I start most therapy sessions off the same way. I say a few positive things about the time that’s elapsed since we last met. Then I start a little preamble about what I want to talk about, and right away my voice cracks and my eyes sting and I make the split second decision to just go ahead and cry even though I haven’t even said anything yet. My therapist waits, quasi patiently, until I can pull myself together and form sentences. And then we start getting into it.
She often asks me what’s bringing on the tears, and I usually grasp for one of those therapy-session catch-alls: “I’m really angry about such and such”, or “I’m feeling sad about x, y, z.” But today I summed the whole thing up in a more global way and confessed that I’m simply reduced to tears whenever I’m about to talk about any of my shortcomings.
She’s cautioned me against judging my “issues,” reminding me that it adds a whole new layer of doody to work through before we even get to the main event. But it’s so ingrained in me to think this way, I don’t seem to be able to just turn it off.
Today she suggested that, even though I’m careening toward fifty, we find a new name for my “shortcomings.” She proposed “Peanut Butter” as an alternative. As in, “This is a serious Peanut Butter of mine that I’d like to change.”
Peanut Butter didn’t feel right to me for, what I hope are, obvious reasons. Too gooey. Or, alternatively, too chunky. But bottom line, too sticky and insidious and just downright difficult to handle.
So without too much deliberation, I countered with “Raisins.” As in, “I have two Raisins I need to talk about today,” which feels about as burdensome and angst-laden as picking up a toothbrush and brushing one’s teeth. In other words, a big nothing.
Raisins came to me spontaneously – a picture of the purple cylindrical container that sits in the cupboard popping immediately into my mind. I tried to think of a reason not to call my shortcomings “Raisins,” and I couldn’t. Raisins are wrinkly and unattractive, but not really scary or threatening. And although there are plenty of them, they don’t seem like they could take me down in battle. They’re just puny raisins, after all.
The goal, I guess, is to check out the Raisins – examine their furrowed little selves from lots of different perspectives – without bemoaning the fact that I have so freaking many of them to begin with.
It’s taken a big load off for me. I really feel I can lighten up when they're just Raisins. My Raisins. Your Raisins. They're all kind of goofy and sweet, no?