A Parent I Pay

"Well, you see doctor, I have this fantasy that I simply cannot escape...."

Dear readers, thank you for all your thoughtful  and kind suggestions for What I Should Do With My Life. I think it was a fantastic exercise to write down (type down?) the many different visions that have been in and out of my head, as a way to quantify some of the real work I’ve been doing in mapping out my future.

So I toddled off to my beloved shrink yesterday, sharing with her my excitement over the Rhinebeck option, and before I even got to describe the lovely property with a pond and screened porch, she interrupted me: “That time you were looking at houses, you could have been using to look for a job.”

Oh. Oh dear! My therapist is a gifted and wonderful woman, who knows me inside and out, and I’m not sure she’s ever taken me to task before. I was quite taken aback, and felt the sting of tears smarting in the corners of my eyes.

The tears were there, I knew, because I didn’t want her to take away my Everything-Will-Be-Okay solution. But what she was showing me was instead what’s true: instead of continuing to do this terribly hard step-by-step work of getting myself stable—with a job and an income and some purpose to organize my life around—I’d escaped… into an escape fantasy.

You can see how my brain would have figured it out for me: “Okay, this job anxiety and money anxiety is really overwhelming and unpleasant, and I’m utterly bored and flat-out exhausted by thinking about it. So instead, let’s do something fun! Let’s dream up an option that means NOT having to solve the job anxiety and the money anxiety, that means NOT having to finish living through the emotional tumult of having everything you think you knew about yourself yanked away. Imagine yourself happy! Growing lettuces! Staring at the pond and writing books! It’s so close! Just 118 miles away!

Yes, I can still dream about that house and that life, and I do believe that’s where I’m headed. But choosing to catapult myself into a new town, with none of my existing support systems, and none of my son’s existing support systems, with an unreliable income… Well, my therapist pointed out that’s probably not my best move while I’m pinwheeling about as I have been. Ah, yes. That seems like a very wise (and somewhat obvious) observation.

Sounds like something my parents would have said to me, actually. And frankly, I’m glad to know someone is looking out for me. (Besides the universe itself, of course.)

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses: a divorce and house disaster that led to a book (Falling Apart In One Piece); a week after the book came out, my parents suddenly fell gravely ill, I resigned from my job (and, apparently, my career), my son went into crisis, my parents then rapidly died four weeks apart, and my boyfriend (who had moved in with me and my son just weeks before the book came out) began the painful journey of realizing we couldn't make our relationship work (that story unfolded on this blog). Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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6 Responses to A Parent I Pay

  1. Those pesky wise therapists. Always there to burst your immature-escape-fantasy bubble. Sigh. I’m sure you’ll find a way to have it all someday. But glad for now you’ve got someone here, giving you sage, mature advice.

  2. Let’s hear it for the rational therapist / friend / parent / stranger-who-hits-you-with-truth. And our own heads, which eventually wrap around the same logical (albeit less agreeable) conclusions.

    But dammit – at some point wouldn’t it be nice to have a small break from the steady stream of reinvention?

    I know, I know. Escape fantasy of my own.

  3. Rob Smith says:

    We all need to escape sometimes – winning the lottery, moving to France, joining the circus – I’ve dreamt about it all. It gives the brain a break. Keep dreaming while you get things together. You never know when the opportunity may present itself to make them reality!

  4. zen davis says:

    Ahhh….yes. My therapist does that too- only he seems to do the reverse for me. I go in with the plan that I will become something entirely practical- but which requires a new degree etc. And each time he gently reminds me that’s not what I’m degreed already to do, that there are creative options out there and I’m just running from them to something that seems safer. Weird isn’t it? In fairness in my case I have a new practical plan every 3 weeks. But I’ve noticed that he always supports my “impractical” ones of getting a job IN MY FIELD. Sigh…those darn therapists!

  5. Al Bacon says:

    when you escape into a fantasy, you need to be sure that it is not a potential future that you need to chose and fight for if indeed it is the future you want. Remember that it was a fantasy when the Wright brothers decided to put wings on their bicycle to see what that would do. The book Illusions, by Richard Bach, is great for thinking about that line between illusion and reality. Just imagine what the world would be like if Walt Disney had endorsed reality and forsaken all of his fantasies! You need to decide if a dream, a possible future, is achievable before discarding it as a fantasy.

    • stacy says:

      I think it absolutely IS a potential future. But the point that I believe she was making (because once she made it, I believed it, too), is that I have to do things in order: finish living my various griefs and losses (so much change in so short a time), slowly build a steady platform, stretch out my wings and THEN go. We know what happens to birds who leap from the nest too soon… but I fully intend to be flying again!

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