God set the tone for tonight, cuing a warm, gentle rain just as I sat down on my front porch – a rhythmic percussion section, every so often punctuated by solos of doors closing or tires sloshing. I was totally rejected today; well, technically, we, as in Charming and me, were rejected, but the email rejection clearly cited the problem: me.
Just look back over that hook. I give you setting details interwoven with precise punctuation choices to introduce and link. As I write, you can picture me on my white wicker loveseat on a front porch framed by carefully maintained garden beds I made two years ago. Maybe you can see the white house with the red door engulfed in pink, Japanese magnolia blossoms, the bigger picture. Perched at my laptop, red wine to my right, writing my way to sanity as I’ve done the last 111 Tuesday nights.
I express myself well in writing, to put it succinctly (which I rarely do, preferring instead to flesh out the details that support our oneness, yours and mine, in the shared experiences in loss, grief, and fear). That was the only check in the positive column for Laura Joy in a counselor’s office on Sunday afternoon. It had been in the works for some time. We’re both incredibly analytical in our own right (and my own write), and Charming had suggested we give couple’s counseling a shot.
Our discussions about timing and the future are no longer sequels, just layered imitations of the previous conversation, progress indiscernible at times. I want always and forever with him. He wants to want it with me. He needs more of it, yet my personal timeline is dominated by a maternal instinct and biological kitchen timer obnoxiously counting down my fertile days.
In our first session this weekend, we met with a Christian therapist who clued into the fear behind my angry outbursts. If I lose my cool on a Sunday morning getting ready for church at Charming’s for example, the anger stems from the lack of order in living out of a suitcase every other weekend because we’re still just dating, and the anger evidences the underlying fear that I’ll keep doing this, month after month, and it could end. Suitcases aren’t permanent. Time is running out.
The session didn’t go well for me. I’m a firm believer that you need the right counselor for the people and purpose at hand. Though I sensed she wasn’t a great fit for me, I thought perhaps couple’s counseling might just be different. Or maybe Christian counseling was different. At several points during the hour, I longed for Dr. Bogin’s direct questions. His were like chopsticks. Hers were like razor blades. His lacked judgment. Hers were loaded with cloaked implications.
Today, she let us know that she would not continue to work with us. Perhaps she’d taken my rejection to her suggestion we do individual sessions without Charming personally. In her break-up email, the therapist stated, “For Laura [sic] the all-encompassing desire to be a wife and mother has become difficult for her to manage without anger and resentment it appears.”
And? Is this not what I’ve been fleshing out here the past 111 Tuesday nights? I can see her inability to pick up on my preferred name and at least two missing commas. I know writing. She knows people. In our first hour, I was able to articulate exactly what issues I bring to the table. Our faults, hers grammatically and mine emotionally, are equally glaringly obvious to the other.
She doesn’t know about Dr. Bogin or our year and a half in that little psychologist’s office in Syracuse. She doesn’t know that God used him to work miracles in my life and my brother’s. She doesn’t know that I am fiercely loyal to him, and that he died recently, and that I can’t imagine bearing my soul to anyone the way I had with him. No, instead, I write. Dr. Bogin agreed during our last face-to-face in his backyard during a summer visit that what I do here, on Tuesday nights, is a continuation of what we used to do together.
He molded me, taught me to fish… pick your metaphor. He was the right counselor for the purpose at hand. Here, I take the thing I least want the world to know about and grapple with it, on paper, taking it all apart in analogies and metaphors. She effectually scoffed at my suggestion that these 314, single spaced, 1-inch margined pages of the unapologetic, unedited, unpredictable, authentic journey of a single woman in her thirties wasn’t working. That Dr. Bogin’s method, probing at truth to arrive at self-revelation, wasn’t effective.
