Emotional Arsonist

emotional-arsonist

I was weary and ready for sleep tonight when it was time for lights out. I did not write yesterday because the words had not yet come to me. Then magically they appeared in the middle of the night as they sometimes do like a song stuck in my head. The longer I lay there trying to ignore them, trying to wait til the morning, the louder the song grew. Until there was only one choice to make, it is time to write.

I woke initially with a pain in my shoulder which makes sense because I am carrying a burden. A burden that weighs heavy on my heart and heavier on my soul.

Before I go further I would like to offer background for this post:
The Unraveling of a Family Tie
and
Boundaries are Hard in Families
will give some context to this post for anyone that wants it.

Out of respect for my family I have been doing what I consider shadow writing on topics related to family issues up to this point. For now I plan to continue to write in the shadows, I may feel differently about this as time goes on, that is yet to be seen.

So in these previous posts I have mentioned a long brewing issue that one family member is at the center of. In recent months another family member has become involved and when this took place a small flame was lit. A flame of negativity and malice, of confusion and mistrust. This small flame has resulted in a raging fire of destruction and disconnection that threatens to engulf my family.

Previously I mentioned that I am not the fire department and I hold no power to extinguish this blaze; that is still my truth. I am one person with a bucket though and today was the day I decided it was time to pick up my one bucket and use it before it was too late.

Up to this point this flame has been somewhat contained. There are two family members who started it and they have been trying to add small pieces of kindling but the fire has burned away from most of the rest of the family so we have been able to remain uninvolved with collective hope that this fire would burn out on its own given enough time. Today a flame from that fire licked my face and that was too close to comfort. It was time to set a hard boundary.

What took place was that my relative who is one of the fire starters emailed the entire family to speak their truth about another family member who they have a waged character war against. This was done as a way to further discredit this person and lambast their integrity. On this issue I remain neutral, this is not my quarrel. What I will not do however is accept any kind of correspondence that will cause further injury to my family. I did not read more than the first line of this person’s email, that was enough for me. From there I took a breath and decided to respond. My response was as follows:

_________________ ,

Please know that as I write this email I bear you no ill will. I believe that you feel that you are doing what you think is right.

With that said, I did not read your email and I will not read any further correspondence that means to further injure our family. When I say family, that includes everyone. You, ______, and _______ will always be part of my family and I will always have compassion for all of you, as I do everyone in the family.

I feel as though you have lost your way and I send you light and love during this difficult time.

As for  __________, there is nothing that anyone could ever say that would convince me that he is anything less than good hearted.

I hope we are able to heal as a family. The disconnection we are experiencing is hurtful and it does not have to be.

I am sending you love and forgiveness.

 

This was my bucket of water. This was my offering and my hope is that the healing energy of love and compassion would act as water to the flame. If not, I have at least set the boundary in an assertive way to let them know I will not accept this kind of correspondence going forward.

This person’s email was entitled “The Truth” and they spoke their truth. I took this as an invitation for the rest of us to speak ours.

I have remained silent and neutral up to this point, as the rest of my extended family has, for reasons I have listed before: hopefully this will blow over, it is none of my business, etc.

This is not blowing over, the flames are growing larger and the moment my relative sent that email to the entire extended family this situation went from being none of my/our business to this person making it our business.
There is a time for silence and a time for action and for me the time for silence ended the moment this person hit the “send” button and spewed this venom on the family.

I still remain neutral on the overarching issue because I do not believe it is my place to pass judgement on who is right or wrong. I might have my private feelings about that but I do not have the authority or the right to pass that judgement openly. I also do not believe that doing so will help me meet my ultimate goal for an outcome which is the healing and preservation of my entire family.

Judgement and anger and other negative emotions would only further insight this fire. To put out a fire you have to introduce a new element: sand, water, etc. Love is my water. Unconditional forgiveness  and compassion are my water. An invitation to heal is my water.

When I sent my response I replied all. No one else in my family had responded to this relative, this is still true. My hope is that I was able to set an example of love, an example that my family will have the courage to follow. My hope is that my family will see me here with bucket and join me with buckets of their own healing truth to share with this family member in an effort to extinguish this flame.

