Infinite Ways to Add to Nine

You’ve heard the expression More than One Way to Skin a Cat?

Well I hate that expression. So a long time ago I came up with my own version. I say: There is more than one way to add to nine.

I say this when I reach an impasse with someone where we are unable to find common ground. I say this with clients who get stuck in black and white thought patterns. I say it often.

My point is simple: there are lots of options out there and none of them are wrong, they are just different.

Fun fact: My favorite way to add to nine is 5+4. That was until tonight..

Today I finished the last paper of my college career. It was a research paper about the effectiveness of guided visualization, I could not have planned that better if I tried. I feel like I went out with a very authentic bang!

All morning while I was writing my paper and taking breaks my sweet husband was scurrying away trying to find something special for us to do once I finished. He wanted to celebrate me tonight. He would come in while I was writing and present a menu for a new restaurant for my review. Nothing was really appealing to me. A lot of restaurants think having a salad menu is enough of a vegetarian option, I whole-heartedly disagree.

On one of my breaks we came up with a plan. We found our own way to add to nine.

When I finished my paper and clicked “submit” I began to cry. I caught myself off guard, apparently it had been sitting there just beneath the surface waiting for me to finish this one last thing.

I went and found my husband charting out his math equations in the bedroom and I flopped down on top of him and let the tears flow.

I did it. I can’t believe it, I did it.

I completed a graduate program. I am a woman with a Master’s degree. I am the first woman in my family to attend college and I now have a Master’s degree.

I cried and cried.

I just cannot believe it. I can’t believe it. I did this! I DID THIS! I DID IT!

Then I started jumping on the bed and laughing and throwing blankets everywhere!

I DID IT! I FUCKING DID IT! I DID IT!!!!!

It was great fun, really it was, until I landed on my husband’s hand. He was okay though so I kept laughing and punching the mattress.

I did it man! I did it!

I left my husband to his math for a while longer and honestly I don’t even know what I did. I was so happy I was incoherent.

Later hubs and I started our master plan for the evening.

We headed to the grocery and picked up produce, ginger beer, ricotta, and naan. Then we came home and got to work.

We celebrated by making vegan/vegetarian naan pizzas with all of our favorite ingredients, our favorite cock/mocktails – the Moscow mule, and set up our dining room table like an trendy/artisanal restaurant. We brought the romantic dinner to our home.

naan pizza

We made three pizzas:

  1. Hummus, kalamata olives, plum tomato, artichoke hearts, sauteed onions and green peppers, basil.
  2. Tika Masala sauce, cumin sauteed garbanzo beans, mango, purple onion, mint.
  3. Ricotta cheese, blackberries, basil, black ground pepper.

We also made a pear salad which ended up being delicious but over kill, we had plenty of food.

When our dinner and cock/mocktails were ready we set the table and put on our Ben Howard Pandora station for mood music.

date night in1date night in

Over dinner we talked about our past, present, and future. We talked about my growth over the last 6 years that we have been together, and our growth together. We talked and talked and it was wonderful and romantic and just good in a very honest comfortable way. At one point I said what I often do about adding to nine in reference to how I went about earning my degree, I took the rode less traveled you could say. Then my husband said, it is more than that. It’s not just that there is “more than one way to add to nine”, there are infinite ways to add to nine.

There are infinite ways to add to nine because the options are endless. The options are endless. There is no right or wrong or good or bad, there are just infinite options, there is no limit to what is possible. Each person has there own unique path towards their own personal truth, the options are endless.

My path looked different from the paths of others, that is because it belongs to me and I walked it just as I was meant to. My mathematical husband helped me stand firmer in one of my own personal truths today.

 

Holding Out Hope

I think I may have found the position I have been waiting for. So far all the interviews I have gone to have not felt right for one reason or another, somehow I knew I was waiting for something and I had not found it yet. I am wondering now if maybe my search is over.

First I have to admit that I have not even gone to the interview for the position yet. I actually wasn’t giving this interview any more weight than any of the other interviews I had been on so far, that all changed yesterday at internship though.

I was in my office typing up an assessment I had just completed with a new client when my favorite social worker walked by and popped in to say Hi. This social worker is one of the reasons I have loved this internship so much. I believe some people were made to mentor, she is one of these people. She is open and supportive and always has this impossibly calm exterior. She is a protege of one of my own mentors so it is not shocking honestly because he is phenomenal as well.

So she came and in, had a seat and we started chatting. She asked about job prospects (she already knows about those I have turned down) so I updated her on my upcoming interview and how I was unsure what to expect because the agency does not have a website so I cannot do much in the way of research. When I told her the name of the agency she immediately said “Take the job”.

That was so unlike her. She never gives direct advice, she always processes with you and allows you to arrive at your own conclusions. Come to find out this is the agency she worked at before coming to our agency. She said the women at the agency are her second family and that it is some of the best work she has ever done. I asked questions that she was able to answer and now I have a much better idea of what to expect from this interview. I even know what questions I would like to ask during the interview.

