, the hypnotherapist, yesterday to confirm our appointment. I expect her demeanor will match her voice—calm, velvety, light. Relaxing. Hypnotic, maybe—whatever the hell that means. My ears perk as I hear a pair of clogs quietly march down the hallway into the waiting room—it’s Isa. She has short, shiny black hair and pale, youthful skin. She’s a little older than I expected—in her late thirties, she says. She’s wearing dark, cuffed jeans, a flowy navy top, and a long silver necklace. I dig her look.
“Tatiana? You’re late!”
She seems a little peeved for a hypnotist.
“Oh, yeah, sorry…there was traffic.”
“That’s alright. And you’re mom, I assume?”
She holds out a manicured hand, offering my mom a strong handshake. My mom pinches me as Isa ushers us into her office.
“Isa Weinstein, huh? Good—if this is gonna work, we’re gonna need a nice, tough Jewish girl to tell us we’re both crazy,” she whispers, shooting me a sharp smile.
“Mooom! You can’t say that.”
Isa’s office is small and dimly bright. There’s a sheer lavender curtain on the window that filters the light nicely so that we’re not assaulted by the 90-degree rays. It’s cool, but not cold. It smells like acupuncture and bullshit. I like it.
I take the wooden chair so my mom can have the big, squishy black one. She appreciates that. We’re off to a good start.
“So…what brings you here today, ladies? It’s been a while since I met with a mother-daughter duo,” Isa says excitedly.
I hesitate for a second.
“We’re here to save our relationship.”
I must admit, I feel a little ridiculous…you know, sitting in front of a hypnotist, asking her to “save” my relationship with my mom. But not so ridiculous that I forget why we’re here. We need help.
My mom lets out a sarcastic chuckle as she not-so-subtly rolls her eyes. She’s cornered the market on not-so-subtle eye-rolling.
“Oh, Tati, don’t be so dramatic.”
She redirects her attention to Isa.
“Our relationship doesn’t need ‘saving’—she’s a little theatrica—”
I cut her off. I’m annoyed.
“Are you kidding me? Yes, it does. It’s better than it was a few weeks ago, but it does. Remember when you told me you were going to kick me out of the house and stop paying for college? Yeah, that was barely a month ago. And you said it several times.”
I’m happy to divulge her false ultimatums, like a bratty kid who just learned about “Child Services” and threatens to call them the next time she’s served broccoli. (I hate broccoli.)
Anticipating my mom’s annoyed response, Isa interjects.
“That’s a serious statement. Can I get a little context, mom?”
“She’s making it sound worse than it is. I said that when I was angry. She knows I didn’t really mean it.”
I can feel my blood heating up. I’m getting ready for battle. My mom continues to speak as I plot my retort.
“She works for this online magazine called Thought Catalog, and she’s published some really upsetting stuff. I don’t know—you have to read it. I’m no prude, but reading about ‘big elephant dicks’ under my daughter’s byline is just too much for me. It’s just really upsetting.”
Blood is getting hotter. She’s doing what she always does—reducing everything I write to a single (satirical) blurb. It’s not fair.
I turn to Isa.
“I tell stories about what I’m passionate about—gender and race, mostly. And, yes, I use plenty of curse words and I write about sex—but I’m 21 now, and I’m proud of everything I write. This is what I want to do.”
I’m in the right. I feel self-satisfied.
“But you live under my roof and go to school on my dime. You know I think you’re brilliant. She really is,” my mom assures Isa, hand over her heart, “and I’m proud of you. So proud. But I just can’t stand it when you make yourself sound so angry. And slutty.”
Blood has reached a rolling boil. She knows I don’t take well to “slut” as a pejorative.
“Here we go! I am angry. And maybe I am a slut.”
I cross my arms and look at the ground in a shy act of defiance. I can feel her staring at me.
“Tati, don’t say that. She’s not a slut.”
I not-so-subtly roll my eyes.