In the end we cannot control this person or their reactions. We are not the fire department and we may not be able to put out this inferno. I will not stand by with my bucket and feel useless though. I will not watch my family burn and do nothing when I have a bucket I can offer. My family may be doomed to burn either way but at least I know I did my part.

Tonight I send out love and light to everyone in my family, we all are hurting in the wake of this crisis. My hope and intention is the light I am sending out be the light that guides my family back to a path of love and connection. We have to come back to each other in love and connection to heal and be whole again.

 

An aside: When I got out of bed to come and write I did what I normally do when I write in the middle of the night. I lit my candles to bring light and love to darkness, I lit my salt lamp with the same intention, and I made myself a cup of tea. Then I took my tea and nested in blankets on the couch for comfort. The tea I often make for middle of the night writing is a brand that has what I think of as “love notes” on the tag. When I looked at the love note on my tea it was as though the Universe knew what I am trying to do with my healing bucket of water and was sending me support and assurance in its own way.

cosmic-support

 

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Oh My Aching Heart

Today was not a great day for humanity. I sat in on a TIC training that turned into an open forum for the floor staff to bash the therapeutic staff, AND air grievances about how the clients are lazy, bad, and destined for prison. There was also a 45 minute segment devoted to rants about transgender individuals as well as other gender and sexual minorities.

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My heart left severely bruised. I am not going to go on a feminist/social work rant about diversity, acceptance, compassion, and inclusion because I need to set a boundary on this. If I absorb the toxic energy that was spewed all over us at the training today I will burn out before this semester is up. This stuff does not belong to me. My truth is my truth, theirs belongs to them. All I can do is my part within my role and hope that it is enough to counter balance whatever toxic messages my client may be receiving in other areas.

After the training a story was shared with me that also hurt my heart. It was about one person’s divisive behavior and the pain it had caused. There is a post I have been holding that I want to share so badly that is related to this, but this is the one time since I started this blog that I feel truly unsafe doing so. I will write this truth at some point in the future, for now it will have to wait.

Finally I got home and was having a mindless moment on social media when I saw that a friend from the program was being bullied over a political post she wrote. What is worse is that apparently the bullies were her actual family. Let me say that again in case you missed it, Her family was bullying her on social media. I messaged her with a short word of not committal encouragement just in case she needed to see a bit of good in humanity today like I did. Apparently it was the right move. In her response to those degrading and patronizing her she was open and respectful, this seemed to inflame the situation though rather than temper it. It was like they were mad she wasn’t reacting and meeting them in their place of aggression. She and I had a short conversation about living in our truth and the joy that comes with belonging wholly to yourself without that need for approval from others, including family.. I think it was what we both needed. I am glad we were able to show up for each other and ourselves like this.

There is a lot of really bad scary energy moving around out there right now and people are feeding on it like a feral cat over a rodent. It is frightening but that is just it.. All of this negativity is rooted in fear. So all I can do is wake up each day and do my part to meet it with love.

So here is where I am at.. For the staff that struggled in the training today: I was able to take a perspective about what they were saying that helped me understand where they were coming from. It is in part culture, it is generational, it is tradition, it is pain, and it is fear. It also probably much more, but for now that is where I am stopping and I can have compassion in all of those places. I can have compassion, understanding, and appreciation for cultural differences and for generational differences. I can have understanding and make space for a person’s beliefs and for tradition. And I can absolutely have deep compassion for pain and fear.

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For the divisiveness that led to the emotional pain of another. Again, I think this was in large part cultural. There is a piece of me that earnestly believes the divisive individual is not being deliberately malicious or hurtful, I think that is a cultural barrier present. There are other things at play here as well but part of my truth in this moment is that this individual and this situation was sent as a test from the universe to make sure we(who are involved and impacted) are doing our own work.. Our soul work. So I thank this person for what they are bringing me personally and I know the person on the receiving end of the pain will rise up to meet her lesson in this as well because that is the kind of person she is.

