Tag Archives: social work

The Riots Are Worth It… because BLACK LIVES MATTER

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Tonight I told my kids they had to play in the yard and stay close to home. There were riots and looting in my city last night, and more are forecast for tonight. I explained to the kids, who are 12 and eight, that a white cop murdered a black man and people are angry.

They were confused. I think they were a little scared.

Our state’s national guard has been mobilized and our city’s mayor has enacted a curfew.

So we wait.

I am infinitely blessed to have been raised, and to still live, in one of the most liberal, tolerant states in the nation. We pride ourselves on freedom of religion, thought, and sexuality. We are an artistic, eclectic community of randoms who love the ocean and grassroots advocacy.

Over the weekend, while the rest of the country blazed in flames of violent reactivity to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white cop, my state had a peaceful protest. It felt good to be able to say we were peaceful, even through intense anger and grief at racial injustice and terrorism.

I did not expect that 24 hours later, hundreds of people would descend on our capital city and set it aflame, smash it up. The cars that transport our state’s neediest foster children were smashed and burned to ashes.

All of this news dominated the cycle all day. Many of these characters involved had nothing to do with the essential Black Lives Matter movement, and had everything to do with inciting violence, fear, and terror on our state.

Watching it unfold, I felt fear and sorrow. I felt things I’d never felt before.

I read theories about rage people are feeling in the midst of the pandemic, economic strife, and racial disparities of death from Covid 19.

Fuck my heart was so heavy.

I was frightened for my children. I didn’t want my boy to go biking with his buddy, and I did not want my daughter to leave our yard, not even to walk the dog.

As I cleaned dinner dishes, I watched a bunch of bunnies hop around in our yard. I found it hard to believe our bucolic landscape could soon be dominated by flashing lights and sirens.

It struck me.

This isn’t even a fraction of what black mothers have felt for decades. Centuries even.

This does not even touch on the fear and uncertainty regarding safety, and it my privilege reeks that this is the first time I’ve ever had to be scared like this.

Let me be clear, I don’t condone any violence ever. I don’t ever want to see anyone hurt or harmed. I do not want to see anyone’s business suffer.

But if somehow we can understand even a shred of what our black friends and brothers and sisters have experienced all of their lives, and all of their ancestors’ lives. . . then it is worth it. The looting and rioting is worth it, because we need to know.

We need to understand what it means to have had black bodies looted for all these years by white people in power.

We need to know and we need to make amends.

Please consider donating to one of the charities that support the legal funds of people arrested in the recent protests. The following link has a series of resources for where you can either amplify your voice to assist in the movement, or to help those in need.

https://www.timeout.com/things-to-do/how-to-support-black-lives-matter

STOP “Looking For The Helpers” /Avert Your Eyes or Get Busy

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crowd reflection color toy

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

If I NEVER see the Mister Rogers quote to “Look for the helpers; there are always people who are helping,” when something goes dreadfully awry in our world again, it will be too soon.

Unfortunately, in the mist of our latest and greatest (by greatest I mean completely camel shit dick ball sucking craptastic) international disaster, I’ve found this platitude of the famous children’s TV show personality almost everywhere I look.

Sure, on the surface, it’s sweet, kind; it offers hope in the midst of despair. Hope is a good thing. I have nothing against hope.

What I DO resent is the bastardization of a sentiment intended to comfort children and reassure them their adults were in control of dangerous, traumatizing situations.

While it is natural this quote might comfort adults of children to whom they might offer it, it is often held aloft by adults instead, a sort of shield against their own anxiety.

In a way it pretends nothing more need be done than utter those magic words, and presto! Instant comfort and hope. All better.

Mister Rogers has had a moment over the past couple years. Our frenetic, mean world seems to crave his slow-spoken kindness. But with any figure who becomes pop icon, there is a sort of revisionist hagiography, a blurring of flaws so only goodness and purity shine through.

On a lot of pages and sites online, I see people asking, “What would Mister Rogers tell us about Covid-19?” And the invariable answer is, “He would tell us to look for the helpers!”

I didn’t know him personally, but I guess he might tell you that if you were in the four to eight-year-old demographic his show targeted.

But an adult?

I have to believe a man with his intelligence would have challenged us a bit more than just to look for arbitrary people doing important jobs in order to comfort ourselves in the paralysis of our own helplessness, or worse, our laziness.

If I am to continue having ANY respect for Mister Rogers, I must believe he would not encourage us to simply look for helpers while the world literally falls apart around us.

Here’s another reason I truly resent the use of that phrase: I’m a helper myself.

I’m a therapist. This time has been unbelievably unsettling for my clients, my colleagues, my profession.

