I have a new therapist named Andrea. It was a lot of speed dating therapists until I landed on her. I’ve actually been on her waiting list to get in for about six years now. I first contacted her a few weeks after my house fire, when the twins were just a few weeks old and Stephanie and Joe started getting weird as fuck. She was full then. I would sporadically follow up, but she never had an opening. Even this time, she said she was full, but I asked two more times and somehow made it onto her schedule this time. I like her as well as Nicole, except she’s covered by insurance (which I now have to pay $551 a month for- thank you divorce). But that’s better than the $900 a month I used to pay out of pocket to see Nicole. I still can’t really process how much I used to spend on therapy, but Nicole has taught me so much and I have grown, and I have moved out of a toxic situation and towards something healthier. I am finding myself, and I never used to understand who I was apart from my husband. Those things are priceless, and while there isn’t as much money in my pocket, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I will be forever grateful.
I did cry yesterday in therapy, as I talked about how Pablo and the big green house still feel like home. I cried last time too, as I talked about missing my mother-in-law and the way I ran into her by accident at Papi’s gravesite. At my first appointment with her, I had a cold. As I grabbed a tissue, I almost proudly provided the disclaimer, “I’m not crying. I just have a cold. I don’t cry.” There are things that are safe about keeping walls up. There are things that are lonely about keeping walls up. But they are being chipped away, ever so slightly, as if by a single thin, rusty nail. The chiseling is more like a tap on my shoulder and a whisper that reminds me that I’m brave enough to do hard things, even though I’m scared as hell. Today the chiseling and taps and whispers were the rhythm of talking about wanting to go back home. Every day I still feel an urge to go back to my real home. I still feel like I belong with Pablo in the big green house and not here. This morning I sit on my boyfriend, Noel’s, black leather couch with my coat covering my bare legs and wonder if a Vera Bradley blanket might make this spot feel more like home. I stay at his house when I don’t have my kids. I stay at Tom’s house when I do have my kids. I watch myself inhabiting these two places while not inhabiting my own body at all. I told Andrea I do a lot of watching myself. “I watch myself. I watch her. I just watch.” Perhaps it’s trauma. Perhaps it’s still the shock stage of grief. Perhaps it’s both braided together. Or maybe it’s just survival. But I don’t feel the words rattling from my fingers. I hear them and watch them fill a blank page. Yet I’m watching this visitor who is not yet home and wonder if finding home will be a lightbulb that switches on, jolting me towards the recognition that I’m there, or if it will be more like a changing tide, where you have to look back to remember that the water level was somewhere different last season.
A lot of days I feel like I’m not moving on. I feel like I will always long for Pablo’s arms and regret leaving, and wonder if I will ever succeed in forgiving myself for the things I don’t need to be forgiven for. Because when I miss him and yearn for his ambiguous home, it is an intense pulling that overcomes this girl I watch, intruding on her boyfriend’s couch while he preps for a morning craniotomy. But today Andrea asked me how many times a day I used to have to talk myself out of going back home. She asked me how many times a day, I used to turn to my support people to mirror back to me why I left in the first place. I told her at first, it was all day, every day, maybe fifty times a day. And while I feel like this many months later, I shouldn’t still be longing for home as it was, and the arms of my husband, as they were, she pointed out that there’s progress. She asked, “Does it give you hope to notice that you used to have to be talked out of going back home fifty times and now it’s just once?” I told her that it did.
I get frustrated with myself and how attached I still am to Pablo, and how desperate I remain for his approval. I keep hoping to wake up and fall out of love or not need him to tell me that I’m doing a good job. But that relief doesn’t come, and I find myself like a heavy fish flailing about without oxygen in her captor’s net. Except I’m the one that swam into the net on purpose and now I’m not quite sure how to return to sea. Andrea told me that perhaps the detaching will look more like removing one thread at a time. Intuitively, I’m not ready to be released at all. I can’t breathe, true, but there’s something comforting about the tight net and the way the net’s creases indent my skin like tattoos. The net is so much safer than the sea. The net is love. The thinking part of my brain can take a step back and notice that remaining in the net’s suffocating clutches, will lead to my demise. Yet the feeling part of my brain could live forever in the net’s soft swaddle. The thinking part of my brain knows that the net is a tomb. But the feeling part of my brain believes that the net is a womb. I’m not really sure which thread of the net, if any, I will bite through today. And while I have yet to find what home is, the thinking part of my brain recognizes what home isn’t.Maybe that’s enough for right now.