Backstory to this post:
The first time I posted this – the sad story of the A&W Root Beer lady and me….was over 10 years ago. It was about a month into Michael’s illness and I was struggling to remain grateful as I saw my life and my love slipping away. I struggled to remember who and what I was and to remind myself – I can do this.
I tell the stories that I tell, on the Mean Lady Talking Podcast, because it’s MY life. And I can tell it however way I like. It’s my story – it’s my experience as a person, as a student, as a clinician, as a therapist as an attorney, as a person living on this earth for many decades….
….and no one has the right to question me on how I tell my story. When I sit down to record a podcast, most of the time I have no idea what is coming out of my mouth. Sometimes I outline it if there are particular points I want to make, but most times I don’t.
I sit down to the microphone and let it rip. What usually comes out is funny, sad, horrifying, inspiring, amazing, ludicrous, grandiose, lukewarm, boring, spectacular and mediocre. Some combination of all the above. I cobble the stories together from my life, my first marriage, my relationships, my friendships, my education, my clients, my boot campers, my time upon this Earth. When the little audio thingy tells me it’s getting to be 40 minutes or so, I wrap it up. Edit it and most times publish it (sometimes I think, “nah….” but most times it’s published before I get to second guess it).
I am not everyone’s cup of tea and the Mean Lady Talking podcast is not everyone’s cup of tea and the GPYB books are not everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. I don’t want to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’d be trying way too hard to please if I was. So I prefer to not be. If I’m not someone’s cup of tea, I don’t lose sleep over it.
But gratitude lists are a part of my life. So though I am fine with those who leave, I am very grateful for those who stay. I always want to remember those who travel this road with me. I never want to forget the work I get to see and the “working through” that happens – in my clients, in my boot campers, in my groups and in this group.
Here’s to you guys changing your lives everyday. Thanks for being here, every day.
I’ve told the story of the A&W lady and people ask me to retell it all the time…so here it is:
Courage is reclaiming your life after a devastating event robs you of your confidence and self-esteem. It is facing tomorrow with a firm resolve to reach deep within yourself to find another strength, another talent…It is taking yourself to another level of your own existence where you are once again whole, productive, special… ~ Catherine Britton
People often ask me what is the difference between someone who transforms their life and someone who doesn’t. People who start therapy with me or are part of a boot camp or seminar or class often ask, “Can I do it?” with a doubt in their voice.
Even those who work hard will say, “Maybe I just can’t get better.”
It would be trite to suggest that these questions shouldn’t be addressed or that the person is not “thinking positively enough” or not affirming or visualizing enough and I bristle when I hear so-called gurus say things like this. These are legitimate questions and ones that I strugged with at the beginning. I have done this. I never ask anyone to do anything I have not done. I hate hate hate hate most television therapists. I know they haven’t lived the stories they cover. I know most are being fed their comments from a large staff.
My stuff comes from me. My life. My experience with actual clients over many years. Most television therapists didn’t have that experience and didn’t have actual clients.
And I know what it feels like to not think you can do this.
There was no one so convinced that they could not ever feel better than me. I could not believe that I could face the mountain of garbage rattling around in my soul and do something about my life. I DID NOT believe I could learn to stop picking losers. I DID NOT believe that I could ever be happy. I DID NOT believe that life would ever get better.
When I started this journey, I had no proof in the pudding that anything I was doing would work. I started this journey clinically depressed, full of unresolved grief, unfinished business and zero self-esteem. I was, to be honest, one hot mess.
When my marriage first broke up I was incapable of putting two thoughts together. My hands shook all the time and I cried more often than not. I had the pounding in my chest and flutters in my stomach that accompany anxiety and grief. I was a physical, mental and emotional wreck.
I used to go to my therapist’s office on Tuesday nights. I would be so nervous and anxious that I would show up almost an hour before my time. Her office was behind an A&W stand but it was February and it wasn’t open. I would sit there in the dark parking lot waiting for my appointment time. It was all I could do to sit tight and not burst in on my therapist and beg her to talk to me NOW.
