I woke up late this morning, but still managed to shower, blow dry and straighten my unruly, crazy hair. Usually, for day to day life, I don’t take the time to straighten my hair. I braid it, throw it in a ponytail or messy bun. It doesn’t matter. Today, though, after therapy, I have a doctor appointment; my yearly physical. So I feel the need to look more “grown up” and put together. I get dressed in my normal clothes: black leggings, a long t-shirt, my black tennis shoes (the oh so very amazing ones that are modeled after a ballet shoe, the company that makes them is called rio soul). I’m not going to worry about “grown up” clothing.
Hagrid and I get downtown with an hour to spare, which is perfect timing to allow us to take a walk. We walk our normal path. It’s so funny to me that I now have a regular path that I walk in several places around where I live. It’s chilly today, 62 degrees, so I’ve added a black zip up hoodie type jacket without the hood. I’ve never been an outdoorsy type girl; I like warm weather, sitting on a beach or a boat, sitting on my deck swing with a glass of wine, but I don’t walk outside. Surprisingly, I like walking outside, and am already planning my outdoor clothing so I can hopefully continue walking even as it gets colder out.
So, Hagrid and I take our walk, and then I stop back by my car to grab the giant pad of paper I brought with me. I also stole one of the really big pieces we make for Kat by glueing 4 of the giant pieces together. Hagrid leads the way to Bea’s office and up the stairs. He knows where is going.
“Hi Hagrid,” she greets him cheerfully when he turns the corner before me and runs into her office. I follow, setting my things on the couch and the floor.
“Good morning,” she says, looking up from petting Hagrid.
We all get settled, and we briefly chat about the week, about the mess with the nanny, about how Kat is doing, how hubby is doing.
“I think he was having one of those moments, you know, where things feel so bad, at night, when he said he would go back to therapy and asked me to make some phone calls to narrow down some choices, but then in daytime it all seems silly and not so bad.” I take a drink of my coffee as I explain what is going on with hubby.
“Ahh, yes. Well, your defenses come back up,” Bea says, nodding.
“Yeah. So I called a bunch of therapist the next two days…I called like 40 shrinks and found 3 I thought would be a good fit.”
“40? And only 3? Wow.”
“Well, I’m picky.” I laugh when I say this. It’s such an understatement. “Some I didn’t even bother talking to….they were…defensive? I don’t know. Mean? The tone of voice, they asked ‘why can’t your husband call and interview therapist himself?’ But it wasn’t nice..you know?”
“I do know. I know exactly. And one of the things I really believe is that you have to meet the client where they are at. So if a person needs a family member or a friend to help them find a therapist, that is where you meet them, and you do this by talking to the person who called.”
“Yes, I think that is good. And they didn’t, I don’t know. The 3 I chose, they asked, but it was….” I trail off, not sure of the right word. They were nice about it, but more than that.
“Curious?” Bea suggests.
“Curious. Yes, that fits. They wanted to know why I was calling, but not in a judgy way.”
“That is what you want, it’s how a therapist should be.” Bea smiles.
“Some were pushy, wanting me to give them more information, but it’s not my story to tell. It’s hubby’s stuff, and he should be the one to tell it. So I gave him the list of 3. One he rejected right away because it’s a guy. So he has two to call. I haven’t pushed him about calling. That’s for him to do, now.” I shrug.
“That’s right. It is for him to do. You were supportive, you helped, but he needs to do this next part.”
We talk a little more about hubby, and how if he really does go to therapy and work through so,e stuff, he might not be just a surface person any longer.
Bea glances down at the floor, where my pad of paper sits. “I’m looking at you paper, and thinking we should maybe switch gears and work on your map.”
“Okay,” I agree, feeling this strange mix of vulnerable and timid. It’s not like me to feel shy.
“I think this is a good idea, getting a visual down on paper, something you can see and put the pieces together. You’re starting to look and see how your story fits in with a larger story. If it weren’t for the imperfections of generations before, there would have been no need for the story of perfection in your family.”
Bea suggets setting the little blue kids table from ikea between us, and I spread the giant sheet of paper out on it.
“Do you want markers?” She asks.
“Well…I um..I brought colored pencils and some markers. Because I love these markers, and this pack of pencils has like every color ever.” I pull them out of my bag. I also pull out the family tree I had scribbled down yesterday. I spread that out on the table. “I brought this, it’s most of my family.” It spreads out across a big sheet and one computer paper sized sheet. “I don’t know how to do this. How to put history and put it all down.” I shake my head. I have no idea how to make a map of this family story. Maybe it was a dumb idea.
“Well, in social work we have what is called a genogram. It represents family connections, stories. It is similar to what you started on that paper.” She suggests.
“Okay, let’s do that,” I agree, easily. I usually have a plan, an idea, and want to control things. But this time I don’t. We decide to make circles, tracing playdoh containers, to represent family members; using the big circle for people important in my story, and the small circle for people who don’t play as much of a role.
“So should I start with my grandpa, then?”
“Whatever feels right,” Bea says.
I give her a look; one that says I need her to give opinions.
“I think that would be perfect,” she says.
I draw in my Grandpa, and his first wife. The add my Grandma. After I moment, I frown. “I guess I need to add my grandpa’s mom. She was the one my dad and his siblings went to when Joyce would lock them out of the house, and the one who they spent as much time with as they could when grandpa was gone.”
“She would be important to add. And then, under her name, you could write that she was a safe person, a secure base, if you wanted.”
I nod, and add that in.
“I’m going to move my chair over here,” Bea points to the corner of the table, on the side I am sitting, “so I am not reading upside down.” She waits before moving, giving me time to say no, but I’m okay with that. It’s strange, really, how I’ve had sessions where even Bea moving to grab tissues for me makes me jump or scoot back, but I’ve been to sessions with Kat where I end up right next to Bea; like the time Kat put us both ‘in jail’ (under the table).
We add in my dad, his siblings, their spouses and children. I tell little facts about them all, or remind Bea who they are. She is surprised to learn my Grandma was married before my Grandpa. We talk about my one aunt, who is technically a step-aunt, and how she was very close to my grandpa, and the baby boy she lost. Each person I add, each connection between people I add, I look to Bea for confirmation that I’m doing this “right”. I have always had this need to do things right, to do them perfect. When I start to draw one of my Grandpa’s sisters in blue, instead of pink, I have this instant need to throw it all away and start over. Instead, I put down the pencil and trace over it in pink. I feel like pointing out to Bea that I just did something not perfectionistic, that I am changing in that regard. I don’t though, because that feels silly.
We talk about my uncle’s wife, who married him and then told him she didn’t want kids, and how the whole family disliked her because my uncle loves kids, and has always been great with them. I laugh to myself, thinking how he used to let my cousin and give him makeovers, and paint his nails. I tell Bea how I quite like his wife, although I don’t know her well. I don’t add my one aunt, my other uncle’s wife. I don’t feel like talking about her today. And although we draw X’s through people on the tree who have died, I don’t X out my Grandpa. I’m not ready to look at that, on paper, yet.
“We are going to have to finish this on Monday,” I tell Bea.
“Yes, probably. And after we get everyone down, we can go through and add their stories, and mental health, maybe mark if they are part of the perfectionism story. It’s good to talk it through as we draw it out, too. I can see connections already, to the present. So much actually does parallel your life.”
I don’t respond, because I’m not ready to really look at that right now. I’m a little back to functioning on the surface, focusing on concrete things. I’m wobbly, but better. Bea is back. Bea is back, and we are making a map of all the family stories and I’m going to be able to look at it and maybe start to understand how I got here, to this messy place.