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Make mine a double

I have never been big believer in double-sessions. I have never had one with Igor, even though there have been times that I was sure I couldn’t get out everything I needed to in an hour—I have never asked for more. As soon as the plane landed I emailed him and told him I needed a double on Thursday. I hadn’t written the entire time I was in Chicago, not even in my journal. But as soon as I got on the plane I started wrting and I didn’t stop until the flight attendent told me to put my chair and tray table in an upright position. I had, by the end of the flight, written 42 pages. And, I’ll have you know they were not the kind of ramblings one keeps in one’s hidden journal. All 42 pages were intended for you. That said, I realizes 42 pages of long hand prose might be a bit much for the blog.

But as I have much more in my to say about Chicago, at least 82 more pages, I knew that a 50-minute session would be completely inadequate for all I have to say. I need to tell him how good it was to be home and what a good time I had.  I also need to tell him how much it hurt to be back home and how it felt like I had just walked back into my life and my impulse to go to my house and take out my keys and open the door and crawl into bed and go to sleep and wake up from the bad dream I have been living.  I want to take him the bottle of Lake BLuff sand that I took from Sunset Beach and let him smell the soil that  stirs my soul.  I want to tell him about passing the first house we lived in Lake Bluff and how we went by so fast I wasn’t able to see if anyone was living there. And then I need to tell him how I couldn’t go past our house, I couldn’t even look in its general direction.

And then there is all I need to say about yesterday and how very different it felt when I was alone in Chicago and not with my lovely host. When I was alone it was really like I was back in my life and not just on vacation. When I took the train to Lake Forest all the feelings I had anticipated I would met as soon as I arrived in Chicago greeted me. He needs to hear that even as much as it hurt to be back *home* that he was wrong and I was wrong and that I can go home again and that all the baby shit didn’t hurt like I thought it would. The babies and kids don’t get to me the way they used to, at least most of the time.

Perhaps most importantly I want to tell him that I want to move back.  No, really, I mean it. No more of this trying to make L.A. work, I want to go home.  I want out of L.A. and I want out now. I was wrong, you can go home again and I am going to go.  All of that came to me when I went to Walgreen’s in Lake Forest, not a place that one would imagine would create such strong feelings.  I went there because my stomach hadn’t been quite right for days and being back in LF was doing nothing to settle my stomach. And so I went to Walgreen’s. I have actually been to the LF Walgreen’s many times in the last couple of years. I am sure I have told you already, sometimes when I am really homesick I walk the streets of Forest and Bluff in my mind.  I walk down Scranton Avenue and try and remember all of the houses in the right order.  I walk around the shops of Market Square and I try and remember the windows of the stores and the brick under my feet and the sounds of the fountain. And sometimes I walk the aisles of Walgreen’s. When one has undergone IVF for two years and has had a cat with cardiomyopathy and another with diabetes one spends a lot of time in Walgreen’s.

Yesterday when I went to Lake Forest I had planned on stopping at Talbots and Jcrew and Helanders, but I didn’t imagine I would go into Walgreens. However as soon as I was in the store I knew I had to go back to the pharmacy to see if my cats’ photo was hanging on the pharmacy wall. It was. Then the tears began. Then the feelings, that I am still not far enough away from to put into words, overtook me.

You may be asking yourself, “Self, why are there pictures of Belette’s cats hanging in the Walgreen’s pharmacy?” You see the pharmacist was a big animal lover and because of this she had done many special orders and special favors for my feline friends. One day after a particular act of kindness I decided to print a photo and have the cats *write* a thank you to the pharmacist.  As soon as I gave the photo to the pharmacist she hung it on the wall. That photo has been there for almost four years.  As soon as I saw the photo I lost it.  I was flooded with feeling. This photo on the wall that has been there the whole time I have been in L.A. said to me louder than any person could say, “THIS IS YOUR HOME.”  When I heard that message I began to decompensate. I wanted to call someone and tell them what had happened so they could come and pick me up and I could fall apart. Only there was no one to call. I called He-weasel and told him what had happened. I told him I needed his help.  I needed him to help me stop crying. I couldn’t be crying on the streets of Lake Forest. I had to stop. He-weasel was confused. For the last 19 years we have been together, every time he has told me not to cry I would get angry with him and so when I called him and asked him to help me stop crying he said, “Go on and cry. It’s okay to cry.” “No”, I explained, “I have to stop. I can’t cry here, not on the street.”

