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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

*What About Susie?

Alternate Title: My Therapist's Tree Fell in My Yard

This is the post that I always thought would be my last, my blogging grand finale, because I hope to God nothing more bizarre than this story happens in my life. But now I've decided to tell it here, and I don't intend for it to be my last, but you must admit, it is bizarre, even for me.

In the early Spring of 2002, as LG was about to finish kindergarten at her little private school, Jif and I did some much-needed life assessment and planning. We lived in a two-bedroom bungalow which was bursting at the seams. Our road was far too busy for LG to learn to ride a bike, scooter, etc., and she was falling way behind in these lifeskills. We lived in a public school district in which we didn't want to (non)educate LG, and we couldn't really see enrolling her in a religious (i.e., Roman Catholic) school; all other private schools in the area were out of our price range. Conclusion: we needed to move, to a quieter street, with a little bit bigger house and a lot better schools.

The search for a new house can be terribly stressful. Particularly so when your old house sells, and you must have a place to go by a certain date. I unloaded some of this househunting stress in my semi-every-now-and-then-when-things-are-stressful therapy session. I talked with my therapist about where I would like to live, based on the school research I had done. Indeed, I wanted to move into the school district closest to her office. She knew the schools there, and agreed that they are excellent.

Fast forward a few weeks to another therapy session. By this time we had seen dozens of houses, with no luck. We had even seen one in a neighborhood very near one of the best schools, but the house was in very bad shape. In bad shape in creepy ways, that gave me a bad feeling about the place -- the doors to the private areas (bedroom, bathrooms) had all been removed, among other oddities -- so we definitely didn't want that one. When I described the location of the house, on Fox Hole Drive, my therapist (also named Susan, but called Sue) said, "The one by the pond?"

"Yes," I said tentatively. "So do you know the neighborhood?"

"I live there!" she said.

I had to gather my thoughts quickly. "Right there?"

"No, no," she clarified, "other side of the street."

Oh. OK. I know the house she means. Nice, normal suburban house on a little hill directly across from the pond. Yea, I could see her living there. She went on to tell me about the area, the schools, etc., and agreed that getting into that school district would be a good thing.

As I left that day, glancing at the little business cards in the holder on the table by the door, I noticed that the address printed there was not the office park address where I saw her, but an address on Fox Hole Drive. I suppose I had always known that it wasn't her office address on her cards. But I had never, would never, have tried to figure out where she lived, because as a fellow therapist, that's just creepy. My name is in the phone book; my clients could find my house if they wanted to. But I hope they don't, because, again, that would creep me out. So out of . . . whatever that sense of respecting boundaries is, I would not have tried to find out where she lived. Of course, I now knew exactly the house she lived in, because she had told me.

We continued looking for houses. It was such an ordeal. I recall walking out of more than one and crying in the yard, in frustration, because the amount of money we wanted to spend would not go far at all in that school district. Then one day, as we were on our way to see a house that our long-suffering realtor had told us about, we took a short cut across Fox Hole Drive. And just as we passed this pretty little (medium-sized) house, a woman was putting flyers in a "for sale by owner" sign in the front yard. We stopped abruptly. And went in. And I think we knew when we walked in the front door, just from the feel of the place. When we saw the stone fireplace and the nice, big backyard, we were hooked. Then when the seller gave us brownies fresh out of the oven . . . fuggedaboutit. We had found home.

But wait, this is a little weird. It's on the same road as my therapist. Yea, that is coincidental, but Fox Hole Road is about 3 miles long. She lives close to one end, just across from the pond, and I will be living close to the opposite end. Interesting coincidence, but no big deal.

No big deal, until I go in to see her. And I tell her how happy I am that we found a house, but, "You are not going to BELIEVE where it is . . . "

"Where?" she asks, eagerly.

"Right in your neighborhood!"

"That one beside the pond with no doors inside?!"

"No, down the road a ways. 3377 Fox Hole Drive."

Her smile fades just the tiniest bit, and she nods slowly.

And then my smile fades just the tiniest bit, and I nod slowly, because it looks like she doesn't want me living down the road from her, even though when I told her weeks ago we were looking in the neighborhood, she thought it was a great idea, great schools, etc.

Then she says, "That's right next door to me, you know."

And I say three words that I don't think I'll ever forget. "No it isn't."

"Yeeeees, it is. I live at 3379."

Then I say, "No you don't."

Then she says, "Yes, I do."

And I say, "No you don't."

"I do."

"Do not."

"I do."

"Do not."

It is during this eloquent exchange that it occurs to me that I understand, perhaps for the first time in my life, the precise meaning of the verb, "to freak out." I am freaking out. Out I am freaking. I don't know what to say. I have bought the effing house next door to my therapist.

