I’ve taken a bit of time off from blogging. I hadn’t planned to, but everything I tried to write was sounding negative and slightly angry (instead of amusing and decidedly hopeful: which is what I aim for). I decided the Voice and Vision audience probably didn’t need any “angry,” and my boss agreed, so I took a brief hiatus from my usual bi-weekly articles.
I’ve never considered myself to be an angry person, but lately a lot of things have been pushing my buttons, making it increasingly difficult for me to stay calm. I guess I chalked it up to the challenges of city living after many years of relative suburban bliss. I suppose I figured that everyone in South Philly got agitated on a near-daily basis—it certainly seems that way sometimes, but apparently they don’t. When my daughter gently suggested that I might benefit from some counseling, I said I’d think about it.
But then a friendly chat with some neighbors took an unexpected turn. One of those neighbors made a critical remark about my husband (the same generous man who often shovels her sidewalk when it snows and who took great pains to rid our corner of a menacing group of loiterers), and I suddenly found myself pointing my finger in her face and shouting at her while a handful of neighbors watched.
My angry tirade went on until I noticed a little boy standing next to me, looking up at me with innocent curiosity. I quickly came to my senses. I went back into my house, and—with my head hung in shame—came to the conclusion that my daughter was right: I needed someone to help me figure out what was really upsetting me.
I made an appointment at a counseling practice recommended by a friend. I was nervous as I made my way to my first session, but the moment I met my counselor I relaxed. I felt immediately at ease with her, sensing that she was someone I could trust. She asked me to tell her the story of my life, starting at the beginning. I was surprised at the emotions that surfaced as I spoke. I left her office feeling like I’d just embarked on a journey of a thousand miles; I felt a little afraid of having to go that far, but also aware that the destination would be worth the effort.
For the next week or so I seemed to be walking around inside a tornado of memories. Faces, places and dialogue kept spinning around me and I couldn’t make them stop! It was as if someone had opened Pandora’s Box and threw away the lid.
And I just couldn’t write with all that going on.
So I decided to do something else. I called a man I’d been asked to interview for the next installment of our Overcomers series. While speaking to this man, whom I had never met before, I was struck by two things: how positive and cheerful he is and how utterly tragic his life has been.
The unexpected thing was that talking to him made me feel better. As he calmly shared the details of serious illnesses and abuses he’s endured, he somehow made me feel encouraged! He didn’t feel sorry for himself, and so I didn’t feel sorry for him either. This man knows he has a purpose and he knows the struggles he’s been through will play into that purpose if he chooses to let them. Although his challenges have kept him from living the life he’s wanted to, he still has hope for the future; he still has hope for a new beginning.
His resilience amazed me.
I was surprised that hearing his story didn’t make me feel like a whiner for having told my own story, through tears, to a counselor a week earlier. Although the pain and traumas I’ve experienced in my life may not seem to be as dramatic as his, they are real and they are mine. And they hurt. But if I want to use them to my advantage—to make me stronger instead of weaker, and better instead of bitter—I need to learn to process them properly.
And so I will.
I’ll take the help that’s available to me.
I’ll take that journey of a thousand miles, one small step at a time.
Photo by Leon Biss via Unsplash