I look across the classroom at the faces of undergraduate students. I think to myself, “I wonder if they realize that I was a child once.” For, now I must seem old to them. My short gray hair, cheeks sagging a little, and there is a slow limp to my step. I stand before them talking about syllabi and schedules, expectations, and attendance grades. They take notes and gaze in my direction. Some seem alert and even pleased to be here. Others look weary and lonely; probably wishing they were anywhere else but here. I think about ways I might connect with them so that they will believe me when I try and teach them about compassion and kindness for all young children in their future classrooms ...
I have been going to therapy for years for self-alteration. To become a better person. Not to become happier. Indeed, therapy was a perfect avenue for me because I could say to myself over and over again – there is something wrong with me and I need to fix me. Now my therapist explains in a way that I can hear. He says he is always telling me (at times he thinks it must seem as if he is trying to bash me over the head) that I am more than okay. He goes onto tell me that this information should make me feel better, and yet I argue with him. Over and over again he has been explaining to me that it is other people who have hurt me over and over again. Instead of me realizing that and allowing them to own their behaviors and insults to me, I take on the problem as if it is my fault. I tell him that I came to therapy to fix me, and now he is telling me there is nothing to fix, nothing to alter.
He says gently, clearly that for me to change would be to realize that I am okay. No need for self-alteration. Just to accept myself as I am. Not that I am without flaws. But, that I am human and more than all right. Oh, and, by the way, it is not my fault.
This blows me away. For days after our session, I wander around in a daze not fully understanding what was said to me recently. I look back on my life and think of all the times I ran away or missed out on chances for happiness because I kept on thinking, “There is something wrong with me.” Whenever emotions became strong or pain unbearable, I thought there must be something wrong with me. If people hurt me, I thought, it must be my fault, and, yes, I deserve it! And now, what is my therapist telling me? That it wasn’t my fault? What do I do with all these years and years of feeling to blame, unworthy, unredeemable, or in need of serious alteration? I wonder how long he has been trying to explain this to me, and why it confuses me. I realize that I have been unable to hear him, but for some reason this time, I hear him – loud and clear. It strikes a chord, hits a nerve, and penetrates my brain. It taps into my ancient, emotional memory.
And now, I feel free, vulnerable, wide open, and without defenses. Flapping in the wind, flying and tumbling about wildly way out somewhere in the universe.
I pull myself out of my bath and wrap a large, white towel-like robe close to my body enveloping me in comforting warmth. Water is still dripping on the floor as I almost run up to my study to my computer. How strange. Sun is streaming through the window, where snow was blowing just a short while before. I look up at the wall and see the note Wendy wrote for me in Villa Lina last October: First in Hebrew, she wrote, "To Tamar, with love," and then:
"In one ancient language the word memory derives from a word meaning mindful, in another, from a word to describe a witness, in yet another it means, at root, to grieve. To witness mindfully is to grieve for what has been lost," (and to be present for all that is - Wendy adds). From, Freeman House, Totem Salmon
I am in unchartered waters ...