A smart, artsy teen client once described her math homework as “more flowers than numbers.” Such moments in therapy visits abound, arresting in their unexpected turns of phrase, their poetry.

Poetry has been on my mind because my writing adviser from grad school just retired. (I have two degrees; writing came first.) She was a magnificent teacher in many respects, most notably for me this one: she never, ever imposed her aesthetic values on her students, but instead had the insight to see what each and every poem was trying to become, and how to help it along.

As someone with pronounced aesthetic preferences, her gift was like the higher math to my clumsy arithmetic. I’ve known for years that I could never be a teacher, in part for that reason. But I had the gratifying realization recently that I get to live by her example in my work as a therapist.

Progress notes are more numbers than flowers, and the bane of my existence, but therapy appointments are veritable gardens of perennials, annuals, and ectoplasmic chalk drawings that brighten my path and sweeten the air I breathe. I’m grateful to my clients for sharing them. I’m grateful to you for reading.


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Because here’s the thing–after 2019, I hated any gift I’d ever shown for eloquence. For a time, I consciously tried to strip my speech of grace and flourishes, saying as little as possible in conversation and using the plainest words I could find. The fall prior, 2018, I had counted the poems I’d written, a solid decade of effort, and realized I had enough for a slim book. I was thrilled. The act of writing had long given me a natural high, a kind of spiritual orgasmic state of energy and bliss that, to paraphrase Bjork, almost never let me down. When writing went well, words seemed to solve the very mysteries of life. Then, my brain went haywire and life fell apart. In the midst of agonies I don’t know how to describe, I wrote a hallucinatory email message that–because of the power of my words, still available to me as other faculties foundered–sounded purposeful and intended. The months that followed were months of shame and grief. My parents, recipients of said message, perceived immediately that something was wrong and never once reproached me, though from March to September, I had no explanation. I don’t know how I could have survived it if I’d hurt them. It took me a while to feel deserving of such unconditional love, and it’s taken me even longer to dare to care about my writing again. I feel similar transport doing therapy, and that’s such a steady supply of joy, I’ve barely missed the other source. But I took my manuscript out today, because a friend expressed interest, and remembered a comment once made to me: “Your poems make me want to kiss someone.” I can’t think of a better, more sustaining compliment.


Text and image copyrights held by me. My posts have gotten shorter as I deal with other things. As ever, I’m grateful for your reading. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it with anyone you feel might like it, too.