I’ve written at least one blog post every week for the last four years and I’m often asked, “How do you find something meaningful to write about week after week?” This is how I write. This is how blogging is like therapy. And this is how therapy makes meaning of our lives…

therapy

Photo Credit: audreyjm529 via Compfight cc

In late November, I was putting up Christmas lights on the bushes outside our house. It seemed to go flawlessly until, around dinnertime, as I was gazing out the window at the glow, it suddenly went out.

Turns out, I’d linked too many strands together and fried the first one.

I was getting ready to go buy a new one, when I remembered the fuses.

In every box of Christmas lights are several spare fuses—little glass cylinders with metal on the end. In theory, when a strand fails, you’re supposed to pull out the old fuses, pop in the new ones, and…voila…working lights! However, in twenty years of putting up Christmas lights, replacing the fuse has never fixed a single broken strand.

Never.

About a decade ago, I decided the extra fuses are the manufacturer’s way of making us feel like we have some control over their cheap, almost-disposable products.

I absolutely knew replacing the fuses wouldn’t work. But it only takes a minute to do, so like countless times before, I pried out the old fuses and replaced them with new ones. Then, with no hope whatsoever, I plugged in the strand of lights.

And that’s when the moment happened.

The replacement fuses worked. The lights glowed again. But even more importantly, I knew something else had happened. The moment had stirred something inside of me. Something that had nothing to do with Christmas lights. Something meaningful. I didn’t know quite what it was, but I knew it was a story worth telling.

And yet, I had no idea what I would say about it.

You see, I don’t try to think of meaningful things to say. I rarely start a blog post with an idea I want to communicate. Instead, almost every blog post I write begins with an experience. Something happens to me. Something that feels like it matters.

Have you ever had that feeling? Something happens to you and it moves something inside of you. Suddenly, you feel a little bit more lovable. A little more worthy. More free. A ripple of peace. A glimmer of hope. Possibility. Something awakening. Something healing. Something dying and being resurrected.

And you know life will be a little more beautiful if you can hold onto it.

When I have a moment like that, I write it down. I tell the story to my Macbook. And then I meditate upon it. I create the space to not know what the story means or why it moved me the way it did. I contemplate it until the meaning of the story begins to emerge. And then I tell that to my Macbook, too.

Until it all turns into a blog post.

The Christmas lights, for instance. As I sat with that experience, attending to the flutter of something I felt when those lights came on, this is what was revealed to me:

We must be careful of being too certain about anything.

Our experiences might tell us one thing for our entire lives, and then, suddenly, a new experience breaks in and it lights up an entirely new reality. It changes everything. For twenty years, my reality was that the light fuses were a gimmick. I was absolutely convinced I knew the truth about them.

Now, I know they can make a difference.

What we believe about ourselves and people and our lives can change in an instant, if we keep giving life a chance to teach us something new. That’s what the Christmas lights meant to me.

But that’s a blog post for another day.

This one is about the process by which I arrived at that conclusion: I started with a story, an experience. Then, I gave myself the space to pay attention to it, to learn from it, to hear what it was trying to tell me when it first stirred me.

And that is precisely what therapy offers us.

The therapy room is a place of meditation, where we go to tell our stories. And then sit with them. Attend to them. Meditate upon them. Until the meaning of them begins to emerge. Until they reveal a truth we can hold onto. Until, eventually, we discover everything we thought we knew isn’t as we believed. Until hope begins to stir in us—hope that things can change, that we can begin to see differently, that light is still possible, even when it seems like all the lights have gone out for good.

What is a therapist?

We’re like a human Macbook, waiting for you to write your story on us.

Until, finally, you find the meaning in the mess. Until, finally, your whole broken-beautiful life starts to make sense.

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Dr. Kelly Flanagan

Dr. Kelly Flanagan

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist, practicing at Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives at DrKellyFlanagan.com. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again.

Disclaimer: Posts on the Artisan Clinical blog represent a combination of our therapists’ personal opinions and professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with a therapist via the blog post or the comments section does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more familiar with your specific situation. While all blog comments are read and appreciated by our therapists, the blog cannot be monitored continuously, so if you have a need that requires immediate attention, you should go to your nearest emergency room for assistance. We do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

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Dr. Kelly Flanagan
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