A Letter to My Therapist

(Thank you SaferBrand for illustrating growth. I think I’m in the flowering stage, and looking forward to ripening…)

18 years together–long enough to raise me and send me out into the world.

In this time you, my therapist, my hero, have taught me what I can hold onto and what I must release.

Starting in February 2001 with the death of the mother I’d always tried to please, in one session a month you led me through the minefield. You helped me learn to navigate when she had her lawyer send me pre-packed boxes of her possessions with cruel sticky-notes on the backs. I had ruined her chances of relationships with my children. I had made her unable to display the photos of my children. I had I had I had. I Had Disappointed.

Never in her notes, (dated and initialed), did she mention the anger and bitterness she spewed onto my children that last time she saw them. Never did she say she could have done things differently. Never did she mention the crazy note she put in Corinne’s 16th birthday present telling her not to believe what others said about her–two of the three she mentioned having been dead for some years.

Never did she say she was sorry. Never did she thank me for the years I’d continued to try to be in her life after her other two children had left it because they couldn’t handle her altered version of their reality.

And you, my steady, guiding therapist, walked me through that. All the emotions, all the self-hatred, all the raw pain.

You helped me learn to be a mom. My kids were mostly grown, but there was so much for me to learn: how to not take things personally, how to follow my own instincts when responding to the highs and lows of the rollercoaster that was life, both mine and theirs. How to not simply buy into the highest volume reaction in the house but to follow my own heart. I did this often poorly, but something you helped me learn caused my children to be extremely forgiving as I’ve apologized every time I realize the next big thing I got wrong.

In my struggle to hold tightly to my marriage I was teaching my children terrible lessons. That my stubbornness couldn't change the essential skeleton of this decades-long union, and sometimes choosing to call time of death is the most… Click To Tweet

In the teen years of our relationship you helped me see the truth of my marriage–that the bad had far overtaken the good, and I was living the definition of crazy by trying the same things over and over and over again with the same result. That my stubbornness couldn’t change the essential skeleton of this decades-long union. That in this struggle to hold on I was teaching my children terrible lessons. That sometimes choosing to call time of death is the most grownup decision you can make.

You’ve taught me to hold onto myself, always. To hold onto who I am in this world, and that it matters I am IN this world. That my way of loving and supporting and being available is a valid and valuable way, no matter what I’ve been told otherwise. You’ve taught me to pursue the knowing of who I am, to let go and be me, even though those who should have loved me best couldn’t. Even though those who should have known me best didn’t. You’ve shown me that God and I have the closest view of my heart even when others called me Disappointing and a Failure and Unloving and Unsupportive. You’ve helped me see those are not words that define me. You’ve taught me that I can let go of those Lies In My Bones.

You've helped me let go of what I could never really hold onto–making another person happy. And you've taught me to hold onto what I can–the growing of myself. Click To Tweet

I’m a work in progress. An imperfectly perfect me. Over these past 18 years you’ve helped me let go of what I could never really hold onto–making another person happy. And you’ve taught me to hold onto what I can–the growing of myself. I’m headed the right direction now.

To say thank you seems hollow. How can those two words express even a small percentage of the gratitude I have for literally giving me the will to live? For teaching me to appreciate who I am? To open my tightly clenched hand and release the control I never owned? To keep the bitter words of others from piercing my tender heart?

I was drowning and you saved me. I am eternally grateful.

With love,

-julie

Standing up in the ocean.

 

WHAT do you suppose happens when on a hot day in Roatan you struggle to manage the ocean, to change its properties, to avoid yielding to the water’s warm, salty invitation to relax in its arms, to be the only one on this earth allowed to remain upright and still snorkel? It says, Oh no, honey, that’s not how it works! Just accept my invitation…give in, loosen up, enjoy.

Sure, I may have perjured myself when I checked YES next to Can Swim on the entry form to the beach in Honduras. I mean, academically speaking I do know HOW to swim. I know where the arms go, what the feet should be doing, and that bit where you turn your head from side to side and remember to breathe only during the above-water segment. But when I’m actually IN water?? All sense of calm and, well, sense take a hike and I start trying to manage the ocean.

I believe my feeling about oceans and lakes and the deep end of a swimming pool is what people like to call a Phobia. As if my fear is irrational! There IS something just waiting to SUCK-ME-TO-THE-BOTTOM-FOREVER-YOU-KNOW-I’M-RIGHT-GAAAAAHHHHH!

Okay. Perhaps a tad irrational.

I’m a struggler. I’m a long time try-er. I have believed that if I flex and tense my muscles and muster enough of my own effort I can manage anything–even change the minds and individual properties of people or situations. Shove myself into being Healed and Triumphant Over the Troubles of My Life on my terms and in my time. All simply by my own striving.

Finally at 63 I’m learning to relax, to give in bit by bit to this process called Life. To tell the Lie that says I have enough power to manage the ocean that it has permission to take a long walk off a short dock. I’m learning to let go of the belief that I alone will be allowed to stand in the depths of the ocean and keep my head above water.

Fortunately I had a kind and loving friend with me at that gorgeous beach. She understands the whole relaxing-into-the-arms-of-the ocean thing, and yet she also understands my overwhelming-desire-to-remain-upright in the water. She helped me understand my snorkel gear, guided me to find the calm breathing I know but couldn’t locate. She helped me relax and float and breathe and see fish and sea creatures–but in water close enough to the shore that I could stand when I needed to. She let me hold her hand, for crying out loud, and never once mocked me for my fears. (Thank you, Susy!)

She helped me access the abilities that lay dormant within me to settle into the water and accept its invitation to rest in its salty arms while still breathing air. It was amazing! And a huge step forward in conquering my fear, demonstrated by my daughter Cori’s response to my telling her what I’d done with the exclamation of “You SNORKELED? In WATER??”

My experience was much the same as Life altogether: learning to accept, learning to move forward, relaxing my own stubborn will. Step by step I’m learning to give in to the reality of things–to know I can’t change the ocean, to see the sea for what it is. I couldn’t enjoy Roatan’s clear waters and schools of fish dashing about until I made peace with the actual character of the water. Once I did that I could embrace the truth that the beauty beneath was revealed only when I stopped striving to remain vertical.

The bring your own beverage conversation: Is there some belief you’ve held onto that’s kept you from moving forward in your life? One of mine has been that I have enough power to change people and situations I have no actual control over. Do you like me try to manage oceans? If not, what’s one of yours?  What truth do you need to start seeing and accepting in order to unstick? Think of friends or family who are willing to help you take baby steps into positive change, and if you don’t have some, GET SOME!

AND BE KIND TO YOURSELF THIS WEEK.

#lessstrivingmoreacceptance