Sunday, August 23, 2015

On passion vs. possession

My original Lego pirate (with a replacement hat)
There was a story that a friend told me once that I never managed to quite grasp the significance of until earlier this year. Lego helped me to understand it, as strange as that sounds. I’ll explain the Lego side of things before I tell you what it helped me understand. And yes I am well aware of how ridiculous and abstract this story will sound because I’m an adult going on about how a very specific niche like Lego affects my feelings.

See, what happened to me was that because I grew up poor, I didn’t have any Lego until I was about 10 and we moved to Australia. The Lego I did have then were the smallest sets then available, the only “luxury” toys mum could afford. I loved Lego as a concept, I loved the minifigures (that’s the little Lego people), I loved the stories I could make with them, the adventures the minifigures could go on, etc. I even held onto one of my original pirate minifigures until now, about 25 years on. As a kid I played with him and as an adult I carried this little guy around on a keyring for a long time – until I lost his hat, then I decided it was safer to put him on a shelf and get more Lego. But then as an adult I became hesitant to spend money on “toys”.

In about 2011, after I left my hospital job, I started to earn more reasonable money. Now, when you’ve been poor growing up you can then become a very frugal person. That’s what happened to me. One day I was in a store with a good friend and I was eyeing off some Lego. She said to me “why do you keep looking at it? If you can afford it, get it”. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was hesitant to "waste" money. Geez, there’s people even poorer than my family was and they can’t afford basic things, so how can I bring myself to splurge on something so non-essential to life, a luxury? But my friend supported me, she could see how badly I wanted the Lego (and yes I was at this stage nearly 30 years old) and yet how much it troubled me to spend money on myself for non-essential things. She convinced me that it’s OK to enjoy life and the things I like. And so I allowed myself permission to spend on Lego. And I developed a true love and passion for it! I mean greater enthusiasm than I had as a child; greater than I think children are actually capable of (if you meet any true adult Lego fan your first thought will be ‘what a weirdo, this is a kid’s toys’, but your second thought will be ‘wow, this guy really really LOVES Lego’). It's crazy but I felt so passionate for all things Lego, and I wanted to learn everything about them and just enjoy them as much as I could. If you know me, you probably have at some point received from me photos of a Lego set and saying something like "the guys who designed these sets are absolute geniuses!" Needless to say, I soon came to own a fair amount of Lego, though I only get the sets I feel something for.

Recently I met someone else who claimed to like Lego though didn’t own any as an adult. I did as my friend had done with me and normalized it for her, told her it’s OK to have Lego as an adult – just like I had. Well, what happened was that suddenly she started buying Lego, copious amounts of Lego. Making decisions to buy entire series of Lego without first even knowing what individual sets came within that series, what the cost was, without any care for individual sets or figures, just a determination that all must be owned. That’s when I started to become uneasy with her. Because to me Lego (at an adult fan level) is about passion, and she was treating it purely as a possession. The crux of my thought was that she was treating my passion without respect. And yet I remained fully aware of how petty my unease sounded if I ever voiced it to anyone, except maybe another adult fan of Lego.

My unease peaked when this woman started buying a Lego series known as Modular buildings, a series designed by the Lego group specifically in response to adult fans of Lego. See, the thing is that to me as an amateur adult fan of Lego owning any of the sets in the Modular series is the ultimate prize, the big reward. And she bought them the same as one buys a $2 piece of junk you just want to have in your house. And as pathetic as this sound, that kind of hurt me. It's weird, but it was like stepping on my toes! It hurt me that someone who’s new to this, who doesn't share the lifelong passion for Lego, just goes and basically buys my dreams! And with full awareness that this will make me sound even more pathetic, I mourned. I felt like I had to mourn my dreams. I can't own the modulars now. How can I "treat" myself to or call a prize something that to this woman was seen like just a simple "thing"? I had to mourn that I will now never own a modular set. I don't want to share with her something that to her means nothing.

Anyhow, so recently (actually not that recent, I have been sitting on this story a few months because I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings), I told this story to the friend who originally convinced me to get into Lego again as an adult. She’s often my confidante and knows me more than most people. And I said to her, “I am being ridiculous, right? Tell me I am being silly feeling so hurt because this other woman didn’t respect my passion; tell me this isn’t as big as I’m making out to be”. And, yes, at first she laughed, but mostly because she said to me ‘so you now get why the story I told you about what happened to me and my job affected me so much?’ And, yes, I remembered; yes, I finally understood something about her I hadn’t fully understood until then. And, yes, it also eclipsed what I felt because her story actually involved people’s careers and overall life journey. I feel I have to tell you this story so you also understand why my Lego story affected me so (in case you still can’t get over the fact that I am talking about Lego, and, yes, Lego is marketed as a stupid children’s toy).

