I stopped at the corner of Smith and Dean (because the stoplight told me to) where the buildings are low and the sun can reach us humans. I used to hate that about Brooklyn. I looked south and I had this sense that I will be free. Maybe I am even free while getting free. A sense that everything will be OK, and that I will be content with MY life. Maybe it is the Saturday-ness or the summer-ness talking or the fact that my husband has taken the kid to the Met and I am alone for the first time in a week.
I saw a woman at the public pool last week that was so pretty I couldn’t believe it. I think she was even Australian. And pregnant. I told my husband about her and that I felt like a sea slug next to her. She had one of those noses that is just tiny enough and even turns up a bit on the end. And I would never be as round as her in some places or as petite as her in other places. It really seemed unfair to me that one person could be so perfect.
And I put on layer on layer of makeup waiting to see the beauty I’m longing for.
And then in the afternoon we went to the Health Center to visit Ms.D. Bera sometimes asks me why we go to visit her and I say, “Maybe she is lonely and we can help with that.”
She was sitting in the common room with her dark sunglasses that we gave her last Christmas and her bright floral dress. Her friend Mr. M was to my left. We all talked for a bit and laughed at Bera with her dress over her head and then Mr. M looked at me and said, “Well, how are you?”
I babbled a bit about this trouble with anxiety and sleep and being so sad about it. And this man, old before he is actually old, in a wheelchair and separated from family, listened to me and assured me that it would get better.
I had brought Ms. D unsalted corn chips (“Those ones that taste like cornbread.”) I didn’t bring dip or anything, and I can hardly think of a more unexciting snack. Ms. D asked me to offer it to people around the table, and everyone wanted some. I don’t know why, but it struck me. The simplicity, the gratitude, the beauty of these people.
I know I tell Bera we visit because they could be lonely, but maybe I am actually starving for perspective that is true and right.
I think I expected counseling to be me talking until we come upon this revelation about my life that will change everything.
It’s not. It’s very slow, very unimpressive work. Instead of realizing something key about my childhood or a way in which I’ve been wronged, I am learning the ways I have sunk into my weaknesses. The ways I give into thoughts that can turn into self-doubt or catastrophe or panic.
The hard part is the homework. When I have to do the things that scare me: assert myself, show my anger or set an alarm for 3am to learn to fall asleep without panic. Dear God, it’s been hard. I’m in the middle of it, still. I’ve been treading water for awhile now– different milligrams of different medications, some days hopeful, some days scared, wondering if the counseling is worth the huge expense. But I feel like maybe I’m very slowly coming out of the upright position of treading and starting to doggy paddle, and I believe one day I will swim : a breaststroke, long and strong. And mid-stroke, I will remember standing on Smith and Dean and seeing the sun.