Tuesday, February 2, 2010


When I was sixty, I gave up on therapy. About time, I said. I don't know the number of therapists I'd seen...maybe seven. I don't count the erudite French analyst who my ex and I saw as a couple. His most repeated phrase was the 'death drive,' which  meant nothing to the ex, who was just hoping that these hours and the money we were spending would fix me, and, oddly enough, nothing to me who had noticed, but didn't care, that I'd chosen a man who wasn't emotionally available and was quite content with his life, thank you, don't ask me to change. 

Besides, who changes? (If she is wedded to the death drive, which means making seriously bad choices that will lead to consequences.)

Over all these years I have changed in many ways, become competent, focused, able to work on serious projects. And I take pleasure in that. I don't think that I merely picked myself up from all the scraps and scrapes I dove into, the largest of which was having a daughter without any clear way of supporting her and without a partner who would help either of us emotionally or financially. 

But I do pick myself up and move forward without really noticing the cost of this habit. Without grieving for what I've lost. And with a puritanical determination. Breaking up with the ex after ten years was marked by one short bout of sobbing and then getting on with all the work of moving out and back into this house. The cost of that loss was submerged under the effort it took to carry on as if nothing too serious had happened.

I'd like to be finished with this coping technique. Please. Which is why, at the age of seventy, I've gone back to therapy, every two weeks. I like the waiting room. It's pleasant to sit there and work on whatever project I'm trying to edit. Perfect comfort. 

And I like this psychoanalyst who is even older than I am, still taking on a few patients. His expressive face. The frowns and grimaces, the occasional smile. And he's smart, of course. And I'm trying hard with my agenda in hand, which is to figure out how to make the next ten years different. I think that the change I'm looking for was expressed by my friend, Susan, who used the word 'entitled' in a recent e-mail. 

I normally interpret that term in a disdainful way...those entitled folks who have more than enough money, who haven't had many severe difficulties in their lives or had to struggle all that much. Or who weren't infants dropped into alcoholic families or other circumstances that early-on warp a sense of optimism, if not the ability to keep chugging.  

I'd like to feel entitled to have a good ten years, assuming I live that long. I imagine that some of you who happen to read this will think -- oh, for dog's sake, she'd done pretty well, has a (small) pension, isn't seriously ill. Get on with it. Which is exactly what I'm trying to figure out how to do with more of a sense of optimism. As if I'm entitled to have a decent, perhaps good, time. 

This week-end I finished the first part of a big project -- two hundred pages of a vernacular, poemish thing with some photographs scattered in here and there. I'm grateful for Quark, though it's an old, tricky program. And it gave me days of tussles, but I argued with it persistently, and by Sunday afternoon at 3:00, after fighting with the archival printer which stopped every few pages, spitting out a blank sheet, etc, I had a copy of the finished-at-this-stage thing.  And, more to the point,  I noticed that I'd done it. And thought, "Oh, please, just feel pleased. Even if you're exhausted. And take yourself out to lunch after you get the damn thing xeroxed."



  1. Such a thoughtful post! I bet your sessions will be useful. Mine were.

    All the best with your project. Where did you go for lunch?


  2. so funny! i came to post a comment because i, too, wanted to know, where you went for lunch! (such a comfort, lunch--and therapy; a good therapist. my most recent was so wonderful: she believed in me. what a shock. it wasnt about getting fixed, just propped up a bit until i got my sea legs back.) i think youre doing wonderful work, important work, melissa.

  3. Bravo Melissa!
    therapy scares me a bit so i go to lunch instead which works almost as well.
    i think.

  4. Paneras, same salad I always have...so two foodies know..it's close, better than a yogurt at Starbucks, my other choice...ha!!!!!!

  5. If it came down to a choice between therapy and lunch. I'd take the therapy, but not if I were starving. And of course it would depend on who the therapist was, as well.

    I love this post, Melissa. I love your determination to make the best of what's left of your life. This is always a good attitude that applies to any of us, even the young ones.

    Will we be able to have a look at your xeroxed copy or at least a bit of it. I'd like to read more.

    In the meantime, enjoy your therapy - and your lunch. It is a special thing to be listened to, to have someone who really engages with you. Savor it. Savor both. Therapy and lunch.

  6. A friend of mine refers to therapy as "spa for the mind". So true. I'm glad you found a therapist you like and respect. I wish you the best of luck in attaining your goals for the next ten years.

    Two hundred pages, poemish - wow!

  7. I am the (strong) opinion that the best psychologist is oneself. If one can only face up to one's truth.

    Writing your thoughts on a blog is great therapy. :-)

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  8. Bravo, my sweetness! You were present for the work, for your very own congratulatory pat on the back. And you of course know how I feel about the usefulness of therapy. It's going to be a great ten years! Thank you for letting me be in there with you.

  9. Thank you, all.... I appreciate the comments...

  10. You are an inspiration, Melissa.

    How grateful I am that we live in an age where therapy is appreciated as a gift and a worthy exploration; it's a way of honouring self and - by prox - others.

    Wishing you fortitude and lightness of step.

    L, Claire