My therapist – I’ll call him John, since that’s his name – my therapist has a beautiful office. It’s been feng shui-ed and color coordinated, the plants are lovely and green, and the sofa is a miracle of modern engineering – terribly comfortable, but easy to get up and off of.
It wasn’t always so, although it’s rarely been uncomfortable. When I first started going three years ago, John and his colleagues were in a small-ish office on Baseline. Then they planned to move. But their new building wasn’t complete yet. So once the lease on the old place ran out, they relocated to temporary offices down the street – the furnishings of which were spartan to say the least, particularly the folding chair collection that made up the waiting room.
Finally the new offices were completed –again, on Baseline, but this time a good seven or so miles to the west. But it was worth the drive, because the new waiting room has overstuffed leather couches and lots of dark wood and all sorts of English-Lord’s-study sort of touches. And John’s office was a good size, with a little niche for his desk and a big window for the plants. I spent many a happy (sort of) hour staring at the ugly tasseled rug and gazing out the window into a lovely green area, hoping for a glimpse of the fluffy black cat that likes to nap there.
A number of other therapists are in the same set of offices, and some of them do group sessions. They need more room for more people, obviously, so some months ago instead of meeting in John’s chi-friendly workspace, we went down the hall to what I can only describe as an architectural afterthought. One last room tacked on the end, a perfect small square with two windows.
I call it the ugly office. Nothing matches. The furniture looks like remnants from other decorating styles, the throw pillows clash with the throw blanket (and by extension the sofa), a large black floor fan/heater takes up a good deal of room, and the filing cabinet looks like it was on special at Costco. The walls are painted ecru but the switch plate and the outlet covers are bright white. The decorating touches are random and sporadic – a little iron scrollwork here, a wood-framed clock there, dark mini blinds killing the natural light from the windows. Everything is in a different color palette, which means that nothing matches – further adding to the feel that the room was a last-minute addition.
The first time we met in the room, I didn’t think much of it beyond, “hey, I didn’t know there was a room here.” But it’s been nearly four months and we’re still in the ugly room. I don’t know who’s using John’s office that couldn’t find ANY other place to meet. But the ugly room has taken its toll on me. I can’t focus in there. The schizophrenic decorating is too much of a distraction. I actually spent 20 minutes of therapy time a few weeks back detailing all the ways the room irritates me.
I felt much better when I’d gotten it all out. And John agreed that it was an ugly room.
But we still meet there, week after week, leaving me to wonder: now that he knows I hate the room, is he having us meet there to annoy me? He practically admitted once to pushing my buttons if he’s had a boring day. Part of me suspects that his office is free and we’re meeting in the ugly room because I hate it in there.
Last Thursday we went into the ugly room as usual, and much to my surprise, there were a few additions. A large rug covered the snag in the carpet by the couch, and a number of silk plants had been stuffed haphazardly into corners. One particularly large fake palm tree was stuck behind the chair John sits in, giving him the impression of being the ruler of a small tropical nation. And there were new throw pillows - ones that matched absolutely nothing, including the rug. Which, by the way, is hideous. It's squares - six squares long and eight squares wide - with smaller squares in the middle. There is no pattern to the colors of the squares. I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to find one.
After I'd discussed my week and grief and a few other things, John asked me about the rug. I think he could tell it bothered me. So I told him I hated the randomness of the square colors. You know what the man did? He asked me about it for the remainder of the session, seeming fascinated that the disorder bothered me. I told him that my brain feeds on logic and order and reason, and the ill logic of pink square, brown square, blue square, green square just irritated the enamel off my teeth. And it wasn't enough just to say that. He said that maybe the point was that there was no point. So I had to argue semantics and how no point can't be a point - no avocado can't be an avocado, after all, and points in this instance were just as good as avocados.
And that wasn't enough. I had to try to explain the inner workings of my brain to him. At 5:30 we quit, me with my migraine and John looking like he'd just watched a favorite TV show.
"I think this helped me understand a little better how your mind works," he said. I was sorely tempted to ask how, after more than three years, he didn't have a comprehensive understanding of the Jill Brain, but I kept my trap shut because I suspected that would only lead to more questions.
And because I was still mad about the rug.