Transcript of 33rd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Katherine Lippard, Wednesday, February 4, 1998 at 4:00 pm.

Ms. Lippard: Hello.
Dr. Balis: Hello, Katherine. How are you?
Ms. Lippard: Christage.
Dr. Balis: Excuse me?
Ms. Lippard: Christage. The age of Christ.
Dr. Balis: What about it?
Ms. Lippard: That's me. Monday was my thirty-third birthday.
Dr. Balis: Happy Birthday. Are you feeling a little down about it?
Ms. Lippard: I'm sure it shows. I've been mopey and quiet since Sunday. Everyone's noticed, though you're the first I've told.
Dr. Balis: What about Jake?
Ms. Lippard: You know, Jake's never asked me my birthday. I don't think he really cares.
Dr. Balis: And you've never mentioned it?
Ms. Lippard: No.
Dr. Balis: Why not?
Ms. Lippard: I don't know. It never seemed important, I guess.
Dr. Balis: Has he noticed your mood?
Ms. Lippard: I haven't seen him. I'm sure I'll snap out of it by the weekend. I'm already starting to get over it.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. What is it about thirty-three that's got you down?
Ms. Lippard: I keep thinking of this song. I heard it at Phil's, he plays a lot of folk--acoustic stuff. I don't remember the artist. It goes, "If you don't die in glory at the age of Christ, your story is just growing old."
Dr. Balis: I don't like the sound of that.
Ms. Lippard: It's a real pretty song. I didn't find it depressing when I heard it.
Dr. Balis: So how does this apply to you?
Ms. Lippard: Well, I don't feel the need to die in glory. But I've been thinking about what I have accomplished with my life so far.
Dr. Balis: And what have you came up with?
Ms. Lippard: Not much. Not much of value, anyway. I mean not much of value to society. I make oodles of money, more than I know how to spend. I've been investing more than half my earnings since I came to California, and I'm a decent investor. Add in my stock options and I'm easily a millionaire. I have a top position in a growing company, and I could even become a board member in a few years if I play it right. Retire at 50? Hell, I could retire at 40 and still be rich when I die.
Dr. Balis: But?
Ms. Lippard: But it's just money. I've worked my ass off my whole life, and all I have to show for it is stuff. I have a rider on my insurance to cover $20,000 worth of fine art. But the piece I value most is one of Phil's, he gave it to me just because he thought I'd like it. If I had to, I'd become a prostitute before I'd sell this piece. That's value. Do you give blood?
Dr. Balis: I have, in the past. I should do it more often.
Ms. Lippard: You should make a habit of it, it's a great thing. I was talking to the phlebotomist last time I was in. He makes less than $10 an hour, but he loves it. He says he gets to help people feel good about themselves and, at the same time, saves the lives of people he never met. I need to do something like that. I've played the money game, and frankly, I've won. But it's not satisfying. That phlebotomist guy's satisfied; he's happy with himself. I want to do something that's good for society or at least for my community.
Dr. Balis: What's stopping you?
Ms. Lippard: That's a good question. Part of it is that I don't know what to do. I'm good at making money, I'm good at balancing the books. I don't want to let those talents go to waste. I love the arts--museums, galleries, symphony, theater. I dream of being involved with that. But that conflicts with the humanitarian work I want to do.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Ms. Lippard: Fine arts are for the rich. You don't see a lot of ditch diggers at the symphony.
Dr. Balis: I'm not so sure about that. Maybe you could work to make the arts more accessible to the common man.
Ms. Lippard: How would that be humanitarian?
Dr. Balis: It would help reduce the stratification of our culture, bring us more together.
Ms. Lippard: Hmm.
Dr. Balis: Katherine, I'm sure there's a world of things out there that you could do that would use your talents and make you feel good about what you're doing. It might take a few tries to find one that satisfies you. You don't have to come up with it right away. Wouldn't you feel better just to be working towards your goal?