Finally my friend who was verbally and emotionally assaulted by her family. I send you light and love tonight dear soul. I know how hard it is to step into your truth possibly at the cost of family. Your journey is not for them though, it is for you. You are right, you have NOTHING to apologize for, and I applaud you for figuring out in your twenties what took me 30+ years to recognize.

My wish for all those I wrote about tonight is that we are able to all move forward on our path living unapologetically in our truth. My your soul find peace, may your mind rest, may your weary heart feel comfort. It is the best of times and the worst of times, just as times usually are. Tomorrow in a new chance for amazing things, I am grateful for that truth and the opportunity to live in it.

Unconditional Positive Regard

unconditional

This is a concept we talk a lot about at school. It is part of the commitment we make to doing this work,treating our clients with unconditional positive regard. For me this, like so many aspects of social work, goes beyond my clients. It is a goal to strive for in life, treating others with unconditional positive regard. I’ll let you in on a secret though, it is not possible. It is not possible to treat every single person you meet and interact with in life with unconditional positive regard, not without completely abandoning yourself, and then you would not have succeeded anyway because unconditional positive regard starts inside.

So we start with our clients and then try to extend that concept out into the world as far as we can understanding that sometimes we feel other ways about people which is okay, that is when we make sure to turn unconditional positive regard inward to take care of ourselves in that moment.

I was thinking about unconditional positive regard on my drive home today because of a conversation myself and a fellow intern had during a break.

Today was a day for deep conversations in the intern office. Next week we start taking on our own cases so today was a lot about prepping. We cleaned the office and organized it the way we wanted. We went through all the different work books and tagged the worksheets we will want to use with clients, we did a few more trainings on the computer, and in between we chatted. We talked about religion and spirituality, turns out this intern and myself share a common thread in that we were both raised in Catholicism and walked away from it as soon as we were confirmed. We talked about some of classes. We talked about the importance of doing your own work (through therapy or in other ways) in order to be an effective clinician. We also talked about some of our fears, specifically as they pertain to certain populations.

In school we are taught that you have to be open to all different populations, different spiritual backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, ages, cultures, races, etc.. For some people this idea is difficult for them from the very beginning, others do not think it will be a problem for them at all (me using my “I” voice I kind of wonder how honest they are being with themselves), many fall somewhere in the middle. I am one of the ones who falls somewhere in the middle.

What got my colleague and I on the topic of this particular fear/concern is a story I was sharing with her about a podcast I was listening to over the summer. Trigger warning I am going to talk about pedophilia on a superficial level.

I was listening to a podcast wherein someone who self-identified as a pedophile who had never acted on his thoughts shared his difficulty when seeking out a therapist to help him with his condition. He was young, maybe 20, and he had been having these thought since around the time he started high school if I remember correctly. He talked about the shame he felt, and he knew it was wrong but that he did not feel like he could control the thoughts. Not too long after it started (the thoughts) he went to his mother and told her that he needed to meet with a therapist, he did not disclose why just that it was very important. His mother scheduled him to meet with a therapist. Upon the initial meeting and after listening to his story and why he was seeking out help the therapist quickly told him that they would not be able to help him but they would refer him to a therapist that could. The therapist also told the client’s mother without his permission which I understood and at the same time my heart ached for the client because this deeply impacted their relationship. His story went on to tell how therapist after therapist turned him away, I am sorry I cannot help. Referral after referral was made, help started seem further and further out of reach. Feelings of shame and isolation grew, not even those trained to help could help him, who could?

I am sorry to say I do not remember how this story ended. I do not remember if he ever found the help he needed, I hope he did.

After sharing this story my colleague and I talked more about whether or not we felt this client would have been a problem for us. Would we have helped or referred him on? We then talked about other populations that are severely stigmatized and where we stand in those cases.

Then we talked about compassion. This is where the unconditional positive regard comes in. When we think about pedophilia a clear line is drawn between victim and perpetrator. One is shown sympathy, the other is demonized. I am NOT at all in any way trying to downplay or dismiss the experience of the victim in these situations, we (my colleague and I) did agree that there was still compassion to be had for this person who shared his story and others like him though.

unconditional positive regard

There is compassion to be had with all people. What I was thinking about specifically on my car ride home is how society creates stigma through fear; and what I may be doing in my own life to further stigmatize those already facing severe stigma and shame. What it came back to for me is something I say a lot and that is words matter.