Within a couple days, we had to figure out how to do our jobs completely differently to continue helping during this time of unprecedented challenge.

Anxiety, isolation, depression. Addiction. Abuse. Hunger. Homelessness.

Loneliness.

In a world with billions upon billions of humans, people are lonelier than ever.

I also have a family. My kids are scared. They are schooling at home. I am helping them while juggling my entire caseload. The idea people would look for me as a helper and not see the entirety of my humanity agonizes me.

I’m only doing telehealth from the comfort and safety of home. Doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, bus drivers, pharmacists, and millions of other people who can be considered “helpers” don’t have that luxury.

One thing we all have in common? Fear.

You want to look for us? Know this: We are burnt out. Terrified. We are scared of getting infected, but even more than that, of infecting our families. We carry the weight of our clients and patients every waking moment and into our dreams. We experience vicarious trauma that keeps us up at night.

Right now, the usual boundaries we set for ourselves to stay balanced and healthy are askew. We are being asked to do more, take on more, be more flexible. It comes with the territory, but damn it feels dirty and unfair.

Being a helper gives me chest pains and raging shits. Sometimes I shake. Being a helper leaves me with very little for my own family. Being a helper makes me cry and feel hopeless. Often, my heart races. Being a helper makes me angry, full of rage. Being a helper makes me so tired, but doesn’t let me sleep.

Does this mean I shouldn’t be a helper? No. I don’t believe so. I believe it means I’m human.

Watch the clip of Fred Rogers, in the 2018 documentary, trying to address the nation after 911. He felt it too. He wasn’t perfect. He didn’t have endless reserves of compassion or patience. He despaired just like the rest of us. You can see it in his eyes, the slump of his shoulders. The rest of that documentary was dross to me for its desire to propel him to sainthood, but that one scene felt so real to me. It was the one moment to which I could relate to his actual humanity.

We are all of us squishy, stupid, flawed, fucking human beans.

We are imperfect, but we have a gift of being able to connect with people. If I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t be this tired. If I didn’t truly care, I wouldn’t bother speaking out right now.

Here’s the other thing: As a helper, I can’t help anyone who isn’t willing to help themselves. You depressed? You got trauma? Cool. Let’s work. But let me be abundantly clear, you will be getting busy. My job is to open a door. It is your job to get up and walk through it. I can point to the thread that might start to untangle your messy web. It is your job to start pulling.

The reductive idea helpers exist to endlessly help is not only tiring, it is quite frankly offensive.

I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. That’s fine.

When pain, fear, or sorrow trigger us we tend to go where we are familiar and feel comfort. For many, Mister Rogers provides such refuge, and has since they were young. Do what you need, but I beg you, if you want to look for me as a helper- look at all of me.

Look for me with my greasy hair and baggy eyes. Look for me with the ugliness of my stress acne. Look for me falling asleep watching TV with my kids. Look for me taking walks and trying to crawl out of my own skin because the world scares me and I want to fly away.

Please don’t just look for me hanging up after a telehealth session when I’ve said something wise to create connective tissue with a client, massaged an old scar with clinical theory, helped someone establish safety. Please don’t just look at me when I am “winning” at helping. Helping is hard, fucking drudgery.

And for the love of milkshakes, please don’t just stand there and look! Spring into action!

None of us can know what Mister Rogers would say if he were here. Honestly, I can’t imagine he’d have any point of reference to say anything remotely cohesive about the horror happening on our planet. It doesn’t really matter what he would say.

I wonder if he would want adults to be more proactive with helping children and each other, as opposed to just sitting back and “looking” around.

What words of comfort or motivation can you offer?

There are a lot of ways that start within ourselves and have nothing to do with looking for others.

Reach out to someone to see if they are okay. Reach out to a helper to see if they are okay! I promise you, they are almost certainly not okay even if they say they are.

Draw, journal, listen to music, dance. Infuse the brilliance of art into the bleakness of trauma. Take walks. Sing. Nurture your body and soul.

Make cards and send them to a nursing home for the residents, or even to the staff to pick up their spirits during this time.

Start a gratitude journal. Studies show that focusing on things about which we can be thankful, as opposed to concentrating on the negative, helps encourage positive feelings to take root.

Take time and talk to the children in your life. Check in with them. Read them stories. Allow them time to ask questions about what is going on and to process their own feelings.

Focus on facts, not feelings. Consume social media and the news in smaller doses so you don’t fuel your own anxiety. This will allow you more energy for helping others.

If you are able, donate to a food pantry or to a shelter that is helping the most vulnerable of our citizens during this time. There are so many who don’t even have the luxury of what many of us take for granted every morning.

