It is not often during a session anymore that I am moved to tears, but today was different. I have a client who I feel so honored to work with because she is so entirely invested in her therapy as well as her own growth. During our first session she told me for her to continue to work with me she had to know that I was on her side. I thought this was such a strange question at first, but then realized that anyone in therapy should feel there therapist is on their side; someone they feel they can rely upon.
Today, my client told me a story which she stated she believed she would take to her grave and not tell another person. When she was in the second grade, my client was found by a teacher to have a learning disability. She was given assignments to take home and complete with her mother. She and her mother did work on the assignments, but her mother became frustrated at her own lack of reading skills as well as her inability to teach her that she stopped the assignments. When asked the next day by the teacher if she had completed the assignments, my client was honest with her and told her that her she had not completed the assignments. The teacher called the mother to inquire and the mother told the teacher the assignments had been completed. The teacher then asked my client, at the time a second grader, why she had lied. It was at this point that she learned a very valuable lesson. She learned how to cheat and lie. A very valuable commodity which she learned to continue all through her high school years. My client informed me that she never learned to read and that she cheated all through high school, graduated with honors with a 3.6 grade point average. Amazing! When she enrolled in college, she decided she would only get a degree if she completed it herself, because she wanted to own it, which she did, although she learned in her first class how difficult this might be.
After her first class, she forced herself to the bookstore and looked around for several hours, deciding that she was going to find a book and read it cover to cover. She picked Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper”, and states that to this day it is one of her favorite books. She read that book cover by cover, pronouncing every word, some even out loud. She wrote down words she didn’t understand and looked them up. And she learned to read. While she was telling me this story, I had the image of Miss Celie from “A Color Purple”, being taught how to read by her sister. (Incidentally, this was the next movie assigned to my client to watch!) And guess what her question was before divulging this secret. “If I tell you, promise me you will not alter any of the reading assignments you give me.” You see, I give most of my clients reading lists to continue therapy outside of the office. Last week she was assigned “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb, and was powerfully moved by parts of the book. She was so afraid I would not allow her to keep up with the assignments because I would feel sorry for her or feel she couldn’t complete the assignments. Well…I gave her two new books to read this week.
But what moved me to tears, besides the fact a second grader should EVER be questioned for lying about learning, nonetheless anything else and the impact it would have on her later, was that I had so early been given the chance to read and to learn. She had been cheated out of 20 years of growth, knowledge, education and adventure…all because two adults were unwilling to help her or believe her because of their own inadequacies.
I don’t claim to know everyone’s story, or to understand it even, but realizing we live in a country where we are allowed and almost forced, some would say, to read, is a great thing. The power of word is profound. It is everywhere, from stop signs, to menus, to books, to wedding vows, to blogs…
I have a new appreciation for reading today. And I feel honored to have had a mother that took me to the library and load up on books, even though she knew I wouldn’t read them all. It’s the “Go Dog Go” and the “Little Bear” that makes up much of my childhood. I remember Mrs. Hopp reading us books while it snowed outside when I was in 4th grade. I remember seeing “A Christmas Carol” after having read the story and seeing the characters come to life on stage. If you don’t know exactly the power you hold, rent “Born Yesterday” or “Cry Freedom”…or for that matter, “The Diary of Anne Frank”…
Sometimes, we need a little reminder about the small things that make us happy. I love to read, and I was reminded about that today.
Which is why she now gets to make a list of 100 things that make her happy! We all need reminded…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!