I work 40 hours a week at my desk job, at least 20 hours at school, and at least 20 hours as a tarot reader in Salem this October (I’d work more if my schedule allowed). While lugging my laptop across a classroom yesterday, colleagues gasped in horror when they saw the color-coded monster that is my Google Calendar. “How are you doing that?” they asked. The secret is suffering.
Having a best friend is a gift. Having a lifelong best friend is a blessing straight from the heavens. Longtime readers of this blog, and there are a fair few of you at this point, will recognize Harriet here and know how much she means to me. For those of you who don’t know (or don’t necessarily care), I hope you someday feel the deep love and affection of real friendship. If you have that love, I hope you celebrate it. Allow me to go first.
I used to waste a lot of paper in notebooks—like, a lot of paper. Whole book butts were left blank, half a sheet of paper used, chunks ripped out and discarded. In retrospect, it was wasteful, but I also understand that version of myself: the one who desired clean lines and spaces above all because it felt like control. Now, though, I write until the book is full, even when the spine is broken and the cover is stained with coffee. I hate carrying it around when it looks bad, yet I must admit that the books represent a chapter of my life. As I finish one notebook and open another, a new chapter begins.
As I prepare for an incredibly busy September, my anxiety has been creeping up...a lot. I mean, there's a fine line between anxiety and excitement, but my body is very good at being anxious. To cope with getting married, taking on more responsibility at work, and going to grad school, I've definitely been flexing the organizational skills. Thanks, past me, for having on eye on the future.
In 2018, a doctor moved into the Bond House. As fiery Southerners, we had an immediate kinship. She had moved to Boston from New York to start her OBGYN residency program. Four years. Four years is how long it would take to get the stamp of specialization approval. Four years of late nights, no sleep, cups of coffee, missed holidays, painful evaluations, surgeries, births, deaths, social work, relationship strain, love, despair, learning, teaching, and many, many sketches of vaginas. On Friday, at last, she was 1 of 4 residents to graduate from a prestigious program. On Friday, the United States Supreme Court stripped women and people who can become pregnant of their right to bodily autonomy. Fifty years down the drain. Our grandmothers’ legacy? Forget about it. The states decide. Because that always goes so well.
Nothing is more expensive than being poor. Those who engage in social medicine and social justice scholarship know this to be true. For many of us who grew up in those impoverished settings written about in journals, it is a lived experience that has made us crusaders for change. Perhaps what we know most deeply is that poverty is a choice. It is not a choice of the impoverished but a choice made and perpetuated by a capitalist society interested in our bodies for as long as they can perform “essential services.”
It’s easy to be happy online. You work to put together the filter, the caption, the hashtags, the everything, and the end product is this shiny version of you. Don’t get me wrong, life has been good to me these last few years, and so it is always with no shortage of guilt that I present a version of myself that is less than happy. But I don’t want to lie to you.
When I moved to Boston in 2017, I wanted to be a clinical psychiatrist. After working as a therapeutic writing facilitator, I was so intrigued by the thought of helping people heal that it became more important to me than being a novelist (plus no one was interested in a fictionalized account of the French Revolution, despite its cultural and political relevance). Add in my new job with Harvard Medical School, I realized there was a lot of growing I still needed to do before spending any more time as a student. My life had to start, so it did.
It’s been a few weeks since I ended a year-long habit of going to therapy on a regular basis. The last time I ended my session, it was because graduation loomed and there was nothing else the counseling office could do for me. This time, though, I ended things because I felt that I achieved the goals that I’d set out for myself. For now, there is nothing else to unpack or dissect. Life can’t always be about introspection, sometimes it’s about living. That being said, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what I learned over the last twelve months because maybe it will help someone else see therapy as a viable path to healing.
With your cayenne lips still burning, you drive up the interstate. Family far behind, it’s easier to be at peace. Vacation becomes vacation, and New Orleans is a place to be at ease. The drive seemed longer when you were a kid, but it’s only three hours. You stop at the gas station your cousin insisted you go to, the one she goes to for fun. You kind of expect to make fun of it, but it really is quite the to-do. Employees get paid almost $20 an hour. No wonder it’s so clean. You wish every gas station in America was like this. The snack aisle is more fun than any memory of Disney you have.