Letting Go of What Does Not Serve Me

borrowed identity

You know that voice in your head, the “not good enough” voice, the bully?.. Where did that voice come from? Who gifted you the negative messages that you play over and over? Does your truest self actually believe these negative things or are they someone else’s words or actions that you absorbed and have turned into your own personal torture device?

Maybe it is a little bit of both (most things are after all). Our internal bully can be made up of social messaging from society, messages received in close relationships, and things we say to ourselves that have a foundation in one of the first two.

Listening to one of our clients in group yesterday made me think about this. What the client was sharing made me wonder, Where did they first receive that message? As I was processing the day on my way home I was thinking about some of my own messages I have internalized over the years and who they came from. I had some major I show myself love moments on the drive home and have decided it is time to release some of these messages because I no longer believe them and they do not serve me.

I am crazy. That was a gift from a former intimate partner that could not cope with my depression and grief after the death of a loved one. I was in pain, a pain so deep it scared him. I release this message. It is not my truth and it does not serve me.

My body is not good enough. This was also a gift from a former intimate partner. My body belongs to me alone and I know she is worthy of my love. That is my truth. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am manipulative. There were times when this was other’s truth about me. I recognize times in my life when I was without and did what I needed to make myself feel safe and loved. I am grateful to the pieces of myself that took care of me during that time. I send love and light to those I hurt with my actions when I was trying to take care of myself. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am not deserving, I am not worthy. I release these messages. They are not my truth and do not serve me.

I am unlovable. This was one of my most painful messages, and one that I have had the longest relationship with. This is not my truth now because I love myself. I am worthy of love and I show all the pieces of myself unconditional love. I receive love from without and within. I RELEASE THIS MESSAGE. IT IS NOT MY TRUTH AND IT DOES NOT SERVE ME.

I know my truth. These messages can no longer hurt me. These words no longer have meaning in my life and no one will ever be able to use them to hurt me again. I am stable and safe, my body belongs to me and I am in love with it just as it is, I have everything I need to take care of myself, I deserve to be here and I am worthy of the goodness of life, I feel love, I give love, I am love.

Advertisements

Feminist is NOT a Bad Word

fem

 

I grew up in a Catholic republican household. I know, for better or worse, I had a sheltered upbringing. With that being said, I do not ever remember hearing about feminism growing up but somehow in my subconscious there was this idea embedded that all feminists were bra-burning-radical-hippies. That idea didn’t come from no where, ya know? I am not blaming my parents in whole because society plays a huge role in that I am sure but I think my parents probably did have something to do with it.

So as you can imagine I have never wanted to associate myself with the feminist movement because I don’t consider myself that radical. Well you know what I realized, I am. If believing that all people should have equal access to pubic facilities (read more about HB 583), or that women should be able to wear whatever they want without being shamed, or that our society is fundamentally broken, makes me radical well then I guess that is just something I will have to live with.

I think I have always been afraid to identify as a feminist because I thought there was something bad or wrong about it. Although recently as I have been working through my feelings on this subject I came to realize I have always been a feminist. Even as a child I was stubborn and willful and unwilling to be controlled.

I remember things from my childhood now that help me own this part of my identity. Like when I watched The Sound of Music for the first time and fell in love with Maria because she was unwavering and stood up to the scary patriarch of the family. She knew who she was and what she stood for and no bully was going to silence her.

I remember watching a commercial for some dumb thing and thinking (as a child) the marketing was ridiculous. I remember asking my mother, “Why won’t they just be honest?” I remember she had no idea what I was talking about at the time because I was too young to express this complex thought eloquently but all I meant was if the product was any good they wouldn’t have to cover it up with all of this other flashy stuff to get you to buy it. I wanted companies to be direct with no frills, I learned in time that is now how it works.

While I have been working this out I have been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of reading and one thing I read really resonated with me. Maya Angelou was quoted saying “I am a feminist. I have been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” Um Yeah. It would be. Completely stupid in fact. Being a feminist, for me at least, is not just about equality for females, it is about equality across the board. It has to be, otherwise none of this means anything in my opinion.

