From the Editor

by Luba Palter, MFT

It is the beginning of the year and I have not been able to write. I am in the middle of a transition in my life and thus my creative juices are not flowing.

I am leaving my job of 9 years — a job that at one point I could not imagine leaving — and moving on to a much smaller position that will allow me to spend more time in my private practice. The time has come for me to stretch and expand my capacities in other ways. My mind is filled with details of rearranging the schedules of my practice and my personal life. Times, days, and appointments are floating around in my head without a specific place to land. I wake up in the middle of the night trying to solve the puzzle of fitting in clinical hours plus personal time that I could not arrange during the day. When do I eat? When do I sleep? When do I go for a walk? It is all up for grabs now. I notice myself telling friends in wonder and dismay that I will become a morning person now as my new job will require me to start at 8:30 in the morning, while at my current position, I have been diligently working till midnight.

This brings me to the theme of stories: the stories that I live with about myself, my abilities, my capacities, and my possibilities. As I am stepping out of my old job, I am inching out of an old story. The story is that in order to make my private practice work, I have to spend more hours of the week doing something else. It is that to survive as a private practice therapist, I need to have a secure side gig that pays the bills. This conversation, this story, can go in various directions: how unstable the economy is, how inaccessible and unaffordable therapy is to the majority of people who desperately need it, how frightening it is to depend on myself to generate consistent, stable income in an expensive Bay Area, how I must learn to be an honest/ethical saleswoman, ready to speak authentically and confidently about the unique skills I offer with potential new clients and colleagues. The list goes on and on.

But what I am interested in now is how those elaborate stories become a blanket and a tomb to myself and my patients. The blanket rationalizes the current position/situation, and the tomb kills off the desire for aliveness and, thus, new possibilities. And yet my list full of blankets and tombs has had value, significance, and a place in my psyche until the blanket became suffocating and the tomb became all-consuming.

My patient after many years of misery wonders if maybe it is okay to enjoy her day, even her week. Maybe there is no toll for her enjoyment. Maybe her misery will not protect her from the risks of being alive.