Why Idealism

why idealism

I have been writing this post in my head for a very long time. I have this idea in my head on how I want it to be but my words have never quite come together the way I want. I found this picture recently and it spoke to me, I knew it was meant for this post. I also knew it was time to just start writing, let it come out however it chooses to.

This is what it feels like to be an idealist, an INFP, for me at least. I am writing this in my “I” voice, not speaking for all idealists/INFPs, just me. The world at times, often times, feels magic. The wind in the trees, the way it makes the leaves move, the noise it makes.. Magic. Old trees that have lived much longer than myself, they have seen the world change around them but there they stand strong and true.. Magic. Human connection, one soul finding itself in another.. Magic.

When I was a child I was all imagination. I played in the trees but they were not trees, they were castles. I pretended my backyard was a wilderness filled with gentle wild animals who wanted nothing more but to be my friend, I laid out carrots waiting for rabbits that would never come. I lived a life of joy and fulfillment playing in a world I created in my mind and my heart. I understand now that part of this was out of necessity. Idealism, imagination, rose colored glasses, being inside my own little world.. It was a way to feel safe when my environment did not. It gave me somewhere to go when I could not be where I was. Idealism is part of what helped me survive.

I have never grown out of my idealism. It allows me to see the best in bad situations, it allows me to find hope when all feels lost, it allows me to find compassion for those who would hurt me, it allows me to feel safe when the world feels scary.

I know there is a balance to be struck, especially as an adult, but ultimately at the end of the day I am still very much an idealist. Some may see this approach to life through a negative lens. My response to that would be before you jump to criticism and judgement think about what this world view might mean to the person. We do not become who we are arbitrarily. I am willing to bet that I am not the only survivor of trauma that has used my sense of idealism as a tool for resiliency. It is absolutely a strength, it helped me survive. I went through what I went through and never stopped believing in the world, and life, and magic, and beauty. That is strength. That is resiliency.

Why Idealism?

Because the world is going to be what it is going to be regardless of me so why not try to see the best whenever possible, it is there, keep looking.

Because The world is full of beautiful magic and I can’t ignore it. I cannot help but be in awe everyday I get to be part of it.

Because safety.

Because there is no right or wrong way to experience life and this is my way.

My husband is a realist, we balance each other, I lift him up, he keeps me tethered to the ground so I do not float away. I admire his perspective and respect what it means to him. I can also be a bit of a cynic at times because I am allowed to exist in more than one way in my life and sometimes social justice issues are too big and awful to see through my rose colored glasses. That is okay too. I embrace it all.

You don’t have to be all one thing all the time. You can exist in your life in many different ways. Life is not as rigid as we are told it is growing up. It is flexible and forgiving, we make it complicated with our ideas about right/wrong/good/bad and other forms of dichotomous thinking.

So where do you land in all of this? Idealist? Realist? Optimist? Cynic? Anarchist? And why? You are not who you are by accident. What got you there? There is no wrong answer and your story, whatever it maybe, is sacred.

A Story About a Girl Who Did it All

reading

I just finished reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. It had me at The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, I was sold when I saw A Ship of Her Own Making. She is the hero of this story, doesn’t need to be saved.

It was great and like all great stories a piece of me mourned when it ended. It was an adventure that reminded me of a mix between The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.

I am not really sure where to go next. I was thinking maybe Harry Potter, I have actually never read any of them. It is pretty incredible that I even have time for pleasure reading right now but so far I do and I want to keep on until I no longer can.

Pretty soon I am going to need another bookcase. Todd has really been going through them recently too. His bookcase is quite full right now as well.

Maybe there is a Neil Gaiman I haven’t read yet that I could get into. His stuff is always a safe bet for someone like me. I used to feel that way about Gregory Maguire years and years ago but I have since moved on. I could also reread something but as I gaze upon the shelves of books nothing jumps out at me. Todd really encouraged me to read Quiet by Susan Cain, that is an option. I saw her Ted Talk about introversion though and kinda feel like I got the big picture from that.

I will figure it out I am sure. In the interim it is that much more time I have to write and that is quite welcome as well.

Awkward Shared Experience

I have about 20 minutes before I have to leave for internship so I decided to try to get this post out real quick because something interesting happened in school last night.

First I have to comment on awesome weather right now. Awesome is maybe not the word everyone would use to describe it, it has been raining for three days straight and probably will through the end of the week do to a tropical depression that is hanging out nearby. I love it though. I have my root chakra music playing and the rain is pounding in the background, I can hear it hitting the chimney and echoing down into the fire place. I think the only reason I ever didn’t love the rain was because I had long hair and rain/humidity made it impossible to deal with. Having no hair allows me to love the rain as I actually do, fully and with enthusiasm!

So last night I was in groups class where, you guessed it, we learn how to facilitate groups and everything about group dynamics etc. One of the ways this class is being run is that we, as a class, are holding group every week and two students cofacilitate the group. They have a topic for the group to focus on etc and it gives each of us a chance to both participate in a group and run one, lots of great hands on experience.

Last night was our first group, in my opinion it was a mess at times and super uncomfortable. The main facilitator, I say main because he did not allow the woman he was cofacilitating with have an opportunity to do her thing at all! So the main facilitator appeared to have A LOT of nervous energy that he did seem self-aware of at all and he did things that were perceived by me to be patronizing, sexist, and weirdly controlling. I thought it was just me, he definitely reminds me of a few men I have encountered in life that were problems for me so I was sure this was just an issue of transference. I was uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes but bit my tongue. 2o minutes in he asked us all to stand to do an exercise, he then proceeded to separate the men from the women (there were onyl two men other than himself so he forced – literally grabbed and forced- the professor to join group and line up with the men. Background information, this group’s topic was getting a job after school, we were supposed to discuss our concerns etc.
So he lines up all the men and then has the women count off from three breaking us into three groups. He then tells us, the women, to line up in front of the men based on the number he assigned each man and take turns shaking their hands while looking in their eyes passionately. Um.. What the actual fuck is going on??