I had so many thoughts rushing around. Mostly, "Do not! You live in the house on the hill across from the pond!" Eventually I did say that. Turns out "across the road," didn't actually mean "right across the road." It meant more like, on the other side of the road from the pond, and a couple miles north.

I felt like a stalker. And I had been very cautious not to be a stalker. In the many years I had known her, I had never looked to see where she lived. I made a little speech to that effect. And thank God, it had been many years, because she knew me well enough to know that I was telling the truth. So we spent the next hour, and probably another session or two, talking about the absolute weirdness of the situation. She was, has always been, as gracious about it as one can be. She even said that she saw our daughter running around in the backyard as we were touring the house, that day the sellers had the open house. Of course, she didn't know it was my daughter, but she said that she and her husband said how nice it would be to have a little girl next door, and that they sat on their sunporch praying that they would get nice neighbors. So, she considered our buying the house an answer to her prayers. (It's not God's fault she forget to add, "who aren't my clients.")

People who know this story (and there aren't many, until now) have asked me if it's weird living next to my therapist. It really isn't. Now. I completely forget about it until it happens that we both go out to get in our cars at the same time to drive 10 minutes to her office when I'm her first appointment. Other times, one of us will call the other and start the conversation, "It's the neighbor calling . . . " to talk about the fox that's been hanging around, or the fallen tree, or picking up the vacation mail, as opposed to "It's the therapist/client calling . . . " to change an appointment, etc.

I don't drive by her house thinking, "That's where my therapist lives." But I do drive by, or sometimes walk by, that house across the road from the pond, and every single time, I think to myself, "That's where Sue doesn't live."

But it did freak me out thoroughly enough that I haven't yet found out who lives on the other side of us, or across the street. I fear that the one is my gynecologist and the other, my dentist.

*reference to What About Bob?, one of my favorite movies, in which the therapist can't get away from his client

34 heads are better than one . . .

Forgive me, susie, but I had to laugh out loud when I got to the end of this post. Really hard, in fact. I don't know who I feel more badly for, you or Sue. But it sounds like you've both negotiated it gracefully. Not surprising.

Blogger WILLIAM said...

That is very very strange in a wierd funny good way.

I understand the frustration with the house hunting. We looked at a house in a small town and were told that the "tax Colllector" lived next door to the house we were considering. We had to pass on the house becasue I knew that every now and then I would feel compelled to let the air out of his tires.

Blogger Amy said...

Wowza. I love that you kept telling her she didn't live there.

Geez, you could save the ten minute drive, though, and just meet on one of your porches, na?

Blogger Susie said...

htgt, I really felt badly for Sue's husband, at first. Because even with confidentiality, this was SO weird, I told her she had to tell him, because I couldn't expect her to keep that to herself. And he didn't know me at all, so I'm sure he must have been a little bit leery. Ugh. It's worked out fine, though.

william, I think of you and your househunting often. You're right, you don't want to move in already planning to violate the neighbors.

amy, I KNOW, can you believe it? I really did that though, because I was SO sure I knew the house she lived in! She has proposed the porch thing, but for now, at least, I need to keep that boundary. Although if I really needed to see her and really couldn't get out, that would be fine.

Blogger Cindy said...

Wow! What a story...you're right, it's one of those bizarre coincidences that only happens in movies.

Thanks for providing the links back to the other references - I laughed out loud on 'When Jif fell to his knees and converted' story, yet again.

From your house hunting experiences and others that I've heard, I feel blessed that our recent house hunting was so painless (except for the pocketbook) and easy on us. I'm sure the actual moving won't be as painless, but the house search was actually good.

Also, thanks for letting us know that this won't be your 'grand finale' and that you'll be back to provide more giggles and smiles.

Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

As a person that goes to great lengths to avoid his neighbors...["Nope, can't mow the lawn now, the door to their garage is open and that means they're home and they always want to talk when they see me out."]...that would be like combining matter and anti-matter or something.


I would have had to fire her AND stayed in the house I was in.

Anonymous Hootie Mac said...

You make me giggle. Next door to your therapist? That is priceless.

I am in the process of finding a new place to live. Found one that seems to fit-just waiting on a word from the owner. First time I have ever done this on my own. It is scary and frustrating and at this point it makes me slightly nauseous.

I can't wait to ask someone "but you still love Jesus, right?". Classic. Brilliant.

Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

You mean you don't ever call her at home and say "This is your next-door mental patient! BLAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!"

Well, that's what I would do.

