Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it. – Tori Amos
For the past couple of years I have seen a mental health therapist every other Wednesday. The reason for this standing appointment isn’t because I’m depressed or suffer from chronic addictions. Similarly, my personal relationships are strong and my career appears to be on the right track.
I don’t see a therapist because I think I need to be fixed; I see a therapist because I want the chance to talk, share and trace my life back to the moments that have defined who I have become. It is with this awareness that I am better able to change or heal the pieces of me that need some attention right now.
The time spent with the therapist is a touch-point for my soul. These sessions provide subtle securities that encourage me not to hold everything inside. Every other Wednesday is my time to be angry, frightened and vulnerable without worrying about judgments. During this hour, I don’t have to be a husband, father or a boss. I can take a deep look into my soul to see which way I need to go next.
When the hour is over, I use the two weeks between appointments to consider what I have learned and how I can better trace my life from a place where I once lived and to a place where I want to live forever.
Lessons learned and others I’m still learning
In the article, 10 Things You Wish You Had Never Learned, I list 10 things I wished I had never learned. These things amount to a garbage list. While it is important to acknowledge these things so I know what to dump; it’s also important to be aware of the positive things, so I know what to keep.
The following things make up this new list – a list created with a new-found power because of the amazing things I am learning about myself. I hope you find meaning in these lessons, too:
- It wasn’t my fault
I didn’t create the alcoholic in my mother. I didn’t steer the tractor into my brother causing him to lose a leg. These things happened because of the choices others made. The anguish caused by feeling responsible is fading away. It is being replaced with peace. I’m learning to calm my troubled soul by gently whispering, “It’s wasn’t your fault.”
- I’m worth more than I think
My personal value is increasing. No longer do I accept what others think is enough for me. While I may not be able to change the reality of every situation, I can change my interpretation of it. Simply put, no matter what I receive, I now know my true worth no matter how others may calculate it.
- Many choices are still available
There is plenty of life in front of me and many choices are still available. I don’t have to settle with what I have when my heart is longing for more. There are books to write, races to run and countries to visit. I refuse to be a passenger of the past any longer. Instead, I choose to be the principal architect of what the rest of my life can look like.
- My voice deserves to be heard
As a child, I suffered from an embarrassing speech impediment. The word “bird” would come out as “burd” and “first” sounded like “furst.” I stopped using my voice when I was in elementary school because the teasing was just too brutal. That’s when my voice died.
But now, I’m learning to find it again. I’m speaking up for what I believe to be true. My voice is coming back and it’s telling me I do matter and I deserve to be treated like everyone else. The “Rs” are solid and they are providing the confidence to use my voice a little more each day.
- I don’t have to be perfect to be loved
If I was just a little more perfect, I thought as a child, my mother would not drink. She would be like the other mothers. She would not sit in a dark room where the only light would come from the end of her cigarette while sipping bourbon all night. If I was just a little more perfect, she would love me enough to stop drinking.
She never stopped drinking. But, I am loved now. I have four children who love me unconditionally and a wife who is faithful and true. More important, I am loved because I am learning to love myself a little more each day.
- It’s time to let go of the pain
Holding on to the pain only keeps me stuck in a place I no longer want to be. The pain no longer defines who I am. Confidence, strength and peace are a few of the words that make up my new constitution.
- Everyone deserves a second chance
No matter the sins committed against me, I’m learning everyone deserves a second chance. The people who hurt me deserve a second chance to get it right. If I continue to hold on to resentment and anger then they are not free to try again and I’m not free to rid my soul of the bitterness.
Grace and forgiveness is available to all. Let’s make good use of our second chance.
- Love this life
This life, this moment, is the only one that is guaranteed. Regret has kept me from noticing most of it. I’m learning to recognize the special moments which paint the small brushstrokes. Over time these strokes combine to reveal a beautiful picture. While a wonderful life is waiting after I leave this world, there is still plenty to love in this one. My plan is to spend the next 47 years loving it more.
- Never give away my power again
I’m learning I can’t control the actions of others. Parents will choose to drink, accidents will happen and some children will inflict damage with their words.
There was once a time when I would give away my power by trying to make people like me, or love me in a healthy way. I would do anything to gain their acceptance – an acceptance I was so hungry to taste. But not today. Today, I’m holding on to my power and using it to heal what has been damaged.
- There is a place for me
The sense of not being good enough is going away. I’m learning that I deserve to ask for what I want, to say what’s on my mind and to go after any dream that is burning inside of me. I’m learning people do like me. Some even love me.
The shadows of my past are yielding to a new light. This light is leading to a place created just for me. And in this place, I see the chance to be free.
Tracing life to the truth
It’s remarkable how often we confuse lies with the truth. Lies can seem more real because they have been a part of us longer. When I was child, I was introduced to lies far more often than I was made aware of the truth. These lies have stuck with me for a lifetime. The lies have carved holes deep into my soul and have shouted loudly in an attempt to drown out the truth.
However, my truth is now listening to a more powerful source and is learning how to usurp the lies. It is winning the war against the enemy of my soul.
My truth tells me that it’s not how I see myself when I feel covered in shame; my truth is how God sees me. My truth is what God says is the truth for me. His truth has never been silenced – only my awareness of it. For the past several years I have been washing away the shame to get to this truth.
Tracing life every other Wednesday has revealed a little boy who once thought he was stronger than an alcoholic’s craving. But now this little boy is learning how to put down what’s no longer working. He is beginning to see himself in God’s reflection. And when he takes a good look, he sees a new life being born – a life where the old, broken pieces of his soul are starting to mend to make room for the truth.
Tracing life every other Wednesday is taking me to closer to this truth and to a place where redemption can live forever.