I’m sitting in this week’s counseling session, holding on to the thought I came in with, that this is completely hopeless and the most we can hope for is to relieve some pressure with some behavior modification. I keep my eyes fixed on the glass fish, and it stares back, mocking me. Someone moved it again. I want to throw it through the window.
I shake myself and try to pay attention. It’s not the fish. It’s the dragon. The dragon is what I’m supposed to remember. I glance down at my left wrist, where earlier, when I was getting ready, I hastily drew a tiny dragon with my eyeliner pencil. It looks like a dragonfly. Whatever. No one ever said I was the artist in the family.
I snap my attention back to the therapist. She is summarizing what we have discovered thus far in our sessions, and I can tell she is winding up to ask one of us how we feel about these things. Probably not me. I had a solo session last week, preceded by my little breakdown of the week before, so she will probably turn her attention to my husband.
She does. The Eye of Sauron moves to him and I settle back in my chair, ready to listen, intently studying my thumbnails so that I won’t look at the damn fish.
He begins. I remember, as he starts talking, that I had vowed to let the mask drop when he says things and actually REACT to them, at least in my facial expressions. I have a childhood of coping mechanisms to overcome there, as my brother and I were not allowed to have negative emotions.
Unless, of course, our mother was having some. Then we could mirror hers. But that was very rare. And that’s another story.
So I determine that I will let my face talk during this session. The sessions are videotaped for the therapist’s later review, so I might as well give her something to look at. Without, of course, being distracting during the session.
I am very quickly offered the opportunity. He launches right away into his typical, “It’s so wonderful that my wife can finally get these things off her chest and you are such a wonderful counselor and I’m just so happy to be here” speech. Which is completely out of place, given that she has just finished recounting how I have expressed that his mean behavior in the past has shut me down so completely that I don’t really FEEL anything toward him.
I suppress a smile and all but roll my eyes. Maybe in the future I will let myself roll my eyes, but I really don’t want to interrupt what’s going on in the room. I’m proud of myself for dropping the mask, at any rate, even for a second. That took hard work.
It felt like acting. Except that really was what I was feeling. How screwed up is that, that I have to purpose to act as if I am a person who is feeling something in order to act the way I’m feeling? Whatever. Deep roots. Another story.
She gently interrupts his kamikaze dive into Wonderful Therapyness and brings him back to how crappy this situation is. She prompts him by saying that she couldn’t tell how much this hurts him by his demeanor, and yet she can see it in his eyes. She probably can’t, but I’ve noticed that she feeds us appropriate emotional reactions sometimes to see if they fit. We’re both pretty shut down. We’re also both pretty open to suggestion, dammit, because it works Every. Time. when she does it to me. Dang, she’s good.
So he starts crying. And I start to feel like Elsa. A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the Queen. Oh look, he’s crying. It’s about time he felt something. I hope she doesn’t ask me how I feel about it.
I pause, casting about frantically for the tiniest shred of feeling. Yup, I got nothing. I sincerely don’t feel anything about his tears, apart from a mild sense of annoyance.
Seriously. What you’re feeling right now, husband dear? This is where I have lived for at least the last 15 years. That whole time that you were shutting me down when I tried to tell you something was wrong? When you would flatly deny what I told you you were doing? When you would twist my words around and make it all my fault that you hurt me? This is how I was feeling when you were doing that. Only worse, because I was also feeling trapped. So excuse me if I don’t feel sorry for you.
(20-20 Hindsight: I probably should have said that. That probably counts as an emotion.
Anyway, instead I say I’m not feeling anything. Because it’s one thing to feel like Elsa. It’s another to talk like her.
Which probably explains the skeptical look I receive from the therapist. She works with it though.
And he gets the point. Whether or not he will admit he was the cause, he does at least see that I am wounded and therefore not behaving the way I used to.
So that’s progress.
Then he goes on to say that he knows we can work through this because regardless how hopeless it looks, he knows that God is guiding us through this and that He has the power to do miracles. Even this.
It’s a “Duh” moment for me because, really, I knew that. But I had forgotten.
And there it is. That flick-of-a-lighter glimmer of hope. Gone almost as soon as it bursts forth, far too quickly quenched by the sheer mountain of rubble we have to sift through. But it was there. I saw it. I felt it.
I stare down at the dragon(fly) on my wrist. I have an uncontrollable urge to move my left foot closer to his. I don’t want to take his hand. I don’t want to touch his leg. But I do want to touch his foot with mine.
It becomes an obsession. I stare at my brown leather shoe, purchased the day before for 40% off at Payless Shoes. Just a few inches and I could nestle it up against his worn tan Topsiders.
I wonder briefly if the movement will be picked up by the video camera. How wide is the angle, anyway?
I snap my attention back to the therapist again. She’s saying important things. But then my eyes wander back to my shoe. I shift my weight and move it closer to his. I am aware, on one level, that this is ridiculous.
But on another level I realize if I don’t do this, if I don’t move my foot to touch his, it will be harder next time. And maybe this was only a Bic flick of hope, but I am so desperate for hope in any form, I’ll take it.
My foot finally finishes its journey. I don’t even know if he notices. But I do. For a few minutes I relish feeling connected in this small way.
And then it’s over. He says something so very representative of the fact that he lives on another planet to the one I live on that I reluctantly take my foot back.
I sigh. The therapist brings the session to a close. I feel the weight of the rubble again.
But as I leave I remember the flicker of hope. Maybe next week I’ll draw a Bic lighter on my wrist.
Yeah, no, maybe I won’t do that. Maybe the memory of it is enough.
As we leave he grabs my wrist in alarm and flips my hand over.
“What’s that?” he cries pointing to my wrist.
“Oh, it’s just eyeliner,” I mutter, rubbing it off.
And I quietly set the goal to buy that dragon ring before next week.