Lagniappe

(or Is This My Home?)

This week I find myself in New Orleans, and so naturally, this idea of “home” continues to plague me.  I’m here for a work meeting, and the city is surprisingly quiet.  I went out to Café du Monde on the first night in town and I’ve never seen the place so empty.  Sure it was a Monday night, but even so, the French Quarter was all but deserted.  Perhaps it’s because it was a weekday, or because Mardi Gras season, while technically in effect, isn’t nearly in full swing yet.

img_2978I feel conflicted in a way being here.  The last time I was in Louisiana was 8 years ago, to say goodbye to the family home before my parents sold it and moved to another state.  I feel drawn to this city, the stomping ground of my youth, and yet also feel very disconnected from it.  But there are triggers for long-forgotten memories everywhere I look, everywhere I walk.  There is the Aquarium of the Americas, destination of many-a-school field trip.  There is the parking lot where we would always park on day trips to the city.  There are the Canal Street shops where my dad would buy his suits from Brooks Brothers.  There is where the Hard Rock Café once stood.  There is Jackson Brewery where we would buy trinkets from souvenir shops.  There is the plaza where the street dancers would perform.  There is the Riverwalk, once the site of the 1984 World’s Fair (which I did attend), and later a boutique shopping mall, and now, after a freightliner slammed into the building, after Katrina flooded it, sadly an Outlet Mall.  There is Café du Monde.  And St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square, uncannily devoid of the fortune tellers and street performers.  And Central Grocery.  And Mother’s Po-Boys.  And Court of the Two Sisters with it’s legendary brunch.  And Pat O’Brien’s with it’s legendary dueling everything.

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I’ll Be Home for Christmas

(or Caterpillars & Cucumbers, Confusion & Clarity)

I’ve got the idea of home on the brain again.  It’s probably not surprising, given the time of year.  Well-meaning friends and neighbors casually ask “are you going home for the holidays?” to which I can only reply “no, we are staying right here.”  But it is actually fitting because, for all intents and purposes, this is home now.  It’s the place I’ve lived the longest.  It’s the only home my boys have ever known.  Yet this idea of “home” seems to elude me, and gnaw at me, a kind of still unresolved story line.

My wife and I often play the “where should we move to” game?  I actually get unnerved when we do this because we just seem to talk in circles, feeling more unsettled each time we take up the discussion.  “If you don’t like where you are, just picture where you want to be” extols August “Auggie” Pullman in the movie version of Wonder.  It sounds easy enough, but this particular vision seems impossible to see.  Earlier this year we flirted with packing it all up and moving somewhere else, a kind of “anywhere but here” mission.  But in the end, the stars just didn’t align.  Job offers never materialized.  Negotiations stalled.  Dreams and desires and hopes collided.  It was as if the universe was clearly sending us a message.  We are meant to stay put, right here.  For now at least.

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Dream Dream Dream

(or The Ghost of a Therapist Past)

I was awoken the other morning by the most disturbing dream.  It was one of those dreams that felt so very real that it took me a few minutes to realize that it was only, thankfully, just a dream.  So here goes:

I was at my old summer camp, or a place that felt and reminded me of camp.  I was there with a group of cousins and their spouses.  Actually, they are my first cousins once removed, the first cousins of my mother, but due to some wacky birthing patterns on that side of the family, I am closer in age to those cousins than my own actual first cousins.  There was also a group from KAAN – the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network – at this camp-like retreat, and it became clear that the space had been double-booked, and we were forced to share this communal space for our respective gatherings.  We were tolerating each other – and each other’s presence – but only barely.   Suddenly, I said out loud, to no one in particular, “I never thought I’d live long enough to actually feel home-sick, to actually want to go home rather than be a camp.”  To which, the ex-therapist, who was sitting in a rocking chair across the room, replied “but you did” in the most snarky and cruel tone.

Perhaps I should stop and explain.  The ex-therapist has 2 adopted children from Korea, which is why my unconscious put my family gathering in conflict with this KAAN meet-up.  That part makes some sense to me.  What I do not understand, at all, is why the ex-therapist is still showing up in my dreams and what in the world I can do to expel her, once and for all, from my unconsciousness!  And I don’t have any idea of why my unconscious needed to send me this message or what it even means.  Was the ex-therapist making a statement on the length or quality of my life as compared to her own?  Was she a ghost or spirit in the dream?  And why was she and her chosen family intruding upon my own family gathering at my beloved summer camp of all places?

