Amid the blowing of tall grass, warm winds of change are afoot. June compels graduation speeches that are cheesy at best. It provokes a pre-season dip in the pool. It conjures campfires and song. And apprehension of renewal, restoration and respite. The heat is on and you are melting in doctors appointments, school typos, prom-posals, money leaking out sideways on flowers and blooms that will soon fade to dust. As an almost empty-nest, middle-aged therapist to teens and young adults, my hairs turn grayer. My clientele marches on. Teens, my own included, turn from kids to young adults. I make improvements around the house. I get a kitten. I read the NY Times. I think it’s time to finally address that bucket-list. 1. Take a self-defense class (Jujitsu? Karate? Krav Maga?), 2. Visit Niagara Falls. 3. Take a day off for no good reason. 4. Go away with old friends.
Live a little.
As I meet more and more adolescents in crisis I wonder if it’s short-term – “I accidentally forgot to go to gym all year and now boy is my dad mad.” Or long-term – “My parents split years ago and I never dealt with it…” Or unknown, like my client this week: “A sadness has descended upon me of unknown origin and won’t leave the vicinity.” I spend hours on the phone helping one child get admitted to the hospital, all unpaid. All of this requires therapeutic skill. Recognizing the difference between teen angst and a real crisis takes years of experience. Listening is great. Therapy is a true resource. But going deeper is the work of gaining wisdom and confidence and ease. If you don’t try something new and fail, how will you learn anything new and succeed. This is what Oprah seems to be saying in her graduation speeches. Take a risk young people! No, not that kind of risk. The kind where you go outside of your comfort zone and just stretch your muscles. The kind where you meet someone new at a party, go to a work event, say you’re sorry, send a resume, call a doctor’s office, work on yourself, try the subway, fill your own tank of gas.
June requires parental fortitude. My kids are turning 18 and 21 this summer. Think I’m not in shock? Think again. But I am thankful for the price of admission of being a parent. For the reminders that they are strong and healthly. For the friends we’ve made along the way. Even for the times I had to rescue them in a crisis. For it made us stronger, closer, crazier and better. Families seem to stick together or fall apart. Or as Tolstoy says in his opening of Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
I’m glad my kids and my clients are still in it for the win.
I’m glad I fought for the 11 year old client with crippling anxiety.
I’m glad I talked to the school guidance counselor and saved a kid from suicide.
These are the days leading up to 2020. Leading up to your life. Leading up to owning it with all the pain and suffering and grief and worry and what ifs. It’s the time to do you. To build up for your 20’s and 30’s, to establish yourself and not live in fear. To fight for what’s right. As Lisa DaMour says, “When adults talk about anxiety and stress as normal and healthy functions, we provide a great service because the problem we have right now is that we have a lot of girls and boys who feel anxious about even being anxious and stressed about even being stressed. We can cut the problem in half by embracing that these are normal and healthy functions.”
Some kids seem to have it easy. They were born to advantages that we cannot imagine. Yet they suffer too. I wish I could go back to my 18 year old self and say, “Self, slow down. Everything’s Gonna be Alright.” Work hard, play hard, live a little.
Photo by C-H-S