Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Just a few more, and we'll get back to something with real therapeutic import.

(1) Me and Time

Sometimes I think about the effects of my childhood on my development, and The 8:30 Bed Time comes to mind. Not sure how old I was, but 8:30 pm is imprinted on my brain as the first forced bedtime, lights out.

When you aren’t tired and you are supposed to go to sleep, and you’re too little to protest, have parents unafraid to parent, or both, you lie around imagining things.

They’re not all good things. This isn't to say that parents shouldn't use their power.

Anyway, some of us grow up and become therapists and everything becomes quite clear to us, much more clear than had we gone to therapy for years, although that would have been nice. Most of us get just enough therapy to empathize with that experience, the experience of being on the other side.

I also remember early elementary school years, watching the clock and learning that you can time how long you can hold your breath by watching the second hand on that big black and white clock above the blackboard-- still never missing a thing. This is good to know, how long you can hold your breath, because it is likely one day you will take swimming lessons and have to dive for things.

Working as a therapist you learn that watching the clock makes time move infinitely more slowly. If you concentrate on the patient and what is going on in the room, only check the clock when you are pretty sure you have hit the thirty minute mark, time flies by. Unless you are very, very sleepy, in which case, God save you.  If you've been in therapy, you know this happens.  I've said before, it is the reason not to call your therapist in the middle of the night.

But everyone has to wait for things, and most of us have figured out by now that when we're busy, waiting is less frustrating.

This obscure photo is me waiting for the service elevator in my building. You would have to imagine me, actually, but here is my bicycle. The handlebars of my bicycle. It is 7:45 pm and the service elevator that leads to the bicycle storage room is still running (that stops at 8:00), and I’m happy about that, but rushing, have to be somewhere in half an hour.

The door opens eventually and inside a man and a little girl welcome me, bike and all. The diode for "4" is lit up on the light panel.

They are going up, apparently. I smile and inform the two. “I’m going down. Have a nice night.”

The elevator isn't going anywhere. He is holding the door. I repeat the circumstances, Going down. Not up. Finally he turns to push a number for his floor, the very highest floor in the building.

“Of course,” I say under my breath. “Of course.”

I take a deep breath, take out my phone, and snap that picture above. By the time I have snapped a few more for good measure, the elevator is here to take me down to the storage room.

That took no time at all.

(2) Do You Hear What I Hear?

The weather in Chicago has been variable, warm and sunny for the most part.

Hottest Sunday ever. Hottest Memorial Day on record. That sort of thing. Then the temps drop into the forties.

We bring out our one warm sweater not packed away for the summer. Mine is wool, zips up to the neck, and I'm indoors, where it is probably a toasty 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

FD reaches over to loosen the zipper and I flinch. "I just thought you would be more comfortable," he protests.

"Isn't it funny how people assume what makes other people more comfortable? Like we don't know, really, that we're too warm or too cold. You're hot, I must be, too!"

He smiles but defends, "But sometimes we're right, are we not? Those of us making assumptions?"

"No," I reply. "How could you know better than me how I feel? And anyway, you could always check it out (an old family therapy technique). You could ask, 'Are you not hot in that sweater?' Or better, 'Want me to hang up your sweater for you?'"

We don't even discuss any subtext here.

(3) Definitive Dog

I'm walking home from someplace and spot four dogs and their three owners at my corner.

The dogs are panting a little, smiling away. These aren't scary-looking dogs with muscles bulging down their backs through short-cropped hair. They aren't the types of dogs that bite the kids I see in therapy, sadly treating their dog phobias. (Those dogs have serious looks on their faces.) These are your basic well-fed neighborhood mutts, living the dream.

"You always know," I greet my neighbors on the approach, "when you see a bunch of people hanging around on a corner with their dogs, that it is a happy corner."

These folks know me, know better than to suspect my reality testing, at least I think. They are all smiles and the dogs want to show me affection. Noses begin to nuzzle too close to my personal comfort boundary.

"You could at least ask," I tell one, gently pushing his snout away.

(4) Ambiance

We've moved a little closer to real city, to a more congested part of town. FD and I are taking a walk, come to a busy street. It's loud, but interesting, considered one of the most diverse streets in the city of Chicago, or it was when I took Community Psychology many years ago.

When I'm on my bike, on my way home from work, I stop and look around, right here at the traffic light. It tends to be about communicating with drivers. Are you really going to turn left and see if you can mow me down? It's a blink game. Who goes first? You can tell which drivers want to mow you down. You let these people go first.

We get to this corner and FD says to me, "It's so noisy here that the birds have trouble communicating, you know. They have to find times of the day when traffic is less congested, just to sing." This is something I've never thought about, birds having to find a good time to sing.

And he's right, of course, noise pollution affects us all, especially him. He has that super-sonic hearing that some males have, a redeeming feature of the sex. Females have the better sense of smell.

The whole thing makes me wonder how anyone out on a date in a crowded bar, or even out with friends at Starbucks, expects to communicate at all. There are quiet bars, I suppose. I see them on television.  And sidewalk cafes.



porcini66 said...

"No," I reply. "How could you know better than me how I feel? And anyway, you could always check it out (an old family therapy technique). You could ask, 'Are you not hot in that sweater?' Or better, 'Want me to hang up your sweater for you?'"

Of two minds on this one, TD...on the one hand? It's sweet of him to care, but I would HATE someone to try to undress me like presumptuous!! Then again, I can't stand it when the boys, ya know, "hint" at things - like when they say, "Want me to hang that up for you?" - immediate reaction is almost always, "No. No I don't. But clearly YOU feel I should take it off...bah...are you trying to tell me that I'm too stupid to know what to WEAR?? That I need your help to identify my needs??"

LOL - okay, probably a bit over the top...but some days it just really is like that...

therapydoc said...

Well, I try to see it for what it is, an act of love, right? Or exuberance? Don't want to discourage either, just can't go along with it if it traverses some psychological boundary.

Liz said..., so hard.