You can take the doctor out of the practice, but you can’t take the practice out of the doctor.
When Dr. Jasmine Gooding retired from her psychology practice in the city, she looked forward to long quiet afternoons in her new home, a spacious Victorian in the suburbs far from the city’s confusion and complaints.
Yet she quickly discovered that tea and Tolstoy can occupy only so much time before they become tedious. And for Dr. J, tedium came after about 20 minutes.
A stroll through her new neighborhood provided just the right distraction. She could look down the street and see the city in the distance.
And the shaded sidewalks of her own block provided pathways for entire troops of pedestrians. Many of whom, it seemed, were feeling very sad.
Now helping sad people feel better certainly trumped rereading “…the bridge was at times veiled by a diaphanous curtain of slanting rain” five times in a row, although she must admit that “diaphanous curtain of slanting rain” had a glorious sound to it, which was perhaps exactly why her progress reading the sentence was halted four times in a row, forcing her back to the sentence’s beginning each time.
At any rate, standing before her at this very moment, was a woman about the same age as her, who was very sad indeed.
It took very little to cheer her. A friendly greeting, a little commiseration over the high bills in this suburb, a joke or two, and the other woman was smiling and laughing again. And Dr. J herself felt buoyantly happy.
Perhaps this was what her retirement would be! Strolling through the neighborhoods of her new borough, cheering those who needed uplifting and bringing solace to the unconsoled.
Or maybe it wouldn’t be quite so easy. As soon as the effect wore off from her joke about shearing llamas to raise money for bills (admittedly, more funny in the delivery than in the substance), her new friend was bored, and a very sad little girl appeared moping down the street.
If a friendly smile and a few jokes work with elders, perhaps they will work with youngsters, too!
And young Diane Oh did seem to feel cheered by the cheerful introduction, though getting to know her revealed that she was of a gloomy nature.
Through her practice as a psychologist, Dr. J had learned that one can’t always talk a gloomy person out of melancholy–nor should one! There is a certain beauty and sanctity to the sadness that comes from natural gloominess–this quality adds depth and an appreciation of shadows and the other side of brightness.
No, what was needed was not to talk young Miss Oh out of her gloominess but to listen to and validate her feelings while also sharing with her other ways of considering the events in the greater world.
Before long, other children joined them, one who felt focused, one who felt “fine,” and one who also felt sad. Because gloom can spread from gloomy to gloomy, Dr. J decided on a brief joke intervention, and soon, the circle was laughing.
Even Miss Diane Oh forgot her melancholy thoughts and basked in the little tickling feelings of laughter that rippled from one to the other through this circle of new friends.
The sun began to set, the children remembered that they had to get home in time for dinner, the other elder recalled that her cats were waiting to be fed, and Dr. J trotted home, delighted with an afternoon well spent.
While cleaning up the kitchen that evening, Dr. J couldn’t stop smiling. She kept remembering what Miss Diane Oh had said to her.
“When I’m with you,” Miss Diane Oh had said, “I feel that I am looking way ahead through years and years! And I see me looking back with a smile on my face and a dance in my heart!”