My therapist is asking the wrong question

I’ve been seeing my therapist for almost 20 years. Without hyperbole, I can tell you she’s one of the most important people in my life. Specifically because if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t currently be on this side of the life equation. We talk every two weeks. And since she moved to Portland a few years ago, we talk on the phone. (I can do the phone thing because we have history in person. I couldn’t do the phone thing otherwise. Your own mileage may vary.)

Every call ends with a series of questions. Are you eating? Are you sleeping? Are you having sex? Are you drinking? Are you thinking of hurting yourself? These are standard talk-therapy questions to establish your baseline. You might be familiar with them.

During our last call, when she asked me if I was thinking of hurting myself I replied that I wasn’t. (True.) Then I thought about it for a while and told her she was asking the wrong question.

What do you mean, she asked. Well, I replied, I don’t want to hurt myself. I don’t worry about hurting myself. But I do worry about being done. I worry about having accomplished what I set out to accomplish. (Not a brag, by the way.) I worry about feeling at peace. I worry about that feeling when you’ve put the last piece of the puzzle in place and you’re excited for a second, and then you think well now what do I? (What do you do with a completed puzzle?)

At the risk of spoiling the last few episodes of The Good Place for anyone who hasn’t watched, I don’t feel like hurting myself, but there are days when I feel like I’m ready to go through the door. And that to me seems like a much more dangerous thing.

I’ve spent the last few years with a single purpose of getting a book out, and not just a book, but what I felt was the book. The book I was put on Earth to write. Yes, I know how delusional this sounds. But trust me when I tell you that to write a book you have to be insanely delusional. You have to be able to walk into a bookstore, see all the books on the shelves, see all the books about the topic you’re writing about, see the piles and piles of marked-down books, and decide that your book will somehow get the attention of even the well-meaning people who wandered into that same bookstore pre-disposed to buy a book. So yes, delusion is a necessary tool in every writer’s toolbox. And I’m more delusional than most.

And I did it. I wrote the book. I think it’s a good book, and I’m delusional enough to think you might get something out of reading. (Oh my god, just buy the damn thing already!) And then I marketed the book. I spent the last year basically pushing that book down people’s throats. And I even enjoyed it. Because once you go through the hell of writing a book, you do not get to be too embarrassed to market the thing. Undervaluing your own labor is a socialist sin.

And then I was done.

That’s when I realized that I’d been so focus-driven for the last few years that I hadn’t bothered to plot a point beyond the one I was focused on, and for a person with my particular brain, that is a very dangerous place to be. My brain has two drivers. And when I’m not at the wheel, depression decides to do a little driving.

It’s time to plot a new destination. And, and, and… here’s the good news: I think I’ve got one. So stay tuned because we’re going to drive there together.

Close the door, it’s not time yet. We have more work to do. We always have more work to do.

Hey, here’s some fun stuff I’m enjoying…

I don’t know Laurie Cinotto, but I imagine her to be about ten inches tall, because her record collection is so little! Laurie makes insanely detailed miniature versions of her record collection. The covers, the liner notes, the disc themselves. Just an obsessive amount of amazing detail. And it doesn’t hurt that she has exceptional taste in music, either.

LEGO made an International Space Station, and I know someone (who’s asked to remain anonymous) who’s doing some magic Arduino shit to make their LEGO ISS light up when the actual ISS flies overhead, and my heart just exploded with happiness.

Susan Fowler’s book Whistleblower is an incredibly good, if infuriating read. Fuck UBER, fuck The University of Pennsylvania. Imagine hiring someone so smart, and so talented, and then wasting the opportunity to have her use that talent to its full potential because you’re a selfish idiot. Don’t trust HR departments.

My daughter Chelsea put out a new album of beats under the name DJUNDEADPOSSUMDOTPDF, which is objectively a great DJ name, so deal with it. You should listen to all her stuff.

Hey Portland,

I’m headed your way soon to teach a workshop about being confident when you talk about your work. In the corporate newsletter I tell people it’s about making money blah blah blah, and it is. But here I’ll tell you that it’s really about getting you to feel like the good, talented person we both know you are. Tell your boss it’s about making money though, that way they’ll pay for it. Sign up.

That’s it.

Take care of yourselves. Your time and attention is a gift, stop giving it to people who abuse it. You are awesome. Trust how your dog feels about you.

And to steal the words of my friend Dan Sinker, I’m glad you’re here.

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