Life as a Series of Changes or Crises

In the five days between talking with my bestie Ruth, my life managed to catapult into entire upheaval, mostly in a good way, though. Our weekly phone dates, which have been going on for near a decade go far beyond the bare bones updating that happens with longer distance/time friends, and so I felt almost no qualms in stating in one breath:

So, I’m starting a private practice. And some (paraphrasing for privacy) pretty interesting personal things happened in our sex life, and I feel mixed emotions that I want to process with you.  And I interviewed a nanny, and liked her, but worried she’ll be flakey. And did I mention I’m teaching an additional class next quarter? And why do I always feel like when we talk it sometimes feel like I’m giving you a pinball list of my next crazy adventure.

She laughed, and said, ‘you know, I’ve come to realize, that most of my friends leave rather boring day to day lives. And when things are good with me and Barnes we’re good, and I don’t need to report on it at all, and we talk about things like deep religion and stuff, and then when things are up in the air or hard I need to process. And so in talking with friends, it can seem like our lives are a series of changes or crises.”

Boy did she hit the nail on the head, per usual.

Brought on my some frustration at work, I went out to coffee with a former classmate who has managed to start a counseling agency. An agency with a contract with a local school district so counselors can provide therapy to students. A counseling agency with a billing specialist, scheduler, 8 treatment rooms and a group room, an ARNP in-house for medications, and access to insurance panels. She said she’d love to have me on board, and it’s when I finally let myself remember that I love doing therapy, and am excited to see where this goes, and the possibility for 6 clients a week could almost equal $20,000 extra a year (on the high end), and that while I’m nervous about adding an extra day to my plate, it’s not forever, possibly time limited for a year or so depending on whether I get pregnant, but it could be an opportunity for me to get this other part of my soul fulfilled.

And so, the nanny interviewing begins. We met a woman who seems like a great fit, though I’m worried about her being flaky, and so I hope that added stress doesn’t happen because I am already feeling super nervous about my transition from 4 to 5 days, and I really want Potamus to have a good time with a fun person, and that’s what it seems to be. Ugh I hate being an adult sometimes and having to deal with all the stress, added on top of that the whole mommy guilt which I mostly avoid, but it rears its ugly head in situations like this where I feel like I’m tipping the balance of family to career focus.

But then I think, how great it’ll be in the summers, when I work one day a week, and he’s only in care 2-3 days, and the rest with me. That there are plenty of moms who work 5 days a week, and that dads never worry about this type of commitment. And that if I’m able to even make an extra $15,000 that would pay for childcare for a second kid if the time came to it. And I’d be able to flex my therapy muscles.

So there you go, a series of crises and changes in my world.

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Face Forward to Go Forward

Carseat Facing Forward

I had used the line before, but it was different this time. I’m not sure why this client clung to me (metaphorically, of course), but sometimes that’s the nature of crisis-work. There becomes a trauma-bond that they feel when you come and see them in the most vulnerable state, and then six weeks later they are crushed when you tell them that they have changed, are stronger, and need to keep moving forward without you. It’s the nature of crisis work, nothing personal, I tell them up-front, but there were those clients who had lots of feelings when it came to that final goodbye.

And so, my Family-Advocate and I, sat in the moldy smelling family room, with her mom and dad and sister and long-time therapist, and we had a final family meeting. And the dad, overwhelming nervous about the prospect of this crisis happening again, asked “what do we do if it happens again. We don’t want to go back,” and I replied:

When you’re driving you look through the windshield. You need to glance in the rear-view mirror to see where you’ve come from, and what might be behind you, but if you stare in the rearview mirror you’ll crash. You have to keep your eyes focused on what’s ahead. The forward journey. Glance back, but keep moving forward.

There was a moment of hush in the room. It wasn’t anything magical, I’d said it a hundred times, and it’s something I believe in, but in that moment it hit the family in a spot that they needed. Even the therapist, who had been working with this young lady for years, and was a long-time therapy supervisor, was stunned. I might have blushed because half the time I think I’m fucking everything up and about 1 step away from being found a fraud.

