Self. Reliant.

I grew up with a therapist. My father was an Army chaplain, and a family-systems therapist. For years I have been skeptical of both vocations: ministry and therapy. I live with a therapist now, and it’s odd. She does so much good in the world. Empirical good. I admire the work she does, and it’s worth the occasions when she uses therapy voice on me.

I have to remember to speak for myself. You, over there, I can see much more clearly than I see myself. Which is another way of explaining my issue with ministry and therapy. They are just people like we are just people. And they have their messy things exactly as we do.

Despite my skepticism, I see the use of therapy. Therapy should be short term and it should target an issue (or behavior). Your therapist should not give you a solution to this issue; your therapist, if he or she is any good, should help you identify the resources to deal with this particular issue on your own. In other words, therapy is a skill set. You are learning to be you more effectively. To drop patterns, to forgo drama, to accept, to grieve, to assert, to build and maintain boundaries. You learn, in therapy, to communicate your needs more effectively.

Sometimes you learn to be angry. You learn to live with your anger; you learn to direct it at the people who injured you. You learn to stop nursing it. But you don’t do that in therapy. You do that in life. In therapy, you learn to acknowledge your feelings and feel them.

The thing about therapy and ministry is that they are methods to honor grace. Your own grace. You can’t live in this world with grace if you don’t have it for yourself. Be kind. That’s all. Be kind. Start in the quiet by thinking. Think of your center. Think how large it is at the core of you. Think how marvelous your fingers are. How much of the world you take in when you yawn. Think of your brain flexing. The length of your outstretched arms. Think of the morning light. The wind in the shrubbery. Think of your heart thudding against you as you run.

You in the quiet. Pensive. Deliberate. Still and powerful. Your toes. Your veins. Your striving body. The choices you have before you. They might be anything. You might be anything. Unfinished as you are. The most radical action we can take is love. Isn’t that funny? I’m surprised by it every time. The most radical action we can take is love. In the dark, you are also beautiful.

2 thoughts on “Self. Reliant.”

  1. My hubs is pretty skeptical of therapy, because of some childhood trauma (with therapy). He doesn’t see the value of it for him – “it’s nice for you, but it wouldn’t work for me.”

    Yet the anger and rage and incandescent sorrow he carries around – I think he thinks these make up who he is. He doesn’t know that if he lets the rage go, it can be so that he will experience joy again… He doesn’t believe it.

    Yet – he married me! I am not a therapist, but I have years of therapy, and I value therapy immensely. I value healing immensely. I value the restoration and balance which healing can bring. So, eventually, I figure he will “see the light.” I just hope I will be able to refrain from beign a smug asshole when he does.

    😛

    1. Or maybe he’ll just benefit from the skills you’ve learned in therapy and the way you live in the world. So much of this is about developing better resources, right? I think we develop resources through experience but also through example. The way when I met Mary I knew her boundaries would keep both of us safe until I’d developed better boundaries of my own.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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