Honoring the In-Between

in-between

I am sitting in the middle of a glorious in-between and I did not want to let this time slip by without showing it the appreciation it deserves.

The in-between is such a special place, it is a place where all things are possible. It is a place of both certainty and uncertainty. You know where you have been, you know what came before but there is no promise of what comes next, just hope.

We can become so focused on the getting there without truly acknowledging the beauty of the in-between.

In thinking of the in-between my mind is gravitating towards a client I had at the beginning of the year..

She was with me much longer than most. Towards the end she was struggling, she was in her own in-between and wanted desperately to arrive. I came in for my shift at the beginning of one week to discover she was gone. I was overjoyed. Good for her, she made it, something worked out, she is going to be okay now, she is on the path towards love and healing. It was the best way to start my day, I was on a cloud.

Then one of the other therapists came in and shared with me the details of the client’s discharge.. I was no longer in my hopeful in-between, I had arrived at the truth and started to descend from my cloud. My client had AWOL’d. More came out about possible human trafficking once she was on the street and a break from reality.

This is why it is so important not to overlook the in-between. Although this was hard for me to hear and reality can be cruel, for a moment I got to experience a different reality for this client wherein she was safe, and loved, and everything worked out as she had told me she wanted it to. For moment all things were good.

Reality is not important in the in-between, just hope. Hope lives its biggest life in the in-betweens.

So as I sit in all of my in-betweens right now I send the universe a note of gratitude.

Thank you for my in-between before soul camp, and before my new job, and before becoming pregnant, and before all the exciting plans I have made for this year. Right now all good and amazing things are possible. Reality will come and I welcome it too, but right now I get to have this magical time with hope and I am grateful.

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Shine a Light

This morning hubs and I woke early. Truth be told I don’t think I was ever fully asleep. I went to bed earlyish last night because I realized with the direction the vote was going in there would be a good chance I would not sleep at all if I heard the results before bed. This measure to protect myself from bad news and attempt to get a sound nights rest was somewhat futile unfortunately.

So we woke up this morning with the anticipation of two children on Christmas morning only this was not a joyous anticipation.. It was the anticipation of two children who knew they would not be receiving gifts this Christmas but hoped against hope that by some miracle Santa had come and delivered presents to their home. I am sad to report that Santa did not visit America this election season. There were no overnight miracles just the sad sinking in of our new reality. A reality that many of us, myself and hubs included, are not ready to see.

You want to see what forcing an idealist to come to terms with reality looks like? I started my day in tears. I cried for myself, I cried for my future children, I cried for every single person in my country and in the world who has even more reason to mourn today than I do. I have certain amount of privilege that will insulate me from any havoc this new reality may wreak, I know many who have far more reason than I to cry this morning.

So I gave myself space this morning to have my reaction. My hubs had his as well and we supported one another through it. There were a lot of unanswerable questions. There was a lot of reassuring. There were lots and lots of hugs and snuggles.

The truth is I didn’t really want to get out of bed. It was hard to find the motivation. I wanted to stay in that negative frame of mind and dwell.. Then I was scrolling through the mournful reactions of my friends on social media I saw something that reminded me of my truth..

shine-your-light

My whole perspective changed in that moment and I remembered who I am and what my life purpose is. I am a badass idealist who sees what can be not what is. I am a light in dark places and sometimes “the real world” can be a very dark scary place. Yes, I got dropped kicked in the face by reality this morning and yes for a moment I felt shattered. What the outcome of the election has showed me though is right now my light is needed.

There is a reason there has been so much negative energy brewing lately and a lot of us, again myself included, thought that after election day that energy would finally clear.. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. That doesn’t change me or my life mission though. I could not feel stronger in my resolve as an idealist in this moment.

Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Bernie Sanders, John Lennon, Rosa Parks.. All of the heroes of the world who stood up for something bigger than themselves were idealists! They saw beyond what was to what could be. They believed in the goodness of the human spirit and what the world is capable of through love. They shined their lights so bright the world could not ignore them.