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I thought of this experience this morning, as I buckled Potamus into the car. We’re a month early, but we turned his car seat around to face forward. His legs had been scrunched for awhile now, and we thought it best. And he was Mr. Nonchalant about the whole thing, clearly based on the picture above. And as I drove I kept catching glimpses of him in the backseat and had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road. I could state at his wild blonde hair and intense eyes forever. I could get stuck in the nostalgia of the first car trip with him, all 7lbs, bundled up so snugly as we drove home from the hospital. I know that nostalgia, sentiment, memories are good…really good…but I can’t live there, in the past. We move forward, driving off into the sunrise, and work, and daycare, and a new Holiday-Week, and it’s okay.

 

Is Being Adopted Shaping my Career?

My psychologist is kicking my butt. She basically accused me of thinking too much and not letting myself feel (totally true. totally nailed it in session #4 people!), but I don’t really know HOW to feel. I do know how to think, how to over-think, and how to think some more. I also know how to catastrophize like nobody’s business.

At any rate, in an attempt to avoid feeling all the feelings about that early trauma of separation from my safe place (mom) and being raised by genetic strangers, I decided to think about my job. And it made me wonder…I am working with 16-20 year old “at-risk youth” in a community college setting. I am teaching them skills to succeed at school. And my biological mother was 16 when she got pregnant, and my biological dad was 20 when I was born. My biological mom did not finish high school, but did complete her GED, and my dad completed HS but had a 3.9 GPA and NOBODY suggested he go to college. And, my maternal half siblings did not finish high school (and my half bro got his GED…I think). I guess my question is….am I trying to work with my biological family?

Am I throwing myself into a situation, a passion, in some sort of karmic attempt at rescuing my parents? Do I see these vulnerable young ones and want to spark a fire for education in their life, to empower them toward greatness, so they don’t end up in a situation where they have to give their firstborn away as atonement for their “sins”? Am I somehow trying to connect with my family in this choice of career?

Or (or maybe an) am I trying to distance myself from my family? Do I like sitting on the other side of the desk, seeing that I have “made it,” that I am “not like them,” as if my life is somehow a proof that my biological parents made the right decision in letting me be raised by strangers. Because, see, I am not like them anymore. I am educated. I am in the middle-class. I am…fill in the blank.

Or, do I do it to prove something to my adoptive family? To protect myself from further abandonment by both excelling in education and also working in a compassion field to show my humility?

Could all of those reasons be true? Or not true? And does it matter? Does the motivations, or the impetus, or the reason that I end up in a job really matter? Or is what matters that I feel like I fit here, that I belong, that I was actually made for this type of work? Does me trying to work out my own identity or story take away from the “goodness” of doing this type work?

And how can I just let myself feel, instead of always just thinking about things?

When everything around you is annoying…

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maybe it’s you that has a problem?

I don’t know if that’s a fact, but yesterday we got home from the in-law’s and I was kvetching about EVERYTHING. Seriously. I know that we’ve been doing Sunday dinner at the in-laws every week for FIVE years, and that I’ve had similar spells where I am just done with it. And then we always come back, it’s something about family that keeps sucking us back in. Sigh. So after complaining about the time of dinner (always later than intended) and the purposelessness I feel sitting around their house on Sunday (I could be doing other things! OR we could be doing other things, together, like playing games or talking or SOMETHING!), it then spiralled into complaining about my mother-in-law trying to feed Potamus Teddy Grahams at dinner, though she knows how hard we’ve been working to get him to eat things OTHER THAN COOKIES. Ugh. And the awkward interactions with Potamus by Auntie and Grandpa, it just spiralled into a ball of too-muchness that I could handle.

