We went to see a new couples therapist yesterday. And: her office smelled like dog.
And no, I am not going to write the intimate details of the content of such sessions because the point of couples therapy is not to piss your partner off by blogging about her private life.
I can, however, and hopefully with impunity, talk about therapy itself. Because one might notice that I have a SLIGHT (as in deep and passionate) prejudice against that form of healing.
Once, I was interested in psychology. In high school I even read books on parenting and learned how to use “I” statements so I could be a surrogate mom to my youngest sister, who is 16 years my junior. I pretty much would have done anything for my sister, including, obviously, reading therapeutic texts intended for people over the age of 18.
And, I took psychology in college. As a major. I think I lasted for a couple semesters in that major before I switched to Creative Writing. I had begun to realize that psychology is in the business of generalizations and that generalizations kill art. So my first objection to psychology was intellectual. I realized quickly that writers and philosophers, who had once defined the world and conceptualized about meaning with some clout, had been replaced by, well, you know. Freud (I could do a whole blog on why I hate Freud). Or even John Bradshaw. And while John Bradshaw and Fritz Perls and Carl Jung (much more a philosopher!) have much of value to say, they divide human experience into catagories of pathology in order to treat it. Whereas art delves into the idiosyncratic and personal characteristics of experience, defying any set concept to create meaning.
Still, I tried therapy. And, of course, the idiosyncratic and personal was pretty hard to ignore. My first therapist fired me because she said I had no problems…except for my parents and she couldn’t fix them if they wouldn’t come to a session (I was 17). My second therapist fell asleep (she woke up only at the end of the 3rd session to schedule another try, pretending she’d been awake…I was 21). My third therapist’s brother committed suicide the week before I started seeing her (I didn’t find that out until months later.) I mean, really. You just can’t get away from the idiosyncratic. And, clearly, I wasn’t exactly meant to go to therapy. Because the comedy of errors continued (number four told me I was sexy…more than once. More than twice.). And really, I’m not that sexy. Even at 27 I wasn’t that sexy.
I am falling in love with Buddhism because it does not promise that it will alleviate my suffering or cure me of being human. I mean, yes, we go to therapy. We long to heal, to be better, happier, more loving, to like ourselves more, to be more capable of joy. We have difficult childhoods. We have deaths, betrayals, losses. We go to war. We experience prejudice. And we try to understand why. We hope therapy will help us to resolve it, to remove the pain, to make us less haunted by whatever human experience it is that haunts us.
You know, I don’t think, in the end, that it really does. Therapy can help. But we can’t be cured of the truths that Buddhism (the bummer religion) states so baldly: suffering is, everything changes, we have cravings and aversions and we are all capable of enlightenment. I like to think of enlightenment as lightening up. Becoming lighter. Even becoming more like light itself, to have those qualities.
The moments when I know I’m really here, in touch, I feel everything. The faintest touch of the breeze, the pain of what my country is doing in the Middle East and to people of Middle Eastern descent right here, the pinch in my right hip, the wild openness of loving so many people, the grief of the girl whose mother died last year, last week, last night. Sometimes my own sadness is what connects me to everything else….there’s an old Ladino saying I read once: I want the sky for paper, I want the sea for ink, the trees I want for pens to write my tears. And sometimes it is an uplifting joy that expands and won’t stop expanding and I can almost feel the boundaries of who I am break and disappear (if I really go Buddhist apparently they will break), there’s just possibility and beauty, everywhere.
I am, right now, grounding down into myself, sensing, sensing for the intuition that tells me where to turn next. Not therapy, clearly, beyond the couples thing, which I do out of love. (And because though the office smelled of dog, the therapist seemed awfully grounded and definitely gender queer, which my partner will be singing about in one way or another.) (I’m the one who makes up songs, but my partner will be…you know, even more ridiculously happy about her garden because she likes the couples therapist and they are of the same gender non-conforming tribe.) (I’m just non-conforming. And have been told that I’m femme in boxer shorts by guess who, so go figure.)
I don’t think there’s any replacement for the call of your own voice. In any endeavor, at any time. No one else, no matter how you love them, can call to you in the same way. So I am listening. I want to hear. I am Irish, so I am sending tendrils of consciousness into the liminal, into what I don’t understand, into what I can’t see or taste or touch. But I can feel it, and I can hear the singing. It’s not a call into a release from pain. It’s a call to be awake and connected. And it comes. And then it goes.
Impermanence. You can count on it.
PS-Except maybe not in therapy. I have found therapy to be relatively predictable. But now that I am being a saint and enduring therapy for the sake of love, things may change.
PPS-Feel free to identify which parts of the above paragraph are utter and complete bullshit.