Together we can do so much to lift each other up during times of trouble, but only if we move beyond our comfort zone, past the shallows of familiar platitudes to the places where authentic connection can truly heal.

 

 

Not Your Average Soccer Mom

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I’m not your average soccer mom, mainly because my kids don’t do soccer.  My nine year old does karate, and he recently brought home a trumpet which I have vowed will not make me crazy at all.

Is there such a thing as a karate and trumpet mom?

Emily is almost five (oh man how it hurts to say that, as opposed to saying she is four and a half) and she thinks she would like to do dance.  But being the crunchy and neurotic freak that I am, I am too scared to sign her up for any old dance class, because I am fairly certain it will give her the same self-loathing and body issues that I had as a dancer for about 20 years before succumbing to a pudgy middle age of motherhood and sedentary work.

So I haven’t signed her up for anything yet because I can’t bear to think that the joy she feels for moving her body will ever be squashed or warped into something it shouldn’t be.

And I can’t lie to you.  The trumpet is in fact driving me crazy.

It’s a slip shod style of motherhood I try to embrace, and for which I cannot find a label.  It also bears zero resemblance to the perfect mother I thought I was before squeezing these two critters out of my now unrecognizable lady bits.

Meanwhile, I can’t decide if we should spend a third night eating leftovers so they don’t go to waste, or if I should cook up the tortellini Trader Joe made for me. . .  It’s humid here and I really do not feel like cooking, so I’m thinking it will be leftovers for me and the hubs and Lunchables or English Muffin pizzas for the kids.

Yes.  I feed my kids Lunchables.

And also yes, I make them separate dinners than what I make for me and the hubs.  I know, I know.  I’m breaking all kinds of “rules” here, but as a working mom, I would rather we all sit down and enjoy each other’s company than endure tantrums at dinner time.

Also, we don’t always eat dinner together, even when we are all home together.  But usually we are all eating at a vaguely similar time, just in different rooms.  We call it parallel eating.  I like to think of it as an ingenious parenting hack as opposed to a ginormous parenting fail.

Although it still makes me nervous.

But it doesn’t take much to make me nervous.  I’ve been prone to anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember.  Add to my already neurotic disposition that I am a social worker, and you can pretty much guarantee that I’ve diagnosed everyone in my family with just about anything possible.

A lot of people don’t get it.

Like my perfect Coworker who grew up in an intact family and has probably never worried about the sky falling in her life.  She made a crack that she had never met someone as anxious as me.  I think she meant it in a tender and friendly way, but do you know what it did?

If you guessed that the comment made me more anxious about being anxious in front of people, then you win the cookie.  But it is a keebler elf cookie.  I do not have time to make cookies from scratch.

One of the biggest compliments I ever got in my life was when a colleague said, “I always forget that you are actually anxious, because you always seem to have it all together.”

I try to channel this compliment on my darker days, and it makes me feel quite ravishing, but in a photoshopped kind of way, because if one thing is for certain it is this:  I do not have it all together.  Not by a long shot.  And it makes me crazy.

It makes me cringe when I hear mommy labels passed around. . .  Tiger Mom.  Helicopter Mom.  Bad Mom.  Attachment Mom.  Drill Sergeant Mom.

I mean, is anyone really just one label?

Sometimes I wish I could be just one label.  It would be so much easier.

I suppose that the label “Good Enough Mom” comes close enough to describing me, but like Dorothy said to the Wizzard, “I’m afraid there isn’t a label for me in that bag of yours.”  I’m paraphrasing.  We actually have not watched the Wizzard of Oz in recent years because it terrifies my daughter and then none of us sleep for weeks.

Oh, and apparently “Wizard” only has one “Z”.  Who knew?

Probably that Drill Sergeant Mom.  She knows everything.  (Cue exaggerated eye roll.)

How about “Mixed Bag of Contradictions Intense Love and Inconsistent Energy”?  Is that a title worthy of me?

I love my kids.  Hopefully that counts for something, if not everything.  And hopefully we will all laugh about all the times I’ve yelled and stomped off because I am so frigging overwhelmed by how much I love them and by how much pressure I am under from all conceivable angles to get it all right.  Motherhood.  Marriage.  Work.  Laundry.

And no I don’t sort my laundry.

And I think I’ve decided to do the leftovers.  I don’t feel like cooking and we have karate tonight after all.

Still with me?  Congratulations.  You have just taken a hike through the meandering mind of an overwhelmed working mom whose life feels almost perpetually in a state of careening chaos, if not lurking danger.

In short, I don’t really know who I am, other than to say I’m not your average soccer mom.

Or rather, that I’m not a soccer mom at all.