He did not explain the purpose of the exercise, even after he did later it was not clear. It was perceived by a lot of people, men and women alike, myself included, to be an exercise where the men were teaching the women how to shake hands. My feminist pieces were freaking the fuck out. This was some sexist bullshit. Not to mention sexism already exists for women in professional environments, lets just go ahead and validate that by creating a sexist exercise that prepares us for the sexism we are in for when we get the job.

And what was the whole thing about looking them in the eyes passionately? When in a professional environment should we ever be looking anyone in the eye passionately? What were learning from this? It was so awkward and sexist I could barely breathe. Oh and one more thing, once we were all done being passionate and learning how to shake hands we, the women, were told to rate the men’s performances. Holy fucking innuendo Batman! Does this guy seriously not get how weirdly inappropriate this is?? Jeezo!

So after this debacle of an exercise we all returned to our seats to continue group. The energy in the room had changed, it was tense. No one was making eye contact, it was like we were all covered in shame or something. The facilitator was clueless, he could not read the room at all and pushed on calling on people who were volunteering to participate in the discussion etc. I was so triggered I shut down. I was done with this group and this dude. He apparently did pick up on this in me and called on me deliberately, I passed because in a group you can always pass there usually is not forced participation. My pass cracked open the group and things got real for the first time all night.

One of my colleagues I know well and who knows me well could read what my pass was about so she started the ball rolling. She raised her hand and shared that she was uncomfortable with the exercise we had just done. The facilitator seemed a bit dumb founded. I then raised my hand and explained how I felt (definitely using my I voice) that it was sexist and it spoke to sexism that already exists in professional spaces. I felt like the facilitator get defensive, I braced myself for a confrontation I had been trying to avoid, but before he had the chance to respond men and women alike were chiming in about their shared discomfort with the exercise. It led to a very meaningful conversation about sexism in the workplace and what women experience. There was lots of personal sharing of stories and insightful dialogue with the other men in the room.

For the record I still do not think this guy, the facilitator got it. At the end though the professor did say that the conflict my friend and I opened up about led to the best moment the group had. He said that was the only time we acted like a real group. Yay feminism.

Quite a few of us were still processing the whole thing after class. I am glad my friend shared, I am glad I called the sexism that was happening out. I also made sure to check in with the facilitator and make sure he and I were okay. He is hard to read, I am still not sure he understood any part of what happened. That is his journey though, he will get there when he is meant to or not at all, not my concern.

On Not Being Saved

I just wrote a really difficult post in my dark place where I realized something awful, I was never saved. No one came to my rescue, I was not protected, there was no hero just the hope for one that never came. This all pertains to a certain aspect of my dark work and it was a really painful realization. So I felt the need after sitting with that terrible realization to come over to this light space and balance that.

I was never saved. That still hurts to say but there is something very important to take away from that. I was never saved but I survived. I did that. All by myself, just me. I am the reason I am still here. Not being saved meant that I had to take care of myself, I had to develop skills I otherwise would not have had to in order to take care of myself, to keep myself safe, to get myself through to the other side. I was waiting for a hero and when one did not come, it was on me to become my hero, so I did.

hero

Something we talk about a lot in social work is resiliency, and a persons strengths. I never gave myself credit for my own resiliency. When you spend your entire life trying to deny, and ignore, and disconnect from the awful things that have happened you do not pay attention to the secret gifts they gave you as well.

I took care of me when no one else showed up. And now I am learning to love myself in those places of pain. I was there for myself when the bad happened, I will be there for myself as I heal.

I am the hero of this story, don’t need to be saved. – Regina Spektor

So Small in a Very Big Place

astronomy

4 years ago I left the professional world and returned to school full-time. It was a big left turn in my life, one of the biggest (best) leaps of faith I have ever made. My first semester back in school I arbitrarily signed up for an astronomy class because I needed a science credit and I thought the class would be interesting. To this day, and after all the other wonderful classes I have taken, astronomy is still at the very top of my list as one of my favorites.

I was thinking about my astronomy class and professor last night when Todd and I were leaving my parents home. My parents live in what is considered the country for our area, lots of cow pastures, no street lights, some paved roads, some dirt. One of my favorite parts of visiting them is leaving in the evening, and as I typed that I realized how bad it sounds! Let me elaborate, I enjoy leaving because at night in the country you can see so many stars, much more than we can see downtown, and they shine so brilliantly! Last night the sky was clear and full of bright white star light, it was stunning. I stood there outside our car for a few minutes to take it all in. This is when I thought of my old professor and everything he taught me about how vast the universe is.

Something happened to me after I took that class, it changed me a bit. I learned so much and some of it was pretty overwhelming. I remember feeling so insignificant and small the day I learned about how big the universe is and that fact that it is still expanding, I wrote about it in a post called A Smooth Sea Never Made for a Skillful Sailor.

That class made me claustrophobic in a way. Since learning everything I did about us in relation to the enormous everything that exists beyond us there have been times when I look up at the sky and feel like the planet is too small, I do literally feel a bit claustrophobic. It seems silly right? The sky is so high above me, how could it feel like it is closing in? Well it does. When you think about how big everything is beyond the sky suddenly the planet feels like a marble in a open field that has no ending point.

I think it is okay to feel this way sometimes. It gives me perspective when I get hung up on a baking disaster or any other conflict, how much does it matter in the grand scheme of things? I try not to dwell to long either though because it can kind of make me feel like what is the point of anything too.

Last night was a gorgeous night and I felt small as I looked up at the asterisms and planets above me. I considered how far away they must be, and wondered what was way out there where they exist. Sometimes just looking at the night sky can reset whatever dialogue you have going in your head, or make you rethink the importance of your latest dilemma, I know that is the case for me at least. I look at the night sky and I feel small and infinite all at the same time.

neil

The Snail and the Sunflower

Last night my husband told me a bed time story as he sometimes does. This story has a back story I should share before I go any further though.