Right as I quit crying I asked him to do something I haven’t asked in almost three years, I asked him to promise me something. I asked him to swear to me that we would get back here. “We’ll work something out.” His admirable statement was not what I was looking for. I was looking for a promise. I needed swearing. But the truth is that even if he did swear that I wouldn’t believe him.  Years ago I had asked him to swear we would NEVER come back to L.A. and he, despite his best efforts, wasn’t able to make that happen.

So I want to go to Igor’s tomorrow for two hours and I want to tell him that I am done with L.A. I want to give him my metaphorical two-week notice on this place and tell him that this time I am really serious. I have had it with L.A. I want to go home and I want to go NOW. And then, in the safety of his office, I want to do all the crying that I couldn’t do on the streets of Lake Forest and I want to make him understand that he was wrong and that I was wrong and that I can and that I will go home again.

Home-a-phobic

No, that is not a misspelling of a very ugly word that inspires all kinds of bad behavior and ridiculous legislature. I am talking instead about a phobia that isn’t listed in the official list of phobias and yet I am sure that others, besides me, have. This non-official phobia has many manifestations. The types of Casa-tastrophies one might fear are many. There is the pediatric version of this disorder. I definitely had that one. No one wants to go to a place where one is likely to be met by drunk people who are  mad at you for something. When that happens frequently enough you begin to fear going home. The adult version is more varied:  There is the fear of buying or committing to a home because one feels trapped like an animal and one’s respiration level increases so severely just thinking about signing a contract to buy that  a paper bag to the mouth is the only way to restore one’s breathing to normal.  There is the fear that I don’t presently suffer from that one’s property value is going down-down-down and that they have more debt than equity. Then there is the terror that one’s house is a hungry and sadistic monster that conspires to eat one’s saving by continually needing unexpected repairs and maintenance and rewiring just out of spite.  I imagine there are other home-a-phobic manifestations that I don’t have, maybe someone has a fear of having a house fall on them or maybe there are others who the word home is a kind of psychic black cat that they do their best to avoid.

Lately I have been feeling some serious home-a-phobia and that home-a-phobia has been constellated by my travel plans to Chicago (which by the way, as you read this I am on the plane to Chicago and so I will be scarce on the blogosphere for a while). I am talking about the fear of going home. It seems counter-intuitive for me to be somewhat apprehensive (and if I am being completely honest I am a closer to terrified) about returning to the place that I love. But I am. I am not afraid of going to Chicago   ( no fear of flying here). I am not afraid of being in Chicago.  What I am afraid of is being there and then having to come back here.  It was so hard for me to leave Chicago when last we met that I haven’t gone back in over two years.

I knew that at the very worst of times when I was seriously HATING L.A. and in acute shock that we were actually living here again that if I went back I would have likely decompensated on the front yard of our old house. I would have been the crazy lady who tried to retake her old life and lost it when her key didn’t unlock the door. The very friendly Lake Forest Police Department would have been called to take me away and perhaps take me to Lake Forest Hospital for psychological assessment.

And even when I was starting to feel a little bit at home here in L.A.( just typing that sentence makes me feel more than uneasy) I had some serious apprehension about going back to Chicago and then having to come BACK to L.A. again. Here is how I thought it would go. “Hi, He-weasel. Uh, I know my flight is booked for 11 a.m. today, but I cannot get myself to go anywhere near O’hare. I am not coming back to L.A. I can’t. ” He-weasel would talk slowly and calmly the way you do when someone is having a panic attack, “Honey, you have to get on the plane. Your life is here. I am here. Lily is here. We miss you. You can do it”. When that wouldn’t work then he would go to phase two: “You don’t have a house there. Where are you going to stay?” When I tell him that I am going to go check into the Lake Forest Inn and await his arrival then he would begin to panic, “But I don’t have a job there. My job is here.” I would blithely ignore the practicalities of his perfectly rational statement and go back to the unalterable truth that I cannot get on the airplane or even get within a five-mile radius of the airport.

