August 31, 2009

Path Diverged

Using a journal by an author recommended by a friend and purchased used on – yes, someone sold a “used” journal…too bad they didn’t do all the emotional work for me, as well – I wandered down a new road today. This road of emotional growth is a lifelong journey that seems for me to be best digested in small bites.

The very first entry was simply to chose what words I would like to use to describe myself, either words that are who I am or words that I want to be who I am. I have to tell you that seemed easy enough but I had to analyze the exact nature of the content that I decided on to be an equal balance of both who I am and who I am becoming. My first insight into what I find to be a growing problem for me. I jokingly call it obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I am certain there is much more to it than that. Darn it! I had hoped there might be medication to fix it instead of more internal investigation.

Back to the list. Who I am or want to be described only in one word choices: Dreamer, Rare, Spectacular, Energized, Wise, Avatar.

The next step was to look into my heart -- the authors intent here, I questioned, was simply to illicit tears but I moved forward any way – and discover what I wanted in my life right now. Okay, simple, I believe:

To be the best mom I can be.

To complete my doctorate degree before I am 45 (I gave myself some room on this one so I could have a break down in the event I needed one)!

Add a few additional chapters to my book and finally publish it.

Speak more frequently (and for my friends and family who are already irritated by incessant verbalizing, when I say speak I mean “workshops” not just conversation).

Lose 20 pounds. Seriously, did you think there would be a list that I wrote that didn’t include weight loss? Even when I weigh 33 pounds I will probably want to get that last 3 off!

Have plastic surgery. I know. It isn’t a goal you might expect from someone who has a personal mission statement to “live with authenticity” but we don’t have time today to delve into the mystery of that issue.

Find 10 things in the DFW area I have not already done with my son and do them this year.
Create a new tradition with my son.

Go back to Hawaii and take my son this time.

Take my son to Germany to see where he was born.

I also added a few career goals that are specific to the agency where I work that would either make no sense to you or bore you. Or perhaps, there are ideas there that I don’t want you to implement at your facility first! Paranoia? Another issue for me to dog ear for future insights.

Dream on, my friends.

August 27, 2009


In a time of reflection I wondered about the past. I wondered to myself about the choices I made and how insane I was, indeed. I don’t regret the past anymore and I do not feel shame over the choices I made. I am fully aware that the person I am today is a direct result of the person I was in the past. Still, I sometimes wonder what lengths it would have gotten to if I had not stopped when I did.

My life has been colored with alcoholism, dysfunctional relationships, inappropriate behavior of all sorts and a great deal of illogical thinking. There were times in my life that I prayed so hard for something to happen that I am so glad did not come. If some of the things would have happened I would be so much worse off than I am today.

Like a lot of people, there was that one man that I wanted in my life so badly that I would have done anything to make it so. I prayed and I pretended to be someone I was not. I did anything he wanted. I lost myself with each action.

Staying in bad relationships is a form of self-punishment that I believe springs from low self worth. It seems that those who continue to stay in a relationship where their needs are not being met feel they don’t deserve more than they have.

What I have learned, through experience, is that I must respect myself in order to command respect from others. I must know myself in order to let others know me. I must have values that are firm in order to stick to what I believe.

What is your worth? What do you value? What do you deserve in a relationship?

A Poem


It didn’t come all at once
It came in a number of moments
Slowly catching a glimpse of the truth
Walking close to the flame
Warming my hands
Then running
But getting cold and going back
Because the warmth was appealing
Sitting longer each time
Eventually engaged by the flame
And then my soul caught fire

August 21, 2009


My time in Salt Lake City, Utah comes to an end when I board my plane this evening. It has been a fabulous conference. One of the better I have been to.

I enjoy energizing my mind with new information. I enjoy meeting people from other places and hearing how they do things in the states they come from. It is enriching to hear from people who do things in different ways. If we always do things they way we do things we will always do things the way we do things. Profound, huh?

Maybe I should head to the airport before I fall asleep.

