Fear of Being Not Needed

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I sat across from my now 11 1/2 year old kiddo the other day and she asked me about a struggle I have obviously been grappling with for many months. As she completed a task that I once did for her, she wondered about my fears in the loss. Of course it’s part wonderful, like magic in that some time has been returned that was once lost in the abyss of bathtime and food preparation. But, I am not needed in the same way I once was.

I have never been the mother of the year type. I sometimes lack in the “appropriateness” department and my honest and very open relationship with my daughter puts worried looks on even the Not-moms. My sweet husband would like to curb my language and gives me this look when she repeats a story I have obviously said in her presence….that she remembers word FOR WORD. Perhaps what I lack in rich emotional love I make up for in unprecedented style.

But so it goes. The world changes and I gotta get on the bandwagon of different or I will be left behind. And although I believe there will always be a way to make relationship with my daughter, I really worry even more that I will not always be able to create and re-create a relationship with my truth. Do you ever fear that all the truth will run out? I fear all the words will be used up and there will be no more to say. Not in the scarcity kind of way- like the Meltons and Brown’s of the world have used up all the spaces to speak the truth- but more like, it has been said and now there is nowhere else to go.

It is so difficult to tell our truth in words. And I have done that most of my adult life. I have journals beginning from the age of ten and I have started, wrote and continued to write stories in conjunction with those journals for the past decade along with writing here for the past four and half years. And so I wonder, when all is forgiven, when you tell the world your truth and you make those honest attempts without pushing it into people’s faces, is it over?

I so often feel I have so much more to give, like I literally bleed all over the place with words and feelings and truthyness. But I sometimes ache for a little gratitude and someone to take notice of it. That can already be difficult in my line of work because what is transformed is completely behind closed doors. Sometimes I am left unsure if what I do as a therapist even has the kind of impact on those around me I wish for. I wonder sometimes if all the silent things I do in the name of humility even get noticed. I then begin to wonder if I am just a selfish bratty truth-teller, who cannot get it their way and should really stop acting like a spoiled bitch who has nothing- when in fact, I have so much.

The fear of not being needed is complicated. Showing up and paying attention to my life and yours comes with heaps of joy and consequences. I grow. You grow. Things change. And the words that are so hard to tell get written and I feel free. But are they still needed? Will I ever cross the threshold to a larger path that takes me to a place that wants to hear what I have to say? I grossly deny chasing the platitudes and yet, truth telling gets lonely sometimes. I think its why I hang onto people like Brené and Glennon, as if we are friends-it feels like they speak my complicated and sometimes garbled language.

Today, I am afraid all the truth in me has been used up. I know in part it’s ridiculous, but what happens when we are really not needed any longer? Does anyone pay any attention and does it really matter if anyone is paying attention? Cuz the humility monger in me reminds me that if I am not humble then I am just another yackity girl blabbering away about how I need shiny lights on me…… And that, friend’s, is flattering to No One.

So whether I like it or not- I sit slathered in IT. I have buttered myself into this corner and I am unsure of how to clean the grease away. I always tell a client that my goal is that ‘I am no longer needed.’ Although true, how about a sprinkle of irony coming from a girl who fears at 41 years old becoming obsolete?

Reflections and Lessons on Turning 40: 10 Lessons that Light My Way

I had no plans for life, much less bliss. It wasn’t always a conscious choice, but I recognize I didn’t intend to make it very far in this life. It was so painful and sometimes felt like I could not remember to breathe, much less live. Often, it seemed taking my own life would just be better. Then the awakening occurred and although much of it was like wrestling through a cocoon of boogery goo, the rebirth has been a blissful (although very messy) internal discovery. As a result of the recognized mess, the lessons I reflect here remain in flux. Some days I completely loose my way and others it seems like there is a special flashlight shining on my path, just for me.

