3/9/05

some definitions

Stress (n): the physical, psychological, and emotional response to the differences we experience between what is and what we think should be. (Damico's Dictionary of Useful Words).

Perspective (n): 1. The visual reminder that objects in the mirror of life are closer than they appear. 2. The distance to horizons that shape my sense of reality, urgency, and ability to trust that what I cannot see is worth caring about. (ibid)

When I spent my waking hours as a therapist, I worked very hard at helping others cope with stressors in their lives. I also did my best to maintain perspective - that is to say I tried to keep a proper (just right) distance between my clients and myself. Sometimes it was to help them see the bigger picture. Other times it was to open their eyes to the little things that added up to big blind spots.

I was picking up dinner the other night when someone I hadn't seen in almost a dozen years crossed in front of me. The recognition for me was immediate. I called her by her name and after a moment where she checked her personal database to match my face with her recollection she recognized me. We chatted about this and that for several minutes. I then referred back to the time in which we knew each other in a more personal setting. She was going through a very difficult marital breakup and I was trying to keep my perspective in the midst of her stress.

The long story short was that for me, bearing witness to that event in her life was one of the most difficult experiences I have ever had. So much so that after thousands of hours with clients, I remember her situation with cinimatic clarity. She was so stuck and so unable to give up what she thought should be for what was. In other words she was stressed.

In this meeting I said, "It's so good to see you. You look well. You went through such a difficult time all those years ago."

She said, "I'm great. I've learned so much and I really had to look at some difficult things. God redeemed that situation in ways I could never have imagined back then."

She smiled. I smiled. We parted and I returned to my car with food in hand thinking that her perspective, after many years of living and reflecting, has made her appreciate one of the worst times in her life.

There are some situations only time (another form of distance) can heal. By healing, I do not mean to imply erase or diminish. Life is not written in pencil and there are no real erasures - just permanent ink with some pages scratched through and written over.

Her healing was her ability to reconcile what she thought should be with what was. She made a deal - exchanging her sadness and disillusionment for a new perspective. In so doing, she was able to see the bigger picture of her life and embrace her larger reality. One where she was redeemed and grateful.

Not everyone gets to this. I wonder if she knows how fortunate she is to have come through her crisis.

I'm glad I didn't let her walk by. I'm glad I called her name. I'm glad we talked.

Living (v): 1. the act of moving on. 2. reconciling what is with what should have been in search of the bigger picture 3. what I'm doing right now.

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