Saturday, August 11, 2007
Two months have passed in utter darkness. The unlit sky begs reprieve from the total eclipse of my December heart – slow with cold and unaware that it still beats in August – Unaware it still beats at all. What good is my apology now? On whose ears would it fall? Surely not upon the woman who loved me once, whose promises of love were so deeply branded into my heart - the scar of unrequited love.
Apologies trip and stumble through my mind, unacknowledged, unspoken, and hopelessly undelivered. Their door to you frozen with the cold of endless night. Stars once brilliant and dazzling mock me in a constellation of pain.
In my dreams you touch me there – your unmistakable touch! Your doe eyed passionate gaze still, with no hint of hatred. Your lips deliver convincingly your message of love – an unspoiled kiss with the taste of forever on your breath. Your curves resume their familiar place against me – two puzzle pieces into one. And in my ear you whisper “Why?”
“I have no answer for you.” I say, and wait for your reaction. But you say nothing – nothing at all, and simply fade into the endless night and into the shadow of my December heart.
by dennis tkon - copyright 2007
The temple walls they crumble bricks
Surround me like prayers gone awry
And rice once scattered strewn on steps
Cannot attract the birds who fly
And blade their wings against the air
Their song through motion silently
In search of sweeter bread and sky
With no regard for gravity
But tied to Earth I am with questions
Born of need to know you so
My hands reach skyward for the birds
And helplessly I watch them go
And then in time a child to
A man I’ve turned and hope to find
A truth beneath it all which flows
Like love to which I have been blind
Enough years are assembled now
And sweeter things I’ve come to know
The light it falls upon the bricks
And through the cracks I start to grow
Forgiveness love and gratitude
I’ve gathered up each grain of rice
Consumed them hungrily like food
Now beats a heart once made of ice
And through my veins sweet water flows
Like love and all these things I’ve found
I’m ever closer to the birds
My feet no longer touch the ground
My heart sings pure a song heard only
By the birds who blade the air
In search of sweeter bread and sky
With questions few and love to share
by dennis tkon - copyright 2007
When it comes upon me when
The skies are open like balloons
And songs spill from the ends of birds
And carry soft and then and soon
I try and hard as it might be
To embrace this philosophy
And failing fast though I may try
There’s always time enough to cry
So sing the song of broken hearts
A desperate beating in my chest
And cast off hurtful memories and when
I’m done forget the rest
And build a column to the sky
Till time folds in upon itself
Then rest my head upon the earth
Till blue commands and nothing else
If eyes could see the shadow world
A topsy arch all golden love
And blessings spilled like seeds unsown
Into an earth I’ve never known
Then wishes fall into my cup
A toast to you my thankfulness
And joy unbridled drink it up
Consumed but there is never less
Upon me now it has arrived
The sky and earth they touch just so
And in the space between I’m loved
Much more than I will ever know
By Dennis Tkon - Copyright 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
This is the continuation of yesterday's post about my therapy session on Tuesday. Read the prior post first or this won't make sense to you.
To be continued . . .
CARL: Tell me what you remembered.
DENNIS: (Complies – verbatim. I tell him everything as I remembered it.)
CARL: Can you talk from the anger?
DENNIS: (Sounding puzzled.) Anger?
CARL: Yes. You must have been very angry – being treated that way by your mother when you were so sick and needed her love and comfort.
DENNIS: It wasn’t just when I was sick that I needed her. When I needed her most, she was physically and emotionally unavailable. She was as insubstantial as air – like a ghost.
CARL: When was that? When was it that you needed her most – that she was like a ghost?
DENNIS: (Struggling to hold back the tears – tearing and twisting a tissue. Long pause.) The beatings. (Pause.) When he’d beat me and scream at me. She did nothing to stop him. She made excuses for him. She justified his insanity.
CARL: (Stares at me.)
DENNIS: She turned her back on me.
CARL: So tell me how this relates to being sick and the way your mother cared for you? How do these feel connected or related?