So today take your moment. Mourn, or celebrate if this is not a sad occasion for you, or get angry.. Do whatever you need to do for you then go out and be a light for others. Show our brothers and sisters your humanness, your ability to love, and to meet negative energy with pure kindness and compassion. Be example. Shine so bright that it is lights up the dark and blinds those whose lights are turned down.

While I was in the shower thinking about all of this and meditating on my truth and my own mission in life I started singing. Without realizing it at first I was singing a song from my childhood.. When I was little, 6 or 7 I think, Disney came out with Polly. It it a favorite movie from my childhood, it bestowed on me valuable lessons. My gift to anyone reading this is this song from the movie… Now go out and shine your light today. Be the reason someone does not lose hope today. Help remind the world what love feels like. It is time we turn up our light.

Nipping the Bud

cult comp

 

Today at the beginning of class my professor asked if everyone had gotten the email from our program head about professionalism and what we all thought of it. This particular class is not one of the classes that is having issues but some of us in this class are in other classes where things have happened that shouldn’t have so it was still nice to be able to air things out. This particular professor has great control over the class, she is very structured and she is not afraid to tackle the difficult topics. So she proceeded to facilitate a very meaningful conversation about what is going on in the program right now and our reactions to it.

Our professor explained that having these conversations facilitated by a professor is one of the ways the faculty is going to try to nip this problem in the bud so it does not fester and get worse. The class that I have tomorrow is the class I am where the most issues arise. There have been issues with students being disrespectful of the instructor and fellow classmates. Lectures get hijacked and the instructor has difficulty regaining control and then a lot of time is wasted. At times it feels like a hostage situation in this class. I don’t worry much about it because I doing well in this class regardless but it is a hard class and a lot of students are struggling in part because we rarely have the time to cover the material properly due to interruptions that derail the lecture.

I am curious to see if my professor tomorrow tries to facilitate a similar discussion. I feel like if done right this class could benefit from an earnest conversation but I don’t know if an attempt to pull it off would work in this class. We’ll see though.

It sounds the faculty is in the early stages of deciding the best way to address and correct what has been going on so we will see how this all unfolds. Even my professor today said that our cohort is a bit of a problem child though and I think that is embarrassing. At the end of the day I still really want to believe that everyone has it in them to turn this around. Everyone grows and learns at different speeds, maybe for some people this inner growth just takes longer, that does not mean they are not capable of it though.

I am curious to see how this will all play out, I am really hoping for a best case scenario. Our cohort could be a real underdog story if we are able to pull it together and turn things around for the better.

Poise and Grace

grace

 

Truth be told in terms of physical movement and motor control I do not possess either of the competencies listed above. That being said, in the realm of interpersonal relationships and human emotion/self-control these are two areas I am known to excel in. Now I am only able to say that last statement earnestly because I had, in the past, fallen short in those areas and made the conscious decision to work mindfully on my inner self  in order to grow in the area of dignity and grace.

I have been up front about my lack of inspiration of late in terms of the philosophical musings that are often found dancing along the pages of this blog. I have found myself once again struck, it is like an awakening of sorts and as per usual it has presented itself repeatedly in different forms as if almost begging to be expressed.

I have been re-reading Tuesdays with Morrie recently. I have had little time for leisure reading of late but when time allows I have been picking it up and putting it down. I have not had time for a few weeks but this morning I arrived to campus early. I managed to stow myself away in a quiet corner of an upper floor of the building where my classes are held and it was in this corner where my inspiration first hit. I am towards the end of the book and I do not remember exactly which chapter I was on. Somewhere between marriage, forgiveness and culture Morrie said something that ruminated with me, as so many of his insights do. He was talking about how people behave when they feel threatened and how this behavior when in this kind of crisis can tell you so much about a person’s character. I completely agree, as usual. I have certainly noticed this over the years, specifically in professional settings. Sometimes I have been surprised and disappointed, fortunately for me the few people I have looked up to as mentor’s in my life hold themselves to a high standard which I learned and adapted much like a child modeling their parent’s behavior.