My friend worked 10 years towards becoming an ambulance officer. It was her dream job. Every job she had before that was in preparation for it. In fact, by the time she started working this job she was possibly overqualified. Her partner knew very well that this ambulance job was the dream she had been working towards all along. Then one day, her partner realised that he was miserable in his own job, and came home and told my friend that he was going to join the ambulance service. Just like that. He never had a real interest in it. Then suddenly, my friend who is more giving than she is capable of self-preservation, realised that her partner had taken her goal and made it his. But not in the way couples do when a goal becomes a shared goal like keeping the relationship together or caring for children or growing a joint financial investment, etc. It was more like my friend’s dream was cast aside – and it quickly became, not her partner’s dream, but his “must-have”.

So, when I told my friend the Lego story between me and this other friend she said to me “I see how you feel like you were stepped on. I know what it feels like to have someone almost steal your passion from you. But not for the right reasons. Not because you actually share that passion. That's different. But when it's more of a 'Yeah, I can do that!’ Or ‘I can get that too!.. And I can do even better and go the whole way’” My friend eventually realised how her partner’s thought pattern and behaviour didn’t just apply to the jobs they did, but more generally. How other aspects of his personality and his willingness to “step on her toes”, his must-have nature, didn’t just extend to just work. And my friend became resentful of him without even realising it. She realised though that her partner did not understand her at all, and that this whole incident had caused her to lose part of herself when her partner became an ambulance officer. They’re not together anymore. So, she said, she gets how deeply hurtful my experience with my friend is because it is somewhat similar to what she went through. And they thing is she had told me her story before, but only now did I get it. Because I had now felt perhaps only a small proportion of what she felt for a long time.

There's passion. And then there's possession. And it’s hard to respect someone who will step over your passions to claim a possession for themselves.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On trying to break my writer’s block

So, it’s been so long since I’ve written anything… and still I don’t know that I have that much to say today. A lot has happened in my life – or is it that not enough has happened in it? And yet that is exactly my sentiment: unsure if I’ve had too much or not enough :)

Anyhow, so to break my 3-4 month writer’s block, here’s something I didn’t write. The Spanish lyrics to the mariachi song “Se me olvidó otra vez” by Juan Gabriel – which I would appreciate if it would stop playing in my head already because it’s making me sadder, damn it!
“Probablemente ya de mí te has olvidado.
Y mientras tanto yo, te seguiré esperando.
No me he querido ir para ver si algún día/
Que tú quieras volver me encuentres todavía.
Por eso aún estoy en el lugar de siempre.
En la misma cuidad, y con la misma gente.
Para que tú al volver no encuentres nada extraño.
Y sea como ayer; y nunca más dejarnos.
Probablemente estoy pidiendo demasiado.
Se me olvidaba que ya habíamos terminado;
Que nunca volverás; que nunca me quisiste.
Se me olvidó otra vez que solo yo te quise.”

Sunday, February 8, 2015

On when it's enough

This year’s Australian of the Year award recipient was Rosie Batty, a woman who has helped raise the attention we give to domestic violence in our society. This got me thinking a lot about the issue, and in fact it drove me to watch a TED talk on domestic violence by Leslie Morgan Steiner, herself a domestic violence survivor. I strongly recommend you watch it if you haven’t already. What it did for me is it helped me answer - and ask - some questions I hadn't even thought about before. Leslie found herself in love with a man who was charming and wonderful and worshiped her. This was the same man who later beat her several times a week. The questions domestic violence pose to me are 1) how does it happen, how does an intimate relationship become abusive? And 2) why do people stay in those relationships?

You know, I realised something recently and that is that a lot of us don’t know much about domestic violence. In Leslie Morgan Steiner’s talk she pointed out that this was true of her situation – and she didn’t realise that there are warning signs and patterns to the abuse. She speaks of one of the things her ex-partner did from the start of the relationship, and that is to make her believe that she – not he – was the dominant partner in the relationship. You know the type, “he wouldn’t hurt a fly”. In fact, he’d been the victim of physical abuse as a child, he told her. He made it clear that she, not him, was the strong one. I think this is an interesting point for another reason too, and that’s because one thing I remember learning a little while ago is that victims of childhood abuse (be it sexual, psychological, or physical) are predisposed to becoming either abusers themselves or the victims of abuse again – and usually this will be with their intimate partner. 