Last summer I stopped using the word crazy as a filler word in casual conversation. Now instead of saying we are having crazy weather I say what I actually mean, it sure has been raining a lot. Crazy is a loaded word for a lot of people, myself included, it may be should not thrown around so casually without thought about impact to others. Another good example is replacing committed suicide with died from suicide. Committed has a negative criminal connotation that stigmatizes the bereaved. I took a training on this in the spring and have since been mindful of this.

One that really stuck out for me on my drive though was the term narcissism. If you go far enough back in this blog you will find I am guilty of throwing that word around casually  with deliberate intent to judge others.  Typically I would be using it to refer to society’s social media habits. Here is the thing though, this is a diagnosis that is already SUPER stigmatized, it carries a lot of weight. What does it say about me as a future clinician and my commitment to unconditional positive regard when I do this? Individuals who are on that spectrum are worthy of compassion and unconditional positive regard as well.

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We are all capable of causing pain and harm, we are all also worthy of compassion. I am willing to bet that there will be times over the course of my career where I struggle with a specific client for one reason or another. I may even have to refer a client to another clinician. I will always be mindful of my commitment to unconditional positive regard though and mindful of what it means to practice it both professionally and as a human being.

My Ally not my Enemy: A Story about Finding Common Ground

common ground

I was speaking with a classmate recently about an assignment and without him realizing it he said something that made me feel very uncomfortable. It was not with malintent and I knew that immediately but it did not change the way I felt when it happened.

I had a choice to make here, as we so often do when presented with these kinds of microagressions in life, either speak up or let it slide. This is rarely an easy decision to make because by choosing to say something the situation could become even more uncomfortable based on how you address what happened and how the other person reacts to what you say. The other option doesn’t seem much better though. By not saying something this person may never know that this behavior is something that makes people uncomfortable and will continue to do it. In this case it didn’t take much thought, I knew I had to say something.

So having made the decision to speak up I had another decision to make, one that is equally as important as the first. In bringing up this transgression do I call my classmate out or call them in? I read an article a while back that helped me understand how to navigate these very situations in a compassionate but assertive manner and knowing when to call people out versus calling them in is a very big part of having a successful outcome.

In this case I chose to call my classmate in. The cringe worthy act that took place was my classmate calling me sweetheart while thanking me for something. Some people may not give much thought to this pet name, they may not have flinched at all but I did.

First of all I do not know this classmate that well, we are not friends or have any kind of personal relationship. Him saying this was not coming from a place of familiarity. Second, that’s not my name. My name is Jill. I am willing to bet he would not call my brother who is in the program sweetheart, please do not think it is okay to do it to me then. Although I am sure it was coming from a place of good intentions to me it feels condescending and unprofessional. Plus I worried that if I did not saying something it would set a precedent. What if in future exchanges he continues to call me sweet heart? Better to put a stop to it now to avoid negative feelings going forward.

This scene from the movie Tootsie outlines what I am talking about perfectly:

(Dorothy’s boss, Ron, just referred to her as tootsie.)

Dorothy Michaels: Ron? I have a name it’s Dorothy. It’s not Tootsie or Toots or Sweetie or Honey or Doll.

Ron Carlisle: Oh, Christ.

Dorothy Michaels: No, just Dorothy. Alan’s always Alan, Tom’s always Tom and John’s always John. I have a name too. It’s Dorothy, capital D-O-R-O-T-H-Y.

So back to how I handled the situation in the moment.. He calls me sweetheart while thanking me for my help and I say oh you’re welcome I am glad I was able to help, before I go can I share something with you real quick? He gave me an affirmative response of some sort so I continued to say, I am sure you did not mean anything by it but in the interest of keeping things professional I prefer to be called Jill please.

