The report was good. Everybody said that he was doing well. He'd set goals, acheived them and moved forward. I looked forward to meeting him, I hadn't seen him for some time, a few years at least, and it was nice to be going into a meeting with him that bore only good news.
He'd aged. So had I. We chatted a bit about knowing each other for years and then it was down to work. I'd told him that staff were thrilled with his progress. He'd become more mature, more responsible and more capable. He was relying on internal controls rather than external controls. We reviewed the goals he'd acheived and it was nice being able to remind him of where he was the last time we spoke, and then to compare that to where he was now. I could tell he was proud of himself.
I asked him to give me an example that really showed he was doing well. This is one of my favourite clinical questions. It tells me what he thinks is important, what he's proud of, where he sees improvement. He thought for a while. As he did my mind, as it always does, leapt in to fill the silence, I tick, tick, ticked, my way through his list of achievements while waiting for him to sort out his answer.
"There's no more yellow marker."
Forgive me but I didn't have any idea what that meant. I looked at him confused, I didn't even say anything, I just looked like I didn't get it.
"You know, yellow marker. There's no more yellow marker."
I said it, "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"You don't know about the yellow marker?"
I shook my head.
"The staff write notes and if I've been bad they use a yellow marker over what they wrote. There's no more yellow marker."
"Oh." I suppose that's good.
But suddenly I got this creepy feeling that right then, right at that moment, a great big pen was writing in the Book of Life upstairs, taking notation about how I lived my life, handled my temper and my tendancies, how I was with others, how I behaved.
I picture a sea of yellow marker highlighting everything I've ever done wrong all over those pages.
No more yellow marker.