The second step to coming to be in a domestically violent relationship is to “isolate the victim”. Now this is another interesting one because it can come in the shape of being so in love that you want to spend every minute of every day with your partner, of wanting them all to yourself; but then becomes obsessive in wanting to increasingly (it’s always in small increments) dictate exactly who you speak to, what you wear, who is allowed to be your friend, where and how you can work and live, etc. It’s easy to disguise a controlling nature in the guise of “it’s because I love you so much and I am trying to protect you” or “it’s for your own good”.

Then comes the part where they test you out. Subtle threats. Small violations. Then an apology, of course. There’s always a reason why it happened, and they love you, and they promise it won’t happen again… Then increasingly bigger violations. Most of us have seen the pictures of the “cycle of violence” that occurs in domestic violence situations: violent episode, followed by the remorse, pursuit, and honeymoon phases… until the tension builds up again and culminates in a another violent episode – and the cycle keeps repeating.

Figure 1. The cycle of violence – commonly used to explain the perpetuation of IPV (adapted from Walker, 1979)
In case you haven't seen it.

One very powerful point that Leslie Morgan Steiner makes in her talk is this: “Why did I stay? The answer is easy. I didn't know he was abusing me”. But surely she must have known, right? Surely people know when they are being physically, emotionally, financially, or sexually abused by their intimate partner, right? Not necessarily, because of the often gradual nature of how abuse escalates. You know what this made me think of? The little cartoon in that Al Gore documentary where the frog who goes from room temperature into boiling water immediately realised the threat and jumps out of the pot, but the frog placed in water at room temperature and then the heat is gradually increased will stay calmly and passively until the water boils him to death.

Leslie Morgan Steiner gave a second interesting reason of why she stayed in an abusive relationship: because she believed she could help her abuser. She loved him. She knew him. She understood him better than anyone else. She knew he was a good person who was just troubled. I mean, shouldn't good people who love each other be self-sacrificing and help each other out? Isn't this particularly more applicable if the abusive partner has a mental illness or a troubled past or is “going through a rough patch”? Shouldn't we stick by them at all costs? Shouldn't we keep giving them another chance? (to repeat the cycle?)...  However, there is a flaw in this logic because it puts a greater emphasis on one person’s satisfaction and happiness at the expense of the happiness and right to be free from abuse of the other partner.

Of course, the final reason people stay in abusive relationships is because they know how dangerous their abusive partner is. Indeed, another thing I learnt from the TED talk is that the period after a relationship has ended is when the threat is greatest for those who have left their abuser. The abuser now has nothing to lose, they are both enraged and empowered. And often they do act with disastrous consequences. This is when we as a society need to step up and stop asking questions like “why doesn't she leave?” in the tone of “well, it’s her fault for staying”, and instead make sure we are educating people to recognise and avoid these situations, and protect victims of abuse from further harm through adequate judicial systems.

Now, one last question I want to go back to is does the fact that the abuser was perhaps affected by mental illness, was “going through a rough patch”, or had a childhood that was prejudicial and unfair excuse the damage they inflict on their partner? Does it make the bruises any lighter? Does it make the torment any easier to bear? Does it make the children, like Rosie Batty's son, who get caught in the path of an abusive relationship any less dead? No. There has to come a time for a victim of domestic violence to realise and acknowledge that they have at least an equal worth to the person whose abuse they continue to tolerate. For some victims it is one final beating that nearly kills them that makes them ‘snap out of their denial’. Denial of the fact that no amount of love will make the relationship good again. That no amount of wishful thinking will make the other partner be nice to you again. That if nothing changes, nothing changes. That you, in fact, are worthy of better than to suffer or die (physically or emotionally) at the hands of someone who you have given your all to. We have to be careful that when we're looking for reasons for why domestic violence happens, that they don't become excuses. We have to focus on prevention before it happens; and support and adequate protection when it's already established.

