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What's In Your Bag?

By Cynthia Fooshe

This tells the story of how I learned what a gift letting go of all that STUFF can be!

She was 10 minutes late.  I had been told by my supervisor that if this client was a “no show” or late one more time, I was going to have to end her counseling sessions at the “free” community mental health center where I was an intern working towards getting licensed as a Marriage & Family Therapist.

Two minutes later, my client ran into the small counseling room, dumped her large bag in front of her on the floor, grinned at me and muttered “Whew, I made it!”

I sighed and told her the same, sad story again about there being a waiting list for people who really need and want counseling services at the clinic and that it wasn’t fair that they be turned away when she was not able to keep her appointed times and dates.

She looked puzzled and said that she thought she was on time and that she knew she wrote the time down in her appointment book.  She then started rummaging through her large bag looking for her appointment book so she could prove it to me. 

I had taken note of this large bag before.  It was a “purse” of abnormal proportions, made of bright red vinyl and looked like it had been around a long, long, time. However, most noteworthy about this particular bag, was that it seemed to weigh this young client down.  She was of petite dimensions, full of nervous energy and I was sure the bag left a permanent indent on her left shoulder. That bag seemed to keep the weight of the world on this young woman’s shoulders and, if I could have my way, it wasn’t going to do this any longer.

She continued to rummage through that bag.

I asked her to please stop.  I then asked if there was anything breakable in that bag.
She replied “no.” 

I asked permission… if it was ok if we took a look at what was in that bag together.

She didn’t say “no.”  She didn’t say anything. I chose to take this as a “yes.”

So, I lifted the bag, turned it upside down and dumped its contents on the floor between us.

There were candy wrappers, old sales receipts, newspaper clippings, assorted make-up tubes, lipsticks and lip glosses.  There were brushes & combs, feminine hygiene products, spare underpants, a bathing suit, large plastic bottles of tanning lotion & hand lotion.  There were two wallets, two notebooks, 2 “daily planners” (current year and 2 years before).  There were loose credit cards, loose keys, marbles, crayons, highlighters, pens and pencils.  There were toothpicks, toothpaste & brushes, nylons and there was more.

I looked up at her and asked, “Where’s the kitchen sink?”

She grinned at me and answered, “It wouldn’t fit.”

For the remainder of our session, we sorted what was still of use and could be returned to the bag from what clearly needed to be thrown out.

Less than an hour later, with at most a quarter of the bag's original weight on her small left shoulder, my young client walked out the door a much lighter version of the person who had walked in … both in “bag”, but much more importantly... in spirit!

What’s in your bag?

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