DENNIS: Well . . . I can’t help thinking about how when I was sick, one minute my mom would be crazed with anger over having to take care of me, and the next minute she’d be saying all of the “right” words – comforting words, and would seem like she cared or at lest would be doing things suggesting she cared. I don’t know. I could never tell with her.
CARL: I see.
DENNIS: And that’s sort of the problem I guess . . . that I was getting a very mixed message. One second she’s being a bitch and the next minute she’s being “mom-like.” It was impossible to know which of those two women was really my mom. Letting her love me and take care of me felt so so risky and so unsafe – like I couldn’t trust her.
CARL: You couldn’t.
DENNIS: I know!
CARL: And then when you’d find yourself in a “truly” life threatening situation, her true colors would always be shown.
CARL: She never failed to disappoint you. She consistently never came to your side.
DENNIS: (Says nothing.)
CARL: And then when you were sick and suddenly she seemed to care, you couldn’t help but wonder if it was genuine, because after all, if she really loved you and really cared for your well being, then she should have thrown her body between you and your father and “saved” you from his wrath each time, right?
CARL: So, in all likelihood, your anger response to “caretaking” gestures, like being offered a cup of coffee, is all about feeling unsafe, because you’re used to being confused about the intent of the so-called caretaker, right?
DENNIS: Yeah. Like when Beth offered me the coffee, I felt angry and confused, because I didn’t know what she meant by that gesture.
CARL: That’s exactly my point. In your mind, it couldn’t just be that she was offering you a cup of coffee. The gesture had to mean something more than that, and it couldn’t possibly mean, in your mind, that you just looked like you needed a cup and she felt like doing something nice for you.
CARL: Because who would want to do something nice for you – someone whose own mother couldn’t even love him or protect him from a spiritual death.
DENNIS: (Quietly.) Yeah.
CARL: But what do we really know about your mother’s situation? Truthfully.
DENNIS: That she was really just as much a victim of my father’s rage as I was and just as powerless to do anything about it because of her own issues and complexes that would be activated by his rage.
CARL: Exactly. And what about her anger towards you when you were sick?
DENNIS: That was just her acting out how her own mother treated her when she was sick as a kid, and really had nothing to do with, because, um . . . my being sick was just a trigger for her that would activate her response to her own complex?
CARL: You’ve been paying attention all these weeks! You’re a wonderful student.
DENNIS: Thanks. But that doesn’t change how I feel. I still react badly when someone tries to take care of me.
CARL: And you probably will for some time. But remember. And I’ve told you this many times. Awareness of a complex is the first step towards healing that complex. You have to learn to recognize it; what triggers it; what the reactions look and feel like; how long it lasts; and a dozen other things, before you can begin to be the master of your mind when you’re activated. Most people have difficulty just acknowledging and accepting that they even have a complex.
DENNIS: GOD! This work is so difficult and demanding sometimes.
CARL: But it’s worth it. You know how much of a difference it’s made in your life already.
DENNIS: Don’t worry. I won’t stop. I’ll keep working on me.
CARL: Well, for today we’re going to have to. We’re out of time.
I get up and walk over to Carl’s desk and lay my check on top of his day-timer. We exchange further pleasantries and then end our session as we always do – with a big hug.
It looks like we’ll be working on the mother complex issue for a while. So stay tuned.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
This is Part I of Tuesday’s therapy session. I hoped to get the whole thing out in one sitting, but it’s getting long so I decided to cut it into two. I’ll be back to finish this later (hopefully).
I’m sitting in my psychologist’s waiting room reading People Magazine before being called into the safety of Carl’s office, with its heavy paneling and darkly stained wood. The space is completely stuffed full of leather furniture. Books, ceiling to floor. Carl doesn’t smoke a pipe, but it smells like someone did a long time ago. With me in the waiting room are two large coffees from Dunkin Donuts – one for me and one for Carl. Mine has cream and sugar. Carl likes his black, which my mind translates into “I don’t need any help and can do this alone.” Silently, I curse my coffee for being needy. Bringing him coffee is new and this is only the second time I’ve attempted this. I’m anxious. I haven’t been here in two weeks and I worry that bringing Carl coffee is somehow a breach of the imaginary boundaries which shape the doctor-patient relationship.