You never really know how someone is going to react when you have to call them in/out so I prepared myself for anything in terms of how he would respond. At least I thought I did until he managed to surprise me anyway. He apologized to which I said thank you and that it was okay. Then he shared that recently his professor told him the same thing. I was confused at first, did he really call a professor sweet heart? I responded by simply saying, Oh really. He went on to explain that he was doing a role play with a female student in front of the class, he was the social worker and the female student was the client. During the role play he called the client sweet heart. Apparently the instructor stopped the role play for a moment to discuss why that is not okay.

He and I talked for a few more minutes about why some women feel uncomfortable when this kind of thing happens. What I learned from him is he was raised thinking that this type of behavior was chivalrous. He definitely seemed to have some knight-in-shining-white-armor ideals going on. My perception, based on a lot of what he shared about his upbringing, is that he seems to think women are delicate and need saving. I was actually pretty surprised, I would not have known any of this based on my previous interactions with him. He certainly seems pro-equality across the board, and I still think he is, there is just this other side that kind of conflicts. I took everything he shared in stride, a person doesn’t know what they don’t know. However, I took the opportunity to explain that what he was talking about could very well be interpreted as oppressive and sexist and the reasons why.

The conversation went well. I definitely feel that we both learned something from the each other. I think he has a much better handle on why sweet heart is not appropriate now. I think calling him in was the right choice. I did not shame him for his statements, I did not make assumptions about him like he should know better, I approached him as an ally that just made a misstep.

That was my biggest take away when I read that article about how to approach these types of interactions. Regardless of if you decide to call someone out or call them in, treat them as an ally who made a mistake. It is a lot easier to approach the situation objectively with compassion for the other person if you see them as someone who is on your side instead of as enemy.

The book I finished recently on dichotomous and hierarchical thinking touched on this as well. If we stop labeling everything (including people) as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong” or (any other type of binary where there are only two options instead of a spectrum) then we will find it much easier to find common ground.

My classmate was not a bad person, this was not an issue of right and wrong. My experiences, thoughts and reality are no more or less real or important than his. My experiences are different from his, my thoughts are different, my reality is different. Different does not equate to bad, it does not equate to wrong. I think this is where people get stuck.

It would be very easy for me to have gotten angry with him when he called me sweet heart because he lives in a place of privilege where he is less likely to have to earn respect, it is given based solely on his gender. I could have schooled him on how he doesn’t understand my struggle as a woman and lectured him endlessly about his privilege. But what would that kind of tirade gotten us? Would we have found common ground? Would he have had this break through about his place of privilege and what his words mean to those of us who don’t live in that place? No, I don’t think so.

As our program faces what seems to be an uphill battle in the area of cultural competency I am thankful for common ground. I am thankful for conversations that come from a place of respect and a want to understand experiences that are different from our own. I am thankful for moments that prove we all have potential for growth. I am thankful.

Four Months Later

Sunday will be four months since Todd and I got married, I realize this may seem like a strange in between time to be doing a look back, why not wait for the six month mark right? This post has a purpose though.

The days after our wedding and before we left for our honeymoon Todd and I spent reflecting on the day and reliving some of our favorite memories together. One thing that Todd said and I wholly agreed with was that we were very pleased with the decisions we made in hiring the vendors we did. Our DJ let us completely customize our playlist which was a big deal to us. Every detail and aspect of our wedding felt completely personalized and very us, thanks largely in part to our vendors. Todd and I did not want to prepare our own vows because we were concerned it would put to much pressure on us day of when emotions were high so instead our officiant had us write our vows and he read them allowed for us. It was all I could do not to cry as I heard him speak Todd’s words as well as my own, I was glad the ceremony was personalized in this way and that I was not responsible for getting the words out myself because I am not convinced I could have at the time.

We also had a highly recommended videographer who was worth every penny and I can really say that with confidence now that we have gotten the video back. She created a 12 minute movie and then also gave us two other videos that included all the key moments of the day including the entire ceremony, every speech, the first dances etc. The vendor we were most excited about though was our photographer. We put a lot of energy into our research when choosing the photographer. We ultimately made our choice based on the portfolio and reviews. The pictures are stunning and really speak for themselves but the rave reviews helped us make the decision as well.I do not regret our decision on any of the vendors I have mentioned but 4 months later I still have no wedding photos.

