I like stories. I like telling them to friends, I like writing them down for strangers. For a long time, I was paid to listen to people tell their stories. It was an honour to sit with them, to just be with them, as they figured out what it meant to be who they are.
Telling your story, finding the tiny nugget of truth (or sometimes the huge, hulking beast that won’t go away), can be one of the hardest things. As a counsellor, I was awed time and time again by the courage people showed in unearthing their truths, and then speaking them aloud.
Therapy is, at a very basic level yet profound level, trying to experience what it is to truly be yourself, to share yourself, and to be cared about anyway.
Learning to be yourself is a common theme in many of our lives. People are always going on about ‘discovering themselves,’ or ‘waiting for life to start.’
We spent this morning among friends, in a pottery class. Hands wet and slippery with clay, smoothing and poking and sculpting. Afterward we wandered across the street to the park. It almost looked like we were surrounded by a light fog, but it was a constant mist drifting down.
My kids were barefoot almost instantly.
They ran with their friends. Climbed up to the top of things – once M getting stuck and yelling for help, pretending to be cats and lions and vets, scrambling under holes in the fence, all muddy knees and elbows and feet. The highlight had to be when they and their friends (and me and some of mine, it must be added) crammed under an outdoor pingpong table to shelter from the weather/play houses/etc.
Ten or so children laughing and roaring and clapping hands over their ears screaming about how noisy it was. Like little puppies, nudging each other out of the way, leaning on each other, exchanging stories and ideas and animal noises fast and thick.
None of these children are waiting until they grow up to be who they are. They have every day to choose what they want to do, how they want to do it, whether they will be a cat or a person or a gazelle. Some days they are an artist, others an actor, others just tired and cozy lying under a pile of blankets and watching tv.
I think M and S are awfully lucky. I also think I am, too.
I miss being a counsellor, I miss the stories my clients told but mostly I miss their faces, their eyes, their way of being. Counselling – both as a client and as the counsellor – taught me so much about who I am, how I relate with other people, how tricky it can be to just accept your own pile of crap and be okay with it.
It’s all about the here and now – learning what it feels like to not live exclusively in the past or the future, but to see what it feels like being yourself RIGHT NOW.
My kids get to do that every day, and my realisation of that as we walked back to the car today, soggier and happier than we were when we arrived, felt pretty profound.