Wednesday, April 1, 2015

horizontally speaking

Therapy is like bootcamp for the soul. It can kick your ass, but you know it’s good for you and that you’ll emerge stronger and healthier than before. When the thought of divorce was just a thought, I signed up for a few sessions with a nearby psychologist.  That was a big move for a girl whose parents were from a generation that believed only the crazies saw shrinks.  Nonetheless, even they were gung ho when I decided to go.  Never did I dream that after those few sessions, the therapist and I would be seeing each other for a couple years.

Every Tuesday morning, I’d plant myself on the worn out faux suede cushions of my doctor’s couch. His first name was Phil, so naturally I called him “Dr. Phil.” He wasn’t THE Dr. Phil, but he was MY Dr. Phil and he was one of the core people who spearheaded my journey from WE to ME.  Dr. Phil was a no-nonsense kinda guy. Though he had the look and build of a giant teddy bear, he didn’t cuddle or coddle me. Dr. Phil called it like it was, made me be accountable for what I did or didn’t do, and was one of the wisest men I’ve ever known. My well honed passive-aggressive powers didn’t stand a chance with him. Dr. Phil was my life coach, my guru, and my sage adviser who didn’t dole out advice, but made me uncover it on my own.

Many times, Dr. Phil would map out an assignment that was so completely uncomfortable that my skin would crawl -- something like, call your mother-in-law and ask for her help...  or call your attorney and tell her to drop some charges on your bill.  They were missions that required some major cojones!

I’d rather stick toothpicks in my eyes, but doing what he asked was akin to earning a Girl Scout badge, only this one was being sewn into my mental fiber, my backbone.

One day, when I felt like just a shell, a pale, gaunt, exhausted, hollow, emotionless shell, Dr. Phil and I locked eyes and he said, “you know, some of my patients tell me that being divorced has given them the best of both worlds.”

He explained that alternating weekends with their ex-husbands allowed his clients to have time with their children, and time to have or make a new life. My well thought out response was, “well, when the hell does that start?”
 At the time, I thought, jeez, this guy can really be alouf and callous! Now I realize that Dr. Phil was a genius! He knew that while I thought I was sinking, I would one day swim, and he was right! I’m doing laps! Every other weekend I have my kids and every other weekend I don’t. This arrangement didn’t happen right away. It was YEARS in the making, and worth every baby step.
My kids are happy and I’m happy to say that I’m happy. But happy doesn’t just happen. Happy takes work and Kleenex and sweat and negotiating and compromising and trusting and some deep digging.

My mornings with Dr. Phil were priceless, so when he told me he was retiring, I got that old feeling, the same one I had when my dad took his hand off the seat of my two-wheeler, leaving me to peddle on my own.

I knew I could do it, but I also knew I could fall. That’s the thing with divorce, you look around, know you can make it, but also know you just might fall. I fell a few times, dusted myself off, steadied, centered and climbed back on, peddling down roads that are rocky and others that are smooth as silk. I learned that by horizontally speaking, I could become my very best.