My son Zac published a note and recipe in the very fun book, “Tasty Pride: Seventy-five Recipes and Stories from the Queer Community.” He wrote:
Growing up in an almost unnervingly progressive and accepting home meant that coming out was, well, underwhelming. My “Yep, I’m gay” moment unfurled over Chinese takeout. My mother asked, “Do you remember Lisa? She wants to work with gay and lesbian kids.” As a professional therapist, my mother knew how to bait a hook—and I called her out on her fishing expedition: “If you’re going to ask if I’m gay, the answer is yes. Now, please pass the chopsticks.”
Mostly true, especially the therapist part. We know to cast lines by asking questions, but baiting hooks? Yet when I read Zac’s words, I thought, “When my ancestors landed in New Brunswick from Normandy in the 1700s, they were fishermen. Maybe fishing for answers is in me.”
And maybe the work of fishermen/women is not different from listening for a living, or requirements of any job. We all must watch for stormy weather —abstract and real—clouds, rough seas, or the climate conditions and changing tides inside the human beings who sit in our offices. Fishermen sell their fish. I often sell clients on the fact that life offers both calm seas and blustery winds. My ancestors tended to their boats, kept them safe and trustworthy. I tend to my body-mind-heart vessel so clients trust me. Fishermen fix their nets. I weave a safety net for therapeutic work.
Maybe we all share some work-life qualities. We have preferences for what will happen on any given day: a worthwhile catch, worthwhile sessions. And we all learn that what we want may not happen. One client hardly spoke for an hour and as she left, said, “Oh, by the way, my mom beat me daily.” One man, as he walked out, said, “Oh, by the way, my wife just left me.” I was that fisherwoman sitting all day in the boat, waiting for a nibble or a bite that might signal there was something in the depths to explore.
All jobs can be unnerving, and still we leave our comfy beds to navigate deep waters one more day. We prepare ourselves for both shimmering ripples and murky undertows, rain and sun, heat and cold, the ebb and flow of full and ebbing tides, metaphoric and real. Once a client, a couple or a group walks into my office, regardless of how different their lives seem from mine, we are all riding the same waves. It’s my job to steady the ship, buffeted as any of us are by gale force winds. How can we steer ourselves to see that what’s worth catching is beneath the stirred-up surf? That the ocean of consciousness in which we swim is teeming with life below? That under the often whipped-to-frothing surface resides a dynamic stillness?
Any work can be a fishing expedition, especially today when lots of us feel lost at sea. I’m told the most promising times to fish are dusk and dawn, particularly just before the light of day. In therapy, in life, darkness offers promise. We don’t have to be “progressive and accepting” to know, as the Mamas and Papas sang that, “the darkest hour is just before dawn.” The current dark times—global pandemic, worldwide ecological crisis, racial reckoning, pollical fighting, personal pain, loss—have shifting currents, too. Let’s anchor ourselves in the hope that we are living in those “just before” moments. Let’s hope for a dawn.