Number One:

I have learned the art of severing foreboding joy’s snakey head. This lesson has been one of the main gifts from immersing myself in Brené Brown’s work. Put simply, the definition of foreboding joy is waiting, even expecting bad things to happen. Worse yet, while experiencing something beautiful, we take it away from ourselves by rabbit holing our minds into scenes from the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.

Creating a gratitude practice is a one way ticket out of the insanity of waiting for everyone to die. Until I started talking about my foreboding joy, I thought I was a nut job! But guess what, other people spend an ungodly amount of time sending loved ones to the funeral home too! Oh, the sweet relief from shame. Thank you baby kittens everywhere!! Stealing your joy can end with a real life practice of ‘thank you’ (just like I did right there thanking kittens around the world). Gratitude jars, journals and consistent acts of kindness are the salve of imaginary and frankly cuckoo-ka-roo death.

Like fo-realz people, I used to not sleep cuz a gang of machine gun wolves were going to bang up our house. WHAT. (Maybe the whiskey drinkin’ wolves from Bugs Bunny were bad for children after all).

Number Two:

I am still not sure I am a good therapist and I am sure I am a mediocre mother. However, neither worry or really bother me like they once did. Because I do know- I AM Enough. I couldn’t say that with confidence for like- EVER. Now, I try to stick to what I know best and I figure I will get called out for my ongoing fuck-ups. In the meantime, I will keep changing and growing the only thing I will ever be good at and that is myself. Our journey is all the control we will ever have and probably why the role of therapist and mother will always mildly allude me. Really, some other people think I know them better than they know themselves? Worse yet, my kiddo thinks I am the bearer of all the survival magic? Nope. Not this girl.

I will try to share what others have taught me and what I have learned in using myself like a life time human experiment with a smidge of theory just for sprinkles. But beyond my own milky way, hell, I don’t know.

Number Three:

Not knowing is okay. I am keenly aware that even after collecting thousands of rich and juicy stories – I still know so very little. I have always liked the myth that we are only using a small percentage of our brain because then I could imagine stuffing it with more crunchy goodness.

Most everything I do know, say or even write did not originate from me. Yes, perhaps I package my life in this particular way, but the glory goes to those before me, with me and even those who have lost all respect for me. My brain is full of other people’s stories, ideas, wisdom and theory. The wisdom I can impart is often built upon the lives of those I have come to love. Throw in some decent schooling for good measure and Presto!- out comes the words from my mouth. If you think my words are witty or clever, they likely came from another. I just decided their beauty had to be shared with you. Other people’s life and wisdom are often the vehicle for the next person’s growth. I am the compost and my existence relies on the squishyness of our lives being mushed up together. Sure, I may be the smelly one that some initially want to gag on, but those seeking change return again and again to make the ground fertile for new planting.

Number Four:

I am accepting the difference between genuinely making a difference and being a famous author. I would like to publish, but one trip into the book store is a scary reminder that I am not alone on this wish. It’s just not a big enough boat to fit everyone. I still struggle with the belief that unless I was the next canary singing Anne Lamott or Glennon Melton, I would never make a meaningful contribution. I am certain that if Kali could help me lop off this hunk of my ego, I would be a happier person. I have to maintain my corner slice of the world- stay in my lane as many of my clients say- and I can have an impact on those I can physically touch.

~And So Can You, making the domino effect the most brilliant part.

Number Five:

Being a trauma survivor is not a state of uniqueness. I get no prize for being the girl who survived sexual abuse. Now, showing up and being vulnerable about my trauma, bravely maintaining my trauma as a part of my whole, now that I give myself prizes for all the time. I believe being a survivor allows me to experience connection with others. I have come to believe (and yes, it is biased) that every therapist would benefit from having clinical expertise in trauma because it IS the red thread of humanity. It is a rare sighting of a human being to not experience some form of trauma. Perhaps that sounds horribly nihilistic, however, I believe in those moments of inevitable drowning, lies our own personal salvation. Yes, you like chocolate, cats and yoga just like I do, but to know your deepest heart is to be present with the shame of existing. I want to hold space and more space and EVEN more space for that which makes our hearts crack wide open. I believe holding space is our super power.

