“What do you hear?”
I glare at the ageing man’s laughter-creased face, in which blue eyes glint with a compelling joy and remind myself again that I do not want to be here. I will not be taken in by his apparent friendliness. What kind of a therapist wears jeans and a bright orange shirt and then offers their patients coffee on a swing bench, anyway?
“Hear?” I hide none of the scorn in my voice.
“Yes.” He appears unperturbed by my tone as he sweeps his arm in an all-encompassing gesture. “The sounds around us.”
I think, not for the first time, that Dr. Andrews (“Call-me-Harry,”) proves the theory that shrinks are the craziest of us all. Has this ridiculous man never watched one of those TV shows where the psychiatrist, dressed in a suit, sits behind his desk while the patient lies on a couch bearing their soul? That’s how it’s supposed to be. The sarcastic retort is already on the tip of my tongue, as I consider reporting him to a medical board for unprofessional conduct. Yet right now, I have little choice but to play along until the end of this session.
He nods, seemingly as pleased as a Grandfather watching a grand-daughter’s first steps. “And?”
What a waste of time this is. You throw one cup of luke-warm coffee into your boss’ lap, and they slap you into “Anger Management Classes,” faster than a drunk-driver sees the inside of a jail. As if I don’t have enough stress already: three impossible teenage boys; an idiot of an ex; a ruthless boss; and a demanding landlord. Now I have to put up with Hippy-Harry wasting my time. Anger management! I’m not the one that needs this. My boss and ex-husband should be sitting here.
“Be truly still, Roxanne and you will hear even more.”
I grit my teeth. Just one session and then I’ll find a way out of this. I sit dead-still and let the sounds wash over me. Glancing up at the large spreading Oak-tree under whose limbs we shelter, I can hear sparrows twittering and a dove cooing in its branches. In the distance I hear the sound of a child giggling – a happy sound, which brings an involuntary smile to my lips.
“Birds and a child,” I say.
I close my eyes and hear leaves rustling and nearby, water trickling into a hidden pond. They are soothing sounds, sounds that I never take the time to stop and hear. Just for an instant, a feeling of calm settles on me, as softly as a sparrow alights on a branch.
“What do you hear inside yourself?”
My eyes fly open. Now why did he have to go and ruin the moment? What in heaven’s name does he mean? What am I meant to hear? Maybe the blood pulsing behind my temples at this stupid line of questioning? I inhale deeply and exhale a loud impatient sigh through clenched teeth. Well, that was a sound.
“Good.” Irritatingly, his eyes seem to sparkle with even greater delight. “Close your eyes again and listen deeper than you’ve ever listened before.”
Nothing, there’s nothing else. What does he want from me? What does everyone want from me? Someone is always taking something, using me, pushing and pulling at me. I’m so very tired of it all. There’s no sound. Nothing, but this constant…
Suddenly I open my eyes.
Dare I tell him of that relentless voice? Yet one look in those eyes and I know that he knows. His expression is full of compassion.
“I hear….” I pause for a long time, not yet ready to admit to him, much less to myself, what I hear deep inside. When I finally speak, my voice sounds so soft that I am not sure it carries all the way to him.
“Rage. I hear rage.”
It feels like an eternity before he replies. “Few people listen deeply enough to hear that voice, Roxanne. Now we need to let it speak and be heard.” He reaches across and squeezes my hand. “Eventually, to heal.”
We sit in silence for the rest of the hour, sheltered by the old tree, alive with the rustle of leaves and birdsong. I listen deeply, trying to recall at what point of my life I lost this simple art.
Slowly, beyond even the anger, I hear the softest of whispers, familiar but long forgotten: “Be still and know that I am God.”
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
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