Friday, January 8, 2010

The Lines Inside Us

Our Milky Way Galaxy..

Sometimes everything has to be inscribed across the heavens to find the one line already written inside you. David Whyte

I don't know from what part of himself David drew these words, but I know they are true. What is most self-evident to my friends has to be transformed into neon letters light years high and flashed across the arm of the galaxy for me to see it. And even then, I'll stand in my front yard on the darkest of nights, looking far into the past (the light from the nearest star to our sun is 4.2 years old by the time it reaches us), and only take a sideways glance at the message mirrored within.

It's not that I'm thick, as Ron Weasley is fond of saying, or dense in the parlance of my junior high peers, or slow on the uptake, though all of these are arguable. It's that sometimes I don't really want to know. I'd rather indulge the comfortable. warm embrace of denial, than allow a hint of chilly self-awareness to intrude and reveal.

All the times I've nudged a person closer and closer to the rim of the precipice where meaning lies in the dark depths of therapy, there have been those when I've drawn back myself. It's normal, we say, even the healers are hopelessly human. But what cosmic comedian allows us to play god with others while granting pardon to ourselves? My friend and coauthor, Lynn Smith, used to remind me often, "a doctor can take patients no further than s/he has gone themselves." If you're not willing to step into the void, don't expect anyone else to.

Without realizing it, one can be like journalist Max Mercy, in the film, The Natural (1984), who is only a commentator on the game of baseball. He says he makes it more interesting for the fans to watch, but he's never donned a glove, taken up a bat, and waited for the pitch. We say that it's important for therapists to undergo therapy in order to learn to distinguish their own issues (and everybody's got at least one) from the patient's. I think it's important because that's where we become players. Where we learn to recognize there are times when we'd like to read any line except the one written inside us.

(River Flow: New and Selected Poems, 1984-2007 by David Whyte, Many Rivers Publishers, 2007; Creative Commons image of the Milky Way Galaxy by Sir Mervs via Flickr)
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