Getting to this place where I can accept and embrace this, feminism, as a key part of my identity has been difficult and has been a long time coming. It is right up there with finally being able to own that I am an atheist. It is not easy to push through the ideals you were raised with into who you actually are and what you truly believe in. I would say I am a fledgling feminist because I have a pretty good foundation and good intentions but good intentions are dangerous without a better understanding of the issues. I am getting there though, this is big part of the growth I am experiencing right now and it is exciting.

Living in the Uncomfortable Place

growth

This semester has been the most difficult for me thus far. It is not specifically the semester that has been challenging, it is just this moment in time, is that makes sense. The issues I have been struggling with have been building slowing over time and recently it came to a point where I could no longer ignore what I was feeling. I had to take sometime, withdraw and focus on these feelings.

In doing this I set my blog to private for a while. I flirted with the idea of deleting it all together because I was not sure if I could be authentic going forward and that has always been my purpose, if that was no longer possible this blog serves no purpose. I hesitated though and I am glad I did because this place has been therapeutic in way over the years as I have been on this journey and I think it will continue to be now that I have a few things figured out.

I have definitely experienced some major growth in a short period of time, a lot of it is thanks to the social work program. I am excited about this but it also means I have been in this really uncomfortable transition place for a while. That is what growth is though sometimes, painful and awkward but incredibly satisfying once you make it to the other side. To be clear, I am not on the other side yet, I am living in this place of awkward discomfort and doing my best to embrace it and process everything.

Another aspect of my withdraw has been with family. This is where I felt concern about my ability to be authentic so I am going to try this on and see how it fits. I have felt a bit disconnected from my family for a while now. There are multiple reasons for this and it has been gradually building. My concern about being able to be authentic with this is that I do not know how comfortable I feel discussing my family issues on here. I am always reminding myself that I have to own everything I put out here for people to read and that is hard when it is something so personal.

Here is where I landed with my feelings on sharing this; I recognize that it is completely up to me what I choose to share here and what I don’t. This is my experience and I don’t owe anyone anything. This is something I need to process though and this blog has been a place for me to do just that over the years. I think it will be baby steps but there will undoubtedly be some personal posts coming out in the near future.

With that being said, for anyone that has been following my blog from the beginning (THANK YOU) you may notice some changes as I figure myself out. I do not know yet what this changes will look like yet but I feel a need to bring this blog up to date for where I am now instead staying in the place I was when I started it.

Owning My Life

gift

 

Todd and I had our annual check up right before we left for Chicago and while we there our doctor pointed something out to me I did not realize. We were finishing up my exam, checking the ears etc and she said So it has been two years since we weened you off the Lexapro, how have you been feeling? I told her I have been great, she was already aware of some of the life style changes I have made in regards to having an exercise routine, healthy eating habits and having a bedtime routine so I did not go into great detail. She said she was glad to hear it and that was that.

When I was leaving the office I was thinking about the last two years, has it really been that long? Yeah, I guess so. I was diagnosed and prescribed the Lexapro by a doctor that was not directly involved in my counseling at the time, it was about a 5 minute visit. I saw my counselor a few days later and he said that while the Lexapro will help short term he did not feel I would need it long term and continuing to work on myself would be what ultimately makes things better. He was right.

In the last 4 years, since first being diagnosed with anxiety and depression I have made a lot of important changes. The exercising and eating definitely play a role in my over all well being. When I first started counseling I was absolutely someone who would numb my emotions with food. I did not realize at first and once I did it was very intimidating because that is how I had been dealing with things for so long I did not even know where to begin my work on that area. It was gradual, we started (I say we because this change impacted Todd as well) by eating better. This made me feel better physically. I felt less tired and lethargic after eating, which really helped with my initial motivation to work out, I actually started to enjoy it. Once I was more active and eating less processed food I felt so good the need/want to emotional eat really wasn’t there. To really drive the new routine home and help prevent any back sliding we stopped keeping the food in the house that I would go to for comfort. Now it is not even something I crave. That was a huge hurdle to overcome, that alone would be enough to be proud of but I didn’t stop there.

