Thursday, August 15, 2013

When She Leaves You and You're Sad

A young  man in his thirties, the foreman of a construction crew, sits across from me crying.  The woman he wanted to marry has left him for another man. Tears are streaming down his well-shaven face, his beautiful blue eyes, red.* A woman leaving him is the ultimate abandonment, but he is learning this tall tidbit about himself for the very first time.

We've been talking about his issues for a few months, his history, mainly, the many things he has done that he wishes he had not. We can blame his father for being a poor example, or his mother for assuming he was fine without much help from her. I see this in a lot of men. Mothers assume it isn't necessary to talk to them about private matters, that a nonjudgmental discussion of the real boy and his identity is an invasion of privacy.

We look for diagnoses, as if these will help, but all we find is an emptiness, and a loneliness that had never been discussed with either parent.  None of the people in his life ever discussed life, really, and how to be a real person, the one that people remember for the good, the special. There is a place in our heads that should shout out about what is right, what is good, what will live on when we are gone. That place, that sense of self is reason to care for the self, to nurture that very special being that we refer to as "I". It can't be empty.

My mother gave us a false alarm this past month. I say false, knowing she isn't out of the woods, but she was so sick that she asked that we write her eulogy because she wanted to edit it before she died.  She didn't like how my father's funeral went, I'm pretty sure. We roasted my dad.

So what do you do when you are in that position?  If you are a writer, you begin to write, although if you are me, you do it in your head. The words never hit the keyboard. They don't have to, either, because you're picturing yourself speaking and it is way too much work to add the pregnant pauses that are compulsory at a funeral.  Adding a pause to an essay feels so contrived, like writing a screenplay. So much about my mother gives me pause.

Not surprisingly, although there are things to say that are interesting and certainly descriptive, what popped to the forefront of the "eulogy" were superlatives!  Sure, my mother isn't perfect, but it is mostly herself she makes suffer. There is so much wonderful in her fairly old soul that it all surrounded me like flowers in the spring at an indoor arboretum. They burst out everywhere.

And I realized, listening to my hungry friend, the one who feels so empty because he has been abandoned, that this is what happens to me as I work as a therapist. The patient sits in his death-defying all but comatose situation, and all I can see is wonderful, or potential for that, and I nod and validate what he sees.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the moment that he can walk into his own arboretum.


*Most blue collar workers shower and change into fresh clothes before therapy. Kids without jobs, no. They could be in pajamas.  Not that that's bad, but it does say something.


Mound Builder said...

I would like to think that my children might someday feel about my love for them in the way that you described your mother's love for you.

In the last years of my father's life, he seemed to ask things like had he been a good person, had he been a good father, had he mattered or made a difference in the world. My father was about as fine a person as I've had the privilege to know, with a deepness, loyalty, love, honorableness, decency, a capacity to be loving and tender just with tone of voice in a way that I haven't encountered much in the world. And I know all of us, his kids, felt that way about him. He wasn't perfect, either, but he was a very fine person and I was surprised that he didn't seem to know. Or maybe thinking you are facing the end, you want to know.

I don't know why it's hard to see the wonderful in one's self. I'm glad I had my father's love and it was as real and deep and solid as anything there is. I think it's that love that makes it bearable, not having him anymore.

We all need that kind of love. Hopefully we get it from someone in our life. We all deserve it, for sure.

Anonymous said...

I love the flowers imagery. I hope my college age son thinks of me that way. But a few weeks ago he was talking about something I can't recall. He was describing the notion of parental love "like taking a bullet to save a child. I mean you would, wouldn't you?" I laughed and said of course because I would. Then later I worried. Maybe I am too grim in his mind, when I'm not. Oh the mama fret. Always that.

Syd said...

Each of us makes ourselves suffer, like your mom does. I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to beating myself up. Fortunately, I've worked on that a lot over the last few years and give myself a break. My parents had their faults, as we all do, but I loved them so much. They were a product of what they learned from their parents. Abandonment runs deep in me. But I realize that I don't need to let it control my life. Loss of love is the hardest abandonment. The feeling may not go away but it can be subdued.

Anonymous said...

How do we gain a sense of self by ourselves if we have a low sense of self?

therapydoc said...

Thanks so much to all of you. Anon, I think there's a post on developing self somewhere here. Use the search box. It is hard work, but the most rewarding work you'll ever do.