She was siting slumped over on the curb, cigarette in one hand, thin, hair falling on each side of her face like worn yarn. Tears rolling down her cheeks with the occasional intake of a huffing breath.
She was completely alone.
I had a business meeting to conduct, but that could wait, I went over and sat down on the curb next to her.
“You are not feeling well.” I said.
She looked at me and cried harder. “I’m such an asshole when I don’t feel well, I’m so mean, I’m such a mean person!” She could barely get the words out through her sobs. “I haven’t used in two days…why do I have be such an asshole.”
“You’re not mean…this is normal. You are not a mean person, your reaction isn’t your fault…it’s just how the chemicals in your brain are reacting, how you are dealing with things right now. What’s your name?”
She gave me her name.
I gave her mine.
Names are important, she wasn’t just a patient, she had a name, and a life, and a story and people who loved her, and people she loved.
“Why can’t I get it together at my age. I shouldn’t be like this…I miss my daughter, this is all my fault. I miss my boyfriend, he’s in jail now, I can’t write him…I’ve been out on the streets, I don’t know where or what jail, he doesn’t know I care about him, he doesn’t know I love him. I’m not on my psych meds…” More racking sobs through this disjointed story. “I’m such an asshole!”
I sat side by side, listening to her. I didn’t want to say too much, because people don’t need lots of words when they are in the dark night, I was there to sit with her through the storm and let her know, she was not alone. She needed someone with her…someone to offer steady energy that says, you are perfect as you are right now, even in this moment when you feel most alone and abandoned, when you feel like an asshole, when you’ve made unforgiveable mistakes, when you feel sick, when tears are a river on your cheeks, when you feel like you are not worthy to be cared about.
“I’m glad you are here. Things are going to get better after today. I’m proud of you.”
She wiped her nose with her sleeve, and looked at me with kind eyes. She was in pain, and pain makes people do things that aren’t in alignment with who they really are. “Thank you for being nice to me.” One of the staff members walked up,
“I’m taking her now.”
We both stood up.
She said again, “Thank you…thank you for staying with me.”
She gave me the warmest hug, I hugged her back,
“You are welcome…I’m glad you are here.” When I said that a second time, it wasn’t only that I was glad that she was in treatment, I was glad that she was alive.
I was glad I could sit with someone in the storm of self loathing and offer perspective. I’ve been her, I understood. Not in the same way, but I understood that pool of tears she was drowning in. Whatever she did, whatever happened, wasn’t who she really was…deep down, she was light…we all are that light. And the more we can connect to that space, the more we can offer grace, we can transform ourselves and each other.
The strength, steadiness, patience, and wisdom of trees is hard earned. It offers grounding when needed, and the ability to reach out long strong steady branches to grab on to when they feel like they are drowning. Quiet listening and protection, and the knowing…they are not alone.