Toggle And Shift

There was a time, almost 30 years ago (few here will remember) that I was in graduate school studying to be a therapist. I even put in over 1,000 hours toward my licensing requirements for California, back then. That means I was sitting in very small rooms with people who were court referred to counselling. Some of these people were scary, like the kid who bit off the head of a pigeon he caught in the quad, a la Ozzy, during lunch time at the local high school. That kid is 40 years old now and I hope he is an accountant somewhere and has bird feeders all over his property. “How come you’re not acting like I’m a freak?” he asked me. “If you want me to think of you as a freak,” I said, “you need to do something really insane, like roasting your dog. You have a dog, right?” I’m sorry to tell you about that. But that’s what I said to this kid. It really upset him. He actually asked for a different counselor. But my supervisors knew what they were doing and made him stay with me. They made other people stay with me too, even though I was what they called “unorthodox” because, they said, I engendered trust. I was standing on couches and proclaiming…stuff, long before Tom Cruise. That was one of my signature pieces in couples counseling, standing on the couch so I could reach for the ceiling to demonstrate one person’s expectations. But I didn’t stay with it. For years and years I told people that I quit because I could not imagine sitting in a room all day listening to people’s problems. But the truth is–and, yes, this is a rare Facebook honesty moment–I quit because of life circumstances. I was actually on my way to being a really good therapist. My supervisors even staged a kind of “intervention” to try and get me to remain on track for becoming a therapist. They brought all my fellow trainees into a room and they took turns telling me why I should not abandoned the path. What a gift that was. I wish I could have accepted it. And here I am now, like you. I adjust, I make room, I toggle and shift. I find a path that is both practical and interesting enough. I have been so lucky to discover coffee. And I have never compromised my requirement of making a difference, Nope. One time I had a counseling client who was court referred for something I cannot describe because it is so difficult a topic. He was only seventeen. I asked him to draw a picture of himself and his mother, his only parent, at the table having dinner. He drew the picture. When he was done I told him that i could not tell who was the mother and who was the son. He said, “It doesn’t matter.” The look on his face as his own words sunk in, because i said nothing, was like an earthquake. He was so young, but he understood what he had just said. I held the picture up in front of him and i told him that we had to find out who was who because the story would never make sense if we didn’t. Before I could move forward with this kid, I left my role as a counselor. The thing is, none of the reasons I left were as important as the people I left, the pigeon kid, the mommy issues kid, the guy with a fixation on women’s underwear, the girl who’s mom was only 15 years older than her and she was trying to compete for the bad ass award. I left them all behind to pursue something material. Dumb ass. I don’t do that anymore. Mostly, I don’t do that anymore. Sometimes you have to knock twice, but if you do, I will face down the demons with you. I promise.

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