Investing in myself
The final bit of a series from the book of wrong answers volume 2 - Exploding canaries
This is part six of what started as a five part series that is now six or maybe seven parts. Counting is difficult. Here, I’m exploring my personal, practical knowledge and why it enables me to help people build more resilient businesses, relationships, and lives by connecting better with themselves and the world around them. My hope is that from reading these, you might see yourself in some of my stories. Perhaps you’ll find the courage and humility to get help and become more resilient in all aspects of your life.
These Sunday posts are becoming the a chunk of the first draft of my second book. The Book of Wrong Answers Volume 2 - Exploding Canaries.
I’m going to take the next couple of Sundays off from Exploding Canaries. It’s a pause to circle back to see what’s missing and where to go next.
Anyway, thanks for reading:
Investing in myself
Around a year after our son was born, money was tight. We were eliminating expenses. Locally roasted coffee? Gone! Too extravagant. Beer? Gone! Same reason. Psychotherapy sessions? Can’t afford that right now.
I’ve never had health insurance pay for any of my therapy. I’ve had a relationship with a therapist for over twenty years. I’ve never had a penny reimbursed by insurance companies. I’ve also taken very few vacations. Therapy has been much more valuable to me than a random week or two on a beach in Cuba or some place warm.
At this point in my life however, times were tight. In the interests of cost cutting,I was ready to leave therapy behind. I had set up an appointment where I was going to ‘fire my therapist.’
A couple of days before that appointment, the bottom fell out of my life.
My wife was just diagnosed with breast cancer. It was stage 4. According to the book, the median survival time was thirty six months. That was over ten years ago. And at the time? I was lost. She was the main breadwinner in the family. I was a flakey Peter Pan manchild. I worked as a DJ, an arts educator and a performer in schools, cobbling together a supplement to her earnings. I didn’t take many things seriously - especially not my career.
I had two children at home and lived in one of the most expensive cities in the country. There was no way I could provide for a family with my line of work. And as far as I knew, she could have been gone in thirty six months.
What do I do?
Well, I booked the first available appointment I could with my therapist.
All I can remember asking the same question over and over again.
What do I do?
Do I go and study to become a carpenter?
How am I going to do this by myself?
What do I do?
I went to see my therapist.
I asked him:
“What the fuck do I do?”
“You might want to try this work.” The answer was direct and clear. Study for a few years, see how things go.
So then came the training.
I took part in four years and over sixteen hundred hours of training, co-leading, supervision and, instruction. It was pretty intense group work. We learned about ourselves and how we related to each other. It was great training with brilliant people.
What stuck with me from my training?
I was driving home from our annual six day therapy retreat at the end of our first year. We did intensive work from seven every morning until eleven every night. It was such focused work, it messed with how I experienced the world. I remember visiting a store in the nearby town to purchase something for a costume. I felt out of sync at a sensory level with the people in this large department store. Everything seemed weird. It was like I was on a movie set and all I could see were stories unfolding before me. Everyone seemed just so damn human.
Before this retreat, every time I’d get behind the wheel of a car, I’d have road rage to some degree or another. The story I had in my head was that everyone was out to get me. Everyone pissed me off. Everyone was an asshole.
Driving home from that retreat however, I experienced the highways of Toronto differently.
I was on the 401 just about to merge onto the Don Valley Parkway. There I realized something in a really different way. I became aware of the fact that all of the people around me were just trying to get somewhere. They were just people, doing the best they could, in their own way. Some were impatient and that was ok for them to be impatient. There were the cheaters who used the shoulders as break away lanes. There were others who drove below the speed limit. Everyone was just doing their own thing. And it was ok. It was more than ok. It was exactly as it had to be at that time. I didn’t just know this as an idea. I felt it in my bones.
I learned that I’d find my way. Part of that was learning not to be the scapegoat any longer. I learned that I won’t be the problem. I’ll make sure I find my lane and hope that the traffic keeps flowing. Sometimes I’ll yield, others I’ll accelerate. Either way, I’d eventually make my way home.
Now, like my experience in traffic, I’m just more at ease with the world.
I wouldn’t have found this place without help.
In that way it hasn’t been easy finding ease.
I could not have done it without support.
One little relationship with my therapist has become like a rock thrown in a still lake. The immediate impact is likely gone. The ripples continue to spread through the world.
Good therapy takes time. It takes time for our nervous systems to attune to each other. It takes time and safety to begin to trust each other. It takes time in a relationship to repair the harms that were created in other relationships.
I believe in being the therapist that wasn’t there for my father. I work with adults to help them become responsible for their children, rather than medicalizing them. I help people stop being scapegoats.
Therapy saved my life.
I am grateful to have invested in myself. This book is a direct result of the time and whole heart that was invested in this path. As another great Jim once lamented: “It’s not easy being green.”
No Jim, no it is not. It’s not easy finding ease either.
My mime teacher used to say to us: “I only sell expensive things.”
He would expand this into a story explaining to us that you had to work for and earn expensive things whether those to be products, skills, abilities and most importantly, wisdom.
Developing a sense of ease with the world was expensive for me.
And the value of the investment now is beyond measure.