When working toward a goal it is not uncommon to experience discouragement along the way. Even though we know that achieving our dreams will take hard work and tedious attention, when the trip grows long and laborious we begin to doubt our path, or grow weary of the journey. We may even consider abandoning the trek in favor of the path of least resistance. I have been in such a place for the past four or five months. I’ve grown weary of the endless papers, academic writing, dry, heady readings, and never-ending deadlines. When one quarter ends, another begins, again and again and again. I have doubted my abilities and wondered if I even want to persist to the end. All that changed however, when I spent the past week in Arlington, VA, at a required colloquia with hundreds of other aspiring mental health counselors. Divided into cohorts of 10 to 12 students each, we worked intensely in a classroom setting from morning till night honing our skills, critiquing our shortcomings, strategizing plans to improve what we do and move into our fieldwork settings. AND we affirmed each other. I was privileged to be in a group with nine other amazing, strong, capable, compassionate and dedicated women. Our instructors were phenomenal experienced counselors and teachers. During the week I repeatedly received affirmation that I was indeed in the right profession, and the journey was worth continuing. I came away from the experience awed by the beauty of each person there. We came with our flaws, our torn wings (see photo), our less than perfect personhood, but when the light of affirmation shown on each of us, just like that butterfly, the beauty was dazzling. Affirmation of a job well done, or for being the persons we were meant to be, revitalizes and beautifies. The path doesn’t look so treacherous anymore because we have light to illuminate our way. I am ever so grateful for the power of affirmation. Hugs to my cohort. You are truly beautiful women.
These days are filled with stress, good stress, but stress none-the-less. At times like these, when busyness and life demands threaten to overwhelm, nothing beats a good night’s sleep! Today I am most grateful for a good night’s sleep! 🙂
2011 was a year filled with upheaval and stress. A move from Maryland to Virginia, and then another from Virginia to Ohio, each dwelling smaller than the one before, necessitated storing most of our belongings in a storage unit far from where we now live. As if that was not stress enough, unexpected losses and illnesses of loved ones contributed to the jumble of feelings. Things got out of whack. For this year I have resolved to get my life back into whack (whatever ‘whack’ means.) Part of the process involves getting out of the apartment everyday and increasing physical activity. This is more of a challenge in winter when grounds and road surfaces are coated in snow and ice. Living in an apartment complex however, does afford some amenities that make it a bit easier to work toward my goals. The gym is free to all residents, so this year I’ve begun to come here and use the treadmill. Thirty minutes on that and I feel like a new person. As I get more in shape, I will use some of the other equipment, too, but a daily treadmill workout is great for now. I am grateful for gyms that have the tools that help us shape up!
It has been years since the family, all of us, joined together in one place at the same time. My children, pictured above, along with their families, are scattered near and far, as are my siblings. This year we all made an effort to come home for Thanksgiving. 2011 has been an eventful year with painful losses that remind us of how fleeting life is. We all felt the need to get together to celebrate this life we are given, the family within which we have our being, the joys that we celebrate, and the compassion and support we offer each other over pains suffered. It was a joyous time that ended too soon, as usual. And as usual, I missed getting a lot of “essential” photos, but the ones I did get are priceless. Between us all, I am hoping that we can put together a family album that includes everyone. But whether we do or not, I am grateful for the kids and all my family coming home for the Thanksgiving holidays. 🙂
This may sound strange to many people, but I am grateful for tears. Tears represent the release of different emotions and show the outside world what is going on in our inside world. Tears express joy, sadness, anger, grief, confusion, hormones, you name it. There have been times in my life when I felt the need for a good cry but could not find that release. There is nothing wrong with tears despite society’s aversion to seeing them. Yes, there are times when it probably is not the appropriate response to a particular situation, but eventually we need to express and release our emotions, albeit in safe ways. Tears help us do that. When each of my three children were born I cried tears of joy. When each of my grandparents died I cried tears of sorrow. When verbally attacked, I would eventually have to cry to release the tension and fear I felt in my body. Tears have often been abused which is why I presume we are afraid of them. For instance, tears may be used to manipulate someone to get what we want. Think of a toddler’s temper tantrum and how often the parent capitulates to the two-year old in order to stop the child from crying. Or think of the adult who uses tears to garner sympathy and support for a cause. Even so, by-in-large tears are a healthy expression of an inner emotion. I have shed a lot of tears lately, tears of grief, tears of fear, and tears of joy. I am grateful for the gift of tears.
