My therapy session with E. this week was almost all about her upcoming vacation. She’s going overseas, and I won’t see her for four weeks. (My stomach flips over when I write those words.)
I feel so close to her these days. Since February, we have texted, if not every day,at least every other day. Sometimes it’s just a sentence back and forth, and that’s it for the day. Other times, like this past Saturday, we were probably actively texting for nearly an hour. This regular connection has continued to deepen my trust in her as well as my confidence in myself. So how will I manage without her for a month?
What I’ll Be Doing
Shift the focus of my healing work. I recently started working with C. on mindfulness and incorporating body work and body awareness into my healing. I don’t have a long history with her (only two months). She doesn’t know any of the specifics of my history, except that I’ve harmed myself intentionally before. But even in our short time together, I can see that I’m learning so much; I feel she’s come into my life at just the right time, when I am ready to receive what she has to give. I can think of this next month as my time to shift my focus to this work. I have set up more frequent meetings with C. and when I long for E., I will use the opportunity to practice mindfulness and to be gentle with myself.
Pause and review. I have an enormous binder full of notes from therapy sessions with E. I have this blog. I have my journal. Altogether, I’m not lacking for sources of E’s warmth and wisdom. Perhaps it is a good time to turn back to all this material. I can use it to comfort myself. Maybe I’ll find insights I’d forgotten or that I hadn’t fully understood at the time, concepts that can apply to where I am now.
Blog. I so value the asynchronous group therapy I participate in through this adhoc WordPress community. I am inspired by your examples. I am comforted by your comments. It’s made such a difference for me that E. told me she recently recommended to another client that she think about starting a blog and reading the blog of others. I know I’ll be turning to the collective wisdom and compassion of fellow bloggers while she’s gone.
Voice recording. I suggested this today, after thinking some more, and E. agreed right away. She called and left a long, reassuring and hopeful voicemail on my phone. I was going to wait until she left to listen to it, but then I decided to listen to it once to see if it touched on things that matter the most to me. I think it does.
Letters for later. I may write her letters that I can choose to share (or not) when she comes home.
And What I Won’t Be Doing
What we decided in session on Monday was that we would not try to set up contact while she’s gone. Earlier she had mentioned using What’sApp or maybe emailing. I was touched that she knew I’d want contact, but I also was worried about it. I told her, “I think about my own vacations. I don’t check my work email. I don’t promise people that I will review just one report or take just one conference call. If I’m working, I lose the vacation feeling for a while. If you are like that too, I don’t think we should email or be in touch. Of course I’ll miss you. I love that you are willing to text with me. But I don’t want our contact to be something that interferes with your vacation. It’s not just about being nice or taking care of you. It’s taking care of our relationship, which is really important to me.”
This seemed to resonate with her. “I value our contact now too. It’s unusual for me–I don’t do it with anyone else. But I enjoy it, and I feel like it provides something useful to you, my ability to respond in the moment. I think it’s good for your healing for you to reach out and be heard and responded to. But on vacation, it’s different. First of all, I don’t know when I’ll have internet access. Part of the time we’ll be visiting a Buddhist community [she’s going to Japan]. I don’t want to worry about whether or not I’m going to have access and be able to respond to you at a certain time. I don’t want to feel I’m leaving you hanging.”
“No, I don’t want that either,” I told her. “And I don’t want to be the burden that keeps you from feeling that refreshing feeling of letting go.”
And so we agreed, no email while she’s gone. I think she was relieved. I get it; I’m not even offended. She’s a human being who works a lot. Longer, international vacations are enormously restorative. She’ll be in a great emotional space to work with me when she comes back.
I won’t pretend I’m not sad or not frightened. I am both. I will try to meet that sadness and fear with gentleness.
In The Wisdom of No Escape Pema Chodron writes:
There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable…
A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole things just is.
Maybe I should to the list of What I’ll Be Doing: reading and reflecting on the insights of Pema Chodron and others who know that running away from painful feelings doesn’t make us happy either.
Wish me luck.