The black leather couch from my office on Michigan Avenue came with me in the move to Lincolnwood. But now she’s sitting next to the fireplace where the hors d’oeuvres are served and the conversation is filled with laughter rather than the tears that dampened her cushions. After all those many years together at Thirty North, after embracing and comforting so many, I wondered what she would say if she could talk.
I’ve always been a softy, Arlene, even when it felt as if the weight of the world was lying on me. I always answered “Yes” when clients asked so plaintively, “can you help me change… will you help me find happiness?” Even as I knew, for all the comfort they would find in my safe place, for all the insightful words that would be compelling and wise, the healing would have to come from within, when they were standing strong on their own feet, setting boundaries… accepting themselves, as is…loving themselves for who they were.
I thought of all the clients my couch had soothed as they sobbed into her arms. And all the personal triumphs as positivity and self-confidence took the place of pessimism and timidity.
Remember the endearing young person who asked for a prescription for happiness? I wish we could have written one for her to take downstairs to Walgreens. Curiously enough, there is a ‘prescription,’ or perhaps a pathway to happiness would be more accurate. When clients described the crises that brought them to the office, I could feel the shift in weight when the reasons-why on the face of the problem gave way to the real reasons beneath the surface. That’s when the work begins, exposing the traumas of the past and reframing the scenarios that brought so much pain.
For thousands upon thousands of hours my office companion had shared in confidence the journey-to-wellness stories that began in my office. She had heard it all, the recuring themes bringing enlightenment where there was darkness.
We do not have the power to change the past. What is within our power is the willingness to accept it, learn from it, and move on. We are not victims. We must take responsibility for our own lives and make the transformation from dependency to self-determination. When you are in the moment, it can’t pass you by. Let go of outcome; failing is a necessary stratagem for gaining self-knowledge. As for remorse, use it to move your heart toward the loving spirit that is found in our higher self.
A bit self-consciously, I sat on the couch. I heard a voice absorbed into the cushions from the lingering energy of a lengthy list of courageous men and women on the path to self-fulfillment.
The concept that self-love provides the foundation for loving others, is elusive. But being aware of your needs and satisfying them appropriately, enables you to open your heart to others. You must feel positive about the person you are – compassionate, loyal, honorable – in order to sustain intimate relationships. Love yourself and you are empowered to love others.
There was more to be learned, volumes really, but my couch was beginning to pontificate. Before some ego began to stick out of her stuffing, I asked if there was more to say?
Oh yes, I do like the new pillows you’ve bought for me!