I was so miserable. I thought the empty parking lot was a representation of my lowly and lonely existence. Knowing my ex was off with his new girlfriend laughing it up and enjoying puppy love made me feel even worse. I was here, in a dark, empty parking lot, alone, and writhing in pain.
Why was life so unfair?
Would I ever feel better?
Would I ever not feel like this parking lot? Dark, empty, abandoned, having seen better days?
Sometime around the middle of March A and W opened for the season but no one really was showing up yet (even though the place was packed in the summer). I would drive in, the only customer at 7:30 on a cold Tuesday night, and order a hamburger and try to swallow it. I would sit, alone, in the car in that cold, dark parking lot staring at the dull A&W sign and the small silhouette of the A&W lady waiting for someone else to show up.
I would sit there waiting for my therapy time and think I had the loneliest and most losing of all possible lives, even worse than the A&W lady because she could count on spring coming when her fortunes would turn around. My stomach was in such turmoil, I was in such emotional pain, that I could barely eat the small single hamburger and would wind up throwing it out most nights. I was such a mess.
I had no idea that waiting for my turn, going to my appointment, talking to my therapist and doing the work she assigned would result in anything.
No matter where I was, I felt different from everyone else. Whether it was being in foster care, being adopted, being battered, being from New York, being this or being that, there was ALWAYS something that set me apart from everyone else. I felt like no one really understood me and if no one understood me, how could anyone fix me? I had A LOT of negative thoughts and energy….but I knew I had to try SOMETHING because what I had done for all of my life wasn’t working.
I read books, I journaled, I went to support groups, I wrote out affirmations and day after day I seemed to feel worse than the day before.
Was relief ever coming?
I asked a new friend when I would feel better. I was so SICK of doing this work and feeling so awful. He said, “Well, what else are you going to do?” EXACTLY. I had no other choice. It was continue this work and hope for the best or go back to my old existence. Not an option. I didn’t want to be here again.
But I was back in whining mode in a few months and a very kind lady told me not to give up the day before the miracle happened. Naturally I expected a miracle the next day and when none came I felt cheated but I thought maybe tomorrow…or the next day…or the next.
In other words, it didn’t come overnight. There were little sprouts, little buds of hope and change that I was able to see and feel throughout the spring and summer. Come fall I was feeling pretty good but then took a nosedive over the holidays. It was up and down.
I don’t think I ever fully committed, mentally, to the idea that I was transforming my life….but I knew something was going on…and I just continued along because, as my friend said, what else was I going to do?
But you all know that eventually I started to think positively and put together all the things I needed to put together to make it gel. Eventually it worked. You know that I figured it out and went on to start teaching and showing others how to do it. But I had my doubts as you might have yours. There are so many days and weeks where it feels like no progress is happening, or even that you’re going BACKWARDS. You’re not. It’s just how change works. It’s how it happens.
People always ask me why I continue to do this when I could be making barrels full of money as an attorney (much much more than working as a therapist and/or author). I still do legal work and sometimes I do go back to the legal field for a while or to work a case I believe in or someone I really want to help. I do attorney work in NY and Texas and sometimes other places where I can “pro hac vice” in and I do divorcing coaching all over the U.S.
But THIS is my mission in life. I love working the law when I’m working a case that matters. But THIS is my passion in life. Without continuing this work, I would miss watching people transform their lives.
I’ve met people on this road who have had the most devastating experiences and difficult circumstances who have worked hard to transform their lives and move beyond that which has kept them down for years and years — I continue to meet people who get past their past. Being able to witness their courage in their self-transformation is amazing and wonderful. And they share those experiences with me and I get to tell them in articles and on the podcast and in the group. I get to give back what is given to me. Sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s mediocre…etc. etc. etc.
Transformation via the GPYB program is very very very real.
It is possible no matter WHO YOU ARE.
Don’t give up the day before the miracle happens.