Where did we leave off?  Oh, right.  We’re talking about how it’s hard to ask for help and sit across from a stranger just talking into thin air.  But we’re also talking about how we struggle to just listen to each other and so sometimes, we need to call a counselor.  We need a person.

Five days after I began my deck power washing project, I came to a stopping point.  Or so I thought…

Obviously, I had missed a spot or two.  In the grand scheme of things, the job was 98% complete.  I felt much better and knew the deck was in much better shape than it was when I began the tedious spraying.  Then, I saw these spots and I had a choice: take another 30 minutes and clean up the residual grime or…try my best to ignore what was uncovered and save it for the “next time.”  (I was fairly certain no one but me would really notice the unfinished business).

Counseling often goes the same way.  After a few sessions, you feel lighter and more understood.  Or perhaps you feel slightly more confused but for some reason, more confident that you’re moving in a positive direction.  Then, next session, you hit a wall.  Sometimes we call this a “block.”  Blocks are normal; they protect us when we’re feeling overwhelmed and maybe frozen; they come and go, and they can frustrate us when we’re desperately wanting to get un-stuck!  A block may show up when an emotion is just too much for your brain to comprehend.  Or it may be a circumstance that you just remembered that you know is going to take a long time to unravel.  Or it may look similar to what I was faced with on my deck: I see it, but I may want to choose NOT to see it for awhile.  I’m just too tired.

The great thing about working through these times with a counselor is there’s no right answer!  If you’re like me, you may have just grunted out loud; we like answers, don’t we?!  Especially right answers.  We feel safe when there’s an answer.  When we’re honest though, if we knew all the answers, we wouldn’t have even started the power washing/counseling process.

A good counselor says, “I see the block. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m going to be here with you as we figure it out.  And if it doesn’t happen today, that’s ok.  It’ll show up again and we’ll have a hundred chances to work through it, if you choose to do so.  When you’re ready.”

The pressure is off.

Counseling sometimes happens all at once – many, frequent sessions, in a relatively short period of time, and then you feel equipped and empowered to practice what you’ve learned.  Sometimes it happens over a longer period of time – consistent sessions, maybe not as frequent, exploring what comes up, when it comes up.  And even still, maybe your journey is a combination of both: a powerful spurt on the front end, take a break, a few more sessions, evaluate another “block,” and so on.  There’s no right way.  There’s no right answer.  Your journey is your journey.  And your counselor is traveling with you.

When I finished washing my deck, I was faced with one more decision: do I re-stain it or not?  Maybe later?  Maybe never?  To be honest, at that point, never was sounding really attractive and convenient.  The deck looked great in it’s bare, pure-wood form.  I could imagine how much better it might look with a smooth, water resistant coat of stain on it…you know, the kind where the water bubbles when it rains…  Nope.  I couldn’t do it.  I chose the “maybe later” option.  So, here she is.

Wood grain showing, blemishes apparent, grayish in spots, but clean and finished.  For now.  And I know there will always be a “maybe later.”

Over time, I know it’ll get weathered and will need attention.  It might even need another spray-down and that coat of stain may become a necessity rather than a bonus.

We get weathered, too.  Life’s up and downs temporarily damage us and permanently refine us.  We learn as we go; our technique improves, our stamina increases, our ability to let things go waxes and wanes, and the understanding of ourselves allows us to be okay with not being okay.  And when we’re not okay being not okay, a counselor is only a call away.

Written by Lauren Eisleben