After I finished my book and watched it sink into the abyss of Amazon ebooks, I could feel myself slipping back into old patterns and habits. It was so easy to do that I hardly even recognized it was happening. What I DID realize was that my discontent was rising, my irritability was rising, my anxiety was rising. As I have done so many times in the past, I started to look at my environment. I can’t get my book to get noticed. I’m not feeling fulfilled in my job. My relationships are not ideal. I’m unhappy with my body. There is not enough time in the day to do what I want to do. Wait, I’m still not even sure WHAT I want to do with my day, even if I had all the time in the world! I was sinking back into a dark place.
I’ve been going to the same counselor for several years now. Each time our session ends, she asks me if I’d like to set up another time. I chuckle every time, because I’ve been setting up another time for like 4 years now! Only a couple of months ago, for the first time she told me that I was waiting too long to come back and that I needed to come back sooner. I was in “relationship crisis” as she called it. And so I started to make my appointments more frequent. Until this week.
Many would say (and have said) that the fact that I’ve had to see her for so many years means that she must not be helping. Although I did feel frustrated with my progress (or lack thereof) along the way, I always felt that it was the result of my own lack of follow through and not her skill level. I was looking to her to also motivate me to do what she was encouraging me to do.
When I went to my appointment this week, I was in a bad place again. I was right back to the negativity that I’d been thinking I had started to shake when my book was released and people seemed to like it (an external validation). As I told her how I was feeling, she simply said, “I don’t know where to go with this. I have done all I know to do. I no longer know how to help you.” I sat there dumbfounded and tearful. When she asked what was happening for me, I told her I felt hopeless. “You’ve felt hopeless all along. How is this any different?” I didn’t have an answer. Then she said, “I can no longer be the only one carrying the hope.”
We continued to talk through what was happening and I tried to find some positive things to share that I thought might make me sound more hopeful. When the session ended, I said, “YES, I’d like to set up another appointment, before you even ask me.” “No,” she said. What?! “I want you to think about what we’ve talked about today, and if/when you’re ready to carry the hope, then give me a call to set up an appointment. I do hope I get that call, but until you are ready to carry the hope, there is nothing more I can do. I cannot be the only one to carry it.”
I left her office a bit dumbfounded. I called my mom (as I often do when I’m distraught) and said “Well now I’ve gone and done it….Marianne just broke up with me.”
That was 3 days ago. I’ve felt a little turned upside down. Then last night, I attended the wedding reception of a girl that B and I had taught in our Sunday School class 7+ years ago now. When it came time for the bouquet toss, all my well-meaning friends told me I had to go. I gave up bouquet tosses MANY years ago, but after some friendly goading, I finally jumped in (with the younger sister of the bride and several others who could have been no more than early 20s). I tried to make light of it, pretend I was boxing out the young girls, and not come off like a sourpuss.
As the bouquet sailed toward me, I heard myself audibly say “Oh shoot.” None of the other girls made a move for it, so I leaned forward and caught it in what seemed an almost effortless move. I continued to make light as I held the bouquet triumphantly above my head and shouted, “There’s hope!”
I later joked with the other girls and thanked them for giving the old lady a fighting chance. As I walked away, I heard one of them say, “She’s funny!” I was thrilled. A stranger thought I was funny. I wanted to tell everyone I knew what had happened so they would all then be convinced that I was indeed a funny person, a trait I’ve always wanted to possess. As I thought about that moment (aka relished in it, relived it over and over, replayed her voice saying it again and again in my head), I remembered something I had written in my book. It was the story of the Mama Bunny who loved her baby bunny no matter how many times he tried to run away from her. I was reminded of the hope that I had felt that I could one day be my own Mama Bunny, and love myself no matter how far away I seemed to stray (and no matter if anyone thought I was funny.)
I’m not ready to carry the entire “burden” of hope yet and make the call to my counselor, and truthfully I’m still not convinced that it’s coming anytime soon. But what I did recognize after the bouquet experience is that, no matter how hopeless I may feel overall, the path to hope begins with recognizing that there indeed ARE tiny moments of hope. My random off-handed exclamation to the crowd after catching the bouquet was also in fact a brief moment of hope. Maybe not the hope typically associated with catching a bouquet, but a hope that I still have the ABILITY to hope.
Lesson Learning: Even in seeming hopelessness, there are glimpses of hope. It is what we do with those glimpses (either nourish them or shove them aside as fleeting) that determines which direction we are moving toward an overall attitude of hope.
After the “breakup” I realized (yet again) that I needed to do a reset, a Ctrl+Alt+Delete on my re-emerging bad habits and attitudes. I know this will not be the last time I’ll need such a reset. But thankfully I’m learning that no matter how many resets I need, as long as I keep resetting, I’m moving in a healthier direction. Who knew breakups and bouquets could be so smart.