Puncturing a lampshade and crossing the Rubicon

iStock_lampshade_000004703320XSmallAfter leaving Milwaukee I returned to DC. I needed to clear my desk and I had a medical check up scheduled. Getting close to the action created temporary feelings of inadequacy and purposelessness. But being a patient at the overly technological office visit reminded me of the outrage I feel at the complexity medical care has assumed.

For the last few days Debbie and I have been packing up about ten percent of our house and ninety percent of our stored memorabilia for delivery to our new cottage and storage space in Maine. Packing and sorting is always unsettling.

For Debbie the distress was compounded by the move of her office materials from Washington to Maine. For me it was a distraction from the feelings of loss I was experiencing. It is hard to describe the sense of loss.

I think there are two ubiquitous fragile stretches of cloth that people commonly encounter and occasionally puncture. These are the black cloth underneath upholstered furniture and the white lining inside fabric lampshades. The function of these membranes is subtle but significant.

For some reason I have always been unsettled on the rare occasion when I puncture one of these pieces of fabric. Perhaps as a child I did it intentionally or perhaps unthinkingly as a foolish adolescent. Was I, perhaps, sharply criticized by my parents after such an occurrence? I do not remember. Whatever the reason I remain very distressed when such a tear happens, caused either by myself or someone else.

Yesterday, while disassembling a lamp to take to my daughter I punctured the diaphanous inner lining of the lampshade. I have been unable to get this out of my head as we drive away from DC to meet our belongings in Maine. It is not our final departure but it has a sense of inevitability.

I feel that I have perforated some larger membrane. Is it the thin band of trust that I have violated by “abandoning” my patients? Is it that driving away from our house on O street is a sign that we can’t turn back? Have we gone from one reality to another lesser reality?

I don’t think so because I know that my point of no return – my Rubicon – was when I mailed the letter to my patients announcing my plans to leave my practice. I had not slept well for months before that. It was a secret plan that could not be leaked but was best disseminated quickly and broadly. I slept well the night the letter went out.

It is easier to look forward when driving away from the past. Certain torn fabrics can never be repaired; they can only be replaced.

Now, we have started the drive.


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