That Wasn’t My Best Me

energy

This last week was not one of my best and I certainly did not show up with my light turned up. Between bad energy at internship, Thanksgiving not going according to plan, and then hubs and I both getting the flu over the weekend.. I have not been at my best emotionally, physically, or mentally.

I am so close to the end of the semester and having a break from internship, there is piece of me that is tempted to just sit in this place of anxiety and negativity until the break. Why though? Why would I deliberately put off feeling better? Because it would be more work to actively try and feel better while I still have work to do and assignments to complete rather than just allow myself to give into what feels easy, this negative energy.

I had been doing so well with my intention of turning up my light. I am disappointed that I was so easily derailed by other people’s energy, illness, and just life in general. How committed was I if it was that easy to give in?

I think it is good though. It causes me to reflect and realize how easy it is to forget our purpose. This is not something I can be passive about. It is something I have to be actively engaged in everyday. Waking with intention, going to bed with gratitude. I admit I have been doing neither for last few days.

I can give myself space though, I have been ill and in a medicated delirium. Now that I am starting to feel better though I would like to get back to having mindful intention and gratitude. I have felt incredibly unbalanced the last week or so. That is how it goes sometimes though. I can try to show up as my best self everyday but the truth is I am human and sometimes I am going to show up in very human ways which may not feel like my best spiritual self.

So tonight as I am getting ready for a very big week that I know I have underlying anxiety around I would like to show my dark pieces love. My sick pieces, my vulnerable pieces, my scorned pieces, my jealous and angry pieces, my very human and beautifully flawed pieces that show up in painfully honest ways.

I am doing my best and my best looks different depending on the day. Today my best was taking care of body while it healed from the flu and giving Lu a bath after she rolled in the dirt even though I was completely exhausted.

Yesterday my best was making a conscious effort not to puke on my husband.

Tomorrow I will start my day with whatever intention is awake inside of me and I will give the day my best, whatever that looks like tomorrow.

Martyrdom is Manipulation

Martyrdom: a display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration.

Martyrdom is a form of manipulation.

Parents use it to guilt their children into doing what they want. I gave birth to you! After all we have done for you! Enter the martyr.

It is a used in relationships. I would do anything for you and you can’t bring yourself to do this one thing for me! 

It is used in religion as a way to shame followers into submission. He died for your sins.

It is used at work as a means to increase productivity without incentive. Look at Sue she works 10 hour days and weekends and never comes in late, why can’t you be more like Sue?

Manipulation at its simplest is about control. It is about getting needs met. It usually refers to negative, underhanded ways of getting needs met, but at the core that is what manipulation is.

Martyrdom is an exaggerated form of manipulation that uses guilt trips, and shaming, and extremes, and generalizations to get these needs met or exert control.

martyr

In my life I have personally been the victim of this kind of manipulation and I have used this kind of manipulation in past relationships. I am not proud of that fact of course but it is true and I am at a place now where I can show that piece of myself love.

This form of manipulation is very triggering for me none the less. It reminds me of times I have been hurt and times I have hurt others. Neither are memories I like to go back to.

Martyrdom is a thing in social work. It is not only a thing, I feel that it is glorified. I feel it used against us as a way to keep us down. To keep accepting low pay, and high case loads, and long hours, etc. etc. These things become expected and we become the martyrs.

Part of what took place in supervision the other day was manipulation. We listened to a long story of martyrdom and were told that we were not as good because we were not doing it this way.

I was triggered for two reasons mainly, for a moment it took me back to the absolute worst employment experience of my entire life.

I worked for a company for 5+ years that was completely toxic because I loved the work and the population. I finally left after my papa died. That is when I realized I had totally lost sight of what was important in life. The night he died he was surrounded by his family. I was not there. I had worked a 12+ hour day and was too tired to make the drive to hospice. He was stable, I would go to him first thing in the morning. He did not make it to the morning.

Following his death I took no time off to grieve. I was in charge, I could not take time off. I thought my job was the most important thing. I realized after experiencing prolonged complicated grief that I had that all wrong. It took me a long time to forgive myself for the time I lost at the end with him. He was more important. I don’t even work there anymore. How could I have ever thought that work, no matter how noble the work I was doing, was more important than the people I love?

