“Nothing changes you until you change. Everything changes once you change.” ~ Anonymous ~
Why do I have to be naked?
It was a very sunny day and the room was warmer than usual. Actually, it was a little muggy in the small room with large furniture that was streaked with the sunshine streaming between the window blinds. The strain of emotions and surrounding warmth made it nearly impossible to stay awake and alert.
The woman was still speaking in the same unhurried tone. “You always try to control what’s happening because you don’t want to suffer painful consequences. Unless you change the way you interact with people and the way you perceive situations, nothing is going to change. If you change, everything around you will change, but it has to be in that order.”
Why?! Why?! Why did she keep talking about the need to change?!
She was kindly smiling and still talking, but my mind had drifted through the open blinds, outside in the freedom of the blue sky to days when I didn’t have this powerful ache inside and my mind was orderly.
What? Who was I kidding? The powerful ache had been there as long as I could remember and had wrecked huge portions of my life. I missed my orderly mind, but the woman was still talking and suddenly I was back in the room again as she said, “Your mind will heal and you will be a better you if you don’t give up, but it is going to take hard work.”
Now she was just looking at me like I was supposed to say something.
I knew she could see everything as I sat there emotionally naked and vulnerable. There was nowhere to hide.
During the prior couple days, I had stared at my reflection in the the mirror. Millions of thoughts flashed through my mind, but my eyes never blinked and my face remained blank. Life was hard enough, but loving people meant opening up the most vulnerable part of your soul and being emotionally naked. That is totally terrifying because there is always the possibility of being hurt or disappointed.
“I can’t do it,” I said. “It feels impossible.”
“Do you really think you have ever controlled another person so that you were able to be saved from your pain?” she asked.
The words grabbed hold of my tongue and stuck to it while my mouth refused to open. Admitting she was right would change my reality, but she was right. She knew it and she knew that I knew it. She patiently waited for my reply.
I couldn’t say it. I just couldn’t say it.
The room was getting really hot. Didn’t she feel the heat and stifling humidity? I was suffocating. I was probably going to die right there on the couch, sweating, naked and sick.
Flashes of everyone I loved floated through my mind. Was I really the key to the emotional bondage I now found myself? Could I really escape the captor of my brain and heal my soul?
“N…,” I began, but had to clear my throat because the words were still stuck on my tongue. “No. I have never been in control of anyone else and I never manipulated a situation so perfectly that I escaped unscathed.”
There. I said it. No fireworks went off and the carpet didn’t split so that the ground could swallow me up.
The woman smiled.
“Who and what can you control?” she asked.
The woman was relentless.
My life was being ripped out of my body. I definitely was going to have a heart attack if I had to keep answering these questions. Why was my mouth so dry? Isn’t it time for my appointment to be over yet?
“The voice in your head that says, ‘You can’t do this,’ is a liar.”
I looked straight in her eyes and with all the energy I could muster, I answered, “I can only control myself and my reactions in any given situation.”
The suffering was killing me as I sat alone in my head with aching, raw emotions. The voice inside was screaming, “Traitor! Chicken! You are so weak!”
“Your life will remain the same until you change. Your relationships will remain the same until you change. Your thought processes, perceptions and reactions will continue to give you the same results until you change.”
I knew if I looked it up in the dictionary, the words would practically leap off the page. “Therapist. Masters at pulling out emotional pain, giving heart attacks and causing uncontrollable vomiting episodes.”
I felt sick, then my body betrayed me. Tears began to fall out of my eyes and it took all my strength not to sob. I worked so hard to get to this point and now she wanted me to believe that I actually held the key to this last step?
It was a sick word.
She was speaking again. “Have we already set up your next appointment?”
“Yes,” I answered and stopped myself short from adding, “I can’t hardly wait to have my naked soul tormented again.”
After leaving the office, I was very quiet and then when I went to bed that night, I sobbed into my pillow until I fell asleep with my naked, wounded soul and angry brain.
That was four months ago.
My therapist was right. She was absolutely and completely correct in her counseling.
In order to change, you have to be willing to strip away all the baggage and walls from your soul. While emotionally naked you have to confess to yourself that you are the master of one person…yourself. No matter how hard you try, you can’t manipulate every situation to prevent yourself from feeling pain. Life causes pain in many forms and through the pain you will grow and flourish.
The responsibility of your life is completely yours.
If you don’t like your life, change it. Flip the whole thing upside down, shake out all the garbage, clean off the sides and set it upright. It may feel empty, but in time you can fill the spaces with good people and memorable experiences.
Life can be filled with love, but only if you are willing to remain emotionally naked with the people you want sharing it with you.
The four months following that therapy session has been filled with a full range of emotions and events. I have contemplated every aspect of my existence both past and present. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve been angry. I’ve tried to manipulate situations and other people, but as I was attempting it, I could hear my therapist’s calm voice say, “Your life will remain the same until you change. Your relationships will remain the same until you change. Your thought processes, perceptions and reactions will stay the same until you change.”
I have become very honest with myself about myself.
I have also forgiven and praised myself.
I went to Hell and on the long journey back, I discovered a very wonderful person who is not only witty, intelligent and addictive, but she’s also loving, kind, compassionate, funny, determined, courageous and a survivor. Yes, I am that wonderful person who will NEVER give up. I may panic, cry and moan, but that’s okay. No one is perfect. I’m doing the best that I can do and that is enough and all anyone can ask of me.
As I see it now, my biggest challenge and opportunity right now is finding a job. Surely there is an employer in Richmond, Virginia, or a close county in North Carolina that will realize what a fantastic addition I would be to their company. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every sunrise and thank God for another day when I watch the sunset.
“One step can make all the difference.”
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I know what I’m going to do with my life today. What are you going to do with your life and how are you going to love the people in it?