BTW, apropos of nothing: I saw Spiderman 3 Monday, and I noticed in one scene that Kirsten Dunst has really really hairy arms.

Just felt like sharing.

Anonymous LadyBug said...

I think I'd be okay with living close to my dentist, but I wouldn't want to have to exchange daily pleasantries with anyone who had ever come at me with a speculum.

P.S. I love "What About Bob?" It's one of my favorite movies, too.

Blogger jar said...

My GYN and I used to be in a book club together (this was after I had started seeing her). Nothing like when having the pap smear being asked "Read any good books lately?"

Blogger eclectic said...

You tell stories so well -- and you make me laugh like a hyena. I love you for those skills, by the way.

I think if I were in your position, I wouldn't bother making an appointment. I'd just stop taking care of the yard and wait for her to show concern over my mental health. What? Like she wouldn't notice? Pfffffffft!

Blogger lawyerchik said...

I think the whole thing comes down to living next door to anyone who's seen you naked (emotionally or physically). If you both can handle it OK, fine. If either one is uncomfortable about it, you switch whichever is cheaper/easier to replace: house, doctor, boy- or girlfriend/husband or wife, doesn't matter!! (That's just my 2 cents.....:) sorry if you got short-changed)!!

Blogger Ern said...

There's that whole weirdness when you run into someone in "real life" that you keep a professional distance from. So bizarre! How do you talk to the person next door when they know things about your sex life, or about your cervix? That would freak me out too.

Blogger Lynn said...

OMG, Susie! That must have been so stressful. I don't know if I could live next door to my therapist. I would feel so weird, like I would be obligated to pretend NEVER to notice him and to NEVER be noticed by him.

It makes me feel incredibly bad to feel like I am somehow intruding and I don't know that I am far enough along to really FEEL that living next door to someone is not intruding. ie: I feel terrible guilt and anxiety if my husband puts off mowing the lawn, like this is an intrusion upon my neighbors, even though we are never an eyesore over here.

I would probably start having nightmares about my beloved therapist knocking on my door to complain that he has noticed weeds, or that my children had left toys in the sideyard or something. To me, this would be an intolerable situation.

You really have your shit together to be okay with this. I would be a basket case! A basket case in need of a shrink but afraid to be seen, heard, noticed by him. Ugh.

Blogger Susie said...

cindy, this is the kind of thing that makes me say my life is "I Love Lucy . . . on Crack."

mrB, you are an extremist of some sort.

hootiem, I hope the place you have your eye on works out.

bucky, I could do that. I resisted the urge to introduce myself to her husband as "Bob," because his sense of humor is not quite as well-developed as hers.

off to wax my arms now

ladybug, a gyn would be worse. Thank God for small favors.

jar, that would be weird. Yep, a gyn out of context would be even tougher than a therapist.

eclectic, there aren't many compliments you could give me that would tickle me more. This is one of the many reasons I love you. Like a hyena? Really?

lawyerchik, I think being a therapist myself helped me get over it more quickly. It was shocking, at first, but never so troublesome as to need to switch houses or shrinks.

ern, heh. She probably knows more about my sex life from open windows in the summer than from anything I've said in her office. So that makes her just like any other neighbor.

lynn, I understand what you're saying. After the initial shock, it's really fine. I think being a therapist helps immeasurably, and also the grace and humor with which she handled the situation has helped.

Blogger Squirl said...

I've never thought about that situation before. I've never been to a therapist before either, though. I suppose it could be weird. I did see What About Bob. :-)

And I remember reading about Jif and the buddha. tee hee

Blogger SassyFemme said...

Oh that's just weird, but it seems like such a "you" thing. The last part, about the gyn. and dentist just had me rolling!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! What About Bob is one of my most favorite movies in the world! I must say I don't think I could live next door to my therapist. Hell, I probably couldn't live next door to A therapist! I did, inadvertently, learn what school my therapists children attend and there is an event they put on every year that I used to like going to. I don't go there anymore because it would be...well, just weird, that's all. I have, however, run into the gyn (who helped deliver all of my girls among other things)in Nordstrom a time or two and while odd, it was ok and she was very sweet. I will say this for ya dearie...you have the most fabulous stories on the planet! hehehehehehehehehehe...

Anonymous Ortizzle said...

Yikes. I would have wanted to crawl under the carpet. But heck, what can you do? Imagine if you had seen her next door when you were house-hunting. You might not have bought the house you really wanted and spent God knows how long trying to find a place in the nice school district.

And speaking of good and bad school districts: something is wrong with our system of government when poor people's kids have to get a lousy education because they can't afford to live in a nice neighborhood. Aren't we just perpetuating the problem? (Go ahead, call me a dirty socialist.)

