You Told Me That

Although it would have been impossible due to client confidentiality, I wish everyone I know could have been watching in an audience together, not to see me, but to see themselves.

I facilitated addictions recovery groups during my internship, but as an addictions professional hired to help people, I facilitated my first group ever last night.

I am imagining the happy, satisfied elbowing in that crowd.

“I told her that!”
“I taught her that!”
“That’s from my book!”
“Look how she put what you said and what I said together!”
“She remembered that?! I didn’t think she was listening!”
“She pooh-poohed that out of hand when I made that suggestion to her – and look how earnestly she’s suggesting it to clients!”
“Ooh! Finally, finally she’s learning to state things simply! I’ve been fussing at her for years about that.”
“I said that when I was her student years ago. She was listening? She was my teacher, but what I said meant something to her?”
“I shared that at a meeting. She thought it was valuable enough to pass on?”

Anne's papers everywhere, alwaysI had a sense I’ve never felt before of being primarily message, not messenger. Yes, I was there. I wore my business suit, I drew while I talked, I listened silently without interrupting. When the session was over, I stared in wonder at the table, absolutely astonished that I do not improve, that I remain absolutely unaware of how tables and desks get strewn and stacked with my papers and handouts and datebook.

But as I listened, I felt as if I were part of a “we” rather than a “me.” I was our representative, I was the ear and the voice, but every piece of wisdom, every piece of knowledge, every skill, every kind and caring word you’ve given to me seemed available to me to give. All I had to do was listen, listen for where clients really were and what they really needed. People are so complex; one never knows if one has really heard or understood or been of real help. But we were present. We were present to help.

So this is a love letter to everyone who has ever helped me, intentionally or not. I can imagine the challenge of working with my terrified and angry resistance or complete withdrawal. Sigh. A person suffering that much – she’s so hard to reach. And witnessing another’s anguish is torture. But. Your care, your patience, your forbearance. Thank you. You helped me. You are with me. I will do my best to pass your goodness on.

Also Happiness

“Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love… No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated as a raunchy secret… But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach… Nothing is easy at this age, and first meetings for old lovers can be a high-risk venture. Reticence and awkwardness slip into the room. Also happiness.”
- Roger Angell, “This Old Man: Life in the Nineties,” The New Yorker, February 17, 2014

I long some day for my “warmth of a hip” to in some way meet with a man what Roger Angell terms our “unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love.”

Self-Portrait, April 7, 2013

Self-Portrait at the TriAdventure Sprint Triathlon,
April 7, 2013, aged 54 1/4

I wonder now, though, what good my touch with its rippling edginess just under the surface can bring to another’s skin?

As a child, with my father driving, my mother the front seat passenger, and my sister to my left in the backseat of our 1957 Chevrolet station wagon, I perceived my job to be to make everyone feel comfortable in their skins or to make them feel comfortable with mine.

I have this sense that, right now, in my 55 year-old skin, I am outside and walking around that station wagon. The glass windows are rolled up and thick. I see my father seated in his black suit and narrow tie, my mother in her wool coat and fashionable hat. My sister and I are wearing coats over our dresses. I see my vigilant, tense little self not looking out the window but at the backs of the heads of my mother and father, eyeing the tiny movements of their necks and shoulders. What is my mother thinking? What is my father thinking? How is my sister doing? What will be said next that I will have to handle to ease everyone back into comfort?

All that energy and focus I felt emanated from me – Good, brave try! I want to say to my small self. But their comfort was beyond my power to create or maintain. Whether I perceived it rightly or wrongly, might that child’s job be now done?

Is my adult job to get comfortable in my skin? To use my mind and heart on my comfort? To ease that underlying buzzing enough to laugh alone in my own house in readiness to laugh with someone else, to be within reach again when “reticence and awkwardness slip into the room”?!


What a vista outside the station wagon!

Same Room, Same Time, Same Chicken Painting

“We forge gradually our greatest instrument for understanding the world – introspection. We discover that humanity may resemble us very considerably – that the best way of knowing the inwardness of our neighbors is to know ourselves.”
– Walter Lippmann

Two people painted their chickens backwards.

At least that was my perception.

The art of perceiving sameness differently

Photo: Diana Francis, The Artful Lawyer, A Fine Gallery Inc. [Read more...]

Awareness Gives Me a Chance to Change

“I am aware that I am feeling afraid and thinking about making a change and I choose to say a prayer, mantra, or other meaningful words.”
– Text from a friend via New2Recovery

Awareness gives me a chance to changeWhen I looked at my text messages this morning, I was absolutely thrilled to read this one! I wasn’t delighted that my friend was feeling afraid, but that she had become aware of what she was feeling and thinking and had chosen to share it with me. Although we sometimes think feelings are dire emergencies, what we feel isn’t the challenge – what we choose do next is. [Read more...]

If I Were My One and Only

“Maybe for like a couple hours – just be like the light of their life for that moment.”

For the first time in my life, I am not anyone’s special someone.

I love teaI think my mother’s childhood gave her a need to have a child who would meet her unmet needs. As her firstborn, I became the one. I wasn’t her only child, but I felt as if she often viewed me as the one and only one who could make her happy. She’s been gone for two years now and I don’t miss that impossible task, but I do remember what it’s like to feel crucially important. [Read more...]