This Chapter is about Lucas' One-on-One. Fair warning--it gets pretty intense for a little while. Tissues recommended!
I had originally intended to continue the story after Lucas' session. But I realized that by continuing with the story, I risked the chance of diminishing the power of Lucas' experience.
I'm not a doctor or a shrink. The advice given to my characters is based on advice given to me or to others when I was in a similar workshop experience.
GOODNIGHT & GODSPEED
CHAPTER 5 – The Pool
Before I stood, Grey nudged my shoulder and whispered, “You got this.”
That made me feel better. I wasn’t looking forward to what might be in store when Francesca started her One-on-One with me.
For the last three nights, Grey has been exploring his sexuality with me. Me? I’ve been exploring emotions and feelings that I had tucked away for years. Was I ready to express those feelings to the entire room? Who knows? But when it comes to Francesca’s One-on-Ones—it doesn’t matter if you’re ready or not.
“Hello, Lucas. Whew! We made it! You are the last One-on-One for this round. Are you ready?”
I smiled at Francesca and replied, “Does it matter?”
She laughed, which helped me relax. She looked to the audience and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, Lucas has been here before. He got a taste of the One-on-Ones when he did our introductory program several weeks ago.” She turned back to me and said to have a seat.
“Lucas, I must start by saying that it’s been a joy watching you this week. You are the perfect example of why our introductory program can be so beneficial—not just to you, but to those you have become close to. How do you think you’ve been able to help your partner this week?”
“I’ve been there to answer any questions. I would share some of my personal experiences and use them to help guide him along his path. But the funny thing I’ve been noticing I that the so-called advice I might give—or the experiences I might share—they are all things that I need to hear and experience for myself. I guess what I’m discovering is that this path we’re on—this experience we’re having—we’re in it together. What helps him helps me.”
“Exactly. That’s why we do our One-on-Ones in front of everyone. Every person who comes up here has an experience that each and every one of us can learn from—can grow from. What touches us during these sessions may be quite subtle—or, it may be as profound as if it were part of your own One-on-One. The point is, we are all on this journey together. Whether it is conscious or subconsciously—we are all helping each other on this magnificent adventure—this life that we all are creating for ourselves.”
“Yes, that’s the perfect description.”
“Excellent. Now, don’t think you’re going to get by easily, Lucas. It was your fortune—or misfortune—to have me take you through your first One-on-One experience. Do you remember that?”
“I will never forget it. It was so profound and life-changing.”
“Yes, these sessions can most certainly set you on a journey like you never expect. Now, if I remember correctly, you were on a journey that was filled with roadblocks and dead ends. Am I getting this right?”
“Yes.” No, I wasn’t going to say more than I needed to. I felt like Francesca was trying to take me back to that emotional first One-on-One.
“Would you share with us what put you on that particular path?”
“I’d—I’d rather not.”
“I’d rather you would, Lucas. Please—you can start with the accident.”
I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Why was Francesca doing this?? “I—I—really don’t want to go there.”
“I think that more than anything, you need to go precisely to that incident in your life.”
Silence. I just stared blankly out to the audience.
“Lucas, I believe you’ve been telling yourself that you have moved on—when in reality, all you’ve done is cover up and ignored the incident. Not dealing with the painful experiences in our lives is not moving on—it’s running away. Does that make sense to you?”
I slowly nodded my head, while still staring into nothing—as images of that horrific day started to flood my memory.
“I can see that you’re beginning to think about that event in your life. Tell us what you are thinking about—I promise it’s the best way to start letting go of the pain—the pain we can all see, Lucas.”
“He was—he was—Erik was a phenomenal skier. He could have easily been a part of the Swiss national team, but he didn’t want to have anything to do with the bullshit that comes with Olympic politics—especially on the Swiss Nordic Team.
“The thing he loved most was teaching others how to ski. Everything from giving tips to the more advanced skiers—to the pure joy he found in teaching kids. He—he would have been such a great father.
Why did I go there of all places? Now my heart was breaking—and the tears were already beginning.
“Go on, Lucas,” Francesca softly said as she handed me a tissue.
“It was Erik’s 18th birthday. We’d been together nearly two years by then, even though we had grown up together and were best of friends. I wanted to give him a birthday gift he would never forget. My father gave us four days off, and we went to Italy so we could ski at Val Gardena. It was one of the ski resorts he had dreamed of visiting.
