I’ve been sick the past couple of weeks. I don’t know if it’s The Flu but I was told it’s a flu, not that I much cared when I was in the middle of it. Several times during the long, lousy, coughing days I’d think, “If only I could find the right over-the-counter magic pill!” But when you’re knee-deep in a nasty virus you may be able to treat the symptoms but you can’t do anything to be well but get through it. Nyquil may have helped me sleep but I still woke up several times a night with scary dreams, a sore throat and coughing my head off.
It reminded me of that “Going on the Bear Hung” song I used to sing with my preschoolers.
“We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one,
What a beautiful day! We’re not scared!
Uh-oh, a forest! A big dark forest.
We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it
Oh no, we’ve got to go through it.
Stumble-trip! Stumble-trip! Stumble-trip!”‘
It made me think of how often we want to skip the middle part and get right to the glorious (one hopes) resolution, in life and in therapy. But the middle part is where the magic happens and unfortunately, sometimes the magic is muted by the trudging through tall grass and mucking through sticky mud and climbing over fences and creeping into dark caves. Sometimes the middle part doesn’t look magic; it looks hard and scary. No wonder we want to skip it. But the middle part is where we get well. It’s the part where we heal and we can’t get to the other side without going through the middle. That’s just how it is.
Sometimes in sessions my challenge is getting my clients to get their eyes off of the horizon and onto the work at hand. If you spend too much time wishing yourself to “someday” then it’s hard to keep the necessary focus on the work right here in our laps. Besides “someday” is always off over there, all we have is now. Right now we’re on a bear hunt and we’re facing a big, dark forest but we just have go through it, stumbling and tripping.
At least we don’t have to go through it alone, right? That’s what therapy is all about — someone to go through the big, dark forest with you, someone who has faith to hold you up when yours is draining.
It’s a funny thing. Once I gave up trying to be well when I wasn’t and just settled into being sick, I started to get better. Because I gave up. I quit trying to get work done, I quit trying to keep up with the dishes and I quit trying to cook. I told everyone they could fend for themselves and went back to bed. Amazingly, the kids survived on canned soup and sandwiches and my to-do list held itself over to this week when I’m on the mend. I just had to get through it. You will, too. And if you need help, well, that’s what a therapist is for.
(Here’s a very interesting article about the book this cartoon is based on. I didn’t realize the family is meant to be a group of kids — I always thought it was a mom and dad with their brood.)