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  • Patricia Sugrue, LPC

The EL train and the butterfly

I’m a new therapist. Today I really questioned my ability to do my job. All of the theories, all of the empathy, all of the insight they just pale in front of a person in pain. I don’t know how to do this well. And today, I’m sure I’m in the wrong profession.

So, on my way home, waiting for the purple line, I leaned against the fence with my crossed hands carelessly over the top and contemplated my meandering life journey. And something unexpected happened. A butterfly flitting around the bushy tree near me, lit on my left thumb. And it stayed. For a long time. Its seemingly nervous pulse quieted, it opened its beautiful wings showing off the vibrant colors inside, rubbed its face with its delicate legs and stayed. So I stayed. I didn’t move a muscle. I let my train pass me by and I quieted my own breath. I watched it without blinking as it sat inches away from my face. We sat, just being together as ourselves. And then, without any warning, the butterfly launched itself off my thumb into the evening sky. When I looked for it, it had found a friend and together they flew playing in the wind, then there were three of them and their flight was like a dance.

Maybe this is therapy. Maybe it is just sitting, creating a quiet space for someone exquisite to land. Holding a moment where they can regroup, find a haven, be quiet and pause. Being a still place to sit with someone and being in awe of their existence, amazed that they trusted enough to open their wings. And maybe, after they pause with you, they can access their courage to push off, fly away and dance with their people. And I took the next train, feeling the lingering pressure of its tiny feet on my thumb. I cherished this.

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