Posted as part of the WordPress Daily Prompt

Hike

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/hike/

Hike | The Daily Post

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Chocolate Babka

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Eating chocolate babka
over the sink with my fingers,
the day violated me,
pinched my every nerve raw
with the constant need of me
to be all things
to all people.
It doesn’t matter that
it is all in my head.
I yell at my daughter to go to bed,
and stain the dish towel
when I wipe the chocolate
and cinnamon pastry from my hands.

Floating Down the Lazy River of Consciousness. . . my summer roundup

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Aside from the bat-phobia-induced sleep deprivation, this summer hasn’t sucked too bad.

I’m exhausted.  Work has been crazy.  And I mean that literally.  When you work in the mental health field and you say work is “crazy” it is because people are quite literally struggling with their mental health.  Usually summer is a little bit more laid back, but this summer has been pretty intense.

It might be because I’m still adjusting to the new position I took about seven months ago.  I’m getting used to a different ebb and flow of clients, a different work culture, and a different schedule.  For the most part it has been awesome.  For the first time in ages, I wake up excited to go to work.  I love my little office, and am continually fascinated and challenged by the folks with whom I sit.  I also have some quirky, silly, and extremely intelligent and dedicated colleagues whom I am growing to adore and trust.

So, all in all, it has been pretty good.

Plus no one had to be vaccinated for bat rabies, like last year, so we can consider that a big WIN.

Next week, I am going to take some time off, and I hope to get back to blogging as my Jacky boy goes back to school.

In July I was notified by the amazing robots at WordPress that I’ve been blogging for four years.  Dude!  FOUR YEARS!!!


I’ve been considering retooling my blog, or just encouraging it’s evolution a little bit.  I may focus a bit more on poetry. . .  for a couple reasons.

One, my poems seem to get more attention and appreciation from the readers out there in the blogosphere.  And while I write for myself, I also enjoy the interactive process of blogging.

Two, I have been experimenting with short and sweet poems, like this one.  They seem to suit the time I have available for writing these days.  I’m finding as my children are a bit older and more active, they require more of my time and attention in different ways.  And obviously I feel it is important to be HERE and THERE for my children.  I mean, mommy blogging kind of defeats the purpose if you are doing it at the expense of your relationship with your kids.

And third, on the note of mommy blogging. . .  I’m feeling less enthralled about blogging about mommy crap.  It seems redundant.  And it feels like I have to force myself to do it, where as the poetry flows out of me a bit more naturally.  My children continue to fascinate me, but I just don’t have the same desire to write about them.  Also, as they are getting older, I am feeling a bit more protective of their privacy, and feeling like perhaps I should not be using them as fodder for my material.

I don’t know.

There is a lot going on up in my old noggin.

And I guess that was three reasons and not exactly “a couple.”  Apologies.

I mean, I have about 45 topics about which I would like to write at this very moment.  But time and energy and other demands are nipping at my psychic space.

It has also been on my mind to try to get some of my previously written posts published online elsewhere. . .  that seems like a really big risk, and is somewhat scary.  And it also feels like it would be time consuming and anxiety provoking.

When I started blogging I was advised not to wander too far afield from the original content and purpose of my blog.

And now I am feeling like I want to explore. . .  I have done that a bit over the past year by experimenting with erotica and fan fiction.  I have also written more poetry and have been paying more attention to the urge to write poetry.  Like if I start to feel, wow, that would make a good poem, then I sit down and jot it out.

I think that motherhood has so permeated my life, as had aging and growing, that no matter what I write it will still be tinged with maternal thoughts and instincts. . .  does that technically still make this a mommy blog, even if it isn’t directly a mommy blog?

When I first started blogging, I also couldn’t understand those met posts in which people blogged about blogging.  Well.  Here I am.

Anyway, my darling and dedicated readers, if you have any input on what you would like to see on Momaste, I would love to hear from you.

Also, if you have any input on previous posts which with you really resonated that you would like to see published elsewhere, I would also love to know that.

And if these requests are way too demanding or narcissistic, please forgive and disregard.

(I warned you in the title this was a stream of consciousness.)

As always, thanks for reading and commenting and for being generally wonderful and supportive.  It has changed my life.

When Mama Isn’t Happy, Nobody Is Happy

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Kwan Yin with a baby

I’m stressed.

I got home late from work after a cluster fuck of a day.

Sorry I said the eff word, but there was no other way around it.

My last client had some complex and very dangerous stuff going on, and it would not have been ethical even in the best of times to say, “Gee I’m sorry but I need to get home to my own family now.  Good luck with everything you are going through.”

Like, I could have been sued for that shit.  And people could have been in serious danger.  Like life or death kind of stuff.

