You're Never Too Old to Grow Up

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Things had been rolling along nicely for about fifteen years when I realized I was poorly positioned in a pot of self-pity. Every thought that crossed my mind had a whiff of negativity… They’ll never call back… I’m getting oldIt’s cold in here… I always fill-in-the-blank… blah, blah, blah.

But therapy? Again? Isn’t 60 a little old to recommence counseling?  Shouldn’t I know who I am by now? Isn’t my current level of self-care adequate? Aren’t I emotionally stable already? WHAT ELSE CAN I POSSIBLY UNCOVER TO “WORK THROUGH”?!

And then I thought of Mom.

In the years immediately following my father’s death in 2002, Mom had multiple medical mishaps that landed her in rehab; a back surgery, two hip replacements, a subsequent second replacement, and a few bacterial infections. At the comparatively young age of 80, I thought she might die from medical complications brought about by a broken heart. Up to this point, Mom had never entertained the idea of seeing a therapist, nor did she ever think she needed one. She was good.

As part of the hospital’s rehab program, patients were provided time with a bonafide psychologist who made rounds on a regular basis. Always open to meeting new people, Mom engaged. I’m sure Jonathan’s first audience with Mom was quite lengthy; having grown up in an as-yet-to-be-identified “dysfunctional” family, Mom barely ever uttered a word of discontent, but with this new opportunity and a captive audience, she had much to say. So much to say in fact, that upon discharge from the hospital, she continued her professional connection with Jonathan for many years. She had finally experienced the relief that comes from having a professional listener listen only to you. And it felt good.

Down the road, the time came when Mom surrendered her license (praise be) and I became her driver. Although she saw Jonathan less frequently, her standing appointment with him was a bi-weekly given. Accompanying her in and out of his office, I could tell he had a genuine fondness for Mom, and she now considered him a friend as well as her therapist.

Our car rides home became vehicles for ahaaa’s into Mom’s life and being. Already primed by her emotional interaction with Jonathan, she’d often pick up with me where she left off with him. Mostly, she talked about her life with my father (a huge presence for over 55 years), but sometimes she covered ground about her role as a mother and her feelings about her kids... She spoke of past fears, and of high hopes for the future… She told stories of her own childhood and of her parents as people… The car rides home were worth every minute for these snippets.

With Mom’s experience as an inspiration, and after months of carrying around a therapist’s number, I made the call. The mere click of the cell phone buttons provided a modicum of relief. With empathy, sympathy, and a tad of telepathy, Diane got me, and she was worth every prepaid penny. A few weekly sessions in, and I was definitely feeling better… a little less overwhelmed and a heap more hopeful… the noose of negativity had been neutralized. I got to that magical point in therapy where I strategized on how to tell Diane I thought I could cut back to every other week now. (What’s that you say, Diane? Maybe not quite yet?)

What I learned from Mom during The Therapy Years, is that it’s never too late to grow; no matter how old, or how infirmed, there’s always room for expanding and overcoming. In the big picture, I may have 30 more years to become fully evolved… to understand how it all really works. Ultimately, I’ve learned that I’ll never be too old to grow up.

Emily Gaffney4 Comments