House of Honesty ©
“It’s a beautiful day today. Is everyone here? Cathie, Katie, Baby, Tina, Cat? Where’s Cat?” Everyone but Cat spoke up and I felt a tug of worry. I wondered where she was. I searched inside myself, breezed through the multi-level dwelling in my mind looking for her. I propped open a disused cellar door, peered into the stairwell, scanned for her presence. “What’s up, Cat?” I asked. Without finding her, I merged onto the third Los Angeles freeway of my five-freeway drive to work.
“Good morning,” I continued out loud, and I called our meeting to order in my empty car. Leonard Cohen’s rumbling words reverberated as I switched off my iPod mix: In the House of Honesty, her father was on trial. In the House of Mystery, there was no one at all. . .
Curious onlookers in 2009 might assume the middle-aged brunette with the lopsided streak of gray hair chattering to no one in her PT Cruiser at 6 a.m. was on speakerphone—not chatting with her multiple identities, locating them in the carefully constructed house of her mind, setting them up for the day.
I cruised along the Santa Monica Freeway, worried about why I couldn’t find Cat this morning. She was adventurous, headstrong, and often angry. My other alternate identities, or “Parts,” seemed a little intimidated by her, she was so strong-willed. When she finally answered me, she said she wanted to stay in her own room by herself today, with the door latched from the inside, under her own supervision. Okay, I consented. It was monumental that Cat trusted me and could say what she needed at this stage of our relationship. We all agreed that safety was our first rule before anything else.
I glided upstairs in my inner house and noted the changes since my Parts had opened up to me finally, after over six years of psychotherapy. I used to creep around in the gloom, the walls felt cold and I could barely see my way. All the years of darkness, of not knowing where my voices came from, the loss of bodily control—I shuddered when I recalled how much I’d wanted to just get rid of my intrusive Parts in the nightmare days before this friendly truce.
Now, vibrant murals adorned the long corridor, a mixture of Impressionism and Joe Sorren whimsy, Giverny and Goth. Doors that were previously locked up, blocked off to my mind, were now flung open. Even the nooks beneath the eaves seemed airy and unobstructed. I strolled freely anywhere I wanted in the house in my mind.
My dominant self knew how imaginative this seemed—maybe I was making it all up—but maybe my brain was messed up, a more likely situation. I couldn’t allow my Parts free reign, to interfere or take over my life indiscriminately. I didn’t know where this was all headed, but I hoped we’d find peace. There had been so much fear until now.
“Everyone? I’m going to work now, and we have an agreement; while I’m at work you’ll be safe in the playroom until eight o’clock tonight. I’ll get you no later than eight.”
When I’m off work, you won’t be sequestered, and we can say everything we feel, all together. I didn’t know how they occupied themselves when I was at work, but I knew that Cathie could calm Baby and even get a giggle, that Cat was like a junk-yard dog when she wasn’t recharging, that Tina practiced painting, trying to portray an uncommon landscape, and Katie endlessly pestered the others to try out the games she invented.
I sailed through downtown, joined the 110 Freeway and positioned myself in the lane I needed before it split in four directions.
Prior to fully blending with my dominant adult self, I couldn’t risk having my Parts accompany me into work at the hospital. Now that I knew my Parts, I readily detected them, and identity switches were jarring, especially when they were rapid. They could easily re-enact my terror and panic—it had happened before—so I took command. I cared for real children in perilous conditions and I would not allow my inner terror to start screaming at me in the pediatric ICU, distracting me at work.
“Okay, cool,” I said out loud. “Cat is taking a time-out and everyone else will be in the playroom—you’ll all have a really good day today.”
I took my freeway exit, passed the homeless veteran at the bottom of the off-ramp, and turned left, then right. Heading north, the Hollywood sign was directly ahead. I sipped the black coffee in my to-go cup, inhaled its aroma, and welcomed its warmth.
I hoped I wouldn’t be assigned as Charge Nurse today. When one of the docs asked me why I didn’t like being Charge, I could only think about growing up in my father’s oligarchy. I confessed, “It’s the responsibility without any real authority.”
I’d had enough of that. I wanted to take it easy, to help save some lives today, nothing more complicated than life and death.
I pulled into the parking structure and I did a final search of my interior house. It was like running my tongue over my teeth. I knew what I expected to find, where everything was, how it should be.
Everyone was there.