“Harold” isn’t his real name, and he wasn’t really a therapist. He had a PhD in something and was knowledgeable in any number of subjects. Harold only saw people he believed he could help, and you had to be recommended by someone he was treating. If chosen, you had to commit to face the truth, no matter how disturbing. You also had to be willing to drive 100 miles each way on country back roads, to the tiny, remote town where Harold lived and worked in a decayed Charles Addams mansion.
Patients committed to Harold, and he to us. His fees were nominal. Weekly sessions could run as long as three hours. Like a hippie Buddha, Harold sat watch over me, as I howled through the crimes of my childhood, finally free to feel the pain and express my soul’s outrage. That I’m alive today, that I’m married to a loving man, that my children are healthy, I owe in large part to Harold.
It was sometime in 1997, in a period of dark despair, when Harold told me the world was going to end in 2012. He had studied all the major prophecies, including Nostradamus and the Mayans, and believed there was convergence on this one prediction. So, Harold said, I needn’t worry about suicide because time was running out.
He got me. Fifteen years seemed doable. Besides, I wanted to know the end of the story. (If Harold knew how things were going to end, he wasn’t talking.) Through the Bushes and Sarah Palin, the rise of the Money Culture, the death of friends and family, multiple long-distance moves, and personal failures of all kinds, I’ve carried on, believing it was all just temporary.
Which of course, it is, with or without Harold’s End of the World. I’ve pretty much lived each day as if it may be my last. I haven’t waited to do anything I really want to do. I have not saved for retirement like a good girl.
These days Harold is a 2012 expert on The History Channel. He’s got a tony NY agent and is in talks with James Cameron for a movie idea. He lives part of the year in Prague and may move there. When I miss him, I only have to Google his name. There he is: older, distinguished and now dressed in elegant black with a dapper felt hat instead of the worn, stained sweatshirt I remember. He still has the same twinkle in his eye, as if to say, “Didn’t I warn you to expect the unexpected?”
Maybe that means if everyone is talking about 2012 as the end, we’re due to teeter onward for thousands more years. Or maybe not.
Here’s to Laura, to you all, and to Harold -- a toast to whatever the year ahead may bring. May we all live in that divine space of mystery, letting go and grabbing hold, in peace and urgency, waiting and not waiting.
And here's to you, Viola-Alex, for writing another beautiful essay. I'm so glad Harold came into your life, and even now lets you peak at his. There is comfort in knowing he's all right, even though he might not be right. Thank you!