Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Like Sunlight & Oxygen (from my personal history)

This coming new moon on June 27th will be four years since the passing of a dear, dear friend.   When It comes to those we love, who love us back and seem to leave this life too soon, time does not fly.  It passes oh-so slow.  But rather than miss him in slow-motion today, I am choosing to focus on one small moment from his life.  Sharing this post for his many Bodhi Yoga friends and clients.  An account from my personal history, of the first time I met someone who would eventually become a dear colleague, beloved friend and (taking me many years to grasp) a “twin-kin" from different parents:

“With a big breath I got out of the car and walked a few steps, into the office. Upon entering, I was immediately aware of a clean-moist smell, a mixture of tissues and potpourri. I mused to myself, that the amount of kleenex in this therapy office was so large, that the smell would be palpable. It was easy to visualize all of the sobbing that was going on, at any given moment in all the little offices down the hall.

I crossed the lobby and gave a perky, dark-brown-haired receptionist my insurance card and name. I also couldn’t help but notice how happy she was.  At such a place, I half expected a sullen gatekeeper with sunken eyes, and sallow expression, but this gal seemed wholly unaffected by anyones crap. The irony made me chuckle to myself, as I took a butterscotch candy from the dish.  I turned around from the desk and sat down, sifting through magazines to look busy, wondering what the couple on the couch next to me or the person across the lobby was in for.

Fairly soon, a therapist and teary-eyed client, (I was right about those kleenex) came down the hallway (half visible from the lobby).   We all sat there, like people bobbing in the ocean, waiting for a member of the psychological-coast-guard to throw out the life preserver and drag us ashore.

He was short, black t-shirt, silver earring clasp around the upper side of his ear, with a silver feather hanging off it. Native American. He looked like one of the toughest people I had ever seen, with kind of a hell’s-angel feel to him, and I thought to myself: ‘this guy looks like HE needs therapy’.

He sent the client out with some encouraging words, after stopping to schedule a follow-up session with the perky receptionist (who reminded me of Parker Posey) and then walked into the lobby. I looked at him and prayed to God to help me, if this was my therapist. His eyes scanned past me and then over to the person sitting at my right.  They greeted with a “Hi” and as he placed his hand on his client’s shoulder, they walked back down the hall together, disappearing into one of the many doors. 

I drew a deep breath, followed with a long quiet sigh, which I kept mostly to myself.

More people came in from outside and settled into the waiting room. Another therapist with long-blonde hair that drifted well past his shoulders came into view, walking his client down the hall.  He had a t-shirt on that said: “BACA” with a large fist with a broken chain on it, where below in bold letters it read: “BIKERS AGAINST CHILD ABUSE.” You know, I could really get behind the idea of the sentiment, if this guy looked a little less like someone who would kidnap a child. I prayed hard to Jesus to not let this be my guy!  He called out a name and a conservatively-dressed couple stood up.  Looking into my magazine, I heard him introduce himself and they all walked back into the hall together.  

I started to feel like it would be a mistake to stay. What was I doing here? Yet simultaneously, kleenex smell notwithstanding, the place had a relatively comforting feeling to it. Another woman therapist came out to the lobby and took her client back (I was sure she was positively not named Rex). 

Part of me really felt like I could still bolt for the door, and no one would ever know I was there...but bolt to what? I sighed again and resolved myself to stay put. Almost eighteen excruciating minutes after the hour of my scheduled session, I wondered if my therapist had glimpsed ME somehow, and decided himself to run the other way, out a hidden back door.

Twenty minutes after the hour...

I feigned reading, as I heard a door open and another pair coming down the hall. I glanced up and back down to my pages. They stood around the corner at a side of the counter at the hallway entrance, just out of view. I heard some muffled conversation, that went on for a bit, followed by the client’s feet walking across the lobby carpet and out the front door.  I gazed fuzzily into my magazine.

In a split second, when I looked up again to get a peek at the therapist that was with the client at the front desk, only a moment before, the hall entrance was empty. I looked down at my magazine as another moment passed.


'Maybe it wasn’t going to happen’, was the thought I had, when I again looked up to a man quietly standing at the opening to the hall. He was surveying the lobby, with a confidence and shyness I had never seen simultaneously in one person. I felt myself smile at him, as it seemed like he needed my encouragement to ask if I was Syl.  His eyes scanned between me and the other person still left there.  Looking back to me, still grinning over my magazine, he asked: ‘Syl Carson?’  I smiled more and shook my head yes.