Soon I will be *home* again, only it isn’t really my home anymore. Ugh. Tears come just from typing that. I can’t imagine the tears that might come when I drive down Greenbay Road, the road that inspired me to say out loud each time I drove it, “I am so lucky to live here.” The thought that comes to mind when I imagine driving down it in the next few days is “I am so unlucky not to live here”. Must remember to pack Kleenex, Visine Eye Drops and Igor’s phone number.

After two years of Igor I don’t imagine that the Lake Forest Police Department will have to be called in or that I won’t be able to get on my return flight next Tuesday. That said, I can imagine that being in Chicago for five days in the Fall will be a total delight and that seeing all the places I love (Sheridan Road, The Art Institute, Portillo’s, Lake Michigan, JCrew in Lake Forest, etc.) and seeing my favorite non-Paris city in my favorite season will make L.A., by comparison, feel really unattractive.

Soon the trip will be over and I will be back home in L.A.. I will be back in the place that doesn’t feel like *home* and there will be feelings and grief and loss and I will spend my days comparing and contrasting Valencia to Chicago and I will be even more dissatisfied by the bland, treeless, and lackluster environment that is my current mailing address.I am dreading the post-Chicago grief that I will undoubtedly feel. I feel some anticipatory grief just thinking about it.

Thomas Wolfe was wrong, you can go home again. What he should have called his book was “You can go home again only when you do you won’t likely want to go back to you new home and when you do you are going to need an extra session with your therapist to process all the feelings that come up.”

*****

While I am gone I hope you will be so kind as to pop over to my pal Laura Munson’s blog. She kindly invited me to contribute a piece on phobias. It was so lovely to collaborate with my Lake Bluff friend that I met through her book, her love of the Lake Bluff Fourth of July parade, and a Post-it note.

My Architect: A Granddaughter’s Construction of Identity

On Thursday I will not be going to Igor’s. This Thursday I am beginning an adventure.  Me, He-weasel, Lily and my mother are going on a trip to find my grandfather. We are  packing the car and driving from L.A. to Portland, Oregon. It will be a kind of family reunion, only there will be no one waiting for us—no party at a park to celebrate our surname. You see my grandfather isn’t actually in Portland; he is buried somewhere in Orlando, Florida. I suppose we could have made a trip to Orlando and gone to Disney World and stopped by the cemetery in which he resides, but I prefer to see the buildings he built. As soon as I learned about my grandfather’s buildings I knew I had to see them for myself. There was an impulse that demanded fulfillment. When I told my mother that I was going to see my grandfather’s buildings she told me that she wanted to come too.

“They thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. If there is a path it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”
Joseph Campbell

When we arrive in Portland on Friday we are going to go to the county records office and stand in line and fill out forms and pay a clerk to give us a listing of all the buildings that my architect grandfather built in Portland. And then we are going to spend the next week going to these places. We will get out of the car and help my mother get out of the car and get Lily’s leash on and make sure we have batteries in the camera and we will stand in front of his buildings.  We will bring no flowers to these monuments of his memory instead we will bring a Rashomon of reactions.

He-weasel will take pictures and talk about the architectural elements of the edifice. My mother will tell stories about her father and she will feel things about him and his abrupt departure from her life. She will feel pride at seeing these things that her father accomplished and she will feel grief that this man who built these buildings that endure was incapable of creating any relationship that did. Lily will pee on the grass in front of my grandfather’s buildings. She will excitedly smell the smells she has never smelt before and she will greet any passer byes as if this was her home. I will stand  in front of what remains of this man, as if standing at his grave-site. I will quietly reflect on this man that I never knew whose choices have impacted my mother’s life and hence, indirectly, my life. I will see if I feel anything. I will listen for any messages that the ghost of my grandfather has for me. I will look to these buildings hoping that they can serve as a mirror, giving me some kind of greater understanding of myself and perhaps some greater insight into my mother.