The other part of the trigger for me has to do with my mother. Growing up and even into my twenties my mother used martyrdom, shame, and guilt to control me and get her way. It took years for me to recognize it for what it was. It was not until I recognized it in myself that I was able to see it in our relationship. She no longer has that power over me but the pain is still there. It takes a while to heal that kind of wound, especially when you are trying to learn to love and forgive yourself at the same time.

Social work is a primarily female field. Guess which gender struggles the most with work-life balance in general? Guess which gender is the most over-worked and underpaid? I think it is sad that we do not see this as the feminist issue that it is. It is true that many of us, myself included, do not enter this field for the money but that does not mean that what we do is not valuable and I do believe that we should be advocating for ourselves here. It is not just social work either. I feel the same way about teachers. It is another field that is heavily populated with female workers and is very demanding and treated in a similar way.

As women we are programmed by society to feel shame for wanting to be heard and seen and to have a place at the table. How are we supposed to break the glass ceiling if some of us do not even see how we are being manipulated and controlled by those who would rather keep it in place?

Martyrdom is manipulation. I will not believe anyone who tries to convince me I am not worthy of being seen, and heard, and that I have a place at the table. I will not be a martyr, I will be an advocate for myself and minorities like me who are being manipulated into believing we deserve less.

martyr

Back in My Day: In Defense of a Generation

When I first started this blog I was 28 and returning to college for the first time in over 5 years. Most of my time back in the classroom has found me surrounded by people 10+ years younger than myself. My best friend at school is 12 years younger than me. At first I had a lot to say about the way these  millennials did things. If you go far enough back you will find multiple disparaging posts about these annoying millennials and how the way they do things is wrong and the way I do things is right.

I was an ass. I was still operating from a place of dichotomous thinking, there was little to no room for gray in my life back then. This is an area where I personally feel I have experienced much growth in the last 4 years. Now instead of leading from a place of judgement I generally lead from a place of celebrating differences.

This leads into the purpose of this post. This week brought with it some negative energy. The negative energy was not a huge shocker, that is just where our nation has been this year unfortunately. It feels like every week I am trying to balance negative energy and protect myself from allowing to get beneath the surface. This week was different though. It was not negative energy being spewed at me from the news, or social media, or even people in my cohort.. It came up at internship. At the end of supervision we were addressed as a group and comments were made about “work ethic” and “expectations”.. The word “entitlement” came up. It was unexpected and left a lot of people on edge.

Shortly after supervision I met with my supervisor for my end of semester review. I got high marks across the board and plenty of complimentary feedback. My supervisor ended the review by making it clear I was doing an excellent job and supervision was not about me. I was grateful for the good review, obviously that is important, but it did not change the way I felt about what took place in supervision.

Everyone I work with on the clinical team is doing an excellent job in my eyes. We all give 100%, we each have our own unique talents we bring to the team, we are all mindful of self-care and model for our clients everything we are talking about with them when in session.  I have worked with jaded cynical people in the past, I have compassion for them, burn out is a very real thing, but this is a team of highly committed clinical workers who care about our population.”Entitled” is not a word that would cross my mind when describing the group of women I am privileged enough to learn from and with. It was all a bit puzzling and left quite a few of us very uncomfortable. None of us could figure out what triggered this. It was not explained. Had we done something wrong? I definitely did not see it.

At the end of my review my supervisor shared with me that after our site visit a few weeks back our seminar instructor shared with her that some of the students from the younger generation were “entitled”. They did not feel they needed to work long hours or weekends, this kind of thing. I started to wonder if this message that was relayed was even for us. None of us have given any trouble about the hours expected of us, we all work weekends without complaint.

This was all disappointing to me on many levels. I was disappointed that someone from the school was engaging in what felt like gossip when it was relayed back to me. I was disappointed that my supervisor took this information and made negative generalizations about an entire generation of people as well as casting negative judgments about the younger generations work ethic just because it might look different. I was disappointed that a moment of negative talk between two professionals seeped into supervision and had a negative impact on the clinical team. This could have stopped at any point but it didn’t. That is how energy works, it just keeps growing until someone breaks the cycle, until sees it for what it is and consciously makes the decision not to engage, not to let it in.

