even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.
— Audre Lorde
Hailey wanted to see Trish, her therapist, to help her sort through what she discovered about her Aunt Clare.
She knew Trish would be professional, but down-to-earth with her, almost speaking to her like a friend—although at times, it seemed that line was blurred.
But now that she was here in Trish’s office she wasn’t so sure Trish could be completely objective anymore because of their friendship.
Trish tapped her fingers on the desk. “You just unloaded a dumpster full of irrational guilt on me—almost made me feel sorry for you and your horrible life.”
“Well, it is horrible, don’t you agree?”
Trish was reserved. “Well, parts of your life have been rough, Hailey, but don’t turn this into a melodrama. You’re not a victim and as a matter of fact, most women would kill to be you.”
Hailey tried to protest. “But things always look neat from the outside—inside, everything is so chaotic, I don’t trust my judgment in the simplest things anymore.”
“Look, Hailey, these things are all outside you—your stalker, your dysfunctional family. But you—you’re fine. You’re starting to get things together and just need to put things into perspective. It’s not your fault your family is screwed up, or some disturbed student wants to vent his sexual frustrations on you.”
“I’d believe that if I didn’t feel responsible for everything that’s happened. I must be doing something wrong—this isn’t normal.”
“You know what? Sometimes stuff happens—no rhyme or reason.”
Hailey was surprised that Trish seemed a bit skeptical about a conspiracy.
She tried again to convince Trish. “What if I did something bad and didn’t realize the implications?”
“Well, in the case of your aunts opposing you that’s a possibility, but are you saying you think you angered your stalker and now he wants to kill you?”
“Something like that,” Hailey conceded.
“If that were the case, you couldn’t do much—but that’s not the real issue. You’re not to blame for any of this Hailey. It’s not your fault. You’re suffering from persistent, irrational guilt and the way I see it—if there’s no awareness, there’s no sin. You can’t be responsible, Hailey, for what you’re not conscious of.”
“I musn’t be very likeable.”
“What makes you say that?”
“It’s not a whim or a fleeting feeling. It’s the pattern of my life. I can’t ever recall Mother saying she loved me, or showing me tenderness, for that matter. My aunts despise me—treat me like an outsider. They keep secrets and exclude me from the simplest decisions. Either they think I’m seriously deranged or so damaged emotionally that I can’t be privy to the most trivial things. I barely even know the facts of my own family’s history. I open a family photo album and see faces of strangers.”
“Okay, let’s run with this. What made you resurrect these suspicions about your family that I thought we dealt with and laid to rest?”
Hailey looked out the window, gathered her thoughts and took a deep breath. “I found a prayer card from my Aunt Clare’s funeral—something about her body being consigned to the flames.”
Trish arched her eyebrows. “So, your aunt was cremated?”
Hailey eyes were downcast. She barely nodded.
“It’s not something to be ashamed of, Hailey, but it is kind of weird, given the fact that your family is so traditional in their beliefs. Still, it’s not forbidden for Anglicans to be cremated—besides, didn’t you always say that your Aunt Clare was something of a maverick?”
“That’s not the point. Why wasn’t I told, or more to the point, why wasn’t Birdie? Just imagine, being a daughter not knowing your own mother was cremated.”
Trish sipped at her coffee. “I take it then that Birdie attended the funeral service, at least.”
Hailey nodded. “I’m surprised my aunts even allowed that.” She stopped, aware of how bitter she sounded. “Sorry. I guess I’m just venting.”
Trish pointed to the little plaque on her desk. It’s okay to be human here. She smiled at Hailey. “I like it when people vent—it’s therapeutic, as long as you move past it.”
“So, is that your subtle way of suggesting the next step—that I move past this, get on with my life and all that rot?”
“When you’re ready, yes. There’s no magic formula or timeline for recovery—but at some point you’re going to need to move on. I mean, let’s face it—your family is hyper dysfunctional and in my opinion, toxic. They were the primary reason for your slow recovery and to tell the truth, they were the cause of your problem in the first place. As for you, I’ve already told you, you’re golden. Your aunts on the other hand, are Looney Tunes.”
Hailey gave a little snort. “You think? I’m so tired of their ridiculous devotion to the McAdam name…and I feel trapped by Mother’s will. If it weren’t for Birdie, I’d just walk and let the aunts settle the estate by tooth and fang.”
“Sounds like they’re already doing that now.”
Hailey furrowed her brow. “There must be some reason why Mother wanted me to go through this, but what it is, I have absolutely no idea.”
“Maybe it’ll become clear eventually, or maybe you’ll never know—either way, as we agreed before, regard it as an opportunity to heal and come to terms with the whole family deal. Just be prepared for the possibility that you might never have the answers you’re seeking. Life doesn’t come neatly boxed, like brown paper packages tied up with strings. You may have to learn to live with ambiguity—but, so what? —You’re stronger than you think and you’ll make it through this.”
“Gee, you really think so, Coach?”
Trish stood. “Sarcasm does not become you—besides, I have two other clients to see today who really need my help. You’re the healthiest person I’ve seen all week. Go home and phone Nan and go out for drinks—or, better yet, give Brad a call and cry on his shoulder for a change.”
Yeah, all I need is a good man to straighten me out.”
“Your words, not mine,” Trish winked.
Hailey breezed out the door, feigning an indignant pout, but inwardly relieved that maybe she was imagining a conspiracy where there was none.
Besides, the thought of seeing Brad again made her smile, and right now that was the kind of therapy she needed.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.