Taking more time for myself, time to be quiet and reflective, time to write down my thoughts and feelings.. This has all be a integral part of my growth as well. Before, during my dark time I was very reactionary. I think part of that was because I was hurting so much at the time that everything was spilling over but I also think it is because I was not paying attention to what was really going on in side of me. It is not that I don’t still experience frustration and anger and other negative emotions occasionally, I just do not immediately react. I take time to reflect, figure out why I am feeling this way, what exactly is causing me to feel the way I do. Since being diagnosed and being in counseling I have not had a single episode where I allowed my negative emotions to get the best of me. No hysterical crying, no fury driven lashing out. I have been completely collected and calm in situations that would have previously sent me into a tailspin.

On that same note Todd and I have been together going on four years, he has been with me through the entire growth process, sometimes involved and actively cheering me on but more often watching proudly from the side lines. In that time we have never fought. For a while I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, because inevitably, in every other relationship I had been in it would. I finally realized I was different, this was different and I was doing things right this time which meant that other shoe was never going to drop. It is not that we never disagree. We are both fiercely independent people, who believe in autonomy and have our own outlook on life. It helps that our values are in line but nevertheless we do not always see eye to eye. That has never been a problem though. we discuss our differences, we discuss ways in which we can improve, nothing in our relationship has ever been taboo. We do not ignore issues that arise, we do not leave anything unsaid. And if a discussion begins to feel tense or emotional we take a break and shelf it for a while. It has worked every time. It allows us time to cool off and it also allows time to really reflect on what the other person was saying. Sometimes in a discussion you get so stuck on your own point you aren’t really allowing the other side in. We have a pretty great communication style if I do say so myself.

One of the biggest healthy changes I have made is learning how to say No. It goes back to what I was talking about yesterday with boundaries. I think flimsy boundaries may have had a lot to do with why I would experience anxiety earlier on in life. In other relationships, at work, in social situations.. I think I had boundary issues which can absolutely be a huge source of anxiety. I always had my values, what I didn’t always have was conviction. Saying No isn’t easy. It was something I had to learn how to do, it also helped that I cut ties with some of the people that continually tested my boundaries. I think first and foremost it is important to have healthy relationships with people who also believe in healthy boundaries therefore yours are rarely being tested. In cases where that is not possible, like with family who maybe don’t have good boundaries you just have to learn how to protect your own. Having boundaries does not mean always saying No either, I like to be able to say Yes as well. For me it is knowing that I have the right to say No and if I choose to say Yes I have the right to define my Yes. Someone asks me for a favor I am not comfortable granting? I have the right to say No, if I would like to help though I have the right to define what kind of help I am comfortable giving.

Having strong boundaries and a partner who supports them as well I think has made the biggest difference. I feel strong, healthy and unafraid. I really could not say any of those things a few years ago. I am owning my life and my decisions, I need no validation now from the outside world. I know I am actively and mindfully living my life and I have never felt so good.

A New Year of Growth

better

 

I do not do new years resolutions per se, however, I do take time at the end of the year/beginning of the year to think about what I want the new year to look like. For example, last year I wanted to start volunteering with Hospice, I wanted to start the Social Work program and I wanted to work on improving some of my relationships. There are a few things that carry over from year to year as well. Each year I challenge myself to live healthier than the year prior, emotionally, mentally and physically. I also strive to be kinder and more patient each year (this falls in with living a more emotionally healthy life each year).

To call any of these goals new years resolutions though just doesn’t work for me. I recognize that is essentially what they are but I find that when I label things so the likelihood of any progress continuing past January decreases greatly. Instead I choose to see them in a different light and find the follow through easier.

Along with my big goals for each year come little aspirations for the year as well, here are a few from this years list..

The first I can already check off. For years I have wanted to cut my hair short, like Rosemary’s baby short, but I did not have the courage. I would see girls with pixie haircuts and always think they looked so bold and feminine. I finally made up my mind I was going to do it a few years ago but no sooner than I decided, Todd and I got engaged. At the time I had recently cut my hair into an angled bob and decided not to go shorter as I knew I wanted to wear my hair up for our wedding.With this I started growing my hair out but I told Todd that as soon as we were married I was going to carry out my wish to cut my hair short. That is exactly what I did.