It is a contract position so she helped highlight some of drawbacks related to that; like the fact that nothing is provided in the way of equipment to do the job. You are using your own phone to schedule appointments, your own computer to document notes and file with insurance, you are putting miles on your car driving to meet with your clients, you are responsible for taking money out for taxes etc. The way she explained it is that you are a business owner and the agency is contracting your services.

The benefit comes in the form of experience. I am always looking for my next big growth opportunity. With this internship in came in the form of doing two new things I had never done before: working for an inpatient agency and working with a population I had never worked with previously; a population that, truth be told, I was intimidated by.

I think one of my big growth opportunities if I end up in this position would be learning how to do this work on my own. Being responsible for myself, not relying on an agency to provide for me in the way of having an office, and someone taking my taxes out for me, etc. If my end goal is private practice I might actually learn a thing or two about managing things through this work.

I also like that this agency appears to serve a wide range of clients so there would be plenty of diversity.

I spoke with hubs about everything I learned last night and we both agree that this may be what I have been holding out for. Yes, there maybe some expenses involved for us on the front end but in the long run this might be the right fit.

I am finally excited about an interview. I am curious to see what they tell me and what my impressions will be once I get there. I am holding out hope that this is what I have been waiting for and that it will all work out. Fingers crossed now, we’ll see what comes.

Little Glimmers

I had something close to a break through with a client today. This is a client I am working with for the second time. They were in our program lat year and returned recently after AWOLing from another program. I was sad to discover this client had regressed considerably since the last time I worked with them. Then after observing the client in ways I had not had the opportunity to previously I started to wonder are they regressing or did I never know the full story?

I worked with this client for only a few days last stay, this time I have had them for weeks so I am definitely uncovering more.

Session started on an intense note today. I had to assertively set boundaries with the client on multiple planes before we even started session then the topic was not an easy one to navigate which led to a lot of gentle confrontation with the client.  Ultimately by the end of session we had turned a major corner and I was able to build the beginning of a bridge with this client on an issue they have been struggling with and taking next to no accountability for up to this point. It was a little glimmer of what is possible with motivation and empowerment.

I am grateful that my supervisor trusts me with complicated cases. I am grateful that I have been challenged and made uncomfortable so often during this internship that it has given me the opportunity to step into my own place of empowerment. I am also thankful that I have been working with a population who are mandated to receive counseling services based on how our program is funded. This is not the ideal situation for clinicians, typically you want clients who want to do the work, when client’s are mandated they are  not always willing participants. This internship has presented so many awesome obstacles for me to work through and overcome.

It may have been an uphill journey but you better believe my social work muscles are strong as hell thanks to the path I chose to walk!

A New Option Emerges

I got another call today about an open position I could potentially be considered for. I am maybe more excited about this opportunity than the one that popped up last week. This position is a clinical contract position that depending on your point of view can be good or bad.

I choose to see it as good. I have heard mix reviews about contract positions, one aspect I like the idea of is making my own hours. I dont always thrive in a traditional 9-5 environment. I like flexibility and options, this would offer that.

One possible down side is in the area of benefits. In terms of healthcare that is not a concern as I am insured through my husband. Lack of benefits in terms of vacation I am also not too concerned about; I am thankfully in a position where taking unpaid leave would not hurt our financial situation much. Lack of benefits regarding maternity leave is somewhat troubling but that is still a little ways off so I don’t know that it would be a deal breaker especially if this is the kind of job I am looking for out of college.

I had hopes of getting hired on with an agency in a clinical capacity where I would be providing traditional therapeutic services. If I am going to be paying to get myself trained on certain models and techniques I would like to have an environment to work on these skills in. Although, truth be told I had somewhat resigned to that fact that I would very likely be doing casework straight out of college because the field is competitive and I do not have much of an edge over licensed social workers when it comes to these open clinical positions.

Clearly I have a chance though because that is the second call in a week for an interview for a therapeutic position. I still don’t have a real clear sense of direction in terms of the immediate future of my career (outside of the trainings I want to sign myself up for) I am excited to have options. This is not a bad place to find myself in.

 

Honoring My Inner Child

One night I walked into the living room of the house I grew up in and announced to my mother that I knew what I wanted to do with my life. She turned off the TV, turned her body towards me.. I had her full-attention. I explained my business plan for the restaurant I was going to open where all the food would be free so no one would ever be hungry.

I was 10 years old, I was an idealist, and without knowing it I was taking my very first unconscious step in the direction of my future: social work.

When I think back about the girl I was (and still am in many ways) I know I have made her proud.

I know because I never got too old to pick flowers, and never too cynical to see my flowers as weeds. I know because I never gave up my dream of healing the world and never stopped believing I was capable of spreading love on that level. Proud because I took deliberate action towards creating that healing space in the world through my direction with social work. Proud because I went back and picked up all of my pieces and started my healing and vision of love with me, as it should be. I know because I feel the warmth of that little girls sunshine still beaming from my body.

I made that little girl proud. I did that.

