I don’t really keep any secrets. When you are planning on writing a book, you spend year’s practicing a life of being an open one. For me, being an open book is the only kind of honesty I understand for myself and it is a practice of all the “retaliation” that comes from so much honesty. So let me be honest about this…
For eight years I have had the same therapist. I don’t like to call him a therapist because he has done so much for me without asking anything in return. My first few appointments were met in desperation by selling everything major I had in my life at the time which wasn’t much but more than most for only being 20. Somehow I became his special project and by special, I mean that I became his friend. Sometimes we talk as often about what he has to offer as we do about what he is going through. Through his blessing, I visited on and off over the next several years without ever having to pay a dime for a friendship I cherish beyond words. I have cried at his trials, been speechless, been worried, and shared that and many more emotions of my own to which he has always shared with me. He is the most genuine person I know aside from being with Stark and Stark’s extreme kindness and patience. I am beyond blessed to have two of these people in my life. I am most positive I would not have one without the other.
This last weekend I traveled to the brink of Southern Utah to “hang out” with this great man that I attribute so many of my untarnished qualities to. And I thought… I truly thought despite all of these years that he was dismissing me. After a moment of him expressing that most therapists will say they are done with a patient after point of “understanding” is met and without even embarking on a path of healing, he then said something to me that sounded a bit like, “It’s not you, it’s me…” His words started out slightly hushed, “I just want to say…” and then he paused before repeating, “to say that you have come so far. I have witnessed you create an amazing life for yourself and grow.” I thought for sure this was the point where I would be dismissed as some sort of graduate for my efforts – ironically the efforts that brought us to our very first appointment together and took me all this time to even talk about.
I almost interrupted him except that I had no idea what to say if this was indeed the last time we would have a valid excuse for a “hang out.” So I let him continue. “I just want to say that it has been an honor,” oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit, “and that I will be by your side every step of the way.”
What a relief! But not just a relief, a doorway. I have practiced eight years of trusting just this one person – trusting that he has no ulterior motives, doesn’t want anything from me, isn’t bickering about the money I didn’t have to give him even when I was doing very well for myself. Yet I realize when I need to the most that up until recently, this is the only person in my life who has not dangled a carrot of expectation, manipulated for approval, criticized, projected, or left me hanging. When I can’t cry, he has cried for me. When all I can do is cry, he has been the voice of reason. When I have fallen to unforeseen depths, there was no hour of any day that he wasn’t just a phone call away. His unwavering dedication to the very act of joining me in my emotions and not just my efforts has resulted in my ability to be emotionally independent, strong for others, valid in my own opinions, and willing to love and be loved (the real kind). I can never repay him. Money will never be enough for what he has taught me through an example of truly unconditional dedication.
This last weekend I was very nervous to embark on yet another discussion of what I have been going through so treacherously for years. I had no desire to face it. Like any point before in my life, I wanted to burry it and bring up some bit of current news or agenda to waste time on. But Stark’s dedication to me as well as my choice to be by his side has given me an opportunity where I no longer have a life of distraction.
Knowing I couldn’t avoid the subject after how our discussion dramatically ended earlier this month, all I could do was jump right into it. I refrained from being emotional this time. I spewed pure logic. If this means this then this also means this and therefore I think I should do this, I think, maybe… but all the while I was a bit doe eyed in my need for an answer. That’s just the thing though, therapists (even if they are just your friends) will never give you a straight out answer. I know I have to figure it out for myself. So during our time together, I ran in thought-circles and he kept bringing me back to what I very much wanted to avoid with cliche questions, “Why?” My fear of being left hanging in the middle of working through this tragedy suddenly started to become less of a fear. I won’t be seeing my friend again until the end of October, which was motivating to not leave this with such open, raw ends untied.
“So here we are,” he said, “and what are we going to do about it? You’ve been here before but it’s different this time.”
“Ya…” it seemed like all I could say for most of our time together.
“So what are we going to do about it?”
The very aspect of saying “we” was nice enough. In moments like this saying “you” can seem so emotionally blaming. It was nice to know that he was there with me in this, even if it was only my problem.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Ok. I think you do know. How are we going to get through this so that in never bugs you again?”
I couldn’t say I didn’t know. Not again. He really wanted an answer and I had no idea what to say so I just mumbled, “Sometimes I feel like the only way to get through something is to focus on it, focus on the past! Like a wound it seems like if you just make it hurt bad enough then the rest of your life will not seem dulled by any pain. But then I go to the opposite extreme and I think that I need to focus on the future – what I can do, what I am capable of, what opportunities I have, and just ignore what’s already behind me. Problem is that the problems arise in the present, regard the past, and keep me from a future,” at which point I starred off. I can’t hold eye contact for too long when the subject is serious. I get uncomfortable and feel like I just displayed the wrong answer for everyone to laugh at. He didn’t remain silent but my last words seemed to almost echo inside of me. It was not a new realization, but it was a realization none the less. I HAVE to work on it. There’s no getting around. It comes right down to the Taoist saying of, the only way out is through. But how?
