I AM THE COMPOST
It can be a lonely journey being a therapist. You are often a wealth of others wonder, joy and sorrow. But, you cannot and will not share it in conversation. Sometimes, you hunger for a clinical confidant just to relieve the pressure of being emotionally stuffed with story after story.
I sometimes imagine what it would be like to walk into a room full or every client I have ever been in relationship with. In my mind, its like a formal family reunion. Everyone stands around casually talking amongst themselves, holding ordevorves and drinks in hand. I am well dressed (of course) in a perfectly fitted black dress, heels and a smashing color of red lipstick. I am a little terrified and excited because some would be excited to see me; we would embrace warmly with bright smiles. Others might smile but hang back, as I am a reminder of their open wounds. A handful would be angry at my presence and continue to project that into my direction with hollow glares. Still, others may not even recognize me and certainly, I may not as well. I imagine that I would feel an extreme sense of overwhelming emotions; crushing moments of joy and fear.
Of course, what I would want to know, more than anything, is to hear the rest of each person’s story, especially those that remain angry and hurting. However, this is just a wish. For so many, my relationship with a client or family is just a blip on their journey. I have the privilege to join them on their paths for only a moment and I will not be a part of so much of their life after. So, I used to say, “My job in the world is to plant seeds.” I thought these were carefully chosen words that accurately reflected my role as a therapist. I rarely get to know the fullness of emotional growth that has become of my people. These words would fall out of me in casual conversation when others reflected kind words about their impression of what kind of therapist I must be. I thought my words about seeds were fair, not owning the process, until one day, I had to change my mind about my words.
One wet autumn, I had a transformative experience on the Mountain. At the edge of Georgia, in the North Carolina mountains, I attended my first Unitarian Universalist Leadership Experience. Eighty people read and sat with systems theory for an entire weekend, something that as a clinician who has spent her career excavating the lives of other people using these concepts, made my heart sing! We ended a moment where the entire group came together to share ideas related too a set of provided scenarios. I had the privilege of sharing the systemic concepts that the group understood and it was joyous as the facilitator openly stated that some of the ideas about the system had not even been considered by herself. We later trailed off into our separate more intimate groups and once again, a participant noted what she perceived were the quality of my skills. I blurted out my standard perfunctory seed response and walked away. But this time, it was all wrong…….I was bewildered for hours. I was preoccupied with my need to take back what I said, say something else! But what?
I am not the farmer in a clients life. I have no business deciding what is planted. I have no place in laying down what will later become the crop. I am something else entirely. I am not the soil either, that is already there, aching to be fertile. Instead, I am the left over food rind, worm and fly larvae all mushed together. I am smelly and dark. I am a living organism unto myself, but I can share of myself to prepare a harvest for another when they are ripe and ready. I AM THE COMPOST. If you give me the privilege of being in therapeutic communion with you, the possibilities to make whole what you see as unholy, are endless, like a well cultivated garden.