Sunday, June 22, 2008

365 days later...

One year ago today I was in an airport in Qatar, by myself, looking for sunglasses in the duty-free shop. I did not find the sunglasses...but what I found instead was almost enough to make up for the fruitless search... ;)

What I found instead was something I certainly was not looking for, nor even knew if I wanted it at the time. What I found was destined by something much bigger than me; and no matter what happens, it's something that was, still is, and hopefully always will be, a bright shining light in my life. What I found instead has shown me that I can trust again when I had just about written it off as a lost cause...

What I found instead goes by the name of Paolo (or Paldo J. Fox). And today I'd like to thank him for joining me on this journey. When Paolo and I met, I was in a place where I couldn't talk about my past without breaking down. We'd be sitting in a romantic outdoor cafe in Rome or walking through the streets of Casablanca and if the topic of my marriage came up, it was still so raw that I had a hard time keeping the tears back. For most men, I would imagine this would be a major red flag, like, "call me when you've lost the baggage". But not for Paolo. He would listen, ask questions, and allow me to show myself--my real self--open wounds and all. I never felt judged because I was getting a divorce and he always told me how amazing he thought I was for deciding to handle this intensely difficult period the way I did. At that point in time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It had been a long time since I had a man tell me that he admired me for just being me. I had spent a lot of time by myself on that trip and personally I felt good about what I was doing. I felt stronger each day. But no one can argue with some positive reinforcement--especially when it's coming with a cute Italian accent!

He understood that initially part of me was closed off and that even if I wanted to open myself to this relationship fully, I couldn't, because subconsciously I was still protecting myself. Anyone that has been through a traumatic break-up knows how terrifying it can be to allow yourself to feel again. The pain is so vivid that sometimes it's easier to just avoid altogether. Instead of pressuring me he just held space for me in his heart--wide open--for the day that I was ready to crawl inside.

He was with me the day I got divorced and the day I found out Leslie was having a baby. Both days I could barely look at him, I could barely move. But he never allowed me to feel guilty for not being able to give to him or our relationship at that time. Again, he just waited, heart wide open, waiting for me to crawl back in. He has shown me what it means to be completely accepting and his patience is unmatched by anyone I know. He just has an innate understading of human nature and is able to be completely unselfish because of it. When he knew that I was going to need time he never took it personally and he never pushed me for more. It takes a strong man to be able to do that. It takes someone who knows himself and his own worth to be able to trust that I will indeed comeback and no coersion is needed.

His stability, consistancy and eternal optimism kept me going when I didn't know if I could. Sometimes it's easier to do things for other people than it is to do for yourself, but he would never allow that. No decision I made could be for him. They could take him into consideration and ultimately benefit him, but they always had to be for me.

I have never met a man like Paolo before. The personal qualities that so many of us strive to achieve, he's been blessed with from the beginning. And somehow, in the Middle East, in a duty-free sunglass shop I was also blessed.

So amore mio, this one is for you. Thank you for making me smile every single one of the past 365 days. You've been my rock. I love you. Happy Anniversary.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Who decides?

I've been at my clinic for a few weeks now and am just starting to work with my own clients. For the first few weeks I was observing my supervisor and other therapists while they worked so I could see different techniques and become more comfortable with the process. It has been an intense month of learning, not only about the clients but what I am feeling myself. And there is one thing in particular that has been keeping me awake at night...

Who decides?

Who decides which one of us is sitting on either side of the desk? Who decides which one of us needs the help and who gives it? Who decides which one of us had the blessings in life to have an education, a family that cares, and opportunites galore? Who decides which one is sexually abused by a family member? Who decides which one of us has no running water because her father is a crack addict? Who decides which one will cut her arm so deeply just to numb the pain that is life?

How was I born with all of this privilidge? What did I do to deserve it? What did she do to deserve the life she has?

And... how in the hell can I possibly help?

We study in school how to process what we see and hear, we talk about self-care and avoiding "compassion fatigue" and burnout. But until I began to see these things on a regular basis I didn't realize how important taking care of myself really is. There is no way for me to be effective if I can't work through these things.

So, how did I answer these questions? What did I do to work them out? Honestly, for the first time in my life, I've taken true solace in my faith. And although that is still somewhat undetermined (raised Catholic, but by no means practicing) I HAVE to believe that there is something bigger than me out there that knows how this will all play out. Because I can't do this job if I believe that this is the only shot these people get. I've discovered that my belief in a higher power has helped me to hold on to the idea that this isn't it for them. This thing they are calling life--living in horrific circumstances, being told constantly that they are nothing and having that reaffirmed day after day--this is not it--this is not their only chance. I believe that their struggles will be rewarded, either in a beautiful afterlife or another go-round here on Earth where they keep improving on the previous life, until they too reach the beautiful afterlife. Either way, it's totally cool with long as this is not it.

Talk about gaining perspective. This month has been a crash course in perspective. Everyone's struggles are real, we all have a certain capacity for pain. But what some of these people have endured in lifetimes shorter than mine has been mindblowing.

So sure, I've learned all the skills in school to be able to do this. I know all the theories, strategies and processes proven to help. But, really... who's helping who?