May I walk through the rest of my days as certain in this truth as I am now. That little girl had a plan to heal the world, and I know I am making her proud.

magic

Opportunity Comes a Knocking

I got a call back yesterday for an interview. It is for a clinical position which I was excited to hear. It is with an inpatient substance program. I have done inpatient before and I have worked with clients with substance use issues. I have never worked on a program like this before though which makes this a great option for me. I want new experiences with new populations. I do not want to go where I have already been, I want to grow in a forward direction.

Right now I am playing phone tag with the agency representative who reached out to me. We will see how things go with this potential interview. I will report as things move along.

Continuing Education

I have been given a plethora of information from mentors and professors regarding trainings, certifications, and continuing education opportunities. I have been researching my options since last semester and have a pretty good handle on at least a few things I know I am definitely interested in learning more about. The challenge is that many if not all of the trainings I am interested in are out of the area.

There is one locally that is only about 20 minutes from home for me but the next closest is in south Florida and the next closest after that is out of state. The one training I definitely want to pursue is out of state and is a three weekend a year commitment to complete the level one certification. I am starting to understand the level of commitment I am making to my future career and becoming the clinician I know I am meant to be. Dreams take work.

I have had a lot of trouble with clarity around my path forward with my career now that I am nearing graduation. I know what my end goal is but I have been unclear on how far into the future that goal lies. Is it 5 years? 10? Shorter? Longer? I really don’t know. I know I am not ready yet but I also know I am doing my work to get ready.

It is not just my professional journey that prepares me for my end goal, it is my personal one as well. I would say my personal journey is what will make the difference really. I had a break through with a client in session a few weeks back and this break through came not because of anything I learned to do while in the program, it was because of my personal work. I allowed my intuition to guide me and allowed her to lead and what I suggested not only worked it was exactly the right thing for the moment. The next day she disclosed her entire trauma story to me in session and I was able to make reports and referrals to help her on her path towards healing.

The client said to me that based on our previous session and talks she recognized a pattern she was stuck in and she wanted to “break the cycle”. She did that, and I helped. And while yes, I have to have the degree to do this work, the degree is not what makes me good at what I do, it is my commitment to growth both personally and professionally.

Rumi says you can only meet someone as deeply as you meet yourself. How can I help my clients discover their own personal truth and path towards healing if I have never done this work myself? How can I show my clients what boundaries and assertive communication and truth speaking and shadow work and true self-love and authentic self-expression is if I have never walked my own version of this path?

So for now I will continue down my own personal path of self-discovery and in the near future I will start signing myself up for trainings to supplement my personal growth with professional knowledge and growth. I may not be able to do anything about these trainings right now because of time and distance but even learning about where they are, when they are held, and the level of commitment involved sheds some light and brings a level of clarity for me. For that I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

Hold Me

ocean healing1

I am exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. In my soul. It was a challenging week. It was also a really good week. I feel proud of what I accomplished this week. Even in that truth, I am exhausted.

Something that I talk to many of my clients about is different ways to release difficult emotions so they don’t feel like they have to hold everything all the time, allow yourself to be supported. For my writers I encourage them to let the paper hold it for them. For my artists I encouraged them to let the canvas or clay to hold it for them. For my athletes, let the court or the ball, or the track etc hold it for you.

It is easy to be consumed by our feelings, the energy they create. It is okay to feel them, it is also okay accept support.

Right now I am open to support. Hubs and I have decided to go to the beach this weekend. I am grateful. I look forward to being in the ocean, allowing it to support me, allowing it to hold everything I am feeling so I do not have to hold it by myself.

Once the decision was made that we would get away this weekend I felt instant relief. It gave me the boost I needed to finish out my week.

I am at the beginning of what I hope to be a long career of meaningful work supporting others. To do this work I also have to allow myself to be supported.

ocean healing

 

How to be Attractive

I logged into my Pinterest account today to grab one of my images for one of the other posts I was writing and there was an image sitting there waiting for me because apparently based on the other things I have been pinning Pinterest thought I would like it. I had a total WTF moment about it. Here is the image:

how-to-be-attractive

What the fuck Pinterest? Really? Do you not know me at all?

I am sorry but my inner feminist could not let this one slide. I have been made aware that this utter nonsense exists in the world and for the next five minutes it is my mission to balance this garbage.

Luckily as if she somehow knew I needed something awesome in this moment my soul friend sent me this.

This awesome slam poetry serves to rip shame in half and give the finger to sexist agendas that aim to keep women small, neither seen nor heard.

Hear is my truth about feeling attractive and connected to myself: I do it for me not for anyone else.