When we get back in the car my mother will sit quietly and I will know that even though she won’t say it that she feels something like depression in response to these paternal structures and she will imagine the life she would have had if her father hadn’t left her. Other days she will fill the emptiness with a manic spree of recollection. She will tell me stories about where she went to school and how she remembers walking down this street with her brother and how much Portland has changed since she was a child. He-weasel will ask me excitedly which address we are going to next and then he will turn his attentions to navigation. Lily will use the time to nap in her crate or work on her plans for destruction for her chew toy. I will open the new journal I bought just for the trip—the journal that will house the thoughts, feelings and the names of places we stop for coffee along the way. I will document my reactions to this place that we just saw and I will write down all the things my mother said while we stood in front of this building that her father built.  I will write all that I notice. I will watch my mother mourn her father  and I will think about what Jung said,”Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” I will watch my dreams to see how my psyche is responding to this meeting with my grandfather’s ghost. And I will keep a list of things that I want to tell you and another list of things that I want to tell Igor.

There is something about this trip that has a tone of great gravitas and finality to it. And I get the sense that this is the last trip I will ever take with my mother. Maybe that is why I feel that death is coming with us on this trip—or maybe that is just the ghost of my grandfather who will come along for the ride. For my mother and for me, taking this trip is some kind of nameless ritual—it is a ritual of a homecoming, only this isn’t my home and all of the homes we visit will be closed to us.  Likely during our visits to all of his buildings will be us on the outside looking in with no access or entry to the interiors of these buildings  and even if we could enter the man we are seeking would not be there, his ghost eclipsed by the lives of the occupants who call these houses, that he constructed, home. However, I do believe that by showing up at his doors…something will be opened, I just don’t know what that will be.

“We have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination,
we shall find a God.
And where we had thought to slay another,
we shall slay ourselves.
And where we had thought to travel outward,
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone,
we shall be with all the world.”
Joseph Campbell

All pictures posted here are of some of the photos I found online of my grandfather’s buildings. I can’t help but notice that he has a sort of Jungian aesthetic (yes, I am aware that I could be projecting).

p.s. Please check out this LOVELY, LOVELY, LOVELY post!

How on Saturday night I got a famous grandfather.

The other night He-weasel and I were watching a special on the history of the Jews on PBS  and it got me thinking. You see, my mother’s maiden name is a name that could be a Jewish name. It is the kind of name that could have been altered upon arrival in Ellis Island. My mother has always denied any Jewish heritage and denied it so vociferously that it has always made me wonder. As I already knew the history of the Azkanazis I ignored the TV and started to Google my mother’s maiden name to see what I could find.
Continue reading ‘How on Saturday night I got a famous grandfather.’

My old Kentucky home

I am not much of a hobby person. I never have been. I suppose there was a time and an age when I tried to develop hobbies. Back when I was a tween, back in the days when there was no term for ‘tween’–we were just called children back then, I tried to develop a hobby. It was one of the questions adults asked you, adults who didn’t know you and who didn’t really care to. They would ask about school and about what I wanted to do when I grew up and then, in a last gasp at making conversation, they would ask about hobbies. This final question always led me to a feeling of depression and inadequacy. I didn’t know it at the time that that is what I was feeling. I thought it was just that I hated to talk to my parents’ stupid friends.

