A Counselor’s Lament

You can only change the aspects of you and your life that you do not want, but you are completely unable to change anyone else. That is up to them.

The following parable is a mixture of client issue, ages, but illustrates the above.

A young girl, perhaps 10 or 11-years-old, sits with a counselor. Her knees are drawn up under her dress and she looks down at the floor. She smiles her fake smile and says that if she can be good enough, smart enough, sweet enough, and do all of the right things then things will be okay. The counselor says, it isn’t your fault that someone hurt you. Not being perfect did not cause it to happen. I don’t know who has told you that you need to be all of those things but you are okay just as you are. You cannot change how someone sees you or what someone wants from you, but you can change what you want from yourself. I can help you with that. The young girl smiles, but she knows that it will be years before she has any real control over her own life.

A young woman, 17-years-old, stares at her hands and then out the window again as she repeats what feels like an old story and response to a counselor. She is angry and afraid of her anger. It is sometimes so large that she cannot contain it and so wild that she thinks that she will burn down the world. For the most part, the anger is directed at herself, but sometimes it is directed at her parents. They don’t see her, only what she is not. They can list their disappointments (and have to the counselor) and want their daughter fixed. The daughter is not the problem. The counselor says, I can teach you to control your anger. I can help you see yourself clearly, but only you can do the most important thing. The young woman asks, what is that? You have to remember that you can only control your actions and behaviors, and the actions and behaviors of others are beyond your control. Your parents are wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t continue feeling as if they are right. You need to be strong enough to withstand their negativity. The young woman stares out the window and then slowly shakes her head yes.

At 24-years old, the young woman sits inside of another counselor’s office. She applied the wisdom that was hard won, but now she feels lost again. She graduated from college, found a good job, and began a life of her own. She is inundated with almost daily calls, emails, etc. from her mother about what she hasn’t done right and what she should do to make up for it. Sometimes, she feels like she should change her number, move apartments, and never come home again. At the same time, she loves her parents and she just wants the badgering to stop. The counselor says, why are you here to see me? The woman says, because I can’t live my life as someone’s whipping boy. Her hand pops to her mouth, but she knows that it is true. Her mother is unhappy and she wants to make her unhappy too. The counselor says, you can only control your actions and behaviors but can do nothing about the behaviors of others. The woman says that she knows. The counselor asks if she would like to work on being untied from that post.

At 30-years old, the young woman is battle hardened from years in a counselor’s chair. She doesn’t know what it means to be without someone constantly grating, grating, grating at her. Constantly, criticizing every decision that you make, every piece of clothing that you wear, and everything about her. When the counselor ask what she wants, she simply responds to be happy. After a short conversation, the problem is clear that for close to 30-years this woman has felt like the unwanted and ever disdained child. She is tired, she wants to be happy. She has a wife and a dog. She wants to enjoy them and be happy. Before the counselor can tell her, the young woman says, I know I can only control my own actions and behaviors and cannot control the actions and behaviors of others. The counselor smiled and said, so, this time, what are you willing to do in order to guarantee your happiness.

Follow-up: Things men should leave unsaid

Conversation from this morning between me and a male friend regarding the caramel for Mike’s birthday cake.

“It’s just not right, I think it’s the weather. It won’t set.” Me

“You know who makes great caramel, _his ex-girlfriend who lives in town_, you could call her she would help.” Him

“You want me to call your ex-girlfriend and say, ‘Hey your ex suggested that I call you because my caramel cake is not turning out the way that I wanted and he thought you could help.'”

“She’d be happy to help she’s into that whole southern womanhood thing.”

“You realize that part of the whole southern womanhood includes gossip and unsubstantiated rumors.”

“Yeah, I forgot about that.”

“Thanks for trying, but I’d hate for a request for help to hurt my reputation.”

Things better left unsaid

Lessons in human nature, part (which part is this?): If you are a naturally guarded person, your best offense is to tell someone something about yourself that appears to be deeply personal but means nothing to you. It is a win-win. They feel that they know you better and you haven’t given up anything that you care about. Most people are satisfied with this and will move on with their lives thinking that you have given them this piece of power over you, but instead, they have nothing.

Do not assume that even those who you consider close to you actually know you. You will both be shocked how very wrong you are sometimes at the other person’s beliefs and reactions.

Most importantly, if it imperative that you hold your own council about a topic then don’t in a fit of pique use it as an example. Yep, don’t do that.

Finding my place

As I listened to the Queen dance and sing with her father in the kitchen tonight, I realized that it was unlikely that she and I would ever have that type of relationship. First, he has been an elusive, almost mythical creature that has appeared and disappeared from her life full of fun. At the same time, I have been there every day making bottles, changing diapers, and buying the educational toys. Second, I love her with my whole heart. I love her more than I ever thought that it was possible to love another human being, but I am not the world’s most cuddly person.I would have been the ideal of Republic Motherhood two centuries ago. I hold her, I tell her I love her, we play together, but our personalities are too alike even at this age.

I have the type of relationship that I dreamed of having with my Queen with my Fiery Redhead. A mother, a guardian, and some friendship thrown in for good measure. But, when I look at a 23-month-old that wants nothing to do with me, I am at a loss as to where I fit into her world. I’ve received all of the advice in the world, and this post isn’t really about that. More of a prayer, a call out to the universe, please tell me how I can me part of her world.

I’ll tell you a secret

I don’t know how many times that I’ve heard those words spoken, but they are rarely spoken about the individual sharing the secret. I admit that I am an inveterate gossip at times, and enjoying knowing something about what is going on around town. To be honest, though, I don’t know why.I have seen the damage of gossip first hand, the cruelty of children and their equally nasty parents. I have seen “Christians” ostracize others at church while talking about what they had “heard” the person did. I have seen workplaces divided by some ridiculous rumor.

Yet, we still do it. We still fall into a feeding frenzy each time new morsel falls on  our waiting ears or appears on our waiting screen.

The truth in my lies

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

– Awake My Soul, Mumford and Sons


Cherish the lies that your loved ones tell you, the ones meant to protect you from the darkness that is within them. They do not want to burden you with the depth and breadth of their sadness, anxiety, and fear. They cannot stand to be dismissed by you, or told what you have done for them. Those things may all be true but it doesn’t stop the searing  agony that they are facing.

Saying that I was okay was a lie,  but I did it to keep you from having to hear about the horrors in my head.

My smile was a lie, but my tears have no currency with anyone.

There are so many more.