Yesterday we posted Portia Nelson’s wonderful “There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk” story. That story reminds me of so very many times that I was honored to be witness to someone learning not only that they wanted to walk down a different street, but that they could.
And it reminds me of a time when I learned this for myself.
In 1984, in a locked psychiatric ward at UCLA, a resident psychiatrist asked me, during a therapy session, what I wanted my life to look like in five years. This wasn’t the first time he’d asked this. He asked me nearly every therapy session, at the end, just before I left. I remember mulling his words over quietly, not responding, just wondering (as I always did) why in the world he would ask me this.
It just made me feel sad.
My life, as I’d pictured it, was crumbling and much of what I had always planned was now impossible. His question, that he asked gently and hopefully, just made me sad.
I remember finally asking him, what difference does it make anyway? I’d recently been diagnosed as one hundred percent mentally and physically disabled for life, so it wasn’t like it could ever look that way.
He gently said, “Just tell me, Kathleen.”
I said that I would like to leave my marriage that was miserably failing and hurting everyone involved, and I would like to move to my own apartment with my two beautiful young daughters, and focus on raising two healthy, happy daughters ….. and I would like to write.
I remember Dr. Jones, the resident psychiatrist, leaned back in his chair and smiled, he was quiet for a long time. I figured he was just satisfied that I finally acknowledged his question, but after awhile he said “So, Kathleen, that is all entirely possible.”
And I was honestly stunned.
I felt like I’d just said to him, I want to win the lottery, fly to the moon and become president of the universe.
When I read this now, I see how relatively modest my 5 year plan was, but honestly on that day it felt quite impossible.
That day I learned that not only did I want to walk down another street but that someone else really believed that I actually could.
We can do this for others. We can see their potential, and help them dream a new dream.
Until next time…