Carl appears suddenly, as if conjured, and bids me a hearty “Helllll-OOOOWWW”, which always triggers a sudden release of adrenalin, mildly throwing me into the fight-or-flight response.
DENNIS: (Thinking to myself) I pay him for this?
CARL: Come - on - back! (He says, in brisk staccato as if each word were a complete cheer in the game of my well-being).
I pick up both cups of coffee and comply. Walking back, I hear the electric whirring of the sound machine, parked on the floor by Carl’s doorway blurring the sound of conversation which might leak out of a session. I look at it and feel sad – sad that there are so many secrets in need of blurring. And in that moment, I feel the weight of my own shame, worn like a backpack full of lies. I step into Carl’s office and look around. It’s my routine. What am I checking for? I don’t know. I guess I just need it to be the same. I look some more. Everything is where it belongs. I stop next to my favorite leather chair, the one that swivels and reclines and supports me when I fall apart. The one I’ve rebuilt myself in over and over again. The one that knows more about me than any other chair in the world. I study it too. For the briefest moment I imagine someone else sitting in my chair talking to Carl, using my tissues, from the box on my table next to my chair and I feel the sting of jealousy sizzle down my spine. Suddenly, I remember that I’m holding two coffees and hold one out toward Carl.
DENNIS: Oh! I almost forgot. I brought you a coffee. I figured you wouldn’t have had any yet since it’s so early, and I had to stop to get mine anyway . . . (my voice trails off, nervously watching for any sign of disapproval.)
CARL: Well! Thank you! How kind. I don’t mind if I do sir. (He says this in a sing-song sort of voice, as if he were telling a children’s story full of magic lands, giants, and enchanted gardens.) Can I pay you?
DENNIS: (Subconsciously I become aware of the word “patronizing”, but the thought fails to form fully in my mind.) Nah. It’s on me. My treat. It’s nothing.
This exchange is followed by a few more reassurances and I settle into my chair. Carl sits in an identical one across from me and we move into the next phase of my routine – the staring game. The silence makes my ears feel full and I wait for him to speak, like always. Eventually, he asks how I am and in no time, ten minutes of my fifty minute session have been wasted on small talk. And then we get to work.
DENNIS: . . . I know! It’s like that mother complex thing we were working on last time. I just have so much trouble asking for help – especially if it’s help for me personally.
CARL: What do you mean?
DENNIS: Well, in my world, there’s a huge difference between “Can I help you with that?” and “Can I help you?”
CARL: (Stares at me.)
DENNIS: I mean, I don’t have any trouble letting people help me with stuff – you know, work on my cases or do things that need to be done if it helps me out. Again, No problem with, “Let me help you with that.” I just go nuts though if someone tries to help ME!
CARL: Can you give me an example?
DENNIS: (Makes a loud puffing noise somewhere between exasperation and surprise.) PUHH! Yeah! Definitely. Last night. Perfect example. I’m sitting in my office preparing for a deposition when my paralegal, Beth, walks in at around quarter to five.
CARL: Is this the new paralegal?
DENNIS: Yeah. So Beth walks in and asks me if there is anything that I need for my deposition. Do I have my file, Do I need any last minute filing done, any copying? I tell her, “No.” Not because I don’t want her to do those things, it’s just that there really isn’t anything that needs to be done. She was just being helpful.
CARL: (Stares at me.)
DENNIS: So she mills about my office putting things away and tidying up and looking after me in a way that starts to feel a little mothering (cue the psycho violins). Then she turns towards me and just looks at me very compassionately. She’s observing how tired I look and is measuring my pile and doing the mental calculations which allow her to conclude that I have many long hours ahead of me. She cocks her head to one side slightly and in the sweetest most compassionate voice asks me if she can get me a cup of coffee.
CARL: (Stares at me.)
I pause here and feel myself burning with anger. I’m angry that Beth offered me coffee and I’m furious that Carl is just staring at me and saying nothing.
CARL: What did you do when she offered you the cup of coffee?