Monday, January 5, 2015

On being selfish

I want to show this photo because this flower reminded me of something I realised a little while ago and then forgot again. This flower came from my garden. The rose bush this flower came from has been growing in my garden, blooming beautiful flowers like this one every now and again for a few years. I love it! I have never encountered a rose bush as “fertile” as this, giving rise to so many flowers and so often. Now, the romantic side of me believes this rose bush is so fertile because it came from a bouquet I was once given out of love. When the flowers died, instead of throwing them out (like normal people do), I cut the stems off, and I planted them in the ground. That was a few years ago. Of course, one of the stems became this most productive plant. So together with this romance theory, every time this plant flowers I believe it is giving me, me specifically, the gift of flowers. But I never cut them off the rose bush… until today.

I've never cut one of my own flowers because I know that the flower will most likely have a longer life without my interference. I water the plant, I prune it sometimes, I try to keep the bugs off it; I like to think that I’m giving it a good life. The truth is its roots are probably deep enough now that it could support itself without my input, but I don’t want to risk it withering from lack of water or something I could have possibly prevented. In the last few weeks its base has become infected with some thing I can’t quite keep off it. But also in the last few weeks she is flowering again. It amazes me how something so beautiful can come from something that is at the same time ill.

What drove me to cut a flower off my plant today? Selfishness. Plainly and simply, I decided today to be selfish. See, I saw how beautiful the flowers on the plant were, and I thought I want to enjoy this one more, more closely, for longer, and I want to do that now. Sunset was coming and I wanted to keep enjoying my flower. I thought, she will die one day, so will I, why not take this moment in our lives and share it together? And, yes, I do get this emotionally attached even to flowers; I’m not even being metaphorical! So today I decided to be selfish and brought my beautiful rose inside with me, to enjoy her beauty (purely for my own benefit, though caring for her – and yet not as best as she deserves).

And what did I remember? It was about selfishness. That in order to love, or at least act on love (and what is love without actions? Non-existent), you have to be selfish. At some point you have to decide and act on that inner impulse, to reach forward and both give and take. There’s no one-sided love; as much as we give, we always take. So you have to at least be self-confident that you are deserving of another’s love – and go about either accepting it or striving for it. Even if we do that thing where (because we “know” ourselves so well) we think others are better than us, that we’re not the best person in the universe for the object of our affection, you have to be selfish or else you can’t truly love. We would never act on love if we didn't decide at some point to be selfish. And, of course, this brings me to a second realisation: that it’s hard to love, because you lack confidence and an accurate sense of self-worth, when you are suffering with depression. It’s like my flower struggling to be beautiful, to blossom and radiate, in the face of whatever illness she is facing. How could I love her in a satisfying way without first deciding that I’m worthy of her beauty and she of my care?

And now is the point where I realise that perhaps, in a way, I can’t help but be metaphorical.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On eternity

I once met a girl with the word “eternity” tattooed on her body. She was young and so I wondered if this was an ironic play on the Asian characters others get tattooed on themselves. She said simply “it’s just eternity; it means a lot to me”. I chuckled to myself in a kind of self-righteous indignation, and also waiting for her to crack and laugh too and tell me it was just a joke. It wasn't.

Eternity? How does eternity mean a lot to a young girl in their twenties? How does it mean a lot to a girl who I've otherwise only ever heard speak of some or another party, of “having fun”, of fashion, of nothing really meaningful. Really? Eternity? Could she even grasp it as a concept of time-space? Has she ever even dedicated time to the thought of infinity as it applies to the universe we live in, the physics of it. Has she contemplated eternity in the spiritual sense? Or is it more like the scribblings of children “Mary + Joe, 4eva”? Forever? Is it like the way “forever” means to some couples who get married, 'until the divorce'? What the hell does she know about eternity?

And then I thought, hey, what the hell do I know about eternity? And, you know what, I’m actually not that much different. To me eternity is like infinity, a concept that surely somehow exists even though you may not be able to explain it. Eternity exists because even after you die, the world around you keeps going. There were people around you and they saw you die, but they keep on living. After they die too, the world keeps going. There are constants in this world that aren't the lives of human beings, because certainly we’re not eternal. What about the afterlife, that has to be eternal, right? No one knows. There’s religious doctrines out there that say that yes, we are eternal because our spirits are eternal and, like energy, merely change form, but aren't destroyed. And still I say, no one knows. The evidence we have is of this physical world and all this says is that once our body dies, it merely decomposes to its components. End of story; no eternity to any part of us except the subparticles and energy that comprises us and everything around us. There’s infinity because of the expansion of the universe, the ongoing increase of entropy, the extremely small and extremely large processes going on in the universe. All of it, not things a lot of us sit and think about regularly. And certainly not the things that young girl meant by “eternity”.

