“Sometimes I feel like I’m on this journey, like I’m moving forward at a million miles an hour, and Doug is just along for the ride.”
This is how I began my therapy session this afternoon. Actually, a few days ago I had asked Doug whether he felt “along for the ride,” after I’d spent the better part of the evening on my computer, sharing my feelings with my virtual friends, while he sat across the room playing games on his own computer. Sometimes I’m left with the impression that he’s just a character in my story – instead of feeling, as I should, like it’s his story too.
“I wish he was on a journey of his own,” I confessed. “Even if he was taking a completely separate path than I am, we have a common goal, and we could connect with each other as we worked toward it independently. As it is, I feel like I’m just dragging him along.”
And it’s not just in regards to healing – that may really be only my deal at this point. But financially, I am ahead of him. Responsibility-wise, I am ahead of him. Chronologically, I am ahead of him. Motivationally, I am ahead of him.
I was fortunate enough to know what I wanted to do with my life from the time I was eight years old: I wanted to write. Sure, I got side-tracked for a few years in junior high, when I decided I was going to be an actress, and the what-and-how details of this “writing” change frequently, but for the most part, my niche in the world has been clear to me for two decades now. Doug has not been so lucky. I don’t think he’s ever found something that made him say, “This is it, forever,” besides – if I may flatter myself for a second – his relationship with me.
Instead, he scatters his passion and sees where it lands: in the past three years, he’s wanted to be a marketing designer, a chef, a store manager, and a history teacher. The problem is that these convictions fizzle after a while, either because he loses interest or because he sees how much work is involved in getting there. And then he ends up back at square one: working in the grocery store, barely making ends meet, complacent, and unconcerned about his future.
His current love is his bicycle. When asked the question, “What would you do if money wasn’t an issue?”, he’ll tell you he’d be a bike mechanic. And I believe that his passion for cycling is real, deep, and lasting – as is his passion for all sports. And I’m aware that this is a healthy obsession to have, a great hobby, providing fresh air and exercise for absolutely free.
But just once, I’d like to see him put as much effort and concentration into, say, how to pay off his truck more quickly, as he has put, in the last week alone, into searching for the perfect bike jersey online.
There, I said it.
I’m bitter, and I’m frustrated. And, as my therapist gently pointed out today, bitterness and frustration will eventually breed resentment. But since I cannot force Doug to think like me – because I think so quickly and in such a forward-moving spiral, a pattern which has inherent problems of its own – perhaps, she suggested, I should try to think like Doug.
She asked whether I was jealous of Doug’s way of doing things, jealous that he can work four days a week and not stress over picking up the fifth. Instead, he’ll spend that extra day off riding his bike, or running errands, or cleaning the house, and then treating himself with Coke and Doritos.
I, on the other hand, struggle with the art of doing nothing. If I’m not at work, I feel like I should be working; if I’m seated, I feel like I should be moving. If I spend an entire day in my apartment, I consider that day wasted, and am left with an anxious, yucky, almost unclean feeling that prevents me from falling asleep. (I spent much of my year in Wales in this state.) I do enjoy taking breaks, and unwinding at the end of the day, but I have to feel like I’ve earned the stillness.
As I was explaining all this to my therapist – telling her about the summer after sixth grade, when I told my mom to take me with her on every errand; telling her about Wales, with its rain and its tiny villages and its boredom; telling her how I could never take an extra day off from work to just sit and do nothing, because I’d be too concerned about whether I was using that day for its full value (which, if I was at work, would amount to about $80 after taxes) – we could feel the energy in the room rising. The more I said, the less I breathed, and I watched as my thoughts spiraled out of control in the usual manner – the one that propels me forward with projects like this one, and makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with Doug that he doesn’t see how frickin’ important, how crucial every little thing really is.
When we reached the end of the hour, my therapist asked me to check in with myself, to see how it felt to have articulated all that. I closed my eyes and started to laugh.
“All I can think of is that we spent the whole hour talking again, instead of doing, and so I feel like we wasted the time.”
“That’s perfect,” she said, laughing also.
“Not that I don’t see the value in talking. It’s just that… I feel like I understand myself pretty well. And I talk about myself all the time. So here, when we’re having a conversation, sometimes you’ll say something or ask something, and I’ll get some new insight, and that’s helpful and all, but… I can talk to anyone. By not doing [bioenergetics], I feel like there’s some secret you’re keeping from me. Like you know a better/faster way to do this, and here we are just having a conversation again.”
“What is ‘this,’ exactly?”
“Getting the fuck over it all: my divorce, my miscarriage. Working through them, moving past them, getting to a place where I can stop worrying about what my life could have been and just enjoy it for what it is. A place where I can say, ‘This is the life I got, and it’s just fine.'”
And then, like a curtain, silence and calm landed on us. The nervous energy my words had been carrying for the past hour melted away.
“Did you feel that?” my therapist asked.
“Does it feel familiar?”
“I think – actually, I’m asking you – is this what it feels like for you to be fully present in the moment?”
I thought for a second. “Yes. I’m not sure I would have come up with that, but when you said it, it sounded right.”
“I almost don’t want to keep talking, because I don’t want to lose it.”
“Me neither… Because if we start talking about it, I know what my brain will do.” I was speaking slowly and quietly, as though to prevent myself from hearing.
“It’ll start coming up with all the reasons why it’s not okay to just sit here in the moment – all the reasons I can’t, or shouldn’t. And then we’ll just be back to where we were before.”
“Let’s not talk about it then. That’s good awareness, though, knowing exactly what your brain will do if you start talking.”
We sat for a minute in that heavy silence. I could hear the world’s heartbeat pulsing in the air around us.
Then I got up, waved goodbye, and walked out to my car, where Doug was sitting in the driver’s seat, drinking an orange soda and reading a book.
“You were longer than an hour in there,” he said.