I am not going to lie to you it took me a day or two to get to the point where I felt I could break the cycle.

I have had the opportunity to process this with a few people, hubs was ultimately what helped me balanced it. I know people like to shit on millennials, especially the prior generations. They are called vapid, narcissistic, selfish, out of touch with reality, lazy, entitled.. so on and so on..

I remember when I was child my dad’s dad would tell me stories about how he walked a mile in the snow to get to school when he was a child in Wisconsin. My mom’s dad told us about how during the depression he caught squirrels and bull frogs on the farm in Missouri and that was dinner most nights.

The point they were always trying to make: you have it so easy. Not just me either. Your parents had it so easy, you have it so easy, and your kids will have it so easy too. They griped about the decay in moral fiber, groaned about how baby boomers have no work ethic because my parents would take on vacations – how dare they take time off work. 

This is how it goes. The former generation is always looking down their nose at the upcoming generation saying “you are doing it wrong”. You see this cross-culturally as well, this is not something we have trade marked in America. It is part of the human condition to think your generational cohort is/was the best. I can’t disagree either, mine is totally the best we have The Labyrinth and The Goonies.

What one person may be looking at and calling “entitled” another person may be calling self-care or work/life balance.

This is progress, this is what it looks like. It is a shift in thinking, it is a change in work ethic, technology, attitude, ideas.. Change is constant no reason to be afraid of it. No reason to call names. There is room for everyone.

Even though it was made clear this message was not meant for me it still made me very uncomfortable because I just do not agree with it. Over time of getting to know all these beautiful people who are 10+ years younger than me I have personally learned that yes, they do things differently (sometimes I feel super old working with them because they know things I don’t know and do things I don’t do), and that is not bad or wrong or any other negative judgment one may want to attach to them. I am just as open to learn from them as I am to learn from my mentors who are 10+ years older than me. Both generations have a lot to offer in terms of their approaches to the work and their life perspectives.

I do believe in work/life balance. That does not make me entitled. I will practice self-care and I will also make my clients my top priority when I am at work. I will have boundaries and I will say no in my personal life and my professional life and that does not make me selfish. My approach to social work practice will be my own and it will not be any more or less valuable than any other’s, it will be mine though. Our differences are what make this a great profession, I thought that was a given, for some maybe it isn’t. I do not hold any of this against them, I just see it differently.

work-life

A Calamity Jill Thanksgiving

dirty-dog

It does not matter how much we plan or how high our expectations soar, when it comes down to it sometimes we have very little control over how things will turn out. Quite often we have next to no control really, a post for another day – the illusion of control.

Leading up to Thanksgiving I had all these wonderful ideas about what the day would be; sharing our gratitude as a family, coming together for a meal, quality time.. All of these things happened of Thanksgiving but not in the way I had imagined.

It started not long after I finished my Thanksgiving day post to this blog. I put on the Thanksgiving day parade and started cooking. It was not a complete disaster by any stretch but I did manage to burn the pecans I was toasting so they were not able to be part of one of the dishes I was making, oh well.

Then the carrots took longer than expected leaving me less time to get ready than I thought I would have. I had this grand idea of wearing a nice outfit and going through the trouble of make-up but when it came down to it I picked out my favorite comfy artsy top and no special details with make-up and hair. That was not a big deal either, I felt more like myself anyway.

Then we were finally on the road. We arrived at my parents house and settled into a comfy spot on the couch while Lu played in the backyard. We were in mid-conversation with my parents when we looked out the back window and saw Lucy looking in on us covered in mud! Her front paws which are normally white were caked in sticky black mud, there was mad on her neck, and her mouth was completely black with mud. Absolute mud mouth.

We were all baffled. How did she get into mud? It has not rained.. The sprinklers had not been on recently.. Hubs and I opened the back door to check her out and clean her up and were almost knocked backwards. The smell! Oh the putrid smell! She smelled like a mix of cow and rotting death! We immediately slammed the door shut while letting out an enormous sigh in unison, LUCY!

