I admit that I struggle with the general idea that one has to “qualify” in order to get married. There’s this list of things that single women are given and expected to accomplish before they are ready to get married. We tell our girls that boys will always be there and to get their education first. You’re expected to work on yourself, do fun things, finish school, pay off debt, and get a decent job among other things before you qualify for marriage. Now granted, my story is different in that while I’ve always wanted to get married, I had a feeling that I would be on the road less traveled for a long time. I just didn’t anticipate how long it would be. I was hoping for 25 but now I’m pushing 30 without any actual potential mate on the horizon. I find it frustrating when I’m told that there’s something that I’m doing wrong or just haven’t done yet that makes me unqualified to be married. I see people all day, I’m a good listener, I can hold an emotionally safe place and challenge the perspectives of others in a way that is non-threatening and supportive. I’m the sole provider of my household of one and while I’m not rich, bills do get paid and I travel once in a while. I recently completed the highest educational level one can achieve (PhD) and yet the Universe still apparently sees me as unqualified for a mate. I’m all about doing the work but shit, being alone gets old after a while. I’ve learned how to self soothe and what to do to calm myself down but there are times that I’d sell my soul for a hug and the knowledge that someone has my back. Yes, I’m approached by guys but so far they aren’t ready for anything serious or want me to finance their lives and take care of them. Neither is an option I want to live with. It sounds corny but I want to matter to someone. Really matter. I haven’t found that yet and the older I get the less optimistic I am. It’s just exhausting and tiring doing it alone all the time and while I’ll always do what I have to do, I wish things were different.
I saw this CNN article and found it pretty relevant to my life because I work in a crisis type of position. You can read the article here. One thing that was interesting was the fact that many social workers and crisis counselors report that they like their job. This wasn’t surprising to me because despite all the craziness and unpredictability of my job, I don’t mind it. People get into a helping profession for a variety of reasons. In my case, I can’t NOT help people and I figured that I might as well have a job that allows me to do that. I’ve had stressful jobs in the field of social work before, but nothing comes close to the emotional drain from crisis work. It’s the kind of job that make you want to take a month long vacation after every shift. However, it’s also meaningful and you get the chance to encounter people from various walks of life and separate those who truly want help from those who don’t want any help. The article noted some great ways to deal with the stress that comes along from constantly working with people who facing some pretty big life challenges. There was an article I read not too long ago about a email that was intercepted from a social worker to another that contained some inappropriate humor that caused a public outcry. While the things crisis counselors deal with is not a laughing matter, sometimes you have to see the humor in things. It’s similar to the whole idea of laughing instead of crying as you see the dark side of humanity over and over again. It’s the kind of job that has really high highs with lows that are just as dramatic. The ability to disconnect is so important in this kind of field and I think it’s the reason why there’s an abundance of impromptu happy hours between colleagues who work in the field. All that being said, it’s a fun but hard job and I honestly believe that to have longevity in this type of field you have to have a pretty effective way of taking care of yourself so that you don’t get burned out.
I’ve always been a fan of strategic procrastination but also getting things done in time and meeting deadlines. Recently I’ve been putting off some things that need to be done within the next six week or they will derail my educational goals. While I have been in school for the past few years, I can honestly say that it’s more of a necessary evil than anything else because I want the credentials for my chosen career field. So one of the reasons why I’m still procrastinating with getting some of this work done is because of thought distortions. That’s one great thing about being a therapist. I know when my thought patterns aren’t logical–but I digress. I’ve always been someone who lives in black or white. While I am fine functioning in the grey for clients or for professional reasons, it’s different on a personal level. So the thought (which is NOT logical by the way) is that by completing what I have to do I’ll also be shutting the door or saying goodbye forever to another dream of mine that may not end up being compatible with my current choices. As I start the process of overcoming the procrastination and finishing some of these tasks, I have the mental picture of making a coffin. Cutting and sanding the sides and making some intricate designs on the sides. This coffin will be used to bury a specific dream that will be gone away forever never to return. But I know that’s a thought distortion and that it’s not really true. It can be so easy to get caught up in those distortions and not take the time to actually challenge them and i am no exception to that. However, the truth of the matter is that I’m just going to have to push through it and get the work done. And I will. Because of all the things I play around with, my life isn’t one of them.
The training to become a social worker is arduous, demanding, and complex. What isn’t always stressed enough are the issues of burnout, compassion fatigue, and the need for self care in the profession of social work.