I stopped reading after that chapter this morning, I still had about 45 minutes before class but I just wanted to sit and let Morrie’s words sink in. Ironically later in the day my advice was called upon by a friend and we had a long conversation about how to conduct oneself with class and recover from heart-break with grace and dignity. We talked about the negative feelings that were bubbling up inside of her and her impulse to lash out at those who caused them. I have mentioned on here before how I have always believed that no one can get the better of you unless you allow it so we explored that idea in terms of the way she was currently feeling. The resentment, the anger, the frustration and rejection. They were all valid feelings for what she was dealing with. Ultimately by the end of our conversation she had made the decision to take the high road, wish the person who had wronged her well and let go of the negativity in an effort to take back some control over the situation. She didn’t want to allow the person or situation to affect her in this way and chose to focus on the positive and move in that direction. We ended our conversation with some heart-felt admirations for one another and knowing how lucky we are to learn and grow together through each others vulnerability.

Much later in the evening I was watching my all time favorite TV show, the one show that time stands still for in my life, Project Runway. Tim Gunn is my idol, he is the epitome of style, intellect and absolute class. He is a teacher and a mentor by trade and an absolute inspiration as a human being. So like all seasons of this show there is a clear antagonist, the one aspect of this show I have never liked much. I watch this show primarily for my weekly Tim Gunn fix and secondary to that for the amazing art in the form of clothing. The artist inside of me feels alive and stimulated when I watch this show. The antagonist this season was particularly nasty, I speak in past tense because to my delight she was sent home on this evenings episode. Now although this is just a TV show I am talking about I still feel the need to say that my delight was not in this artist’s misfortune but just in not having to sit through future episodes of her negativity. The aspect of the show that applies to my current brain-work was her disgusting behavior once she knew the inevitable, that she was to be eliminated. She was cruel and spiteful and lashed out at artist’s that had never wronged her. It was the embodiment of everything Morrie illustrated in the book. He was essentially saying when threatened, some people react this way and if as a society we could foster a culture where we all work together we would be better for it.

It is a nice idea, something to work towards, in the interim I would find myself satisfied with little changes that can be made in daily life as a way to better ourselves and each other. Things like letting an extra car in when stuck in traffic, even if their driving is inconsiderate, or being kind more often than giving into the immediate gratification impulse of being nasty. Little every day events like this matter. This is a way to foster the culture Morrie spoke of.

So on  more personal note also related in a way to this topic of dignity and grace.. When I was working the front desk at Hospice this week a man came in carrying an exquisite stack of old leather-bound books. He was there visting a patient, I recognized him from the day before. On his prior visit he noticed that we have a small library of sorts in the shared living room and brought these lovely books to donate. They were so stunning even with clearly being aged that I asked him if he was sure, I would have trouble parting with such beauties. When he said yes I thanked him explaining how touching the donation was and made the appropriate person aware so they could process the donation and put the out to be displayed. While I waited for the employee to come down and collect the books I leafed through some of the pages. He donated a Sherlock Holmes, two poetry collections and then another book I was unfamiliar with but that was equally striking. While flipping through one of the poetry books I stumbled across a few poems that spoke to me, one of which was If by Rudyard Kipling. And in what I am sure is no coincidence it is quite appropriate for what I have touched on in this post so I wanted to share it as well. I have highlighted the lines that I really appreciate and identify with.

 

IF

By Rudyard Kipling

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;  
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

Refusing to take off the rose colored glasses: a lesson in defiance from an idealist

rose colored glasses

“..Real courage is.. when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” – To Kill a Mockingbird

 

2 months after I left work full-time and returned to school Todd and I decided to have a garage sale. We had moved into together roughly six months prior and had duplicates of almost everything. After living on your own for a while and then moving in with someone else who has been living alone as well this kind of thing happens.

Unlike Todd, I kind of like garage sales, hosting them at least. I see it as a reason to be outside and a wonderful opportunity for people watching. You never know what kind of interesting people you are going to encounter. What I don’t like about garage sales, haggling. I do not haggle. You tell me the price, I pay it. If I do not think a price is fair I do not pay it. That’s it. Everything is haggling with garage sales though. Ugh. Consequently I am not always as stern as I should be about my bottom line either which is where Todd comes in, he does not negotiate. This is the price, pay it or not. He hates his role at garage sales.

