Transcript of 5th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Christina Herald, Thursday, April 10, 1997 at 12 pm.

Ms. Herald: Good afternoon, Doctor B. How goes?
Dr. Balis: Not too bad, thanks. You're looking chipper today.
Ms. Herald: It's been an incredibly good week.
Dr. Balis: Really? That's good. How do you like being a T.A.?
Ms. Herald: That's part of what made it so great. I am loving this new job. By the way, I put in my notice at Shakespeare Books. Lucy wasn't happy at first, but she understood when I explained it to her, and I helped her pick someone else to play manager while she's out with Baby.
Dr. Balis: I hope it's not that odd androgynous creature with the septum piercing. She was quite rude when I was in there last.
Ms. Herald: I didn't know you'd been in the shop. And no, Jody will not be playing manager. Gabriel got the part. The tall sad-looking guy with the black hair, looks like your typical "alterna-teen."
Dr. Balis: Oh, all right. I'm not too sure who you're talking about, but that's okay. How's the panic disorder doing?
Ms. Herald: Surprisingly mild lately. I can't help but wonder, though, if this is just the calm before the storm. Maybe I'm being paranoid. But I'll probably flip out around finals. This time next month I will officially be a basket case. Maybe you should go ahead and measure me for a happy huggy coat now, save time later.
Dr. Balis: That's a novel way of referring to a straitjacket.
Ms. Herald: Well, I thought it was funny. Want to hear the latest on the Kevin situation?
Dr. Balis: Oh, now this should prove interesting...
Ms. Herald: Oh, yeah. Big-time. Well, somehow he raised bail money, and he's taken to hanging around campus, or my apartment building, calling and hanging up. If he's trying to stalk me, he's got to be the most inept stalker in the world. He did call to ask how the kitten and I were getting along. I told him that Little Lance was fine but my ferns would never be the same. He apologized for wrecking my car. I told him that I would probably think it was funny in twenty years but I wasn't going to forgive him right now. He asked if he could stop by, and I said no. Then he said would I at least come out and talk to him because he was at the pay-phone outside. Malcolm happened to be in my apartment cooking dinner and marched downstairs and warned him to stay away from me. To the tune of a mild concussion. Kevin's just not having any luck, is he?
Dr. Balis: So your new boyfriend assaulted your old one?
Ms. Herald: I guess you could say that, yeah. Malcolm doesn't often come out of the basement, but when he does he tends to assert himself quite well.
Dr. Balis: Tell me a bit about Malcolm. He seemed kind of...well, forbidding. Not really the type of man one would expect you to be attracted to.
Ms. Herald: He's a hard one to figure. And as far as what I'm attracted to, the usual qualification is that he's male. But Malcolm is intriguing, simply because he's so forbidding. It's weird, actually. There's a very sensual quality to someone being that dark, both in appearance and manner. I think I read one too many vampire stories when I was a kid.
Dr. Balis: The Gothic look. I know what you're referring to. You find that attractive?
Ms. Herald: Sometimes. Look, Doc, how did we get onto the subject of my sex-life, anyways? Malcolm's not a psychotic. I know he looks it, but he's not. Okay?
Dr. Balis: You don't have to get defensive, Chris.
Ms. herald: Sorry. I just don't feel like discussing my sex-life in therapy. It's one of the few parts of my life that still sometimes makes sense, so I would kind of like to keep it that way. Afraid to jinx it, I guess.
Dr. Balis: That's fine. We can talk about whatever you like.
Ms. Herald: Maybe I should tell you a bit more about my family. You did say that this panic thingy was probably hereditary, right?
Dr. Balis: Yes it is. Talking about your family might be helpful.
Ms. Herald: Okay. What about my family...yeah. Right. Really nothing I haven't already said. I just don't really know what to talk about today. I think this cold snap has me depressed.
Dr. Balis: You're feeling depressed?
Ms. Herald: Will you stop that? That is so irritating when you just parrot back at me what I've already said. Can't we just talk like normal people, more or less? That is usually one of the better things about you. You have more imagination than the average shrink.
Dr. Balis: You're really not giving me a whole lot to work with today, Christina. I'm quite frankly trying to delve beneath the conventional bland front that you're putting on for me today. It's not like you.
