You’re Not Having a Good Day

That is what my husband said to me after I experienced my 3rd major calamity of the day. I agreed. While I was having a rough time my clumsy alter ego, Calamity Jill, was really living it up!

It all started this afternoon.

I drove across town, roughly 35 minutes, to meet with a new family I will be working with and unfortunately the appointment did not take place. I got stood up. No big deal, sometimes wires get crossed. I left a voicemail after waiting outside their home for a bit and once they get back to me I will reschedule. Since my schedule was suddenly open I decided to pay some family a visit who happened to live nearby.

When getting out of my car at my family’s home I turned funny and managed to spill my entire La Croix into my play therapy bag of toys and books. Good Grief!

I went inside with my play therapy bag and spent time catching up with family while I cleaned out and Lysol wiped the contents.

No big deal, these things happen (especially to me).

The real mess took place once I got home.

I let Lu out, brought her back in and started working on some documentation for work. About an hour later I was done and started picking up around the house. I went into the office briefly to grab a canvas and to put away some work documents and went on about my business for the next hour until my husband arrived home.

Upon his arrival he called out for the dog which struck me as weird because she ALWAYS meets him at the door. Maybe she is sleeping in the bedroom and didn’t hear him? We both started calling for her: nothing. My husband asked me if I accidentally left her outback. I panicked! Oh God I hope not! It had rained- hard- in the last hour since I saw Lu, there is no way I could have left her out in the rain.  I opened the backdoor, desperately trying to temper my rising anxiety and terror, and starting whistling and calling for her: nothing. In the background I heard  my husband still calling for her in the house. The terror was really starting to grow. Did she get outside? Is she running the street with no collar and no microchip? Is she dead in a gutter? Where is my baby?

Just as I was reaching the point of hysteria she came bounding around the corner and jumped up to kiss me hello. Oh dear God Lucy where were you???

My husband came around the corner and said I needed to get a take a look in the office. This is what I found:

office

I didn’t even see her follow me in when I had been in the office an hour earlier. Luckily some ripped up paper and a destroyed pine cone was of little significance compared to what she could have gotten into while accidentally locked in the office during a thunder storm for an hour. My poor baby. This is what anxiety looks like. I felt like the worst mother on earth. I can only imagine the panic and abandonment she was feeling. I got on her level and we cuddled for a few minutes. Then I declared the rest of the night The Night of Lucy! to make it up to her (or at least try).

The night of Lucy started with a nice big puppy dinner. Then she and I went for a walk at the park just the two of us where we chased frogs and played in mud puddles. When we got home I carried her into the bathroom and placed her in the tub to wash her muddy feet. After her foot bath she got a treat AND a new toy. My husband and I have a bag of toys that we bought on sale a while back and there are tucked away for Christmas. A screw up like today definitely warranted a early Christmas present.

Lu was thrilled. She and I played chase and fetch and then.. catastrophe. I was ramping up to throw her new toy down the hall for her to chase after and she got a bit to excited. This resulted in Lu jumping on my husband who was minding his own business eating shrimp ceviche on the couch. Lu’s foot landed right in his bowl of fish and vegetables dumping the whole thing into his lap before she ran off down the hall to get her toy.

My husband just sat there in his fish staring at me. He said nothing. He didn’t need to, his face said it all. I quickly saved him from the soggy fish blanket (that thankfully saved him from fish REALLY landing in his lap), got him a new throw, and cleaned up the rest of the mess. He just looked at me, laughed, and said You are not having a good day.

No kidding. I can’t get anything right today.

Suddenly Fuel lyrics flashed across my brain:

Spilled her coffee, broke a shoe lace. She smeared the lipstick on her face. Slammed the door and said I’m sorry I had a bad day again.

Some days that song is my anthem.

Later I sat in my husband’s lap, tears rolling down my cheeks; do you think she loves me even when I get it wrong?

Yes.

Do you love me even when I get it wrong?

Yes.

I am going to get it wrong. I am going to fail. I am still loveable.

While writing this post and sitting in my shame and embarrassment even while trying to minimize these feelings by finding the humor in the situation (a favorite defense mechanism of mine), I thought of Virginia Woolf. More specifically I thought of what Virginia Woolf said about women who tell the truth:

A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life.