  1. I smile when I feel like it not out of obligation to the world. Sometimes I feel swallowed by my emotions and smiling is not a thing, I am no less attractive because I experience more than one emotion.
  2. I smell the way that I smell. It is my smell. My smell is usually lavender and lemon oil, it may not be for everyone. I am not open to anyone else’s opinion on my smell.
  3. I wear clothes that feel good and make me feel like myself when I look in the mirror. No outside opinions needed or wanted in that area either.
  4. I will educate or shelter myself on and from the world as I see fit. I am no less intelligent or worthy of taking up space based on my decision in this area.
  5. I can kind of get behind this one honestly. I do not speak kindly of myself though, that is doing it for other people. I speak kindly to myself because I do it for me, not for you.
  6. Have whatever kind of hobby you want, screen or no screen. Or if you prefer don’t have a hobby at all. Your interests are YOUR interests. They belong to you, do what feels right.
  7. I do value education, that is my truth. I also thought that college was out of reach. You are no less worthy if you did not get past the 8th grade. You do your life in the way that feels right for you and do not accept anyone else’s judgements or opinions based on some classist bullshit like higher education.
  8. Make time for yourself and anyone else you feel drawn to give your time to. Our time is an enormous gift, we deserve it as much as the rest of the world. You are still a good  and worthy person if you never volunteer a day in your life.
  9. I like the piece about saying thank you because one of my own personal truths is deeply connected to daily gratitude. I do not believe in obligatory reciprocation though. You reciprocate when you feel compelled to and do not allow others or society to guilt you into doing favors you are not comfortable doing.

These are my truths about being attractive based on the list provided. They may not be your truth, maybe you like the original list. That is alright. Personally, it was not for me. I am more in line with Olivia Gatwood and her Ode to the Resting Bitch Face.

You owe the world nothing. Focus on you, figure out what unique brilliance you bring to the world and do not allow others to tell you that you are less than because you did not conform. Radical self-love my friends. Embrace all aspects of yourself as you are not as others believe you should be.

 

 

Sometimes You Just Need a Day

This morning I woke up and rolled over to this face:

need-a-day

That was all the convincing I needed. I am staying home today, the dog needs cuddles. So I rearranged my schedule, sat in my gratitude for having a flexible schedule that allows for these kinds of changes, and got to cuddling.

After a sufficient amount of time cuddling it was time to get up. It was early and I had the whole day ahead of me with nothing on my calendar. Nothing. I love the way that word sounds when used in the context of my schedule.

I had my tea and meditated in the silence of my home. Once my intention for the day was set it was off the the art supply store to polish off the rest of my gift card money from the holidays.

I have a few different art projects on my list right now. Some are for me, some are for loved ones, and some are to do with my clients.

I got all my supplies for my various projects and headed to the check out line. I was standing in line admiring the art supplies that the silver haired woman in front of me was purchasing when the magazine rack next to me caught my eye. What caught my eye specifically was the piece on the front cover of a magazine that read: 70 Everyday Bits of Magic Worth Celebrating. In my head I started compiling a list of my own everyday magic. I looked back at the magazine; another piece on the cover read: Living an Intentional Life.
Okay magazine you made your point. I proceeded to put it in my basket and check out.

I spent the rest of the day on the art project I plan to do with clients. We have adult coloring books at our agency that many clients use as a coping tool. Recently my supervisor and I brainstormed an art project that takes the coloring pages a step further into a therapeutic art project. This came after my supervisor bought a bunch of canvases on sale at the art store and came to me asking what kind of project we could do with them.

I took myself back outside today to create because it was another beautiful day. Not to mention that the clean up is way easier when I don’t have to lay a drop cloth.

need-a-day2need-a-day1

I lit my candle for creative inspiration, colored my coloring page, grabbed my paints and created a colorful background on my canvas. From there I modpodged my coloring page on to my canvas and added odds and ends for pizzazz. (That word is weird right? Pizzazz..)

need-a-day4

When I was done with my art project I cleaned up my supplies, did a few chores, and then because I was feeling really domestic today I even made a berry crumble for after dinner. I always keep rolled oats around just in case I feel like baking something easy.

While my crumble baked I caught up with two of my soul friends by phone. One of them is coming to stay with me at the end of this week and I am over the moon. I cannot wait to be in her presence.

After everything else was finished I curled up in my blankets on the couch and read my magazine. It has been a long time since I have bought a magazine. The last one I purchased was an art magazine. This felt a little foreign but this magazine is very me from cover to cover.

need-a-day3

It was a good day and sometimes you need one of those.

Free Fall

anxiety

I heard a rumor yesterday that the next job opportunity that I thought might present itself to me maybe wouldn’t be after all. Today that rumor was a confirmed fact. The job prospect that felt so right is no longer an option.

When I first heard that maybe this wouldn’t work out after all I felt a bit panicked. I didn’t realize how much I was hanging hope on this. Then today when it was confirmed another feeling popped up, an unexpected feeling.. Relief.

Suddenly that panic of Oh my gosh what am I going to do? morphed into I don’t know and it is okay.

I don’t think the idea of not having a job lined up is what has been stressing me out, I think it is the not knowing what the job will be. I have every confidence I will get a job, I just really want to know what it is going to be. I feel like I am trying to skip chapters in a book because I just really want to know how it ends. I need to relax, keep reading, and try to enjoy the story.

I have been speaking with my husband about everything and as per usual he is pretty chill and supportive about the whole thing. He has no worry in terms of me gaining employment and who knows what else will happen this year? Maybe I am not meant to have a job immediately.

There was another piece of me that felt like I have to get licensed ASAP as well. I had this long check list of all the things I have to do the second I graduate but the truth is I don’t. I don’t have to do any of this immediately.

