Cocoa restaurant. All are welcome

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Memoir, play therapy, self help, short story

A hand-crafted sign is taped on the door to Jonette’s office:

Cocoa Restaurant
Come in!
We have bathrooms!
Electronics allowed!

This is the artwork of one of Jonette’s clients, most of whom are under the age of 10. Except me. At the age of 55 I have finally arrived for play therapy, right on time in consideration of a few areas of arrested development. But I’m here now and amused to the hilt by the absurdity of being the kid with wrinkles.

Usually my cohorts don’t give me the time of day in the waiting room as they wait to be fetched by their moms, but today a little girl of about 9 wanders over to the couch where I am reading and starts a conversation.

“What are you reading?”

What I’m reading is Anatomy of an Epidemic, a book blowing the whistle on (1), over-excited psychiatrists who, in yearning for what feels like a more hard science-y way to treat mental illness and gain the respect that “real,” prescribing doctors get, have over-embraced drug therapy, and (2), Big Pharma for manipulating studies on the efficacy of neurotropic drugs in the treatment of people with psychiatric concerns in the interest of making lots of money.

“Um, it’s a book about medicines doctors give people that aren’t good for them.” I’m not great at thinking on my feet. I can’t even imagine what a responsible adult would do with this.

“Oh. What kind of medicines? Why aren’t they good for them?” She is truly interested and ready to settle into a real conversation.

Drugs to keep the craziness in check but which only make people crazier and sicker in new ways after a while? I’m starting to sweat. I’m really not great at thinking on my feet and have made “I-guess-it’s-time-for-reality” conversational mistakes with children before.

“Well, um, medicines to help people not feel so, uh, unwell, but the problem in the long run is….” and then, thank the lord, her mom shows up in the doorway and calls her away.

“I have to go now. I hope you like reading your book. It sounds interesting! Bye!”

As my new friend skips off, Jonette’s office door opens and an adorable 5-year-old girl with long blond braids walks out and I go in.

Also adorable is my therapist, and not all that much bigger than many of her clients. Jonette is tiny, with a big poof of long gray hair loosely knotted up on top of her head with stray wisps that like to artfully fly around. And today, bright pink toenails and fingernails and a big happy flower painted on her cheek.

“Face painting today,” I say.

“And fingers and toes,” she adds, holding out her hands. I know fingernail polish is not really her style.

While Jonette wipes off the flower I get a picture in my head of that little blond girl down on her knees, lovingly painting Jonette’s toes. I see happy stuff was what was called for today. Last week when the little girl came out and I went in, I found a very orderly line of 6 doll chairs, with 6 very calm and orderly dolls sitting in them. That day she was busy making order out of chaos. Me, too. We are indeed here to do some organizing.

Today I’m especially excited for therapy because I made some artwork of my own for Jonette’s gallery. It’s a drawing of my current model of the mind based on observations within my own head. I have dozens upon dozens of iterations of these mind maps, which get updated each time I encounter a new situation requiring a more powerful strategy to keep up with the out-maneuverings of my feelings, which are like antibiotic strains of bacteria that slyly adapt to the treatment, constantly requiring the development of new methods.

Jonette is so patient and perfect with my theories and models. A different therapist and a particularly dumb one made the mistake of letting me know the brain is not really divided up into 9 parts as my model was mapping at the time. But Jonette never makes the mistake of not getting a metaphor. Instead, she is convincingly fascinated by my work. We talk about it together until she has made it clear that she gets it and also thinks, once again, that I’m onto something. And before carefully setting my art aside, she admires how I colored it. Then we laugh about how much I love to play up the play therapy bit as a joke but the truth of the matter is:

  1. Despite the obvious child orientation of this office stuffed to the gills with dolls and trucks and train sets and games and art supplies, Jonette does also have a flourishing practice involving full-fledged adults so my fixation on the play therapy aspect is unnecessary, clearly a defense mechanism, and probably tiresome, and
  2. I still really badly want Jonette to like my artwork.

To be continued in Part II

To Jonette, with my whole heart.

Artwork — by Gary, my go-to for art and everything else

The stories in this blog are excerpts from my memoir, The Organization Project. While they are true to me and reflect how I see, I acknowledge there are multiple truths, including my own which change over time, even as the events themselves remain the same, whatever they were. What I make of an event 5 years out may not be what I make of it 10 years out or 50 years out.

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