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How did I get here?

I spent the majority of the past two days asleep. I’m beyond frustrated by my inability to stay awake when I need/want to. But I don’t really want to talk about that right now.

This evening I went to an art showing by my last-school-year-counselor’s wife. I’d met her a while back when I ran into my counselor at the grocery store, and since then, I’ve been following her website and digging her artwork. When I found out earlier this year that she was going to have an exhibition at the art school near where I lived when I first moved here, I was excited. And nervous.

My former counselor had done a good job of blurring the boundary between professional and friend, and since I grew up in a family where boundaries either didn’t exist or simply weren’t respected, when my counselor graduated (and for the most part cut ties), I was a complete mess. He was the first person I’d ever told so much of my icky past to, and he was the one who started labeling things for what they were: abuse, physical assault, not normal. It took a huge leap of faith for me to believe even a fraction of what he was telling me, but those little nudges, coupled with the more firm pushes of my summer counselor, gave me the momentum and strength to give myself distance from the physical reminders of my traumas and to allow myself to hope for better days.

My mom was convinced that I’d developed “feelings” for him, but the feelings I’d developed weren’t the ones she was implying. I don’t know that I’d ever blindly trusted someone quite that much (even though it took me three months to start really talking about things), and I definitely didn’t realize that feeling safe was something that everybody deserved. So yes, I developed deep feelings of safety, which was foreign to me and frankly, kind of terrifying. I’d spent my life having the rug of safety yanked out from under me, and I’d gotten used to bracing myself for the inevitable pain of the abrupt disappearance of that safety. Feeling safe after not knowing that feeling for so long? That’s some addictive stuff.

So back to this evening (sort of). I’d hemmed and hawed about attending the opening, worried that my former counselor would feel awkward or uncomfortable, or that I was overstepping what’s allowed of former clients. But I reasoned with myself and decided that if I abruptly stopped counseling someone (especially someone teetering on the edge of a big life change), I’d be curious to know how they were faring. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen him. He and I had discussed my post-grad dream locations (Portland versus Vermont), but at the time, I was doing battle with my grad school advisor and my family, and my mood was circling the drain more than ever. I was in a really bad place. And when he graduated, I turned some of my anger and sadness toward him for abandoning me. (I was seriously elbow-deep in the psychological crap I’d been muddling through, and losing that sense of safety that I couldn’t sustain on my own sent me into a tailspin.)

So, this evening. I showed up, and my former counselor was right there when I walked in. And he smiled when he saw me, saying, with a tinge of incredulousness, “You’re in Portland!” We chatted for a while, catching up on the general changes that have taken place over the past year, and he was happy to know how I was doing and what I’d been up to. And I chatted with his wife for a while (she still doesn’t know how I know her husband…ha), and she was so much fun to talk with. (We briefly lamented the lack of Jeni’s Ice Cream in Portland, declaring it one of the few “major” drawbacks to the city.) In my typical museum-going style, I spent a ridiculous amount of time taking in her artwork, studying the process and marveling at the existence of a professional field that seems an awful lot like playing. (I like to play. I miss being creative.) There were hugs all around when I left, and as I got back into my car, I felt tears coming. I haven’t cried in a long time, and I always laughed in my counseling sessions about how I could not cry there, even when I was talking about really awful things. But tonight, I am crying. I am crying with relief at the safety I rediscovered this evening, and at all that has happened since that day in October of 2010 when he and I met for our first session and my life began to shift for the better.

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