Recently I painted Todd a picture as a thank you for being an amazing life partner and beautiful human being. It was important to me that the picture I painted him be math and science related because those are two of his sweet spots. After lots of thought and looking over some reference photos I decided to paint him a picture of a snail in a sunflower garden. I chose this as my inspiration because both snails and sunflowers are parts of nature where the fibonacci sequence naturally occurs. I also chose this theme because science and nature go hand in hand as well (biology, ecology, etc).

I was worried he wouldn’t get the homage I was trying to pay to these subjects he loves. Not  only did he get it, it turned out to be his favorite piece I have ever made, he even named the snail in the picture Simon. It is now in our bedroom where we can both admire it everyday. I am not going to lie, it is one of my favorites I have ever painted as well. The sunflowers are warm and show good detail and the snail has so much personality. Todd says that Simon looks determined, he has set his mind to something and nothing can get in his way, kind of like the little engine that could.

Last night at bedtime he agreed to tell me a story. I offered to get a Beatrix Potter from my collection of her works but he said he was going to make one up for me. This was a special treat!

I am going to share the story now, with added embellishments from yours truly. The bones of the story belong to my sweet husband (who is secretly very creative), I just added some color.

Simon was a snail that lived among enormous trees, trees so tall he could not even see the top of them. These trees of course we know are actually sunflowers. Simon was curious by nature and wanted to know more about the world around him. Simon was yearning for something in life that he could not quite understand. One day Simon decided to climb to the tippy top of one of the great trees in his forest home. It took him an entire day but once he did he was able to see very far distances and feel the warmth of the sun. In the distance Simon saw a farm and thought it seemed very far away.

That day Simon decided to make the journey out of the comfort of his sunflower garden to the farm in the distance, he was sure whatever it was he was longing for he could find in this strange new place.

It took Simon three long days to make the trek across the sunflower field to the farm, he met many interesting insects and animals along the way. He was tempted once or twice to side track and stay a while with these new spirited characters he met but in his heart he knew he must charge on. Simon was certain his destiny lay just on the other side of the horizon, he was determined to reach the farm and learn his true fate.

On the third day Simon arrived at the farm, the first thing that caught his attention was the farm house itself so he pushed forward to see what good fortune lay ahead. Simon arrived at the farm house, all golden yellow and glowing in the sun, it reminded him of his beloved trees he left behind for a life of adventure and discovery. Simon decided the best plan was to climb up the side of the farm house in order to get a better vantage point of his new surroundings.

After many hours of climbing Simon reached a window that just so happened to be cracked open. He slid under the opening, a breeze blowing against his turquoise spiraled shell. Once inside the farm house Simon was promptly discovered by the farmer’s daughter, Juniper. Juniper loved all living things. Upon meeting Simon she picked him right up and told him that the farm house was no place for a snail, a bird could snatch him off the window sill and have him for an afternoon snack, or the farm cat Camille may think he would be something fun to torment. Juniper delicately carried Simon back into the farm yard all the while telling him about the friends he would make and how happy he would be living on the farm with the others. What others? Simon thought. And what is a friend? This was a new word Simon had never heard before.

Juniper proceeded to carry Simon to a back corner of the farm yard, far away from any potential threats like hungry chickens or curious kittens. Juniper stopped just above a smooth gray stone that was perfectly positioned among a patch of carmine poppies in full bloom. She gently placed Simon down on top of the stone, it was toasty from baking in the brilliant autumn sun. This is when Simon met another snail who looked remarkably like him, her shell happened to be a swirl of violet, indigo, and rose rather than the turquoise and gray that shimmer and shone on his back.

My name is Sally, the new snail said. I’m Simon, he replied. Would you like to be friends Simon? It gets awful lonely here in the poppy patch and it would be oh so nice to have a companion to go through life with. Without any need for explanation Simon suddenly knew in his soul what it meant to be a friend and have a companion to share life with. He also knew this is what was missing and this is what his heart had longed for back in his sunflower field. Yes. Yes, Sally I think I would.

And together Sally and Simon lived out their days in the poppy patch, on the farm, near the sunflower field, under the great blue sky.

Letting Go of What Does Not Serve Me

borrowed identity

You know that voice in your head, the “not good enough” voice, the bully?.. Where did that voice come from? Who gifted you the negative messages that you play over and over? Does your truest self actually believe these negative things or are they someone else’s words or actions that you absorbed and have turned into your own personal torture device?

Maybe it is a little bit of both (most things are after all). Our internal bully can be made up of social messaging from society, messages received in close relationships, and things we say to ourselves that have a foundation in one of the first two.

Listening to one of our clients in group yesterday made me think about this. What the client was sharing made me wonder, Where did they first receive that message? As I was processing the day on my way home I was thinking about some of my own messages I have internalized over the years and who they came from. I had some major I show myself love moments on the drive home and have decided it is time to release some of these messages because I no longer believe them and they do not serve me.

I am crazy. That was a gift from a former intimate partner that could not cope with my depression and grief after the death of a loved one. I was in pain, a pain so deep it scared him. I release this message. It is not my truth and it does not serve me.

My body is not good enough. This was also a gift from a former intimate partner. My body belongs to me alone and I know she is worthy of my love. That is my truth. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am manipulative. There were times when this was other’s truth about me. I recognize times in my life when I was without and did what I needed to make myself feel safe and loved. I am grateful to the pieces of myself that took care of me during that time. I send love and light to those I hurt with my actions when I was trying to take care of myself. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am not deserving, I am not worthy. I release these messages. They are not my truth and do not serve me.

I am unlovable. This was one of my most painful messages, and one that I have had the longest relationship with. This is not my truth now because I love myself. I am worthy of love and I show all the pieces of myself unconditional love. I receive love from without and within. I RELEASE THIS MESSAGE. IT IS NOT MY TRUTH AND IT DOES NOT SERVE ME.