I saw this article and thought about how applicable it is to my life right now. As someone who works in the field, this has to be one of the best articles I’ve read on the reality of burnout for social workers that is typically ignored. My absolute favorite quote from the author: “In our work, although we are surrounded by people all day long, there is not a balanced give and take. Concentration is on clients, not ourselves. In the truest sense, we are alone—we are the givers, and our fulfillment comes from seeing the growth, hope, and new direction in those with whom we are privileged to work.” I don’t think that truer words have ever been spoken. I’m a huge proponent of self-care but admittedly have a hard time taking my own advice. It’s easier said than done when you are by nature a giver and you put the best interests of others before yours and don’t impose your opinions on others deliberately on a daily basis. Any deviation from this can be self-perceived as selfishness. However, the article brings home the fact that self-care is necessary because it helps you to operate from a place of being okay. Still have a lot to learn in that department.
Learning or knowing someone’s love language has been something that I’ve always encouraged my clients to do for themselves and their partner. Especially when both say that “communication problems” are the reason why they’re in counseling. “Communication problems” are usually just the symptom of a bigger issue going on on the relationship. I usually encourage my couples to take the test and then discuss the results with each other. Then I’ll encourage them to start to learn their partner’s love language and let that show in their actions. I took the test myself and discovered that my love language is Physical Touch. I talked about it a little in the “Meaningless Affection” blog post. I’m the kind of person who likes things that are tangible. I enjoy activities that use one of my five senses. I’m not as excited by abstract things. Ironically, my second love language is quality time. I’m pretty particular how I spend my time. Mostly because I know that I can’t get back time that I’ve lost. I’m a big fan of self awareness because the first step in change is knowing that you actually need to. Discovering your love language can be really helpful as you navigate through your friendships and relationships.
One of the things that I occasionally do is call my really good single guy friend and complain about being single. TOTALLY ironic I know, but it always helps to put my life into perspective and it’s actually quite therapeutic. In doing this, I avoid the inevitable cliche’s and words of sympathy that others give me and I get a cold hard dose of reality. Much needed and well deserved. One thing that happens around this time of year is what I call “The Winter Feeling (TWF).” The Winter Feeling is similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder in that it’s seasonal. In my experience it goes from about mid-October to early-March. Now, The Winter Feeling is almost totally the opposite of the Summer Feeling–which I’ll dedicate another blog post to. The Winter Feeling tends to become more prominent as temperatures in the environment start dipping lower. You start thinking about how cold your bed is, you buy an electric blanket and name it, you look for alternative sources of heat such as a cat or dog. Some people even have a Winter Feeling designated individual who they would never see themselves with long term, but who could serve as a “filler-person” for the time being. The Winter Feeling involves increased levels of self awareness as you get colder. The trick is to not let it get to you because before you know it, you’ll just appear thirsty, desperate, and somewhat mentally unstable. The Winter Feeling will have you seeking companionship of any type because it’s cold outside and it gets dark early. Plus, loads of people get engaged in order to plan awesome spring and summer weddings. It’s the time of year when being alone is not the cool thing to be. There’s some unspoken expectation that everyone needs to have SOMEONE around this time of year. However, that’s not the case. The Winter Feeling can take a lot of people by surprise but when you know it’s coming it can be similar to the difference between riding a roller coaster with your eyes closed and your teeth clenched or just enjoying the ride because you know that it won’t last forever but will have ups and downs. One thing I like to remember is to not take myself too seriously. After all, it’s just the winter feeling. Spring will be here soon.
I’ve always respected people who could openly show emotions like sadness or happiness in a demonstrative or vocal way in public settings. That’s never been me. There was a time where I would start to become uncomfortable or feel awkward when someone around me would start to cry loudly. However, I have become much more comfortable with emotion as I have done more crisis work. There’s no more awkwardness because I know where the tissues are located and I’m comfortable with giving people some time to cry it out. But when it comes to me, I’m totally different. I’m not the kind of person that will burst into tears in a large group of people. HOWEVER, as much as I can’t cry for myself in those type of situations, I can just as easily cry at the drop of the hat for someone around me that I know is experiencing. It’s something that I’ve been able to do since I was little. I can easily “tune in” to the emotions of other people and that’s probably one of the reasons why I decided to be a therapist. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to someone who can both empathize but can also challenge you to see things from a different perspective. And honestly, sometimes when someone is going through a really rough or stressful time, they don’t want mountains of advice. They want to feel heard and for someone to cry with them.