It's Spring: A Time for Courage, Growth, and Change

Wake up to your life's possibilities

Posted May 28, 2013

Please enjoy this post from my friend and colleague, Dr. Liz Vogt.  A beautiful piece about growth and change in psychotherapy...

Yesterday, I took my dog for a walk around Lake Calhoun. We had gone before, but almost every time I had been wearing heavy knee-high Sorel boots and a down coat that started where my boots left off and wrapped up above my head, ending in a faux-fur trim that helped to block the wind (I had spent the past ten years in Los Angeles, to give perspective). It was still a beautiful walk, but a more effortful one as I had to dip my chilled hands in and out of my mittens to alternately blow my nose, tuck my hair back under my hood, adjust the tangled ear buds trailing from my back pocket up through my scarf, and distract my dog with a treat so she didn't lunge at every passing dog larger than 12 pounds.

It was beautiful, though, when we could hit our stride and I could take a second to look up. The Minneapolis skyline is one of the best, and the Southwest corner of Lake Calhoun is a great place from which to see it. A fresh, wet snow pulling on branches makes for a certain kind of precious quiet, and the sun gleaming off the Greek Orthodox church made the promise that the cold is only a season and there is beauty even in winter.

Yesterday, it was already 70 and humid by 8:30am. There was a blanket of flannel clouds above the lake and the city, with the sun's halo around the edges. My Nikes were light on my feet, and the woman with the baying Beagle swooped him up for a time-out before we got close enough to add to the mess. As we rounded the Northwest corner, I noticed all the buds coming in on the brush and trees at the edge of the lake and imagined that in a few weeks, it would probably be so filled in I wouldn't be able to see the water. A thin, fine-boned tree had lime-green baby leaves that were no more than an inch long, stretching out from their branches every foot or so. It was not a full, lush tree yet, but the promise was there. It faced the sun, and the backlight was flattering.

It was a moment in time; this tree would never be this way again for another 12 months. It wasn't finished, but this piece of life was a thing onto itself.

I stifled the impulse to take a picture and post it to the world, and instead let the moment stay with me. I stood there for a few minutes and looked at the leaves, certain I could almost see them change. Now I felt my eyes were scavenging for more signs, more details I may have missed as my greyhound chased her imaginary rabbit around the track.

I could feel a cliche thought forming and I almost rejected it. So much has already been said about trees, growth, and humanity, there is certainly not room for another metaphor, right? As much as I resisted, the thought came anyway. Well, more than just a thought, the faces, lives, wishes, and needs of the people who come to me for therapy filled my mental screen.

I thought about that moment of growth and change, that part of the process that is a thing onto itself, and how often it is missed en route towards a goal.

There is always a winter season that has more work than relief. Try as you may to keep your hands warm, your nose dry, and your dog from running across the frozen lake to knock over a small child who happens to be wearing a furry snowsuit that, we would all agree, makes her look very much like a husky puppy, you hardly get a passing grade and the simple fact that you made it home with no permanent losses will have to be enough of a win.

There are also always summer seasons, in which there is enough light that even after the work is done, there is time to play. The garden overflows, the breeze keeps the bugs away, and suddenly there are people where there used to only be lonely sidewalks.

In Minnesota, spring can be a blink long.

In the process of therapy, I often find myself trying to help others see the 'spring' in their own lives. There is an end goal, but it is the promise of the green buds after a season of work that propel us forward. A parent needs to notice when their child responds after only one reminder (even though the goal is no reminders). A teen needs to notice their parent's attempts to connect (even if it is awkward). A partner needs to notice their love's small moves towards closeness (though trust and intimacy can't come soon enough). And almost everyone I meet could be helped by carefully noticing the small changes within themselves. Sometimes this means noticing the pang of an anxious thought before it mounts to a panic attack, or noticing the familiar rejecting words before they come out of the mouth. These too are green buds of change.

To have permission to be in the moment, to accept the current state of things as a thing onto itself, that there are valuable things to notice as you make your way around the lake—this is the stuff of hope, courage, and change.

Copyright 2013 by Dr. Liz Vogt

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To learn more about Dr. Vogt, check out her website at www.drlizvogt.com

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