Blessing in the guise of circumstance put Tami and I together less than half a year ago.
Soft tears of overwhelming gratitude accompany reflection on the role she has played in my life. I have been gifted tools for redefining the relationship between myself and the world and opening myself to life, love, and growth.
To give a sense of what Tami provides, and illustrate the change, some brief context of where I was prior to our meeting is needed.
In my early 30’s, I’ve been living abroad far from my family for a decade. Married, with two stepchildren, already young adults, and provided opportunity to develop professionally and intellectually in a host country, I have much to be grateful for.
Yet, I was in a bad way, I felt: pivoting from substances, food, and entertainment to distract from the roar of confusion and periods of crippling self-doubt, guilt, and limited functioning, I felt desperate, unable to remember past joy or imagine future pleasure, and all the guiltier for not feeling the gratitude I ought to for what I had. I could not see the sun, could not stand to stand inside the love family and friends had to offer. And I was heading deeper inward and further away, from myself and others, than I ever had before. This was the story I was telling myself, and thus found myself living.
Tami listened, as I described my situation. She followed the content, but was attuned to more than words. That’s the mind, she said. Often monopolizing reality at the expense of other ways of being and knowing. To understand me, we’d need to bracket that, and give voice to emotions and the body as well.
And so we worked, exploring connections between emotion, thought, imagination, and sensation. Tami intuitively employed various techniques to facilitate a series of progressions. These were shifts in attention forming assemblages of diverse time scales, the historic and the fantastic, intra- and inter-personal, and the embodied present at different levels of awareness and in different modes of being. Tami’s attention allowed me to focus on the unfolding singularity of each present moment, each step in the dance, and, as both witness and participant, her insight sketched constellations between these moments, proffering images laden with meaning.
Reflecting now, it seems we engaged in a practice of surreptitious approach, guerrilla movements or improvisational dances, toward (insofar as around reveals) the very unspeakable, the enormity and permeability and resilience of life (as we perhaps not know but sense it): the self.
Throughout, I felt not judged, but heard. That alone, to have your public without judgement, is mechanism for potential change. This was thought, an idea, of what therapy can be.
But to know Tami is, to me, a gift that vast exceeds the limitations of the imagined, the claimed known. She was a magical stranger, an alien visitor from the unimagined, outside the scope of my world. She came to look, listen, and care, and in reorganizing the boundaries of my being expanded not just limitations of imagination but opened to the immensity of boundless possibility.
Tami provided the space and encouragement to do the hard work, go into myself, and relay what I found there. While I felt cared for, and safe, it was (and is) hard work. And she offered honest, frank engagement. She stood at times behind me, others waited ahead, stepped aside when I barreled forward, and walked beside me throughout.
During one particularly difficult dance, her voice accompanied as I moved deeper inward. I knew then my face relayed pain and suffering. I described where I was, and after a while, nothing but soft whimpers as I let myself know what was found there.
After a time, Tami called me back, asked me to open my eyes. Though that darkness was there in me, acknowledged, and living, it was now illumined. And the world was not that place of once-darkness only. The world was not just me.
She looked me in the eyes. “Z, you are not alone. I am here with you. I, Tami, another living, breathing human being with all my light and darkness, am here with you.” These words are not precise, and were they so, could not convey the profundity of this moment for me. This was intuitive timing, close attention, and total acceptance. One example of many.
In addition to functional, practical tools Tami has gifted me, various strategies for continuing the hard work of knowing by creating my being, her presence, both evoked in memory and in continued contact and availability, is a beacon, helping me redirect light where I will. She has shown me that the constellations, systems of meaning that form beliefs, change based on our attention, and I have the ability to actively choose to illuminate the me I wish to see.