If Dr. Bogin Met Charming…

While I’m certain I locked the swirling interests in the classroom behind me today, our yearbook theme, the art of rhetorical persuasion, recommendation letters, and student ID card issues recognize no physical boundaries.  Christmas lists are in high demand, and I never seem to make it to the next page of suggested wedding registry items.  It’s officially Thanksgiving break, and I’m grateful to be here on writing night.

This is my indulgent escape, the intersection of my passion and hyper focus, the living log of one writer’s growth, and my most cherished hours of pensive ponderings.  It’s been 987 days since I first sat down on this wicker patio furniture with a laptop and a glass of red wine and unwittingly began a tradition I’d be faithful to protect and preserve despite competing engagements.  Dr. Bogin would be proud.  Of me, certainly, as I followed through on finding a new form of therapy after I moved to Virginia.

Really, though, I think Dr. Bogin would be proud of his work.  Were he still alive, he’d still be checking in for backyard chats when I visit Syracuse.  This weekend, I would be able to introduce him to Charming at the Thanksgiving Open House my mother is throwing for us.  I can picture him peering over the rims of his round-black frames allowing the hint of a smile to escape his neutral expression.   Over the course of 409 days in Upstate New York, from first to last formal office session, Dr. Bogin facilitated the transitional phase following my divorce.

I became his patient and his protégé, so when I was ready to start over in Virginia, Dr. Bogin’s occasional email delighted me.  With a psychologist as masterful as he was, I saw those session bills as at least 40% tuition in how to do therapy effectively.  He was the first person I’d ever encountered, including other therapists I’d tried in years past, who required authenticity and complete exposure and guaranteed the return on my risky investment would be a clever guide to help me navigate, absent judgment or solutions.

Smiles were rare because inscrutable neutrality is a safe sounding board.  I might get a brief, uncontrollable smirk from Dr. Bogin after I’d blurted out something particularly witty or outrageous or arrived at some topic of import.  He’d recover quickly.  Physical contact isn’t common in psychology visits, but he hugged me goodbye at the end of our last session.  He smiled because he was proud of my process in this move to start over in so many ways.  And Dr. Bogin would smile too, I know, if he shook my Charming’s hand, if only to recognize that he’d just met my arrival at the topic of most import.

Shortly after the last time we met to catch up on a visit back home, Dr. Bogin asked to use one of my blog posts with his graduate students because I’d captured the process, what actually happened in the accumulation of those sessions over time, that the perspective of a patient who’d experienced the simultaneous tutelage had progressed as a protégé now practicing the intentional act of weekly reflection involving analysis and emotional regulation to sift through the distracters and find the main thing.

This is my fourth year at Kecoughtan, and our annual yearbook The Tomahawk will be my final contribution.  Every year, we have to start by finding a theme that relates to our school that year in some way.  We start with vague and general discussions, then begin to arrive at communal agreements on varied points.  Once we’ve decided the overall message we want to communicate with our yearbook, we develop all elements of the theme to support that aim – the colors, graphics, fonts, backgrounds, layouts, coverage, and verbal reinforcements are intentionally chosen before production begins.

This final theme of representing our school community with the phrase “Out of Many, One” perhaps subconsciously originated from what I believe is the theme of my time at Kecoughtan High School.  When my seniors graduate in June, I will have called Kecoughtan home for 1,408 days.  That’s more than three times the investment in Dr. Bogin’s office.  As an ENFJ, I have a moderate preference for feeling over thinking, but effective therapy requires both.  The 207 days I have left in CD23 equates to 15% of my total time spent in the district.  Then, I start over again.

But is it really starting over?  Eighteen years in my parents’ home, two years at Wheaton College, a decade in Nashville, a year plus back in Syracuse, four years in Hampton.  I planted lives in each place and time only to rip out the roots when the next unexpected set of circumstances respected no physical boundaries for home.  Nevertheless, that 15% of my remaining time teaching in Hampton can either be seen as serving out the time on a sentence of another start-over attempt that expired or the same statistic can prompt the natural conservationist response.

When we get down to the bottom of the shampoo bottle, we make smaller dollops in our hands, using just what we need, avoiding waste, trying to get the most out of each drop in contrast to the day we opened the bottle and applied twice as much product as needed just to appreciate that favored shower scent.  For me, hitting thirty and leaving my husband drained me completely.  The hundreds of days in Syracuse with Dr. Bogin and the thousands of days in Hampton with my brother’s family and my students filled me up.  Each transition marks key defining seasons of my evolution.

Each time I started over, but not with the traditional clean slate.  Instead, Dr. Bogin would be proud that I finally understood not a day of my life has been a waste of time.  In the 5,932 days since I first met Charming back at Wheaton College, God has continued to carry out the promise of a verse He gave me out in the wilderness on the shores of Lake Superior just before Freshman Orientation more than fifteen years ago.

It was Isaiah 43:19, and I read it then in my grandfather’s hand-me-down NIV Study Bible: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  It fit that juncture.  I was about to start college and meet guys like Charming that could potentially be my husband.  I thought this new thing God was going to do there and then, that Wheaton would be a way and a river.  I felt the same way about Nashville.  By the time I’d returned home with my tail between my legs, I paused living until I could figure out where to settle down permanently.

The reality is that God is always doing a new thing in my life, and I rarely perceive it as a future prospect for streams and abundance.  I’ve experienced deserts and wildernesses, but bitter hindsight can’t discredit the paths and currents forged during each of those seasons.  Charming experienced them too, and we’re not starting over this time.  We spent 5,127 days apart after college.  After reconnecting, he proposed after 708 days.  We can manipulate numbers to serve our purposes, and that means that just 7% of our relationship was the part that mattered, the knowing and building and loving that culminated in the fulfillment of a promise God gave six thousand days ago.

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Sunday afternoon, I started designing our engagement scrapbook while I “watched” the Redskins with Charming.  For now, weekends are still for us, but if we keep breaking down my life in terms of days, then this next transition to a new beginning will merge the themes of our lives.  The days I spent building a life in a place I no longer live were not wasted.  Who am I to question the way God carries out His verbal and visual thematic message for my life when it took me three quarters of a game to finish scrapbooking one page?

Charming and I are getting married, and we want our wedding day to honor the promise God has fulfilled in our lives and all those we love and care about who will celebrate with us.  Trust that I’ll start tackling our wedding theme just like we do with the yearbook, intentionally selecting details to symbolize and communicate the theme in our story.  God reclaims.  God restores.  God redeems.

Dr. Bogin won’t shake Charming’s hand, but Charming will forever benefit from the influence this psychologist and mentor had on my life.  You can’t measure impact or growth or streams or deserts in days; when I had lost my faith and all but given up on life, Dr. Bogin didn’t just guide me through the wilderness.  He gave me a compass, teaching me how to process in self-reflection; this writing therapy compass is far more effective in navigating life now than a calendar recording the last fifteen years.

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