This was day one of group. I didn’t like groups and I especially didn’t like speaking aloud in groups. I arrived two minutes prior to the starting time. Before I could shove my wallet and cell phone into the glove compartment, my phone rang.
“Oh, hello, Lorinda? This is Michelle calling to confirm you’re coming to group today?”
“Uh huh,” I replied, there was no escaping.
I’d been seeing Michelle Beller off and on for more than a decade and yet had only spoken aloud a handful of words. Instead, I wrote down what I was feeling, brought it to therapy and then she would question or comment on what I had written. I thought it was a terrific arrangement, but after eleven years, the Beller thought maybe I needed more.
I shuffled reluctantly into the office and sank immediately into the leather couch where I’d sat week after week for years. Without lifting my head, I surveyed the others, intruders. This was where I came to be safe. Where I revealed the secrets of my soul. Where I dared to admit my forbidden love for Robin. This was where I dredged up the past and trusted the Beller to help me sort and piece it together. Fear swept over me as I imagined my sins and secrets no longer hidden, seeping out from under the couch cushions, pooling onto the floor exposed for everyone to see. I felt anxious, my stomach tightened, I considered fleeing.
Just then the Beller walked in, rested her hand on my shoulder as if to hold me in place. She greeted everyone warmly and offered us tea. The woman to the right of me, also seated on the leather couch, was an elderly woman with an English accent. She graciously accepted tea. To my left was an ample woman leaning on a cane. She declined the tea as she attempted to settle into a folding chair that protested under her weight. The Beller took her usual spot in her rocker across from me which helped to calm my nerves. Next to the Beller in a wicker chair sat a petite rather unfriendly looking old woman who declined the tea in a clipped tone.
Though our group was named Wired for Joy, we looked wired for something, but joy would not be what came to mind.
Without delay the Beller jumped right in. First, she described the science behind the “Joy” program developed by Laurel Mellin, as EBT or emotional brain training. EBT techniques focused on alleviating stress and promoting a high level of well-being using tools that we would learn to access in our next twelve weeks together. I cringed inwardly at the thought of twelve weeks with this crew. When she’d finished, The Beller suggested we introduce ourselves. She asked that we share what we hoped to gain from the program and then give an example of something that provided us with joy.
The large woman’s shoulders rolled in as she fiddled with her cane.
“I’ll go first,” she giggled, “My name is Candice and I’ve come to hopefully find the root to my weight issue.”
She said that she had declined bariatric surgery because she wanted a permanent fix, not a temporary one. I silently applauded her bravery. I’d been an unhappily overweight child. Infact I’d fought with my weight and how I felt about my body my entire life. Even now, as an adult and a fitness professional I felt as if I were a fat person disguised as a thin one. I constantly feared being outed as a fraud.
Rachel, the English woman to my right, went next. She sat perched pin straight on the edge of the sofa. Tall, slender, graceful in her movements, she was by all accounts a natural beauty. Her face was feathered with fine lines and creases, but it was easy to look past them into her watery blue eyes framed in long lashes.
“I’m Rachel,” she spoke quietly in her proper English accent. “I’m eighty-seven and I’ve lost two husbands and left the last.” Her only joy she admitted wearily, was sleeping. Only in sleep could she dream herself into a happier time and place.
Cranky little Ginny looked older than Rachel, but I learned she was fifteen years younger. She was a recovering alcoholic and an agoraphobic. She was afraid to leave her house, be in crowded places, or even call people on the phone. Ginny had stayed put in her house for twenty years. But when her husband died, she realized she needed to buy groceries, so she gave leaving her house a try. It didn’t go well, and thus she had ended up here in therapy.
“I’m neither happy nor unhappy, “Ginny’s voice was sharp, void of any signs of joy. “I’d say that I’m just status quo, which is fine by me.”
When asked what brought her joy, she said her stuffed animal dog named Doggie.
“I’m allergic to real animals,” she scowled at the group as if maybe we were to blame for her allergy.
I’ll admit that at this point I was rather convinced that the cheese had slid right off her cracker. She reminded me of Tom Hanks floating around in Cast Away with his basketball friend Wilson, which was actually really sad.
Eventually it was my turn. I peered around the circle at the cast of characters seated around me. I too was here to find happiness, peace; to find joy. But was that even possible for me? I closed my eyes. Immediately Robin appeared smiling back at me, her lips turned up playfully into a half-smile. We stood so close; I could smell the coffee on her breath. I reached for her hand wanting to pull her closer, wanting to feel the weight of her, the warmth of her.
Ginny’s raspy cough startled me back to the present, my eyes popped open. My heart felt as weary and hopeless as the expressions around me, and I knew for certain that I could never find joy again as long as Robin and I were apart.
From the very first pages, Lorinda Boyer’s pile of confessions moved me. Lorinda is a master with a pen. She incomparably describes what it feels like to be a Christian woman who must comply with fulfilling the role of being a perfect, dutiful wife and mother at any cost. No saints exist in the pages of this exceptionally written memoir, yet what stands out is the way Lorinda writes about how much her beliefs, confusion, and other people’s actions or lack of them affected her behavior. Overall, Straight Enough by Lorinda Boyer is a triumph of embracing one’s identity, redefining love, expressing one true self, and freeing oneself from feeling unworthy of love. It portrays a flawed, loving woman who repetitively struggles with excruciating guilt and thoughts that say she deserves to be punished by God.Amanda from Reader’s Favorite
watch Straight Enough trailer