I was aware because our photographer is popular in the area and in high demand it would take a little longer to get the photos back but became concerned when we hit the 2.5 month mark and had not heard from them. I have never been married before, I do not know what is normal for this kind of thing. I waited another week and then sent an email to check in and get a status update. I was relieved to hear it was all coming along well and would be receiving the photos in another two weeks. I wasn’t even disappointed about having to wait another two weeks because at least I knew the timeline now and the end was in sight. This worked out perfectly because I knew Todd’s family was coming to visit over spring break and I would be able to sit with his Mom and go through all the photos. Everyone has been asking about the photos so I was glad to finally have an answer about when they would be ready.

That was one month ago. When the deadline was not met I waited another week and a half before emailing again to check in. I kept hoping 1. that it was just taking an extra day or two and I would be getting them soon so the email would not be necessary or 2. that i would receive and email from the photographer explain the delay so I would not have to be the one to initiate the discussion. When I was almost at two weeks past the deadline the photographer set I finally gave in and sent an email asking for another update. I didn’t exactly know how to take the email I got back. The photographer apologized for the delay and told me there were two other weddings that had to go before mine. The email went on to say that something had happened in the photographer’s personal life and that was in part why there was a delay.

The way the photographer approached explaining this to me made me feel uncomfortable. It was started with a ” I wouldn’t normally share this with a client but since we are friends I will tell you” kind of sentence. But we are not friends. What you are telling me is none of my business, I have only ever known you on a professional level and while I sympathize with the situation I felt like the photographer was trying to guilt me into silent submission.

So now not only is my question about when will the photos be ready has not been answered.. To say I have two weddings to get out before yours is a completely ambiguous answer. How do I know what that means? But I have also been made to feel guilt for even asking because the photographer is dealing with something p[personally that is impeding their job apparently. I had no clue how to take this email or how to respond. The professional in me felt that this was completely inappropriate and unacceptable on many levels.

1. We have a contract, services were paid for and the final product has to be delivered as specified in the contract.

2. If something comes up, which is understandable, I expect to hear from you not to have to track you down for answers. There were a few times in my professional life when I realized I was not going to make a deadline and as soon as I realized it I would contact the other party and make them aware. I did not wait for the other party to contact me once the the deadline passed, that is unprofessional.

3. The amount of self-disclosure shared made me uncomfortable, it was not professional. And also to say, I only tell you this because I consider you a friend. No. That is not Okay. I have done nothing to imply this relationship was ever anything but professional. It is not right to put me in this position.

I waited three days before responding, all the while I feel like everyone I know is telling me how to handle the situation. It is difficult to remain professional and level headed when everyone around you is getting heated and telling you to escalate. Well that is not me.

I waited three days, like I said, and then responded honestly with compassion while still being assertive and professional. Since no clear timeline was given in the last email and the last timeline that was given had passed I ended the email by suggesting  a new timeline that Todd and I were comfortable with. I did not hear back from the photographer for multiple days after my last email and no recognition was made of my requested timeline, instead another ambiguous timeline was given that would difficult to hold a person to, by design I am sure.

At this point Todd has agreed to take over correspondence. We have a date in our head that we think is reasonable and if it passed Todd will follow up. Honestly I am not upset with the photographer, the company is privately owned, our photographer is a one person show, I understand how life could get in the way. I still believe that our finished product will be wonderful and this person has amazing talent. The situation is frustrating though because I am approaching it as a customer (because I am) and the service we have received on the back end has been sub par.

It is disappointing. We were still on a bit of high for a while after the wedding because there were still wedding related things happening. We sent out thank you cards, got our video back, went shopping with wedding money. At this point we have settled back into our lives, which I am not upset about, but the excitement has settled. I am still looking forward to getting our photos back but the momentum and excitement has died out. It does not feel the same, is that make sense.

This is the only thing I plan to ever write about this experience though and I have been careful not to use names or any other unique identifier in talking about this experience because although I am displeased I have no ill will towards our amazing photographer and would not ever write a negative review or do anything else that would ever harm their business.

