Between the high holidays, my pre-existing travel plans, and Ronit’s schedule, it took a few months before I had a regular appointment slot with her. Then one November day in 2012 she asked me how Thursdays at 11:30 would be.
“Fine,” I said, though fine wasn’t how I felt. It was a Monday, and I knew she didn’t mean this Thursday. She meant next Thursday – as in 10 days from then. That seemed like an eternity, but I didn’t say anything. It was too embarrassing. I was getting too attached. It had happened to me before, it was happening to me again, and my unconscious did not seem to discriminate: one time a female camp counselor, another time a male therapist, one time a female high school teacher, another time a male boss. In any event, I recognized the signs.
From what I had read over the years, I understood that the ability to attach to someone was a good thing in therapy – that in fact it could be seen as the mechanism via which growth took place – but I saw its curse more readily than its blessing, and I had hoped I could avoid it this time.
In fact, at our first session, as I began the process of telling Ronit my story, she suddenly stopped me and said, “Oh, you were in analysis in New York? Would you like me to help you find an English-speaking analyst?”
“No!” I said. Memories of standing outside my analyst’s building on Central Park West – crying my eyes out the last time I saw her before my move to Israel – were still fresh in my mind, even after 17 years. I did not want to go through that again.
But it seemed that I didn’t have much say in the matter – that, given the right person, the feelings were going to develop even without the analytic couch or the five weekly sessions – and I wasn’t a very good actor either. When we met on Thursday, I opened the hour by saying, “Wow, I haven’t seen you in forever.” She didn’t respond right away, but later on she said it seemed hard for me to “hold” things, and she mentioned the idea of my coming twice a week instead of once. I was glad she did, but I knew I’d need to discuss it with my husband. I wasn’t sure we could afford it.
“So,” I said at the end of our session the following Thursday. “About the twice-a-week idea, I think I’d like to do it. I think – “
Something about the expression on Ronit’s face stopped me mid-sentence. It was a blank expression. It was an expression that made me feel foolish, overeager, and I was almost in tears as I walked home that day. I felt the way one might feel after saying “I love you” and hearing nothing in response.
In Stephen Grosz’s wonderful book The Examined Life, he talks about how people who go into therapy will inevitably behave in the consulting room the way they do in their “real lives,” and in fact that’s what I did next. Often, when an intimate relationship became too painful for me, I tried to make it go away.
A few days before my next appointment, I called Ronit’s number and left a message for her. “I’ve decided not to continue,” I said. “I don’t think therapy is good for me. I’m sorry for doing this over the phone. I’ll put a check in the mail.” I had thought it over carefully before placing the call, preparing myself for the possibility that I would never hear from her again. But of course I did. Ronit had obviously seen this kind of thing before, and she called me back that evening.
“I got your message,” she said. “Why don’t you come in on Thursday and we’ll talk about it?”
So I went in on Thursday and we talked about it. “I felt so humiliated,” I said to her. “Do you know how hard it is for me to admit I need someone?”
“I do,” she said. “Yes.”
“And aren’t you the one who suggested the idea in the first place? Did I misunderstand you? Was it an English/Hebrew thing?”
“You didn’t misunderstand me,” she said. “I did suggest it. But then I heard you express concerns about the expense, and I know that Meuhedet only covers one session per week at the lower rate.”
“Oh,” I said, beginning to feel better. It wasn’t that she hadn’t given the matter any thought; it was that she had! I realized that between the first Thursday and the next one I hadn’t told her I had discussed the idea with my husband and he was okay with it. I hadn’t gotten around to giving her that piece of information yet. The last she’d heard was that I had financial worries, and on that basis she had pulled back from the suggestion.
Ronit opened her calendar. “So how’s Mondays at 8:30?” she said. “The first appointment of the day.”