birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Saying Too Much

“Saying too much” is an odd topic to take up as a psychologist.

I make my money on the hope of people “saying too much”.

I’ve always been a person to whom people say too much.

One of my professors, when I caught him by chance on day at the copy machine, asked, “I ask this question whenever I can—it’s a kind of life-long survey that I’ll never publish. Do you think you are becoming a therapist, or have you always been a therapist?”

I knew my answer right away. I have ALWAYS been a therapist. I cannot recall a time that I was not a therapist. I studied to professionalize so that I would be a good, a competent, and an ethical therapist—because people have always told me things.

People have always talked too much to me.

That professor said he’d asked hundreds of psychology students over the years, and the majority were “always” therapists—people to whom people say too much.

My daughters used to hate to go the store with me, because “Mom’s always talking—well listening—to everyone!” I don’t mean for that to happen—at least not consciously. It just happens. So, it made a kind of sense to find a way to get paid for its happening.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” he said to me as we drank our last at the bar on Saturday at closing. We had met there at the bar. I had dropped in with some seminary classmates after watching Saturday Night Live together. They were discussing Greek declensions, while this total stranger regaled me about the meanness of church people toward others—him—who dared to not believe. I listened and nodded, and whispered sympathy.

Soon, he said with surprise, “I could believe if more Christians acted like you!”

I was damned by faint praise. He wasn’t going to be a Christian because of me. He just craved being listened to. I had to rely on my classmates to get me away without being taken for smitten, when I was simply being nice.

I have had to learn over time how to turn it off—that invocation of confessing. I’m not exactly sure how it works yet, but I do have some success. It’s not eye contact, or body posture—but they are signals of a sort. It is something in my heart that wants to hear, almost that needs to here, the secrets of others. In a funny way it helps me know I’m real. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have it—this gift of eliciting revelations. But, then I wouldn’t be me, myself, anymore.

I have always been a therapist—I have always been a person to whom others say too much.

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