Mar 27, 2024, 06:24AM

Reva in Session

When does this get easier?

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Reva never had enough time. She had a weekly therapy appointment with Tina that she often canceled. She’d been seeing (and canceling) Tina since the divorce, when the girls were still at home. Now that Reva was 50, she couldn’t shake that elevator doors feeling. When she was 30 and was running late, she’d sprint to the doors, and someone would notice and stop them from shutting. In her 40s, she’d scream out “Elevator!” and usually someone would hold it. But now that she was 50, when she’d encountered the closing doors, she hadn’t even bothered running or shouting. She quietly whispered, “Fuck it,” to herself and accepted that she’d missed the goddamn elevator.

Fifty was just a number, but it really wasn’t the number. It was the isolation of her specific life at 50. Life’s doors were closing in a semi-permanent way. She’d had the family she’d hoped for. Then her marriage dissolved into a post-traumatic-war-zone puddle. She kept herself together, worked her ass off and raised her daughters without too much regret. She’d yelled too much, and probably didn’t coax enough raw vegetables into them, but generally speaking, she was proud of them, and proud of herself.

Most importantly, her daughters were out of the house, and one of them was pointed in the right direction. With the other one, Reva was learning how to accept that sometimes it takes longer for a person to find their compass. Neve was wandering around the desert. Becca was wandering around Claremont, perhaps even studying.

When she kept the appointment, Reva went to see Tina on Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. Tina Castiglione wore purple frames on her small round face. Her silver hair was closely cropped. She resembled a grandmotherly Annie Lennox, with a pointed nose. She sat remarkably still in her chair, an owl-like creature, moving only her head and occasionally re-crossing her legs, while writing notes meticulously onto her pad.

It was too early for a therapy appointment, but it was the only time slot that worked with Reva’s schedule, allowing her to get to work by 10. She usually canceled because she hadn’t slept well or had finished the bottle of wine, instead of stopping at two glasses.

Tina had an hourglass instead of a clock, which she used for a timer. An old-fashioned one with white sand, sitting up on a bookshelf behind the chair where Reva sat. The chair was lumpy and scratchy and Reva had told Tina she needed to replace it at least three times. Tina just smiled and said, “I think people shouldn’t get too comfortable if they’re serious about unpacking their lives.” Reva couldn’t tell if Tina honestly believed that, or had inherited the furniture and was lazy, or just cheap.

Reva looked behind her occasionally, breaking the unspoken rule that the person receiving therapy isn’t supposed to be aware of the time. Reva knew that the therapist positioned the clock, or hourglass, behind the person in treatment. The purpose was to glance casually beyond and detect the time remaining without being noticed. When the session time neared its conclusion, the therapist could tactfully wrap up the conversation. Nobody receiving therapeutic advice enjoyed being cut-off, silenced, and then abruptly told to leave. Therapists had to dance around the fact that they held the clock and kept the time.

Reva turned her head in an obvious way every 15 minutes or so to let Tina know she knew her time was being measured, and billed, by the slipping of the sand. Despite the fact it short-circuited the impact of her sessions, Reva couldn’t stop herself from highlighting how the process was about power. Who gets to keep the time? Who gets paid? Who gets to pretend they’re in control of their lives and who admits the countless ways in which they aren’t.

On this specific Thursday morning, Reva was about 10 minutes early.

She opened her thermos and poured her coffee. An old oak shaded the lot but beams of morning light sliced through the openings, casting a spell over the quiet lot. Reva sipped her coffee. What did she need to talk about with Tina? She tried to think not of what she wanted to say, but what required digesting. It was easier to speak about the constant noises of life, but harder to find and then decipher the signals. Distractions surrounded Reva. Her apps and her desire to believe in life hacks and efficiency. She sometimes sensed that she needed someone to physically remove the phone from her hand, but nobody was there to remind her that her hand even existed.

Tina had once asked her about her habits of mind. Reva didn’t enjoy that session. Didn’t like being tactfully told she couldn’t focus very well and didn’t enjoy being reminded that her patience had been slipping.

Maybe she’d talk with Tina about dating. About the last date and why she stopped texting Henry the boring data analyst. Or maybe she’d open up about her nihilistic tendencies. Her wish to retire early, without enough savings, and live somewhere in rural Vermont, where she’d meet a middle-aged folksy tree man, who looked like Jon Hamm and who worked for the parks service, tapped maple trees for syrup and made her omelets every morning. Reva was always battling herself, sometimes rebelling against… she didn’t know. Not adjusting to this new online dating life. Not learning how to mellow without wine or how to let go of her intensity.

Maybe she’d talk about Jules. Her sweet old Dad who soon might not remember when to go to sleep or when to wake up. Or maybe she’d discuss her fears about Neve and Becca. How she ached with longing to see them, but how she refused to call them more than once a month out of some defiant urge to let them go and then wait for them to choose to come back to her. A kind of power-trip of disconnection and her own stubborn attempt to rediscover her own passions, which she couldn’t find anymore. Or maybe she’d talk about the north star of her suffering, her bipolar long-gone mom, Lisa. The mom who left without saying goodbye and then sent postcards and money as if she were a distant relative, an overseas aunt. Reva had no idea what the fuck to talk about.

An hour? Which of her terminal issues might possibly get resolved in an hour, while all that sand slipped away? She thought of the sand as something closer to measuring natural time than a clock. Our time as humans, surviving on earth, while the planet overheated and all the ice melted. The sand was her dad, slipping into a shell of himself, a frail and elderly man. The sand was her own body, slipping down toward the earth, turning her into a woman whom she feared soon nobody would want to have sex with, much less make an omelet for.

She screwed the coffee cup back onto the thermos and got out of the car. She walked with a sense of resignation into Tina’s office and sat down in the uncomfortable chair.

“Where do you want to start?” Tina asked, tapping her pen on her small notebook.

Reva didn’t want to start. She sighed. “When does this get easier? Being alive? I thought people were supposed to get happier with age.”

“Some people do, some people don’t,” Tina said.


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