WARNING: The following is rated R for language not usually seen on this blog.
It is very tricky, this being a psychotherapist and a blogger at the same time. I hear such wonderful, horrible, poignant or funny stories, all the time. Yet, for the most part, they are not my stories to tell. In many other occupations, one would have no qualms about telling stories of who said what at work. Not so, with me. Being an auditory person (as I explained here), I remember much of what is said to me, verbatim. I remember the funny, the sad, the brilliant, the insane, the unkind and the profound. I’d like to share some of the things that I have heard at work, that have stuck with me for a long time, without any risk of revealing who said them.
“My husband is totally dogmatic.” I waited for the woman to elaborate, expecting her to describe a mate who is some flavor of a religious fundamentalist.
“How so?” I inquire.
“He’ll chase anything in a skirt.”
Translation: He is a DAWG. Dogmatic means, “just like a dog!”
Then there was the gentleman who complained that his wife never wanted to be alone with him, always had to be entertaining guests. When he arrived home one evening, a “shindig” was already in progress. He explained, for my edification:
“Two’s company, three’s a crowd, five’s a fucking shindig, and two more and you got a goddamn hootenanny!”
I had often wondered what constitutes a shindig, or a hootenanny. Now I know.
A lovely woman in her 80s, telling me about her gentleman friend:
“It’s strictly a Potomac relationship.”
A pretty, well-educated, altruistic, spiritually-minded woman who hated her very prestigious job, when asked how work had gone for her that week:
“Motherfucker stole my lunch.” *
She was describing an actual incident of someone swiping her lunchbag (containing particularly yummy leftovers from the night before) from the breakroom fridge, but this sentence perfectly captured her regard for the place.
For weeks, this became my sentiment, spoken or unspoken, whenever I encountered people or circumstances that were just generally being more unpleasant than they needed to be. Perfect description of people or events that suck the joy out of the moment.
When she finally found her dream job, I encouraged her to include that sentence in her letter of resignation.
Many years ago, a young man with schizophrenia told me in our first session about the voices of deceased, but very articulate, characters in his head. I was very “green,” with more compassion and sincerity than knowledge or skill. I listened intently, trying to find rhyme or reason in what the tormenting voices were saying to him. He started with Moses, hit a few prophets, then moved into the New Testament, with Jesus, and then John, who said:
“All you need is love.”
I was so proud of myself for having followed and “understood” what was being said to this point. Here, I wasn’t certain whether it was John the Baptist or the Apostle John. So I very gently, haltingly interrupted to clarify this point, “And was that. . . John the Baptist . . . or. . . “
My client looked at me like I was stark raving mad.
“No, that was John Lennon,” he said.
Well, DUH! I couldn’t hold back. I howled with laughter, then quickly reassured him I was laughing at my own stupidity. Well, who doesn’t know it was John Lennon who said THAT? My client smiled and forgave my being so dense.
ON LOVE, OR LONGING FOR IT
And some aren’t funny at all, but profoundly true.
A single mom, doing a phenomenal job with her two boys, on when it was most difficult for her to be alone. It was Autumn, and we were talking about the beauty of a particularly colorful stretch of highway in the area:
“That’s when I really wish I had someone. When I’m driving up 83 in October. . . I just wish there were someone to take the wheel for a few minutes so I could look at the leaves again.”
That was maybe 17 years ago, and it still moves me. Single parents do need someone else to take the wheel sometimes so they can relax and enjoy the color.
A recent immigrant, who had met her husband in an Eastern European refugee camp. Shortly after they arrived in the U.S., her husband had developed paranoid schizophrenia, and become bizarre and violent. She seemed relatively unconcerned for him, which puzzled me. During the course of our first meeting, I understood her apparent apathy when she explained in very broken English:
“We did not come together out of great love, but out of great lack.”
Wow. That struck me as coming from a place of true wisdom. How many couples does that describe?
AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH?
A woman who, as an adult, is not as tall as my 9-year-old. She is, by medical definition, a dwarf. But where it counts, I don’t know anyone bigger. In good sense, in spirit, in heart, in humor. She is the one who holds everyone together in the midst of chaos, who makes sure that what must be done gets done. I marvelled at how, even with capable siblings, she was the one who did the decision-making, the care-taking, the hard work of dealing with her mother’s impending death.
She said, very matter-of-factly, “So much is possible when you give a damn.”
I want that needle-pointed on a pillow.
My work makes me rich in ways that never make it to the bank.
* I wanted to protect my client’s right to this statement, as much as possible, should she ever wish to write a story about it; when I googled/yahooed “Motherfucker stole my,” I got over 35,000 matches! Apparently this is a serious problem, these motherfuckers stealing things!
Has someone shared some words that have stuck with you, and made a difference?
file under: &Work