So we were trying to get a plan for how we want to break this annoying cycle, and I then started ranting on about my own sister and her boyfriend and complaining about the dinner we had on Saturday and it was just like…

Dude, Monk-Monk, get a grip. If this much stuff is annoying you, then it’s probably your issue, and not those other things.

Boof didn’t actually say that, it was something that I thought and then said aloud. But it’s probably a combination…annoying things PLUS my reaction to them. I’ve never been one to really hide my emotions. And I’m not easily persuaded out of a mood if I’m moody. Fortunately I haven’t actually been that annoyed with Potamus, but even Boof has been getting on my nerves. Like, for example, last Friday when we were supposed to be spending his birthday dinner at a nice restuarant, I was annoyed with him ALL DAY. Except…well…he wasn’t actually home. I had all of these imaginary annoying conversations in my head about how frustrated I was over this or that, and none of it was actually real. And yet, I was annoyed nonetheless.

So, what to do?

I mean, I’ve thought of going back to therapy this summer, when I have a little more time, but what should I be doing NOW when it seems like everything is annoying me. Am I focusing on the wrong things? Are things really annoying? HELP!

Advice dear bloggy readers? What do you do when it seems like anyone and everyone/everything is just annoying?

 

 

Is Love Enough?

A few years ago I was taking a counseling Ethics class and had to do a paper and presentation on an ethical dilemma. I chose International Adoption, posing some questions like:

  • Adoption…or baby buying?
  • Is it ethical to adopt a child from a different culture than your own?
  • Is Love Enough?

These provocative questions got the class thinking, and discussing, adoption from a different point of view than is traditionally upheld. Each point could be its own entry, but I want to focus on this question about love being enough.

In my time as a crisis counselor, I worked with MANY families who had adopted: domestic infant, international, or from foster-care. And all of the families I met were dealing with some major issue (duh, it was a crisis counseling service), that stemmed back to adoption and adoption trauma…yes…even the families with the children who were healthy white children adopted as infants. While certainly other families had issues, there was something unique about these adoptive families, where they would mention things like, “but I love her, I didn’t realize that this could happen, I took her in, I showed her love.”

I keep thinking about the stories we hear, about Russian adoptees being sent back by their parents after being a handful, or even here, in Washington, so many stories of Ethiopian adoptees being starved and whipped for “bad behavior,” and ending up dead or in foster-care because of the abuse/neglect from their adoptive parents. Certainly those are extreme cases, but even the loving families that I saw, were struggling to make sense of why their child was so fucked up (to use a very non-clinical way of describing it). There was this overwhelming sense of naivete, that because these children were loved, and saved from a life of living with a crack-whore birthmom or in a foreign country (a dominate narrative told in adoption-land), that they would grow up to be okay.

But IS love enough?

For children who were raised in orphanages, who might be struggling with Post-Institutionalization Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, or any type of physical/cognitive delays, is simply loving them going to fix it? Standing from this perspective, the answer is clearly NO! But for some reason, families who desperately want children, who go to such great lengths to obtain these children, still operate under the belief that love is enough. Their love is going to fix everything.

But, who would tell a soldier’s wife that her love is enough to fix her husband’s PTSD from serving 5 tours in Iraq? Nobody I know would. And even, on a less-extreme case, when Potamus is sick, or if he broke a bone, or seemed to be suffering from depression, I cannot imagine simply trying to ‘love’ the pain away…ya know?

These questions were meant to get my fellow counselors thinking about working with families from a new perspective. Because, for so many, the myth of adoption being a miracle, has clouded over the fact that an adopted child is wired differently because of their experience, and simply loving them is not going to fix things…it will help, but there are many other things that need to happen to help the child be successful.

In my crisis work, I was fortunate to be paired with a 67 year old adoptive mother, who “got it” and had lived it, and was able to connect to many of these adoptive parents in a way that I was not. And I was able to connect to these children/teens in a way that other therapists were not. And adoption was discussed (because most often others hadn’t even recognized where the pain/dysfunction was stemming from).