Saturday, September 13, 2014

Doorknob Confessions
Part I

"There's a reason it's called 'girls gone wild' and not 'women gone wild'. 
When girls go wild, they show their tits. 
When women go wild, they kill men and drown their kids in a tub."
 ~Louis C.K.

A doorknob confession is a term used by some clinicians/therapists to define the phenomena of the client divulging something incredibly important or critical in the last few minutes of a therapy session.

I stumbled upon a sobering realization recently. It appears that I am prone to making myself the indispensable font of all wisdom/take-charge manager of any and all crisis/hand-holder extraordinaire/provider of comfort and inspiration, and in doing so, encouraging people to become dependent upon me, which I promptly find a way to judge as "needy" and resent the hell out of. This has become a sticky tangle of codependency which stinks up the room and leaves a trail of broken relationships as far as the eye can see.

After a few years of immersing myself this job, I decided that I could no longer socialize because there was no lunch, dinner, party (Tupperware, Mary Kay, cocktail, etc.) or gathering that did not involve someone cornering me and picking my brain for input or reassurance. My tendency towards erratic (read: nonexistent) boundaries created the perfect storm for me to hide in my house and screen all calls. Fun fact: I have not spontaneously answered the phone in ten years.

Recluse level: Hobbit

Sample schedule for any given day:

6:00 a.m. email at least one person up my ass about a court date/finding mother’s ring/husband’s whereabouts/stomach pain/smell of pot coming from son's room/fear of upcoming blind date with an Internet acquaintance/ominous dream/alarming rash, lump or bowel movement.

7:00 a.m. breakfast often interrupted by phone call from client freaking out because I did not respond to email (see above).

9:30 a.m. work day begins client 30 minutes early for her 10:00 a.m. appointment because she needs to use the bathroom to poop/change tampon/floss teeth and/or get a few extra minutes of time because she has a LOT of issues to discuss today (one of the hazards of working from home rather than an office is that people see the situation as more of a casual meeting between friends, and the "friend" with the house probably doesn't mind at all if people just show up whenever they feel like it). I have put sticky notes on the door indicating that I am in another session, I have ignored the doorbell until our session time, I have opened the door a crack and asked that they come back at our scheduled time. Sometimes it works, but often, I am greeted by someone who is already crying, panicking and/or on the verge of wetting her pants and the urgency is difficult to ignore.
Of course I am at my fresh and optimistic best for the first sessions of the day. Once the bathroom desperation is behind us, we visit the usual Stations of the Cross: relationships ("where is my soul mate/how can I get rid of the guy I thought was my soul mate?"), health ("does this look like cancer to you?"), family ("I dreamed that I killed my mother. What do you think that means?") and money ("I need to win the Lotto to pay rent. Can you give me the numbers?").

12:00 p.m. the day continues some snippets of pressing issues to be addressed:
~Food (?) Addictions - entire tub of Cool Whip consumed every night at 11:00 p.m., toilet paper, chalk, raw meat, packets of Sweet-n-Low, potting soil, red wine and Gummy Bears (just the green ones).
~Frequently-heard past life concerns - client believes she was either Cleopatra, Joan of Arc or Mary Magdalene. Fear of choking/flying/drowning/bridges/worms/vomiting and what lifetime are these from/is demonic father figure involved?
~Haunted spaces and/or interactions with ghosts - disembodied spirits who show up around 3:00 a.m. wanting to have sex, flickering lights, televisions which spontaneously change channels, coffee makers percolating on their own schedule, missing keys, slamming doors and strange smells.
~Doorknob Confessions (startling revelations in the last few minutes of a session) - "Could all of this have anything to do with the fact that I was molested by a priest when I was nine years old?" "I think I’ve decided to get that sex change surgery after all." "Maybe it's a good time to tell my daughter who her real father is." "I think I'm in love with my uncle."
~Beauty Consultations -
Client: “Do you think this eye shadow works for me?”
Me: “What color is it?”
Client: “It’s called smoky plum parfait.”
Her eyelids look like two fairly serious subdural hematomas to me, but I had been reviewing autopsy photos earlier that week, so what the hell did I know? Me: “Well, it’s really more of an evening look, I think” (this from a woman whose ham-handed experiments with eyeliner make her look as though she’s peering out from a charred log).

Same client wants a read on whether or not she should schedule an appointment for anal bleaching. I am struck by the absurdity of her desire to darken her eyelids and lighten her asshole.

3:00 p.m. trying to end the day find a type-written list of questions and $50 stuck to the front door with masking tape (this Internet-resistant client thoughtfully includes an envelope in which to place my replies and mentions that she "will just keep driving by the house to look for the envelope on the door"). Four back-to-back telephone messages from someone calling in a panic from the candle room of a Catholic church. Between the cell phone static and her hushed tone, I gather some sketchy information about her mother's unexpected death three months ago and that Mom is now communicating scary messages through this woman's iPod. "I must speak to you NOW. I’m not crazy…I swear!" I have absolutely no idea who this, nor does she leave a number so that I can return her call.

5:00 p.m. after work observations I learned long ago that my workday is never really "done". I seem to be some sort of a mystical magnet for people's struggles and often find myself conversing with strangers about the troubling aspects of their lives. These impromptu mini-sessions can happen with the waitress at Denny's, a cashier at Home Depot or in the produce section of Trader Joe's. My ears are also tuned to the interesting conversations of other people. Here's a fragment of one I happened upon while waiting in line for a smoothie at Whole Foods:

Mid-Life-Redhead: "Did you hear that Jane's husband dropped dead in the bathroom at LAX last week?"
Mid-Life-Blonde: "Yeah. Wish it had been my husband."
(both women chuckle)
MLR: "I think that's called 'widow envy'."
MLB: "Well, I have got a bad case of that right now."
MLR: "I thought you guys were okay after your trip to Cancun."
MLB: "Yeah, we got home and all I could think of was that we just don't have anything in common anymore. He's a cat person and I want to see him drive off a cliff or better yet, die in some way that involves a wrongful death settlement."
MLR: "I think that when you start fantasizing about all the ways your husband could die, it's a sign the marriage is over."
MLB: "Whatever."

Just like a cookie full of arsenic, inside every "whatever" is a little bit of "fuck you".

I return to Whole Foods the following week when I have some time to linger in the vitamin and supplement aisles. This section of the store never fails to disappoint when it comes to people watching. On any given day, you might observe someone swinging a pendulum over the probiotics or using homemade dowsing rods to search for the best natural remedies for erectile dysfunction.

On this visit, I witness a woman in overworked yoga pants and Hello Kitty slippers cornering a male employee to show him a photo she's taken with her iPhone of a bothersome rash on her inner thighs. As she is yammering through the accompanying symptoms, he interrupts her with, "sorry ma'am...I work in the produce department." She seems unfazed and lunges toward another employee to begin her tirade anew.

Over in the shampoo aisle, I happen upon a heated debate about the environmental impact of "lather, rinse, REPEAT" and how the "repeat" part of the shampooing instructions is creating a massive footprint from which we, as a society, will never recover. Polar ice caps are melting because we are being ordered by the beauty product cartels to lather up twice! When will the madness end? Where is Al Gore when we need him? Is this the Apocalypse?

Namaste, assholes.

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