I’m 62 and still seeking my real voice. I’m a semi retired psychologist who, on reflection, adopted a “neutral professional” identity, for some 20 years that also provided a much needed safe haven at the same time.
As a sensitive boy growing up in the Bronx, fear became my middle name. I remember being told : “(You) must be a girl… because (you) cry so much…”, such a boy hides under the bed whenever company comes to visit.
I got a brief glimpse of the true me in college when I discovered Thoreau and blues records from the Deep South. My muse quickened, and I decided to major in creative writing and began playing serious bless guitar. My plays were well received, but my working class father told me that journalism was a surer career path. (“There will always be newspapers…”) I now much regret trashing my early playwriting efforts and putting away the guitar. I dutifully began a career in broadcast journalism. My writing skills got me a news director’s job, where I was encouraged to get rid of my Bronx accent. Years of speech therapy had me sounding like I was from Minnesota, and, on reflection, sanitized another part of me.
At age 30, I began a continuing saga of accumulating medical misdiagnoses. My inner self was furthered buried as my physical self took center stage and became an interesting puzzle to a number of neurology departments with transitory symptoms which, had I been a Bronx female, would have undoubtedly gotten me the label of hysterical disorder.
A kindly speech therapist, listening to my dissonant ramblings, led me to psychotherapy which, in time, led to the insight: “Hey, I have a pretty good brain… that just didn’t fit the Bronx of my boyhood. “
In graduate school, I found my intellectual nirvana, devouring theories of personality and patterns of human behavior. My left brain thrived at dissecting the human drama while reciting DSM diagnostic criteria. Meanwhile, my right brain broke free in the open pastures of Rorschach imagery/projective drawings, In the graduate library, I found another friend in Carl Jung. My work in mutual drawing with children fed my soul but also somehow led to a doctoral degree.
In my early clinical practice with children, music and art therapy became my forte. Playing Dion’s“ Runaround Sue” on a beat up guitar gave me a deep connection to autistic children, and the blessed awareness that we all move to the same beat.
Happily married now with two Siamese cats for morale support, my slowing physical self has prompted me to again turn inward: back to my music and writing. During these creative times, the present moment has the warmth of a home-coming, though it’s still a scary place. A half century later, I still hear my father’s voice asking : “What are you so scared of?” as I hid under the bed. Facing fear has become my new affirmation now and brings me back to the words of Thoreau in Walden: “…I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
– Steve Yarris
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