March 5, 2018
Joyful Pain and Painless Joy, Part 2
Emily Jo Donatello
(call me “Em”)
Please open the audio below and listen while thinking about this entry:
In the hugely influential Jackie Wilson remake of the Dells’ “Higher and Higher,” the climactic lines sing, “I’m so glad I finally found you. Yes, that one in a million girl.” Hundreds of artists, men and women, have covered this song in the more than sixty years since its first release. Invariably the men leave the line as in the Wilson original; the women, almost invariably alter “girl” to “boy,” so as to match the audience’s expectations of what the ecstatic singer would desire. In this cover by the great Scot, Amy McDonald, she leaves the lyric’s gender designation at “girl.” Yes, Amy finds the song’s essential truth. We are each that “one in a million,” true for each of us, male or female or beyond. For “girl” is our ideal, to which we long to be lifted.
Flannery O’Connor, a most under-rated American writer, long ago published a collection of short stories entitled “Everything that Rises Must Converge.” She took her title from the French Philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who had written, “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.”
Like so many, I have tried to breakaway, so as to break a way of being untrue to myself. The Wilson song and the deChardin insight pull upon me these days, as I strive to rise ever higher and higher until I converge with myself. It’s a lonesome quest.
To ease the journey, and at the urging of some who love me, I had tried therapy. Plateaued after fifteen months, feeling foolish, I stopped. Those same who love me repeated more urgently, “get thee back to a therapy!” Their own experiences, their certainty about the value of the process did cause me to reconsider. And so for them, no, for me I did try to engage another Therapist.
This Therapist, as a transgender female herself, an M.D. and certified counselor, as the one who helped both my dear friends find their way to full transition, she seemed the perfect choice, in theory. Given her popularity among transgender folks, however, I was warned she was so fully booked it would be nearly impossible to fly into her orbit. That sort of challenge only served to energize me.
One afternoon, unannounced, I drove the 75 minutes from my apartment to her office, hoping my boldness might elicit sympathy from the Doctor. I had a little plea prepared in my head. When I entered, the Receptionist’s desk was empty and a sign on an office door read, “Session in Progress. Do not enter.”
I was there. I waited. Occasionally I could hear voices from behind the door. I could not make out any of the conversation and was glad of that. After about an hour the door opened, and the patient, a tall woman in her forties, I speculated, exited. She gave me a glance and a smile, then entered the Receptionist’s area and waited. Soon a connecting door between the office and the Receptionist’s desk opened. The Therapist crossed between, sat down at the Receptionist’s computer, and, seeing me, lowered her voice for what obviously was the payment part of her patient’s visit. I stood and turned my back and walked as far away within the Waiting Room as I could, signaling my intent to avoid overhearing this transaction.
Soon the patient left. I turned back to the Therapist, still seated at the Receptionist’s desk, and waited for her to notice me again. She looked up and said something like, “How may I help you?” I entered the Receptionist’s area and asked if I could have a moment to request her services. She said, “I’m not taking new patients at this time.” Since I expected that, I was prepared with my story of making the long drive that day so as to plead my case. She gestured for me to sit. I began by telling her how she’d been strongly recommended by my two friends, whom I named. She responded they were both wonderful people and their recommending me spoke well of me as someone she might want to know. With that apparent invitation I launched into my “pitch.”
Not long into it, the Therapist began giving positive signals to me. She mentioned her (not unreasonable) fee; she reminded me how “booked” she was. I said I was sure we could devise a mutually convenient schedule. I was highly motivated, I stated.
Within a few minutes we’d exchanged contact information, chosen a date and time for my first double appointment, our formal get-acquainted session; we also chose a day and time for future, recurring visits. I was so pleased. She seemed satisfied too. We parted on, I thought, excellent terms. How wrong I apparently was!
A few days later, midday Saturday, my cell phone rang. Seeing it was she calling, I answered immediately. The voice I heard was hard, very hard in tone. Without greeting or common pleasantries, the Therapist delivered a rebuke to me, stating that I was taking advantage of her good nature and that she would not accept me as a patient, that my appointment was canceled. Giving no chance for me to respond or to plead my case again, she hung up.
I was overwhelmed. I was angry. But I was, at the moment, in the company of my family, so I needed to hide my emotions. Out loud I announced, waving the phone, “Scheduling issue. No big deal.” We went on with our day. Not until my wife and I, away from the others, were driving home did I tell her the true nature of the phone call. She said she was sorry to hear I’d not be able to work with this highly regarded Therapist. I said I’d find another.
I haven’t, not yet at least. Every time I muster the energy to try, something interferes. In one case, through research I found a Therapist, based in Montclair, who had good internet reviews. When I got her on the phone, she too was heavily booked. I chose not to push further as to my ears, she lacked empathy.
What shall I do? The professionals I’ve approached recently do not exhibit the professionalism I would expect. My two dear friends and my wife insist I keep trying. One friend, somewhat exasperated by my reluctance, has said, “You go through Therapists until you find the right one. That’s the way it works.”
I wish I could find another, non-Therapist way to advance my quest. But, again to honor those who care so much for me and who believe Therapy offers the best course, I shall continue to listen and search, as the Wilson lyrics soar and deChardin rings.
“I said your love (your love keeps lifting me)
Keep on (love keeps lifting me)
Lifting me (lifting me)
Higher and higher (higher)”
“For everything that rises must converge.”
“Hope springs eternal,” the proverb predicts. Last week I glimpsed a bit of that when my friend, Sammi, who administers the Pathwaystg.org site, agreed to lunch. She surrendered two hours of what should have been work time and spent them instead with me at an innocuous mall restaurant: another chance for me to “get out there.” Thanks, Sammi. You said it was no big deal. To me it was. I promise to “pay it forward” whenever I can.
And now before I end, the indelible Jackie Wilson original.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org (mind the underscores, or you’ll — like me — trip in writing)