Last night when I walked out of internship I felt great. I had just wrapped up a really good session where my client showed definite progress and this came after an abysmal family session with that same client earlier in the day. I had another session with a new client earlier in the day where the rapport came very naturally and left me feeling hopeful about the work we will be doing together. I felt a distinct sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as I was walking out at the end of the day.
When I rounded the corner to the parking lot I was in awe of the scene in front of me. I was just in time to see the sun setting a deep orange red behind the oak trees that surround the property. It was stunning. Suddenly my reflection transitioned from my clients to myself. Somehow that sunset brought me back to my center. It was great that I had such a productive, meaningful day with clients but now I was going home and it was time to focus on myself and my family and my intentions in those areas.
As I drove home I thought about what I wanted to get accomplished when I got there. My check list included take care of and spend time with Lucy who had been in her crate all day, make a nice dinner, clean up the kitchen, and spend the rest of the evening with my husband. I also reflected on where I was at personally. I checked in with my body, checked in emotionally, made sure that I felt connected and whole across the board. The word self-care came up for me when I saw that sunset in the parking lot. It occurred to me how easy it is to get distracted by things in life and lose focus. So easy in fact that you don’t even realize it is happening.
As a social worker I spend the day in therapy sessions working with my clients to heal emotional wounds and problem solve, at the end of the day I usually feel good about the work I have done. So good in fact that I could use the success my client’s are experiencing on their own personal journey as a distraction from my own personal work and growth. Do some clinicians use helping others with their problems as a way to distract from their own? Maybe..
Typically when I think of distraction I am thinking of things like social media or shopping or TV.. Things we do almost absentmindedly to numb or distract ourselves from facing things. I never considered that the very thing that helps give my life purpose could also act as a distraction. If you think about it, almost anything could act as a distraction if you are using it that way..
I mean for example, for a very long time I went from one long term relationship to another never allowing myself to be single for more than a few months at a time.. I did it because I was using these relationships as a way to distract from the work I did not want to be doing on myself. If I was alone for too long things would start to surface that I did not want to see or deal with. Even when I was single for over a year I made sure to stay busy with friends at all times. I could not allow myself to sit still. My relationship with my husband is very important to me but if I am not mindful I could fall back into a pattern where I allow my relationship with him to act as a distraction from my relationship with myself, particularly if there is an aspect of my relationship with myself that I do not want to focus on because it is painful.
Last night I got home, let Lucy out, made her some dinner, and had some puppy snuggle time. When I was done I made a delicious tomato soup from scratch. I cleaned the kitchen, sat with my husband and had meaningful conversation while we ate. After dinner we did not turn on the TV, instead we played a game together until bed time. Then we went to bed, cuddled, and read our books until we fell asleep.
I feel good about the night we had, I feel good about the day I had at internship and what I was able to help my clients with. I am able to say this though because I took time to check in with myself and make sure that I was okay and I was not using any of the other things going on in my life (however positive and healthy as they appear) to distract from or neglect the continued work I am doing internally. I feel good about my day because I not only felt connected to everything that was happening, I felt connected to myself.