Therapist's Note: A common response I receive when I tell people what I do for a living is: "Oh gosh, isn't it awful listening to people's problems all day long?" I always respond, "Actually, that's not at all what I do; I hear the most amazing things every day, I witness incredible resilience and growth, it's pretty awesome." Yes, clients come to counseling having experienced messy, heart-breaking things in their lives. But the mess ends up fertilizing some incredibly beautiful, tender blooms.
The pungent aroma.
The sting of grit clinging to skin.
The creepy, crawling things writhing and wrestling.
I've been spending plenty of time in the garden recently: preparing the beds, planting the seeds. In my interactions with the dirt, I found myself pondering the contradictions within it.
On the one hand: discomfort and disgust; mess and chaos.
On the other hand: soft, soothing warmth; a satisfying, soulful connection to life-giving, life-sustaining earth.
There are moments in life like dirt.
When everything becomes pungent.
And the creepy, crawling things surface..
And the grit clings to every crevice of our wrinkled souls.
Our first instinct in these messy moments may to recoil in repulsion, eagerly searching for a clean sink to wash our hands of it all. Yet...these are the rich, fertile moments that enable us to plant something new. If we can allow hope to shelter us like a well-worn sunhat, if we can place trust as a cushion beneath our aching knees, we can stay there beside the soil, tending to what is to come.
If you find yourself in a dirt-like moment:
Let your hands turn the warm, damp earth.
Wipe the sweat from your brow with your dusty forearm that feels like sandpaper.
You can sit back with a glass of cold lemonade--water beading on the smooth surface, ice chiming. You can survey the work you have done with a sense of satisfaction. You can take a long hot shower, sighing in relief as your skin feels new again, as the water eases your aching muscles.
Just when you are starting to doubt (or perhaps just when you've forgotten to look for it), a tender green shoot will rise from the pungent, gritty, creepy-crawly, warm, soothing, life-giving dirt.
And you will rise along with it.
For further reflection: What is one thing that grew out of a dirt-like moment in your past? If you were to imagine that one thing as a plant, tree, or flower, what would it look like?
Therapist's Note: By the time clients find their way to me, they have usually done tremendous amounts of thinking and analyzing about the problems they face. Once we get to work in counseling, we often find that some of those ways of thinking and analyzing have actually created new problems on top of the old ones. Part of my role is to help clients move from "paralysis of analysis" into action by encouraging a shift in focus: away from efforts to think perfectly towards efforts to do something different imperfectly.
Do you hear it?
The geese have arrived in droves.
Crossing the street.
Guiding little goslings along the banks of the canal.
Even waddling through my front yard.
I find them endearingly obnoxious. Or perhaps obnoxiously endearing.
Either way, geese impress me with their tenacious ability to get to wherever it is that they need to be.
Geese don't study maps.
Or list the pros and cons of various destinations.
Or analyze or assess or overthink.
Geese don't have a clue as to why they are going where they are going or how precisely they are going to get there.
They just do their goose-thing.
They simply GO.
And somehow, it all works out.
When it comes to the process of making change, I find it helpful to look to these loud-mouthed fowl for inspiration. As humans, our great gift of intellect can also be our downfall. We can become so enamored with our ability to think-things-through that we can forget to check in with our (so-called) baser instincts.
While we'd like to believe that we can find the best direction using our high-powered brains, the truth is we can never fully anticipate, predict, and plan how to get to where we want to be.
No matter how smart we are, our imagination is often limited by our past experiences. We cultivate a lifetime of familiar patterns of thought, intended to help us function in our normal day-to-day existence. As helpful and efficient as they are under ordinary circumstances, these same patterns of thought are typically too restrictive to fully envision the vast realm of alternative possibilities waiting to greet us.
Fortunately, our thoughts aren't our only form of guidance. We also have emotions, gut feelings, and intuition. Our instincts can lead the way when logic falls short, if our minds are willing to relax and quiet down for a moment.
If you want to something in your life to be different, take a cue from the geese.
Just look within.
If you had to choose your path, without answering any of the "whys"...
where do you FEEL you truly want to go?
Take a deep breath.
Spread your wings.
Take flight (as best you can).
And somehow, it will all work out.
For further reflection: Instead of something to think about, let's take a risk to do something different. Get some crayons and draw a picture of a bird in flight, going with the first images and instincts that come to mind as you create. That's it. You're done. Really.
Here you will find metaphors, images, reflections, and inspiration on the change process. Psychotherapy intersects with creativity, nature, and spirituality on these pages. You can start anywhere you'd like. You'll find a note on my thoughts as a therapist as well as a prompt for your own reflection at the beginning and end of each entry.
I'm a licensed therapist in private practice in Indianapolis who provides counseling to individuals and couples, particularly around issues of anxiety, adjustment, and relationship wellness.