As soon as we returned from our honeymoon I went to the stylist and chopped it all off. The poor stylist was very apprehensive about my request. My hair was past my shoulders when I walked in and I think she was concerned I was going to regret making such a drastic change, at one point she even asked, your not very attached to your hair are you?. I laughed and explained that my beauty and self-worth are not at all wrapped up in my hair. I am happy to share that I did not regret the change in the least! This is unquestionably my favorite hair cut and style to date. The cut is delicate and edgy all at the same time, I love it. Todd was a bit shocked when he came home the first night as I did not tell him what I was doing that day. After the shock wore off he admitted that it suits me well, to which I wholly agree.

new hair

Another idea I have been mulling over for quite a while is learning how to sew. Up to this point I have never made time to learn. I think this will be the year I get around to it. I already have my first project in mind. I have wanted a basic mid-length circle skirt for sometime and have never seemed to find just the right one. I think a circle skirt would be the perfect first attempt. When I was younger from time to time my mother would sew me dresses and tops. I always enjoyed going to the fabric store with her to pick out the pattern and materials. I would like to have this skill set in case I ever have a daughter. If our cards do not play out that way it is still a skill I would like to posses for myself. Not to mention I think this will be a fun mother/daughter activity for my mother and myself.

Another small self improvement I have decided to take on was inspired by something Todd and I read recently. We were in a store searching for the perfect gift for his mother over the holiday break and stumbled upon a book that was loaded with advice intended to be passed down from father to son. We agreed, after leafing through a few pages together, that for the most part the book was filled with solid advice. One piece that stuck with me was “Figure out what your most used word or expression is and eliminate it”. What good advice. A lot of people have expressions they use with such frequency they no longer recognize it but others surely do. For me it is You know what I mean. When I am telling a story or explaining something I might use this expression at the end of almost every sentence. No one has ever complained about my over use of this phrase, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone but when I started thinking about it I realized it is equivalent to a person that says like or um and inordinate amount of times while speaking. Maybe everyone is just being polite and not showing their annoyance, either way I do not want to be someone that uses filler words and phrases. I want to speak concisely and with purpose. So that is a goal for this year, eliminate thoughtless language from my everyday vernacular.

The last possible plan for self improvement this year has not materialized into an ambition quite yet. I am still working out how I feel about it and where I stand. Some of the smaller things I worked on last year had to do with maintaining better boundaries in relationships (social, professional – which in my case means school, and with family and close loved ones), being honest with myself and others about what I want and with that I also worked on having difficult conversations in a loving, supportive, constructive manner. At years end I looked back at my progress and felt good, like warm and tingly proud-of-myself good. I definitely had some difficult conversations last year that resulted in better communication, understanding and respect in those relationships. I was honest with my feelings and did not hold back when I felt that doing so would hurt me. The area of boundaries is where I felt the most pride. I was balanced and stood up for myself, kindly and with respect, when my boundaries were tested.

My mother mentioned on numerous occasions last year how proud she feels to have raised such a strong independent woman. Those are deeply meaningful words to me and make me feel that much more resolute about the direction I am taking towards self-awareness and growth. Still there is this nagging feeling inside that causes me concern. For example, in one case of a difficult conversation last year about boundaries and where I stand on something the conversation was not successful. It was unsuccessful in that when I began to explain my position on a request that was made the other party completely shut down and shut me out. All they heard was me saying No, they had no interest in my reason for doing so. I know that my No was hurtful to that person, even though they shut down and did not want to talk about it further, and their reaction was hurtful to me.

The most regrettable part of the whole ordeal is what this did to the relationship. The thing is my boundaries had always been there, they were just invisible because they were never tested. I do not regret my decision, I just wish this person was open to a dialogue. I know they were hurt by my decision and I can handle them telling me so, I believe they probably feel let down and although I hate to think I would ever cause someone else disappointment I can still handle being told so. Our relationship is still sound but it is not thriving the way it had been years prior.

So what I am struggling with after having more success than not last year in this area is how to continue to improve. For starters I would like to get this relationship back on track. I realize this relationship might look different going forward than it did before but I still feel we can do better than we are now and that is important to me, I do not like to ignore that kind of thing.