“The first two days were like living in a dream. We would ski all day long—and at night—well—it was beautiful. Those were the happiest two days of my life.
“That third afternoon, we were on one of the most challenging slopes. I was skiing slightly ahead of Erik. About halfway down, I heard a helicopter—it was a rescue helicopter—and it was heading toward the area we had just been skiing. I started to panic. I could feel in the deepest part of my soul that the helicopter was for Erik.
“I raced to the bottom of the slope and ran to find someone who could help me. When they finally told me that Erik was being flown to the hospital in Ortisei, I got myself there as quickly as I could.
“When I got to the hospital, Erik was already in surgery. I had no idea what had happened. I didn’t want to call his parents until I had some information for them. I saw a man and woman with ski patrol jackets and asked them if they had just brought someone in from Val Gardena. It took some convincing that I was the only person Erik had with him and that we were boyfriends.
“Even though she officially wasn’t supposed to say anything, I found out that Erik had apparently hit an icy patch on the slope. He fell and slid into a tree. The could tell from the tracks that he had tried to slow himself down before he slid into the trees. She said that probably saved his life.
“Erik hated the life he was left with after the accident. He was paralyzed from the chest down. He could move his arms, but not well. But to me—none of that mattered. I was so happy that I still had Erik with me. He survived that horrible accident—and we were still together.”
My tears were flowing by now—I paused and wiped them from my face.
“About two months after the accident, we were back in our chalet in Spiez. I helped the nurse take care of Erik. I would bathe him, cook for him. I slept with him the first night, but he refused to let me after that. He said he hated sharing a bed with me and not being able to roll over and hold me—or worse, not being able to make love to me. The nurse even told him how he could do that, but he wanted nothing to do with it—or with me, it seemed.
“It wasn’t long after that—when Erik started to tell me I needed to move on. He wanted me to be happy, and he just knew that wasn’t possible if I were stuck with him. I could tell he had given up on his life. Erik felt as if he had nothing left to live for.
“For the next several weeks, things just became more strained with Erik and me. It was January 8th—that was the day we had our worst argument. Erik screamed at me to get out—that he needed some space. I went to my father’s house. I had to talk to Dad about the situation.
“About two hours later, I got a call from Erik’s sister. Somehow—somewhere—Erik got a gun. He—he—shot himself in the head. She told me there was a letter for me. I—I couldn’t believe Erik could do something like that! I was in shock. Dad took me back to the chalet and sat with me while I read the letter.”
“Do you remember what the letter said?”
“Of course. The first thing I noticed was the tone. It was written by the old Erik. The Eric I fell in love with years earlier. I could hear the kind, loving voice I always heard before. It almost felt like he was standing behind me, his arms wrapped around me, and his mouth whispering into my ear…”
“What was he saying to you, Lucas? What were the words you heard?”
“He told me that the happiest he’d ever been was the time he and I were together—not just as lovers, but growing up together and sharing our lives. He apologized for making me sad, but he knew that I would be able to move past the grief and move on with my life the way it was supposed to be.”
“It sounds like Erik’s actions—as horrific as they are—came from a place of pure love and care. It sounds like Erik may have given the ultimate sacrifice, so the boy he loved could live the life he had always wanted.”
Damn her! She hit on the one thing I still can’t deal with—Erik killed himself for me. I’m the reason that beautiful boy ended his life. I was sobbing from deep within.
“Now, you are grieving. Now, you are completely feeling the loss of someone you hold so very close to your heart. Now, you are allowing yourself to feel that tinge of guilt—that guilt brought on by thinking you are the reason Erik ended his life.”
I don’t know how Francesca understood what I was saying through the sobs, “It hurts! It hurts so much!”
“Of course it hurts. Grief hurts like a son of a bitch. And the longer we hold onto it, the more it hurts when we finally let it go. At the same time, grief is one of the powerful emotions we have. But for grief to do its job, we have to allow ourselves the freedom to experience it.”
“But I literally grieve every single day. I’ve thought of Eric and what he did every day for the past ten years.”
“I’m sure you have. While we all grieve in our own unique ways, there is one general rule that we all must understand when it comes to grief—we must completely go through it before we can begin to get past it.”
