There was a strong breeze of barbecue odour hanging pungent with hints of busy airport jet fuel and the clank of stainless steel on middle-class porcelain plates. The first proper hot summers day of Spring and the gardens country-side-suburbia are suddenly populated with wine glasses, oversized patio umbrellas and a desire to cook outside. I refrained from further modern victorian smog production and stuck to my own serving-from-the-kitchen to a white checkered cloth over a patio table with a pasta dish and incoming european air warm enough to ensure it didn’t go cold before my fork had chance to stab a tube of tomato covered Rigatoni.
I get a lot of chances to enjoy the sun and the garden since making myself voluntarily self-employed, in the loosest sense. Through my twenties I’d always heard about people who’d done it. Freelancing for a few months and taking several months off to do whatever they wanted. It was one of those ‘what I would do if I won the lottery’ type feelings. You know, that brief euphoria you get while you contemplate with your friends, usually while drunk, all the things you would do, where you’d go and who you’d probably rub their faces in it by driving past their house in a wild green Ferrari, until eventually coming screaming back to reality and remembering you have work on Monday. It was probably that ‘Monday’ feeling, one day about four or so years ago, that made me realise that I didn’t want to be stuck at a desk working for other people and watching life drag by to collect a pension. I had ideas what I wanted to bring to fruition and after a lot of saving I quit my day job.
A few years down the line here I still am. Doing the ‘freedom to work where and when I want’ lifestyle for the second time. It is exactly as near as damn it how I imagined it. Work a few months, save some money, take time off and work on my own projects and interests. Not answering to anyone and enjoying the work in the sun on those days when it does shine. The reality of course is only down to a matter of dwindling money and having to be so careful with it. Economising everywhere I can without making life unbearable and being hyperaware that it will run out at some point. The thing is, I seem to have a knack of getting some work at the last chime of the bell. Much like the lecturer on the last day of college, before I had a real appreciation of education and moved on to University, said after I’d passed the course “By the skin of your teeth.”
It didn’t come much closer this month when my current account hit double figures and about four weeks before the landlady would become rather unhappy that I got another few months work that will give me several more months of continuing the cycle until I find the career that I really do want and make some kind of success of it. And while it’s a kind of life style that may not be perfect but is still almost as good as it sounds (apart from the lack of a secure financial future) it really does make me appreciate money more than I ever have before, may be a little too much appreciation.
Freedom to be able to make my own time mean something to me is so important. It gives me time to slow things down when I want, speed things up when I have the energy and enthusiasm in an almost bi-polar negating way, spend time with my parents that has become even more precious and even simple things like laying on the grass reading a book with just the sounds of the birds or the breeze, and as idillic as that is lets not have my head too far in the clouds, there are also on occasions the sounds of a drill from that person who’s decided to bring the builders in or a neighbours dog that barks from separation anxiety; even so I would never change my decision to do what I’ve done and it has been a way of slowing things down to think about the gender thing in a clearer light.
My last visit to the psychiatrist confirmed to me that they wouldn’t be there for any sort of emotional support and in fact probably not for administrative support either. But this week a letter came through from London confirming that my referral for further help had been received at last with the uninvited bold text in the letter that claimed the ‘please be aware that the current waiting list is now 13 months’ dread of everyone who requests to be seen by that GIC. At first there was that butterfly adrenaline rush of ‘oh no, not another 13 months’ that ran through my head but on reflection I realised that this was probably a rubber-stamp template of a letter which included a couple of forms that I had to return to give them permission to use my records for treatment and an agreement I would turn up when the time came. There was no date given of when I would need to attend and so this would be something I would expect in the post at some point. Whether that would be in the near future or horribly thirteen months from now I didn’t know.
I wrote a note a couple of weeks away in my diary that I would phone them up to chase a date and remind them that there was a possibility I would be seen sooner given that my original referral was some twelve to thirteen months ago as it was. In fact I expect I’ll call them next week. The forms went straight back in the post by recorded delivery; as the woman at the GIC said, you should take this into your own hands.
When the whole psychiatry fiasco happened with a missing referral and me feeling that I was in a bit of a fragile state, not just about the gender thing but just anything from an old photograph to an old object found in the back of a room in a cardboard box that would set me off feeling low or sad, I decided I really still needed a little bit more support. I chased for an appointment with my original psychologist with fingers and painted toes crossed that he still worked there. A week or so later an appointment for May quietly tiptoed in through the letterbox.
I arrived at the waiting room and handed my letter to the new young man behind the reception desk that I’d never seen before; it was easier that way. The soft flappy noise of one of the talkie room doors around the corner opening and then some ‘thank you’s and then I could just make out the distinct accent of José Basurto, the psychologist. My hope was raised because I hadn’t just been pushed onto someone else and while I don’t mind working with some of his understudies as I have before it helps so much to start off with José. While an analytical psychology session can be easy and difficult throughout, I enjoy talking to him. I enjoying working with him and helping him to help me. Therapy is a two-way process and miracles can only be performed when you help make them.
The room was hot and stuffy. Human scent and a strong odour of stale smokers breath hung thick all the way to the chairs at the end of the small room by the window. It was obvious that the couple that were in his last session had done a lot of talking and the room needed clearing of the anxiety that had been left there. “I’ve been in here four hours” José said, “Lets open the window.”
I moved out of his way from the seat while he slide the top half of the window, bizarrely, upwards. Cooler, fresher, air flooded in and other-people’s problems shot through the open window like a flock of magicians doves.
It didn’t take long, after a quick catch-up of ‘how have you been’ to get down to why I was there while he scribbled a few notes now and then but what makes him a good psychologist is how he listens and works with me. Note-taking is few and far between and only when he needs something to categorise my state of mind or take keywords or reasons behind what we’re talking about. Talking to me and not through me, talking with me is much the whole session and with my amateur interest in psychology I think we fit a lot in and he finds me interesting and more importantly I get a lot out of it. There is never rush and even though he is aware of the clock the session takes as long as it take until a suitable concluding point is found. When the session came towards the end and I felt I had made some progress he asked if I would like to come back as he thought a number of sessions would help.
“I can see you in July. Now I know that’s not ideal being such a long time – ” I didn’t think it was that long considering recent months upon months flying by with other referrals, “but you previously worked with a junior psychologist and if you are happy to work with one of them I might be able to get you a date sooner than July.”
“That’s fine. I worked with Catherine before and I got a lot out of those sessions, she was really good.” I said positively, after all she really was good.
“Okay I will look at trying to arrange something. Some of them are okay and some very promising and I think you’ll be good for them too, you’re easy to talk to and you’re responsive and willing to work with us.”
I felt a little bit of pride at his comment and at the same time realised that some people he saw were probably in a dark place and were beyond wanting to help themselves. After thanking José for seeing me again (without a referral which was a god send) I headed back to the car and back to the house to get on with the freelance work that had saved my bank balance, my home and my head.
There is only so long that a cheap materialistic treat like a simple chocolate Flake or a caramel salted hot chocolate can keep me sane while throwing money at rent, electric and that undervalued drink – water. And while the chocolate themed treats are a great help, even as more expensive retail therapy can be, I think I’ll always appreciate the free things just a little more than I ever did.
Until next time.