created instability part 1

this is a larger blog that’s still brewing, but it starts here.

currently, i’m in the middle of several projects at home. i’m trying for better overall feng shui and my pictures are off the wall in most places, tables moved around, books piled, shoes on the table. though this is worse than normal, this is not new for me and i’m starting to wonder about it. i have a habit of putting myself in flux.

i’ve been dealing with some work changes and i keep staring at my schedule, obsessively looking to tweak it until it will make sense after the upcoming changes.

connected to this stuff is the knowledge that i moved all the time as a young kid – i went to 4 schools by the time i was in 5th grade. i didn’t say this was a memory, i don’t really remember a lot about moving, or feeling panicked at the thought of moving. but the knowledge that i moved so much means something here.

now all of these things are connected to my desire to stabilize. that was a goal of mine for this year especially in terms of work. work changes are different than home decor changes but it’s all related to this perpetual in process thing i do all the time. is it good, is it bad? i don’t know.

but it’s got my attention finally. more to come.

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life goes on

i’ve had an incredible week at work.  yesterday was kinda tough, to fully capture my strong feelings i should’ve written this a day or so earlier, but… what can you do.

i truly feel that my work has a component of holiness.  i’m a therapist and i’m lucky enough to share in people’s process from hurt to healing, darkness into light.  i have individual clients and do group work with people in treatment for chemical dependency.  i’ll mention that chemical dependency is very intertwined with social services and the legal system where i live, so many people are either court ordered or are there because it’s a stepping stone into other services.  i have mixed feelings about this.  obviously when you’re not there for the purpose intended, or you’re being forced to be there, you may not reap the benefits intended.  but, you may get something unexpected.  and that goes along with what i believe about my profession.

in group this week, one of the men asked me if i take my work home with me, the things i hear, the sadness.  i told him i’m not a robot and i think about my clients a lot outside of work.  but i also don’t see myself as a savior.  i didn’t get into this field to save the world.  i came to give whatever help i can – to provide conversation pieces, to be a second pair of eyes, to build perspective.  i’m a gifted listener, that’s kind of what my talent boils down to.  with that, i built on skills about what to clinically listen for, verbalizing helpful support and pointed questions.  some people will take what i bring and run with it, others won’t.  i can’t be connected to the outcome (though i notice change and rejoice in it).  i choose to focus on the growth, hope, and beauty of people, even in periods of brokenness.

this week at my agency, we’re implementing some new groups and re-vamping our programs.  it was terrifying and exhilerating to try new content and methods.  i’ve really taken a leadership and ownership role on this project and the benefits are amazing.  i feel so good!  a colleage came in to say hi and said i was glowing, she could see it on my face.  i told her what i had been working on in group, and she said, “you’re stretching.  doesn’t it feel nice to be brave and stretch and grow?”  it really does.  in addition, each individual session i have had so far this week has had this holy element, too.  we’re connecting.  i’m asking the right questions and my clients are having this wonderful insight, and i can see them growing, too.  to be with people as they experience growth and insight is the most humbling, exciting, heartfelt feeling.  i really love my work.

finishing school in the summer and moving straight into intensive caretaking and grief, i’ve been halfway checked out of my work for a while.  granted, this is the only kind of work i would’ve wanted to have been doing this year.  it had to be meaningful and helpful for it to make any sense with what i’ve gone through this year.  diving head first into grief over the past couple of months has made returning to work manageable somehow.  i’ll never get over the deaths of my aunt and grandma.  i still burst into tears unexpectedly and i’ve got so much more to process.  but really feeling the grief allows for me to set it aside and get present with my work and my life.  i’m determined to move forward.

my last conversation with Barb has haunted me and stuck with me, it always will.  i’ll save the details for another time, but the gist was her encouragement for me to leave the dead behind and to go LIVE.  in her last weeks she also pointed out how we liked the same things – art and psychology.  my decision to go into therapy had little to do with my aunt.  but during these times when i feel the holiness of the work now, i feel a part of her in it with me.

knowledge is power!

i think that avoidance is a trick our brains use when we’re young to protect us from scary things, things we can’t yet handle.  maybe it’s not necessarily centered in youth, who knows.  as a shrink i think everything is centered in youth!  but i was thinking yesterday about my own brain.  as i’m trying to curb bad habits and cultivate new ones, i go through this process of changing my mind.  i’m still working on understanding the process because eventually i’d like to bottle it and sell it and become filthy, filthy rich!  but in the meantime, it’s a rough sketch. 

i think that in bad habits i use avoidance tricks in my brain (i mean like, my brain literally shuts down into nothingness/blank slate/auto-pilot/plug my ears shut my eyes la-la-la-la i can’t hear you) to keep from facing that i’m doing something that i don’t like, something in that is not serving me but i’m not yet willing to change.  the first step is to commit to noticing the brain process, the patterns of behavior, slowly becoming aware of the exact point in the process that i learned to check out.  only after giving myself a chunk of time to notice what it is can i begin to understand it.  after that, i can decide if i want to keep going with the beliefs that fuel that behavior or decide to change my mind and create something new.  it takes time.  it takes deep breaths and a willingness to put auto-pilot on pause many, many times, and a big willingness to look at myself.  gently. 

for some reason in those moments before i’m ready to change i realize there is a fear of examining my patterns and behaviors.  that’s why i say avoidance.  i’m uncomfortable at best, terrified at worst, to begin to look at myself.  i’m not sure why.  is everyone that way?  but once i commit to gentle self-reflection, it’s not scary anymore.  maybe it’s old tapes of harsh criticism that scare me.  i try really hard not to do that anymore.  and when i allow myself the knowledge of what is going on before and during old habits, that’s when i gain the power to change. 

so today i’m thankful for that moment when i have allowed knowledge in, and can see my world crack open with the possibility of freedom from bad habits, and the inevitability of positive change.