I know my truth. These messages can no longer hurt me. These words no longer have meaning in my life and no one will ever be able to use them to hurt me again. I am stable and safe, my body belongs to me and I am in love with it just as it is, I have everything I need to take care of myself, I deserve to be here and I am worthy of the goodness of life, I feel love, I give love, I am love.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time

ft vs pt

Yesterday night after internship I was womped!! Oh my gosh. I could have fallen asleep on my drive home, soooo tired. Today was better, my energy level stayed up. When I got home last night feeling completely zapped I walked in to find my sweet hubs cooking us dinner and a happy dog who had already been fed. I was able to change my clothes, flop on the couch, and relax until dinner was ready (SO GRATEFUL!!).

Tonight Todd got home a few minutes before me and when I walked in through the garage I found a love note from him Lucy posted on the door to the house welcoming me home. I was over the moon. When I opened the door there they both were waiting to rain hugs and kisses down on me. What a way to come home!

Tonight I got a text from a friend in the program, she is in the part-time MSW program, she is now in internship, and she works part-time. Apparently she is feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything she is having to balance and was looking for a little support. I texted with her for a bit until she seemed to feel some relief in getting whatever she needed to off her chest.

After this exchange I am sitting here with major gratitude and feeling very aware of my privilege. I am grateful to live in economic situation that allows me to go to school full-time and only focus on my classes and internship. I am grateful to be in an egalitarian relationship. I am grateful to be married to supportive spouse who shows his love openly and makes me feel safe, secure, taken care of, and capable. I realize this whole process and experience would be so much harder if I were single and responsible for my own bills. The balance would be difficult and I think that feeling of tiredness I experienced yesterday would be amplified in a major way. I think my friend is amazing. I think by the end of next semester we are all going to feel so proud and accomplished. I hope we are able to support each other and help each other stay motivated as we go along.

Tonight I am not only grateful for what I have, I am grateful to be in relationships at school that are authentic and meaningful. Relationships where we show up for each other and are able to remind each just how capable we are. I was glad to hear from my friend tonight. I was glad to be what she needed when she needed and I am thankful for the reminder she gave me. As tired as I maybe on any given day there are millions of people out there who are more tired and not able to rest like I am. I have everything I need to take care of myself, it is important to for me to remember to share when I know I have enough. That could mean a lot of things but it is a reminder we all need sometimes, when your life is abundant it is time to give of yourself however you are able.

I will not be blind to the struggle of others. I will remember the weary when I am feeling worn down. I will be grateful and give of myself.

 

Lots of Processing

There are many differences between this internship and my BSW level internship, one difference I am enjoying is sharing the experience with other interns. I do not like it more than my last internship being just me and my LCSW, it is just different and I am enjoying it. One aspect that is nice is having two other MSW interns to process things with. We are all experiencing this in different ways, there are multiple perspectives, it is great.

Today we discussed the importance of not personalizing things and shared some stories with each other. We talked about some of fears and insecurities about the internship and  our roles as social workers in general. We talked about the divide that we have all noticed in the program between the two cohorts (was glad to hear I was not the only one who noticed it, see my prior post).

Clearly we didn’t just sit around talking though. We had opportunities to talk during breaks from training. Training is going really well, learning lots. In regards to learning lots, I am advocating for myself at this internship so I can get everything I want out of it while also meeting the needs and expectations of my facility. I asked my LCSW for the opportunity to site visits at agencies we work closely with so I can learn more about them and their role and she agreed to this. I was proud of myself for using my voice and advocating for my experience.

Another awesome moment, engaging with the population. We got to sit in on group again and the population is starting to open up with us, love it!

I know this internship is going to have challenging moments, I am grateful for this time to ease in and take it slow.

Being Outside the Comfort Zone

day one internship

My mantra for grad school is all about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and once I am on the outside, keep pushing!

The internship I chose is way outside of my comfort zone. As you may recall I was pretty scared over the summer after my initial interview. I was intimidated and I was experiencing a lot of self-doubt. Yesterday was a great first day though.

This whole week I have been waking up early and starting my day with root chakra meditation music instead of the news. I play it the entire time I am getting ready for grounding and it has been a great way to keep me calm and focused on my intentions for the day. Also, because I am getting up early I have plenty of time to relax and move slowly while I get ready, I even have time to write if I want. Rushing is not part of my morning routine.

I have affirmations that I am mindful of everyday so my intentions are clear and to help me throughout the day as needed. Yesterday being my first day my affirmations were:

Like a tree and a star, I deserve to be here. That one was to help specifically with my self-doubt. I may not have a lot of experience with this population but I am a capable social worker and MSW intern and I deserve to be here.

I am open to possibilities.

I am grateful for challenges, they will help me grow and transform.

I trust myself.

I speak my truth.

I know when it is time to listen.

Half way through the day the other interns and I were invited to shadow and participate in group. The group was about coping skills and self-compassion in particular. All of yesterday was wonderful but that was my highlight.

Our intern supervisor and the counselor also got us care packages as a welcome gift. It was very sweet. I am feeling very grateful.

I Can’t Breathe

i cant breathe

I was dropped kicked in the face by my trauma today. It is late and I have my first day of internship tomorrow so I am not going to process all this here and now, I felt the need to address it though. Give it a voice with the hope and intention that it will not haunt me as I try to sleep tonight. I wrote about it in my dark writing place so I have processed it to some degree but I also felt the need to put something here as well. This blog is about my experiences as a student and this is absolutely part of that, I do not want to edit it out just to make the over all story look nicer.

This piece of my story is not a piece I am willing to talk about openly, not at this point at least. It is not like my car accident, it’s roots are deeper, it is messier, it is the trauma that all my other trauma ever experienced was originally born from.

I was not prepared to face it today. It is a dragon and I was not wearing any armor. I had it together long enough to be in my car alone where I can let myself go. It was as if an old wound burst open, my tears flowed like blood, I bled myself dry.

