Whose Kind of Crazy?

by Jessica Leigh Lebos   <Jessifein@aol.com>

I think I've disgusted my therapist of almost four years: since I first went to see him in his bright home office tucked in the hills, I have transformed from "weird-bald-waif-stranded-in-Marin-County-because-the-VW-van
-her-back-to-Arizona-if-she-didn't-get-some-help" to "successful (I use the term loosely)-writer-married-to-charming, handsome, Jewish personal trainer." And still insecure, ridiculous, jealous and compulsive.

Gary is a very Zen therapist. Most sessions he'll let me blather on and cry until I have nothing left, and then he'll say "So what's going on right NOW? In this moment?" At first I used to get stumped by this. "What the hell do you mean, I just told you!" But then I learned to quiet down in myself, and watch the feelings come and go. Ah, I realized. Moods move through me, and I don't have to get attached. And I'd be healed for like seven minutes.

Then I'd come in the next week and have to do it all over again. After four years, you can imagine he's a little annoyed with me. Or at least I imagine it so.

I've spent a lot of $100 hours complaining about how I'm not writing. He listens patiently, sitting back barefoot in his zero-gravity chair, eyes at half-mast like Yoda, his toenails long and funky like an animal's. "Radical self-acceptance," he intones, as if from a trance.

"Radical what?" Hey, I can do radical. Show me the picket line. Radical's my middle name, dude.

"Accepting yourself exactly how you are." Oh.

Which means accepting the premature grey, the cellulite, the way I stutter when I'm nervous, the petty jealousies, the phoniness, the tears, the inability to forgive...I don't think so. Whatever, dude. Therapy's for pussies anyway. Take your gnarly toenails and shove 'em.

My therapist is also a poet. He recently published a book of love poems, called The You That Is Everywhere. He talks about showing up to the page, letting go, having faith. Then he begins to sing the praises of the writer Anne Lamott, how her honesty and her ability to turn her tragedies and awkwardness into wonderful prose is a stellar example of radical self-acceptance. That by accepting her imperfectness, she has borne art.

So, of course I hate Anne Lamott for awhile. Just because she's comfortable being crazy doesn't mean I have to be, right? Can't I be self-loathing and a great writer? Look at Kerouac, Bukowski, Burroughs, Hemingway for God's sakes...they were all self-destructive and wildly successful. But they were dirty old men and I don't want to end up alone in some motel room shooting up heroin when I'm 75.

So I read Crooked Little Heart, Anne Lamott's novel about teenage girls

and tennis and coming clean. I cry every few pages because I know I will never write anything so good. It's funny in the way life is funny; it doesn't make you guffaw as much as it makes you smirk. There's a sense of real secrets uncovered through these characters, that good people can do bad things, that every single human has problems. Reading the salvation of Rosie actually healed me-- I can only imagine what it must have been like to write it.

Gary informs me that the same kind of "radical self-acceptance" that Anne Lamott has achieved is what it will take for me to write. Fine, I think. I'll become a grocery store clerk or a systems analyst or learn how to code software and make big money--there are a host of other fulfilling, interesting, useful careers out there. Who wants to tell the truth anyway? What kind of idiot wants to sit in a tent on the deck of a one-bedroom apartment and pound out her kind of crazy on an archaic laptop computer? Who indeed?

Maybe I haven't found acceptance for all my flaws just yet, but I'm tired of not writing. So I'm borrowing some of Anne Lamott's radical self-acceptance for a little bit. I hope she has so much that she won't discover it's gone before I can give it back. I'd like to think she won't mind-- that she'd feel blessed that she's inspired a geeky 28 year-old wannabe to just try. To want to heal so much that I'm willing to perform my own soul surgery without the benefit of the right tools, right here on this very page. And maybe someday, some other weird young woman will read the results and be healed just a little, knowing she's not alone in her kind of crazy.


Jessica Leigh Lebos lives, writes and broods in Fairfax, CA, but she's no loner. Email her at jessifein@aol.com

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