But what do I know about eternity? I’ll tell you what I don’t know that I think this girl does: hope. Eternity is a wish, a desire for things like love and marriage and health and prosperity to last forever (or until the end of our days). I've lost that hope. I've let myself become too marred by experience, too dark and pessimistic. I came to realise that this young girl probably does have a much broader concept of eternity than I do. She has a child. She understands love far deeper than I do, and with it the concept of never wanting harm to come to your child – of wanting them to live forever, to be eternal. She’s in love. She remains passionate with her lover, he still makes her smile, surprises her in sweet and charming ways, they still want to impress each other. She enjoys life, looks forward to things, isn't accepting the 9-5 job as her life; her life is at home, and on the weekends, and every moment she can find in which to smile in. These are the things she hopes will last forever. She approaches life with such passion, embracing everything as if it were going to and hoping it will last for all eternity.

What are the things I wish would last for all eternity? These are the things I should focus on. With insight must come responsibility.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

A story: "Poetry"

What if I'm brave today?
What if I quit my job?
What if I confess?
What if I take a chance?
What if I'm reciprocated?
What if I'm not?
What if I jump today?
What if I end my life?
What if I smile at a stranger?
What if I cry my insides out?
What if I'm brave today?
What if I die? 
And if I live?
What if I don't like the consequences?
What if there are no consequence?
What if all this is a revolution in a vacuum?
What if I'm really just stupid?
What if I do nothing?
What if I find happiness, here; right here?
What if I cower?
What if I smile at the end of it all?
What if I'm brave?
What if…?
I'm brave.

He writes this in an old notebook. The "poetry" of a pathetic old soul, unsure of whether he's in love or he's finally truly crossed over into mental illness. Is this what aging does to people? You see a flower and it's not even a particularly beautiful flower but you assume it was put there for you, that it was meant for you to notice it, that spring is quickly slipping away and you better embrace this one last remnant of what you felt when you were young and powerful. You see a table in a store and you feel the same sequence of emotions: my life isn't complete until this table enters my life, my house, my sphere. In time the table sits under a bunch of all your unsolved problems, debts to pay, crumbs of the last things you consumed without a thought. You introduced yet another piece of furniture you'd just walk past again, ignore, use, stub your toe on occasionally - and then, only then, with the pain do you remember that, yes, it was once a beautiful tree too. Eventually you forget (or ignore) that you'll do the same with your flower. You will walk past it and notice its withered leaves and petals; it'll have shed its soul for you. For you who ripped it away from its ecosystem where at least it's life and death at least contributed to the universe. You really thought your life, your love, your eyes were worth more than the universe?... You think all these thoughts and say to yourself: my life really is meaningless.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A story about stuffing up

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 
- 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

I walk into the doctor's office. What exactly do I expect? What's wrong with me? What can she help me with, she asks. I don't know. I think I need something. I don't know. In my grandparents day I would have been having this conversation with a priest or an elder of my church. Church? What if any part of this is holy? Thirty-five years ago marrying in a church, I did not expect that today I would be having this conversation with anyone. What can you help me with?... I haven't been able to sleep in days. I have no desire to eat. I cry all day. Every day. How long has it been, she asks. Two weeks. But two weeks is a long time when you're heartbroken, feeling like the world has been removed from under your feet. I haven't felt present. I don't know why or who I am... Oh, she's looking at me blankly.

It's my husband, I tell her. He had sex with another woman. It's my fault; I haven't had sex with him since the first time this happened. Yes, it's happened before; a few years ago now. I should have known my mother was right; she said if you forgive him once, you have to be prepared that this will be only the first time. How could he? How could she? I don't know her, but what kind of person has no brains about her to get herself into this? That is not a normal person.

Why have I really come here? What is my goal? Do I really intend to continue a relationship with a man of such low character? Oh, he's a wonderful man, but how can this... this... I can only think of the words filth and numb. He used to be so good. We were so good. How do you put your whole family life on the line like that? What do you have to be thinking? He's a man, maybe all men are like this. Doctor, are all men like this? What do I do? She's still just looking at me blankly. Am I wrong in feeling all this? Does he have a problem? Do I? I think it's better if we have a problem, that way we can fix it... Oh God, what am I saying? She's still just looking at me wondering how she can help...