The next thought I have is about how to continue being honest about my feelings and maintaining boundaries without causing damage to any other relationships. A piece of me feels like if a relationship is so easily damaged in this way than maybe it was never that strong to begin with. Although, another piece of me thinks maybe some people are just more fragile than others and it is my responsibility to be true to myself and my way of life while taking others feelings into account.

Poise and Grace

grace

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

IF

By Rudyard Kipling

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

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

 

Official Welcome to Social Work

Today was orientation to the Social Work program. Surprisingly I found it quite informative. There is an externship opportunity over winter break I am interested in (if I can make it happen before we leave for Chicago), I am interested in the social work student association along with a few other odds and ends things I heard about as well. I think I have already mentioned this but I am really interested in and looking forward to the trip to the capitol next semester on advocacy day. I have a feeling that will be a highlight of undergrad for me.

They covered a lot about the internship senior year which I appreciated as I have had questions that so far have gone unanswered. Also one of the professors that specializes in the field of study I am getting my minor in presented today. I am setting up a meeting with her soon to pick her brain about the field and her experiences.

 

So, unrelated, Monday I worked my usual morning shift at Hospice however, there was nothing usual about it. I am a patient care volunteer which means I work directly with the patients and their families however, I made sure to get myself cross trained on the front desk so I can cover when needed. Of late there has been a need which has found me at the desk quite a bit. Fine with me, I like doing both.

Monday I came in for the patient care shift and found that the front desk volunteer was unable to come in which led to me working the desk instead. Again, fine with me. I was informed that the executives would be touring the facility in the afternoon, this would be the first time this has happened. I was excited. I know many of the executives thanks to my time working in the executive offices. I ended up staying past my shift to cover the next shift as the person who was unable to make it in for the front desk shift that morning was actually scheduled for a double that day. It worked nicely because, as I expected, one of the executives making the rounds was my executive. 🙂 I got to catch up with my old boss. It was nice to get some face time, let her know what I am up to and just check in with her.

Another detail that made Monday different was my finding out about a particular patient that had passed the week prior after my Monday shift. News of a patient passing in itself is not unusual given where we are, it was this patient that made the difference.

When I first started with Hospice other volunteers talked about how sometimes it can be emotionally taxing, particularly when it is a younger patient that passes. I have experienced that first hand now. I cannot share any particulars other than to say this patient was younger than me. I have been thinking about how I feel about the news of this patient passing and I have not figured out how to put it into words yet. I am sad and feel for the patient’s family but when I think about how I personally feel it is hard to explain. This patient was doing OK, to the point of being discharged the at one point thanks to an upswing in health. I came back the next week and the patient was back. The patient still seemed alright though, wanting to sit up in bed, being able to hold conversations. I had multiple interactions with the patient and the patient’s family my last shift before the patient passed.

This is all still new to me and this was the first patient that actually caused me to pause when I heard the news of the patient passing. Whether it’s right or wrong it is true ( for me at least) that it does seem a bit sadder when a younger patient passes. At the age I am now I feel like my life is just beginning and it doesn’t seem fair that anyone should be gone so soon.

I think what surprises me the most about myself since becoming involved with this organization is the level of balance I have been able to keep. Before I started I felt that even though I am a sensitive person I was strong enough to be able to handle this experience. So far I have been right. It is sad at times and I completely understand why many people are taken aback when I tell them where I volunteer but it is a good fit for me I think. I have enjoyed being a comfort to others even if it is in some small way like making them a cup of tea or just listening for a while. And, up to this point, I have not gone home from a shift in tears.

This has been the most meaningful volunteer experience to date for me. Aside from the fulfillment I get from the work itself, it has been validation for me to know that I can have a tender heart and sensitive disposition while still being strong and capable. I knew this about myself but at times others have doubted me which I am sad to say occasionally caused a little self doubt to creep in. Most importantly about this validation though is that this is me validating myself not seeking it from the outside world. I knew not only that I could do this but that I would be good and helpful where help was needed, and I was right. I don’t need anyone to tell me I am doing well, I know I am making a difference.