She looks haggard.
I ask how her holidays went.
“Awful,” she says. “My demented inlaws visited. Which started my husband drinking. Which started us fighting. Which scared the crap out of the kids.
“Now I can’t stand the marriage and can’t stop thinking about leaving it. Can’t sleep or eat. Can’t stop crying at work. Can’t stop worrying or feeling scared.”
“Jesus,” I say. “How can I help?”
She looks at me. “Get me out of here.”
We exchange sad smiles.
“Or at least,” she says, “teach me how to survive a shitstorm.”
“Okay,” I say. “Leave the room.”
“You have two rooms in your house,” I say. “Your mind and your body. Right now you’re trapped in your mind. Stay there and you’ll go crazy. You need to drop down a floor.”
“Whatever works for you. Walk. Go to the gym. Take a yoga class. Dance. Take a bath. I used to lie on a hard floor and focus on trying to get comfortable. Anything that moves your attention from thinking to feeling.”
“Then listen. Your body will tell you what you need first. It’s telling you now, but you’re too scared to listen.”
“What I need,” she repeats.
“Sure. There’s stuff you can solve right now and stuff you can’t. Can’t fix your husband or his family. But you can take better care of yourself, get rest and food and exercise. And that will help you feel better and give you strength to figure out the other stuff.”
“Still not sure how,” she frowns.
“Start now. Take a breath. Move your attention to your body. What do you notice?”
She breathes and listens.
“My heart hurts,” she says.
“What’s it feel like?”
“Like being squeezed by a big hand.”
“And what’s your body need?”
She breathes again. And starts to cry.
She cries for ten minutes.
I pass her a box of tissues and wait.
Finally she stops and looks at me. I raise my eyebrows to ask how she is.
“Better,” she smiles.