My Renovated Interiors

There is a lot of wisdom in knowing what you don’t know.

In my twenties and early thirties, I was so smart and talented that in my mind I really didn’t need a doctor, an interior designer, a travel agent, or a therapist. Today I’m a lot smarter, realizing that I don’t know diddly about squat.

In my new home, when I need a living room rug, I don’t strike out blindly like some tasteless fool. I call my sister design duo Dawn and Darby and ply them with wine and they wonder-twin-power-activate the perfect thing and I happily pay up and shut up and thank them every single time I note my family’s coziness. I call Ethel when I forget the recipe or can’t remember who I am. I call my friend Dr. Marco whenever the slightest ill wind blows and he takes impeccable care of me. When I decide to watch a movie, I text my brother Jon and ask him to pick my flick­—he has a masters in film and psychology, and a PhD in all things sister. I call my Dad when I need a solution; like “Wolf” in Pulp Fiction, he can deal with anything. I call Dean when my car has a light on. I call Father Adrian or Ann when I am up to my eyeballs in sin. I call Sally when I can’t decide whether to grow up or throw up, because she says it exactly like it is (listen up). I call Suzanne when I’m moody or rooty and she highlights the grump out of me. I call Paige, Peggy, Seed, or Saskia at wit's end, knowing they love me and find me amusing precisely (and especially) when I see nothing funny or redemptive in myself. What I’m saying is, I may not know what I’m doing, but I know who does.

After a break up with a total fraud, I decided that rather than give my heart to anotherDateline episode contender, it was time to heal my frog magnet and start prepping for a prince. My interiors were in desperate need of renovation, and knowing all that I don’t know, I sought an expert and sat my weary ass down on a therapist’s couch. I have been happy to seek therapy on behalf of anyone else. In fact I can spend hours and money on behalf of my children no problem, but for myself therapy has seemed like an unnecessary luxury. Kind of like a spa day, with a massage, facial, and a mani-pedi. I’m kind of restless and over myself after one treatment, and ready to move on with my vacation or transition into happy hour. I brought that attitude with me on my first day.

Here’s the deal, I started, as I arched one eyebrow at this woman who was supposed to be my mental and emotional ninja. I’m sure I was a raging red flag, with neon arrows pointing down in warning, I’m pretty sure I do not need to waste your time or mine digging into my childhood, it was a sitcom. And I know exactly where my crap originates so we may as well go there first. I wanted to maximize our time, my checkbook, get healed and get the hell out of there. She nodded, smiled benignly, and totally ignored my plea.

Well, we have gone wherever the Ninja wanted to go. Nothing has been off limits, regardless of my strategically placed detour signs. She is the Indiana Jones of emotional archaeology, kicking holes into snake filled secret chambers where I hide my treasures. We have flown in a prop plane, a dotted line across a map, excavating my childhood, digging through the ashes of my ancient marriage, locating pieces of my identity at various flea markets, garage sales, silent auctions, and Ebay, and beginning the highly annoying and laborious process she calls Integration. Until I make peace with my shadows and Integrate them, warns She, I will continue to repeat the very unsatisfying pattern of finding men who present as shiny and reliable as the Titanic in port, belying a sharp and shadowy underbelly as giant and treacherous as that infamous iceberg. I’m tired of sinking, tired of attracting the very things that I have despised in myself, so after all these years of lugging my bags around, I submit to her as my emotional customs agent and we are sorting through my stuff. I’m declaring everything.

She promises me this Integration thing is worth it. She says that after a while I will be stronger at the core, knit tightly, like my body meshing back together after having twins. Only now, I think I’m giving birth to myself. I feel it. I’m tired of pushing and sick of puffy breathing. I’ve asked repeatedly for an epidural but apparently numbing is off limits.

I’m excited to see how I emerge. I look forward to removing the blue tape and the plastic and moving wholeheartedly into my renovated interiors.


Photography by: Joy Gallagher

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