Last night I started my quest, better described as my crawl, towards choosing the next stage of my life. It got off to a rough start.
I came into the room where my wife had begun to watch the just released NomadLand. We had read the reviews and wanted to give it a try. I don’t like many movies as I get bored in the middle of most of them, and unlike books or magazine articles, I can’t skip ahead, especially if I’m watching with someone else, or in a theater. I don’t relate to the Superhero type stuff. I think 90% of the comedies are just obvious and stupid, and the dramas I find to be heavy handed, obvious, and often just emotional clobbering.But, I find I enjoy about 15% of the movies out there.
We have been in a film club that met every other Sunday for about eight films, twice a year. After ten years of very good dramas and documentaries I decided that I had seen enough Nazis to max out. I have learned that racism is bad, as is domestic abuse. War never leads to anything good. Of the sixteen movies each year, I probably really enjoyed four. So, my wife had her own ticket until COVID came, and then the whole thing shut down.
But, we thought we would like this one, and really it was pretty good. It was the beginning that made me a bit uncomfortable. I though it was going to be about poverty, job loss and wealth inequity. I was beginning to feel survivor guilt, as I sat watching the film in my new house, with the warm fireplace, having just been with three generations of my family for four days.
Although the film was about those things, it was more nuanced, and showed many other reasons why those folks, including the main character, were on the road. To me, it turned to be more of a mental health movie. That made me feel better about myself. I knew that I had spent over forty years dealing with people, many of whom were a lot like those in the movie. Many of my patients had lost a child, or had chronic, painful diseases, or never felt that they fit in with the general flow of society. I didn’t see nomads, as my practice was before tele-health. I wonder how many nomads can FaceTime with their therapists now. I did see people who were the opposite of nomads. I saw many people who were shut away in their tiny houses and didn’t go anywhere, confined by severe anxiety. Many of them were hoarders. They couldn’t leave their stuff behind, any of it. They were fascinating folks. Some we rebelling against consumerism, and they didn’t want anything to just thrown away. Everything still had a use — even them. Others took it a step further. They anthropomorphized every thing they owned and treated their empty orange juice bottles almost like pets.
What I really wonder is how devastating COVID must have been to those nomads? Gathering together in crappy jobs, or inside to dance and drink, or even huddled together around the campfire, they were so exposed to the virus, and probably had very little warning and very few ways of protecting themselves.
Today, my wife pointed out how great the need is for mental health professionals to meet the needs of the people who are overworked, or too isolated, or whom have lost loved ones to COVID and were not even allowed to be with them as they died. I have also heard from some of my former colleagues that I could get my license back just by asking for it. Part of me knows I could do it. I remember how rewarding it was to know that I was helping people get through the day, or the week, and then the months that I would see them.
But I feel out of shape to get back to it. I feel I would be crushed by the weight of it. But maybe …. I feel kind of badly not doing it. Joe Biden is president, and he is two years older than I am, and that’s a tough job. But he has a lot of help and back-up.
Then I read a letter to the NYT ethicist by another therapist who wanted permission to opt out of helping. If you don’t want to do it, it won’t be helpful. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to do it.
In a related note, I end here with a good thing. Today, I got an email from one of my former hoarders. She told me she moved south to get out of the cold and take care of her sister. She left all of her stuff behind and is doing well. It’s been about five years since I’ve seen her, but she, like several others, keeps in touch with me on an irregular basis. That makes me feel good about my past life and makes it easier for me to do other things in the future.