I can wait to attach with a LCSW supervisor. I can wait to apply to be a registered intern. I can wait to take the test. I can wait to get a job. It can all wait. My life is not going to fall down around me if these things don’t happen the second I am done with school. It will be okay. I will be okay.

Once I apply to be an intern I have 5 years to get my hours and pass the test. If for any reason I cannot make these things happen within that 5 year window I do not get my license in the state of Florida. Ever.

I am trying to balance myself as I finish this last semester but this is all weighing heavy on my mind. This is a big life transition. Once I graduate I am walking back into full-time employment, and everything that comes along with the licensure process, and hopefully parenthood, and building my own practice at some point.

I am excited about most of these things. I am also a bit overwhelmed, and scared. I am also grateful. I am also curious. I am also wanting to speed up time and start doing it all. I am also trying to keep my balance and remain grateful for the moment I am in.

It will all be okay. I will be okay.

Anti-Climax

I am nearing the home stretch of my time as a social work student and it is not quite what I expected. I thought I would be filled with an excited bursting energy and end my time in school with some sort of fanfare, but the truth is it all kind of feels like a non-event.

I think a few things contribute to my lackluster sense of excitement when it comes to finally reaching my end goal.

  1. Grad school was an overall disappointment. There were a few classes and topics that i found interesting and informative but on the whole I was severely underwhelmed and felt under challenged. For someone who is focused on growth I felt I experienced very little this last year based on my experiences in the classroom.
  2. This semester is primarily web based. I am not going to campus much this semester so it doesn’t really feel like I am even in school. I occasionally have to write a paper but the work load is minimal and with no classroom time it feels is as if graduation somehow came and went without me.
  3. This internship being a longer internship makes it feel more like an actual job than an internship. Not having to go to class adds to that feeling. I love the internship but I do not feel like an intern, I feel like an employee because I have been there for so long at this point and am so comfortable with the job.
  4. I have decided not to walk at graduation, I may have already mentioned that. I have zero interest in doing the big graduation and they are not having a small social work celebration so there is no stage walking this time around. This of course makes graduation feel like a nonevent because it kind of is.

I am not necessarily upset by the way things are ending, it is just not what I expected. This is a big life event for me and without the hubbub surrounding it somehow it doesn’t feel so big. I am sure as the months slip by and the end is really upon me I will start to feel differently. Or maybe I won’t. Either way I almost done and that means something, with or without the fuss.

I Knew This Day Would Come

badgut

One of my biggest fears when I first made the decision to become a social worker was that I would not be able to do enough to help/protect/save/fix/serve my clients. Then I started the BSW program and my own therapy and realized that is not what this all about. Help, yes at times. Serve, yes we do that. Protect, we would love to be able to do this, and maybe sometimes we do but the truth is we are not super heroes. Save/Fix, nope, not part of the job description.

Learning boundaries helped me a lot in this area. It gave me a much healthier mindset about the work we do. Still, I have always known that a day would come where these feelings of not-good-enough in the realm of social work may pop back up for me. Well my friends, that day has come. That day has come and gone actually.

I did all the things I am able to do, I followed protocol, I worked with my client to ensure they were safe and gave them a few new tools for their emotional tool box. At the end of the day though I had this nagging feeling that I made no impact. I had to sit with that feeling, take it to tea, and get to know it better.

What does it say about me that I was not able to make a difference? Am I a bad social worker? Is this person’s suffering my fault? Did I do enough?

The answers are: Nothing. No. No. and Yes.

Here is my gratitude now that I have finally had the client that brought on these feelings and this day has finally come..

I am grateful that I have been doing my own work so when it did finally come I maintained my boundaries.
I am grateful that I was able to recognize these feelings belong to me and they actually have nothing to do with this situation. My client did not make me feel this way, this is my stuff, not my client’s.
I am grateful that I am comfortable enough with my darkness that when I feel my shame pop up I am able to show her love and support. Love is inside job.
I am grateful that  I self-aware enough to recognize how I was triggered in this case and check-in with myself.
I am grateful that I am in place in my life where I make taking care of me a priority so I am able to offer my support to others in a healthy way.

At the end of the day I did all the “right” things and did not get the outcome I hoped for. That is okay, this is not my life, it is theirs.

I was enough. I am enough.

 

 

Soulful Art: Part I

We did not make a single plan this weekend and as a result we have both been happy as clams with our shells closed tight. We watched a movie together, donated some items to red cross, took Lu on an outing, and then retreated for introvert time.

Hubs hid out in the office more than likely do math, and I set myself up on the living room floor to paint.

Yesterday I worked on an art project for internship. I cofacilitate a group every week with an MHC intern from my university. Every other week we take turns leading and coming up with the topic/content for group. This week was my week, I did boundaries. Next week will be the MHC intern’s turn and then the following week will be mine again.

I know for my next opportunity to lead I want to do an art project with the group to help them process the topic I have chosen. I am going to build on what I have started with boundaries and discuss the metaphorical masks we all wear in order to feel safe and accepted by the outside world. We will literally be creating masks. One side will be adorned with our outside self and the other side will be decorated with our inside self.

