Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On Being Connected


This is a post that's about me and my life and something that's important to me, and it's about psychiatry, even if it might not seem that way.

I am very lucky. I have some really wonderful people in my life--both family and friends. My husband and I met our freshman year of college-- we've been together our entire adult lives, we carry each others' histories, we've shared nearly every event (including and especially the Red Sox victory in the World Series in 2004, even if he was in a hotel room in Florida), he knows all the inside jokes, let me write chemistry equations all over his legs, listened to my pre-med then med school angst, has survived endless shrinky dinner parties (--newsflash: he's not a doc).

And then there's the Judge, along with her dog Tex (who vomited on my carpet this morning, thank you for that Tex), who makes her way over for coffee every morning, still in juice-can sized hair curlers and looking very lovely nonetheless. Every morning you say? Every morning. Occasionally, wine later in the day, once she called from her car to ask if I'd go out for soup with her (I did) and the Judge is always up for a movie, so my standing date to chick flicks. I like Carol (and doggy Prize) and Maria (and Nelly who jumped on my bed, tracked mud through the bathroom, & ate the garbage) too, but they're more sporadic and I often hear about their lives in snippets, not as a continuous episode.

Camel (see my post: Everyone needs a Camel) lives pretty far away, but we talk often, sometimes daily, always on the go, sometimes for pretty long. We talk about psychiatry, the hubbies, the kids, whatever. My first stop when I have a problem that needs solving. Camel has good ideas and another minor bonus about her: very good taste in food-- when we're in restaurants together, sometimes I just order whatever she's having because hers is always good.

ClinkShrink has ragged on me for 20 years now, she's in my life more since the blog (this is good). Mostly though, I remember that residency wasn't always the easiest time for me-- I was new to Baltimore, soon pregnant, missing my friends and feeling a bit isolated, as well as exhausted. There were times there I called Clink every night, for long periods of time. She talked about her cats (Spike, then Elavil and Prozac, I kid you not). It was nice. It's probably taken me 20 years to appreciate just how nice.
Linda from med school writes in frequent spurts, glimpses of her life as mother and shrink (in that order). She listens to some of the garbage that courses through my mind, stuff I'm happy to have someone a little bit at a distance to tell these things to.

And then there's ABF. Where do I begin? She sat in front of me in Mr. Wasserman's civics class in Junior High. We lost each other in college-- she sort of fell off the map right after she visited me during a break our sophomore year. I next heard from her 10 years later, and again, 10 years after that. And then came e-mail, and when ABF got email-- maybe 2 years ago?, we started sharing our lives. Again. We took off from somewhere new, it's not just where we left off, and we email, everyday, probably 3 times a day. We've caught up on the past, I think, shared our views on religion, child-raising, weight loss efforts, what we're having for dinner (yes, this is what psychiatrists talk about with their friends, it's a step beyond the endless junior high school discussions about pierced ears and shampoo). ABF has two children, a son with autism, she spent today helping her daughter with her Spanish class project, she knows what I did today and every day. She's getting over a cold, tea and chicken soup have helped, and the weather in Boston has been quite cold lately. I go through my days filtering my experiences with the thoughts that "Oh, I'll tell ABF that later." I've only seen ABF once in recent years, it's funny that this relationship of bits-and-pieces of the mostly mundane, is so important to me.

I forgot some others-- some of my email relationships have been very meaningful to me, but have petered out at least in their day-to-day investment. Cuz B used to write several times a week, I knew when she took a walk, when she had her hopes up about an audition, when a boy was on her mind. Now it's down to once a week, we skim over some of the little stuff, she's still huge in my heart. Victor has made his way in, and now has been dragged to hear a psychoanalyst speak on the most depressing of Russian films. Roy, of course, is special, a friend I connect with on perhaps a different level; I think he wants me to appreciate Monty Python and it may be a climb. Eight years of lunch with Lisa on Monday-- friendship contained in its own little box-- and I still miss her.

When my mother was alive, she cared about my life in the most detailed way. She lived a few hours away, I didn't see her often, but who else cared so much about the little things. If I bought a new shirt, who else would ever ask me to describe it in detail? After she died, I wished I'd had a digital camera so I could have photographed and e-mailed her the smallest of things, she liked to picture everything in her head.

The blog is like it's own little world-away-from-reality of connection. The same people visit and reliably post. I wonder how Foofoo5 is doing. Carrie, Midwife With a Knife, and Lily come daily, Sarebear wanders in and out, JCAT, Rach, and the assorted others who touch our bloglives at particular moments when something resonates.

So I said this would have something to do with psychiatry, not just my personal ramblings. Today my youngest turns 13, I think I'm feeling a little sentimental. My husband and I were talking about plans for the day, I referred to her "the baby" as I often do, and he said, "She's not a baby anymore." Oh, she still is.
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Obviously, psychotherapy is a way of being connected. Someone listens, they listen hard, they care about the details of your life, they remember them week to week or month to month, they want to know what happens in the next chapter, in a sense they collect you. Maybe it's love, in some funny sense of the word, certainly it's intimacy, sometimes it's simply a business affair. Hopefully some of it's about mutual caring.
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There, did I tie it together?