I tried to develop a hobby, not out of any natural inclination or interest, but because I got the sense that it was something I should have and that I didn’t and that lack could be filled and that it should be. I set about finding one. There was the day long hobby of stamp collecting. And the two month foray into guitar playing that I still get grief about from my mother. I once took my babysitting money to J.K. Gill and bought a calligraphy kit and gave it up after two days of practice and my hand looking more like the urgent script of a mentally ill medical doctor than the Chaucer script that was illustrated in the calligraphy workbook. I guess reading was my hobby but whenever there was a form to be filled out that asked for my hobbies I never felt like reading was a legitimate thing to list. I thought reading was ubiquitous, like sleeping, eating and watching the Hardy Boys Mysteries—it’s just what people do.
I still don’t have many traditional hobbies. I don’t bird watch, whittle or knit. I still read, sleep, eat and watch my shows with the same rabidity and loyalty that I brought to the Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy mystery series. I don’t consider writing or blogging a hobby any more than I consider being a therapist a hobby. These pursuits feel more like vocation than an avocation. The closest things I have to hobbies are J.Crew shopping, charm bracelet collecting and my continued search for a job within He-weasel’s company in any place other than Los Angeles. I hunt for a job for him with the same passion that a twitcher travels to see a rare Gold-Winged Wobbler or a hurricane chaser chases a perfect storm.
In the last couple of months I haven’t been to J Crew.com more than a handful of times( all the ruffles have made me lose interest). I haven’t found a charm bracelet that I have found charming enough to enter my collection. And I have not visited the job board of He-weasel’s company at all. Yesterday that all changed: I visited JCrew.com( still too many ruffles); I found a charming bracelet and I found a job for He-weasel in Louisville, Kentucky.
I have never been to Louisville or anywhere in Kentucky, for that matter, but that didn’t stop me from racing over to Realtor.com and start house hunting. For three blissful hours I lost myself in charming and historic homes—many with horse properties. I imagined a life full of Southern hospitality. I would drink mint juleps and wear hats and call everyone ‘Sugar’. It was hour four that a strange insight interrupted the reverie that was as thick as southern humidity and as intoxicating as Southern Comfort. It occurred to me that I had no friends in Kentucky, not even one. What would I do there? I have no Igor. I have no Hair Angel. I have nothing in Kentucky. In going to Kentucky I would be moving away from L.A. and not moving towards anything. It wasn’t Louisville that I wanted, it was L.A. that I still didn’t want. With that insight I closed the Realtor.com page and went to bed.
In my sleep I went to Kentucky, I dreamt that I was riding a beautiful horse for hours and hours. I was deliriously happy in the dream. I did notice, even as I dreamt, that I was happier with the identity as “horseback rider” than I was riding the horse. Even so, I woke with a sense of awakening possibility. Maybe, even though I have never even been on a horse, just maybe I am a great equestrian. Maybe I should take up riding.
Yesterday I shared my dream with Igor. He thought it was the part of me that is still fighting to leave L.A. It was the part of me that idealizes the Louisville life I might have. The dream was testing me. I countered, “but maybe the horse is about me getting my animal power back. Maybe I am more connected to my natural drive. Perhaps the dream is saying that I am connected to a naturalness or a wildness that brings me joy.” Even as I was saying it I knew that the truth was that this horsey version of myself is as much as a fantasy as were the narratives I created each time I looked at an on-line house listing in Louisville.
“But maybe horseback riding would be a good hobby for me?” I asked seeking Igor’s approval.
“Maybe. But you do know that they have horses in Valencia?”

Something like acceptance

1. I am shopping for an office and I am not at all freaked out. Okay, I am a little freaked out that I will get an office and I will never get any referrals. And if I get referrals then I might feel stuck or trapped. I am also not thrilled about having to sublet office space as I am not really a roommate kind of gal— but I only want ten or so hours a week and that isn’t enough time to justify an office of my own. And what if I did get an office of my own and never got any referrals. Even with my “I won’t get any referrals” anxiety, I am still managing to shop for office space. I like shopping for an office, sort of. It reminds me that I really got my license and that if someone were to refer to me that I could have an office of my own.

2. Tonight we are going to a Domestic Adoption Orientation and I am not at all freaked out. Okay, so maybe I am a little freaked out. Maybe I am afraid we will be the oldest people there and that all the other couples will be younger, cuter, smarter and more attractive parents to any potential biological mother. Maybe I am afraid of signing the contract and giving them a check and then nothing will happen and we will never get a baby and maybe my heart will be broken again.

3.We have a Realtor. Let’s just stop there for a moment. Let me just take a breath. I am breathing in. I am breathing out. In…out…repeat as needed. Let’s begin again, I have a Realtor. We have a Realtor. And, I really don’t feel the anxiety that I have felt in the past when we were house hunting. The house hunting, “I have serious commitment issues” thingy is gone. Alright, alright….gone might be an overstatement. Significantly decreased is more accurate. I haven’t had any anxiety attacks as of yet and we have looked at least six houses. I really like our Realtor. She does this thing that no other Realtor has done, she listens. Strange, huh? And, I have even found a house I can imagine living in( see picture below). Isn’t it cute?

I think that I am accepting that we live in L.A. , or something close to acceptance, at least for today.

About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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