Post Therapy Disruption and Repair OR The Attachment is Still Important
So I have been coping fairly well with being away from BN. Aside from one email that I sent to share some good news, there has been no contact. I think of BN often and occasionally miss him, but not in that angst-filled, it’s almost physically painful, kind of way I used to experience being away from him. Things have been good. I hasten to add also that my husband has retired and being the wonderful man he is, has taken over all the household chores, including cleaning, cooking and laundry. With him doing all that during the week, weekends have been devoted to long-term organizational tasks. You know that pile of papers you’ve been trying to go through for
six months two years? We’ve finally cleaned it up. 🙂 And I have been able to clean out my drawers and organize my jewelry and clean out the attic (OK, my husband did most of that!) and tackle some sewing projects. You get the picture. So the stress level has been helped both by the fact that my responsibilities have grown lighter and the house is more organized. Not feeling like your clothing is attacking you when opening a drawer causes a LOT less stress. 🙂 It’s really cool that when you need something, you remember where it is and it’s easily accessible. Hey, it only took us 30 years. But seriously, definitely helping the stress level. The only downside is finding time alone, including time to write (which is why I am still struggling to catch up with the comments!).
I normally get a small gift for BN at Christmas time. It’s varies from year to year but is usually something that either has meaning to both of us or that I know he’ll like. Since I am not seeing him right now, I had planned on skipping a gift, but decided to send him a card to say “Merry Christmas” with a short note on how I was doing. I had bought the card but before I had a chance to mail it, I ran across the PERFECT Christmas present. I found a pair of men’s socks, black with the word “Ninja” in gray on them. Socks have kind of been a “thing” with us. BN has a rather large sock collection (when you spend the first seven or eight years of your work together staring at a man’s feet to avoid eye contact, you get to REALLY know his sock collection). BN dresses quite conservatively and professionally (my thoughts the first time I met him was that he looked a little too buttoned down and precisely neat 🙂 ), but he has some awesomely whimsical socks. As I tend to use humor and the absurd, I found his socks both appealing and comforting, a sign of a kindred spirit so to speak. The first pair of socks I gave him had the London Tube system on them, brought back from a vacation in London. The second time I bought him socks were because one of my favorite pairs, that had DeVinci’s drawing of man, developed a hole in the toe. Which we both realized simultaneously during a very serious moment in a session. We both lost it and totally cracked up. I found an identical pair online and got them for him. BN always kicks off his shoes when he sits down, often tucking one leg under, which is another of the reasons I have such a good view of his socks. I ran across a pair of novelty socks, that looked like an Oxford shoe. HAD to buy them. It was one of my favorite times I gave BN a gift, as when he opened them, he kept shaking his head and saying “oh yeah, have to have them.” So finding a pair of socks with “Ninja” on them just seemed like the perfect gift and I couldn’t resist.
By the time the socks arrived at my house (I had ordered them online), it was too late to put a package in the mail in time for Christmas. But I work only around 15 minutes from BN’s office. His office is on the second floor, but he has a mail slot right inside the front door, so it’s easy to nip in and leave something in his mail slot without running into him. So I wrapped the socks and wrote out the card. I had also gotten my last bill from him (he uses a billing service, so I get a statement from them, then mail a check to BN). Since I was driving to his office anyway, it seemed silly to mail the payment. So the Tuesday before Christmas, I drove down to his office and put all three, socks, card and bill, with the bill on the bottom. When I pulled into the small parking lot outside of his office, BN’s car was not in his usual space. He normally takes off the week of Christmas, so I assumed he had already left for his Christmas break. So I knew he wouldn’t get the gift until after Christmas but that was fine.
We had a lovely Christmas this year. With my husband retired, everything actually got done in a timely manner and the holiday stress was considerably less. I didn’t ship ONE package this year! And our tree and decorations were up by the end of Thanksgiving weekend! So we were all definitely looking forward to Christmas. Christmas Eve rolled around. My family actually has more traditions around Christmas Eve than on Christmas day, so I was missing BN in a very wistful way. So I sent him a short text just wishing him a Merry Christmas. I didn’t ask for or expect a response (although there’s always just that touch of hope). I didn’t hear back and was fine at the time. I assumed he was celebrating with his family and I wouldn’t want to intrude on that time. It didn’t bother me until later.
Christmas went by, and without being too fanatic about it, I was keeping an eye out for a text or an email about the gift. About four years into our work, I had taken a break from therapy. During that time, I had sent BN a Christmas present and heard nothing back. He later apologized and told me that he can be really terrible about acknowledging gifts. So when I decided to give him the gift, I had thought through the fact that it might not be acknowledged and truly thought I would be fine about it. Despite all that I was semi-keeping an eye out.
About a week after Christmas, I logged into my bank account. And there it was, my check to BN had cleared. Seeing that ripped away the illusion that I was fine with not hearing back from him. I actually found myself angry and hurt that BN had time to deposit my check, but not enough time to say “thank you.” I was really wrestling with how to handle this. As strong as the bitter feelings of “see, the money IS the important part” and “I don’t really matter” and the classic favorite, “see, he WAS happy to get rid of me!” were, I actually was able to hang unto the fact that I knew none of those feelings reflected the truth. I contacted a few friends when I was wrestling with whether to contact BN and one pointed out that this was different from leaving your dentist. That it was, and still is, a significant relationship and that access to an attachment figure would probably always be a sensitive spot for me. Both friends normalized how I was feeling (one of them was quite satisfyingly annoyed with BN. 🙂 ) So I realized that no matter how stupid I felt, (what’s a disruption without shame?) I should call. When I decided to call him it was Saturday of New Year’s weekend, so I waited until Monday so as not to interrupt the holiday weekend (I hasten to add, it would have been ok to call right away, I just felt more comfortable waiting until he was in the office.)
Monday morning I called his answering service and said I needed to speak to BN. He called back around 15 minutes later (he was between sessions). We said hello, then I told him that I was feeling ashamed of how I felt, but knew it was important to call. I explained about not hearing back, then seeing the canceled check. I also told him I knew that my feelings weren’t a good reflection of reality but told him that I was angry and hurt. But as I thought about what was bothering me, it connected on a deep level to an abusive dynamic with my father. My father would act affectionate to draw me in, but the second the abuse was over and his needs were fulfilled I was abandoned. So I told BN that seeing the cancelled check and not hearing back from him evoked a feeling that he had gotten what he needed and abandoned me. Bless that man, he audibly winced when I said it and he connected very powerfully with what feelings must be coming up for me.
He was very warm and caring. He told me that he was very glad that I called, that he knew this was a difficult call to make. And he recognized that while I understood what the truth was, that we had discussed this in the past that when these deep feelings got triggered it was really important to check in and be reassured. He also said it was very gracious of me to send the gift, then fumbled a bit trying to remember what I gave him. The call helped immensely.
When I got off the phone I felt a little sad that I thought I had found the perfect gift, but BN struggled to even remember what it was. But then I realized that he remembers the truly important things. When I told him how I felt, his visceral reaction of what it must have called up in me, meant the world. He carries my experience with him and deeply understands why I would feel the way I do. I think I can overlook a little absent-mindedness over a gift. While I am not as important to BN as he is to me, I am important enough that he is still there, still recognizing who he is to me, and still available when I need to check in.
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