Isa puts her clipboard aside and folds her hands in her lap.
“Okay, you’ve told me a lot already. Let’s breathe. I’m really impressed you went out of your way to schedule this appointment, Tatiana, and mom, I think it’s really cool you agreed to come. Most people are too weirded out by all this to take the plunge—but I’m happy you’re here, and I want to help you.”
Despite Isa’s noble attempts to diffuse the situation, my mom and I spend the next hour or so loudly rehashing the same fight we’ve had almost every day since June 1st: she thinks I’m endangering my professional future by writing about vaginas and such, and I thunderously remind her that I don’t want to work on Wall Street, and HBO (et cetera) probably won’t be too offended by the occasional “big elephant dick.” And neither of us know how to be peaceful or apologize. And both of us are deft grudge-holders. And both of us aren’t trying hard enough. And if we don’t start trying soon, yes, our relationship will take a steep, fast dive into the shitter. For good. As Isa points out several times, we’re being too loud. Way too loud for a “wellness center”—Christ, someone’s trying to enjoy a massage in the next room. But we can’t help it—we’re too loud. It’s kind of our thing.
“Alright, you two. Take a deep breath.”
“Let’s pause for moment. I hear you—both of you. And I want to say that you’re both right. That may sound funny, but it’s true. You’re both totally right. As an outsider, it’s easy for me to say that and mean it. Mom, you love your daughter, and you’re worried for her—she’s putting some racy stuff on the internet, and that’s scary for you. You don’t understand it, and you don’t know how it might hurt her. And that’s okay—that’s right. What you also don’t understand, though, is that Tatiana is in that critical 20-something stage in her life where, as a creative person, what she does is who she is. So when you disagree with her work, she feels like you’re disagreeing with who she is, see? And that’s very hard. Is that right, Tatiana?”
I’m relieved. And very grateful. She is right—that’s precisely the sentiment I haven’t been able to articulate for the past two months. And that’s precisely why my blood boils so damn fast when my mom attacks what I do; it’s not that I want her to agree with every word I publish—she’s entitled to her opinions, of course, and I don’t expect her to laugh at every dick joke I make for tens of thousands of people to read. But when she loses it, I feel like she’s disappointed in who I am—and that breaks me.
My mom looks at me with soft eyes.
“Baby, I love who you are. I love that you’re so passionate. It’s not that—”
I interrupt her.
“I love you, too.”
“Glad we got that cleared up.”
With 20 minutes of our 90-minute session to spare, Isa asks us if we’re ready for “some hypnosis.” I think we both forgot about that part.
She asks us to close our eyes.
I’m determined to get hypnotized—I’m susceptible to this kind of stuff. I get relationship advice from my horoscope and stop for psychics who “feel my aura,” you feel me? But then Isa reminds me I have no fucking clue what hypnosis actually entails.
“I’m not going to swing a pendulum in front of you. That only happens in Scooby-Doo. You might not feel anything. You might feel everything. What’s important to know is that the next 20 minutes are yours, and whatever happens during those 20 minutes is just fine. No one expects anything from you, and you don’t need to expect anything from yourself. Just hear me, and listen to what you want to listen to—if you drift off, that’s just fine. Just hear me, and let yourself go wherever feels good.”
Her voice is delightful. It sounds like tulips and kiwi or something—delicate and sweet, but not too sweet. I guess you don’t really start a career as a hypnotherapist with a shitty voice. I relax into my seat.
“And let my words wash over you.”
I feel my feet sink deep into the floor as she tells us to make or limbs heavy—to release the tension in our bodies. I feel this deep, silent energy move through me, following her voice—from my toes up to my head. I’m here. I wonder if my mom is here, too.
“I’m going to say a sentence. When I say this sentence, I want you to repeat it silently to yourself, as many times as you’d like, till you’re finished. When you’re finished, raise an index finger. Nod that you understand.”
I’m guessing we both nodded.
“My neck is letting go of my head.”
