My therapist, who is Barbie-pretty with long dark hair, speaks a strange accent-less English. Given that she's charging me a criminally low hourly fee I'm rather enamored with her already but she also has a very neat way of cutting to the chase.
"Why Bogota?" she asked, her elegantly made-up face creasing ever so slightly.
"Oh you know," I began in my breathless 'I have a dream' voice. "I've always wanted to go to South America. It's not so far, has temperate weather, lots of opportunities to teach English, flexible visa requirements, it;'s off the tourist track. It'll be like another Mexico City--but Colombian! Imagine the food, the salsa dancing, the trips to the Caribbean beaches!" I paused. "And this time I wouldn't be going alone. I've implemented a subtle plan of coercion with my boyfriend. It's bound to work eventually."
I sounded very smug, very sure of myself, when all I had was a pipe dream and a rather unwilling mate with a very nice stable job (unlike yours truly). But, Mexico City was once nothing but an idea in my addled mind and here I am, in love, with a job, not murdered by narco-traffickers, my sanity somewhat intact.
"So there'd be an element of safety this time," she inserted in her even voice.
"Absolutely. But it'd be complemented by a feeling of being lost. That's why I came here after all--to shake loose my defenses and pretensions and immerse myself in something completely different."
Her face went carefully blank, the perfect preface to the classic 'I know exactly what's going on honey, but I'm going to break it to you reaaallllllly gently so you don't feel like a horse's ass' breakthrough.
"It sounds like a feeling you're quite accustomed to," she said. Her iPhone blipped on the table beside her. "Being safe and lost at the same time. Wouldn't you say this is something you've been conditioned to consider normal?"
I squinted at her. I wasn't going to let her have this one so easily. "No, it's a good kind of feeling lost. I'm allowing myself to experience things outside of my comfort zone in order to grow as a person. It's cheesy, but hell if I was going to wake up at 40 in Toronto and still be going for brunch runs at Lady Marmalade and obsessing about dim sum. I'm expanding my sense of self." Yeah that's right.
My new therapist carefully backed away from the point as one does when you'd like the patient to calm down for the remaining 10 minutes, ignore this revelation, and then pretend like you reached it yourself three days later when taking a long, hot shower. I obligingly shut up but I walked to my coffee date reeling--was my supposedly brave new endeavor just symptomatic of another unhealthy pattern I couldn't shake?
I've come to realize that even the most self-realized of us are actually driven by motivations we barely understand. What is most usual is not visible. We're essentially driven by old patterns that once served a useful function but have since hindered us. Digging out and changing these behaviors is one of the most tricky exercises because:
- It hurts like hell
- No one else is really going to be able to cut the shit on this tricky stuff with you except for your therapist
- Even if they did, you wouldn't listen to them, judgmental sons of bitches
- So alone. So allloonnnneeeee
- Change requires work. Work is for work. Or for the gym. KITTENS! So fluffy!!
It's not as if I should stay in Mexico City, maketh of all the babies, and pursue a more sheltered life. Right now there isn't an answer, to be perfectly honest. But at least now I know that the sword I'm bearing might be defeating its holder, not the target. Covering new ground in creative new ways is what I'm aiming for, as well as better self-care, and hopefully greater wisdom will follow. Colombia still beckons, but it requires careful reflection first and eating a lot more humble pie with my excellent new life guide.