I am a clumsy, forgetful, sometimes all together absent minded woman. I am woman who gets it wrong and sometimes hurts the ones she loves most in the world. I fail and I get it wrong and experience excruciating shame as a result from time to time. AND I stand in these truths and love myself, even when I feel so incredibly unlovable. This is my power. This is my strength. Love. My ability to stand in my truth and love myself there.

 

Figuring It Out

About a month ago when I was in the thick of training for my new job my mantra was I will figure it out. This stuff was new, it was okay that I did not know how to do it, AND I was confident that I would figure it out. That confidence in myself went a long way because I was right. I did figure it all out and I am still figuring it out.

Each time I am presented with a new challenge I feel so much less intimidated by it because I know I can and will figure it out.

The last few weeks have brought me a lot of opportunities to figure new things out, I am grateful for this AND a few times I have felt exhausted by it. I knew this job would help me grow in terms of self-reliance and that has been true for me so far, for better AND for worse.

Something that I miss about agency work is having things readily available and handed to me without me having to figure it out on my own. I took that part of agency work for granted. In my last placement if I wanted to implement an intervention rarely did I have to go do my own research to find what I need, it was sitting there in a binder waiting for me, all I had to do was make a copy.

So far I have been creating my own materials for sessions, buying books and toys for play therapy with my younger clients, researching evidenced based studies on certain topics to ensure effectiveness of my planned intervention, and researching trainings in my area on topics I want to become well versed in.

A lot of this was part of past agency experiences for me. I was attending trainings and researching intervention outcomes and preparing materials for sessions and for groups I facilitated. The difference is the frequency in which I am doing these things now. Before I had a supervisor right there that I could go to and say, my client is presenting with _________ and I was thinking of trying this, what do you think?
They would either validate my judgement or present me with another option that they have used and seen success with. Or if there was a certain worksheet I wanted to use during session it was available to me, I did not have to do any work on my own to create the template or download and print what I wanted. And I certainly never had to buy my materials. Toys, books, yoga mats, expressive art supplies, folders for my clients to keep their documents in, pens, they were all available to me.

I want to be clear, I am not complaining, just making the observation that when I was doing agency work I took a lot for granted without even being aware of it. I am sure that when I am on my own one day I will look back at this experience and reflect on aspects of this position I am currently taking for granted, like the fact that the agency I am contracted with provides me clients. I do not have to market myself which is a lot of energy and anxiety saved. And things like not having to pay rent for an office or buy furniture for that office. Even now as independent as this position allows me to feel I recognize I am still supported.

Some days I do feel exhausted by aspects of this job AND I love it. This jobs comes with a lot of extra work AND I get to much of that work in yoga pants on my couch. This job requires that I provide my own supplies AND I have the time in my day to go to the store and get those supplies. This job is pushing me in ways I have not been pushed before AND I am having the learning experience I wanted.

Last night I was having a moment of overwhelm as I was planning my sessions for later today. I looked over at my husband, who knew what I was working on and could sense my exhaustion, who then said I know you can do this because I know who you are.

I will figure this out. I know I can do this because I know who I am.

got this

Well Managed

When starting a new job I am normally racked with anxiety the first few weeks and sometimes it lingers over the first few months depending on the learning curve. I am proud to share that this time is different and the last two times have been different as well.

My anxiety levels were low when I officially started both internships during college. I had some anxiety leading up to starting because I was not sure what to expect but once I got into my placement I was fine.

I definitely experienced some anxiety leading up to my start date with this position, again it was connected with general fear of the unknown. When I actually started though my anxiety dropped off.

When I was in the professional world prior to returning to school (and therapy) my anxiety was not always well managed. I would fret over anything and everything, I never felt my work was good enough and was constantly pushing myself for perfection.

My perfectionist piece absolutely lives and breathes in professional spaces for me. These areas of my life are traditionally where I care the most about what others think. It has always felt like there is a Wrong and Right and my philosophy around the AND/Gray area has no room here.

Well not this time. I have been able to give myself so much more room while I learn and figure things out. I am not bullying myself as hard as I used to; the bully is still there but she whispers now, she used to scream and shout. I have noticed that I have a better relationship with my inner critic/bully now too so when she does pop up I am able to take care of myself and not be unwound.