August 19, 2009

Digging Deep

In 1993 I interviewed to become a counselor intern. I was hired. I had no idea what I was doing. At my first annual review, after I had become a little more knowledgeable of the counseling world and its surroundings, my then supervisor asked me what I wanted my career to look like in 10 to 15 years. Simple, I thought. I wanted to be Executive Director of a treatment center. I wanted to have my Master's degree. I wanted to be speaking nationally and the cherry on that would be to speak at the NAADAC conference.

Today I am sitting in the airport to fly to the NAADAC conference where I will speak tomorrow morning. Tomorrow I begin my last week of graduate school and will wrap that up with my Master's degree on September 1. I will begin a doctoral program on September 8. And I am Executive Director of the fastest growing outpatient treatment program in DFW.

I visited with someone I trust with my thoughts on Monday and followed that up with a visit with the CEO of the company where I work on Tuesday.

My question? What is next? I can't say I didn't believe I would ever reach my goals because I am a firm believer that we can accomplish anything we want enough...and I wanted it more than enough. But now I am wondering what I can dream of bigger than this?

The CEO said something that is ringing in my ears now. He said, "Only you know what would be a stretch for you". Hmmm. I have been thinking of that since he said it. What would be a stretch for me? What is the next goal? Do I pick up some of the goals I abandoned along the way? Do I create new ones?

I think I will be doing a lot of writing on the plane.

August 13, 2009

People Watching

While pumping gas today I was watching people. I experienced a myriad of emotion. I believe I see myself in people when I pay close enough attention. I see my past, present, my future and maybe those things that may never be. I see what I can be, what I could have been, what I once was and what I am becoming.

Some of those things bring great joy. How exciting the prospect, when looking to the future with knowledge and energy, that I have the ability to "become". Other thoughts bring a tinge of sadness. The sadness comes when looking at a few wasted years of youth. I am committed to a life without regret and I do fully understand that years are generally not wasted because they are, in fact, great learning experiences. At the same time I cringe a bit when I see the unappreciative adolescent who speed so fast through the years they fail to see the lessons. I believe I did that.

I also look with thanksgiving as I see those who seem to be blind to life. Those who continue to waste that time long after the lesson could have been learned. I assume it is not every one's cross to carry, as it seems mine, to strive for change and internal growth. Perhaps, I am among the minority but I long for moments when little fruits such as this come for me. A life of lessons, change and possibility. All learned while watching a few people while I stood at a gas pump. Today and the several days that have grown into years.

I really like the person I am.

August 12, 2009

Compassion Fatigue

It is Wednesday of my week long vacation. Today is the first day I did not begin the day by checking my work email or the office calendar. Although; I admit, I did eventually find myself doing so, I am happy to report that a majority of the events were sent to my “to do” folder. As I pen this entry I am glad to say that I am at the pool watching my son boy-bond via the cannon ball.

When I am with him I often wonder if I could do this full time, if being an at home mom was even in the cards for me. I know I am among the fortunate working mother’s as I have usually worked for an employer who allowed me enough flexibility in my schedule to still be an active mom. He is my priority. I think being an involved mom makes me a better human and that translates into my being a productive employee.

I travel the country making presentations. The most sought after topic is probably on burnout. I have had many counselors tell me horror stories about their places of employment where supervisors or systems insist on work obligations being the only priority. I understand that I hear stories from only one perspective, but it does cause me some concern. In a helping field where we dispense wisdom to clients related to balance why would we fail to do the same for our employees? For ourselves?

Now, I have had difficult employees who, even when given the time and tools to get the job done still do not. And they could very well be in workshops in some place telling a presenter about a crazed supervisor who expects too much of them.

Given the need for counselors but the complaints of so many employees and agencies I am brainstorming sensible ideas for the employee and the employer.

What does it take to be a successful employee and have longevity in this field? It is only my opinion but I believe first and foremost we must take care of ourselves. Even when working 40-50 hours each week there is time to take care of ourselves. A simple prayer, meditation or 12-step meeting could fit into a busy or rigid schedule.

