‘Tis the season to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, or maybe to see a version of A Christmas Carol (yes that’s Patrick Stewart ca 1999), and to marvel at how much change one pivotal night can make in a life.
I enjoy these tales of transformation, and I’ve enjoyed writing a few too. Nevertheless, part of me thinks the big a-ha makes for good entertainment, while real life is more often a matter of nigh imperceptible evolution (like cleaning my house).
I can though, recall some pivotal moments in therapy. When I faced unplanned motherhood, I began what was to become five straight years of weekly therapy. This was back before for-greed health care, and how I wish every new parent had support like that for even fifty minutes a week. One day after a few years of sessions, my therapist casually (hah!) observed, “So I guess nobody showed you how to do stuff when you were kid?”
I thought for a moment. “My brother Tom showed me how to tie my shoelaces.” Two bunny ears… I couldn’t think of any other situation where I’d been overtly instructed in the home. In that instant, I realized why I’d become an enthusiastic baker at age seven: A recipe tells you how to make something. Every ingredient, how much, what order, and how to mix them… detailed instructions. What a concept. Sheet music works the same way–it’s laid out in black and white, note for note.
Parents on constant, profound overwhelm don’t have the luxury of explaining much of anything to small children. Oh.
I saw a kinder perspective from which to view my parents and my own general distrust of authority. I got a clue as to another way I might be a helpful mother. I realized part of why music theory had such strong appeal for me. All from one simple question.
But that epiphany rested on a carefully built foundation of trust, courage, and truth. My therapist was brilliant at reflective listening, and she probably tossed out a hundred leading questions for every insight I eventually gained. I recall those moments, but I also recall that she showed up for me, week after week, and let me wander, mosey, barrel or backslide toward my issues, without any judgment on her part.
The insights are great to have, but the more profound gift was that slow, solid, unremarkable building of a positive relationship. That example did more to fortify me as a single mother, a woman, and a person than all the clever questions or big insights that also came out of the relationship.
Do have you had “life-changing moments,” or does change tend to come over you in gradual increments? Pretty soon, I will have ARCs of Miss Devoted, and I’ll draw some names from among this week’s commenters.
I’m giving myself a couple weeks hiatus from this blog, but will be back after the first of year, when Lady Violet Says I Do goes live on the retail sites! Happy holidays, bloggin’ buddies, and see you again in 2023!