In order to stick with my intention of not asking my client’s to do work I would not be willing to do myself, I created my mask yesterday. I wanted to see what parts felt difficult for me, and where/how I felt stuck while working on it so I will be able to help my clients if they struggle in a similar way. I find that I am able to lead a more authentic discussion and processing after if I have done this work myself because I will have better insight based on my own experience with it and may be able to offer a different perspective for them.

For example, a few things I recognized while creating my mask were:

  1. The stuff on the outside is not always fake. Often when we talk about the idea of masks we are often referring to fakeness, they are not being authentic because they are not letting me see behind the mask.. I definitely thought this. It is not that our outside mask is inauthentic to the point  of fakeness, it is just not the whole truth. It is a version of the truth, the version we are comfortable showing. Almost everything on the front of my mask is authentic for me, it is just not the whole story.
  2. The stuff on the inside is not necessarily bad. I think that is another misconception we make, at least I know I have. It is easy to assume a person is wearing a mask and maybe only showing their highlight reel because the stuff they do not want you to see is bad. What I realized when I being honest about what I allow to be seen on the outside and what I keep on the inside on my own mask is that while some of it is darker and I hide it inside because of stigma and shame and not wanting to feel judged, some of it is really special and beautiful but I have traditionally kept it on the inside because it means so much to me that I keep it just for me and don’t want to share it.
  3. There is so much more beneath the surface. On the outside of my mask I put exactly what felt right to me, I only put what spoke to me and told me they were meant for the outside. I did the outside first and when I was done it felt honest, Yep that looks accurate. Then I did the back/the inside. I realized there was so much I wanted to include that I really didn’t have enough room on the mask for everything to be seen. I chose to edit and try to make it as honest as possible understanding that I would not be including everything due to space limitations. Again, the outside felt honest too but it was only a small fraction of the whole picture. We all have so much bubbling under the surface that the outside world may never see, save for a few trusted people.

That last realization really struck me on a deeper level. It helped me truly understand what people say about how You never really know a person or You never know what a person is going through etc etc. I mean seriously. When we interact with people it is like we are seeing just one star in a dark sky so we think that is all there is when in truth there is an entire universe that is constantly expanding inside that person but because we can’t see it we would never know. Fuck right?! It’s wild when you really think about it.

So here is the mask I created. Excuse the poor picture quality, the inside image came out blurry and I decided I didn’t care enough to take another shot.

Addendum: It occurred to me after I had already published this post that maybe “I didn’t care enough to take another shot” is not the whole truth. Maybe my inside self did not actually want to be soon 100%. Maybe this is the real reason I didn’t take a second shot to clarify the image and maybe on some intuitive level, without being fully aware I was doing it, I took a quasi-blurry photo on purpose. There is a whole expanding universe bubbling beneath my surface, it is quite possible I don’t want you to see more than a few of my more noticeable stars. 😉

This Isn’t Meant for Me

Quick update: I went to the interview Friday and realized rather quickly that this position wasn’t meant for me. Someone will do very well and be happy in the position I am sure, but there is no way that person could be me.

There were a few red flags throughout and by the time I left my inner voice was practically screaming at me that this is not meant for me. I won’t go  into specifics, this is a very reputable agency/company, my feelings are not a reflection on the company.

My big turn off (although there were more than just this one) is that I know in order to by accept the position I would have had to abandon pieces of myself to be what they want. I cannot do that anymore. I am not willing to be just one version of myself any longer.

So I reached out to my mentor to thank her again for thinking of me and to let her know of my decision. Monday I will email my contact at the agency and let them know of my decision.

After I got home I had a moment of anxiety. I have turned down three positions now because I have made this commitment to listen to my inner voice and not take a position that I know is not meant for me. What if I don’t find what is meant for me? Am I being an idiot? These are guaranteed jobs and I am going to need a job in a few months.

I put my belongings down and walked over to my deck of self-care cards ( I will explain more about the cards in another post) and pulled one from the middle. Peace. The back talked about letting go and leaning into the confusion. Things will be clear when they are meant to be.

That was all I needed. I felt so much more resolute in a decision that I already knew was the right one for me.

So I let go of my anxiety and went about the rest of my day in peace.

That is where things stand for the moment. More positions will come and one of them will be the one I have been waiting for.

As an aside and completely unrelated to this post, I have the cutest dog in the whole world.

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That is all.

Social Work Milestone

Today is a special day. I am going on my very first formal job interview for a social work position. Whether they choose to offer me the position or I choose to accept it is not what I am thinking about as much as the milestone itself.

I have been a social worker for 7 months, in 3 months I will have my MSW, and today I am interviewing for a social work job.

All of this seemed so far in the distance when I first started this journey and now here I am almost at the finish line. I am meeting all these goals that felt enormous when I first set them for myself. Soon I will begin to focus on new goals like becoming licensed, taking my exam, starting a family, moving into our forever home.