I got up and walked toward him, as I replaced the magazine back to the table next to me. He was around six-feet tall, fourty-something, bearded, slightly receding hairline, with a broad chest and very wide shoulders (no doubt, grown so, for his clients to cry on). He wore a plaid button-down shirt, with the sleeves rolled up along his forearms, wearing jeans and athletic shoes. He was clean and husky, with a sort-of hint of good-looking, without any excessively distinguished features, beyond the beard.

He looked at me and I at him.  There seemed to be a flash of something familiar, beyond where we stood in that waiting room, on a cold late-Fall day.  I was unprepared to make sense of it in the split second greeting, but there was a sort of enigmatic-recognition, from which we both needed a quick glance away.

“Hi I’m Rex”, he said and opened his hand toward the hall. The business woman in me had already taken over and I had held out my hand to greet him, not realizing he was just directing me down the hall. He looked at my hand for a moment, like he didn’t know what to do with it, then he reached over and shook it; in a gesture that implied he did so to simply get it out of the way. 

In our quick handshake, I was startled by a quiet sadness in him (like a little lightening rod, shooting up my arm).  In my life I had never experienced anything like this. I felt a bit uncomfortable with the immediacy of our exchange, so in order to change the pesky unspoken whatever-it-was, I feigned a quiet happy; something I did as a banker often, and sometimes at church on Sundays.

Threading myself through our handshake, I took his cue and headed into the hallway.  ‘Too late to run now’—I thought to myself.   

Walking slow, the hidden hallway finally revealed itself to me.  I felt a bit queazy and could completely relate to Alice in Wonderland, tumbling down the rabbit hole.  Poor girl.

Rex walked behind me and I began to feel intense self-doubt, unsure of where I was going (both physically and metaphorically). People walking close behind me always stirred up deep feelings of self-consciousness. I could feel that he could sense this primal insecurity, as I heard his voice from behind saying:  ‘Keep going, it’s just two more doors down on your right’.  
I stopped and said:  ‘Here?’  I was unsure of myself. 

‘No, just one more to your right’, he said.    

The sound of this voice over my shoulder was soft and encouraging.  It had a gentle-depth, a kindness, with a familiarity that paradoxically I had never known before, even among my own family members.

I entered right, into a small room with a fairly low ceiling.  It was cozy, with nice lighting and a comforting feel.  The early winter afternoon sun was coming in the windows on the west side of the room.  Walking in, I noticed that there was a door with a window, facing west as well…’Hmmm’, I thought to myself, ‘He really could have snuck out, if he wanted to.’  As I stepped toward the center of the room, I looked at the looming, green leather couch, that filled the walls of the south end of the small room and asked: 

“Is THIS the proverbial shrink’s couch, I’ve heard so much about?”  To which he gave no response.

I turned around from it and asked: “Where do I sit?”

Rex replied: “anywhere you like.” 

To my right, there were two light-gray, fabric-covered, lobby chairs set side by side and to my left was a big green lazy-boy rocker, with a throw over it that said something about fishing.  I assumed it was his seat, so I intentionally plopped myself down right there.  

When he sat down, I was surprised that Rex hadn’t taken the couch, instead, he had nestled himself into one of the chairs to my left.  His whole body filled the frame of the small, grey lobby chair, like an adult who had taken the kid-sized seat. I wondered to myself (feeling a wash of embarrassment at my seat choice) 'why did he squeeze into that chair?' 

Everything about this guy was pretty subtle, with an undercurrent of unmistakeable intensity; which he could have just as easily said of me, I guess.  I noticed the bear-like grip of his hands around a yellow legal pad (ready to get the scoop on me in writing, no doubt). There was something about his age, the way his square frame leaned to one elbow and the way the sleeves of his shirt were so neatly rolled up.  There was also the unspoken fact that he had left the couch open, as though he was covertly squaring off with me, in a gesture that actually made me like him a little bit.  

Sitting in his office, I had sequestered myself with this curious bull in a china-shop named Rex.  The one thing I was clear on, was that I, was one-hundred-percent, the china shop, as I embarked on the healing process.   I had never allowed myself to honestly feel this sort of vulnerability before.  Choosing his seat was the only armor I could muster.  So there we sat, him squished and me sitting in the center of his great big rocker, still feeling wholly unprepared to allow him to lead the way into this journey.  

Not right now…Not yet anyway."

(this post dedicated to the dearest of kindred spirits