Friday, March 31, 2006

Goodbye, Little Vienna

While not as pricey as phone sex, therapy is expensive. I can’t bring myself to actually add it up, but I’d estimate that in the last two years, I’ve spent a little less than $6,000 on it. And I’ve squandered hours schlepping to and from my therapist’s office (which is on a block so crowded with therapists that a friend of mine calls it “Little Vienna”).

Therapy was sometimes exhausting, and sometimes boring, but I learned how to do what I call “inviting your feelings in for a cup of tea.” For an English person, that is no small thing. Many of my fellow Brits slam the door on feelings and think that therapy is self-indulgent. I was like that once. Now I think that people who say that therapy is self-indulgent are the ones who need it most.

My therapist was a cipher of a woman, who revealed absolutely nothing about herself. I have no idea whether she has children or how old she is. She has gray hair in a pageboy and clothes that I never noticed. She always remained sphinx-like and unfazed, whether I was crying, rambling, or ranting.

As therapy slowly helped me to change, I began to feel that I owed this woman a great deal. Once or twice I thought about our last session, and how I would bring her a bouquet and a movingly inscribed card or maybe a copy of my book. But when the time came, I couldn’t decide. What’s the etiquette for saying goodbye to your therapist? Should you bake cookies or give her a card or maybe a potted plant? Why doesn't Hallmark make a card for this? Our relationship seemed at once so intimate that nothing could be enough, and so impersonal that anything at all would be too much.

My compulsion to please others was one of the problems that drove me to therapy in the first place. By the time I was ready to end therapy, I was able not to give her anything. I felt that it was enough simply to tell her how grateful I am. And after all, I was paying for her services—enough to buy an umbrella for everyone I know, fly to Baja for a couple of weeks, or have phone sex for two solid days and nights.


Blogger Tea said...

This made me laugh. I don't think there is etiquette for saying goodbye to your therapist. Leaving mine felt like breaking up with a boyfriend (it's not you, really, it's me).

Found you off a comment on Orangette and really enjoy your humor & writing.

1:57 AM  

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