Not long ago, I was giving advice to a young person who was hesitant about seeking counseling. He was adamant that “nothing was wrong,” so he didn’t see the point. Sometimes, counseling is like taking good care of your car, I told him. (Meanwhile, I was thinking, “What are you doing, CJ? Of all the metaphors…you don’t know anything about cars!” But I soldiered on).
Hopefully, I said, you don’t just pay attention to your car when it breaks down on the side of the road. Instead, you change the oil and take it for inspections and…here, I coughed and vaguely mumbled a couple words like “carburetor.” You take care of it during the good times so that you can try to avoid the big break-downs, and when you hit a big pothole in the road, you’re better prepared.
Ok, the metaphor was kind of weak. But I managed to get through to him, if only a little.
And then, I proceeded to flagrantly ignore my own advice.
When I moved away from DC a few months ago, I left my cherished counselor behind. I was okay with this, though. I had long-since hit rock bottom and was slowly, but steadily, rising upward. I was gaining my energy back, connecting with people, remembering the small joys. I was doing it! Myself!
Those words almost never end well for me.
Over the past few months, I’ve continued to heal, continued to recover, continued to fill myself up with joys. But man. Life is hard, people. It’s like those awful elliptical trainers. You’re plugging along, doing your thing, when all of a sudden, your steps get a lot more difficult. You’re working just as hard as you were before so you’re confused, but when you look down, you realize that the damn thing has tripled the resistance. Oh right, because it’s the Hilly Course. Well, I forgot life was the Hilly Course. And even if you’re moving forward, you still need some help for those hills.
Yesterday, I went to see a counselor for the first time since I’d moved back to my hometown. Five minutes into my appointment, I was plotting quick getaways from the couch to the exit. Fifteen minutes into the appointment, I was thinking, “Why has it taken me three months to do this?” I need the safe space. I need the cleansing-rain feeling of unloading the brick-heavy thoughts. I need to leave the cell phone in the car and step into the carefully-drawn boundaries that protect a time that is mine.
This is my joy today.