I am okay now. I am much better at taking care of myself than I have been in the past. I feel safe, grounded, loved, and comfortable. I feel like after reading my book for a little bit I will be able to go to bed without issue. The best part of that is I did that for myself. Yes, I processed what happened with Todd but I did not ask him to come to my rescue, I did that for myself. I know how to do that now. I made myself feel safe, I showed myself love, I helped myself feel grounded, I am the reason I feel comfortable and ready for sleep. There is only one relationship you will have for your entire life and that is the relationship you have with yourself. It is the most important relationship of your life. Nothing I have ever done in my entire life has been more important than learning to love myself and invest in the relationship I have with myself.

For a brief moment tonight it felt like my entire world cracked open and 20+ years of trauma came washing over me in one terrifying instant. I did not spiral. I did not retreat. I did not numb. I sat in that awful place and felt every single thing I was feeling and took care of myself. I made it better. I did it. This is the turning point in my life where I realize every single thing is possible. If I can do this thing I have never ever been able to do I know I am capable of anything.

Day One on the Books

I did it. I made it through first the day of school. I made it through the traffic, finding a parking spot, trekking across campus and waiting in a 45 minute line to get my new parking decal, making it back across campus to class on time, and then trekking across campus once more to leave. There was a certain Tolkien-esk quality to the day with all the across campus nonsense, it felt like some epic journey and I felt like a hobbit at the gates of Mordor thanks to the blistering Florida heat!

I did it though and now day one is behind me. Roughly 240 days to go!

My crusade to find parking and cross-campus expedition isn’t really the story from the day though. The story is something I noticed in class. I met up with my BFFAS (best friend forever at school) before class and we were talking about how we both looked online at the roster for our class today and noticed that it was all female. That has not happened once since I started undergrad. There are not many men in the program but there are enough that there has always been at least one or two in every class I have taken. I personally was kind of excited to have a class with all women. I was curious to see how the energy would be. My feminist self had this grand vision of sisterhood and easy relatability right off the bat. Shocker #1, I was being SUPER idealistic. Shocker #2, day one was not sisterhood-y or fem-bonding at all.

The energy was actually kind of tense and uncomfortable. I noticed it right when my friend and I walked in. We were the 4th and 5th people to walk into the classroom. We found seats in the middle of the room towards one side that we were comfortable with and plopped down to enjoy the A/C. As all the other women filed in there was a very clear division between the BSW, now advanced standing MSW clinical students and the Generalist MSW, now MSW clinical students. It felt like a them and us situation. The room was literally divided. All of the previous MSW generalists were on one side and all of the former BSW students who recently graduated were on the other. The whole atmosphere felt off to me.

I noticed it in my two classes over the summer as well but it did not feel as evident as it does in this class so far. I worked with multiple new people who were formerly MSW generalists over the summer and am thankful I had the opportunity because it was great growth for me and new perspectives.

I hate that it feels like a line in drawn in the classroom, the separation feels heavy and deliberate to me. On my drive home I was thinking about what I know about how groups form and how once groups are formed how these groups perceive outsiders. I don’t believe that either side of the room has malicious intentions towards the other side, I just think people are comfortable with what feels (and who feels) familiar and right now we are all choosing to stay in our comfort zones. It is my intention to push myself out of my comfort zone and explore/grow as much as possible in my last two semesters so I am hoping I will have plenty of opportunity in this class to get to know new people, it seems like I will. I hope everyone is as open to learning from one another.

We will see how the semester plays out.

day one1

Ready Ready Ready To Go!

I woke up 5 am ready to start the day. I’d like to think that I don’t have anxiety about what this week holds for me but if that were true I probably would have slept in until 7.

Right now my perfectionist self is running the show making sure I am ready for what lies ahead. I got all of my introductory discussion posts done before 8:30 so I can check my first assignments of the semester off my list. I have ordered and paid for my parking decal. I had breakfast and exercised. I picked out my clothes, organized my school bag, and have started making a list of questions to go over with my intern supervisor when I start on Wednesday. I also did a load of dishes and pulled out what is needed to make dinner when we get home later. I may not be a J or a Type A but I can pull things together when motivated.

Now I feel the need to balance all that excited/nervous energy with some calm. I figured I would right for a bit, taking a nice long shower, and meditate before making my lunch and getting ready for school.

I feel like I need to harness and focus this energy behind a certain intention for the day or I will be so wired up when I arrive on campus, search for parking, and finally get to class that I won’t be as present as I would like to be.

I think my intention today is to be grounded. I know I am excited and wound up, I think I need to focus on tethering myself to the ground, having a still mind, and being connected to what is going on around me.

I look forward to sharing all the details of my first week as an MSW clinical intern. I am sure as the semester moves forward I will have plenty of stories.

ready to go

I Hate This Cornmeal!

i hate this cornmeal

Those were the last words I sputtered before launching myself onto the couch in the sun-room this morning. I had this grand plan for breakfast that not only did not go according to plan, it literally went up in smoke. Todd came and found me face planted in the couch and snapped this shot to show me how ridiculous I look. After laughing about it together I decided this was a great writing inspiration, I was absolutely having an I show myself love when moment.

Last night while Todd and I were reading in bed I announced that I was going to make arepas and over easy eggs for breakfast in the morning. I was very pleased with myself. I have not made arepas in years so I double checked a recipe online and settled in for the night with thoughts of delicious runny eggs and warm arepas with butter running through my head. This diet is so restrictive that to have a meal to look forward to is a luxury in my life right now.

This morning Todd and Lucy woke me up with snuggles and puppy kisses and Todd transcribed while I dictated the grocery list. Once our list was complete we headed off to the store.

I found the cornmeal I was looking for but upon reading the ingredients on the back I realized I cannot have it after all. There was another cornmeal next to me that had an ingredients list I could work with so I grabbed it and scooted off to finish the shopping.

When we got home is when the trouble started, the next series of events have Calamity Jill written all over them.

I was unloading and putting away groceries when I heard a crash behind me, I turned and found my spoon/ladle holder on the ground shattered. I must have knocked it off the counter some how when I was moving groceries around. I felt my heart drop into my stomach. I really liked this ladle holder. It was one of the first home items I bought for myself when I lived alone in my one bedroom apartment. I remember feelings like such an adult. Plus it had this colorful mandala design that spoke to my inner artist. There it was, all of its beautiful colors sprayed across the kitchen floor. My eyes began to well up as Todd stopped putting away groceries to help me clean up the plaster shards.