Ms. Herald: Oh, I see. I'm sorry for snapping at you, doctor, but I am just feeling totally sapped right now. Sullen, non-communicative, I just really want to go to sleep. Once the two weeks notice is up at Shakespeare's, then it'll all get easier. But until then, I have too many balls in the air. You were right about that much. I was surviving on adrenaline and caffeine. Once I kicked out the caffeine...all right, cut it back...I didn't have the energy to really throw myself into as much as I used to. So, I have been cutting things back. I cut loose the job at the bookstore, and Kevin. Malcolm is much lower-maintenance than Kevin was anyway. So I traded one job for another, and one man for another. The conflict with Carmichael has resolved itself. Jonny is probably going to be okay--it seems he's easing into the idea of telling Dad and Joanne about his sexual orientation himself. So hopefully that's one block out of the way. Dad seems to be a lot more relaxed lately; I think he's planning early retirement now that he's hit the top of the food chain in his line of work. I guess I'm really worried that things are beginning to go too smoothly, and I keep waiting for the monkey wrench to be thrown into the works.
Dr. Balis: Like it's too good to last, right?
Ms. Herald: Yeah, exactly. I'm writing again, though, and that is most definitely a good thing. I don't like myself when I'm not writing, because originally that was the whole point of my being a teacher. Vacations, weekends, and summer to write and live as I choose to. You think I wanted to be a teacher because of some altruistic need to help the youth of America? Hell, no! It was convenient to make money that way while I pursued my true craft. But I got hooked on it. I love the moment when comprehension just lights up someone's face, or seeing someone really enjoy and relate to a classic piece of literature almost two hundred years old, and all because of me! My assistance opening doors for people. It's quite a rush of feeling, and it's hard to explain. But by the same token, I wonder if I'm losing sight of my original dreams, like I'm settling for something more accessible and secure. I would never be happy living from royalty check to royalty check, or submitting articles as a freelance writer to keep food in me and Lancelot until the novel got published. I hate not feeling secure. So I learn a trade where I can at least touch my dreams somehow, and save my truth till summer. I'm a sellout, Doctor.
Dr. Balis: Chris, I hardly think you're a sellout. You're simply practical...
Ms. Herald: But practicality is the antithesis of art! It's like matter and antimatter. If I'm a practical, responsible little schoolteacher, my creativity shrivels and dies. But if I throw myself into my writing and get completely lost in it, where does the money for things like rent and food and kitty litter come from? How do I put gas in my car, keep myself healthy? There's a reason that writers and artists all look so gaunt and haggard, Doctor. It's because they don't eat until the royalty checks come. And they don't come fast enough unless you're Stephen King or John Grisham. I'll tell you what this is: It's my mother and my father jostling for control of my mind. My mother left a marriage and a three year old daughter to travel to New York and work as a theatrical costumer. The clothes spoke to her, as did the smell of dust and sweat and make-up, the frenzied mending of a torn seam in between scenes, the oohs and aahs as an actress steps onto the stage in a stunning gown that she created. It doesn't matter if the money is sporadic, it's the art that's important! But my father is different. He went out and found a stepmother for his three year old daughter because he had to go make money to support her, feed her, put her through school. He wanted to succeed and make money, so he could take care of his family in a better, more privileged manner than the one he had been raised in. He worked his ass off to do it, too. Now he's fifty-five years old and planning to retire early to enjoy the rest of his life. So there is the side of practicality. But it has its price. The more conservatively you act, eventually your mind will narrow until you can't act any other way. You act small, you live small, sooner or later you think small. And for me, that is death.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Herald: So I have to find some sort of balance. And I haven't been able to, not yet. Did you know that I actually had to force myself to start writing again? And I was annoyed at first because it was taking time away from my studies, time that I could have been in class watching how teachers work. Dr.Graham gave me an open invitation to sit in on any of her classes, anytime. And I have--quite a bit in fact. Maybe that's another part of my problem.
Dr. Balis: Visiting Dr. Graham's class?
Ms. Herald: No, looking for things that aren't there. My perfect ideal man, the balance between creativity and practicality. Maybe they don't exist.
Dr. Balis: I think that with a little effort, maybe some time management...
Ms. Herald: No, Doctor. I don't think time management will help. This is an emotional crisis, maybe even a spiritual one. Not a physical or scheduling problem. I'm not going to go New Age and start swinging crystals around and mumbling about chakras, but I do need to make a decision about what's important to me. But my hour's almost up so I'm going to go ahead and leave. I have a lot to think about. If you don't mind that I cut out a bit early...
Dr. Balis: I understand, Chris. Let me know if there's anything I can do. I'll see you next week.
Ms. Herald: I will. At the bare least, I'll keep you posted on my dilemma. Bye, Doctor.
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