She had dug up cat turds in the backyard left by my parents outdoor cat. She had not only been eating cat turds, she had been rolling in them. She created her own mud by drooling cat shit all over herself. Is this story gross enough for you yet? If not, don’t worry it gets grosser.

We had been at my parents for all of 15 minutes at this point. Thanksgiving was really starting off with a bang. Hubs and I went outside with soap, rags, and bucket and started scrubbing the yuck off our girl. After 15 minutes of heavy scrubbing she smelled a little less like death but still kinda like cow. We left her on the back porch for about a half hour to dry off and then let her in. She was inside for maybe 10 minutes before she proceeded to barf up cat turds all over my parents newly installed cream carpet.

We had not been at my parents house an hour and had already cleaned up cat turds twice. Luckily my parents love our disgusting baby and were totally cool.

After all was said and done hubs and I curled up in a recliner and cuddled until we felt better.

My father was sick on Thanksgiving so he was not able to join us for dinner to his fever poor guy.

All in all it was a wonderful day. I played with the big kids and the babies all day. The food was great and there was plenty. We shared our gratitude, I really liked Isaac’s honesty, he was grateful for no school, no homework, junk food, vacation, Daddy, Uncle Todd, and baseball. Emma-Lou and I created a new game where Emma jumps on Aunt Bean and Aunt Bean tickles her while quacking in her ear until she runs away. She played this on repeat for over an hour. Cassandra jumped in a few times as well. It was a tumble of babies and Aunt Bean.

There was quality time, especially for hubs and I, he helped me balance something I felt stuck on the day before and was still thinking about.

There was gratitude expressed and love shared.

And at the end of the day we did come together and share a meal, even Daddy when he felt well enough. Lu even got a little turkey in her kibble.

It was not the Thanksgiving I expected but I loved it all the same. The cat turd Thanksgiving story will go down in infamy and we had what mattered most – love and family.

Giving Thanks

Can I just say again how much I love Thanksgiving. I love that there is a day devoted to gratitude.

thanksgiving

My day started with gratitude for the man I get to wake up next to and puppy cuddles. Lucy and I are watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving now (my favorite Thanksgiving program). In a bit I will put on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to be playing in the background while I start making our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner, roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes with pecans, and dill carrots. In the afternoon we will go to my parents house and I will be in charge of the Thanksgiving day craft project with the kids. Yesterday at internship we made the gratitude tree and it came out great so I have decided to do the same project with my family today.

Yesterday after internship my two friends that I interned with came over and we had dinner together and watched Good Will Hunting. It was nice sitting around my kitchen table with them, sharing a meal and processing lots of different things. I am grateful for these two amazing women I get to share this experience with.

This morning I am reflecting on how grateful I am for this life. Being married to my favorite human, the home we share in a community we absolutely love, our sweet fur baby, the relationship I have with the kids in my family, being able to have the day off to be with my family today, the success I have experienced so far in the program, all my soul people who are like family to me.

It is going to be a great day and I am thankful for the abundance in my life.

Peace, Quiet, and Painting

I woke up this morning and was not feeling great. It was right on that border of Do I push it, do my day, and hope for the best? and If I over dot it I may not be able to do my day tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a big day at internship. We are making the gratitude tree in group and after internship my two friends I intern with are coming over for dinner and to watch a movie as an impromptu Friends-giving. I knew I didn’t want to risk feeling bad tomorrow so I gave myself the day off today in hopes I just needed a day of rest.

Since I was home I did house work, making sure not to over do it. Once I felt good about the state of our home I set up at the fire place and started painting.

Over the weekend when we were with the kids Moo gave me this sweet Thanksgiving card she made for me at school. I about died.

moomoo1

I am so glad I went through the trouble I did on that Cassiopeia costume. Kids feel it when you put into them, it is why I devote time to just playing with the kids however they want when  I see them. Plus, I just love playing with them.

