Wednesday, September 14, 2005

time's up, session's over

I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t do real life well.

It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, but as I drove home from the ladies night half of my small group tonight, it really hit me. I don’t think I do relationships well.

My mom always told me I should be a teacher. When I began exploring the idea of counseling, she became even more persistent with the teaching suggestion, and would tag on to the immediate end of every comment something along the lines of “You’ll never be able to do counseling. You’ll take everything home with you.”

She was wrong. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve “taken something home” with me—the times when a client’s pain clung to me like second-hand smoke, unable to be escaped from until I’d properly showered. I remember the night a marriage literally ended right in my office and I missed my exit coming home. And my street. And my driveway. I remember the mother whose 18-month-old had been hit and killed by a car—I remember because my own daughter was 18 months old and after this precious woman would come and sob for her weekly hour I would go in the next room and sob as well. I remember the 23-year-old widow whose husband was diagnosed with cancer on their wedding day and I couldn’t sleep for several nights after each session. But these are the exceptions, not the rule.

I have always believed that was God’s grace. I have always believed I was able to not carry the weight of the world because I was walking in my calling and God was putting his grace on what I was doing. I still believe that to be true. But I think there is more to it than grace… and it’s not all from God.

We talked tonight about being open, vulnerable, real. We talked about being more intentional, making more time, pressing one another a little. We talked about how that happens, and about what happens when it doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. We talked about how vulnerable it is to put your stuff out there in the open and have someone walk away with a trite “I’ll be praying for you” while you stand there bleeding. We talked about sharing intimate, scary, painful things and then never hearing from the people we’d talked to. And that’s when it hit me.

I’ve done that to some of these women. If not all of them. I’ve sat with them in their pain, I’ve prayed with them, I’ve prayed for them, I’ve followed up with them from time to time, but I’ve never walked it out with a single one of them. Maybe not with anyone, ever. The realization devastated and confused me. And that’s when it really hit me.

I’ve always considered myself a caring person—and it’s not that I don’t care about the people who populate my life. I care for all of them deeply. Deanne. Laura. Penny. Faith. Terri. Marylee. Jane. Bonnie. Beth. Tammy. Karen. Cindy.
Josie. Jen. My family. My husband’s family. So why don’t I show them? Why don’t I show them more? I know that I care. But why don’t I care enough? It’s more than just busy-ness, although I give busy-ness its fair share of credit. It’s not just having young children, although that is a key factor as well. Laziness plays a role, as does fear and insecurity and even, to be honest, probably apathy. And that really sucks to say. But they are not “it” in their entirety. There is something more that holds me back—keeps me from sending a card, an email, making a call, going to my knees daily—something that keeps me from walking through the trenches with them.

And so I wonder, on my way home, how to find the balance. How to really care for people in real life—clients, friends, family, the world—enough to allow God to use me in their lives but not to the point that it completely overwhelms mine. And that’s when the realization comes, smacking me upside the head with a big ol’ THWACK. I’ve attempted to create that balance by living my life in one-hour sessions. Life, to me, apparently, IS therapy.

The client comes in once a week, our time is intense and I am fully present and caring and invested, and then they leave and I do the same for the next person. And the next, and the next, and the next. I think about them throughout the week. I pray for them. I think about their struggles and I seek wisdom in how to approach them and I pray for them some more. But I don’t call them or email them or send them pretty cards or call them up and ask them how it’s going, because that would be inappropriate. And that is all well and good.

Somehow, though, this has become my life, and I don’t know what to do with that, or if I even should.

Is it God’s grace that I do not carry every burden that is brought into my presence, or is it a laziness and lack of caring on my part? Is it wisdom, or fear? Is it good or bad? Or is it just what it is? I look for no answers from you—I know you don’t have them anyway. But the questions are out there, nonetheless. I don’t know how to do this real life thing. And it’s really messing with me.

But hey, my time is up—session’s over. We’ll talk about it again next week.


Cynthia said...

(wiping a tear from my eye)Just seeing my name there in your list was all I needed. Thank you.

Jane Switzer said...

Wow !!! What great writing that is !!! I also thank you for your honesty. It brings up good questions for all of our lives.