It’s worth noting that prior to our 7pm session, I had two (2) sessions with my management coach today – one where she observed me managing staff and running a meeting and the other being my usual session. You know, where we delve into…me. All this is to say that by the time we made it to the little house on Market St. where our therapist was waiting for us, my brain and self-analysis motor were sputtering at best. I had also maxed out on caffeine throughout the day, finally reaching a tipping point where I thought I was going to pass out in the car on the way to our appointment.
I was very cognizant of not talking too much. That isn’t to say I didn’t talk too much, maybe I did. But I wanted Rhonda to have every opportunity to say anything she thought needed to be said. She appeared to do that and sounded very comfortable once she got talking.
Of course the first question was ‘What brings you to see me?’ which we knew was coming. The truth was easy: It has been a particularly shitty year for a variety of reasons. Everything that usually exists in our life – kids, work, family, etc, has taken so much out of us that we’ve depleted our ability to cope with the unusual things that have gone on this year. The summary result is that we’ve become an unstitched unit and aren’t sure how to reconnect. Then we listed out everything that has gone on this year it felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room. It went a little something like this:
January: Ava has internal bleeding, needs surgery, almost dies.
February: Ava trips over dog, needs stitches in her chin.
March: Rhonda is 5.5 months pregnant. We lose baby. She births it and we have to deal with funeral home, etc
April: My new job really kicks in; kid coverage, my travel and Rhonda’s on-call schedule takes a scoop out of our marriage that will be felt for months.
July: We have another miscarriage.
August: Lily falls down stairs, breaks arm, has surgery and pins placed in bones, due date for baby marks horrible anniversary.
September: We have another miscarriage. That’s three. The discussion whether or not to keep trying is initiated.
October: I have hernia surgery, can’t move much.
It took maybe 30 seconds to list these things out. By the time we were done, both of us were in tears. Then we spent some time talking about what the manifestation of all this stress, sadness and disconnectedness looks like…what I do, what I don’t do…what she does, what she doesn’t do. It wasn’t easy. We both got called out at least once, which means we got validated at least once as well. For me, it was our counselor saying Rhonda isn’t feeling heard – something my wife has said using the exact same wording. That wasn’t fun. Though it probably wasn’t fun for Rhonda hear her say that I don’t have a crystal ball and she’ll need to communicate more explicitly if she wants me to know what’s going on with her. Yep, that’s been said multiple times around our house.
I have an affinity towards social workers because I am one, for one, and because I therefore know that we are trained to identify problems and come up with a roadmap for reaching a solution. I like that. Generally speaking, I don’t believe in long-term therapy. I say ‘generally speaking’ because there are a minority of issues that are so serious and have such deeply rooted etiologies that short term therapy isn’t a possibility. But that’s not most people and I’m a firm believer that therapy done wrong can promote codependency and not learning and skills training.
Now that I’ve been clear on all that…it’s time to say that I don’t think it matters one bit. We’re in uncharted waters here and even though there may be a plan to construct…a timeline might not be as easily applied. That’s a tough one. I could feel a physical reaction when the woman started talking about Rhonda’s grieving process and the implication that the way I think about solving our issues may not apply, that what I think of in terms of ‘a plan’ may not be something that makes sense in the current context. Not having a plan is fundamentally against my DNA and hearing that we can’t create and execute a 1-2-3 outline had me feeling extremely anxious, even skeptical. But then I reminded myself (quietly) that if I was right about everything we wouldn’t be sitting where we were.
Another part of that is that I feel insulted and perhaps embarrassed and I push back hard when I feel like I’m getting grouped together with ‘men.’ I’ll give you an example. If someone says ‘Well you have to understand, men are very concrete and literal decision makers. Women tend to weigh things out and deliberate more’ I would lose my shit because a) I hate generalities like that and b) I don’t consider myself to be in the same category as ‘men’. I think I’m more evolved and have deeper mental and psychological capacities than your average guy and therefore MEN might be one way…but me? I’m something else. I’m more developed, more capable. Yes, hi. Hello ego.
We had a big hug in the parking lot before getting into the car and driving through a pitch black, extremely rainy and dreary night to be with our kids. We talked about the things she said, the things we said and what the whole event drummed up inside each of us. Even though it was only one session, we ran the gamut of emotions and laughed, talked and cried. It was a lot for an hour and a half. I think we’re both feeling optimistic and have a renewed motivation to think about what we’re doing and why, how we’re doing it and what the impact is on the other person…and retool as needed towards making us better.
This is going to be good for us.