A few minutes later I was back on track for making arepas but not very happy with myself. Not long after I broke the spoon holder I said to myself I show myself love when, as a reminder to be nice to myself – it was an accident. So I was now on to making arepas and being mindful of the inner dialogue I had going on.

I followed all the directions from the online recipe but did not get the desired result of a sticky dough, not by a long shot. I had water with separated cornmeal and salt in it. Ugh! That is when I realized this cornmeal was not meant for making arepas. I tried to keep my cool. I dumped my mixture that was unusable and decided to come up with a plan B. I looked at the back of the cornmeal container to see what the suggested uses were and one jumped out, cornbread! Great, I can do cornbread. I checked to make sure I had all the ingredients, I did, so I was ready to go. Cornbread and over easy eggs, sounds good! The pep was back in my step, I was not going to let these road blocks hold me down!

I followed all the directions, 3/4 cups if this, 1 teaspoon of that, and viola! Not really though. I expected to have a runny batter which I would then pour into my glass dish for the oven but what I had actually resembled the arepa dough. WTF? I was not going to be swayed, this was going to make cornbread damn it! I plopped the dough into the dish, mushed it around and until it was evenly distributed and prepared to stick it in the oven for 20 minutes.

This whole time the oven had been preheating to 425 like instructed by the recipe, when I opened the oven door I was almost knocked backwards by an ENORMOUS cloud of black smoke. Now choking and eyes burning I threw the dish into the oven and slammed the door shut. I stood in my smoke filled kitchen, eyes filled with water for two reasons now, and decided I had had enough!!

I hate this cornmeal!!!!! I whizzed through the living room, past Todd who was reading on the couch, and catapulted onto the couch in the sun-room. Trepidatiously he and Lucy approached, like you see soldiers approach a grenade in the movies when they are not sure if it is live or not, easy does it – we do not want to set it off. Next thing I knew I was being womped by throw pillows and whipped by puppy tail. Does this help? He exclaimed. I started to laugh.

I aired all my grievances about my morning to which he listened sympathetically before doing all the things he knows to do to make me laugh.

I was sure that when I took the cornbread out 20 minutes later it was going to be a charred mess, but I was wrong. I also realized what I had done wrong. I was so upset because I followed the recipe exactly, I could not figure out why my batter was so dense. Well, I didn’t actually follow the recipe all that closely. I substituted white flour for coconut flour and buttermilk for coconut milk. Of course my batter was going to be different. The cornbread was good though and even though I broke one of my yolks while making the over easy eggs, and we didn’t finally eat breakfast until noon, it was a success.

It was a success because I recovered. It was a success because I had loving support from my family and myself (however delayed). It was a success because I did not let all the set backs and failures get in the way of the end result, breakfast with my family and a lesson learned.

So here are my lessons learned:

Baking is a science and you can’t just change everything and expect the same outcome (I kinda knew that, which is why I don’t bake).

Broken things are replaceable but unkind words you say to yourself in a moment of frustration can be damaging.

It is okay to ask for help when you are having a hard time.

AND remember to laugh at yourself and the situation, it is called perspective!

The Crying Tree Lady

my trees.jpg

I do not remember the name of a single math teacher I had from middle school all the way through college, save one. I will call her Mrs. W.

Mrs. W was my liberal arts math teacher junior year of high school. I would not remember her either, I certainly remember very little from the actual class, except for one day in particular. She was sitting on a stool at the front of the room writing math problems onto a transparency which was then projected onto a screen (I am sure this kind of technology is considered prehistoric now). Mid way through a problem that I was paying no attention to (I was happily doodling in my notebook) she did something that grabbed everyone’s attention. She started crying.

We were all stunned. It came from no where. She was doing a math problem and then she just started to cry. After a moment she put down the marker and through her arms in the air and started wailing about this beautiful oak tree that had lived outside of her bedroom window her entire life and how that morning the tree men had come to cut it down because it was infected and dying. She was devastated and so was I. Everyone else was either quiet, completely at a loss, or snickering. No one seemed to understand her pain but I did.

I grew up on a dirt road with few neighbors surrounded by open fields of wild flowers and massive laurel and live oak trees. I spent everyday of summer and everyday after school outside climbing trees and picking flowers. I was bare foot at all times. I felt the bark of these trees in my hands and under feet and I climbed. I came home at night covered in dirt and tree sap. The knees of my jeans were always green and ripped from grass stains and rubbing too hard against tree trunks. I understood her pain.

I thought of her last week. I hope I haven’t already told this story, I apologize if I have. At any given time I can be writing between 2-8 stories in my head for this blog, sometimes I forget which ones I have actually physically written.

Anyway, I was driving to a grocery in the next neighborhood over from ours. Our grocery is little, it does not always have everything I need. I decided to take the scenic route that goes by our old rental in College Park. As I turned a bend by the lake I saw something that made me lose my breath. One part of the neighborhood runs parallel to the big interstate that cuts through College Park and for some time there had been markings on a few of the old live oaks indicating that they were to be cut down to allow for the road expansion that it currently taking place. I was heart broken when I first realized this and deliberately drove this way everyday so I could see these trees.  I wanted to bear witness to them because one day they would be gone and I wanted to make sure that I remember them and honor them for as long as they were still standing.

A few weeks after Todd and I first saw the markings we ran into our neighbor who used to be an elected official. She knows people who are higher up in local government and according to her the trees in question were not going to be cut down because enough important people made a fuss about it. I was overjoyed at this news! I stopped driving by the trees everyday. I still drove this way a few times a month but not as regularly.

As I turned the bend by the lake I saw nothing but open air where my beloved trees used to stand tall. All that remained were stumps where there beautiful bodies had been. I started to ball. I cried all the way to the grocery and considered turning around and going home rather than going in. I could not pull myself together. I was feeling everything. I was angry, I was shocked, I felt guilty, but most of all a deep deep sorrow.