So, back to my point. At our first garage sale we were down sizing all of our duplicates as well as getting rid of  unused items that were taking up space. Towards the end of the day a woman came in and bought all of my books that were displayed. She and I were talking and discovered we have social work in common. She had just moved to College Park to be closer to her daughter who attends a local dance school but she had been a licensed Social Worker for 20+ years. When she found out social work was my intended major we exchanged emails to keep in touch and so I may ask her questions about the field. I immediately took her up on the offer of sharing field knowledge, I emailed her later that week.

Our correspondence was my first encounter with what I now think of as The Social Work Warning Label. In the last two years I have heard a variation of the warning label at least eight times. I know the actual number is higher but that is just the number of in-depth conversations I could remember off the top of my head and counted out on my fingers. There have been plenty of conversations in passing that have involved the warning label as well. So what is the social work warning label you might be wondering? Well if you are familiar or affiliated with the field I am sure you are already a few steps ahead of me.

Essentially it is the conversation that usually follows me telling anyone that has any experience with the field what my major is. It is the “be careful of this” talk ,and the “well this is what happened to my friend” talk, and all the other foreboding gloom and doom warnings that apparently come with this field. All of it is meant to be beneficial, none of it is meant to discourage me in any way. The phrase “burned out” seems to be synonymous with the field. This is just these people trying to prepare me for what may be the inevitable in their eyes based on what their experiences have been.

I was talking to Todd about all of this a few weeks ago after my most recent warning label conversation. This is what I have found, every person I have had interaction with in relation to this field has had either a word of warning for me or some other negative tid bit. I have never once heard one person say, “Oh Social Work huh? That’s great, I have been in the field for the last five years and I love it, most rewarding experience of my life.” or “My friend is a social worker and she absolutely loves it.” It is always more to the tune of, “I worked in X field as a social worker for 2 years and couldn’t handle it, now I do X job that is completely unrelated to my degree.” or “Oh my friend went to school for social work and worked for X out of college. She got burned out and now does X instead.” (Which is again usually completely unrelated to the degree).

There are positive inspiring stories as well but they are never what comes first and I feel they almost always carry an asterisk. It will be something like, “This is what I love about the work I do but you have to watch out for X, X and X.”

Balance, boundaries and self-preservation are always a reoccurring theme and clearly very important in this line of work.

I can admit, and have many times when having these conversations with people, that I may be at times a little more naive than most to the workings of the world around me. This, however, was not the case when making the decision to pursue social work.

There is a reason I did not start this journey until I was 28, I wasn’t ready. I have known since I was 18 that this is what fits for me. Even back then when I was still unsure of exactly who I was and who I wanted to be in this world, I knew. I needed time though. Time for life experience, time to mature emotionally, time to figure myself out. I knew all along that this field would be emotionally taxing, that at times I may be working with a broken system, that the work I do may be without recognition, that I could be putting my whole heart into a thankless pursuit and ultimately the work I do may never incur any kind of big change and in turn all I may ever be capable of is marginal improvements. It is still worth it, or what I mean to say is, I still see the worth in it.

In life I do tend to see the possibilities over how things currently are. I do look for the silver lining. There is good in everything and even if it kills me at times I know this is the only chance I have at feeling fulfilled. This is the one thing in my life that I am doing selfishly, just for me, because I know even if I am unable to make a difference in the big picture, trying will make all the difference in my own life.

Impenetrable

No matter how hard we work at life, no level of achievement (internal or external) will ever raise us so high as to be beyond judgement. I had an epiphany while reading this week. A former professor published a book about striving for authenticity, the subject matter suits me perfectly. I agreed to do a book review for him so I have been rereading certain chapters as a way of getting my thoughts together before I begin writing the review.

I have had my fair share of negative critiques in life. This is to be expected, navigating your teens and twenties is a dangerous business, few make it out without some scars. I know for a fact that I have been to blame for emotional scars on others and I acquired a few of mine own as well. I have regret about those I hurt and know that it was not done with intention or malice. I was not, am not and never will be perfect however so all I can do is own my mistakes, apologize for injuries I have caused, learn and grow. The first two I have covered, the second two will always be a work in progress.