My head feels like it’s floating. I could move my body if I wanted to—but I really, really don’t want to. I’m not sleepy. I’m alert. But everything feels heavy. Heavier than heavy—like my body’s grown into the floor. It’s weird. I like it.
At first, I feel disconnected from my mom. I can sense her taking her time to finish the exercises as I rush through them. I want my thoughts to slow, like hers. Our breathing is out of sync. I breathe, then she breathes on top of my breath. It’s choppy—not melodic. Not relaxed like my body.
But as we follow Isa’s voice, I stop listening for my mom’s breath. I start to feel it, instead—I start to feel her breathing. We’re sitting a few feet apart, but I can feel her breathing. Like I’m in the womb or something. It’s weird. I feel very connected to her. I love it.
I can’t tell you much more about these 20 minutes—really, I feel like I’m in a dream state. I feel long and deep—like an earthquake wouldn’t move me much. And as Isa counts us “into consciousness,” I feel specific memories of those 20 minutes sprint out of my mental archives—I’m not interested in retaining the details. I’m interested in how I feel. And how I feel is good. Calm. Really calm. Like, Canyon Ranch on Klonopin calm.
After we “wake up,” Isa says something cool. Something I felt during these 20 minutes.
“That was beautiful. You started off disjointed—your breathing and your pace weren’t harmonized at all. By the end though, you’d started breathing like a wave—Tatiana, your breath would turn into hers. And then hers would turn into yours. That was really beautiful. Thank you.”
“Thank you—I feel…wonderful,” my mom says.
“Me too. I’m so calm. Are you calm?”
“Very calm. And I’m never calm.”
As we gather our things, Isa thanks us again.
“I suggest you get some traditional therapy—you two have some issues to sort out. If you’re going to get better, you need to hear each other—that sounds cheesy, but seriously. Don’t talk past one another—listen. And know that, even when you’re fighting, you two are great. I’d watch a reality show based on you guys…you’re hilarious. Very funny. I get you. You clearly love each other a lot. It’s really quite beautiful.”
We promise Isa we’ll come back. We’re not lying. Maybe we’re delusional. Maybe we’re both just prone to ~mystical~ shit, you know? But who cares. All we know is that we proceed to have a beautiful day together. We have brunch, we talk, we window-shop, we talk, we split a bottle of wine, we talk…and we don’t fight. Once. Ever.
“I feel like you could say anything to me right now. Like you could say anything to me, write anything about me, and I wouldn’t care. I’d just let it wash right over me, like she said. Don’t you feel that?” my mom asks me over some fried calamari.
It’s been almost a month since we saw Isa, and we’ve argued here and there, sure; I’m in the hellish process of packing my shit for school, so a bit of bickering is inevitable. But fraught Bed Bath & Beyond tips aside, my mom and I haven’t fought once. Ever. Call it hypnosis or call it a bullshit, self-fulfilling prophecy—I don’t care. All I know is, before we saw Isa, we couldn’t talk to each other without tearing into each other, and since, we’ve just been…talking. Listening. Laughing, even—she calls me to just to chat, and we do. We chat about nothing. And we laugh. She’s even given me some semi-sage relationship counsel (“semi” only because we’re on opposite ends of the sensitivity spectrum—we don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on matters of the heart). I don’t remember an almost-month this enjoyable with her. And it’s nice. Really nice.
And now, I think I’ve made some sense of what was, prior to four Fridays ago, an inscrutable, unresolvable situation—of our fights, of all the ugliness, and of what feels like, maybe, a lasting resolution. For real this time. I think we just wanted to be heard. I think we just wanted someone to tell us that one of us didn’t have to be wrong for the other to be right. I think we just wanted to know that, really, we could both be right. At the same time. I think we just wanted to feel close to each other for the first time in a long time. I think we just wanted to remember that, despite a sea of difference that separates us, we’re similar. Like, very, very similar.
And I think we just wanted to remember that we don’t just love each other—we like each other, too.