Number Six:

I know for sure the trauma of being invisible is one of the most painful to swallow. So many of my people grew up NOT getting the physical smack around or severe punishment with belts for breathing, but instead were treated as if they didn’t matter by the people that mattered most to them. Physical abuse may have been sweet relief from being touched by nothingness. And as I witness this on a larger scale, I sometimes loose sight of my own ability to do good. It seems sometimes the majority culture has adopted the belief that if you exist outside the norm, you are just invisible. Treating another human like the underside of garbage is a perfectly acceptable option. I can barely tilt my head in that direction and I certainly did not fully understand the culture of invisibility until my clients taught me how it exists inside the family system. Deprivation is real and it is a kind of mind fuck like no other. Whether found in the petri dish of the family or the discourse of the public, it is one thing that readily clenches my heart and lungs- leaving me fearful and breathless.

Number Seven:

I am pinpoint clear about what I love. I am totally oily on how to keep my focus on it, but damn do I know what matters to me. I struggle to be brave and rise from the stringy mess that I often create from my own stagnate emotional starvation. I am clear I know what water trough I am refusing to drink from. I see the beautiful marble at the bottom of the creek, but Damn! I will not go in after it! For example, it literally took me two years to get my shit together well enough to figure out my part in a relationship. The belovedness of my relationship never wavered, however, my ability to sift through the sewer of my mess paralyzed me.

Number Eight:

I like being on the fringe of normal. One mentor said, “We gotta learn the rules so we know how to break them.” I wanna go my own way and although you may find me bitching about being found out as the ‘different’ one, I recognize that I prefer it. I would benefit from following along when it’s in my best interest and I continue to seek out balance. I do tend towards weed whacking my own path when the declared one may be useful. So I keep my colorful hair and personal style both in life and in the therapy chair, but I am learning to listen a little more to those wiser than me.

Number Nine:

I am in the frightful stages of stopping myself from sounding like a know-it-all. I believe others need our love and support and especially our presence, but only when asked do they need our advice. I totally get that as a therapist I am by default being asked to share some possible wisdom, otherwise, I gotta learn to shut it. I trick myself into believing I am being helpful. People generally already know what is best for them. Hell, I honestly believe being a good therapist is the simple act of reflecting back a person’s best Self. Really. Everywhere else, this lesson is still bitter on my tongue. I still throw up my fancy fix it words and worse, when someone else does it to me, I am irritated! And why? ……Because when we do this unsolicited diatribe of pretend helpfulness, we are judging the other person pretending “to help” and are essentially saying that they are too dumb to know what you magically do.

Swallowing the bitter pill and shutting up…..to the best of my ability. Perhaps I can report some more growth here at 50.

Number Ten:

I have come to believe there is no greater gift than being emotionally awake. To be able to stand outside of myself and know I may not be like living at the Ritz….Hell, I am sure my partner would disagree it was like living at the Holiday Inn some days~ Still, I get me and I am full of gratitude for being able to get into the balcony and watch myself interacting in the world. It is why it remains the ONLY thing I can confidently write about. All Other Things. Just Fuzz.

The glorious part of not designing your life at such a young age is the ability to forgo having to tear down a shallow house. I never dreamt about being a rock star or saving the planet. Sure, I have vision now, but perhaps some can be simple reflections in the water. Some may grow into the painting of my life. Others will ripple on by. I do know; the story is not over. Maybe, just maybe I can be a lantern on another’s journey and offer my light as a reminder that their story isn’t over yet either.

Here’s to beautiful 40 and possibly 40 more years of wisdom to come. Here’s to all of us who have chosen to stay and say ‘the story isn’t over’.

 LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

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I AM THE COMPOST

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. 

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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.