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When the Shrink’s Away

(or 35 Days Down, 14 Days to Go…)

I find it hard to believe, but here we are, already at the end of August.  Yes, August, that glorious month of the year when shrinks everywhere go off and do something else.  What, I’m not sure.  When I asked my own therapist what she does during this mysterious August sabbatical, she replied “oh, it changes each year.”  Which is a typical shrinky-response but does not, actually, answer my question.  Who knows.  Perhaps she is off relaxing on a tropical island or attending an international conference or making lesson plans for the fall semester or catching up on sleep.  Maybe she just sits in her office and basks in the quietness and emptiness of it all.  I honestly have no idea and, as she is not giving any hints, I guess I must just let my imagination run wild.

After I asked her what she would be doing this August, and after she gave her non-response, she then inquired “do you have any feelings about that?”  I simply said “no.”  Firstly, I’m not going to spend any more time in therapy talking about any feelings that I have because of something that a therapist did or did not say or do.  For me, that shifts too much of the focus from me to them, and maybe I’m still squeamish at that prospect.  It’s much better to keep everything squarely focused on me less I get pulled into someone else’s shit.  And secondly, and more importantly, the feelings that I did have were actually ones of relief and anticipation.

So I said “no, I don’t have any feelings.”  And then “I think we all need a break, every now and again.”  And that’s the truth.  I need a break from her and therapy probably as much, if not more so, than she needs a break from me and her work.

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Cancellation

(or Is It Time to Quit Therapy?)

I did something over the holidays that would have been unthinkable this time a year ago.  I cancelled a therapy appointment simply because I had something better to do with my time.  I chose to spend a day in the city with my wife, taking in an art exhibit followed by lunch and uninterrupted conversation with each other.  If I had kept my appointment, we would not have been able to do both, or we would have done both but would have been rushed and it would not have been as enjoyable or pleasant.  So I cancelled and didn’t feel the least bit of regret or remorse or concern.  I was forthright in my decision and never questioned it or second-guessed it.  It was actually a really easy decision to make.

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This Little Light of Mine

(I’m Gonna Let It Shine?)

Once upon a time I loved to sing.  When I was little, before the age of 6, I would sing out loud, unrestrained, for all to hear.  I have a distinct memory of standing on the over-sized hearth in the family room of our new house in Mississippi, only a few weeks before Christmas when I was 5.  This was my stage, front and center, and I would belt out the new song I had just learned at my new school, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”  There was going to be a Christmas concert soon, and since I had only just arrived, I had to learn all the songs fast if I wanted to be part of the show.  And oh, how I did!  And so I practiced from my new stage, and sang my little heart out, despite the mixed-up feelings I had inside.

It is not lost on me now, as an adult, the irony of this particular choice of song being sung at a school concert in Mississippi.  “Go Tell It on the Mountain” is an African-American spiritual song, not something that I had even heard of in my native state of Texas.  But it was a Christmas carol staple in my new hometown, one where the public schools were still being forced in integrate in the 1980s and the KKK was a regular fixture on the street corner near our new home.  On our first trip to the grocery store, I wondered out-loud to my mother why those men were in their Halloween costumes when it was clearly Christmastime.  We had only moved 450 miles, but it felt like we moved into an entirely new dimension, backwards in time perhaps.  We were most definitely not in Texas anymore.

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Stitching

(or How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?)

Whenever I need to engage in some emotional self-flagellation, I know exactly where to go.  The ex-therapist still maintains a very active Twitter feed, and if I am stupid enough to look, I am bound to find something there that upsets me and makes me feel bad about myself.  I had stopped lurking altogether, for a time, but as the seasons started to shift and the cooler weather finally arrived, my psyche felt pulled back, still trying to reconcile the events of the past year.  A year ago she first told me she was sick.  In a few more weeks, it will be a year since our last session.  And in a few more weeks after that, it will be a year since she dumped me.  I can still feel it all deep in my bones: the fear, the disruption, the panic.

The ex-therapist has tweeted ad nauseam about how clients have “agency” and don’t have to read or follow any of her postings online.  I find this defense to be ignorant at best, and grandiosely self-justifying in reality.  She probably knows that she should be more careful with her tweets and words, knowing that there are clients and ex-clients out there, but she just can’t help herself.  So she constructs this elaborate justification for her actions, to make it all seem reasonable and okay.  The problem with this outlook is that the relationship between therapist and client can be intimate and intense in a way that is unlike any other relationship.  It’s also imbalanced, with the therapist usually knowing more about the client than vice versa.  So it is only natural that the client will seek out any information available to try to make sense of the person on the other side of the couch.  And the ex-therapist made that information so tantalizingly available, like leading a kid into a candy store.  It is irrational to then expect the kid to not indulge in the candy laid out before them.

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