Have you ever explained something to someone – something you were passionate about, something that made your life exceedingly better, something that blew your mind and turned your perception on its ass – only to watch the words bounce off their face while they serenely nodded and replied, “yes, yes, I completely understand.”?
No, you don’t, you wanted to reply. Because if they did, their face would have melted as yours did the moment you understood.
At the tail end of my year-long adventure (catastrophe) in Australia, I sat down with psychologist Scott Wright, in Sydney. I’ve met with many a therapist – my current, of course, being the best of them – and much of what’s been said is long forgotten. Not every method is right for every person.
For some reason, I still remember Dr. Wright after only two short meetings. He was the first to introduce me to the concept of mindfulness: the practice of presence and awareness. Something, I immediately realized, I had never done in my life up until then. When I described all that was happening in my life at that point and how I felt about it, he said the most bizarre thing: “make room for it.”
“Yes, yes, I completely understand,” I nodded serenely. No, I didn’t. It sounded wonderful and magical and logically I could imagine it being correct, but I did not get it at all, not by a long shot.
Back In my current therapist’s office, while describing something difficult I experienced, he interrupted me. “Breathe. You’ve stopped breathing.” I shut up and took a deep breath. “Take another one.” I complied. “Good. Now feel it.” After a moment of silent breathing, the doors opened and I let it all in.
I had a good cry that day – it was wonderful – and at the end of the session, when he asked how I felt, I replied honestly: “I feel sad.”
“Good. Feel sad. You are strong enough for your grief; take your time and feel the sadness.” My face melted and I understood.
There is infinite space within me to live openly and honestly and to feel genuinely. Grief will not kill me and I needn’t run from it; I can simply make room for it. I can live and I can breathe and I can feel sad.
I went home that day and had lunch. I went to the gym. I went to my chiropractor appointment. I babysat my niece and nephew. And I felt sad. To my amazement, I was completely fine. It was almost surreal. I was perfectly capable of letting sadness and wonder and curiosity and happiness and fun and exhaustion all coexist within me. I am a complex and magnificent creature; and this week, I feel sad. Finally, I get it!