DENNIS: What did I do? (I ask, stunned that he’s asking.) I told her, “No!” But not just “No” like a regular “No.” It was a “No” like “Whoa! How could you ask me such a question?” I said it with a lot of force and in a way that hopefully told her that she shouldn’t ever offer me coffee again. She looked hurt and a little scared and I imagined that she was wondering what the hell was wrong with me.
CARL: (Carl looks back and forth several times at his cup of coffee and then at me – pausing for emphasis.) What did she do when you told her “No” like that?
DENNIS: She smiled a funny smile and said, “Ok.” And then she left.
Several minutes pass as we both ponder the exchange between me and Beth and my reaction to her gesture of kindness.
CARL: So? What do you think this is all about? What would have happened if you had accepted Beth’s offer? (Pause) Can you close your eyes and imagine Beth again offering you the coffee and you just feeling how good that feels to have someone look after you in that way? Can you imagine accepting the coffee from Beth?
As Carl says these words, the hair on the back of my neck stands up, my teeth gnash and my hands clench the armrests on my chair. I imagine Beth’s syrupy-sweet offer and experience her words flowing through me like a lethal injection. Every cell in my body arches and resists as if my life depended on it. Fury rises in me and suddenly, I see my left hand firmly around Beth’s throat and all I can think about is choking her. I close my eyes to the image and feel drops of sweat sliding from my underarms down my sides. I answer Carl in a small whisper – almost the voice of a child.
DENNIS: No. (Still whispering I continue.) I don’t want that. I don’t want any of it.
A tear rolls down my cheek but I hardly notice. I’m back in my bedroom and I’m five years old. I’m sick. I’m sure I have a fever of over one hundred degrees and I’ve just thrown up in the bathroom. Before waking up my mother to tell her, I’ve assembled everything she could possibly need to take care of me. I’ve gotten out the aspirin, thermometer, a cold rag, a glass of water, a trashcan with a bag in it to catch my vomit and tissues. God forbid my mother should have to get any of these things herself. I’d feel so much more like a burden – even more than I do now, just needing her to know that I’m sick and maybe take my temperature. After several minutes, my mother stomps into my bedroom carrying her bathrobe. She doesn’t slide her arms into each sleeve. She punches her fists into them in quick jerks, while muttering under her breath. She ties her robe violently with sharp dramatic movements, and I can actually hear the fabric protesting as it slides across itself. It makes an angry zzzzzziiip sound.
Still muttering, she comes over to my bedside and observes my “handiwork” – my collection of things one needs when one is sick. My mother looks at me with disgust and says, “You’re such a hypochondriac! You don’t even know if you’re sick yet! I’ll tell you if you’re sick!” She picks up the thermometer and removes it from the case. She starts shaking it down violently. I can hear her wrist snapping and cracking with each shake. It’s a horrible sound – a precursor of a certain kind of death. I watch in horror. I’ve seen this before and I know what’s coming but I dare say nothing. And then it happens – again. The thermometer flies out of my mother’s hand and shatters on my nightstand. Glass and mercury go everywhere.
MOM: SHIT! GOD DAMN IT! GOD DAMN YOU! UUUHHHH! You have to go and get sick, don’t you! I tell you not to touch filth – to wash your hands, but you don’t listen. I tell you to button up your neck! GOD DAMN IT!!! (She’s lost her mind).
I feel the need to throw up at this point but somehow my body knows better – knows my life depends on not getting sick. I offer to clean up the glass and mercury but my mother ignores me. Her silence says it all. Her silence is worse than words – because I supply the words for her in when she fails to rise to the occasion. In my head I hear clearly, “I hate you. You’re such a fucking burden. How did I ever get stuck with you? I hate you. You’re an un-loveable piece of shit!”
After a moment, I realize I’m looking down at two wet spots – one on the top of each of my thighs and I’m back in Carl’s office. I’m on fire with shame and feel the urge to leave. I need to get out of here. I can’t look up at him.
CARL: Where’d you go?
DENNIS: (I look up at him for a second)
CARL: Where’d you go?
CARL: (An understanding nod).
To be continued . . .