I'm sitting cross-legged on my therapist's couch 4 months after my husband's announcement that he wants a divorce when my therapist informs me that he thinks I should start dating again.
I had told myself and others that I was going to take time off to concentrate on myself for once. Between a husband and three boys, I didn't know who I was anymore. I just wanted to hang out with my girlfriends, drink martinis like a fish, and let the hair grow long on my legs if I wanted. I had even gone so far as to announce to my friends that I was going to take a full year off from any kind of relationship.
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I’m sitting in the waiting room at my therapist’s office. There’s this bubbling, gurgling Japanese water fountain in the corner. I think it’s supposed to make me feel more peaceful. On the end table, between two of the waiting room chairs, there’s a miniature Japanese Zen garden. You know the ones, those little square sandboxes with the miniature rake. It’s supposed to be calming to rake the sand around in different patterns. All I can think is that I want to draw obscene pictures. Maybe it’s some sort of Asian Rorschach test and my therapist will realize that I’m some kind of twisted. I decide to leave it alone.
I settle for the latest New Yorker instead. I don’t know why I always make this choice. I can never get through an entire article before my therapist calls me into his office, but I always choose The New Yorker. What can I say? I like the writing.
My therapist is funny, and by funny, I mean funny weird. You can have your shoes on in the waiting area, but you have to take them off before you enter his office. The other thing that he does is he always asks me, “what’s new and good?” It pisses me off. Every time I go to see him I have to figure out what’s new and good. I figure it’s just one of his methods for making the weight of his job a little less dreary. I mean imagine having to listen to everybody’s problems all day long. It irritates me though, because sometimes, like today, it’s a real struggle for me to come up with something.
The angry couple I heard behind the wall leaves and it’s my turn. My Jewish doctor/Zen master calls me into his office. I slip off my sandals at the door and take my spot on the sofa.
“So, what’s new and good,” he asks.
Here we go.
“Um, I wore slip-on shoes today?”
“No, there must be something. Come on. What’s new and good?” he says. He’ll embrace my inner child but not my inner smart ass.
I don’t fucking know. I’d been wracking my brain all the way over to his office in my car, and I couldn’t come up with anything. Now, he waits. He sits there and waits. He’ll wait at $120 an hour until I come up with something, which is why I usually try to come up with something acceptable in the car.
Oh for fuck sake.
“Um, I’ve made it to all of my personal training appointments, three times a week, for the past three months?”
“Great! How does that make you feel?”
“Strong. Strong and still fat.”
“Strong is good.”
I can tell he’s trying to work with me here.
“I’m stronger than I was in my twenties.”
“That’s good, especially considering where you were last year.”
It’s true. A year ago, I was still broken, physically broken from a bicycling accident and emotionally broken from my divorce. I had done the right thing. I got a trainer for my body and a therapist for my mind. Things were looking up.
“What else is going on?”
“Well, I think I’m obsessing.”
“Well, there’s this guy I’ve been corresponding with through email…”
I start to tell him about My Stalker/Super Fan. I tell him how he’s charming, funny, intelligent, and…a complete mystery.
“He says he’s #100.”
“Do YOU think he’s #100? What does #100 mean for you at this point?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything about him. He could turn out to be a hairy troll beating off in a basement for all I know. The scary part is that I find myself looking forward to his emails and thinking about him during the day…and I don’t even know what he looks like! It’s ridiculous!”
“What is it that you like about him?”
“He’s hilarious. I laugh out load when I read his emails, and there’s this, sort of, in charge, kind of charisma that seems to come through in his emails. For the most part though, I feel like the rest of it is just one big Cinderella fantasy that I’m making up in my head, like he’s going to come sweeping in at the end of this and whisk me away to live happily ever after or some shit…Mr. 100. Whoo hoo! That shit NEVER happens to me. My life is never a fairy tale. It’s more like tragedy and comedy…or a horror story.”
“I hear a couple of things going on here. First, you need to base your decisions and feelings on reality, not fantasy.”
“I know. I know. I know. I need to reign it in. I know I’m falling into that fairy tale bullshit I was sold as a little girl. You know, the prince comes and saves the princess and they live happily ever after. I have a business degree for crying out loud. I can choose between two separate investments based on their net present value, but I can’t seem to evaluate a good guy from a bad guy. It’s like I’m hoping this guy will be my knight in shining armor or something and it’s bullshit! I know it’s bullshit!”
I can hear myself getting louder, ranting and rambling, and I stop and look at my therapist.
“I’ve just had really rotten luck with men,” I finally admit in defeat.
“I know. You deserve a man who loves you, but that love has to be based on fact, not fiction. Just like any of your other dates, if you’re really interested in this guy, you need to take the time to get to know him. Ask him questions. You’ll have to ask a lot of questions and meet face to face before you decide if what you’re feeling is real or not.”
“Yeah, I know,” I sigh and look out the window.
“But, that brings me to the other thing I was going to say, which is, do you think you could believe that something good could happen to you?”
“Oh,…well,…I don’t know.”
The question floods my mind with thoughts of how in love I had been with STBex and I have to fight back tears. Look how that turned out. How was I going to love again and be able to trust those feelings after I had been so betrayed?
“I hear you building this guy up to be a prince and then, just as quickly, writing him off because you don’t think he’s going to come through for you. What if you took time to get to know him, and he actually turned out to be a good guy?”
“That would be nice for a change.”
“And, that would be a good thing, right?”
“Yeah, it would.”
My therapist goes on to suggest exercises to refocus my attention when my fantasizing about My Stalker/Super Fan gets out of control, and, again, he reminds me to slowly figure out what’s real and what’s fantasy. I realize that waiting to meet My Stalker/Super Fan until date #100 is probably a good thing. You gotta admit: it’s slow. If Man #100 is really going to wait to date me, at the rate my dating is going, it could be another two years before we meet face to face. If My Stalker/Super Fan really believes he’s Man #100, he either has incredible perseverance, is unusually goal driven, or maybe he’s the one who’s fantasizing. There are long odds on Man #100.
I slip my shoes on as I leave my therapist’s office and exit into the sunlight to head to my car. My mind feels more clear…at least for now.