The Sandbox

Amnesia, Art, Healing



7:01 AM


It has been one month and three hundred pages written since Eileen gave her Notice in the Sandbox. 

I have a recurring dream nearly weekly now, of a small child, a near baby, screaming at the top of its lungs; it wakes me like an alarm.

I feel out of control, bashed by a surf inside of me that pulls me, in one moment, in the direction of anger and sadness and then, in the next, the direction of love. 

Eileen watches me writhe in pain, pages pouring out every day, along with emails back and forth between us. 

And she takes back her Notice. 

She says that it was just an idea, subject, like any, to discussion. 

On the one hand, these are the words I’ve wanted to hear, but on the other, I know that her Notice was authentic, that there was a clear request to be done, a truth resistant to being swept under any rug.

I try with nearly every breath to understand the deeper meaning in all of it, know that there must be something beneath the pain of this therapy causing me such a ripping inside. But there is no clarity that sticks, no pure resolution, no firm place to land. 

Monkey writes Eileen love letters … and hate letters. He writes for me, waves a banana in the air like a pen and sword both, and says everything on his mind and in his heart. He cries out for more power on our seesaw with Eileen. We must feel our weight, our ability to control, to be the one on the ground instead of up in the air. We must, he shouts, rise down. And I allow him to speak, to roar like a lion, for E loves him most, and he holds no shame. 

I struggle hard to come up with a way for Eileen and me to continue with my therapy without this Sandbox. But I find only tears when I try and give her what I know she wants deep down: to be done with my world in pages. 

For now Eileen still reads and writes to me. Yes, she says, let’s find a way to make it work. But there is no action beyond these words, no insights, no map to find my way. 

A few weeks ago after crying in her office again, nearly the whole session, I say, finally: 

Here — you shovel now — you figure it out. You find a way for this to work.

She bristles in anger, nearly hissing back at me. 

How dare you, she says with her eyes. 

And where Wednesdays used to offer some relief, ninety minutes of time together, I find myself even worse now after sessions.

Out of pride, right after Notice, I shut Eileen immediately out of the Sandbox. But within days I create a new shared document called Letters from the Sandbox; I find myself unable to stay away, and I upload. As I watch the file saving to our shared space, it is a drink I take, a drug I need, a meal I must eat. And afterward, always, there is then remorse. Why could I not have just held on one day longer?

What is wrong with me?

Eileen concludes that we have reached a therapeutic impasse. I am unable to trust her, unable to resolve my sadness, to quell my anger and dependency, unable to figure things out.

In an effort to find answers, I schedule a consult with a local therapist who has written several books on complex post-traumatic stress disorder. He happens to be a former colleague of Eileen’s. He is tall and thin and sad. Monkey calls him the Tree, the CPTSD Tree. I tell him about my Sandbox, how it began. I outline the Flood and Notice, too, and tell him I am there because I cannot stop reeling with anger and confusion and sadness. 

He asks a few questions and then tells me that my blackout past points to sexual abuse, that my therapy will always be hard, that there would be no shame in seeing my therapist five days a week. He tells me that my Sandbox sounds not at all unlike the dusty spiral notebook diaries he’s collected in his garage. 

He tells me that he knows Eileen, that there are many substandard therapists out there, but that she, well, I’ve got a good one with her. 

He then looks me in the eye, takes a long deep pause and says, as far as he’s concerned, the only thing Eileen is guilty of is perhaps loving me too much. 

I nod along with him, as if I understand. And agree. 

But I don’t. 

I can only feel a spoon being pulled away from my mouth long before I’ve really had a chance to eat. 

I hand him a check as I leave. And I feel relief, as if given the okay to continue with Eileen. 

But by the time I reach the street, relief is eclipsed by the feeling and sense that the world, today, has somehow taken a side. And that it is not mine. 


6:43 AM


I went to therapy last night. It was another disaster. 

I cannot articulate why I’m feeling this enormous sadness except to say I feel this huge divide between my present day therapy and my Sandbox. As the two rip apart and away from each other, I can feel my heart breaking; it is like divorce where I now have sole custody of the Sandbox. Except, there’s no battle involved. Turns out no one ever wanted it except me. 

I need to make my way on my own, but it comes with a lifetime supply of tears. 

I meet Pete for dinner after therapy, and I can’t swallow my food. Tears spill all over my face and into my soup; I excuse myself and leave the restaurant. 

As I sit in the car crying, I find Blanket in my mind on a park bench, amorphous and weeping, his thick fabric shoulders shaking as the cold leaves fall onto his back. He seems B for Broken, worn down and old from trying to see all sides. He tells me that even blankets have their limits, and with Notice his were hit.


I weep, S, like the graceful yellow willow trees we loved so very much growing up. I bend over and weep for our earnestness in creating our Sandbox, a safe place, a place to remember, to understand, to heal. A place that becomes now a battleground of confusion, a location from which we are abandoned abruptly without an ounce of care, compassion or reason. Notice, once given, can never be taken back. 


B needs us to Blanket him –– with our love, with our respect. B needs us to join him in Park Bench Park. 


Can we buy him anything? B, do you want a stuffy?


Thank you, Shard. But no. 


A banana?


No thank you, Monkey. My appetite has grown dim. 


We didn’t know you had feelings. 


We need always to be the weather we are for if we cannot be sad in this moment and for the weeks to come after it, for as long as we need to, we will never heal.


We support B so he can regain strength and support us again.