Something that has always bothered me about myself is the difficulty I have with making eye-contact with people. I’m okay with my friends. But I struggle when I’m working with a client or even with my co-workers.
Nick is always bobbing and weaving his head to keep my gaze locked with his. Once when I was sitting across from him in his office, I wanted to see how low I could make his head go and if it would touch his desk or not, so I kept lowering my gaze. He came pretty close to bumping his chin on his desktop. Not sure how I kept my face straight (or my job!) that day. 😇
There was this other time a long time ago when I was in the hospital and my speech therapist was talking to me for what felt like hours. I’d somehow found myself in the throes of a several months long period of selective mutism. It was during that first year after I’d left home (after my adoptive dad’s second and final assault on me).
During his visits, my therapist would just take up the room with his presence and maintain these one-sided dialogues with me. He would pace. He would sit and stare at me. His determination was palpable at times. I remember he was also a bodybuilder and I’m pretty sure he is one of the people who influenced my love of physical fitness.
On this one particular day, I remember really wanting to talk to him. I was leaving in a couple weeks and I wanted so badly to have a conversation with him before I left, but I just couldn’t bring out the words somehow. I wasn’t very fond of communicating non-verbally, either.
At some point during this visit, in a moment of pure frustration and fury, I remember clenching my fists and pressing them into the wall behind me. A moment later, I slid to the floor, pulling my knees to my chest and began rocking. I was crying tears of rage, but I cannot remember why.
My therapist quietly sat down on the floor in front of me. I remember looking up and seeing him and realizing that the sun had already set. There was a dusky pall in the room and it would be dark soon.
I looked away from him very quickly, almost guiltily. He patiently searched out my gaze and when I broke it, he reached out his hand and gently tilted my chin up so that he could look at me. This small move seemed to halt his one-sided conversation and we sat like that for at least a minute regarding each other.
I think he was trying so hard to break through to me, but I just could not let him or anyone else reach me. I still feel this way, to this day, most of the time..
Looking back, I can see how risky that moment was for him. The touch was made with kindness, but doctors have ethics to abide by…I never felt compromised and that moment taught me that I was worth more than what I’d previously been taught about myself (the articulation of which I will spare you, dear reader!).
Anyway, a few years ago, before Shawn, before the miscarriage, before all the bad stuff from last year happened, I had a conference in my speech therapist’s town and invited him to dinner on one of the nights I was there. He accepted, but then about an hour before we were supposed to meet up, he texted: “I can’t. I’m so sorry, K.” We haven’t spoken since then, but I got an email from him last week. He is going to be here in my town for work next week. In a reversal of roles, let’s just say that the tiny little wicked witch in me recognizes the irony here.
However, the grown up woman in me sees the value of reconnecting with someone who was instrumental in my growth during a time of severe trauma and upheaval. I’m kind of excited to see him. I was only 14, turning 15 the summer we worked together. He never did get me to talk during our time together (45 days).
But, I hope we’ll be able to talk next week. And, I hope I’ll be able to look him in the eyes this time. 🐾