One of the most difficult daily tasks I must do right now as I push through this home mess is go to work. But, I must and I do, and I have. Actually, I kind of see the imperative structure of my daily routine and the kind of work that I do as both a blessing and a curse. Counselling is a tiring job on a good day. Counselling when you are in dire need of resolving your own shit is whole other kettle of fish.
Apart from the sheer exhaustion coupled by the surging electricity that seems to wrestle inside my body, my mind is not as reliable a tool these days, nor is my emotional heart. I'm doing my best. And when I'm doing my best its usually in the mornings. By late afternoon, I tend to bottom out. I must remind myself that this time of day was never great to begin with. Now though, its like the fatigue and the reality of things finally merge somewhere in the pit of my stomach and win. The wind is gone. Kicked right out of me. The fuel tank is on empty and all I want to do is turn off my brain (not possible) and find a really really comfortable cave to crawl into. Then, I go make myself a cup of tea, have a good cry, phone someone, talk it out, blow my nose and suck it up. Most of the time.
Counselling as a profession is tough. I love it, but I am aware of the ramifications of it. As much as I have learned to leave the spillage in my office, when one isn't up to full speed, it can seep into your pores. Also, the concentration level required to be fully present for someone else when your own heart is broken is next to impossible. Given that I was in full flight crisis and anxiety most of the time since Christmas trying to figure out what was going on, and trying to remedy it as best as I could (and not succeeding at all), this has been a long long winter of struggling.
Ok, this is one downer of a post. I am getting to the upbeat part. Really I am.
As I look back on some of the situations presented to me, the level of crisis, the stories, the suffering and confusions shared with me, especially over the past three weeks, I can honestly say that I have probably provided some of the best counselling support I have ever provided. Its also safe to say as well that a few of the posing issues have been the most challenging too.
As well, I have been confronted by similar stories and complications that I am personally dealing with over and over again that it seems like I'm living in the theatre of the Absurd. I can't tell you how many times I've been left dumbfounded sitting listening to the stories, wondering if God is just a big jokester in the sky, sending these folks to me at a time like this. Then, I recognize the opportunity for learning. Big learning, big reflections........ and opportunities to receive perspective. I am now coming from a very different place when I'm counselling someone else.
To be fully present like I need to be AND want to be, I must dig much deeper from within my pooled up strength, commonly known as resilience. To clear the heavy fog that pulls me into despair if I want it to, I must scramble and kick at the same time while breathing. Shift my thinking, and the fog lifts. The fogs lifts and my feelings are in a place of openness. As I have stated before, the secret to counselling is knowing that the counsellor learns just as much and often more so than they ever disperse. That's the key and that's what inspires me to trudge along to work everyday. Insight is a masterful gift, and I've learned that it comes best when you are open to interacting with someone much deeper than surface dwelling can ever offer.
In the past three weeks, I have had the honour and the good fortune to have met human beings who have shown resiliency, vulnerability, feistiness, sadness, anger, confusion. I have met with lost souls, Prodigal sons, resentful individuals, amazing survivors and the broken ones who were on the verge of giving up. People who have met with me simply to gather information about some of the courses offered at the College have comfortably (and surprisingly for them and for me) shared their histories and more times than not, their tears. Fifteen minute meetings have turned into full hour sharing. WHOA! Blessings. No curses here.
What is different than before is that after I am fully present in a counselling session? Not only do I need more time to regroup and catch my breath in between sessions, I almost completely forget most of the details and the wide ranging sharing immediately. Including names. This is not like me. I have an elephant memory. Usually. So, I'm trying to learn to jot down key points because I've been caught a couple of times when a person emails me or drops in to talk again and I look at them like they are a new face. But, when I'm present and in the heat of the counselling session, count on me to be RIGHT THERE sitting in that pool of feelings.
Ok, I remember some of the details............... here's one.
Yesterday, a young guy showed up all frazzled and wanting to sign up for a course right away. I started asking him a few questions just to see if he was ready to take this step, but also to see if the course he's interested is the right fit for him and if he had the qualifications etc. In no time, a list of very complicated life situations, all linked to the basics like finances, housing issues, chaos at home floated up to the top. I have met many just like him, especially when I was working the front lines at the income assistance office. So, I cut to the chase with him............ not in a mean way, but in a direct way, pointing out that as much as he WANTS to take a course to make better money etc, he would fail at it if he didn't take the time now to get other parts of his life in order. What a MESS! From there, I suggested a few steps, while reassuring him that the people he needed to connect with to help him were once colleagues.
Tears came quickly to his eyes as he told me that in the year that he's been truly scrambling looking for guidance, I had given him more in the five minutes we had met than anyone else. What an amazing thing to be told. We began to look at his needs one at a time, while he figured out what his priorities are. What needs attention. The hour we spent together was intense. It shifted him into action, and it sent shivers through me.
The messages I shared with him, I heard myself. I was learning too. Insight stuff. Reminders. Me in a mess, he in a mess. Different messes, but similar gameplans. Slow down!! Recognize your needs, prioritize, dig out of the chaos one day at a time. Remind yourself that you do have good goals.......... that your dreams are reachable...... in time. He left with homework and a couple of doable first steps. I concluded our meeting jotting down my homework on his behalf so I would not forget it. Then, I wrote in my own journal.... :)
A blessing more than a curse this job of mine is. I just have to continue to write it down so I don't forget why I get up every morning and make my way there. For now, it's time for bed. Tomorrow is another day, fresh with no mistakes. Guaranteed there will be many of those. Why? Because I've learned from a wonderful friend (whose a wee bit gouty right now.....get well Pip! xx) .... WE are all beautiful in our imperfections.
Another scar please? Make it pretty for me God? thanks.