I always thought 'yeah, I'm attracted to powerful people, passionate people, people with drive and motivation'. And that may be the case but I think another part of me takes comfort in the weak. Is it because I compare myself to them? I don't know. I’m weak. I'm uncomfortable too. I don't love her like I used to. It happens to all couples. She keeps asking what was I thinking? What was I thinking. Dear, if you would understand that I wasn't thinking. I intended nothing; I thought of nothing but of the moment. They ask of addicts “why do you do it when you know that it’s so bad for you?” But no-one ever remembers how good it feels. People do things because they feel good, not because you want to avoid something worse. It felt good, Charlotte! It felt good! But I can’t tell you that... I tell you I was lonely. Of course, it’s not your fault! It’s not your fault! And this is what makes me most ashamed of this situation. You blame yourself, you hate me, and you think there was a reason and you won’t let up until you find it.

Charlotte, if I told you what attracted me to her it would hurt your soul. It was me; I was what attracted me to this. But to explain to you that it really was about me and not her, well, you just wouldn't understand. You simply cannot understand that she made me feel things about me that you can’t and won’t let me feel anymore. Oh, dear, I’m not blaming you, either. Please understand that’s not what I’m thinking at all. But you shut me down, you tell me what to do, you tell me when and how it’s appropriate to do it. These women, (yes, you know of that one) see me as a worthy person, an intelligent person, a good person. They see ME. And in your way I know you feel the same way about me; that’s the stories you tell your friends. You say I don’t love you anymore, but when did you stop loving me? Why won’t you show me that love? Why did you stop being sweet and caring and loving as we once were? Don’t tell me it’s because of that first lapse; you and I both know it happened much earlier. And THAT I will never understand. Why did you stop laughing with me to start laughing at the pathetic all-adoring little mascot of yours I became?

You ask what these women had that you don’t? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. It felt good to be wanted again, Charlotte. I wish you knew how much. I wish you let me feel this good again. You say you feel numb. Now you feel numb? I've been feeling this way for months and years!.. It’s no excuse, I know.

And now you drag me to this doctor’s appointment. Haven’t I shown you already how ashamed and regretful I am? Must you humiliate me further? A “check-up” on my health you say. Is there something wrong with my brain? Have I contracted some illness? I go along. I have no secrets left, Charlotte. I have nothing left in me.

The doctor
I’m listening. What else am I supposed to do? How can I help? Oh gosh, they never taught me any of this in med school. They don’t teach any of this anywhere. I agree this is a bad situation but do you understand I don’t know what to do either? You’re trying to figure out the direction of your life, and I’m trying to figure out how can I do my job and somehow, I don’t know how, contribute something today. "Empathetic listening", they said something like that in medical school. I resented them for trying to teach me so much communication stuff and not enough medicine. I wish I’d paid attention in case we ever came across this scenario. Fuck, am I feeling sorry for myself in a time like this? Focus, Vanessa. Thirty-five years of marriage, you say. Thirty-five?! I haven’t even been alive that long! I barely know the difference between my right and left and you’re asking me for marital advice? I don’t know. How to make a relationship last? What to do when you find yourself in an unequally-giving relationship? I don’t know. Clearly, I have no idea; I've barely known how to keep myself alive 30-something years and you ask me how to rescue a relationship. Focus. I have to focus. What was my job again?... STI check. Would you like me to run some tests to check for sexually-transmitted infections? Did I really just say that as you started to cry? I’m an idiot. Somebody throw me a frigging bone here! I’ll point out the tissue box on my desk. There, that’s better. You said you can’t eat, sleep, or stop thinking depressive thoughts in the last 2 weeks. Two weeks isn't enough to diagnose you with anything. And did I really just think about diagnosis? Bad shit happened to you, you’re sad, and I’m trying to find pathology in that? Jesus Christ, what the fuck has happened to my common sense, to my morals, to my better judgement? God, don’t ask me what I think your husband was thinking. Was that a rhetorical question? I don’t know. I say I don’t understand it either. Oh God, I’m in fucking agony here… Charlotte, can YOU tell ME what you think I can help you with? And let me just say, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. You have every right to be feeling the way you are. I don’t know what else to say to you, but I can tell you that.

And now you've brought your husband? What do you want me to say? How can I help you? How can either one of us be helped here, David? Stop telling me your story; it's inconsequential to me. Tell her! No, I'm being selfish and thinking only that I'll be late home again because you're spilling your guts out to me. Tell me. Cleanse your soul. Teach me things so that one day I may understand men and women like you and your wife. We've both stuffed up, David. And today I shouldn't have come to work.