Blogger Susie said...

squirl, "dual relationships" in therapy are frowned upon, considered unethical, as they should be. But sometimes, if one of those relationships turns out to be "neighbor," there's not much that can be done about it.
I like the Buddha story :)

sassy, for better or worse, I must admit, it is a "me" thing. I'm not really complaining, because life has given me some stories to tell. I'm afraid WTF is a me thing, too, though. I'd rather have more ordinary experiences where health is concerned.

traci, thank you; blogging has helped me rediscover some of my happier stories. It is weird when "worlds collide."

ortizzle, first, you're right; Jif and I have said that very thing. If I'd known we were next to Sue before we signed the papers, we would have kept looking, and that wouldn't have been good, because this really was a good place for us.
And yes, the whole US educational system is way screwed up. They tell us that houses in this area automatically command 40K more just for the schools. There are families here who house-share. I am very thankful that we're able to educate LG here, at least for now (life can bring changes); but I agree it is obscene that people who aren't as well-employed don't have access to the same public education that we do. I don't know the solution. I do think about it, though.

Anonymous stringmuse said...

Wow, the difference in living in a small town. Here nobody would bat an eye at living next door to your therapist.

She would also probably go to your church and serve on the school board or volunteer with your kid's soccer team. People wear so many hats. Nobody gives it much thought.

But I can definitely see ... if you weren't used to it, it would be weird.

Blogger Lynn said...

Hi, Susie! The baking soda story is up at my place. I probably suck at comedy, but trust me -- it was funny.

Anonymous Elizabeth said...

God sure has a sense of humor, even as His will is being done..

..I am LOL..it's no mistake He wanted you right where you are.

Blogger Von Krankipantzen said...

WOW! You couldn't have planned that if you tried. If anybody could make the situation work it would be you.

Maybe she is stalking you...

Anonymous oddmix said...

I loved "What About Bob?" But I hope you never have to resort to death therapy.

Blogger Circus Kelli said...

Great story, darlin! That IS so odd, living next door to your therapist. "When worlds collide"... that reminds me of the time when Hubby and I went out with some friends of ours. Our friend Sara and I decided dancing on the bar would be fun, so up we went. We were up there for about 10 minutes or so, then got down. It was something I had never done before (and only one time since) and it struck us as funny.

Two weeks later, I'm in my chiropractor's office when he says "You know, dancing on bars probably isn't that great for your back..."

I do believe I went white and was rendered momentarily speechless. He laughed and said he was at the bar with his wife and some friends.
I laughed until I remembered that my boss was a client of this same chiropractor...

Anonymous RitaPita said...

Hey Susie..

big news over at my blog.. go check it out?




But I'm glad you worked it out! And I'm glad its not your final post :)

Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I hate moving! And since it appears I shall have to find a new home in the coming months, I appreciate your story. I wouldn't mind living near the home of my former therapist: she lives in a great part of town. I would have problems living in the same community as my present therapist: she's a nun and lives in a convent.

It's great to be back online. I've missed reading your posts!

Blogger Effie said...

i like what about bob...

hugs to you!

it's better to be living next to your therapist than to live next to someone who keeps having the cops come to their house....in the middle of the night...

Blogger Susie said...

stringmuse, on the one hand, I cannot imagine being a therapist in that area, because the whole dang town is not supposed to know the therapist's business; on the other hand, I am increasingly aware of how much even a big town is a very small world. I do run into clients everywhere.

lynn, it was very funny, very well told :)

elizabeth, you're right; I do think it was a God thing.

kranki, I never thought of that, but you're right! I'll bet she subliminally planted that suggestion, "You will move in next door to me..." heeeee

oddmix, oh, I look forward to trying death therapy . . . just before retirement, probably :)

ck, oh, I know all about that. Word gets around, CK.

ritapita, very BIG, very WONDERFUL news :)

pinks, thanks :) It's nice to see you again.

ssnick, so good to see you. And I, too, think living in a convent would be worse ;)

effie, what do you mean? The cops are always coming to my therapist's house in the middle of the night . . . ;)

Blogger judypatooote said...

Oh what a great story.....i'm happy you found your little house and the longer you live their, she will just become a friend to talk to... and maybe sneak a cup of coffee with.....

Blogger Scribble said...

wonderful story!
It reminds me of being 20 and new to
therapy, learning boundaries when
you were taught none was difficult for me. Those lessons are invaluable and once learned, are hard to cross again. I understand the angst.

I haven't been here in so long
and am thrilled I stopped by.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Came to read when I saw your lovely post on Helen's blog. I have surely enjoyed this post. I wish I had a therapist like you!


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