"Growing old," I replied. "I'm afraid of growing old. Terrified." I thought of the old man, trembling hand reaching from his window to retrieve a vanilla ice cream cone. I felt sick as I waited for my turn at the drive-thru, having bought a cheeseburger for Chienne in apology for working so late. I watched him wait for a napkin, extending his gnarled hand with wrinkled skin to fetch it before slowly releasing the brake and moving his car forward.
My therapist - the woo-woo craniosacral guy - had asked what I feared. I'd paused, lying uncovered on top of the table in my bra and capri pants, and made a face as I thought about it. I don't recall his reply but I defended myself regardless.
"I'm not afraid of death," I argued though he wasn't challenging me on my answer. "More of life," I said more softly.
We had started our session by his asking 'how's Katie' and if I'd listened any closer to what my body was saying. When I said OK and not really, respectively, he asked what my body would say right now.
"I don't know," I answered honestly, closing my eyes as he felt the pulses in my ankles, turning my legs gently as he felt with his fingertips.
"Well, what if it could talk? If you left brain moved aside for a moment and let you body speak."
"No," I refused after a moment. "I don't want to." And he'd asked what I was afraid of.
He paused after I'd admitted it was not dying too early but living too long that bothered me. "I'm reading A Purpose Driven Life," I told him, "and this time is temporary so it's not bad to look forward to what comes after."
"I agree," he said slowly. "And I don't advise people to cling to every second of life. But it sounds like you're doing your best to age the opposite of gracefully." And I thought of how I'd told Mom there were worse things than a quick heart attack. Good Lord, I thought, am I trying to kill myself? Albeit slowly, with cheese sauce and chocolate chip cookies?
"You stopped breathing," he said gently. "Breathe, Katie. Through your diaphragm."
"You have to fix me," I told him, opening my eyes and offering my own beseeching look.
"You're going to fix you," he replied gently. "I'm going to coach."
So we talked about life and death, Jesus and light. And he asked if I could listen to my heart if I was unwilling to allow my body to speak. With one hand under my back and another resting above my heart, he stayed at my left side while I thought about it.
"If there's something intelligent in your body," he offered, "something strong and important and full of nerves, it must be your heart. Can you trust that a little?"
"Breathe," he said when I stopped again, and I did, trying to relax my muscles and realizing with some dismay that I'd clenched my fists.
"I don't," I admitted. "I don't trust it. I can't. It's always wrong." He didn't speak, moving his hands from my heart and shifting above my head to hold my head in his hands, fingers providing pressure to ease the muscles in my neck.
"I was in love once," I admitted. "It made no sense but it was the first time I thought..." I trailed off and breathed, lifting a hand to dab at the single tear at the corner of each eye. "I let my heart lead - loved him so deeply," I paused again, remembering. The couch I currently keep in my basement. The fantasies spun so perfectly, so quickly and I fell, forcing myself faster and harder than he advised.
"It hurt," I said, shifting to what came later. "It ended badly and it hurt - my heart ached so much that I wasn't sure how I'd survive it. I just wanted to sleep until it eased."
"And what would happen if you let that go? Forgave him and your heart?"
I was shaking my head even as he spoke. "What if it happened again?" I replied, eyes closed tight and muscles locked against the potential attack.
"You'd be stronger," he answered simply and moved back to my heart to smooth the muscles, working gently at the tension even as I waited to cry out in pain.
"What are you thinking?" he asked long moments later as I relaxed into my imagination, hoping he wasn't going to hurt the tender muscles in my chest. I had been thinking of a date tomorrow evening. Of how it would feel to be open. Trusting. Loving toward the potential of me and him and us.
"I guess I was imagining what it would be like to be better - open - able to hear my heart without being afraid."
"That's beautiful," he praised and when we finished a bit later he declared it a good session. I put my hands on my bare belly, lifted my knees to rest my bare feet on the table.
"So I'm not hopeless?" I asked and he immediately shook his head - said I was very self-aware and that was an excellent start.
"No, I know what's wrong," I admitted. "It's the fixing it that's problematic." But I left feeling gently hopeful and with an appointment in another 2 weeks. I am to practice my breathing and visualize myself as open.
Instead I feel apprehensive.