Saturday, December 5, 2020

Texas notes: Homage

Metropolitan Museum of Art
     EGD Austin bureau chief Caren Jeskey finds the upside of our current perilous state. Make sure you watch the spoken word performance at the end by Kae Tempest—who changed her name from "Kate" since the video was made.     
    “Morning has broken, beautiful morning!” I sang, greeting my first client of the day.
     “This morning sure is broken,” she replied, laughing. 
      As a psychotherapist entering these long, dark days along with my clients I cannot pretend to be unscathed. That includes breaking into song when I must. This is the first global disaster I’ve lived through. Pandemic was never on my radar as one of the things I’d be counseling others through while living it too.
     Sometimes when we hang up the phone or end the Zoom session, I sit with a huge smile on my face, thinking “I love this job.” It is an honor and a privilege to be a trusted confidante, and it’s fun too. I sit with others who are sorting through their lives—finding value and meaning in themselves and discovering their purpose. The relationships usually start slowly and take time to build. Inevitably each and every person becomes interesting. They are puzzles. We are like snowflakes, truly. As much as we are alike, our stories and collections of experiences are unique and special.
     Have you ever looked at someone you know well and felt you were seeing them for the first time? When your guard is down it’s easier to see others for the complex, sometimes unknowable people they are, rather than who you’ve decided they are. Rather than who you want them to be, or think you need them to be.
     Active listening is an art. It should be taught in schools. Take the words “me” and “I” out of a conversation and see what happens. Listen deeply without jumping in to share a thought or opinion, without planning the next thing to say in your mind. Stay curious. Allow for periods of silence. It’s a very intimate thing. Giving someone space to be themselves in the company of another person may be the best cure for loneliness out there.
     Albert Einstein has been quoted to say a lot about the power of solitude in nurturing a creative mind. He challenged his readers to consider, in essence: “Who are you when you are alone in a room? No books, or distractions. Just you, alone, nothing to do.” 
     When I was a new meditator, I discovered this concept, and so it made sense. After losing the fine tuning of this practice over the years, the COVID slow down and forced alone time has allowed me to get back to the core of myself.
     Nurturing solitude and staying centered enables me to listen more deeply. These days I remind myself: “silence is good. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do. Be here now.” I turn the radio off and write or read. I turn Netflix on less and walk more. I listen to music and dance, alone. I remind myself to breathe.  
     This season give yourself the gift of being still. Sit with yourself. 
 Reach out for help when you need it. Turn the phone off for a little bit. Give those around you the gift of active listening. You are sure to find out many things about them that you do not know. You will see them as beautiful kaleidoscopes with limitless facets. Even a troublesome time is still the backdrop to our precious, irreplaceable lives.
Was that a pivotal historical moment
We just went stumbling past?
Here we are
Dancing in the rumbling dark
So come a little closer
Give me something to grasp
Give me your beautiful, crumbling heart.
                    —Kae Tempest


  1. I was actually startled to read, "I love this job...and it's fun too." Marvelous and the emphasis on listening with cautions against mentally rehearsing one's rejoinder especially resonated with me. Although I gave up my dreams of professionally forgiving sins long ago, maybe I can still serve as an amateur sounding board for those peeved with life.


    1. You sure can! I find it relaxing to work since I can listen without talking about myself, it's a gift. I try to do this with friends and family too, and that's more of a challenge, but when I succeed it is very satisfying.

  2. Good words to think about on this Pandemic morning. Being in the present is difficult, we have so many things rumbling in our minds. This is a good reminder to just shut up and listen, it's worth a try.

  3. I appreciate what you do to help people but wouldn't "satisfying" be a better word than "fun".
    Maybe some sessions can be fun but I would think many are about suffering. No fun in that.
    Helping those who are suffering is satisfying.
    We are grateful for people like you.

  4. Taking years of training, education and ongoing supervision and putting into practice while connecting with others is downright fun to me!

  5. As a person who's been on the other side of the couch I hope some of my past therapists felt the same, and I imagine they did. It's a serious business, yes, but joyful too.


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