Chronicles: Doorknob – The Berkshire Edge

In the final moments of a therapy session, I have a breakthrough. “I just realized that the barking dog in my dream is my father and…” Something opens up for me. “Yes and …”

“I’m afraid our time is up.”

“But…. It’s very important. What I’ve been working towards.

“We’ll continue our discussion next week,” the therapist said kindly.

“But…” My voice trails off.

Therapists call this the doorknob. The patient does not want to leave. Wants to continue chatting just as the session ends. Or they come into contact with a long repressed trauma. Doctors also note patients who, when discharged, leak crucial medical information, especially if it is embarrassing. Another name for it: Bye-bye bombs.

Yet everyone needs boundaries. Imagine if the 50-minute session lasted three hours. Have pity on the poor shrink! Indefinitely, his customers chattered into oblivion. But why does the revelation come at the last moment? Why do we have to wait so long?

During COVID, I joined a virtual meditation group that meets at 10:30 every morning. The Daily Sit in Barre, Vermont. There are sometimes 140 people in the Zoom boxes. “Good morning, good afternoon, good evening,” Buddhist psychologists Susan and Bill Morgan greet us, as we live in different parts of the world. We stretch a little, come in to land and start to meditate.

Of course, the monkey’s mind swings from branch to branch, from story to memory, from confused and hurt feelings, from brain debris. It’s a challenge to focus on the breath and not the stories. A challenge that I choose to take up every morning. After agonizing moments, I glance through the slits of my eyes at my analog clock: 5 more minutes. Oh! It was then that I finally settled down. Breathing deeply, I begin to enter the zone. Yes, yes… What calm! Ah! That’s when the leader rings the bell once, twice, three times. I bow and express my gratitude for my daily practice. Then I look at the gallery of meditators, our virtual sangha. We greet each other until the fight tomorrow morning.

Are these things that end? Five more minutes of childhood play. Please! One more piece of pie. The snooze button takes us out of a precious dream. When we suddenly grasp for wisdom because what we were looking for has eluded us? So far. There it is, glittering within reach. Just as time is up.

“Time is not rushed,” advises Lisa, my good friend. She’s probably 10 years older than me. ” You’re better. That’s it.” It’s a common trope. You don’t age… But, of course, I’m like all of us.

Isn’t the door handle really a question of finitude? Purposes. The hardest part of writing a novel is knowing how to finish it. Note the many suicides in the books from Bovary to Karenina. When you don’t know what to do, kill this character.

When I was 12, I had a crush on Marty, an older counselor at Blue Paradise day camp, our Catskill cabin colony. He had learned that his father had died the previous week. When he returned from the funeral, he barely spoke to anyone. One evening, I passed him on the sidewalk. I tried to engage him. He does not say anything. “I’m glad you’re back,” I finally blurted out.

He looked at me, tears glistening in his bright blue eyes. “It doesn’t matter. Everything has an end.”

I was shocked. “That can’t be true.”

“Nothing lasts eternally.”

“No no no!” I shouted, “That’s not true.”

“Think of something that never ends,” he challenged me.

Everything I thought about had an end. Even if it was far in the future. That’s when it hit me. Everything ends because everything and everyone dies. I felt overwhelmed by the idea.

Most telling was that I hadn’t known until that moment. Me, the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor, whose numbered arm stared at me as he sat at the kitchen table. I was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany. How did I not know that?

The doorknob is perhaps the all too human impulse not to let go, to cling to life until the end. Those last moments when time becomes most precious.


Sonia Pilcer leads workshops for writers in New York and the Berkshires. His latest book “The Last Hotel” is based on the hotel his father ran on West 72n/a Street, and which Edge mined for nearly a year.

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