You came to the therapy session. Courage was required. You admitted things were too messy, desperate, painful. A brave step was needed. Despite hesitation you took the road less traveled.
The therapist was not a monster. He invited you into his office. Your courage was reinforced.
Now you find he hears your words, watches without blinking. The attention is encouraging. Few ever took you seriously, showed patience, gave you their time — listened with quiet intensity.
You discover the contact has value — the relationship is worth something. Again, the effort didn’t meet with the disaster you expect as a matter of routine. The reinforcement makes future risks more likely. You begin to wonder if perhaps you previously fulfilled some of your own dire prophecies.
The counselor is reliable. At first you think he is a unique example of dependability in an undependable world. What luck! Later you recognize the truth: others as good, or close to it, might exist if only you raise your eyes to look. An intrepid search begins for those who are also decent and caring.
Issues too deep for words are exposed in session. You surprise yourself with your openness. Your vow never to make yourself vulnerable again is set aside. Courage grows.
Perhaps you begin to recognize grit is not always a matter of physical bravery. Indeed, you identify its presence when you look in the mirror. Especially if you face your short comings in the reflection. Change takes more bravery than what is demonstrated on the football field. Your moral muscle increases in size. Your heart becomes toned. You develop something called “therapeutic integrity:” to stick with treatment despite the punishment it inflicts. Your head is held higher. Avoidance is less often your first choice.
Yes, the rose of life is full of thorns, but the scent and beauty are worth an occasional prick. Your bravery makes this revelation possible. You learn to survive such pricks and avoid them when you can. Especially the human kind.
You voice strong opinions to your counselor and the world does not end. He applauds the growth to which he is witness. You begin to internalize his approval and the strength in you he identifies. More and more you come to lead the process — more evidence of therapeutic integrity.
The things you never thought possible — the behaviors others could enact but you didn’t — are done. You explain this not by some sort of therapeutic magic, but by the virtuous qualities inside you of which you had no awareness.
More chances are taken. You learn to say no, to travel alone, speak your mind, grieve, enjoy a restaurant dinner solo, date again (or perhaps, for the first time), recognize the toxic takers, act in spite of fear, dust yourself off when you’re down and come back for more. Your pulse quickens not with fear, but a lust for life.
Your intrepidity manifests itself in “baby steps” at first. Later they are well-placed strides. Eventually you run with joy, recognizing life is in the running, not always the winning of the race. You have discovered you can “take a licking and keep on ticking.” The scars you were ashamed of become badges of honor. The lines in your face are earned. They enhance your beauty to those who recognize the richness in you, not just your sausage casing.
Lord Byron wrote in Prometheus Unbound:
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change nor falter nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire and Victory.
“Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free …”
Blame and lament are past. Fear is no longer a constant companion.
You are your own self, the maker of your life in so far as we are ever able. Take up your chisel and approach the marble — create the art that is your life.
You’ve learned the sculptor’s hand is never finished with you; and that fate is but one sculptor.
You are the other.
Courage made it possible.