“If what I say resonates with you, it is merely because we are both branches of the same tree.”
I have been cheating on my therapist. It has been going on for some time now - nearly a month. Sometimes it happens when I am sitting alone in parking lots, out running errands, or even with my children in the room. I can’t seem to begin the day without getting my fix.
This past summer, my therapist and I agreed that I was in a period of serious intake. I was reading and researching like my life depended on it. I had the words of every expert in my head, so much so that I could not hear my own voice. We made a joint decision that I would take a break. She suggested that I temporarily stop reading self-help books. I reluctantly agreed. Goodbye, Brené and Super Soul Sunday.
Then, my therapist went on vacation for the month of September, which I like to call “the new January.” It represents a fresh start; the close of summer and start of a new school year. I was feeling pretty good about things after my “Summer of Settling,” until….wait for it...my mom died. If there is ever a time in your life to get your therapist on your calendar speedy quick, it is when you watch your mother take her last breath on this Earth. I had no choice. It was time to pull on my big girl britches and therapize myself.
Thus began my secret affair with self-help books. It started with memoirs and stories of loss but quickly escalated to a TEN DAY self acceptance summit online. There were three hour-long podcasts every day for ten days. I listened and took copious notes filling an entire journal. I have yet to see the damage I incurred on my cell phone bill with the hours of live streaming. Talk of vulnerability and self-love literally oozes from every pore of my body. Try me. Throw me an internal struggle and see if I don’t have some relevant Buddhist tidbit in thirty seconds or less.
While listening, I also poured through self-improvement books written from every angle you can imagine. The last one I read was discrediting all the rest and taking down the self-help “industry” as an inauthentic, money-making machine. It was a self-help book to help me break up with self-help books. Ridiculous, I admit it. Life is never boring as a walking/talking/writing contradiction.
Although I was busy breaking the laws of my therapy, it felt good to be bad. I didn’t just gather information from books and podcasts. I opened my heart to receive gifts and healing from friends and family. They became accomplices to my infidelity. I have a friend who leaves deeply profound, hand-written notes in my mailbox. In the age of technology, anything created by hand seems almost archaic and foreign. I delicately tuck her notes into whatever journal I am filling at the moment. Another friend sends me songs through Instagram, stringing together the soundtrack of my life. A talented artist friend is caring for her father who has Alzheimer’s disease. She mailed me two of her original paintings to cherish and adorn my home. Danielle LaPorte (yes, one of the many spiritual self-help gurus) writes, “The great thing about being a self-help-centric female is that if I’m not in therapy, for sure one of my girlfriends is.” I immediately screenshotted that page and sent it to all my best friends who have been letting me live vicariously through their therapy breakthroughs. Written word therapy. Music therapy. Art therapy. Communal therapy. Healing comes in many forms.
Through all of my “running around” on my therapist, I have simply learned that we can receive help, support, love, guidance and nourishment from every direction IF (and this is a big “if”) we are open and willing to receive it. We must be attuned. When we need help, we go out and get it, and we most certainly don’t turn it down when it shows up at our door with a cauldron full of homemade soup to nourish our family all week (Instapot cult members unite). Is food therapy a thing? We can drink or eat the soul food in whatever form it might take on at that particular moment.
I shudder to think how many lessons or epiphanies I missed along the way when I wasn’t paying attention, but bless my heart, there was a time I didn’t think I needed help. That's cute. However, I am ready now. I stand ready and able to look my therapist in the face next time I see her and fully confess to my wandering ways. I have been wandering, but I have certainly not been lost. I have been studying, connecting and therapizing ALL OVER TOWN. And what do you know? Brené Brown’s newest book just showed up in my mailbox. Guilty as charged and proud of it.