“Can you tell me why this is so important to you? Why he holds so much importance in your life?”
I was almost offended, but I stopped my reaction quickly enough to know that the offense was that he was right. I just had never looked at it that way. It’s like looking in a mirror every day and focusing on that which bothers you most about yourself and he was that thing that bothered me most.
“I’m not sure if he represents a beacon of all the things you need to work through or if he really, truly is the one thing. In fact, I don’t care. I refuse to involve myself with him. He is not worth my time and not worth yours. The only thing that matters to me is you and how we’re going to get through this. So how? How are we going to make him, whatever he represents, go away?”
I was feeling more vulnerable and a little bit desperate for an answer. “I don’t know! I don’t know… I feel like it haunts me. It’s important, I guess, because I have something to lose from it all. Something I really don’t want to lose and some part of me is being protective, not of myself, but of my relationship. I don’t want this era of my life to be effected like before. I can look back at my life and understand how he is most likely a beacon for everything wrong with my life because I can tell you exactly how my life has rolled from one thing to the next and gradually gotten better. But the irony is that it didn’t start getting better until that relationship, until I was with him and that is precisely why he is the most memorable nightmare I have.”
Without hesitation he raised his voice, “Sure! Fine! So give him credit. In fact, give him a fucking award ceremony for all the good things in your life that have come from it. Is that what you’re doing?”
I wanted to cry. I wasn’t expecting such brutal honesty, bringing me back yet again to a point where the offense was the truth and I simply hadn’t looked at it that way. “He’s really not that important, except that he represents all these things from my life that I don’t even remember. I just remember him. I remember how it was and I want to destroy him for that. I want to yell and scream and hate him for that. If I ever saw him again, who knows what I’d do this time but I certainly am not in a mood to remain frozen any longer and let him walk away with my dignity. I don’t know that I am giving him any credit, but I see where you’re coming from with that. What I mean is that I hit a wall. In that year of my life, I had been nothing but the same for as long as I can remember, but in that year I hit a wall so hard that I realized I was too weak to break through and all I could do was make a hard turn. I had to do different. I had to make a change. So I did. And I may give credit to the situation, but I’m the one that went through hell those next few years. I didn’t change over night. I wasn’t perfect. I continued to make mistakes but I gradually got better at respecting myself and understanding what it was I deserved. So I decided to be alone. For two years I didn’t so much as hang out with anyone let alone go on a date. I was reclusive. I was healing. I was finding an ability for everything that came after that – jobs, school, multiple degrees, traveling, and continuing to outdo myself year after year. But that’s just the thing, in all those healing years I became addicted to being so active. I let those last few pieces get swept under a to-do list of importance – important people, important places. I gave myself a Hollywood lifestyle and I ruled it with some sort of fabricated self confidence until I understood the life I had created. It was literally a creation and I had to do differently. So I’ve been figuring it out gradually but my subconscious has brought me to another halt; another do or die moment. So I have to change. I have to make a turn. I have to do something different or I won’t survive this.”
The floodgates had opened and I was slightly surprised. I didn’t know what sort of response to expect. After a moment of contemplation he started to tell me a story. In fact, with what I have been through recently this is probably one of the more important stories I have ever heard or related to in my life.
“Let me tell you,” he said, “about a man I once worked for as a teenager. He had a beautiful office and more money than you can imagine. He hired me to do some carpentry for his office. He had a custom built wooden desk and genuine, wooden walls; not the fake stuff you see on car dashboards. In between a panel of these walls was real blue velvet. Crushed. And pinned to this wall were two funny looking metal plates and a bunch of screws that I later learned were 123 screws. As a teenager I wondered where they came from and assumed that this is how he made his money – in some sort of construction business or invention of some kind. There was a genuine gold plaque underneath these screws that read ‘The beginning of a life to which I owe everything I have.’ So as I finished my work there I asked him what these things were and what the plaque meant. He sat down and told me, ‘Well, I wondered when you were going to ask. What is on this wall is only 10% of the screws and plates that were in my body after a terrible car accident just a few years ago. The other 90% remains.’ And I asked him if that’s why he limped and he said yes. I asked him then what the plaque meant and he said, ‘It was the day that I woke up.’ This was a man who woke up every morning with extreme pain in every part of his body and chose to remember how it had made him and not how this accident, that was not his fault, had broken him. He chose to live.” He paused for a while before he continued, “That is how you work through. You are working through. You make the choice to realize how far you have come and not to feel inferior. The practice is in remembering that in the moments that your nightmares become real. Pain does not necessarily mean something is wrong. Pain is the awareness that something is broken as well as it is a reminder of how far we have come.”
We both cried. I was speechless. He knew quite well that I could relate although I only have two plates and three screws housed inside my body, it wasn’t necessarily about plates and screws… it was about choosing the outcome of things that are not our fault and doing the healing. This is the point where he started to tell me that he would always be there and that it has been an honor, for him, to watch me grow.