What Makes Us Real? Being Loved

I flick on the lamps in my waiting room and sweep the entryway doormats for the first time in two weeks. In the still quiet before my first client arrives, I plop down into my orange leather counseling chair and watch as the morning sunlight glows and shimmers on the moss-green walls.

Breathing in, breathing out, I gather momentum for the long, full day ahead.

Just before I rev into motion for the day, a wave of emotion surges through me. An ache in the center of my chest.

An ache? Now? As I begin my first day back from vacation?

I pause again, put a hand on my chest.

I’m renewed. Refreshed. Why does my chest hurt?

Ah, this ache is not dread or fear. It’s fullness.

I feel grateful.


I love my work as a therapist and a writer. Both of these forms of work demand that I show up with authentic and attentive presence, a kind of presence that springs from a deep well of self-awareness and internal strength that I’ve worked hard to cultivate. The work itself nurtures and builds that awareness and strength, yet the well needs to be replenished from time to time.

My mind drifts back to the edge of the Frio River, where I spent my annual August vacation with my husband.

I sat on the patio of our rented cabin, looking out over the clear, flowing river while a storm blew in. The leaves of the trees edging the river rustled in the wind. The lapping of the water over the smooth stones became more urgent and the ripples quickened.

The hairs on my arms suddenly stood, electric with life’s intensity, as I reveled in the cool breeze that offered blessed relief from the hot Texas August summer.

I continued to sit, reading about writers who share life’s intensity, and felt a longing to turn more of my life energy toward writing. Fantasies about downsizing my life so I could be a full-time writer floated through my mind.

But then…

The reality hit me that that life would mean leaving therapy, leaving my clients.

And I literally cried out, “NO!”

The faces of clients—present and past—paraded through my mind, and powerful love surged through me so forcefully I could hardly breathe.

Yes. I felt love for my clients. A love akin to the love I feel for my adult child.

I felt love for the privilege of using the depths of what I write about to connect with and invite forward the life forces of precious, tender humans who come to see me longing to simply be in this world.


My mind returns to the present, to my office, where the sun is now so high that it glints off the wood floor, causing me to squint.

Yes, as luscious and expansive as my vacation weeks have been, I am grateful for my work.

I stand up to begin moving into my day, and silently wish I could convey to my clients the depth of the love I feel for them, the ferocity of desire I hold for them to know the fullness of their potential that I can sometimes see before they do.

I wish that I could fashion my delight in their true selves into a wand that I could use to gently touch the tender center of their being, to free them to be all of who they are.

Not because I am great and powerful, and not that this would solve all of their problems.

I just know that if their deepest selves could viscerally sense that another human truly sees and values them the way I do, then they would blossom and flourish and know that they could bear all of their sorrows and pains.

Because they are valued.

Because they are worthy.

Because they are real.


No matter who you are–therapist, client, person in the world–do you know you are valued? Do you know you are worthy? Do you know you are real? Who reflects you to help you know this?