So it takes Paul about six seconds to make his wife's terminal cancer all about him. He shaves his head in the middle of her classroom as some kind of idiot gesture, then gets tips on alternative therapies ("twenty apricots a day!") from his stylist, then chases this poor woman around at work for days until she finally tells him -- in graphic, sad detail -- what it was like to watch her own spouse die. Paul suddenly figures out why Cathy didn't tell him to begin with, and why she kicked him out. (He admits to being confused by the Lenny part, still, but then so is Cathy.) Then he moves back in.
Adam, left on his own for the afternoon while Paul process his emotional emotions and can barely keep from blabbing, meets a girl who nearly convinces him that parents don't get back together once they separate, and that they wouldn't notice if he got a tattoo. There's a neat moment at the end of the episode where you honestly think Cathy's not going to notice his marker tattoo... But then she does. Very suspenseful.
Sean and Rebecca have a rip-roaring awesome fight ("I lowered my fucking bar for you!") after she skeeves him out by moving to Minneapolis so she can look like hell on this show all the time, and he dumps her. She kind of has a point, but Cathy has a better point, which is: If you want to date a guy and you want it to go somewhere, don't pick a mentally ill, literal homeless man off the street.
Marlene takes Cathy and Rebecca to a strip club for the lunch buffet, so there are lots of gay men with muscles if you're into that; Cathy wins a lap dance, and pulls a total Cathy Jamison on the guy. Mostly because she's freaking out because Dr. Todd pointed out how stupid things like "bee sting therapy" are, which stole her hope, and then she stole the hope of Rebecca by telling her that at the age of Gollum she should stop hoping for love to solve all her problems and start solving her problems, which are imaginary anyways.
Later, Cathy apologizes for all that, but hopefully Rebecca heard her. Then she finds Marlene wandering around in her yard and they have the big talk: Marlene's got Secret Alzheimer's and totally knows it, which is just one of the many reasons she was so cool with Cathy's Secret Cancer. All of this adds up to an apparently irresistible desire to be optimistic and hopeful about whatever, and it is a brittle and nearly nuts Cathy Jamison who comes into Dr. Mauer's office and emotionally batters him into agreeing that Bee Sting Therapy is probably a great idea! That will totally cure her cancer!
Next week: Dr. Todd takes a trip, Thank You notes are written, bees sting, and Paul is obnoxious.
"Now, if any of you get into credit card debt after I have spent the past hour telling you everything I know about how to avoid it, then shame on you. And do not use your birthday as a PIN number. Got it?"
She feels good. She feels free. She's allowed to be funny again and not just about cancer, but about everything. The space between her life that was and her life that is was filled up with lies, claustrophobic and paranoid. Now it's filled with light.
All Cathy Jamison knows about Qaballah she learned from avoiding magazines at the checkout counter, but there's truth in all mysticism as long as you don't think of it as fact. It's an ability she lost a long time ago, the gift of metaphor; her brother searches for it in garbage bins and the union of opposites but it's there. If she went back to the beginning and looked at her family's history, she'd know the origin of the world:
God was all there was. So She breathed, out, and made a little space in the universe, a little space for light, and life. Tzimtzum, one of the most useful concepts in the history of religion. He breathed out, and He got a little smaller, and then there was a space for light. She realized her existence wasn't the only thing there could be; there could be more things. So He got a little smaller. Breathed out, got down on Her knees.
Addicts know this because everybody knows this; addiction is defined by willful ignorance of this. The truth is that we were always small, we just imagined ourselves large, blotting out the sun, and we fill the rest of the space with lies. We blot out everybody else. It's the only way to stay in control.
It's the reason prayer happens on our knees but it's also the reason drugs are so very excellent. It's why we speak of consciousness-expanding, like that night on the porch with Lenny, when Paul nearly drank their family to death. To make a place for the world is also to make a place for yourself in the world, instead of eclipsing it. To realize you were always a part of things, never alone. To be large is to be lonesome, solipsistic; to let the air out of your lies is to feel the world -- that cold, lonely, dangerous world -- touching you, all over. Holding you in Her embrace.
When the children have left for the day, pleased by this new change in Cathy Jamison, she's alone for only a moment before Paul enters, valiant and dramatic as usual. Doing everything she knew he'd do: The electric shaver in his hand, the shouted promise, Braveheart-like, in the absence of factual knowledge: "IN SOLIDARITY!" he cries, and then begins to cut.