Therapy in the Holy City: The Good Enough

A few months ago I decided that I would definitely continue seeing Ronit in Tel Aviv after she closed her Jerusalem practice in September.  After all, it wasn’t as if one of us had moved to a different country.  It wasn’t as if one of us had died.  There was no real reason we couldn’t keep working together.  People commuted from city to city all the time.

And yet the less theoretical this idea became, and the more real, the more I began to waver.  Did I really want to use four hours of my day to commute? And four hours it would be: I didn’t have a driver’s license, didn’t drive, and would therefore need to walk it to the bus . . . or bus it to the bus . . . and then bus it from that bus to another bus . . . and then do the same thing all over again on the way home.  And what about peeing?  As the comedian Martin Short once said, “The only time I don’t have to pee is when I’m peeing.”  Ronit assured me there were toilets in Tel Aviv.

One thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t going to commute two times a week, meaning I would then be in once-a-week psychotherapy, or supportive psychotherapy.  Was that what I wanted?  What I needed?  I had a very supportive husband at home.  It seemed to me that what I was (still) after was something else.

“Do you have a waiting room in Tel Aviv?” I asked Ronit.

“Yes,” she said, “I do.”

“So, like, if I got there early, I could ring the bell and you would let me in and I wouldn’t have to stand outside on the street.”

“You know how I work,” she said.  “I wouldn’t interrupt a session with another patient to answer the door.  But if you’re early, there are many coffee shops in Tel Aviv.”

I was confused.  What was the point of having a waiting room if people couldn’t wait in it?

“And if something beyond my control happens?” I said. “Like the bus breaks down or there’s a huge traffic jam and I get there really late and I miss half the session?”

“Of course I would try to accommodate you if I could,” Ronit said.  “You know, extending your session if nobody else was waiting.  Or, if I had a break later in the day, having you come back.”

This didn’t inspire a lot of confidence; there were too many ifs.  Plus, not to be petty, but my commute would add at least fifty shekels to the price of my session: a session I might miss altogether if there were a pile-up on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.

“What is it?” Ronit said after a long silence.

“I don’t know whether this is going to be sustainable.  I don’t know that I’d want to make such a long trip only to miss my time slot and be unable to make it up.”

“You’re acting as if this would be the rule, not the exception.  As if this would necessarily happen at all.”

I was picturing an unbearably hot summer day as I walked the 20 minutes from Arlozorov Street to Kikar Rabin.  I was picturing a cold January afternoon with the pounding rain coming down in sheets: arriving at Ronit’s clinic with my hair plastered to my head, my wind-blown umbrella dripping water on her hardwood floors.

The session had begun with my telling her about an incident I’d had with my accountant that morning.  Just as I’d been about to sign my return, I saw that he’d forgotten to include the bimonthly estimated taxes I paid. Talk about adding insult to injury! Obviously I didn’t enjoy forking over my hard-earned money to the Israeli tax authorities, and I enjoyed even less standing in line at the post office to do so. But had I not caught his oversight, I would have been right back in it, forking over even more!  How could this have happened? How could the accountant have made such a mistake, and how many other mistakes had he made? When I got home, I dashed off an email asking him just that, and another to my husband suggesting it might be time to look for a new accountant.  But then a few hours later I felt chastened:  An editing client sent me an email, pointing out something in a paper of his that I had completely missed.  I had been the one who had made the mistake this time.

Now Ronit, letting this conversation resurface, said, “Maybe it will be a mistake, commuting.  But maybe it won’t be. The only way to know is to try.”

I thought back to how crazed I’d been the time Ronit said I might want to use her final months in Jerusalem to work on separation from her, and I felt it was testament to the progress I had made that I was doing so well with this levelheaded discussion.  Was it because I knew by now that she wasn’t really going to let me go quite so easily or so fast? Or was it that I was now more able to let go of her?  Or were the two things one and the same?

“That summer when we did the renovations in our apartment,” I said, “our contractor used an apparently well-known expression in Hebrew:  ‘If you don’t make, you don’t make mistakes.’  Of course he said this after we realized he’d made no plans for ventilating the room where our dryer would be.”

Ronit smiled.  Contractors.

“I suppose it’s true, though,” I said.  “It’s easy to sit around doing nothing and finding fault with everybody else. I’ve noticed that it’s a lot harder to be perfect once you actually try to accomplish something.  My husband likes to quote that old Voltaire saying:  the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

“Or maybe the good enough,” Ronit said.

I nodded but wondered if it could be even better than that.  Maybe there were things I didn’t know yet, things I couldn’t know.  Maybe there was something good out there in Tel Aviv for me, something good out there in the world, something I would only discover once I went out into it.  The only way I would know was to try. I would try.


About the Author
Eve Horowitz is a freelance editor and writer living in Jerusalem. Her novel Plain Jane was published by Random House, New York, in 1992.