Sometimes it is really hard to have to put other families before my own.

It is especially hard at 5:25 pm when I was supposed to be home already and am stuck at work trying to convince someone that they actually want to make a safe choice.  And because of the nature of my work, I can’t really tell you any more than that.

So that stresses me out too.

Because I then get home and can’t really talk to anyone about what just happened and why I’m late.  Because ethics.  Always with these ethics.

I thought I had planned a super sweet dinner for the family with a rotisserie chicken and potatoes and stuffing and all that shit.

Sorry I said the ess word.  But there was even a vegetable, even though it was smothered in a cheese sauce.  And I had visions of eating ice cream on the porch after.

One big happy family.

All I really wanted was to sit down and have dinner together as a family, but apparently this is an unrealistic expectation.

My son refused to come out of his room because he just learned he has five weeks where he will be attending summer camp this summer instead of being on an eternal weekend for 10 weeks.

And my daughter has pronounced what a “bad mama” I am because I am already making three different meals tonight (leftover mac and cheese for the boy, leftover spaghetti for her, chicken dinner for me and the hubs) and I wouldn’t make fresh mac and cheese for her too.

My husband was quiet and sullen, trying to cajole the kids and me into all being nice on a path of least resistance.  I’ve tried and tried to tell him that the Path of Least Resistance is not the best way to raise children or “be” in a family, but he don’t care.

Whatever.

And deep down, I am still stressing about if someone else’s family will be safe tonight and if I did enough before leaving work.

Fuck.  It.  All.

Again, my apologies for the eff word.

Did I mention I am also in the throes of rampant and savage PMS?

Yeah.

So I’m unhappy.  And I’m disappointed, a little angry, and pretty frustrated that I can never fucking “nail” anything as a working mom.

Really, my feelings are just hurt.

So, no one else in the family is happy, because I’m not happy.

I’ve taken away TV.  And dessert.  No ice cream on the porch.

And as I stomp off to walk the dog and then change out of my work clothes, it strikes me what a monumental responsibility it is being a mom and trying to keep everyone happy while simultaneously implementing appropriate rules and consequences, and also balancing my career and setting up the coffee for the next morning.

Whatever I am feeling seems to trickle down, one way or another, onto the rest of the family.  Sometimes it feels like if I am not if super-chipper-robot-mode, then we are all fucked.

It seems really hard to have an authentic feeling without either going over the top and ruining everyone’s day, or retreating to a cave of solitude and ruining everyone’s day.

And happiness?  WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

Most of the time I am an anxious mess trying to keep all the balls in the air, and the genuinely good moments I share with the family are few and far between and savored dearly.

In my office, I would preach emotional regulation and self care.

In my reality, if I can find the 25 minutes to write this post before I pass out in front of Netflix, then I can chalk it up to self care for the week.

Look, I realize my experience is not unique.

This is the life for which we sign up as working moms.  I don’t really think any of us could have possibly predicted what a gut busting marathon working motherhood, or just plain motherhood, truly is.  People try to tell us.  Very well-meaning people try to tell us how difficult it is, how tired we will be, and how quickly it goes by.  But no matter if we listen to them or not, we can never truly predict the reality.

It begs the question, if we had known, would we have done it?

Furthermore, what the hell are we supposed to do with this complex blend of exhaustion, frustration, anger, and confusion?  How are we supposed to express it–  how are we allowed to express it–  without upsetting the family apple cart.

Because anything we feel, the rest of the house is going to feel.

We didn’t know that either, but that’s just the way it works.

We are the emotional barometers in the home.  We set the tone and temperature for how it will be.

If we had known, would we have been crazy enough to reproduce?

It is also the path I chose when I became a clinical social worker.  And little optimist that I was, I had no fucking clue what all that meant.  It is the same path any working mom choses when they become a doctor or lawyer or supervisor or whatever where you have to put the needs of others front and center.  This was all well and good before I had kids…  but now?  It is almost unbearable.

Things fall apart.  Tantrums happen.  Doors slam and you are told what a poo poo head you are because you only have two hands.  Work spills over into home just as home spills into work.  Balls drop.  Some nights you don’t sleep.

In the end, I sort of stomped off to my corner of my room to implement a time out for myself.  It was all I could do.  I started writing this post.

And both of my kids came up to check on me.  They couched their concern in questions about other stuff, or random fun facts about their day, but I could tell that they were checking in with me, making sure I was okay, much as I check in on them and make sure they are okay.  They weren’t nervous or upset.  Their anger with me was all over and done. They were allowing me to have my feeling, but offering me a little connection, a peace offering of sorts.

