Given an unexpected random Friday at home (mostly) alone, I will clean the kitchen, do three loads of laundry, epilate my entire body (that hurt worse than I remembered), give myself a mani, AND a pedi, and write an actual blog post. I’ll also play a lot of computer games. What I won’t do, apparently, is homework or play catch-up. And I think I am okay with that– it’s been an interesting week.
You know how sometimes, two events happen in temporal proximity, and that’s the only thing that connects them? My supervisor has mentioned, twice now, that I don’t seem as invested in my residents as I used to be. And I know this to be true. Now she says, and I agree, that I am still doing good social work. It’s more than adequate. But some of the joy of interacting has slipped away. I’m trying to say….I used to go looking for my people just because I had a few minutes. But lately, I’ve been making sure I see them before I have to write a report, or because it’s time, and not…not just walking down the hall and popping in to see how things are going. Like I used to do, right?
So I’m thinking. I’m thinking about when that changed. And why. And it started changing the day my favorite died. Which happened to also be the day I had a significant and unpleasant shift in my personal life. Two unrelated things. But I think I must have tied them together in my heart and head, because…I know my own behavior patterns. When faced with professional pain, I throw myself right back into other clients. But my tendency, when personally confused or hurt, is to withdraw from both physical and emotional contact. I’m pleased to say that I did not withdraw physically this time, so that’s better. But emotionally? Probably. From everyone? Yeah, mostly.
So now, the challenge is to put myself back out there. I need to say…okay, time has passed, the gaping hole has closed to a small scab, and let’s get on with loving people. Because that is what I do. It is the absolute basis of my practice. It is what moves me from a good social worker to an outstanding social worker. And I am not bragging. I just know that’s my strength. It’s not in writing reports, or generating notes. There I am adequate. But in allowing a client to bask in unconditional positive regard? To smile at them with my mouth AND my eyes? That’s where I’ve got it going on. And they can’t bask if I keep my unconditional positive regard locked up with me in my office. I have to take that out to the floor. Again.
I started yesterday. I took my art supplies, which I basically haven’t touched since I wrapped up my art therapy class, and sat in the dining room with a couple of folks and we just chatted it up while they made art. I made a small piece based on a comment one of them made. It felt good. Both the relaxed visiting, and the art making. I should do that again on Tuesday.
In the long run, I need to learn how to not take home to work. My undergrad experiences went a long way toward teaching me not to take my clients home with me. I guess the grad lesson will go the other way. That’s an important skill in a profession that requires therapeutic use of the self.
In case you didn’t notice, this is a pep talk. From me, to me. Sometimes I have to do that.