Last night the old movie Defending Your Life crossed my mind. Albert Brooks dies in a car accident and finds himself in a way station between heaven and earth. There each person goes in front of three judges and views snippets of their life, the goal being to determine if they move on to heaven or back to earth to try again, to try and get it “right”. And of course you have an opportunity to defend yourself.
When I get to that way station I wonder if they will show me January 2, 2007, a rather long tape with many characters. Yesterday was “Chicago” day, the genesis really a day earlier as blog comments appeared but yesterday they piled high and in the middle an appointment with Bob, my therapist. By the afternoon I was reeling and needed another therapy appointment.
Bob not being readily available, I called on my primary therapist – Sis. Now you should know that in almost a year of almost daily e-mails, we have actually spoken – picked up a phone, heard each others voices – only twice. Yesterday I picked up the phone. Her opening comment, a gentle smile in her voice, said it all: “Nate, you’re a mess.” And she was right.
It seems that yesterday was a discussion of the lives of two people – Nate and Carrie: yet Carrie was strangely absent from the debate. She had surrogates I suppose, surrogates who while truly caring had never met her. Even Bob’s advice strangely left her out: “Tell her you are not going to Chicago, no further discussion, no favors expected or accepted.” Not bad advice but for better or worse Carrie and I have spoken – maybe too much – of everything.
I take Bob’s advice, I tell her. End of story. I also tell her of starting couples counseling. Bob wants to counsel us on how to stay together – as a couple, as lovers; Carrie wants counseling on how to stay together – as friends, as Will & Grace. The table set, I step away, having strangely done the opposite of what everyone envisioned.
So I talk with Sis and she makes a simple enough suggestion – ask Carrie how she felt when the announcement – no, pronouncement is the better word – was made: include her in a decision, a dialogue about her own life. So ask I do and answer she does: she felt nothing, no relief, no joy, nada.
Dinner, homework, life goes on, but we eventually have our moment to re-visit, continue a dialogue. It is more than feeling nothing. Carrie points out I am the king of one step forward and two steps back. She points out she was formerly the queen of one step forward and four steps back. No more. I hesitate and point out she is now two steps forward and one step back, with me being the one pulling her back that one step: a wistful smile, how true.
There was one thing yesterday that was universally accepted, phrased best by the Pooh-Bah of my HOW group:
I guess what I am really asking is, "Do you really know what Nate wants? If so, what are you doing to correct it?"
Phrased well by one but echoed by all.
Carrie and I discuss this question, not for the first time, in light of Chicago, in light of the debate. Carrie points out this weekend is not the issue – a years worth of history, when I booked the flight, so many other moments are the issue. And cancelling the trip is not a positive: to her it is a negative, one more delay, one more “two steps back”, one more tug on life’s yo-yo.
What we once had is gone and until I can answer the question, the question as to what Nate wants there can be no true progress, not reasonable resolution. Bob may feel that in the cloistered environment of his office that question can be answered, and there is a level of truth to that, but there are limitations, limits to answers that can be divined by looking inward.
Carrie knows – and is willing to say it; Nate knows – and is terrified of all it may mean: at some point the answers must be found in real life. Will one weekend magically answer everything: of course not. But even if only a baby step on the journey, it is a step all the same.
Someday I will look at the footage of these days – just past and just about to come – in that way station. Hopefully the defense will have an easy job, history will treat me kindly. For the footage will show my going to Chicago.
The post ended naturally but an addendum is in order. Without the comments, the e-mails, the therapy, it would appear that I would have been in the same place as I am: going to Chicago (assuming my cold does not trump all). But that would be so untrue. I am in a different place for I have been forced to think, to question, to face my demons and to speak with (not at, but with) Carrie. And for all of that my gratitude is again boundless.