The day of my final session with E, the weather was forecasted to be HOT. Hot as in 100ish degrees Fahrenheit (38 for those of you who think in Celsius). So I got up early so I could start making my brownies at 7am.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had kind of a running joke with E over the past several years. She’d ask me how she could help when I was struggling, and I’d tell her, “Bake some brownies and bring them over to my house. We can sit on the couch together and watch Netflix, and you can braid my hair.” Parts of me would have loved that. Of course it was impossible, but there was something that felt good about saying what I honestly wanted, even when I knew it wasn’t going to happen.
Anyway, I thought bringing brownies to our final session would be an appropriate celebratory act, but I had to get up early if I could stand to heat up the oven in our kitchen. Like most people in this part of the country, we don’t have central air-conditioning. It never used to get so hot in the summertime; we really didn’t need it most of the time. Sadly, that’s not true anymore. Three years ago we bought a window air conditioner for the bedroom, and we have since acquired two more, one for my son’s room and one for my art room upstairs. They help a lot, but they aren’t powerful enough to cool down the entire house.
I was lower on cocoa than I’d thought, so I ended up making butterscotch brownies instead of chocolate (some people call them “blondies”). They are essentially a lot of butter and brown sugar–you can’t really go wrong there, right? They are fast to make, and I was done before 8am and could turn off the oven for the day.
The rest of the morning dragged for me, and I couldn’t concentrate enough to get any work done. I fed the dogs and picked tomatoes from the garden and wasted time playing a game on my phone. I read the news. I wondered what I should say at my last session. I tried to write a few things down, but my thoughts jumped around so much that I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted to communicate.
Finally, it was 1:30, time to drive over to her office. E’s still not seeing clients inside the office, even though we are all vaccinated. It’s either online or in her garden. Of course for our last session together, I wanted to meet in person, despite the high temperatures.
I arrived a little early and set out my butterscotch brownies on the table. E came out with water, glasses and little electric fans. Then she went back inside and came out with… brownies!
She baked me brownies! Real chocolate ones. I couldn’t believe it.
I told her, “Oh my gosh, this is so amazing. When you asked how we should mark my last session, I thought of asking you to bake brownies, but it seemed too presumptuous. That’s why I brought something myself…”
She laughed. “I thought about telling you I would bake some and bring them, but then I was afraid something might come up and I wouldn’t get to it. I didn’t want to promise something and then let you down. But last night after dinner, I decided I had enough time, so I baked them.”
I tasted her brownies, and she tried mine. Then we compared notes. Both delicious.
E said, “One thing I learned from you is how powerful affirmations can be, when they are done well. I really appreciate that, and now I share that with a lot of my other clients.”
“It’s really helped me to write out the messages I need to hear and then to keep them around. It takes a long time to replace all those negative thought patterns. A really long time.” I told her.
“You’re right,” she agreed, “And I think you are good at wording them in a meaningful way. It’s not like those sappy affirmations: ‘Everything in my life is light and good.’ Or ‘I am a confident, beautiful person, successful at everything I do.'”
“No, those aren’t helpful at all,” I said. “Who can believe that? You taught me that it has to be something I can believe, like: ‘When I’m upset, I can be kind to myself, like I would be to a good friend.’ That is something I can believe and can practice, if it’s in front of me so I remember.”
“I made you some to keep with you,” E told me. “Not that you need them, probably. You probably have already absorbed these messages. So if it makes more sense, they can just be reminders of what you’ve achieved.”
The cards she made me say:
- I have learned how to love and care for all the parts of me, even the parts that are difficult to understand.
- I know how to create and nurture meaningful friendships. I am a good friend.
- I can let go of my reliance on my therapist and trust the sturdiness and sureness of my own wise inner guide.
- I can celebrate my growth and continue to stretch into my wholeness.
- I can reach out for support, help, and attention when I need it. That’s what strong people do.
- I can be sad, or scared, worried, or mad when things change. I can accept my sorrow, fear, worry or anger as an inevitable result of letting go of something that means a lot to me.
- I can accept the boundaries of others, even when they aren’t what I would choose.
I love these cards. They really speak to a lot of things we worked on, especially things I struggled with a lot (caring for my self, feeling isolated, trusting my own wisdom, reaching for support, resisting change, and of course, resenting her boundaries). I’ll be keeping them in my self-care box along with affirmations I’ve written myself and cards that E sent me over the years.
Then I pulled out the list of questions I put together for her, the ones about how we can relate to one another going forward. Since I wrote that post, I had added one more item to the list: “Q and E can go for a walk in a year and talk about non-therapeutic things.”
I explained to her that I would like to be clear on what is okay and what isn’t once I am no longer her client, and I handed her the list. She read through it slowly, nodding after each item. Yes, yes, yes. Until she came to the item about going for a walk together.
“No,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. “That’s why I asked, because I don’t know what is acceptable.”
“Two years,” she told me. “In two years we can go for a walk together. That’s in line with an ethical practice.”
So I changed the wording to say we could take a walk together in two years, and now I have a fairly good sense of what kind of communication we can have with each other over the next couple of years. I’m glad I asked. She said she was glad I asked, too.
After that, we kept talking, reflecting back on my therapy, what I’ve learned, jumping around a bit. I can’t remember that much of what we said, except that she said she had worked with me longer than any other client. Once I might have felt shame about that, but I don’t anymore. This is how long it took for me to feel better. Maybe I was sicker to start with. Maybe I work slowly. Maybe I went deeper than some clients do. Maybe I wasted some of the time. Who knows, really, why it takes a certain amount of time?
As I sat there in the garden, sweating in the heat, I felt calm, but also unfocused. I didn’t feel fully centered in myself either. There was something surreal about seeing E across the table from me, smiling and eating the brownies I made, and all the while knowing knowing that we would never sit here together again.
When it was time to leave, E gave me a big, long hug. We hadn’t hugged since before the pandemic, even after we both got vaccinated earlier this year. It felt wonderful to be close to her, to feel her hug me tight and hold on a little longer than I expected. I’ll remember that hug.
And then I left. E picked up brownies I had baked and waved goodbye as she went back into her office. I carried the brownies she had baked, and walked out through the garden gate, smelling for the last time the jasmine that climbs up her fence.