Yesterday there were two items that I could not complete without reaching out to my supervisors with questions. I was bummed. I understand what to do so I wanted to be able to just do it on my own and impress both them and myself. I needed help though. I could not find a template I needed to complete one task and I was given feedback on my work for the other task that didn’t feel right to me so I needed to follow up before making what might end up being unnecessary changes.

I had a moment of feeling let down by my need for help but then I remembered, I have never done ANY OF THIS before. This is all completely new and up to this point I HAVE figured most things out on my own with minimal hand holding. I am doing great! I am not expected to know how to do everything, it is literally my first week.

I mentally patted myself on the back, sent the emails I needed to regarding my questions, and put my work away for the night as it was the end of the day.

In my past life I would not have been able to self-validate and self-soothe in this way and I would have spent the whole night worried and restless. I would have absolutely lost sleep. And for what? The next morning I would check my email, my questions would be answered, and the world would keeping turning.

So this time I validated my good work so far, relaxed with my husband, got a restful nights sleep, and when I got up this morning everything was fine.

I got my first email response and discovered that the reason I could not find the template I needed was because it was never sent to me. This was not me being inept, it was my supervisor’s error. In the past I would have been so hard on myself over my perceived inability and failure just to later find out it was someone else’s error. This time I spared myself all that grief and emotional strife and am thankful because it would have been a lot of heart ache just to discover I did everything right.

With my clients I have them rate their symptoms on a scale of 1-10, 10 being most severe; my anxiety when starting new professional ventures used to rate somewhere around an 8 or 9, now I would say at my worst I am maybe a 4 but otherwise I am a 1 or 2.

I am proud of myself. Words I never used to speak. I am proud of myself, I am doing a great job, I am following my instincts, and I am taking good care of myself.

Open and Ready

I think I am ready. I have done my best to prepare myself for this day and now it has come. I have all my office supplies, my forms, and my in case of emergency pack which includes everything from paper towels to a whole other outfit. You never know what to expect and all I can do is be as prepared as possible and remain open and flexible.

This morning I emailed a friend to release some anxiety, which surprisingly was completely unrelated to this, I took my meditation outside, and now I am going to start printing off documents and loading my car.

I feel ready, I feel grounded, I feel like I am where I am supposed to be.

There is a little anxiety swirling beneath the surface but it is small and related to making sure I get all of the needed information to complete my documentation the way I am expected to. In the past my anxiety was always attached to feelings of doubt, I am pleased to share that as of right now my not-good-enough are silent. They may not stay silent but for right now I feel sure, rather than unsure.

My intention for the day has to do with believing in myself. A few days ago when I was cleaning out one of my file boxes and reorganizing I came across a scrap sheet of paper with a poem by Rudyard Kipling scribbled on it. I remember the day I first discovered this poem, I was volunteering at Hospice. It seems like a good foundation to root myself in today.

if

Boundaries and Self-Care in My New Role

My mantra for my new job is I will figure it out. That has helped as I am having training upon training and document upon document all thrown at me at once. I have also applied my mantra to how I navigate this new position with my personal life. I am working from home and on the road, I have to completely rework my personal/professional boundaries.

This balance is imperative for self-care purposes so I am able to do my job well and so I am able to be well in all aspects of my life.

Every other position I have ever held has been in an office which meant at the end of the day I got to physically leave work. I got to leave my work computer, my work email, my work phone, my work forms. I got to disconnect from all of it and leave it until the next day when my shift started. Now all of these things I used to get to leave are here in my personal space, everything has the potential to mix together, no boundaries between personal and professional. I have to create these boundaries. That is part of my figuring it out.

Another part of my figuring it out is my self-care. Self-care has become a popular buzzword outside of the field of social work. I think this is great, to me it says as a society we are experiencing a shift towards self-love or at the very least self-preservation. We are understanding that it does not make sense to run ourselves ragged and that it is neither selfish nor shameful to put ourselves at the top of our priority list, or at least on it if not at the top.

I can already tell that my self-care routine will look different as I transition from full-time student/intern to working professional. I have felt myself tempted by to slip back to negative coping skills I have leaned on in the past when my priority was not self-care, but instead numbing.

I will figure this out.