I didn’t totally grasp this at the time, but later it hit me.  I’ve modeled enough emotional regulation for them–  maybe just enough—  that they get it.  They respected that I needed space, and they gave it to me, but also let me know that they were okay and present.  They knew I was upset and were modeling back for me what I have tried to model for them.

That’s kind of cool.

It sort of tempers the responsibility of keeping my shit together–  maybe just enough —  to see it reflected back to me in my kids.

So maybe I nailed that. And maybe we can all have ice cream together on the porch and be a perfect family on another night.

Truckin’ Through the Identity Crisis

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Sometimes the light’s just shinin’ on me,
Other times, I can barely see,
Lately it occurs to me,
What a long, strange trip it’s been. . .  —  Grateful Dead, Truckin’

When my former supervisor said goodbye to me, she quoted the above song.

Just the last line.

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

It’s become a bit of a colloquialism, that line.  I’m not sure she ever knew I’d been a Dead Head all those years ago, or even that she was quoting Jerry Berry.

Either way, the words resonated and resounded, like a song at the end of a movie that swells and echoes and means something really important.

And scene.  Cue credits.  

Did you ever notice what a huge part of our identity work is?

Is it because of our passion for our vocations?  Because of the money spent and owed in student loans?  Because it is something at which we excel?  Or simply because it is something we do for eight, nine, ten hours a day?

After the last scene of my last day at my old job, and after the credits ran, I was left sitting in a dark theater.

All alone.

Wondering who I was now that the movie that was my life for 12 years was over.

I was still a mom, a wife, a family member.  I was still an avid blogger.  I was still a friend to many people.

I was still a collector of Buddhas, fan of Himalayan Mountain disaster stories, and lover of butterflies.  I still had my enormous credit card debt.  I still wore jasmine oil and changed into my pajamas the second I returned to the house after my day, even if it was only 5:30. I still disliked Adele (with a passion) and couldn’t stand Downton Abbey (vehemently!).

I was still all the things that made me ME. . .

But a big chunk of something about me was missing.

I felt like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, when he looked at the photo and realized his family and he were vaporizing right before his eyes because he’d altered the course of history.

So, I’d altered the course of my history.  But I was still ME.  So.  What?

I guess I didn’t realize it would be so hard.  Change is hard, even positive change.

With my new coworkers, I was a brighter, smilier version of myself.  I was super positive. I was like the new kid who came into a class midway through the year and was DESPERATE to be liked, DESPERATE to fit in, DESPERATE to be a part of the jokes and not the butt of them.

I thought I knew myself.  I’d known exactly who I was among my old colleagues–  the overworked, overwrought social worker with a streak of black humor and a heart of. . .  well maybe not gold. . .  let’s say sterling?  I wasn’t afraid to speak my mind or express my opinions.  I was confident in my clinical skills.

Among my new team I didn’t know who the hell I was.  I was this awkward, new girl who kept mostly to her own office, and didn’t have anyone to eat with at lunchtime.  I was the only person in the office wearing makeup.  Should I wash it off?  I wondered in a fit of that desperation to fit in.

Having an identity crisis midway through a pretty well settled life was particularly daunting.  It was a surprise.  And yeah, man, trippy as hell.

I actually went to Apple Music and listened to Truckin’ by the Dead, as though maybe it contained some secret solution to my situation.

It was sadly disappointing.

But up came another song, Box of Rain.  I had not heard that song in possibly a decade or more.  The last couple lines caught my attention:

Well it’s just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair,
such a long, long time to be gone
and a short time to be there.

Who the hell knows what those stoners really meant by those lyrics, but at that moment, what it meant to me was that everything is fleeting, time is an illusion, and when you look back on stuff it justifies itself into a neat little package that makes sense.

Here’s hoping. . .

Back On The Struggle Bus And The Struggle Is Real

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Hi guys.

So remember back a couple posts ago when I was all glowing and annoying about how I was disembarking the struggle bus and how great my life was going to be?

Yeah.

I kind of wanted to slap myself too.  It’s okay.

Anyhoo, as with most things in the universe, shit hasn’t gone down exactly as planned.

I HAD gotten off of the bus.  I walked for a few blocks, admiring the scenery of what a peaceful and grounded life looked like.

And then I got a dog.

And then I started a new job.

And then my dog died.

So, I sort of hopped back on the bus and have been riding around kind of aimlessly, passing the same stuff over and over again, feeling anxious and bored.

That’s how my mind works.  I hash stuff out over and over again and it makes me utterly neurotic, then I get bored with it.  Sometimes in the boredom I am able to drop it and move on.  Other times I pick it back up, rinse, and repeat.

