Posted in Be The Change

Life’s a Beach!?

Last year around this time I went on a 2-day intensive writing workshop which I thought I had loved, and oddly I have not written anything other than social media posts since then.  I found the weekend both inspiring and traumatic, and was awed by the quality of the writing, or maybe I was completely intimidated by it.  I was definitely way out of my comfort zone and it recently I have found myself being in a space where I am questioning my personal and professional “why”.  

Since my return to South Africa in early 2014 I have been pretty clear on what I was trying to achieve and it really feels like a lot of my goals are coming to fruition.  And that has left me with an odd emptiness.  I don’t feel like I am lost, but I am also not really sure where I am going at the moment.  It’s like I am walking along an unfamiliar beach, with the coastline on my right and the landscape on my left.  As long as I keep walking I will eventually end up somewhere, and I feel a serenity that I am not going to be walking in circles. This “vision” is extremely vivid for me at the moment and I’m taking this to mean that I am on the right path and I feel confident that I am going in the direction that my work to this stage is pointing me. I am just not overly sure on what I am hoping to find when I reach some sort of settlement.  

I’m really not used to feeling like this.  The serenity is oddly unsettling, but I can still become anxious over my day-to-day professional responsibilities.  Managing a substance abuse treatment clinic is all about learning to balance the crisis, chaos and conflict that our clients bring into the environment on a daily, even hourly, basis.  Yet, I have become empowered in that space to understand that it is not my dysfunction and have started to become somewhat detached.  I do not mean that I am aloof or lack empathy, quite the opposite, but I am able to hold the space in a way that doesn’t detract from my well-being and peace.   Most of the time anyway…  There are moments when I can get quite overwhelmed and have to go back into certain relationships and own my behaviour, but that’s all part of growth as I see it.

Of course this “lull” could just be me in the eye of my (life) storm…that strange quietness that you feel when the wind suddenly dies down and there’s an eerie stillness on the streets.  Or perhaps it’s the dawn after the storm when everything is coming back to life after being beaten and bruised by the weather.  Maybe I am just connecting more with the earth through these thoughts and actually living in a more grounded, present way? It always seems easier to be the coach and assisting someone else through their process than trying to figure it out for myself.  I guess the personal work has to become embodied and unconscious at some point in our development…

I think that just sitting here and writing, the thoughts are becoming a little clearer around where I am at in my life.  I’m reflecting back to my reason for not writing and I know that ego stands arrogantly at the root of that.  Feeling “less than” or “not as good as” others who are prepared to be vulnerable and put their truth into the world.  I am reading the final chapter of “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown at the moment, and grappling with what my two (you’re only supposed to choose two) core values are.  Picking 10 or 15 would be easy, but when narrowing it down to two, I am challenged to think about which of those I can easily identify as values are in fact my core values.   The ones that I can use to check myself in life.  And I believe that authenticity is one, and I want courage to be the other one.  Yet, when I fall prey to my inner critic around something like the writing (or lack thereof), I can hardly own up to living into my value of courage.

Maybe this blog post is about me being courageous about it and owning what I have been avoiding. I don’t think it’s only abut the writing to be honest. I guess it’s about showing up in parts of my life that I might have been avoiding recently.  It’s about taking some time to understand myself in this new phase and reconnect with my why, from a place of self-love and -compassion.  So perhaps I am really living into my values of authenticity and courage by being able to see where I have not been very courageous recently and identifying where my egoic, inner critic is still holding court.

What I have learned in my personal recovery process is that being well is about all the  the recovery capital that we build.  And at the moment I am having to work around my spirituality which I see as my connection to myself and the world around me.   This place I find myself is not one where I am driven by fear or anxiety, but rather a real curiosity as to where I am at the moment.  I know the feeling of sand between my toes, the salty taste of the coastal breeze and the reassuring rhythm of the rolling surf, I’m just not sure which beach I am walking along.  For the time being I am going the keep going and enjoy the warm touch of the sun.  I have faith that I will get to where I am supposed to be if I stay open to the experience and what I am discovering within myself. 

Posted in Be The Change

I didn’t say it would be easy…I said it would be worth it!

I love the work that I do (most of the time) and feel blessed to be able to work in a space where I get to support people in their personal processes.  In this process I get to be part of a my clients’ awakening as they move forward in their lives, but these connections sometimes come at a price.  As someone who works in substance abuse and mental health industry I am constantly giving of myself to others in the work that I do.  I show up as authentically as possible as often as possible and try and bring myself as courageously as I can in service of my clients.

But this doesn’t always work in my favour and there are times that the parts of my life I use in the learning are used against me by clients who are in a different parts of their journey.  And that is part of what I do…it doesn’t always go well and sometimes it’s just downright awful, but that’s the nature of the work that I do.  I have chosen to be in this world where I am sometimes open to anger, vitriol and projection.  I’ve done my personal work and I know when I have to stand back and just let the work happen without me.  It’s difficult to quiet my inner critic in these situations and allow the process to unfold, but it’s essential for my sanity and well-being.

At the moment I am in one of these situations.  Not only has there been a difficult situation in my work space, but I have also had an exceptionally stressful few months.  So I have had to put myself first and step away from my professional life.  On the one hand it is exactly what I need to do, but on the other hand it’s been a really bitter pill to swallow.  I need to take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically and socially and for this process to happen I need to be in a safe, loving space.  One of my biggest challenges in life is to practice self-love and right now I have no other choice but to do this.  I am having to show up authentically and courageously for myself for the time-being rather than the clients and patients that are such a high value for me.

So what s unfolding in my life at the moment is a real integration of the teaching and facilitation work that I do at the clinic.  I am having to put down some very strong boundaries at the moment in order to protect my recovery and wellness.  Working in the addiction space means that conflict, crisis and chaos rule and it can be hard to find balance and perspective when I am entrenched in the environment.  In order to build up my personal recovery capital I have to put myself into a mindset where I am practising humility about what I can and cannot achieve both personally and professionally at the moment.

The humility to embrace that I really am just human and that I cannot expect myself to always be able to show up in the messiness of the work that I do without taking time and making space for my own work, healing, fulfillment and goals.  Perhaps I also need to have the “mindsight” to remember that I have already battled a lot of my personal demons and that some of them still lurk in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to pounce into my life, especially when I am feeling drained and burned out.  The one thing I do know is that no matter what happens in my world I am living firmly within the universal principles of honesty, integrity and willingness to see when I need to focus on what I can control in any given situation, and what is complete outside of my control.  And that’s very hard for an “eight”.

I have never claimed to be perfect, I know that I make mistakes and I am aware of where I need to work in my various personal and professional roles.  My growth and development is ongoing and something that I consciously work on daily, weekly, monthly and further into the future.  Most of the goals, plans and actions I focus on are of the relational nature; with myself, the important people in my life, my clients, and the larger world around me.  Sometimes I get these interactions right and sometimes they don’t work out so well, but I am constantly striving to improve the way I connect with myself and the world.

Like most people I come across I am simply trying to be a little better than I was yesterday, and make some mental notes and commitments as to how I can show up authentically, courageously and congruently in my life, my relationships, my work and my community.  So this afternoon I will spend some time looking at my upcoming week, setting out some intentions as to where I can do better in my life and focusing on the areas that fulfill me as well as the areas that challenge me.  I am aware of my “bright spots” in life, but I am equally aware of what needs to be addressed and looked at with an openness and willingness that is sometimes hard when it comes to self-reflection.

I didn't sat it would be easy... I said it would be worth it

But in order to do the work that I do with others, I need to be able to do the work on myself.  Not always easy.  Not always pretty.  But always, always necessary…and always worth it!