All of these new goals were someday goals for me for a long time and now they are quickly turning into today goals, or tomorrow goals, or in a few months goals. The point is things are changing.

This year will bring lots of change with it, of that I am sure. A piece of me questions if I am ready for all this change.. On an intuitive level I know I will be ready as each thing comes. And maybe some things we are never truly ready for, like parenthood, because there is only so much preparation one can do to prepare for a shift that large.. My heart is finally open to some of these big life goals in a way it was never able to be in that past.

The more I have allowed myself to walk through fear and come out the other side the smaller fear has become.

So I am not afraid of this interview today, and I am not afraid of graduation, I am not afraid of meeting the goals I set for myself, and I am not afraid of the goals I will set next. Not today at least.

 

Hiring Process

I heard back from multiple possible future job sources today. I did a phone interview that went well, an in person interview should be taking place next week or the one after. I applied for the counseling position at my internship in a different department, we’ll see what happens there. I also was approached about a part-time per diem position facilitating groups.

This new opportunity that has been presented would involve facilitating a psychoeducational group two nights a week for two hours initially with the opportunity to do more as needed. Even if I take one of these other positions I could still potentially do this as well because it takes place in the evenings after normal business hours.

I also reached out to my friends at Hospice to check in and see if they have a need as well because I would love the opportunity to go back and work with them in a clinical capacity.

I am again very thankful for so many opportunities popping up, we will see what comes of it all, if anything.

Whole Hearted Authentic Practice

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It is really important to me that I am being true to both myself and my clients when in a therapeutic relationship. I have talked about this before when discussing how me doing my own personal healing work will only help me become a better therapist. Also I will not ask my clients to do work that I would not be willing to do or am currently doing or have done previously myself.

I have been thinking about this throughout this week because I am finding that many of the clients I have had recently are bringing me some of my work. What I mean is they are mirroring back for me work I have either already done or versions of the work I am currently doing myself. It is interesting.

Today I had a whole session with a client around body positivity and unconditional love. The client made a comment about how unconditional love does not exist, this client is currently struggling with feelings of abandonment. I helped reframe that statement discussing how in our outside relationships with other people there will be boundaries and that boundaries are how we maintain healthy relationships with others because it allows us to love others and feel connected without having to abandon ourselves. The client was framing conditions in a negative light so I attempted to reframe conditions as boundaries and help the client see how boundaries create healthy relationships. I then used my “I voice” to share my own opinion around unconditional love.

I explained that personally I do believe unconditional love can exist and that it is how we love ourselves. Unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, that is what we strive for in our relationship with ourselves. We explored this a bit and I asked the client where they feel comfortable starting on this journey towards self-love. The client came up with an idea for a chart where they will set an intention, or choose a positive word, or do an affirmation everyday that is a message of self-love and then track how many times throughout the day they are able to use it to balance any negative self-talk they experience throughout the day.

I was really impressed with my client and decided that in solidarity I will do this same exercise for the rest of the week privately. This also helps me keep with my intention of not asking my clients to do work I would not be willing to do myself. This is something I do pretty regularly anyway but it is not a consistent everyday practice. I will be curious to see how many times I will need to redirect my own thoughts back to my intention of the day if they start to get negative. I am looking forward to feedback from my client and to see how they do with it as well as tracking myself and seeing how difficult it is for me to be mindful in this way.

 

Exploring My Options

Last week my former intern supervisor reached out to me about a job opening she had caught wind of. I told her it sounded interesting and before I knew it she had talked me up to the hiring manager/lead social worker. I am sending them my resume in the morning and will be returning their phone call after.

I am grateful she is thinking of me when she hears of openings. I would not mind going back to the population I was working with previously, I love this population, I got a minor in undergrad relevant to working with this specific population. I am curious to hear about the job itself though. My concern is that it is primarily case work versus being a clinical position. I don’t mind case work but in order to get my hours towards licensure I have to be doing some clinical work. Not to mention I want to continue to grow my clinical skills.

I also still have this other clinical option where I am currently interning.

Although I do not have anything nailed down in the way of employment post grad school it is reassuring that I have a few agencies looking at me. If I do end up wind up having to apply other places as well because one of these options does not work I at least have this little confidence boost as I start my search.

We’ll see what the next few months bring my way.

 

“We Should All Be Feminists.”

These are the words my professor uttered a few semesters ago after a classmate stated, Well I don’t personally identify as feminist.

I don’t know if my professor meant we as social workers, or we as women, or we as liberal minded individuals, or we as in every single person ever (I personally lean towards the last option). And I know that professors “should” remain objective but I sure am glad she said it! I know I am not alone either.A lot of my friends in the class breathed a visible sigh of relief when the professor spoke up.

Every time I hear someone, specifically women, renounce feminism I feel myself hold my breath. Suddenly I don’t feel safe because if you are telling me that you do not identify as a feminist it makes me wonder if there is an aspect of equality that does not speak to you? And if that is the case then yeah, back to what I said, I kinda don’t feel completely safe around you.

This exchange led to a really awesome conversation. This professor is a huge feminist and very open about it. We discussed why some people do not choose to identify as feminist, some people in class spoke up to share their reasons.

