Yesterday I felt backed into a corner and I didn’t like it. Mostly, I feel strongly about corners. And even more strongly about those with “Dismiss me” flashing overhead in neon lights.
My co-therapist and I had just finished a family session with a Mom and Dad who are really struggling with each other. There was shouting. Many “always” and “nevers.” So many. They pierced like arrows. After awhile they collected into piles, formed groups and created banners for their respective sides. They chanted and cheered. Depending on your stance it was either exciting, an intense nail-biter, or ulcer inducing.
Regardless, I brought my game. My game flows through my warm, attachment-rich personality. It flows through sparkles and humor. But not in a Pollyana-ish, patronizing way. It flows through an in-tune-ness that picks up underlying emotions and patterns of relating. And emotions that people didn’t even know were there. And an internal sense of what those emotions (level of brokenness, hurt, etc.) mean for the other.
And there it is, how I do therapy. On purpose. And it involves a significant amount of skin in the game. My skin.
Tonight, at the end of the session the Dad was like, “You are pretty much a kindergarten teacher.” Once he caught the look on my face he clarified, “That was a compliment.” The Dad said his thing, then clarified its benevolent meaning, then moved on. And yet, there is this place in me that still smarts over that language.
What I heard: Demeaning of delight. The jaded adult who is “above” soaking in beauty, creation, wonder. Who considers these things childish. And hope as naive. And uses back-handed compliments that allow him to dismiss me. This has happened just enough times, unanswered, that my heart automatically goes there. Be that his intent or not. It returns to the place of belittling and dismissal.
So this morning I was chatting with God about it. There is always growing for me to do regarding healthy boundaries, plenty of growing. So I am trying to check in with God. Questions I asked: “Why do I let words matter to me so much? and “What truth do I need to hold onto in order to battle this?” In the mean time, longing for God to just go ahead and put some alligator skin over my heart. Then I wouldn’t ever feel raw or pushed. I would not care what anyone said. I would be badass. How I long for badass-ness!
But that was not this morning’s conclusion. This morning’s conclusion had to do with gratefulness.
Wherein it struck me all at once, “Yes, I am like a kindergarten teacher. Alive! Excited! Wanting to ask questions until I am questioned out. Getting caught up in moments. Yielding to wonder and delight. Noticing people. Then noticing their progress! Then celebrating it! Victory is everywhere people (defeat is too, and that is why it is so IMPORTANT to celebrate the victories)!
There it is. I have the perky personality of the quintessential kindergarten teacher.
But you know what else?
I AM a skilled clinician. I do not leave suffering people alone. I can sit with them. Bad behavior? I can sit with that too. And I can see. Into it, beyond it. Into the murky places where the pain started and where the behaviors made sense. My curiosity seeks out the motivations. My empathy feels the truth of why. And I strive. . . to connect with people. To draw them deeper into themselves. And not fear the ground in there. And even grow to appreciate it. And ultimately, to invite safe others inside that hallowed ground. Even God. Especially God.
The sparkles of Kindergarten? Resounding “YES!” The insight of a trained clinician? Also, “YES.”
So I accept the compliment. . . more than that. I see the compliment and I raise it!
Down with corners!
I take the compliment with joy and raise my hand to a God who can bring the warmth and sparkle together with insight and hope. Thanks God, it’s a good fit for this dark world. I say, “Amen!”