Thursday, March 24, 2011
Working for a Living
Teri's job as a counselor for a nonprofit youth resident program has been especially challenging lately and while I try to stay zen and I do trust that she can handle whatever comes her way, I wouldn't mind a free pass to go down there and do my grandest impersonation of Ursula--the fabulous antagonist from The Little Mermaid. The program is new (Teri was hired at the beginning) and aimed at providing treatment for teenagers ages 11-18 who have mental illness and are extremely unmanageable. It is co-educational (seriously!) and there is little structure--kids are allowed to swear, act out violently, leave whenever they want and basically behave however they feel inclined--all because that is what the program director thinks is "best practices." For her first foray into this sort of social work, it has been frustrating and dangerous on a good day--it is very much a "program" where the inmates are running the asylum (no offense) and the lack of colleague support and supervisor back-up has been enough to make me furious and her feel horrible. Of course, it isn't about me, but I can't really speak for her except to say that it has her seriously questioning whether she wants to do any sort of social work, volunteer work or work as part of a nonprofit and she was so eager and ready to give that world a go! Needless to say, it is an organization that I won't ever support financially again and I had thought they were one of the "stable" human service organizations in the area.
Meanwhile, there have been some major changes in my work world and I have an expanded job with more responsibility and some big organizational transition to manage. Both Teri and I have found ourselves taking turns and trading "processing" as we try to stay focused and energized to deal with the challenges life is asking us to tend to. Unfortunately, it hasn't left much time for fun!
Last evening, as we were debriefing in the living room, I declared a one-hour moratorium on "work talk" and Teri suggested we get out and do something...anything! We decided to head to the nearby home improvement store, Jerry's, in search of some solutions for closing in our compost bin to keep the critters (a.k.a. dogs really) out. We wandered the garden area, the lumber area and actually had a good time thinking about plants and stepping stones and bird baths--what a delightful relief! How nice to connect with each other outside of the recent patterns of work and stress!
Leaving the multi-acre store with several cement stepping stones and a honeysuckle vine, we decided to go out for a burger and a beer before heading home. More simple fun. My sister actually joined us and while we let ourselves talk about work again, some of the focus had shifted and things didn't feel so heavy and urgent. Like good 40-something gals, we finished off the evening with a trip to Sweet Life for a trio of yummy desserts and hot coffee. While we may have to work for a living, we still have to remind ourselves to do some of that LIVING!