It’s difficult to define the parameters of our relationship. I’m not a practicing therapist, and you’re not my client
I’m not sure how to address you. Friend? Former friend? Client?
It’s difficult to define the parameters of our relationship. I’m not a practicing therapist, and you’re not my client.
But I did act, in a nonprofessional capacity, as your… wailing wall? Maybe mentor would be a good word, but our conversations weren’t goal oriented.
All I can say is: You cried for help, and I was there to listen.
I listened to your pain, your confusion, your torment. I heard all the words you didn’t say; I helped you understand some of it, guided you to places where perhaps you could find the answers I was unable to provide.
I gave you a piece of my heart. Thought about you, davened for you. Listened and listened and put on a strong front so that you would never feel that your secrets were too heavy for me.
I was happy to do it all.
No, happy is not the right word. None of it was happy. Privileged, maybe. If this was what I could do to help, I was ready and willing.
“What am I going to do if you get sick of me one day?” you asked once, fear thick in your voice.
“Don’t worry,” I told you, “you’re the one who will drop me first.”
And then I added lightly, even though I was serious, “Let me down gently when you do, okay?”
I know the pattern well.
I find the lost baby birds. The ones who have fallen out of the nest and survived with injuries. A broken wing here, a damaged foot there. Sometimes the birds are too broken for me to fix, so I find people who are better than me — trained, with more qualifications and experience in bird-fixing than I have. But when I can help those baby birds, I nurse them back to health with all the tools I have, and when they’re strong enough I watch them fly away.
That’s the very best outcome there is.
At first, they’re attached to me, those baby birds. And as they grow stronger, they hop around, bolder and anxious to leave. I’m the one to coax them out of my care. I want their full independence.
I get that being a bird with a broken wing is uncomfortable. It’s painful. Healing takes time. I’ve been there, too.
It’s no fun digging deep down and telling me things you’ve never told anyone else before, and then regretting it because now someone else knows.
It’s no fun calling me so many times that you start feeling beholden.
So I let you into my life, too, share tidbits of the things that have shaped me into who I am, discuss the humdrum of day-to-day existence and the things that bind us in humanity.
And before you tell me that this is my fault — it’s a messianic complex, I must get high on doing this — I’ll tell you that I’m in touch with professionals who guide me to make sure no boundaries are crossed. Who encourage me that I’m doing the right thing — because maybe sometimes it’s just easier to ignore cries for help. Who guide me on the best people to recommend as your next stop when you feel strong enough to leave.
And the calls lessen until they dry up, and I’m happy, so, so happy for you. Because it means you can fly.
You didn’t say goodbye… and I can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 859)
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