"How are you, Miss Goin?" That was his first question and one he would repeat each time I saw him. How was I? I thought. And how on earth would I know. I figured he was only being polite.
"I've been better," I said.
"Tell me about that," he replied. I was sinking into a conversation and he was in charge. Something about his look, the quality and heft of his presence. He wasn't an anybody, just a doctor in name, but someone with character and wisdom. Within a few minutes, I sensed I could trust him.
"Why do you think you've come to see me?"
Did he want me to tell him my recent story? I began with Dr. Wang, my two weeks in the hospital, my need to return to my job, my medication. I must have talked continually for fifteen minutes, more than I'd talked for weeks. I watched myself becoming a blabbermouth, spurting out a description of all the activities that had been swirling around me since Easter and even before.
He sat there. He listened. He looked at me. He took notes. He seemed to want me to continue, so I did. And my words flooded the room, creating a pool of confusion with me barely floating on top. I was left with little more to say. And then he dropped the bomb.
"Miss Goin, what do YOU want to do?"
It was almost like he actually thought I existed, and not only that, it was as if he truly believed that I was someone beyond my physical and barely acceptable appearance; that I could and should do things I wanted to do; that I was capable of doing. No one. No one important to me had ever asked or likely imagined that what I wanted to do was important, valuable, possible. At least that's what I had come to believe. I was floored.
In retrospect it seems implausible that I was so undeveloped as a person, that I could have survived with so little depth, complexity, character of my own. In order to get by and to survive in my family situation, I had lived behind a mask, doing what I thought I needed to to appear normal, within the framework of likable. But here I was, thirty two years old, trapped in a mind that had exploded with nothing beneath me: no foundation on which to land, only murky thoughts and feelings. Dr. Lebensohn must have sensed this. And so he continued with his questions, trying to kick start something inside me that was truly my own.
"Yes, Miss Goin, what do YOU want to do?"
To be continued ...