The reasons ranged from: I don’t know enough about it, to my dad would kill me, to but I don’t hate men, to feminism is not inclusive, to I am not political, to I just don’t believe in it, to feminists are always so angry and I am not an angry person, to I’m not much of an activist.

My professor and some of the rest of us helped illuminate the discussion by explaining some misconceptions and answering questions.

So I wanted to share a little bit of the discussion for anyone else that may still think feminism is a dirty word.. Let’s brush some of that dirt off.

  1. Feminism is not about hating men. That is a totally different thing called misandry. Some Feminists may personally identify as misandrists but that is like some may identify as lesbian or Christian or Latina or male. You can be all of these things and be feminist but they are not the same. So to be clear: Misandry = dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men. Feminism = the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. NOT THE SAME THING.
  2. Feminism is all inclusive. Malala Yousafzai defined feminism as a synonym for equality and I personally agree with that definition. Now, this misconception is a fair one, but I would like to clear it up all the same. There are different branches of the feminist tree and some are less inclusive. For example, radical feminism has a history of discriminating against trans folks. Some radical feminists do not believe that trans folks belong in the movement. That is not the feeling of the majority however and feminism as it exists currently is very clear about its commitment to intersectionality and inclusion. Feminism has multiple branches, Liberal, Social, Radical, Womanism.. etc.. If you would be more comfortable getting super specific then I recommend doing the research and pick which one feels right to you. Or define it for yourself, that is a totally acceptable alternative as well.
  3. “I’m not political/ I am not an activist”. Cool, me either, but I am still a feminist. There are no rules to being a feminist, you get to define it for yourself. Let me repeat: THERE ARE NO RULES, YOU DEFINE WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU. I would not typically attend a protest personally because that it not usually the energy I want to put out into the world, that does not make me care any less about equality and women’s rights. I am also not super political. I think our political system is a joke and have very little faith in our elected officials. That does not make me any less a feminist.
  4. Not all feminists are angry. That is like saying all social workers work for DCF (my social work friends will get why that is such a cringe worthy statement), or all Christians are anti-gay, or all white people are racist. Those are pretty heavy accusations to make and THEY ARE NOT TRUE. Sure, some feminists are angry, and they have a right to be, consider what we are talking about here; protecting the rights of a group of people who have historically had their rights infringed upon based on their sex/gender. We have a right to be angry. And yes, some feminists bring that masculine energy into the movement, especially at protests. That does not mean all feminists are angry. Personally my brand of feminism comes from more of a earth-mother- nurturing place and I lead with a much more feminine energy. Again, there are no rules, you get to define it. Feminism belongs to you, and to me, and to everyone. We make the decisions about what it means to us. And I would like to make the statement one more time before moving on that there is nothing wrong with being angry. To focus on the emotion in a negative light like that serves to minimize the experience of the individual. People have the right to be angry, we all have the right to feel our feelings. There is nothing wrong or bad about that.
  5. My family/friends/significant other/social circle/kid/employer/grocer/dog/bus driver wouldn’t understand. THAT IS OKAY. This is not for THEM, it is FOR YOU. The things we believe in BELONG TO US. They are personal, they are sacred. No one is required to understand them and WE DO NOT OWE ANYONE AN EXPLANATION.

I am going to end my list there and address the last reason separately, I just don’t believe in it. To me that is a cop-out. That is shutting down the conversation because for some reason you are scared. It is like when I used to identify as atheist because I knew if I said that when someone tried to talk to me about spirituality the conversation would die and I wanted it to die because spirituality was a scary place for me for a long time. My question is WHY? What stops you from believing it? What is holding you back? What are you unsure of?

If you do not believe in equal rights then say that, say I do not believe in equal rights that way we know where you stand. But to say I don’t believe in feminism without a reason is just putting the movement back and that is not doing gender minorities any favors I can tell you that. Saying I don’t believe in feminism is like saying I don’t believe that Black Lives Matter. Saying I don’t identify with the feminist movement is like saying I don’t identify with the civil rights movement, or the LGBTQ+ movement, or any other social justice movement.

Understand this: Being feminist is not about being better than anyone else, it is not about excluding anyone, it is not about hating anyone. It is about equality and the very fact that feminism is still considered a bad/dirty/scary/negative word to some people proves that the patriarchy is alive and well.

Now more than ever it is IMPERATIVE that you stand up for what you believe. That you openly identify with those beliefs. WE NEED YOUR HELP. If nothing else, please do me this favor, do the movement this favor.. If you can’t get past the label for whatever your reason maybe 1. Please reconsider and 2. Please do not renounce feminism. We are trying to change the world and make it safe for all people, every time you renounce us you are setting back time. Please,please, please if you can’t get past the label at least find it in your heart to be our ally. And as our ally please do not do or say anything that would negatively impact the positive work we are striving towards.

If my passionate advocating has not convinced you, give me one last chance: here are a bunch or celebrity feminists who get it, maybe they will change your mind. I mean who doesn’t love Will Smith?

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