I just had a difficult session with Wakana that left me feeling much worse than when it started. I needed to Skype with her because I’m struggling to finish a paper; it’s been so hard to focus. (I spent the time I would have been traveling working on the paper instead.) I have most of the articles I need – I thought I had all of them, but she told me some of them were no good because they’re sort of related to my topic, but different enough that I really should find ones that fit better. She was being quite critical and trying to get me to do research during our session. I got really angry, felt like telling her she was being my mother, and told her “That’s not how I want to spend our time together.”
(I hadn’t wanted to talk about the paper at all, to be honest. I was just complaining about it. I had wanted to spend the session processing my feelings about putting our dog to sleep last week. I’m not sure why I didn’t just say that. Maybe I’m still not quite ready to do it yet.)
Then I finally explained that I have most of the articles I need, I’ve read and taken notes on them, I have a list of topics and I’m writing down which articles talk about each of them on which page; I just need to finish that process and write the paper. I even have my entire reference list in the proper format. It’s just the writing… honestly, I think I was finding that hard because I hadn’t made the list of topics yet. Now that the information is better organized, all I need to do is… find more articles. And write the frelling paper.
One thing she said really stood out to me – it’s the primary reason why I’m inclined to view the session as helpful and not a complete soul-crushing waste of time. When I finally told her the progress I had made on the paper, she asked:
“Why didn’t you tell me that before?”
I couldn’t speak for a while. I was asking myself the same question. It was such an obvious thing to do, and yet I hadn’t done it. I went with something along the lines of “I assumed you knew.” (I often forget that other people don’t necessarily know what I know.)
But it goes a bit deeper than that. I was taking the good stuff I’d done for granted. I thought it wasn’t important. Sure, okay, despite being an emotional wreck with a lot of crazy stuff going on and the two people I live with complaining at me every chance they get I still somehow managed to find several articles on a topic that is difficult for me to think about, read them, take notes on them, admit to my instructor that I’m having difficulty (twice!), organize the information, and set up a Word document so when I’m ready all I’ll have to do is write. I even wrote a couple paragraphs before I realized I needed to take a step back and organize the information. And I’ve been juggling that with grieving and being the primary caregiver to two young rats who can be rather demanding at times. I sewed two sets of shelf liners for their cage, installed the grommets in four of the six total pieces, cleaned the cage by myself, and took them to the vet. (I’m happy to report that they’re both healthy.)
But who cares? I still haven’t written this paper and I have another one due in a week and I’m completely lost regarding my piano class and I haven’t been practicing and my home is a cluttered mess and my husband isn’t doing anything around the house because he’s chronically exhausted from work and I feel like shit. Pardon me while I go curl up in a hole and die.
I’m inclined to say it’s because my mother always hones in on the negative stuff. If I told her the progress I’ve made with my paper, she’d remind me that I still need to finish it and it’s not good that I’ve been putting it off. I told her I felt guilty for not appreciating our dog while he was alive; instead of sympathizing she said maybe I’ll take it as a learning experience and appreciate her before she dies. (It was kind of counterproductive.) If I told her I’d won the lottery, she’s say I’d better spend the money wisely (and where’s her share?). If I told her I’d been offered my dream job, she’d say I’d better work hard so I don’t lose it. (Or that it doesn’t pay well enough; am I sure this is what I want to do with my life?)
I think you get the idea.
But who cares? My mother is crazy. I know that. Wakana knows that. I think my mother knows it, too. That’s no excuse for my behavior. I should know better. In theory, at least, I do know better. I shouldn’t blame her for my self-destructive behaviors. I should appreciate the multitude of things she’s done and continues doing for me. Like paying for therapy. Sheesh, you’d think with all the money I’ve spent on it over the past 5 years I’d have learned something as basic as not to dwell on negative things.
The thing is, my mother is crazy. Wakana, not so much. Yet she did something that is so similar to what I’ve come to expect of my mother, I almost rolled my eyes and huffed, “Yes, Mom” like a teenager. (My relationship with my mother is very mature.)
So now I’m wondering, What did I do to make Wakana act like my mother? This isn’t the first time she’s taken a somewhat heavy hand in trying to “help” me with my homework. Does something about the way I talk about it – or the fact that I’m talking about it – suggest I want or need her help? Do I somehow present myself as helpless, unmotivated, passive, and/or ignorant of how to complete the necessary tasks? Do I turn the focus of our sessions to my schoolwork to avoid working on more important and relevant things during therapy? (Yes.) How can I become aware of my actions and the effect they’re having on others? How do I change them to evoke the responses from others that I actually want and need? (It probably has something to do with being more assertive, such as saying, “I’d like to spend our time together processing my feelings about putting my dog to sleep.”)
These are the things I actually need her to help me with. I guess it’s good that at least now I’m aware of it.
She told me to make a list of all the good things I do this week. I guess realizing I’m (at least partially) responsible for how people treat me can go at the top.