My daughter has just been away on holiday with her boyfriend on the beautiful Welsh coast. She arrived home with a bag full of enthusiasm and strangely flavoured rock. Last night she was home for dinner and it felt like an age since I’d seen her.
“You must miss her. She was always in your pocket” my sister says as we walk the dogs through the park on a decidedly autumny morning.
“I do, but it’s a good “miss” because I know that she’s happier than she was in my pocket.”
A year ago there is no way she would have traveled six hours in a car to stay with anyone other than her family in a static caravan with the promise of looking out into the bay at some dolphins. She seems to have “found herself” to some extent and, most importantly, didn’t have to go anywhere in order to do so.
In supervision, we are talking about “stuck” clients and my theory that it’s harder to “find yourself” in some sort of sustainable recovery if you can’t remember who you were or didn’t much like him anyway.
I was like this. Searching for a happier me from the past before I realised he didn’t exist and that I’d either have to wait and see if he arrived from the future or try and create him.
I devoured self-help books until they were coming out of my ears but it only made logical sense and didn’t touch me emotionally, because someone else’s life can only be useful up to a point.
I searched in therapy too, looking for my therapist to tell me who to be rather than accepting the inevitability of being who I was.
Just before she went on holiday I asked my daughter how she’s getting on with her own therapist.
“We get on well, but I’m running out of things to say already,” she says.
“I used to feel like that sometimes. On my way to my appointment, I would try and think about things to discuss but we’d mostly end up talking about poetry or he’d tell me a story I’d heard before”
“Wasn’t it frustrating, annoying?” she says.
“Yes, sometimes. I only realised how valuable it had been much later. It was just a place I could be, without having to be someone in particular”
What I didn’t tell her was that this in itself wasn’t always as beneficial as I’d have liked. In a way, I have sometimes allowed myself to be too comfortable. I don’t push very hard, because I don’t have to, and when I don’t push life becomes smaller.
As if to illustrate my own point I tell my sister, who only really goes out to walk the dogs and visit the supermarket, that I had become unreasonably excited at finding I could buy huge tins of my favourite olives online, meaning I can enjoy them without leaving the questionable safety of my own sofa. Even she laughed at me.
In the paper this week I read a report about a woman who inadvertently joined a search party organised to look for her after members of her coach trip reported her missing. I think back to my daughter and how I hope she continues to discover more of herself and then push out and explore, rather than thinking it can ever be done the other way around.