Take tonight, for instance. I read the email just a few hours ago. My gym mentor was out with an injury today, so I hadn’t really processed it. As private as Charming is, I’m sure he hoped the counseling wouldn’t come up tonight, but I also know he knows me well enough to see the potential benefit for us both if I try to flesh this out on my own. The woman suggested someone else who would be willing to meet with us on the weekends, and by this point, I’m advising myself that we should follow through and find the right person for the right people for the specific purpose.
In my English classes, we’re analyzing song lyrics as poetry again. We identified the metaphor in “Life is a Highway”, proceeding to uncover the rest of the analogy. What is the writer saying about life by comparing it to a highway? What examples does he give? They understand that we use metaphors to help people connect with and relate to the concept we’re expressing. They understand that the presence of rain affects the tone of a story.
Rain changes things. It changes plans. This rain was soothing when I began writing a page ago, but now it’s loud and steady, covering my neighbor’s conversation on the front porch next door. I don’t suspect I’ll be mowing the lawn tomorrow. However, it seems God adjusted the tone just as I prepared to turn the page back to Saturday, before the notorious counseling session, the day reclaiming my spring break wish to ride rollercoasters at Busch Gardens.
It started off cool, cloudy, and comfortable (carefully alliterated). We experienced the thrills of Tempesto, Apollo’s Chariot, and Battering Ram. We trekked nearly the whole park, waiting for a show in Oktoberfest. Then, there was Verbolten. As we exited the ride, Charming searched unsuccessfully for his phone. It was somewhere behind us with the thrills of the ups and downs we’d intentionally ridden. It’s like I told my six year old nephew: When you ride rollercoasters, you get scared on purpose, and that’s a different kind of fear. That kind makes you laugh not lash out in anger.
With instructions on reporting the phone lost, we set out for the lost and found. The sky open down poured, at just that moment. It reflected how I would feel if it had been my phone that was lost, though Charming remained cool and collected. He’s a military officer. He’s mastered navigating in the storm. Despite the lost phone and a rained-out Busch Gardens day, I could count on him to calm my anxiety even as my GPS broke and we had to find our way home in the heavy rain. The timing was right though. It was time to go home.
We left behind intentional fear and its thrills to prepare for the next day exploring our more tragic ones and their consequences. At dinner that night, we talked about how my angry outbursts affect others. I immediately remembered my librarian friend, Mama Melissa, back in Nashville so many years ago trying to explain the same thing. There are already so many ups and downs and twists and turns in life that nobody wants an added dose of my temper to rustle their feathers.
For some, life is a highway. For me it’s a day at Busch Gardens where the weather turns from good to bad, and the tone shifts from hopeful to frustrated, and the thrills we seek sometimes have consequences like things lost. Sometimes, the lines are short and the waiting seems effortless. Sometimes, the wait keeps you from getting in line at all. Sometimes, the rides shut down and you’re not sure how long to wait it out.
A day at Busch Gardens is as much about timing as it is about thrills. What we’re able to experience and when is influenced by external factors beyond our control. I expect the ups and downs. I’m not afraid of those. I’m afraid the timing won’t be right, that our metaphorical day at Busch Gardens will come to a wet, early conclusion.
If I were sitting in Dr. Bogin’s loveseat instead of mine, I’d be saying aloud right about now, “So, really, it’s about timing.” I already knew that my “all-encompassing desire to be a wife and a mother” leave me susceptible to anger and resentment. I fight them in my writing. I fight them in my prayers. There’s something to focus on, besides those negative byproducts, a latent root brought to blossom in an extended analogy, in my writing.
It’s about timing and a willingness to wait. I might now wait an hour for Mach Tower, but I’d stick it out even longer to get on the new coaster, InvadR. I can’t always trust that the timing will be right, but I still love a day at Busch Gardens. And I still love Charming. He overrides the weather’s setting cues with his steadiness in the storm.
Even as the rain soothes away the initial sting of that rejection email, now nearly forgotten, I hope we find a counselor like Dr. Bogin, the right one, who will help us work through the timing issues together while I continue to flesh out the ups and downs of my biological timer through Writer’s Growth.