Ms. Lippard: I suppose I would.
Dr. Balis: Are you in a big hurry to quit your job?
Ms. Lippard: Um, not really. That's another thing. I'm pretty good at what I'm doing now. I'm kind of basking in the glory of achieving what I set out to do. I could stay here a while longer. Besides, it's kind of understood that by taking this position I've renewed my commitment to the company.
Dr. Balis: So you have time to think about your next move.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah, I guess I do.
Dr. Balis: What about volunteer work?
Ms. Lippard: I've been thinking of that. I might even want to act. I'm thinking of trying out the next time the community theater holds auditions.
Dr. Balis: That sounds like fun.
Ms. Lippard: I hope so. Doctor Balis, is this just a mid-life crisis?
Dr. Balis: You're a little young for that, but I suppose it could be. What makes you think so?
Ms. Lippard: I know I'm young, but I have been hit kind of hard by this age of Christ thing. I'm a successful executive thinking of chucking it all...oh God. Yeah, that's what got this all started!
Dr. Balis: What?
Ms. Lippard: A radio report I heard Saturday: "This American Life," I think. The theme was breaking out of the boxes that our lives become. The first segment was an eighteen year old Mexican girl who wanted to go to college and make something of herself. Rather, she was an American citizen, born here to Mexican immigrants. Her family felt like she was putting on airs and trying to show them up by becoming more successful than they were. They were pressuring her to stay and be a regular Mexican girl. But I'm getting off track. The second segment was about a man, Russell something? Something Russell--a real common sounding name. He owned a clothing business in Chicago, made well into six figures--like I do--and was worth something like 33 mil. He started feeling like he hated the rat race, hated his life, and wanted a way out. So one day, he robbed a bank.
Dr. Balis: That's a little drastic.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah, isn't it though? But it worked. They interviewed him in jail. He'll get out in another four years. He feels great. He's a convicted felon and is worth nothing, but he says now he gets to make himself into whatever he wants. He's free.
Dr. Balis: Well, he used a pretty radical strategy, but I guess I can understand what he's saying. Is that how you're feeling?
Ms. Lippard: Well, I don't think I'll be robbing a bank next Thursday. But I would like to remake myself, find my dream, and start following it.
Dr. Balis: You feel a strong need to start following your dream?
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. Gee, that sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Dr. Balis: Yes, it does.
Ms. Lippard: Damn. I didn't see that until now. I guess that's something we have in common. Hmm. Maybe I understand him better than I thought.
Dr. Balis: Maybe so.
Ms. Lippard: Except daddy knew just what his dream was.
Dr. Balis: Well, that was lucky for him. But you have the time to figure that out for yourself. And the resources.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah, resources I have and time, too, I guess.
Dr. Balis: So how do you feel about turning 33 now?
Ms. Lippard: Better. I'm not a failure, I guess. I did succeed at something. Now, it's time to take on something else, make a new life. Hey, I can die in glory at the age of Christ!
Dr. Balis: How's that?
Ms. Lippard: Think about it. I have the glory: my present position--top of the heap, wealthy--it's everything I wanted to accomplish. And I'm talking about starting another life, which means ending this one. It's a symbolic death, not a literal one, but we're talking about poetry, so it fits.
Dr. Balis: I guess it does.
Ms. Lippard: Well, I have a lot of thinking to do, but I feel better about this. Thanks, Doctor Balis. Talking to you always seems to clear things up.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad to hear that. See you next week, then?
Ms. Lippard: Sure. Good, there's Alex. Boy, there's a kid who needs a friend. Listen, what else can I do for him? He has some really hard luck and I want to help, but I feel kind of powerless.
Dr. Balis: Sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend is just to be available and to listen without judgment. You can't solve his problems, but you can be supportive. That can do a world of good.
Ms. Lippard: Thanks. Thanks, I can do that. Well, see you next week.
Dr. Balis: Good night, Katherine.
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