Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Last May, 2009, I took a mostly solo trip to California. I flew to LA from DC, rented a brand spanking new British racing green Mini Cooper S convertible with tan leather interior, and hit the road.
My destination was nature's beauty; my sustenance was visiting with dear friends - particularly friends who are my adopted, extended family from the American Academy of Psychotherapists (AAP). I am in an organization that is central to my practice and personal fulfillment. The Academy, www.aapweb.com, is a professional organization like no other I've ever encountered. AAP provides connection with other therapists from different disciplines, superb and experiential continuing education, and basically group therapy for therapists. Here, copied from our webiste, is a quote from my colleague Howie Halpern, about the Academy, that describes my experience in the group, albeit almost 40 years later:
"It was terrifying to be exposed to all that creative craziness, and to expose how I worked. I saw members of the Academy, with great courage, dare to take risks, to step off the ledge, to open themselves to attack and criticism. I saw us learn from each other and bring our new insights back to our homes all across the country, like bees from different locales bringing nectar from a particularly dazzling flower garden back to their home hives. I was never more anxious and never grew so much."
Some of my colleagues in the Academy - particularly those in my "family group" - are as close to me as anyone else in my life, and last May I was needing some self-care time - time to be alone in nature and time with people who nurture me. My first stop was Hermosa Beach, and the home of LS & RS. LS is the Academy's current president, joining a long list of distinguished presidents which includes Carl Rogers. I had a lovely dinner with LS and her husband and slept on her therapy couch. Awakened at 5 am the next morning with a flirty text message from back east, I spent some time with LS & her daughter, looking at the tiny hummingbirds in a nest on her back patio, and walking on the pier before I headed north to Malibu and US 1
I drove the Pacific Coast Highway that day, from LA up to Big Sur, stopping in Santa Barbara, and frequently for pictures along the drive.
I visited with elephant seals in the evening and spent the night in a yurt. Several phone calls throughout the day, with someone I had started correspondence with in November of 08, but had not yet met, had me longing for romance, for company, and daydreaming such that when I remember this day, I often think of the person I was talking to, as if he had been there with me.
The next day was spectacular: hiking in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, shopping for artwork in the town of Big Sur, lunch in Monterey, and eventually a visit with two other "family group" members, another LS and his wife DC at their home in the Berkeley Hills. (This initials thing is kind of limiting.)
I spent the night with my Academy friend & sometimes roommate, Gail, who lives in Mill Valley. We hiked in the Redwoods the next morning before I took off for Yosemite National Park.
I then spent about 36 hours in almost complete solitude, no cell phone or email signal.
I need this kind of retreat, periodically, from the demands of my work and my children. Time completely alone, thinking of no-one's needs but my own.
Eventually I joined my friend, BB for a day of motorcycle riding in Hollywood, a visit to the Getty, and an Air Show in Chino.
What a journey. Here are segments of letters written by me to my romantic correspondent around the time of my trip:
"At this time, you are still, to me, a chimera, a mirage, like an image in the desert - something that may or may not really be there, behind the swirling dust. I want to meet you in the flesh. . . My planned solitude during the trip to California was punctuated by (welcomed) intrusive thoughts about who you really are, how your voice would sound if you whispered in my ear, how you would smell, what your skin would feel like beneath my hands. Such unaccustomed free time for me is, apparently, dangerous; my fingers dialed your number exigently. What is it about you? . . . your pictures, our beguiling conversations? Or are you just an apparition; my own conception? Probably some of both, but I'd like the chance to rectify my projections with reality. . .I can almost taste the hollow of your neck and feel my face against yours as I try to sustain that balance between overpowering arousal and gently relaxing caress. . . I believe we can teach one another how to make love to one another best, slowly, over weeks of serene and tender evenings, such that once we do merge bodies it feels like a Big Sur wave - viewed from a cliff, looking out toward the horizon, watching gentle crests rise and fall, becoming larger and closer, until they crash into the shore . . .and then the cycle repeats. . .and if this is just a mirage, it feels terrific, in and of itself."
I can't paste what he wrote in response, because I don't have his permission.
Onward . . . back to the present tense.