In regards to my experience with the therapist, last week I finally reached a point where I felt my story (all of my story--this past year's madness in conjunction with the rest of my life and personal history) was being understood by another human being. Though I know it's just her job (a well-paying one at that) to try to understand me, her reiterations of what I had told her made complete logical sense and--not only that--she offered true sympathy for the pain and trauma I'd experienced and a sense of patience for why it has been so utterly difficult for me to move forward with my life.
For once my defenses came down. I no longer felt the rush of cornered-animal anxiety that has consistently plagued me whenever "certain subjects" have come up in conversation (I'm refraining from specifics here to avoid causing additional conflict)--my heart stopped racing, my hands quit shaking, and the hair on the back of my neck to the top of my head lay flat. What has replaced that instinctive fight-or-flight response has been a burden of dull pain and hurt--a heavy mourning ache that has allowed me to genuinely feel the heartache behind the wall of anger I've maintained for so long in order to defend my reactions to the people and experiences that have given me so much difficulty.
My motivations from the start had been to maintain my personal integrity and do an honest days work. Too much honesty about my future professional aspirations brought into play a perceived need on my part to prove to those above me that though I had begun to broaden my horizons, I would not neglect my current responsibilities and could be relied upon to continue doing my job to the best of my ability. I consistently went above-and-beyond the call of duty and thought that by doing so I'd stay in the good graces of my superiors. However, when things progressed to their worst and I continually had to defend myself against a barrage of mistrust and unreasonable demands while seeing that few, if any, others were being held to the same standard, my sense of rightness was confused and shattered. I'd always been taught that honesty and hard work were highly prized, but what the situation seemed to suggest to me was that superficial attitudes were what mattered and appearances are really what get you ahead in the world. I've never had a talent for negotiating such social ladders and so was unable to cope in an environment which required just that.
What made matters particularly difficult for me was that in year previous, the same level of superficiality had been absent from my experiences and I had grown to love my position in a workplace where my talents were prized and generously utilized. I felt safe among friends and family who shared a sense of dedication and pride in our work and had real affection for each other. The loss I experienced was significant, and though I feel I am currently on an upward path professionally, I am deeply scarred and still find myself struggling to trust people from whom I previously felt comfort and support. Today I count it as progress that my dominant emotion is hurt rather than anger, but this week (perhaps due to it being that "time of the month) that sadness has been particularly heavy.
There have been good things too. I finished up my first quarter at Northwestern having made real progress as a trumpeter. Though I haven't yet received any final grades, I believe I also performed well academically and am looking forward to continuing that progress when classes resume again in January. My "Wonderful Widow" video was highly praised by both my art song teacher and other members of the class and I was asked by one of the conducting students to perform the trumpet solo in Copland's "Quiet City" on her recital in March. Though outside temperatures have plummeted and persistent winds add searing chills to the air whenever I'm forced to venture outdoors, my morning pilgrimages to the continually gorgeous lakeshore lift my spirits and give me the beauty fix I am always craving.
To give you an idea of just how cold it is, (besides my telling you about negative 4 windchills) yesterday L.Mich. was a relative hot tub when compared with the ambient temp. Check out all that steam!
Sometime in the next few days--weather (and mood) permitting--I hope to drive back out to Ithaca for a holiday sojourn with Rob. He's crazy busy finishing up his teaching responsibilities for the semester and has just been made lead author on a paper with the Caltech/Cornell group of relativists, so I'm glad my plate has also been filled with a plethora of practicing chores and upcoming audition and performance requirements that will keep me occupied and out of his hair for the important stuff.