As a working mother of an 8 year old I am still actively involved in my son’s life. I insist on it. I am a room mother in his school, I frequently take him somewhere overnight on the weekends, even if it is only to visit family. The change of scenery is an environmental impact that helps me see the difference between work and home.

I also stay committed to my involvement with my local professional association. I attend a monthly CEU luncheon for one hour. It is a recurring event on my office calendar. Many months I could easily skip it because of the business in my office but I attend anyway. I noticed each month that no one dies while I am out of the office for that short time and all of the obligations are still there for me when I get back. Being away is a much needed break and being with my peers is filling to me. Listening to the speaker adds information to my professional life and the bonus is a free CEU!

I also continue with supervision and consultation. Even when it is not a requirement, I find setting aside a few minutes to gain another perspective is enlightening. One of my favorite sayings is, “I already know everything I know. I need to know what you know”. I don’t know other ways to grow more quickly. Interestingly, two people I have learned a lot from in the last year aren’t even counselors. They are Executive Management members on the business side of the company I work. They bring a perspective that at one time I may not have had interest.

Therapy is another significant component of self-care I gift myself. Even when I have no “active issue” I go. Because I am busy I often go with a list. I jot things on the list from time to time that I want to cover and when I get there I get right to work. Writing is a cathartic event for me. Why wait? I tell clients to feel the fear and work it out anyway. Why shouldn’t I do the same? Leaving my issues at home is a must for my work. I don’t want my banker talking to the teller next to her about her problems with her marriage. Our clients deserve the same respect, courtesy, and energy from us.

As an employer there are several things I have found successful where I currently work. First is having a set schedule for counselors. That includes arrival and departure times. We also have scheduled lunches, scheduled preparation time before groups and scheduled time for paperwork afterward. To expect someone to get everything done in a day that is the state standard and not allow them time within their day is not productive.

Employers need also be considerate to allow their staff time within their work hours to attend an occasional training or simple CEU networking event. From a business point of view it really will pay off in productivity. A happy and balanced employee is generally more valuable in the long run. Besides, your employees are representing your agency while at these events. Marketing through employees who appreciate their employer is probably second in line to clients who are grateful for the services they received.

I also think it is a good idea to have an occasional “feel good” meeting where a staff member is openly valued and asked to contribute their ideas. Even sending the intermittent email praising something well done is helpful. Depart from the old idea that their paycheck is the appreciation. A kind word of praise will go a long way for most. Many in the workforce like the idea of a holiday party or even donuts at a staff meeting. It isn’t expensive or labor intensive to show thanks.

While time management can be an issue for counselors who favor client contact over client documentation, providing the tools and time needed to complete the job is paramount. All counselors know, at some level, that there will always be more work than hours in the day. When reasonable time is allowed to complete a task a more fair assessment of the counselors’ ability can be made.

Balance remains the key, personally and professionally.

Now I think I see a need for another participant in a game of sharks and minnows.

August 05, 2009

Emotional Coaster

The thrill of riding a coaster, for me, is the anticipation of the next turn and the drop that is so fast I come out of my seat. The part I don't like is the jerk that comes out of nowhere that seems to serve no purpose. The ones that jar my body so that I know the next day I will be sore.

Crazy making people in my life are just like that coaster for me. You know the behaviors of the crazy maker? The ones that tell you something -- and you are certian that is exactly what they told you -- only to say they never said it? Or they listen intently to your concerns or feedback, even telling you they are really open to feedback, only to turn it around and leave you thinking maybe you are crazy and they are actually the victim?

I have certainly minimized the crazies in my life but once in a while one of them will pop up and I am faced with dealing with it again. Lately my quest has been simply been to take them each as learning experiences. I believe they make me stronger and more educated. Many of the craziness comes with the territory of my job. And to the dismay of many, I'm sure, I am speaking of the staff.

My career choice, not dissimilar to paying for admission to the amusement park then standing in line in 100 degree heat for that coaster, perhaps.

Deep breath. It starts again tomorrow.