Anna Akhmatova is in my mind, and Philip Larkin, and Jason Shinder. I’m exhausted and trying to find the energy to re-engage with my work. Aware of how lucky I am to be at this school, in this lab, and how much time over the past year I’ve lost, too stressed or tired or anxious to engage in my work the way I want to. The way I deserve to, and with the attention it deserves, too. I need to give it that attention–I need to create conditions in which that is possible.
I keep taking a book with me. A book I won’t have time to read, a book for comfort, a book as a talisman. A few days ago, Adrienne Rich. Yesterday, Kierkegaard. Today, Jason Shinder, with all his flavors of quiet and alone. Marie was too wise and gathered and clear for today. Jason is in the muck–like Ed Brown, a friend in the dark.
“Before I go, I want to ask you for something,” I say to Vic at the end of our appointment. He assents. It’s hard to get it out. I’ve gotten better at asking for things, but occasionally it still feels humiliating. Through no fault of his, this is one of those occasions. Those old things reemerge when I’m tired.
After skipping his coaster across the table and exasperating at the stone in my throat, I choke out: “I have this vestigial feminine conditioning, and sometimes it’s hard for me to put my needs first. I would really appreciate some reassurance that it’s okay to do that.”
He takes a second, a stunned look passed over his face, and he says, “Reassurance from me?”
“If that’s okay,” I say, nodding.
“It’s not only okay to put yourself first,” he tells me, “it’s crucial.” And so.
I thank him. “You looked a bit stunned,” I tell him.
“I thought you were going to ask for a note for a handicapped placard or something. It’s always okay to ask me for reassurance.” In fact, doing the thing in that moment, too.
It’s funny–I realize that despite the warm, fuzzy reputation of therapy, our relationship slides into the intellectual. Or defaults to. I suppose that’s part of what makes it a good practice space.