The question Chop asked had been reverberating in Dr. Flo’s ears for weeks now: Do you truly believe that these default patterns can genuinely change in any real and lasting way? The question troubled Flo quite a bit, a reaction that she probably shouldn’t have been surprised by. Calling this into question felt heartbreakingly dangerous given that Flo had pretty much structured the foundational elements of her life on the assumption of an affirmative answer. Dr. Flo allowed herself to feel the question throughout her body. She noticed her heart racing, her throat closing, that familiar sensation of the beginning pin pricks of panic in her chest. Flo looked over at Chop who was happily playing her own personal game of Tetris with the items in one of the boxes they were packing this weekend in preparation for the upcoming move into their newly rented apartment.
“Hey, Chop, when you get to a stopping point with what you’re doing, would you come over here and chat with me for a bit?” Flo asked. “Actually, while you’re at it, would you round up the others and let them know that I’d like to have a community meeting?” Chop looked up with a smile and nodded. Thirty minutes later, Dr. Flo looked around the living room of what she now referred to in her mind as the “Tree House” where she and Kari had lived for the last 3 years of their marriage. Flo took a minute to take in all of the faces seated around her, each perched on some piece of furniture or the laminate wood floor, surrounded by half-packed boxes and bare walls. Chop sat cross legged at Flo’s feet, her eyes shining brightly. Leo lounged on the oversized brown chair, his feet propped up on the matching ottoman, and Ice Pick reclined on the longest part of the blue sectional couch, one of the items left in the house that continued to trigger grief in Flo as that couch was “the first piece of furniture” she and Kari had purchased together as a couple. Dr. Flo winced at the memory and purposefully and forcefully changed her gaze such that she began watching the last member of her internal community settle himself in the other corner of the room. Still in the process of putting together a comfortable seat for himself, Milo’s gesticulations appeared to resemble the mannerisms of a large gerbil burrowing a palette of blankets and pillows into something of a nest before flopping down and turning to face the rest of the group.
Dr. Flo felt a burst of joy, gratitude, and appreciation and chose to allow herself to express this as loudly as possible, “YOU GUYS ARE SOME SERIOUS BADASSES!” Although body language indicated that each of them might have been somewhat taken aback, each face broke out in his or her own ever enlarging grin. “Thanks for coming together on such short notice, and thanks for helping to make that happen, Chop,” Flo went on, launching immediately into the reasons for having called the meeting. “I called us all together because I need your help brainstorming the answer to this question that’s been bugging the hell out of me the last two weeks. But before I get to that part, I just need to say that it’s great to see you all together right now and to have a chance for us to all be right here right now commemorating what we’ve been through the last several years and especially the last four months. I couldn’t have made it through this first section of the grief process without you guys. Oh, who am I kidding? I couldn’t have made it through the first year of life without you all. YOU GUYS ARE SOME SERIOUS BADASSES!” Flo repeated. “You have all lifted and carried some serious shit in this house, and I’m forever grateful.”
Milo sat up straighter and raised his hand, then changed his mind and lowered it, beginning to talk without waiting to be called on. “Flo, thank you for sending Chop to invite me, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” Milo began, “but I think you’ve got the wrong guy when you include me as a ‘badass.’ I don’t know where I’ve been, and I sure am grateful that you found me because I was definitely lost. I can’t imagine what I’ve been doing, but I certainly don’t remember carrying anything here in the Tree House. I don’t think I’ve ever even been in this Tree House before,” Milo looked around, seemingly dazed, definitely confused.
“Oh, Milo, welcome back,” Leo said, reaching out to clasp Milo’s shoulder in solidarity. “I really missed you.”
Making a beeline for Milo’s lap and planting herself there, Chop’s decibel climbed to near shouting, “Milo, I missed you the most!”
“There’s no need for a competition here, little one,” Ice Pick teased Chop from across the room. “We all missed Milo a lot.” Turning to Milo, Ice Pick continued, “I was worried about you, Milo. Sometimes I was really worried.”
His face turning slightly red, Milo hugged Chop tight in his lap as he wiped away the beginnings of tears from the edges of his eyes and looked down at the floor.
“Milo,” Dr. Flo called to him with gentle authority, “Milo, look at me.”
Milo, his face now turning a shade of white, reflexively jerked his head upward to meet Flo’s eyes.
Dr. Flo went on, “Milo, you may not understand right now trust me that you will in time. You have served valiantly, and if I didn’t agree with Ice Pick about competition, I’d be tempted to name you the most serious badass of us all.”
Eight eyes stared back at Flo as though she had just announced her arrival from another planet.
Dr. Flo continued, “You are a very important part of us, Milo, and you were lost. We lost you in this marriage with Kari. You lost yourself in this marriage with Kari. You played the role of the scapegoat again, Milo, and I’m so sorry and so grateful and so proud of you all at the same time. You’re back now, Milo, and I’m going to work like hell and pray like heaven to keep you from ever being sacrificed for anyone else’s shame again.
“You will?” Milo whispered. “So does that mean that you do believe that these patterns can genuinely change in a real and lasting way?”
Dr. Flo felt the warmth of love and truth spread through her chest, and she began a slow, steady knod of her head in response, the answer to the question having presented itself with pristine synchronicity. And in this particular moment of NOW, all briefly seemed right with the world.
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