Our family is still grieving for our little dog who we only had for two weeks before she escaped and got fatally hit by a car.  It happened on my third day of work.  So, not only did I lose my animal, and have to help my children with their intense feelings about it, I was also the flake who just started a new job and had to leave early because she lost her pet and was freaking out and hysterical about it.

I’d spent a lot of time, energy, and money on little Dog, helping her deal with separation anxiety and getting her settled in our home.  I’d been home for a week in between jobs and bonded with her.  She reminded me so much of my dog I’d had for 16 years.  They had a similar and soulful personality.  The love was immediate.

It initially struck me as hugely unfair that I’d lost Doggy so soon after finding her.  I could not understand why the universe would work in such a manner.  I grappled with this information as I longed to pet Doggy’s silky ears.  She had this little speck of white on the back of her neck that looked like a star.  It seemed impossible I’d never see it again.  It still doesn’t make sense to me.

It had taken me a long time to get another pet.  And had taken a long time for my family to feel we were all in a place where we could have a dog.

Could it be Doggy came to remind me of how special it is to live with a canine companion?  Could it be she was not meant to be my actual dog, but merely a messenger?

While I don’t necessarily believe in the typical notion of a “god” I do believe stuff happens for a reason.

Maybe it doesn’t.

Maybe shitty stuff just happens and there is no rhyme or reason.  I can understand how it would be much more comforting to imagine a divine being pulling strings and making things happen because there is a grand plan.

I do want to get another dog.  This much I know.

It has been hard to watch my kids grieve.  Jack has been pretty strong and surprisingly supportive of his younger sister.  He has told Emily there are four ways she can still see Doggy; in her heart, in her memory, in pictures and in dreams.  He has also shared with Emily that Doggy is now an angel.  Em was profoundly comforted by the thought that Doggy could potentially be right next to her side at that very moment!

If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is my pride at how my children have processed it.  They are really great kids.  It has taken me aback.  I wasn’t expecting them to turn to one another quite as much as they have, but in the long run I think they have been more of a comfort to each other than my husband and I have been to them.

And this, in turn, has comforted me.

So, this week I will start my second week of working at the new gig.  I’m excited to go back and try it again.  I’m excited to meet with the clients again and start forming relationships with new people.  I’m hoping to get to know my coworkers and connect with them as well.  And I’m eager for the new clinical skills I need to develop and perfect.

I’ve been struggling with how much I miss my old work buddies.  I don’t miss my old work so much, but I surely miss a few of the friends I made there and got really close to over the years.  It was especially hard to go through the loss of Doggy last week in a new place with people who didn’t really know me or my family.  My new supervisor was amazing and all, but still it felt really lonely.

It has been a mix of tears and fears and frustration and nerves.

A big ball of struggle I’m lugging around and trying to embrace even as it squirms in my arms.

Maybe I’ll let it off at the next stop.

And maybe I’ll get off at the stop after that because this bus is kind of stinky and stale and I’m ready for some deep gulps of fresh air.

New Jobs Are Hard

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This week I started my new job…

I love it.

I love my office.  I love my coworkers.  I love the clients.  I love the new challenges.  It’s complex.  It stretches me beyond my comfortable, familiar zone.  It’s fast paced.  There’s an employee’s only restroom with a paper towel dispenser that actually works.  I get home earlier.  I am closer to home.  All of these things, I just love.

That said, I’ve also spent a lot of time crying this week.  I’ve felt homesick, lonely, confused.

It reminds me of when I first moved into my new house–  my family was with me, I was thrilled with my cozy, little home, but I felt really sad to leave my crowded, cramped, but familiar old apartment.

I’m very confident things will be okay in the long run.

Perspective is a good thing.

I’m sitting with the sad, hard, frustrating feelings.

At my old job, I was in a good position.  I’d been there forever and had seniority, experience, and a muscle memory of how things worked.  I could go through my days with my eyes closed.

It is really challenging for me to be the new kid on the block.  I’ve taken a step backwards so that I could be more available for my family in the long run, to possibly have less stress in my life.  I am somewhere strange and new where I do not have the ability to make my body instinctively do all the things it needs to do to get through the day.

It feels like being on another planet.  It feels like being someplace totally unfamiliar and exotic and a bit scary too.  It feels like I’ve gone someplace where I am scared to drink the water or venture too far off by myself.  Every motion I make requires focus and attention.  This is not necessarily a bad thing. . .  but. . .

It takes a lot of effort.

I come home a bit fraught and exhausted.

But it will be okay.

Perspective and all. . .

Waving Goodbye

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It isn’t every day I leave a job I’ve been at for well over a decade.  I took a lot of time to reflect on stuff, to feel all the feels, and to both celebrate and grieve.  My coworkers gave me a lunch and said a ton of nice stuff that made me cry both happy and sad tears.  

