Those Brownies

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.

16 comments

  1. I wish that E had come through for you other times like she did today. I love that she made you affirmation cards and Brownies. I’m thrilled that you followed your heart in deciding that you were done with E. I had a very long term therapist once, whom I now travel across the country to visit for 5 nights every year. We had 5 years of almost no contact before we branched inti being friends. I was so sad when I ended therapy with her, because I wanted her to be my friend, yet I had outgrown her therapy. But, I’m so glad for where our relationship went.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m realizing that she came through for me many times–but not always. There were some fundamental differences that we never really resolved. And now, I’m okay with that. I wasn’t for a long time, and then this summer it was liked something clicked, and I could (mostly) let the frustration go. That has left more room for appreciation for everything she did give me.

      It’s amazing you have been able to form a friendship like that with a former therapist. I expect that’s very rare. I’m not holding my breath that E and I will ever become really close friends. But I do hope we will keep some kind of connection. She’s been an enormous influence in my life, and she was my guide for some very important healing work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow, Q, that sounds absolutely wonderful. Like you got what you needed and more.. and also like there is future, albeit distant, to look forward to. I’m so glad for you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do think, now, that I will stay connected in some way and probably even see her again in the future (not in a therapy session). But I’m not letting myself expect too much. Or maybe the truth is, I’m not even sure what I would want. Would a close friendship ever make sense? I think it might be impossible to even out the imbalance.

      Anyway, for now that’s an irrelevant question. The good thing is that I left my final session with her feeling really good not just about that session but about all that hard work we did together.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. What a perfect ending, made even more perfect by the promise of future contact. I love how personal she made it for you with the affirmations and the brownies. She will be a good friend, and she will gain a great friend too ♥️

    Liked by 2 people

    • She did make it personal, with the affirmations and the brownies and the way she talked with me about what I had accomplished (what we accomplished together). I felt like I mattered and like she cared–and that’s really what I needed from her.

      Like I mentioned to the others, I am not sure this will turn into a friendship. That seems complicated, when I think about everything she knows about me and the much more limited amount of information I have about her life. I don’t know. But I do think that we will stay connected at least through occasional messages and emails, and I will invite her for a walk in two years. For now, knowing that is good enough for me.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the hugs, dear RB. It’s funny that it made you cry, but it didn’t make me cry. I still have NEVER cried around E. I thought I might on our last day, but then I was too jumpy and unfocused and maybe not fully connected to my emotions.

      Or maybe I’m just not someone who cries.

      Anyway, I feel your warmth through your words, and I appreciate it so much.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Clara! And also lovely to experience. I am so glad that I was able to leave feeling good about our relationship and all the changes I experienced thanks to working with her.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, so that’s TWO of you, you and RB, oh, and I see from the comment below, Sara as well. I appreciate all your tears, since I don’t seem to be able to access mine any longer. (I stopped crying in the late 1990s, really.) I still feel like I wish I could cry too, sometimes. It would have been an appropriate time for tears, saying goodbye to someone who has not only been there through my hardest times, but who put in a lot of extra energy and effort and time on my behalf (three years of texting–that was a lot!).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Q, this brought me to tears. What a beautiful way to wrap up your therapy experience with her. I love all of the thoughtful touches that went into this – from both of you. It speaks volumes about the impact of this relationship. And how wonderful to receive the promise of continued contact in the future. 💗

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I said to RB and Little Lost Fairy, above, it’s kind of funny to me that you all were able to cry over my last session, when I couldn’t. Really, I wonder why I’m not able to cry anymore. I wish I could, sometimes. But anyway, with or without tears, it was a lovely goodbye session, and I’m grateful to E for so much.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You have demonstrated such an incredible ability to tune into your inner guide. Trust that now and know that if or when the tears come it will be okay – you will be okay. 💗💗

        Liked by 2 people

  5. This was really lovely to read- everything you needed and deserved from the person that has been (mostly) a supportive, caring, rock for you.The brownies were a nice touch too, on both ends. I remain in awe of you, of all that you’ve learned, and especially your ability to know that you’ve come to a point that you can continue forward with the tools she’s given you, having internalized your own voice of reason and empathy. All the power to you, really. I hope you will continue to write, because I would love to see where you go from here.

    Liked by 1 person

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