As I moved through the different positions in my work the opportunity was given to me to learn and expand in many areas. However, three not only expanded my understanding of others but opened my heart to appreciate the humanness of others as well as myself.
For a time the agency embraced Structural Family Therapy as a service to families and I was blessed to be involved in the training. My mind and soul were introduced to systems thinking as a way of working with families. It was one of the most invigorating times in my career and led me to begin to view the world from a systems rather than linear perspective. It changed the way that I looked not only at families and their problems but how I looked at the workplace and the world. It also gave me such an appreciation for the pioneering work of Salvador Menuchin and Virginia Satir.
After that experience the county embraced the practice of management across all departments through the Total Quality movement. I was trained as a facilitator and given the opportunity to work with several departments other than my own. Although the mathematical, chart making side of it was not to my liking, the people side of it was exciting and interesting. Helping teams look at their work and explore ways to improve it put me in a position of learning nonjudgmental facilitation and gave me a tremendous appreciation for the work people were doing.
Flowing into this time and after was an introduction to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for looking at how we prefer to function in the world and the use of it with teams. My own MBTI score was so accurate it was amusing and I wanted to know more. Several wonderful staff in the Human Resources training division worked with me and let me co-facilitate some team building with them. Then amazingly several teams within the agency asked me to work with them on team building. During this time I was highly energized when doing this work. Not only did I learn so much about why I react in certain ways to others but I began to appreciate differences and how we need differences to effectively get a job done as well as make the world interesting.
These opportunities expanded my understanding of my humanity and the humanity of others. It nurtured the growth of compassion and as well as the growth of my desire to work with groups of people to help them see their significance here on earth. Although the dream did not fully appear at this time the curtain over it began to part.
Have you ever experienced a shift in the way you look at yourself or others? What happened to cause the shift? How do you feel as you think about it now?
Several years after starting the job as a foster care social worker I felt restless and wanted a change. In the same agency I switched to doing child protective services work but in a few years restlessness settled in again. Several positions became available in the agency and indecision ruled for a period of time. However, this time I had a guide, a supervisor who helped me clarify my direction and I began work as the Training Specialist. This choice had a profound impact on my career and on my beginning to recognize a dream that sat deep in my heart waiting to be seen.
There is so much I learned in that job. Knowing all aspects of the agency was important to be able to plan. That meant I got to know more staff members and learned to appreciate not only their work but the interconnectedness of all jobs. The agency grew in size and training support became more and more important.
Over the years the job kept changing and expanding. I did some training but more planning and recordkeeping as well as other duties. When the agency got the first personal computer (yes, I am that old :-)) my attitude was to stay as far away from that as possible. But when the director’s secretary erased her hard drive for some reason it fell to me to try to figure it out or get assistance. At that point I decided I better learn everything I could about computers. When I left the agency after 28 years I was in the job of Systems Coordinator responsible for managing the work of all the automated systems the agency used including working on the team to design a local agency system. I also trained staff how to use the software.
Two important things happened as I took on the Training Specialist role. I learned that reaching out to someone I respected to help me clarify my thoughts and feelings around decision making was more beneficial than anything I imagined. And I learned the joy of making a decision based on intuition or heart rather than on fear. This lesson continued as my job changed over time.
Reflect on important choices you made in your life and/or career. Do you recognize times you made them from the heart or out of some other place such as fear? Can you love the human that at least made a choice and learned something through the experience?
The divorce experience led to a move to a new home with my daughter as we began a new phase of our life. Although for much of my life I had no real friends, friendships developed with people where I worked and with a special neighbor. Although my fear of friendship was also present, I began to lighten up some, laugh more and socialize. These same friends took my daughter into their hearts and in some ways became the village referred to in the statement “It takes a village to raise a child.” Oh, I made many mistakes as a parent but these friends along with family made such a difference in our lives.
At the time I am not sure I recognized this as I was also lost in worrying about everything. I was involved in a car accident that badly bruised both my knees and an ankle and for awhile I could barely walk. The emergency room doctor sent me home and my neighbor and her husband had to practically carry me into the house. Of course my daughter who was 6 or 7 at the time was terrified. It was a couple of days before my mother could come to help. Here I was with a child and stuck in bed. My sweet daughter tried to assist as best she could. Friends materialized and organized to assist in any way needed. Food was prepared, my daughter taken care of and one friend even bathed me.
To be honest many of the details are a blur in my memory. I have no doubt the accident happened because I was particularly unhappy that day and not paying attention as I drove. It was a wakeup call on many levels. However, I do remember the feeling of gratitude and the beginning recognition of the quiet awesomeness of the giving part of friendship. What a gift to be given the opportunity to see friendship as a positive, supportive experience.
After that time I had ups and downs with relationships like everyone does, but I never totally gave up on reaching out. Special friendships developed that taught me and gave me the opportunity to give. I firmly know that I was meant to work in the social services agency because many seeds were planted that grew over the years. One of those was beginning to feel safe connecting to others.
How do you see your relationships? How does giving fit into them? Reflect on experiences in your life that shaped how you connect to others. Has that changed over time?
After teaching in high school did not work out I began to try to find out what I did want to do for a job or career. The desire to find something where I could “help” people led me to apply for a job as a child welfare social worker in a public agency. The supervisor must have seen something as she hired me to work in foster care and adoption. There I was scared to death again wondering what I was doing as I had no clue how to do the work. But this time I was blessed with a supportive teacher and supportive peers. Although there were tears and sadness over the situations we faced there was also laughter and camaraderie. I began to feel appreciated and a part of something good.
It was also a time in my life when the fear of never getting married set into my being. During that time in American culture there was something wrong with you if you were not married by age 25. So against all my intuition screaming in my ear I married someone I barely knew and seven years of more fear and depression followed. We were two people who had little in common trying to make it work and achieve some misconceived dream. Both of us were introverts without a clue how to communicate. However, our biggest blessing was our daughter who changed my life and became a critical part of my learning not to run away from things in fear. Unfortunately my husband got angrier and angrier in frustration over his unhappiness, and I felt lost and helpless. The marriage ended through his courage to end it although many years of tension between us continued and impacted our daughter. Supportive family and friends were critical in helping me raise her and provide a loving environment. Growing up was not easy for her but that is a story for her to tell.
My husband and the marriage taught me even more about fear and how anger is related to it. But the biggest lesson was about letting expectations of others drive you to ignore your heart. A desire for something better in the way I lived began to grow in my heart.
Is there some experience in your life that you see as a disaster? Have you ever followed the expectations of others instead of your heart? Can you see now any lessons learned that helped your grow or move along in your journey. Is there a gift in it somewhere?