So when my chores were done I had time for me. I decided it to use it doing one of my favorite things. I am out of canvases so I painted rocks for a while. I painted two for me then one for Maddie and one for Isaac.

peace-quiet-painting3

When I was done painting rocks I decided to recycle some of my old pieces that I never fell in love with. So I took some time painting over the original piece with white primer, then got to work on two new pieces.

peace-quiet-paintingpeace-quiet-painting4

When I was finished I put them both up for display. The mountain piece I framed and put on the mantel, the gratitude piece I hung in my walk-in closet with other pieces that make me happy when I open my closet every morning.

peace-quiet-painting1peace-quiet-painting2

I am glad I gave myself a day to rest. There were a million things I could have been doing, and I did some of them but I drew a line. I am always going to have things I should be doing, I have to be a priority in my life too though. When I feel myself needing a break and I know I can take one without wreaking havoc on my life I am almost always going to take it.

Grateful for the day. It was a good day.

Self-Sabotage

self-sabotage

This afternoon in class our professor asked us to break into groups of three and share a few words that speak to each of our individual life stories. It had to do with an exercise around narrative therapy. I got with two other classmates and initially we just stared at each other. This felt vulnerable. Then one of them started; the first words out of her mouth was self-sabotage. I was thinking man, that is fucking honest, good for her for being so real. Her authenticity gave me and the other group member permission (and a feeling of safety) to show up in our truth as well.

A little while later I linked up with two different classmates for a role play on solution focused therapy. Neither of the women I was working with wanted to be the clinician so I agreed to. I know this is an area I need practice anyway. I use parts of solution focused theory with my clients currently and did so with my clients from my last internship on occasion  as well. It doesn’t really speak to me on the whole though because it is very “now” focused where as I lean more towards psychodynamic approaches which focus on the roots of issues. I think it is good for acute issues but long standing challenges I think are better addressed through deeper work.

So I opened my text to the solution focused chapter so I had an outline to keep me on track and we began. I was not sure I was doing too well because I was so focused on not diving too deep with my classmate playing the role of client. I paused and broke character once or twice to keep myself on track and make sure I was staying with the theme of solution focused. Each time I did my classmates I was working with were super complimentary of my style. I appreciated the validation. They both gave my professor wonderful feedback about how I incorporated different techniques. After class one of the women I worked with told me I was so good that she wanted to bring me her actual problems to get my insight, she was just paying a compliment and was not serious but that was pretty cool.

I had a meeting with my professor after class and was on a high after the class going so well. We talked about certification opportunities and how to search for them. She gave me contact information for some professionals locally that can help me towards certain certifications. She also gave me information about national institutes that do yearly trainings and certifications in case I was willing to travel at any point and make a trip out of it. That was kind of neat too.

So I got home and started doing research based on the information she provided and as I got closer to options I know I am definitely interested in I began to think of my classmate from today.. There is one certification I am really excited about and as I read about what is involved in becoming certified I suddenly felt terrified.  I can’t do this. I am going to fail! I can’t do private practice. I will just work for an agency for the rest of my life. I am not good enough.

The words self-sabotage flashed into my mind.

So I stepped back from my search and took a breath. There is absolutely a fear of failure associated with any step I take towards preparing myself for private practice. There is also a fear of success. There are pieces of me that still do not believe I am worthy of all that I have and all the things I want for myself in life. There are still pieces of me that do not feel good enough.

No amount of positive feedback from colleagues, no amount of validation by professors or supervisors, no credential behind my name is going to change this for me. It just shows me I still have work to do. The best thing I will ever do for my clients is the work I do for myself. Of course I need the degrees, and I would like some certifications just to make sure I am competent in certain modalities, but ultimately I need to be modeling this for them too. I should not be asking my clients to do work I am not willing to do myself. I know doing the work myself is part of what will make me a good therapist because I know the struggle involved in being committed to this work.

I can do this. I am doing it. I have been doing it. I have not just been doing it, I am doing well. It will all come as it is meant to and I feel confident I will succeed in all of it. I may have moments of doubt along the way and I will be gentle with myself in those moments. I will get there though, I know I will.

courage