The psyche as an onion... At the moment, my life is consumed by confusion, fear and therapy. It’s an old and over-used metaphor, but sometimes one must look at his/her life as onion. In therapy — especially the type of three days a week’s worth which I am in — one must rely upon metaphor to grasp an understanding so that the mind can get a grasp around the core problem. At the core is the key to the way toward integration.

So, I sit with my therapist and think of a conference table at which to negotiate and make peace with parts of myself unknown to me. Fragments of me that have long ago split away from the person I know as myself. We are unpeeling the layers of my life — my onion. Some of the layers I know. Oddly, the most soured/bitter layers I already know. But, other skins are layers that have been long hidden somewhere in my psyche.

Sitting on a beautiful beach this morning with my toes pushing through sand, sun pouring down upon my head, cold ocean breeze messing my hair, cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. I watch the waves as the surfers head to catch some magic waves. I begin to think of this onion that is my life and all these layers I’ve never really known that are slowly returning to my memory. Suddenly odd choices I’ve made in my life start to take on a sense I had long since tried to understand.

The sting or stench of the smell can be unbearable as we peel. Bringing tears of regret and fear to my eyes. I do my best to toughen up and get a grip to face the truth that is my life. I am tough. I can roll with the toughest of them and, if required, can usually take them down if they push me against the wall. But, I grow so very weary.

Pull back this layer and I suddenly remember experiences and misadventures that seem so alien that it doesn’t seem possible that these memories are mine. Here is a layer that reveals a long lost trip to New York with a black dude who was into things far twisted from my own interest that I was in way over my head. Another very thin layer and parts of a debauched night spent in a hot apartment in Harlem. Another layer and I discover a trip with a doctor to Fire Island. Is that me auditioning for a career in porn? pornAnother several layers and prostitution reveals itself. $50 for this and that. Closeted lawyers, law students, MIT professor, an old man, a married “straight” doctor from New Hampshire, some sad sack editor and some guy named Julio who gives the smell of meth on his breath. Here is another layer. I’m walking down an alley with some big scary looking guy. I think we’re behind some educational institute annex on Newbury Street. I’m thinking to myself, “Is the money worth it? Is he a cop? Am I going to get killed? Arrested” …As I try to push this slice of skin to the side I find myself wondering if maybe that is what “I” wanted.

As I think about my first physical in San Francisco I remember being so very relieved that I was totally STD free. And, yet I can remember wondering why I was worried about these tests. As I move the bits of onion to a tuberware container for further examination at a later date, I realize that there must have been some “aspect” of “me” urging me to be tested just to be sure I was OK.

She leans forward and tells me we are doing hard work. …unpeeling such a complex onion. She encourages me by letting me know that we are moving forward at a very good pace and she feels quite positive that I will come through this fine. That this is the hardest part of my journey and that it will be quite difficult as we work it all out and try to understand “me” and the things that “me” wants that “I” don’t understand or know. In the meantime, life gets turned upside down for me and my significant other (the most important “aspect” of my life) — I try to get a grip and be tough. I try to find reasons to laugh and smile.

I escape into movies and music quite a bit. I lean on FaceBook and sometimes to find the level of concentration required to read a book — but that can be a stretch. I find it hard and almost impossible to be reliable. …to be on time. …to be in a place where there might be more than one or two people. Some people who are strangers to “me” at the beach seem to know “me” — I go along with it best I can. I pretend and act like I know them. I try to approach it like I’m some private investigator in disguise trying to resolve the unraveling mystery of the onion that is my life. I’m trying so hard, but sometimes I really have to fight not to give it up.

This onion stinks. This life is a hard one. But, then, who ever said it would be easy? Like PE coaches love to tell their students, “Look kid, life isn’t fair. Give me ten.”

…I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly..

Joni Mitchell
One of the greatest musical works of our time is also the most harsh... …I find myself leaning heavily on the likes of Ms. Mitchell, Tori Amos, Barbra Streisand, Tom Waits, Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen lately. Then again, I always have. When you’re feeling down and out who can resist a defiant cover of “Cry Me A River” or Captain Tom Waits invitation to the blues and a drive in an ol’ 55? Let me tell you – no one can.

And, I wait til 3pm to pick up my peeling knife to work closer to the core of Me.

April 7, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized.


  1. Urspo replied:

    Try not to be so hard on yourself; parts maybe regrettable and embarassing but hopefully not vile.
    I like a different metaphor, rather than peeling an onion, think of something shattered or cut off becoming part of the whole again.

    A rule of psychology – whenever you incorporate back into your Self a split off part, this fusion causes depression. So feeling ‘bad’ is a good sign of becoming more whole.

    Good luck. Even shadow parts need to have their space.

  2. Susanne replied:

    These words made me cry. Really. I was in therapy a long time ago. We spoke about my “happy” family, my fears, my brother who took drugs for a long time (he’s epileptic), my study i was not able to finish, my thoughts of always being perfect, my relatinship between me and my father… Matty, i know it’s hard.

    Look, i’m 31 years now and i think my life is so… I’m searching for a job or a education now and i think i’ll move to another town. Without my mother, without friends. I’m afraid of the fact my “fears” will return there and i can’t work or anything else. But i must do it. I have to! Maybe going away or moving is the best thing i can do!?

    And so can you! I believe in you. In your lovely blog. I think you’re very special. Everyone is. And there are people around you who loves you. Don’t be afraid! It’s a long way but we can take it. There are so sweet little moments in life like the first tulips in the garden, a walk with Frodo, some good music…

    Oh my god, don’t know what to say… Please excuse my bad english…

    We love you, Matty!

    Kisses from Germany,
    Susanne 🙂

  3. Old Cheeser replied:

    A very honest post here Matty – erm, do you mind me asking, seeing as you shared your “experiences” so clearly here – did you really use to be a prostitute?

    I’ve got to say it’s very weird you’ve gone for the onion metaphor – because I recently blogged about a poem I was teaching some of my students called “Valentine” by Carol Ann Duffy – all about giving a lover/partner an onion as a valentine’s gift! Slightly different scenario to you, but similar in that it’s about unpeeling away the layers to find out about the person within and also the idea that an onion can scald and sting, like the pain you can sometimes experience in a relationship. Give it a read if you haven’t already:


    Also very spooky that you used exactly the same onion photo as me!!

    Anyway I hope the therapy, painful as it undoubtedly will be at times, is proving beneficial. I agree with the others, you and your blog are special so hang on in there!!

    OC x

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