I thought they were safe. Had I known I would have visited them more often. I tried so hard to remember each one of them, the ways their branches curved and dipped and each individual root system. But I couldn’t. My memory failed me and it further intensified the feeling of my failing them. I was not there to bear witness. What if no one else took any effort to remember them? It will be as though they never existed. These trees, Live Oaks, live for centuries. They have more right to be here than we do. How could we so callously cut them down? And hearing, trees are being planted to replace the ones removed does not make me feel any better. Great, plant those trees but it does not replace a life lost!

I have not been able to drive that way since. I know that many who read this will not understand. Like my classmates you will either sit in silence unsure what to make of the crying tree lady or maybe you will snicker/pass judgement. It is of no consequence to me. I know there are other souls out there who understand this pain, Mrs. W is testament to that.

Part of my sacred truth is that I am connected to all living things, trees, insects, plants, the earth. Some maybe more so than others, like trees. Among the trees is a I have always felt safe. They share their shade and shelter, you are free of judgement and come as you are, they are deeply rooted and have branches that touch the sky which is a balance I think we all strive for in life. My truth is they deserve to be honored.

The Forgotten Type

Yesterday I went to the orientation for my clinical internship at school. I am sure I will have an orientation and plenty of training lined up at my internship site as well but this was the school of social work’s spiel about “don’t take your shoes off at internship, etc”. I arrived late to orientation and I am blaming David Bowie for that. I was dancing around in my bedroom while I was getting ready and totally last track of time. This is my life. Someone asks, Why were you late Jillian? My answer is, Because dancing.

I wasn’t too late though, 20 minutes tops and I can definitely pin at least 5 minutes on that fact that greek row was blocked off and I had to reroute myself.

After orientation I caught up with a few of my girlfriends and we spent some time chatting. One of my friends is the president of the honor society, a straight A student (clearly), an activist, and she works part-time in a social work position while doing school and internship. This girl has her shit together. This is also one of my friends who said I was her social work goal which I discussed in a previous post. Academically and professionally speaking, this girl is performing at a higher level than I am so I do not get her thinking she needs to live up to anything I am doing in those arenas, you are already there girlfriend!

So while a few of us, this friend included, were sitting around talking we started discussing this event coming up in September. It is a benefit for the Pulse victims and their families and is being put on by our school of social work. My friend is involved in the planning of the event so she was giving the rest of us the information. She pulled out her planner and I asked if I could see it for a moment.. I was in awe! Everything was perfectly laid out and organized. Things were highlighted to indicate their importance, different items were written in different colors to quickly differentiate between work, school, and social responsibilities. Her entire life was laid out in this planner. My other girlfriend and I were oogling her level of organization and talking about it with her. She was talking about how that is just her Type A personality. I also started thinking/wondering about her MBTI type also. I know she is an I and a J for sure.. I thinking S and F for the other two but I don’t know for sure. I looked it up and the ISFJ type has the nickname of The Defender and that sounds right to me.

On my drive home I transitioned from thinking about MBTI to what she said about being Type A. I have heard of the expression Type A my whole life but never Type B. I mean if there is a Type A it stands to reason that there other types like a B, C, and D. I looked into this when I got home and found this article that not only confirms that there is Type B but also outlines why Type B is great and how the types originated. Fun fact, they were created by a cardiologist. I also took this test to determine my type. As expected I am a B.

Type B personalities are not as good with fine details, they are more big picture people (that is me all over). They value collaboration over competition, check! They respond well to “failure” because they are focused on the process of achieving goals as well as actually achieving the goal. They also appear to be more focused on their own path/growth/development etc and are less likely to be concerned with comparing themselves to others, which I not only identify with I also think that is super healthy.

So yeah, I am bias. I liked the Huffington Post article because it celebrates traits and qualities that I not only identify with but that I value. I have type A friends who are very accomplished but I am quite happy being a Type B.

type B

It was just a Dream

dreams.jpg

That phrase, it was just a dream, can be the most comforting and invalidating statement all at once. Anyone with PTSD might know what I am talking about. I have night terrors, frequently. I have had frightening dreams for years, since high school. Some are recurring, some are recurring themes with different characters/environments, some are terrifying and do not seem related to anything specific (although I would be willing to bet they are).

These bad dreams have been my constant companion for all these years, the frequency in which they occur varies though. There are times when I may go weeks without one, recently though they have been there every night. For weeks I have been almost afraid to go to sleep because I know what is waiting for me, or at least I think I do and then it is usually much worse than I could have anticipated.

Last week Todd woke me up because I was making noises and breathing heavily/erratically. When I woke up I grabbed on to him and started crying hysterically. When I finally caught my breath and calmed down I was laying in a puddle that once was my husband’s chest and my eyes were swollen. It was just a dream are the words he cues into my ears when this kind of things happens. He holds me, he rubs my back, or pets my head, his even breathing calms mine and the echo of his heart beat in my ear brings mine back down. It was just a dream, it’s not real, I am safe. I feel comforted.

I have been in other situations where those words, it was just a dream, were flung at me in annoyance, they were dismissive. It was just a dream, get over it!

As I do my work my hope is that these dreams will ebb. Right now I think my work is why they are so frequent. A lot is coming up and my subconscious is reacting to/processing it. These dreams are certainly giving me plenty to work on. In the mean time I am doing what I can for myself in order to feel safe and comfortable at bed time.

There is a song by one of Todd and I’s favorite bands, City and Colour, that I think of when it comes to my haunting dreams. Apparently Dallas Green’s wife (he is the lead singer and song writer) also suffers from night terrors. I hear this song and think is this is what it is like for Todd? I wanted to share the lyrics in case it speaks to anyone else with these same issues.