I came up with some thoughts about my experience and I shared them at the lunch.  I’d also like to share them with you.  Whether you are a social worker, or a mom, or just a human riding along on the human struggle bus, maybe they will resonate with you.  If nothing else, I just want to share the sentiment with you, because you are here with me and I am so happy.

Someone once told me I was precious.

Actually, she didn’t say it to me, but she said it to an entire audience as she was receiving an award for being a phenomenal social worker upon her retirement.

But I allowed myself to take it personally, and I eventually became very close and friends with the recipient of that award which in and of itself was pretty freaking precious.

Can you imagine that? You are precious. When you are on a dirty floor trying to play with a kid who is angry and defiant? When you are talking kindly to a parent who you secretly think is the most reprehensible and abusive person on the planet? When you are looking down into live, adult lice crawling around in a child’s scalp. When an overwhelmed mom forgets to change her tampon and menstruates on your office chair and you awkwardly offer her a lysol wipe.

You are precious.

It is not easy to feel precious in this job, which is often dirty, defeating, depressing, and filled with an array of malodorous messes.

It is not easy to feel precious when all you can do is show up and smile because you don’t have the power to change poverty or abuse or severe and persistent mental illness.

It isn’t easy to feel precious when you really feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and helpless. But you are. You my friends are precious. Sometimes the simple act of showing up is enough. Sometimes just being a smiling or compassionate presence in someone’s life fosters changes of which we are not even aware.

Some of you don’t know me all that well and you might be wondering why I am sharing this with you. I’m sharing this with you partly because I see how hard you work in the trenches and I’d like you to know that you are all amazing and doing great things, even when you think you are not.

I thought maybe you might like to know that you are precious too because you show up, even when you don’t want to, or when it is really hard and you feel tired and scared.

I’m also sharing this with you for some selfish reasons. I didn’t go looking for my new job. I wasn’t putting out my resume or job hunting. I had actually gotten to a pretty sweet spot here, right where I was. My program was fully staffed with a new and wonderful clinician and I felt like I had the breathing room to do some good work with my clients.

But sometimes the universe offers something too good to pass up. So, here I go. . .

I didn’t think it would be so hard to leave this city.

This city and I have not always been on the best of terms. It perpetually smells like turtle tank and it tried to crush me under tons of snow. Honestly, I’ve often felt like this city can go fuck itself. There was really nothing I learned in graduate school 15 years ago, that prepared me for some of the shit I have seen go down in this town. I don’t need to go into detail. . . I know you’ve all seen it too.

But over the past weeks, as I have terminated with a few dozen families, I’ve been really surprised at the emotions that have come up– both for myself and for my clients. I’ve been surprised and touched by the kind words of clients and colleagues alike as they have shared with me what our relationships have meant. And it has been really hard to say goodbye.

So, I’m sharing this with you because I know I what I am leaving, and I know you will take care of it in my stead as you always do.

I came here nearly 12 years ago, dewy skinned, wide eyed, and a whole lot skinnier. While I have been here, all of the big stuff that could possibly happen to a person has happened to me. I got engaged, married, and became a mom. I suffered a traumatic miscarriage, then had another baby. I bought a house. My dog of 16 years died.  I also met my best friend here– a relationship for which I will forever be grateful.

Many of you have shared in this journey with me, and have also supported me as I learned so many new roles as wife, mother, working mother, home owner.

I don’t know how to explain what it has meant to see your faces every day for so many years, especially those of you who were here from the very beginning and those of you with whom I share inside jokes about octopus, dog anxiety vests, hanging with bitches, and the healing properties of a lovely plate of eggs.

I’ve laughed, cried, freaked out, and raged with many of you. I can only pray my new colleagues will be as forgiving about my numerous quirks, strong emotions, and obsessive compulsive disorder. It is only just hitting me what it means to say good bye to you all. I’m sorry for all the times I took you for granted, but please know how special you all are to me.

And then of course, there is how this place has shaped me clinically, has taught me and forced me to grow. Growth is not always fun or comfortable. There are many moments I wish I’d met with more dignity, grace, courage, compassion, and energy. But at last I am leaving having seen my own face reflected back at me in the faces of my clients.

I think I have learned what I came here to learn.

So it’s hard to say goodbye. . . but. . .

Life goes on. It always does. It already is.

OK. Final words:

Take care of each other. Be kind. Take care of yourselves. Know you are precious. Show up. Find the joy. Those are the only things that matter, and if you get that all down, the rest will fall into place.

I love you guys.

Thank you.