3 min read


At the desk, 9:05 a.m.

I've spent a lot of time shredding. At one point, before the Fey came out, I literally spent about two weeks scanning and shredding old documents, bills, and miscellaneous 'this is so important' stuff. My goal at the time was to be completely paper-free.

You see, being a therapist is all about paper. They don't teach it in school, but in the end, it's all about paper. From insurance forms to reports to notes to payment stubs to consent forms to treatment contracts, paper dominates the profession. In the advent of aggressive patient rights laws, therapists are taught to believe that their patients will sue them at the drop of the hat. (And trust me, I know two therapists who were unjustly sued by patients and, twenty thousand dollars later, their notes saved their licenses.) So the paper starts.

Judy Vaughn was one of my early mentors and friends. She ran a little alcohol and drug treatment center in Golden called CETP. I volunteered with her for four years and worked for her for five. Judy was deeply dedicated to rehabilitating criminal offenders and believed with good research, she might be able to save them from a life of incarceration. Under her guidance, I ran groups with felony offenders and women felony offenders in this amazing research project which actually worked.

Judy was a wonderful, caustic, hard nosed, generous, amazing person. She was my friend and mentor.

And prior to getting sober, and getting her counseling degree, she was a file clerk. She never threw anything away. CETP had an entire room dedicated to patient files. As is common, people who had a drinking problem before they had kids, return to these activities when the kids move out. She'd see them when they were twenty-five and when they were forty-five. She'd smile, go to one of the twenty to thirty four-drawer metal filing cabinets and get their old file. She'd catch up with the client, add a new form, and start treatment again.

Suffice it to say, I learned to hoard paper.

My paper hoarding habits led to my days of scanning and shredding. I did as much as I could. The husband did as much as he could. We hired a service to dispose of client files. And still, there has been a few lingering boxes of paper around.

Until yesterday. I'm down to my last known box of old files. (Cue the applause button) I say 'known' because I'm confident we'll find more paper hidden somewhere. But at least, I'm actually getting this done. Finally.

Shredding is a funny thing. It seems like a simple task. But every file, sometimes every sheet of paper, holds a story of a place and time. Letting go of it all is letting go of the time and place when all of this happened.

I think that's where Judy struggled. She wasn't ever able to let go of anything until life let go of her. She was fifty-eight. After a lifetime of service, she stood up from her couch took two steps and died. This was seven months into the year she was going to 'really live.' She'd seen the doctor for the first time in twenty years. She'd lost weight and was managing her diet. She even went on a date or two. Her autopsy showed that she was riddled with cancer. A blood clot, most likely from the cancer, broke loose and stopped her heart.

I'm glad she died like that. She never could have let go of life. She would have suffered terribly. This way, she took two steps and died. Just like that.

But her paper lingered on. It took the new owner almost a year to clean and clear out all of that paper. It's taken me years to let go of her paper wisdom.

Lucky for me, I get to hold onto my memories of my friend and let go of some of her pathology taught as wisdom.

By the end of the day, I'll be free of all the bits of paper that have held me down. Tonight, I'll recycle the shredding.