I feel myself needing nature more than ever. I feel myself needing movement to release emotions that start to feel stuck. I feel myself needing daily meditation to stay present and out of the grip of anxiety.
These were all things I gave myself before and on a regular basis however it was just as needed. I am feeling like these will all become a daily practice for me now.

I know I will figure this out too. I will find my balance in this new place and I will hold it sacred. In order for me to honor my clients and those I work with I have to honor myself.

 

 

I am going, I am not going.

I am going on vacation with my husband in September. This is not exactly new news, we are attending a wedding out of state that was already a set plan, the new news is that after that wedding on the way home we will have a vacation just the two of us.

I feel relieved to finally say that out loud because I have been experiencing so much back and forth in making the decision. Which I realize now is completely ridiculous. If the question is mountain vacation with your husband, the answer is always Yes!

Here is the dilemma that kept me hung up and unable to make a decision: the wedding is at the end of September, soul camp is the weekend after the wedding, if my husband and I make a longer vacation out of attending our friend’s wedding it means I have two choices:

  1. Take two and a half weeks off from work to attend the wedding, have a vacation, and then go to soul camp.
  2. Do not attend soul camp.

I did not like either of these options so then it became this back and forth between having a vacation with my husband and attending soul camp. It started to feel like I had to choose between him and me. I was looking at it all wrong.

There are other reasons why soul camp does not feel right to me this time, I think having to make this choice is just one more way the universe it telling me this is not your time to do this part of your work, and possibly these are not your people to do this work with.

Everything about soul camp does not feel right to me this time. The timing is off, the cost is too high for where I am at with starting a new career where I know I will not make money, the topic doesn’t speak to me, and the group doesn’t feel quite right.

With all of that being said there is a major “AND” that I cannot ignore. All of the above is true AND I am afraid of being left behind. All of that is true AND I am afraid this will be my last chance to do a soul camp for a while because in the near future my husband and I will be trying to start our family, I don’t see me leaving my baby to do soul camp. Maybe I will but I do not know that so it scares me that this is my last chance to retreat work for a while.

Are these reasons enough for me to make a decision that does not feel right though? No. They are not.

I do not have to accept every invitation I am given. My work will always be there for me to do, it is not going anywhere. What I will not always have is this time with my husband when we are still child free and able to be with just each other. Other opportunities will arise for me to do the work I am meant to do in ways that feel right, I do not have to force anything.

That is what I am feeling. I am feeling myself trying to force something that does not fit. That is why I have felt so off about all of this. I don’t know how I did not recognize the feeling sooner.

I do not believe in forcing things. All good things come on their own, in their own time.

Gosh just recognizing that that is what I was doing makes me feel so much better. It makes my decision so much clearer.

I am going on vacation with my husband in September and I could not be more thrilled.

 

Imagine

Imagine having to change doctors. The search for someone new, having to go over every detail of your medical history with someone new, the paper work, the waiting for an appointment because you are a new patient and they only do new patient appointments every third Tuesday between 3-4pm.

Imagine having to change doctors because your last doctor shamed you for your “life choices”.

Imagine starting a new relationship. The awkward small talk on a first date, having to go over every detail of your life story with someone new, the anxiety of do they like me? do I like them?, the waiting for them to call and hoping desperately they do.

Imagine having to relive your deepest moment of pain each time you start a new relationship hoping all along that this will not be too much and you will be accepted.

Imagine conversing in a group. You are at lunch with friends and everyone is having a good time, your at an intimate gathering discussing important social issues, you are in class listening to a debate among classmates, you are at church listening to the sermon.

Imagine conversing in a group when suddenly the subject changes and things get heated while opinions fly, all along the group never knowing you are at the center of that debate.

Imagine meeting new people. Hi my name is _______, you learn their taste in music, what they like to read, what they do for work, if they have children, their political leanings, their faith base.

Imagine meeting new people and having to, as quickly as possible, categorize each person you meet as “safe” or “not safe” so you know how to proceed or whether to proceed.

You may read this and think starting with a new doctor isn’t that difficult or beginning a new relationship is exciting! You are right AND that is not completely my truth either.

When your entire existence operates from a place of hiding, working tirelessly to make sure you are only seen as much as it is safe for you to be seen, with a constant fear of being outed – everything feels overwhelming.

This post is for anyone who has ever had to hide.

the world is not soft