I also have had to have a talk with some friends and family to ask them to back off a bit. I know everyone is frustrated but I am comfortable with the way the situation is being handled on our end and it does not benefit me to have multiple people venting to me about my own problem and potentially getting me worked up. I only have so much control here and I am choosing to let go so that needs to be respected.

Will you be there when I die?

My Uncle is a nurse in long-term in-patient facility. Every time I see him I ask him about work and his patients. I love listening to his stories, whether they are good or bad, because he is a man of strong character and he cares. He is in the profession for the right reasons and I admire him so much.

One thing I have learned about my Uncle through one of our conversations is, he is a “fixer”. He is there to help his patient’s heal, he wants to get them well and help them get back to their lives. He is not as.. I don’t know what word to use here.. comfortable, interested.. I am not sure how he would put it but I am going to say he is tepid about the idea of working with terminal patients because he is unable to make them better. I am sure if he were explaining his feelings on the matter he would better express his point than I am but that is the broad stroke picture.

Over the weekend I asked again about work and his patients. He explained that he had been moved to a new department where he now works with patients who are there for long-term care and are, more often than not, close to being at the end of their lives. He said he has loses more than he sends home (speaking about the patients he serves and cares for).

I asked him how that makes him feel being in this new role and dealing with the loss of these patients he has become close to. He talked about that for a little while and I listened. He told me a story about his patient Jean, she mentioned to him that she noticed he was always there when a patient passed on. At first he didn’t understand where she was going with this statement, I joked with him making an angel of death reference. He agreed saying that at first he thought Jean was trying to imply he was bad luck. She continued to explain that it was just an observation and it made her feel comfortable knowing he was always there because she knew things were taken care of when he was around. She then asked him, Will you be there when I die? He again wasn’t sure how to take her question. She explained to him it wasn’t a question it was a request and an invitation.

She wanted him to be present when she passed on because for her my uncle had become a comforting presence and she knew after she was gone he would take care of everything. I had to stop myself from tearing up. What an incredibly special request. Of all the things in our lives we will be requested to do what is more significant than that? Being present at the beginning of life and at the end is so special and meaningful. I was touched that she had asked for him.

I didn’t say this to him at the risk of sounding condescending but I hope he was able to see how much of an impact he can have on even those he can’t save. He certainly meant something to Jean.

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Look me in the eye

look_me_in_the_eye_by_greenrapsody

I cannot remember if I have mentioned this recently, actually with the state of my memory I am a little surprised there are no duplicate posts on here. Sorry, anyway, I am currently reading Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robinson. That is what I cannot remember if I have already mentioned.

I am really enjoying it. It is another personal story about what it is like to live with Asperger’s. What is interesting about this man’s story is that Asperger’s did not become standardized as a diagnosis until 1984. John Elder Robinson was born in 1957. The first half of the book details what it was like growing up without a diagnosis. He was called deviant, was told by teacher’s and other authority figures he was a psychopath because he did not display empathy towards others. His father would tell him that no one would ever trust him because he had trouble looking people in the eye.

It is a great read for anyone who wants to better understand Asperger’s. My nephew definitely shares a few of the author’s qualities. Like the author, he has trouble with eye contact. With my nephew being so young asking him to explain why this is would be a frustrating request for him. I am not sure he is advanced enough yet verbally to explain it and even if he is I now understand by reading multiple books by others with Asperger’s that it is not easily explained. To me it sounds like it’s just a feeling, it’s just something they do or don’t do I guess without realizing it. It seems to me that asking them to explain this is like asking me to explain why I always say “You know what I mean” when telling a story. I never knew I did this, it has been brought to my attention by multiple people over the years but I do not realize I am doing it, it just happens. I don’t know why.

I have laughed and cried while reading his story. I could sit here all day long and read journal’s and studies about Asperger’s and I am sure I would learn a lot but it just doesn’t mean as much to me when you take away the human element of it. How better to understand what it is like for someone to live with a certain diagnosis than to hear it first hand from those who do?