International Women's Day 2018: a personal reflection

We sit together in vulnerability.

In the twelve months passed, I’ve worked in depth, therapeutically, with twelve women. This is coincidental, and didn’t happen neatly in blocks as the months sit in a year, or indeed as increments of time sit around the clock. But the number is meaningful to me. 

This morning I woke up with a profound sense of love and care for those women that have come in and out of my life this year – as I have come in and out of theirs - noticing how I carry each of them with me for much longer than they (or I) might have imagined. I feel grateful to have met them, heard their stories and been alongside them in the unpicking and sense-making of their trauma, abuse and bereavement.

In weekly meetings over several months you become woven into each other’s lives in a way that is unlike any other relationship. It is intense, and at times wrought and anguished, but also ephemeral, ambiguous and without label. You sit together in painful vulnerability. You sit together in the universal frustrations of being human, and the personal victories. In stuckness. In strength. You silently root for them to root for themselves. You’re on the edge of your seat. You are sunk in.

Sat with my morning tea today, I wondered: how are they getting on now? Are they still healing? Are they hopeful for their future? Do they feel enough? In therapy, you quickly adapt to planned, abrupt and unresolved endings; you get used to the fact you might never find out what happens next though you may wish to. Increasingly you recognise there’s something difficult and beautiful in that, and the easiest way to carry it, is not being afraid to.

Learning to love the Other without expectation of reciprocity or longevity, is one of the oldest, most fundamental and existentially challenging lessons that there has ever been. It is what opens a space for the Others self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and subsequent growth. A lack of love (felt and expressed as warmth and respect for the essential life within everyone) is the thing to fear most in and out of therapy. Sitting bravely with love – trusting in its errant and unfinished process – enlarges the capacity we all have for more of it.  

So, as I walked in the woods this morning I gathered twelve small cones for a jar on my desk. I piled twelve stones into circle and sat for a while. I listened to the wind, and felt the coming rain. I sat with the things that don't speak, and with the ever-present future wish. Finally, I dismantled the circle and left the woods.

Happy International Women’s Day 2018.

We Sit in Vulnerability

(an old photo taken in summer 2017)