Becky comes to see me first thing on a Monday morning, and I can just tell by the way her hair and her eyes look that she really needs me today. Becky looks like she slept hard with her face planted in the center of her pillow all night, and I also sense that she rushed to get ready for work. I can see clearly all of those tiny flaws that she normally masks so well. Becky still looks beautiful to me, but in her eyes she’s a complete mess. She starts by letting out a huge sigh of relief, or maybe she had been holding her breathe all weekend? I really can’t tell. When she speaks her voice is trembling and she can only allow a plea to escape her lips before the tears begin streaming down her face “I just really need to talk to some….” I don’t say a word and I put both of my arms around her. Human touch turns Becky to mush, and she sobs uncontrollably into the cotton sleeve covering my shoulder. I pull her in tight until I can feel her breathing has returning to normal. When I release her I hand her one of my clean hankies, and with one hand still placed upon her back I tell her “It’s going to be okay.”
While Becky is patting her tears dry she tries to apologize to me, but I interrupt her in mid sentence with a plea of my own “Why don’t you show me your shit and I’ll show you mine.” Becky tosses her head back to laugh and I have noticed her shoulders have also lowered. Becky begins telling me her story, and it’s generally the same one I have heard from her before. She is always tired, she is completely over worked, and worst of all she has never been appreciated. Becky takes care of her elderly Mother alone, she has a husband who is unfaithful, and she now suspects that her teenage son is sexually active and/or possibly experimenting with drugs. When Becky has finished telling me her story she looks relaxed. She calls this “her release,” but we are only half way there.
I am now fighting back my own tears when Becky asks me to show her my shit. I completely open my heart to her when I confess the things that are almost too painful to turn into words. How my dreams are dying, and I have given up the fight for them. How I feel trapped inside of my own skin 23 hours of every day, and how unhappy I can be at the thought that this is all that I will ever amount to in this life. That I may die before I ever travel or even make it to New York City, or how I may never have sell a painting or publish my own writing. I begin to cry at the realization of my own life. My own doing. My own fear. Becky is now lending me her own cotton covered shoulder, and I have turned into human fleshy mush inside her kind embrace.
I take out another clean hankie from my purse, and for some reason I am now laughing while I pat my own tears dry. I thank Becky for coming to see me, and for sharing, but most importantly for asking to see my shit. What we do for one another here at work can be magical! When we share like this we are transforming one another’s shit. Because the shit you thought was so big and unruly and taking over your life sure does look different after you have compared it to someone else’s shit.