I’ve had an interesting few weeks. You may have noticed… ha. I’ve had interesting encounters with even more interesting people. The therapist I’ve finally settled with at the local community services board, is– I shit you not– Glinda the Good Witch of Oz. Well, maybe not the Glinda, but that’s how she explained it over the phone when I asked her name. And I thought, “Of course my therapist is Glinda the GOOD Witch…”
And things just got more interesting from there.
I won’t bore you with the details of my various traumas and history of bullying and such– not today anyway– but on my first visit to Oz, Glinda asked a lot of questions about Lask. Naturally. They always do. And they’re all equally puzzled when I explain: no, it’s a symbiotic relationship. I don’t black out. I have full control. We respect each other. I trust him. I can ask him anything, and I feel safe with him. He looks after me. He’s just big and powerful and capable of zapping things with the same ZZZZPAFFFT! of a moth hitting a bug zapper. Except he’s the bug zapper. Most days, he just sits there humming, keeping the bloodsuckers away from me and my home. Some days, though, we haven’t slept in over 72 hours, or eaten in days. Then, things go haywire in my body, and we lose the ability to filter who manifests where, and when.
“I see…” murmured Glinda [on her notepad: jot, jot, jot]
She wanted to see me every week. I thought: hmmmmm… that doesn’t bode well. I started to wonder if I would ever find a way to explain the reality of my own existence without sounding like a lunatic.
Week 2: The Good Witch asks many more questions about me. Where I came from, what my experiences in school were like, what happened when a boy pushed his hand down my dress at a dance in the 10th grade. She wanted to know where I felt safe, and where I didn’t. She nodded and jotted more slowly on her notepad, seeming almost teary as I described a seven-year-old girl in a martial arts class full of adults, and a retired army sergeant who enjoyed hitting people with a bamboo cane–
–oh, I said I wasn’t going to bore you with the history today. I cry your pardon.
At the end of Week 2, the Good Witch leaned back, regarded me a moment, and took off her reading glasses. “Elanor,” she said, “You use humor a lot. You’re funny. You’re witty and dry and smart as a whip.” [I preened a bit in the office chair across from her.] “But it’s also a defense mechanism.”
“People like to laugh,” I countered, “It makes scary things less scary, and there’s a certain confidence in self-deprecating humor.”
“That’s all true,” said the Good Witch, “But I think you should think about something: don’t trivialize your own strength, and don’t get too comfortable with the labels people want to give you. Because I’ll tell you something, Ms. Elanor. I see a lot of people. I see a lot of pain and a lot of… unwellness. But you, you’re not crazy. You’re not even sick. This is just your life. And other people don’t know how to deal with it.”
I sat in silence, blinking in the florescent shock of hearing a validation I didn’t know I’d needed until 4:48 on April 7th 2017.
“Maybe that’s why I’m here,” I said finally. “You asked me last week what I needed from you, and I said I needed help managing my anxiety, and developing strategies to interface the reality of my life (including the tall red-eyed swordsman who follows me around) without causing so much tension between me and the world.” I paused and studied the scuff on the toe of my red boot, wondering if she’d noticed it, and trying to make a mental note to touch it up when I got home. “But I think,” I said, mustering my nerve, “I think maybe I need a professional opinion to reassure me that I’m not crazy.”
The Good Witch smiled, as if to say, “You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn for yourself.” But this wasn’t really Oz. This was a rather cramped office, with chairs and cabinets and desks and grey walls. Instead the Good Witch said, “I don’t think I need to see you every week. How about we check in three weeks from now.”
I nodded. She stood up to walk me out. We were the last ones that Friday evening; she had to unlock the doors to let me out. I hesitated a moment as she finagled the lock, hearing Lask grumble behind me, “I directly specified I would participate in anything that didn’t involve LOCKED–”
“Shhhhhh, Tempy,” I thought back to him. “They’ve just all gone home for the day. It’s closing time. They locked the front door to keep us safe while we wrapped things up.”
