My therapist reaches into an old A4 envelope for my notes down at the side of his chair wedged between whichever book he’s reading and a travel mug I have never seen him sip from.
These beginnings always take an age, a ritual of sorts.
While he shuffles pages into order I look out of the window at the cemetery thinking about all the other ghosts lying here to rest.
The sofa is uncomfortable and the strip lighting is too bright but without it the gloom is overbearing.
Sometimes the phone rings and I pause for a moment until the answer machine cuts in, then we listen for a while to the intermittent beep of a new message until it either fades into the background or stops.
Someone once told me,
“We choose a therapist who is right for us at that time in our lives.”
My therapist and I have been together for some years. From the first signs of peace, is the way I mostly think of it.
At the time I thought I’d chosen him because he was old which made me feel young even though I am old too.
He introduced me to some wonder at a time in my life when I could not find any.
This morning he is telling me again about Gary Snyder, who I have been reading since the first time he mentioned him about two years ago. He talks of him often and his enthusiasm seeps deeper into me over time.
A client once told me that she would be worried if her therapist were seeing a therapist as if therapists are not really human and immune from neurosis of our own. Perhaps she didn’t realise that most of us have come from some kind of emotional chaos ourselves and then, hopefully, worked hard to deal with our own stuff so that we can help others with theirs.
There are long periods these days when there is an absence of crisis or chaos so we just talk about dogs and poetry.
Sometimes, there is a therapeutic stand-off when neither of us wants to break the silence that so many people find intolerable.
He is leaving me to reflect and I want him to know that I know he is leaving me.
I wonder how long we can stay like this.
The whole fifty-minute hour?
Silence this comfortable is rare and valuable.
Once, soon after we’d met I felt as if I were back to the beginning, when I could not imagine holding my own sadness let alone the sadness of my clients.
My therapist looked at me and said “Don’t dismiss the possibility that you might do your best work when you are at your most raw and vulnerable.”
It was the permission I needed.
I am grateful to have a therapist to talk to otherwise, I might deal with my own shit by writing about it.