This is a sad day in our country’s history. Most of us remember 9/11 and can replay the events of the day in slow motion. At times we still shake our heads in disbelief at the enormity of the happenings of that day, and how it shattered our world. Today, ten years later, we still pause and remember. Our hearts still ache for those we lost and the world that no longer is. We grieve again. Grief is a part of all of our lives. We don’t like the dull ache that seems to go on for a very long time after the acute anguish passes, but grief is also a harbinger of healing. People are drawn together in community; creative minds begin to figure out ways to be better and do better; we acknowledge the loss and those we lose and their importance to us in our everyday lives. Life is not the same after a worldwide catastrophe such as 9/11, nor is it the same for those who suffer losses on a smaller scale in more personal ways. Loss is loss for whoever experiences it. Today we pause and remember 9/11 and grieve again but not as acutely as on that day. Now we have stories of survival, inspiration, heroism, new beginnings and new directions that were all spawned from that horrific event. Today there are also people~family, friends, acquaintances~who suffer personal losses of which the world is oblivious, but for which those experiencing the loss grieve. Grief has a purpose. Grief allows us to express our deepest love, regrets, pain and sorrow so that we can move on. At its best, grief has the power to inspire us and motivate us to be better than what we have been, to pursue that for which we hope, and to make a spiritual space for what we have lost. Today I am grateful for grief expressed and healing begun.
This week I had the privilege of learning with a group of fellow students, all of us preparing to become mental health counselors. I don’t know about you, but most groups I have worked with in the past usually have one or two people who are hard to get along with, or the group break into small cliques. I have been in groups where group members bicker with each other, or tensions are evident just “beneath the surface.” This week however, I must say that our “cohort” had none of that. I found mutual support and honest sharing, giving and receiving feedback, and an overall camaraderie. We came together as strangers and left as colleagues and friends. This cohort will continue learning together through our Facebook group, online course room discussions, and in the near future we’ll be adding Skype (or Adobe something). It is such a pleasure to work with the people pictured above. I am grateful for the Arlington Colloquia Fairfax Cohort (a.k.a. fellow learners!)
This is the final week of the quarter (MS in Mental Health Counseling). For the past week and a half I have been dragging my feet, moaning and groaning, and generally being miserable about meeting deadlines and the accompanying stress. I wake up each morning feeling that I am just too old to start a new career. There are many many many other things I would rather be doing. Certainly there are other occupations that I could excel in without having to spend three years and tons of money pursuing another degree. I find myself wondering if this is worth the trouble, the headaches, the intensity, the time. This morning as I sat here preparing to dive in to these last quarterly projects, it occurred to me how privileged I am to be able to pursue an education. There are people the world over who would jump at the opportunities I have taken for granted. I reflected on what I have learned over the past year, my goals and aspirations, the dreams of how Richard and I want to live out our “golden” years. I never was one to dream about retirement, but have always pictured myself working and contributing not only to the family, but to the world, to making it a better place. As I contemplated these things, I suddenly felt very humble and grateful for the rigors of getting an education, pushing the mind to do what was once thought impossible, the pleasure of grasping a new concept, or gaining new insight. I remembered why I started this venture. It has been about a year since I formulated my five year plan and I am happy to say that I am still on track. Fortunately, Richard is the kind of person who continues to encourage me and to believe in my capabilities. Education. It comes in many ways for each of us. I’m tired. I’m ready for the quarter to be over. I need a vacation. Thankfully there are just a few days left and then I’m free. . . for three weeks, at which time I will do this stuff all over again. But after some quiet moments of personal reflection this morning, I am immensely grateful for the privilege of getting an education.
Vacations are a necessity of life. Without them we run the risk of becoming stagnant. Vacations stimulate creativity and well-being. We all need time away from the routines and drama of everyday life, time to rejuvenate, to see with new eyes, to relax, unwind and reflect, time to play. . . time. Sadly, the U.S.A. is one of the worst nations/cultures to take time off. People who make it a point to vacation recognize its importance. This is a mental health issue! Our family vacationed every summer for two or three weeks. My fondest childhood memories are of vacations to various parts of the country. Richard and I love our vacations, but sadly don’t take them very often. Here we are in Vermont at the Ben and Jerry’s factory, on our way home from Montreal, Canada. It was a glorious vacation even though taken in winter (Richard’s favorite time of year.) I am ever so grateful for vacations!