a conversation with my therapist

These past few days have been overwhelmingly sad & anxious. I think perhaps it is a side effect of coming home from London - a place I adore with all of my heart-stuff, a place I am dreaming so fondly of now. The same happens whenever I leave New York. There this sad, insoluble fog over me now. I want to twist it up in my hands and push it away from me, but I cannot seem to find a grip.

It is odd, I think, because externally there are so many good things happening. I am being published in beautiful journals. I am doing interviews with people I admire. I am speaking at workshops with the National Book Council of Singapore. My first collaborative novel is out, for goodness’ sake. All of these beautiful moments. Things should be wonderful. Things should be incredible.

And there are flashes of happiness, yes. I am excited for all of this. But the light is short-lived and not very bright at all.

My therapist said something to me at our last meeting that I have been rolling around on my tongue. 

It was this: you put so much pressure on yourself to be happy.

There is such painful truth in that. I want to say that yes, of course I put pressure on myself. I do want to be happy. I think all of us do.

I want to feel okay again. Is it such a crime?

My therapist tells me that it is not a crime, but it is a mistake. She says to me that to feel okay, I must feel okay with being sad first.

That does not make sense to me. It is a simple cause-and-effect statement: good things are happening. Therefore, I should be happy. That is how things work. That is how logic works.

My therapist shakes her head. She says love, your feelings are not logical. She says your feelings are not meant to be logical. That is the beauty in them. That is what you write about in your poetry, isn’t it?

It is. But you know, it is one thing to pour one's sadness deep into a poem, to swirl it into a cage of words in the comfort of an easily-closed journal - and quite another thing when one's own heart is the cage. I want out, I tell her. And there are so many beautiful, luminous things happening. Surely it is not such a leap to think that the sadness will go. I have tried so hard to make it go, and now that these good things are coming to me, why can I not reap the rewards? Perhaps I am simply ungrateful. Perhaps I do not know how to appreciate a bright thing when it happens.

My therapist looks at me like the soft creature she promises me that I have always been, even on the days with sharp edges.

She tells me that I am not ungrateful. That I must learn to let go of this pressure to be happy. That my emotions are not dictated by external events. That these things I am doing, all of this nectar I am feeding to my buzzing hummingbird heart, truly are incredible. But that I must learn to be okay with the sadness, with or without the external wonders. At least long enough for the fog to dissipate of its own accord, if only slightly.

I am trying to remember. I am.

It feels as if I am drowning, as if I have been crying out for a lifeguard, and my therapist has sat down very sternly with me, even as I gasp for air, and told me to keep quiet. To stop thrashing and sink beneath the surface and let the water fill my lungs rather than lifting a finger to call for help.

I told her that I felt this way. And this is what she said to me:

You're right, my therapist said. I am asking you to try sinkingBut not so that you drown.

I am asking you to sink so that you can learn to swim.