Why can’t I stop crying? Francesca is on the floor with me. Her arms are around my shoulder as she speaks. “I want you to imagine a large swimming pool. It’s the first time you’ve ever stepped into anything like it. You might be a bit frightened. You might feel some apprehension.
“You stick your toe in. It’s cold. It’s not comfortable. But on the other side of the pool, you can see something there. You may not understand what it is, but it’s bright and colorful. You know in your heart that whatever is on the other side of that pool is there for the taking. You also understand that the only way to reach the other side is to swim there.
“You must swim through the uncomfortably cold water. You need to know that the pool is your grief. For ten years, you have moved into the shallow end. You’ve experienced the cold discomfort for ten years. But you’ve not let yourself into the deep end of your grief so you can get to the other side of the pool—until today.”
I listen to Francesa as I keep sobbing. “You can now swim through that sea of guilt. You can let go of the idea that you caused Erik’s death as you glide through those murky waters. As you reach the other end of the pool, you can feel yourself being pulled up to the surface—pulled out of the depths of grief that have held you down for so long.
“You can now climb out of the pool. You’ve moved through the deep end of the grief you’ve almost experienced for the last ten years. Now that you are on the other side of the pool, you can see the bright and beautiful life in front of you. You can see all of the dreams you have had for yourself right there for the taking. You can also see so many beautiful things that you’ve not even thought of to this point.
“Your life is now in front of you, Lucas. Once you allow yourself to move through the deep and uncomfortable pool of grief, everything you’ve ever dreamed of—and more—is there for you to grab on to.”
How does she do that? I feel lighter and better than I have felt in years. Francesca pulled me through the parts of my grief that I was not allowing myself to experience. “I still feel him. I can still feel Erik in my heart.”
“Of course you do. There will always be a place in our hearts for the people we have loved throughout our lives. But the heart is an amazing thing. No matter how much we fill it with the people we love, there is always room for more. The human heart has infinite space for the people in our lives who manage to touch it. And when someone touches your heart, all you get to do is let them in. They’ll find their place.”
“Can we get up now?”
“Of course, Lucas.”
We stood and sat back in our seats. Instead of handing me a tissue, Francesca gave me the entire box. “You’ve earned it, Lucas.” She smiled at me, and the whole room softly giggled.
“May I ask a question?”
“Of course you may. I’ve asked enough for now.”
“What happens if I need to grieve some more? I mean—am I finished with the grieving part?”
“No. You’re not finished. You’ll most likely need to do some more grieving. You have ten years’ worth to get through. But this afternoon, you got through the most challenging part of that pool. If you find yourself in the grief pool again, you know what to do—and how to swim your way through it. But more importantly, you now understand what’s waiting for you on the other side of the deep end—and it will get easier and more comfortable for you each time you move through it.”
Francesca looked out to the audience. “You’ve just witnessed one of the most profound breakthroughs I’ve ever seen at Epic Life. Just remember—we all grieve. We all mourn. It may be the loss of a loved one. It could be the loss of a job. It could be the loss of a car—or another object in our life. I want you to remember that with any loss comes mourning and grief. More importantly, you must remember that to get past the grief you are feeling, you must move through the grief.”
Francesca thanked me and told me I could go back to my seat. As soon as I sat, Grey wrapped me in his arms. It felt so nice to feel cared for like that. I rested my head on his shoulder and started to weep again.
“You did it, Lucas.” I heard Grey whispering in my ear. “You were fucking amazing up there. We can now help each other find our way into the next part of our lives.”
It was one of those moments I don’t think I’ll ever forget. As soon as Grey finished saying what he had to say, he leaned his head into mine and started to weep along with me.
Go ahead, take you time with that tissue box. This was one of the most intense things I've ever written. This was a very personal thing for me to write. Yes, a lot of it was based on advice I was given while I was doing my own grieving--over the end of a ten-year relationship.
I can tell you without the slightest hesitation that the pool analogy can work wonders.!
The next chapter may end up being a little longer since this one ended up being a bit shorter. But it's just about time for Greyson to finish is Hawaiin adventure and move back into the real world of tabloids, paparazzi, management, and--duhm duhm duhm--Jewish mothers!
Thanks for your love and support! I can promise lots of twists, turns, and surprises coming up in the next few chapters!