The Single Lesson of Talk Therapy
The single lesson of decades of talk therapy was communicated to my husband by a naked, elder colleague in the close quarters of a men’s locker room. “Nobody ever loves you like your Mama, “ Wayne said, reflecting on his mother’s death, as both his brow and his testicles came too close for comfort. Wayne knew what love was, having left his LDS faith and his LDS community to support his gay son, dying of AIDS in the 1990’s. After years and years of weekly sessions unburdening my soul to a licensed professional, I realized how useless it all was. My therapist of the moment, an overachiever much like myself, wanted to know what I needed and she would give it to me. I finally knew what I needed and left the room, intending to never return.
It was love I was looking for, the love I craved as a child, as an adolescent, as a young, and then, an older adult. When you aren’t cared for or nurtured or encouraged growing up, when you aren’t held and comforted in distress, there is no safety net, no ground beneath your feet. You can look and look and you will not find, and having hired help tell you matter, that you are valuable, after a lifetime of abuse or neglect doesn’t mean a damn thing.
Then there is M., a woman in my community whom I have been matched to help because she is poor and disabled. Like me, M. has been damaged by life, but she refuses to give up. She is spirit and smarts and 100% real, unflagging in the truth of her feelings and the acuity of her perceptions. When I falter, and M. tells me she misses me, there is no bullshit, no cant, no words for words sake. I don’t pay M. money to make me feel better; she pays me in ways I can only hope to remunerate with friendship, loyalty, and presence, an odd couple thrown together by the universe, partly blind, partly lame, but stumbling on, metaphorically hand in hand.