Fragile Bird

When she sleeps
There is a fever dream, yeah
It brings a night terror
To haunt this fragile bird

She speaks in tounges
Her words they come undone, yeah
And with the wayward mind
She struggles through the night

All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through, through the night, through the night

These cold nightmares
They make her worse for ware
Lost in the dark
She’s got a heavy heart

And when she wakes
In her fragile state
When she calls my name
Hopin that I keep her safe

All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through
All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through

Through the night (x4)

All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through
All that I can do
Is hope she makes it through
Through the night

Warning Label

flight risk

I read something today that was talking about how much easier life would be if each person came with their own relevant warning label. First of all, I agree. Second, what would mine be? I have been thinking about this and have a partially composed answer, the rest will come as I write I am sure.

My first answer (the composed part of this post) is Flight Risk. This was an accurate warning label for me through most of my twenties and the entirety of my single life. This label was born from a catastrophic end to a complicated relationship and a separate trauma event that followed months later. Trust became a major issue for me in the beginning of new relationship prospects, along with fear. The first few men who I attempted to date once I felt ready did not listen to my request to move slow and thus this warning label was created. I would literally tell potential partners at the very beginning, I am a flight risk, I need to take things slow. What I was so often met with was the guy thinking this was some kind of challenge.. Oh it will be different with me or I can change/save you. I never stuck around long enough to find out. Intimacy had become this really scary place for me, which is sad, so no matter when in the relationship intimacy finally came up it was going to be scary and difficult for me. My thought was if I at least have a solid foundation of trust and healthy relationship with the person maybe it will be less scary. I was right, kind of. It was still scary and difficult when it finally came up in Todd and I’s relationship but we had been building a relationship together for so long that I had someone supporting me through it who was patient and loved me.

So fast forward 5 years into the future.. What would be my warning label now.. Challenging maybe? I like that because it has many definitions that feel right.

Challenging in that I will challenge things that others say either because I do not agree and want to have a dialogue or out of curiosity which may then require them to give insightful thought to what they actually mean (intention v. impact type of stuff).

Challenging in that I am complex and may make some uncomfortable.

Challenging in an ambiguous sense..
Person 1: How would you describe X, Y, and Z.
Person 2: Um, Challenging?
I mean, what does it even mean? Who knows? It may be worth it to some to find out, and to others not so much.

This is my take on my own warning label right now. Thinking about from other’s perspectives though..

I think Todd’s warning label for me would be verbose. I wear him out sometimes with my long-windedness.

I think my Mom’s would be outspoken. I have found my voice and truth in that relationship and I think I wear her out too sometimes.

Verbose, outspoken, challenging. I think the take away message from this post is to use my natural skills of introversion to shut up and listen. I will approach my day tomorrow with the intention of mouth closed, ears open and see what the world tells me.

warning label

This is Where I Meet My Muse

Yesterday before meeting my girlfriend for coffee I ran a few errands around town. I was driving with the windows down listening to one of my Pandora stations that plays music by primarily female artists and a Lisa Loeb song came on that I love. For the record, I am still a pretty big Lisa Loeb fan. She had me at Stay when I was like 9 and I have never looked back. It also helped that she made wearing glasses okay when wearing glasses did not seem that cool. So yeah, me and Lisa go way back.

The song that came on was This. I get inspired and feel full of joy every time I hear it. It is one of those songs you belt the lyrics to whether you are musically inclined or not. As I drove around scream singing my jam I started thinking about the lyrics and now here we are.

Here are some of the lyrics that speak to me most..

In an open room that echos well, this is where I can tell you everything.
This is where I meet my muse, and it feeds me.
This is why I burn this candle, I light it so that I can handle this.

I’m so still
I’m so safe,
appear severe,
I am not.

I have been singing it to myself all day as I work around the house and I have given more thought to what she is saying. I can’t say what it meant to her as she wrote it but for me it speaks to letting down your guard and what needs to happen in order for you to feel safe to be vulnerable or honest. That may mean honest or vulnerable with another person or vulnerable and honest in something you are creating.

I have talked before about how painting and artistic expression in general is something that makes me feel vulnerable and that I cannot do it with just anyone. For a long time I could not paint in front of anyone, now a few people have changed that for me. Writing is the same way. I may put all of this out there to be read by whomever may stumble upon it but as far as the environment I need when conducting the actual act of writing, different story.

For example, I keep a notebook with me so I can scribble down inspiration and ideas while I am out in the world. Once I caught Todd looking over my shoulder as I jotted something down and I suddenly felt naked in public. It’s funny because this blog is not off limits to him at all but the thought of someone seeing a raw idea or inspiration right out of my brain before I have put it through my refinement process.. made me feel vulnerable in a way I did not like. And of all the people in my life, he would be the one that I would trust to see me in a raw form. It says something.

So here is my version/interpretation of Lisa Loeb’s This.

In a quiet room with natural light this is where I can type out every thing in my soul.

In nature and in human connection and color and texture and in every beautiful, tragic human emotion is where I meet my muse, and she feeds me.

This is why I count my gratitude, I count so I can handle life.

I am so still,
I feel safe,
I may appear finite,
I am not.

lisa

Thanks for being my muse today Lisa!

Expect to be Amazed

expect to be amazed

My mentor is known for his insightful words. So much so that these phrases are loving referred to as “isms” named for his surname. To illustrate this point without spoiling his anonymity I will give the example of the surname Baker, then it would be Bakerisms.

So a famous “Bakerism” in circles who are familiar with Bakerisms is Expect to be Amazed. He talks about embracing each day with this intention.

I thought of this Bakerism today as I sat in a moment of total awe with a friend. She is in transition and while discussing the soul work we are both currently doing she talked about being “okay with feeling rather than just feeling okay.” I had to stop the conversation and just sit with that for a moment.. It is okay to feel things rather than settling with just feeling okay..

I mean look at what is happening in that sentence. You are giving yourself permission to do what you know needs to be done to heal yourself. You are giving your control pieces permission to rest. You are letting your body and soul know that it is safe to stop numbing and feel what needs and wants and is aching to be felt.

This was a big theme woven into our time together today. It came up in many forms. I am grateful for this reminder today. I will be mindful of this next week when I start my new placement as I am sure all kinds of colorful feelings will bubble up for me.