The challenge is

– Knowing which critiques are worth processing and which are not worth the time.

– Not always feeling the need to defend ourselves or our actions.

– Understanding that while we may have good intentions in life that is not true for everyone. Some people are just being cruel or catty, do not dwell. Their words have less to do with us and more with them.

– Forgiving those who do mean us harm in their words. They need it.

In life we will always face a level of criticism whether it has foundation or not. The ultimate goal is to face judgement, whether it has constructive benefit or not, and not lose our self-confidence over it. Learn from it, grow from it, but do not allow someone’s harsh words shake you into self-doubt.

Challenge Accepted!

For as long as I can remember I have struggled in a dichotomy between confidence and complete lack there of. I fluctuate between  knowing exactly who I am, being confident and self-assured to then suddenly feeling inadequate and having a defeatist attitude of not being “good enough”.  At any given time I feel I am walking on a taut shoe string and the slightest breeze can push me the wrong way. In these moments of self-doubt I feel like a phony further amplifying the negative self talk I am experiencing.

In my INFP personality my “P” keeps me loose and fluid, I am not rigid or severely structured in terms of lifestyle. This does not ring true for everything though. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my interactions with the world. To explain further, what I mean is I hold myself to a very high standard in my role as an employee, a student, a fiance, a daughter, a sister, a friend, etc. You get the idea. I may be haphazard in my daily life as far as being clumsy and a bit scatter brained but when it comes to my relationships, significant or minor, I am incredibly hard on myself. I am always striving to be better, I will never be satisfied with what I am giving. I will always want to give more, do more, be more.

I do this to myself, there is no one to fault but me for the pressure I am constantly under. It is difficult at times. An example of this is the many “speed bumps” I have encountered as a returning student. More plans have fallen through than those that have worked out and when this kind of thing happens my immediate response has always been to go to a place of self-doubt. This week specifically I found out that there is a chance I will have to add a class to my work load next semester ( a class that I am not naturally good at and will require quite a bit of effort on my part to do well in). The initial thought of this sent me into a bit of a tail spin. I will be working full-time at a demanding job (emotionally as well as mentally) while already taking one class I do not excel in easily. Finding out that I may have to add another very demanding/difficult class to that already heavy emotional/mental load made me feel scared and unsure of myself. My first thought, “I can’t do it”.

I am embarrassed and frustrated to admit that was my basic gut reaction to such news. I have never been blind to the fact that I beat up on myself in this way. I have never cared to work on it though because as bad as I may make myself feel at times this negative inner voice is also my constant drive to be better, do more and give more. After a day of processing this new information I had a complete attitude adjustment.

Here is my conclusion:

First off, what is wrong with me!? When life throws a challenge my way my gut reaction should be “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!” in a roar of a voice. Not, “Oh I can’t, I want to give up”. I am ashamed and with all the other positive changes I am making in my life this should be at the very top of my list!

In addition, I realize my drive has always been to be better because I have never felt good enough. Even coming from a negative place this attitude has produced incredible results in me. I have a huge drive and am always pushing myself. Going forward I need to be striving to be better knowing that I am already good enough but there is always room for growth. That seems like a much healthier attitude that will produce the same great results.

Finally, when I feel that pang of “I am not good enough” or “I can’t” coming on I need to remind myself regularly that I am doing this as we speak! I have changed my entire life and way of thinking in the span of three years time. I have a vision of the person I want to be and I am taking all the right steps to get there regardless of how difficult the path in front of me is. At the end of the day I need to remember that I can and I am already doing this. I am capable of anything, this is corny and cliché I know but shit it’s true.

Last night Todd and I talked for hours about everything herein. I fell asleep feeling strong and sure. I just needed to pause for introspection and really see where I was wrong and how my attitude needed to change. Now instead of feeling fear or anxiety about next semester I am ready take it on and prove to myself once and for all, I can handle it and I am absolutely good enough.