The shrink on the phone, the one I called tonight, thinking I'd get his voice mail, but no, even though it's after-hours he answers, but that's okay, I don't mind talking to him. I say how I can't make Wednesday's appointment, which isn't true, I can make it but I don't want to, but then I add how – and I think this is a very decent way of putting it – I don't have "the commitment for this work" and that (pause) I don't think (pause) well, I don't think I'll be continuing for awhile.
I'm expecting case closed, but he says I should come in for one last session so that there's nothing (pause) "fuzzy" left behind.
Okay, so now the conversation is getting tricky, tricky for me anyhow as I watch myself go into hyper alert, trying to make sure I don't get intimidated into short-changing myself, trying to see my thoughts very clearly as if they were three-dimensional so I don't miss anything, trying to manage the cloud of fear that descends as I realize we are pulling in opposite directions.
"I don't feel fuzzy," I say, adding an artificially hesitant tone to soften the blow.
"Well, you and I have a relationship and it's important that there be closure and (pause) that's just how it should be done," the shrink says in his nice Jewish New York earth-father yogi voice.
I'm talking to a shrink, one I've poured my heart out to, though only three times. I didn't want to blow him off, but it's becoming inevitable. I thought he'd say: Okay, it's been great, call me if you need me. And I would have said it was great too and maybe I would have called him the next time I wanted that kind of thing.
So I lie, say I'll call, and the call is over.
That conversation was familiar, someone arguing with confidence, telling me my choice is wrong, that they somehow know better. So often I have believed them and sent myself to jail, to reform school, as if they were right and a little extra punishment wouldn't hurt.
It was all the times he said "should" that clued me in.
Thank god, I thought. Thank god I didn't keep going to him for another couple of years, wondering every week if I was doing the right thing while I made excuses for him.
I woke up early this morning not at home but in someone else's apartment. It was still dark out. I thought I'd try watching some television. Recreational television is a novelty for me. It is seared into my bones that anything other than the high class stuff will kill off cells – Masterpiece Theatre was a light as we got at home.
In today's pre-dawn I found a documentary on Townes Van Zandt who I didn't know before, an acoustic guitar player, singer-songwriter from Texas. He looked a little like Woody Guthrie, gaunt, rough.
The movie was satisfying for about an hour. I liked the part where he says how somewhere along the way he realized he could really do this – play the guitar, write songs – but it would mean leaving everything else behind: family, money, comfort. I liked this picture, leaving things behind so the art can happen.
The doctors told his parents he was manic-depressive and they okayed a series of vile hospital treatments that wiped out all memory of his childhood.
He seemed a tortured person – tons of drugs and drinking. There were clips of home movies of him as a baby, being pushed in a stroller. The family was well off and supposedly happy, which I did not believe. I know happy family photos hide a much bigger reality.
My mother had left me a voice mail when I came back this afternoon after five days away. I saved it to listen to later. I still haven't listened.
When I told the shrink last time I saw him – it was the last two minutes of the session and it didn't have too much to do with where we were at right that moment but I wanted to get it in because it had been so much on my mind – I said how I was really thinking about pulling away from my family, really reshaping the current relationships utterly to my own measurements – but that I wasn't sure. He almost rolled his eyes. I saw a fleeting expression of "oh, here we go, the same-old family hang-ups."
"Well," he said, "let's use your talents. Write up the reasons you want to be in touch, and all the reasons you don't want to be."
My talents? I thought. That's what you think my so-called writing talent is about? Writing lists?
In the movie this morning Van Zandt says how he left his mother behind to go become a musician and didn't call her from July til Mothers Day. "That's nothing," I thought. "I've gone much longer than that many times."