On a May Day – Part 1

snowflake by Heather KatsoulisOn an early May morning, I showed up to my last therapy session. Needless to say, I was feeling nervous.

I didn’t know much about how we were going to handle that last appointment, but I had an image that had popped in my mind few days before and I wanted to discuss about it with my therapist on that last meeting.

During the previous days, while thinking about the person I have been all my life and the one I’ve got the feeling I’m transforming into, a geometrical metaphor had surfaced in my mind. I easily pictured the usual me like a well-defined, solid and polished cube.
No surprise about the reason why my mind picked such a shape: you can easily tell which are a cube’s boundaries; you can easily tell what’s on the faces you can’t see; you can turn it in your hands as long as you like and no surprise will ever come from that; all of its faces are perfectly identical and therefore predictable. I would have probably just added a naif touch to the cube representing the person I’ve been for all my life: I would have split it in 2 halves and painted it with two slightly different colors, one color for the person I am at home and a lighter shade for the person I’m everywhere else. Still, the cube felt like the perfect shape for the over-rational person I’ve always been.

On the other hand, if I think of the person I’m slowly becoming, the cube doesn’t feel like the best choice. My mind would probably be keener on some more complex shape, something like a star network, for geeks like me, or even better: a snowflake under the microscope.

Elaborating that image a bit more, I feel as if the journey with anxiety I’ve been through has added some new depth levels to the person I am.

The person I’m becoming today, in fact, feels way more complex than the one I’ve been so far. It’s more complex because now I know how hard it is to predict my own physical, emotional  and psychological reactions to the surrounding environment and to the events occurring. It’s more complex because I’m slowly realizing that I’m probably more than just the dichotomy between the At-Work-Me and the At-Home-Me. It’s more complex because I am now hugely aware of many of my fragilities.

These two shapes – the perfect, steady, unscratchable, ever reliable cube and the delicate, unexplored, complex and indefinite snowflake – are now both part of me to some extent, and so they will be in my nearest future, for the length of an interregnum, where none of them can act as the absolute ruler yet.

That’s probably part of what changing means: realizing that the perception of the world around yourself and of your own image are slowly transforming. From my side, there’s a lot of surprise in it and even a little resignation. Nobody probably knows what really happens while we’re changing: I surely don’t. All that we are allowed to see are the causes triggering our transformation process and the effects proving the change. All that lays in-between is part of a black box that I can’t interpret at all.

“Be ready for this interregnum to last for quite a long time”, my therapist had warned me a couple of weeks before.
Changing takes time and it’s never a black or white kind of situation. I’m in the middle of my don’t-know-how-many shades of grey scenario and I’ll have to get patiently used to it.

In this geometrical metaphor depicting my perception of change, a new element had surfaced some days before my last therapy session. From time to time, the new person I’m becoming finds herself in front the person I’ve been for all this time. The girl who’s learning to open up to the others, who’s learning that many of the obstacles she saw in her future can be easily bypassed or aren’t real at all, the person who’s discovering to her great surprise that she can enjoy time spent with other people and personal relationships getting deeper and stronger, the girl who thought she was destined to be the only member of her team and is now experimenting what it means to feel as part of a group, the one who had made hiding up her feelings, weaknesses and emotions her life’s mission – from time to time – finds her old-self standing in front of her and still has to figure out how to behave during those meetings.

It feels like every now and then I still have the need to surround my brand-new snowflake shape with a solid and shining metallic cylinder. Basically I still need to ensure myself that the space I can fill has a well-defined limit. That I may be free now, but still behind the limits of a given perimeter.

I described this spatial metaphor to my therapist and told her about how dual my feelings were, knowing that my need for a container, my need for a delimited space is both a way to feel protected and a way to set limiting boundaries for me and my experiences.

In response, she provided me back her own representation of my story: “I see it like you’ve been on some walk on the mountains for all this time. For all of your life you’ve been walking on rocky paths and you’ve equipped with hiking boots to protect yourself. Now, for the first time, you’ve reached a point in which you realize the scenario may be changing. There are still some rocky paths ahead, but you have spotted some tender grass and maybe even a lake nearby. And you’re still wearing your boots. Now you’re deciding what to do with your boots: you can leave them on, whatever direction you’ll take, you can abandon them here, or maybe you can take them off and store them in your backpack, ready to wear them again as soon as they’re needed. And you’re free to keep going on the steep path, or to go in a different direction now, you can abandon the scarp and have a walk on the grassland, you can even stop and bathe in the lake, or you can choose to go through all of them, one at a time.”

I just look at her and nod; she’s right for the umpteenth time.

“The most important part now is to make sure that you are going to choose what direction to take, integrating your emotional part with the rational one. We’ve seen how your rational side has often overwhelmed your emotional side. The hint here is to make your choices finding a balance between the two.”

Continues here: On a May Day – Part 2


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