Hmph, I heard behind me.
The two locks clicked, and we passed outside, into the fresh spring air and the crisp breeze, which hadn’t quite forgotten winter.
“Elanor,” said the Good Witch, “Why’d you choose that name?”
“It’s the Tolkien spelling,” I said with a smile. She’d asked one of my favorite questions. “Samwise Gamgee’s daughter, named for a type of sunflower. I love sunflowers; they’re a motif of mine.”
“I see,” warbled the Good Witch. “Well, Ms. Sunflower, I’d ask you something else: why do you call yourself crazy?”
“Because everyone else does, so I might as well embrace it and find power in the label. It seems to be the only one other people are willing to understand.”
“But if I don’t think you’re crazy, what are you?”
“I don’t know. I lack the vocabulary.”
“But you’re a writer,” she teased.
“Maybe.” I shrugged. “I like to think so on the good days.”
We stood for a moment in the fresh air, until the Good Witch said, “It’s true, I don’t know what you are, but you’re not crazy. If anyone asks, just tell them you had an ‘episode’ brought on by sleep deprivation and anxiety attacks. Anybody with your life would suffer that from time to time.” She glanced at me.
“Do you believe me?” I asked. I didn’t specify about what.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s not for me to decide what’s real. I hear about all kinds of realities, things other people see. I don’t know if it’s real or all in their heads. But you, Ms. Elanor… you’re the only who tells me about things that are nicer in your head than they are out here in the real world. Usually in sick people, it’s the other way around.”
I looked out across the line of blooming trees down the street. The Good Witch shrugged.
“Have a good weekend,” she said at last.
I got in my car. Lask settled into the passenger seat. We were both quiet for a moment.
“I like her,” he announced.
“I know.” I glanced over to see him primping in the side view mirror, and rolled my eyes. Dandy, I thought.
“You know,” he echoed, “There’s not a lot of time these days for the writing of books.”
My brow furrowed, wondering what new devilry that devious master’s brain had simmered up.
“What do you want?” I asked the Weaver of Stories.
“Anecdotes.” He finished straightening his cape clasps and settled into the worn leather seat, reaching to seatbelt himself in. (I don’t know why he bothers; he has no body to fly through a windshield, but “safety first!”)
“Anecdotes,” I said. He smiled at my dry skepticism.
“Just talk about your life,” he said. “You’re the only one who knows I’m here. You’re the only one who gets to enjoy all of this.” He grinned, Vanna Whiting his tall over-dressed frame as best he could in the confines of my aging sedan.
I attempted a laugh for him, but it was more of a sigh. He sighed himself, and reached over to appreciate a curl of my hair with his fingers.
“You’re a writer,” he said. “You’ve always been.”
I shrugged. “That’s the first thing you ever asked of me.”
“You wrote a lot of books–”
“Nineteen manuscripts… twelve rewrites… seven self-published…”
“Shhhhh,” he whispered. “You don’t have to live up to your old pace, you know. Stop feeling guilty about not churning out a few books a year. You’re soon to be 27. Life’s just starting to find its adult rhythm. You’ve had some major surgeries, hospitalizations, sudden moves, and other traumas. You’ve got a full time job, a wife, a house. You’re one of the lucky ones.”
“I know,” I murmured with a smile. “I say thank you every day.”
“As we should.” He smiled back. “My point is, love, there’s simply not time for a nineteen manuscript lifestyle anymore.”
“Shorten the stories,” he said. “Tell the ones you see, the ones you live.”
“Anecdotes,” I said.
“Anecdotes,” echoed he.
“Alright,” I replied. “I’ll change the title.”
He paused, jostled out of his crooning by the sudden left turn. “What?”
“The blog series I’ve been trying to write. I’d called it Life After Crazy, because that’s what it felt like. But she’s right: I’m not crazy. This is just my life.”
“Aye,” said the other one.
“They always hammered into my head ‘write what you know.'”
“Anecdotes,” crooned he.