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.

 

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.

 

 

Ashes and Balloons

balloon

I have been thinking about my breath recently. I realized a while back my tendency to hold it… hard. It is as if it gets stuck. Stuck in my mouth, my nose, my throat, my chest; never making its way to that parts of my body that are screaming for it. I was in a lot of pain a few weeks ago, so much so that I thought I was going to wretch. I held my breath tight, I held everything tight. I do not like to throw up, I know most people don’t, but I am pretty willful about it, much like a child refusing to eat their veggies I will do almost anything to avoid it. It turns into an all out war and the biggest victim of this crisis is my physical body.

After a while of holding my breath along with tensing every muscle in my body I let go. I let go and I took a deep deliberate breath into my belly and then let it out. My belly was screaming for that breath and when I finally gave in I actually began to feel slightly better. My lesson learned that day is to trust that my body knows how to take care of itself. I do not have to tense up in a power struggle with my body in order to avoid an outcome I find unpleasant. My body knows what to do to take care of itself, to heal itself. I do not have to control this, I am safe to let go and trust that my body will do exactly what it needs to do, even if that is wretching.

I was thinking about my breath again today because I found myself holding it again while talking about and experiencing emotions around something very difficult for me. Again I was not trusting my breath or my body.

I was not trusting it because this time I had this vision in my head that if I let go I might start to hyperventilate until I was so filled with air that I float away never to be seen or heard from again. OR that I would take one long deep breath that reached all the way down to the bones of my feet and when I let it out it would take all of me with it and all that would be left of me would be a deflated balloon, empty and left over, overlooked completely. OR worse yet, that breath out would reduce me to a pile of ash easily scattered on a breeze never to be seen or heard from again.

I did not trust it. Then my body began to hurt from the tension and I had to ease up. Once I started listening to what my body needed and taking these deep healing breaths focusing my breath on where the pain was most intense – my neck, my heart, my throat, my whole upper body- it felt better.

 

Gratitude AND Anxiety

butterflies

I met with my mentor yesterday and now I no longer have any excuses to delay the last few things I need to check off my to-do list in order to start the new job.

I have a lot of gratitude after our talk. I have gratitude to have not just a mentor but this mentor. I am grateful that I have someone who is willing to give of his time to not only advise me professionally but check in on a personal level as well. I also have gratitude for something very surface level, being able to expense business purchases. He went over in detail with me what I am able to expense and I did not realize how much was covered, that was such a weight lifted. A scary piece of being out on your own is the amount of money you have to spend to run a show. I was starting to worry that In would be putting more into this venture, financially speaking, than  I would be getting out of it.

Now that I have some of my questions answered it also gives room for some anxiety to creep in. Once I get that business cell phone, and business cards, and liability insurance – this is real. It is happening.

We talked about that, the anxiety. He brought up a really good point, and one that on some level I already knew. He said It never goes away and it shouldn’t. He talked about how whenever he gives a talk or sits with a new client he still has anxiety at times and even a few not-good-enough concerns. He said that that piece, the one that holds those feelings, is there to remind us that this work we are doing is important.

What I realized from this and shared with him is that he is right, anxiety shows up when we are about to do something big or important, it is a reminder of how special this work is AND it will not go away, if we ever stopped feeling fear or anxiety before big moments all that would mean is that we are leaving a piece of us behind or ignoring it. I am sure that there are people who don’t get butterflies before important moments, what that says to me is they do may not have a relationship with the piece of themselves that does that job for them.

So today I have gratitude for my anxiety as well. I am about to do something really important and I am thankful my butterflies have showed up to remind me.