Earlier this week I had a session with one of my clients, and it was one of those special moments when as she unfolded and came alive, I became enlivened as well. This is a 60-year-old woman, who has been my client for a number of years. She is a survivor of breast cancer, a mother of a 26-year-old daughter, and the wife of a husband who was diagnosed two years ago and is now in an advanced stage of multiple sclerosis. Barely able to walk, her husband is in need of constant care, and for two people who married in their forties and have lived their lives with independent passions, both of them accomplished artists, the demands of illness has brought a smothering constriction. My client understandably, struggles with depression and the fear of life closing in on her.
The therapy hour began as she told me of her decision to take a train, by herself, to visit her family in Virginia for a week in June. This was a very important move, as she is always anxious about leaving her husband for any time, and rarely gives herself permission to do anything on her own. So, we began to talk, back and forth about the train and how good it could be for her to have some time all to herself, at least on the trip from Boston to Charlottesville. And as she talked, I noticed that she began to look lighter; her energy actually seemed to float up and spread out, and her face and her eyes became full of what I would call wonder and pleasure. I stayed with her energy, but also moved more into myself, wanting to give her all the room I could, as I also started to have an experience of spaciousness growing in myself. She then said, “I love to get lost, and I used to do that all the time”. And for the next 35 minutes or so, she took herself (and me) on a wandering into the delight of the unknown. She rambled into the Museum of Natural History in New York City, and how she loved to see all the chance findings from explorations and excavations. Then back out onto the streets of New York, where she once lived, and into a Jazz Club, where she would sit at the bar to have conversation with strangers just because it took her to the unexpected: she’s hardly ever been a drinker. Then onto a cross-town bus where she remembered visiting an old boyfriend one night, dressed only in a big coat and three-inch high heels, with nothing underneath. Then, she moved over to Provincetown, MA., to an Inn where she has never stayed, but loves for it’s eccentricity. She walked in there one time and was so visibly love struck by the surroundings; evidently every room is unique and completely different from the next one, that the owner gave her an unprecedented tour of the entire house. She described it to me with a gazing smile, that caused me to gaze and smile, because behind every door was, as she said, “ a surprise of unknown possibility”. She talked about her dreaming, which has always been a place of being lost, and also her painting, which takes her into places that are never predictable. And she talked about routine, and the deadening quality of life when she only goes from the known to the known, everything safe and expected.
As I felt myself filling up with my own love of “getting lost”, I was reminded of the saying; “Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish” (Ovid). And so my client took herself on a journey in that session, and she filled herself up with the nourishment of possibility. She remembered that to risk is imperative if one is looking for life, and that if one dares to stand in the emptiness with patience and quiet, a fish will always come along to swim in the waiting waters. She left after that hour with a glow and a visible knowing, that she had been somewhere. I don’t think she knew where I got to go, but I thank her for letting me tag along.
Postscript: The details of this session are shared with the express permission of the client involved.
— Bonnie Fitz-Gibbon