"You don't have to think about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, then you do it without thinking."
~ Maya Angelou

September 28, 2012

I Just Couldn’t Embrace It...

Glad to back with the keys as I breathe into another entry.  As I often do I allow the inspiration for my posts to come to me, versus me over thinking what I could or should write about, or just trying too hard to force something out.  With that being said my words today were inspired by a recent article that I came across.  It is the story of an athlete at the end of his athletic journey, but more than that, it is a story about the beginning of a far more important journey for this man.  Here is the back story http://ow.ly/e51NA and where I found the influence for this piece today.

We all have a story, whether or not it is shared in a manner that showcases the truth, well that's a whole other matter.  Often, the story that has challenged us (or caused us enough suffering and pain to limit us) doesn't always speak to the public, but it is one that we continue to repeat and re-tell to ourselves.  It can be repressed, suppressed, and buried so deep in that space and place that it takes on an energy of its own.  These kind of stories can put us in a vulnerable spot, where the likely outcomes for us are pain, fear, and the internal process that keeps it within.  So, when I hear about a story that has finally come to the surface, ready to be shared as told through the eyes of the one that has lived through it, I am inspired and empowered.  I am touched deep within because I can empathize and relate.  I can clearly identify with the experience of holding something in, similar but different it speaks to me from a familiar place.  I understand how it may feel to hold on to something that has had such an impact and influence on your movement through life.  I can embrace the thought process that tells one that it will be more difficult to to deal with it, then work on it.  What is the reaction going to be when it is shared?  You play it over and over and attempt to figure out what you really can not control, until you trust the process, and see that opening.

The stories that are born out of pain and suffering can have a tremendous impact on the quality of one' life  These stories don't always present themselves in the easiest manner, often coming to us full circle as we break down and open.  However, we are given a choice on how we want to live this life we are given.  How we want to use our story to not only help ourselves, but ultimately share with others in manner that supports, empowers, inspires, and everything else that goes into the ownership of our story.  I share many lessons within these words, and at times I may appear vague with my thoughts, but there is a purpose.  I write with the intention of producing reflection, thought, and the process that can ignite another to pause...  I write with my heart directly in line with the experiences that have shaped and influenced my path.  My story has taught me some valuable learning and insight and it is by choice that I share this with all those that can hear me. Therefore, it is not about what I am not willing to share.  At this stage in my life I am an open book, so if there is a question that needs to be asked, you can.  If there is a thought that needs to be released, you can. 

My hope for the man that inspired me today is that he embraces his journey in a manner that allows him to be witness to the quality of life that he deserves to live, the one that has been waiting patiently.  The work has just begun for him, it never stops, and it is by far the hardest of all.  However, there are clearly benefits that will be gained if he invests.  I hope you are able to receive these words today, but I am fully aware that you will when you are ready.  All I can do is open the door, the choice to walk through it will be up to you.  Until we meet again you be well to yourself, live it, love it, and work on it, because when you do there is nothing that you can not overcome!!!

September 21, 2012

I See You Baby!

In 2005 I was working for one of the largest school districts in the nation.  The work was never absent, and the need was always present. One of the benefits of working in this system was the ample days off (holiday, breaks, and of course the summer) and no one needed to tell me twice on how I should, or was going to spend my time away.  This year in particular I had a trip planned, one that I knew would be just the right escape I was looking for.  I was going to explore the Fijian Islands for a month during my summer break, just me, myself, and I.  I had no real itinerary, that's the way I liked to travel, and had done so several times before on my own.  A great way to experience the unexpected, while being immersed into a culture that would and could teach so much...

So, as the school year ended and I transitioned into my decompression zone, I prepared for my journey to meet my Fijian brothers and sisters.  I use to say that a nine month school year is really like nine dog years literally!  The trip was more than I could of asked for, but so much of what I was looking for.  The culture, landscape, and the pace of time and space is comforting to say the least.  Fiji is a pretty impoverished country with tourism obviously being a huge economic product.  Most Fijians don't finish formal education, and the ones that do usually work in the tourism field, or venture off to the nearby countries for opportunities that are not present back home.  They are hard working people, utilizing what they grow, catch, and create to live off and survive with.  They are a kind culture who model the way of life that embraces the right way without thinking, while not desiring what they don't have or need.  As my trip carried me through I was able to travel around from island to island, crossing paths with many, sleeping where I found that place to be home on any given day or night. I would have to say that this trip allowed me to breathe, while processing where I was, and where I may be headed.  

Then towards the middle point of my trip I found this little island that allowed me to experience the way of life that put it all into perspective:

Caqalai Island ( say: thung-gulie ) is a 14 acres coral island south of Ovalau in a sea area known as Moturiki Passage. Caqalai Island is run by the Methodist Church of Fiji. Its off the main tourist track and its the perfect place for all those that want to get away from it all and experience real laid back Fiji island life. 

It was here where I learned something that not only influenced my personal life, but my practice as a social worker, one who helped others change for the better.  There was no electricity or running water on Caqalai.  When it was time to eat the locals would blow from a conch shell.  This sound represented that it was time to meet at the main house for a meal.  It was here where I was shown that you don't need what you may think you do, what you have been accustomed and conditioned to feel as though your existence is dependent on.  It was here where I heard the phrase "I See You Baby" as I was welcomed into a new culture and family system.  It was here where I was taught that one could feel what was inside another man or woman's heart.  Whether it was anger, pain, joy, suffering, or love, it could be seen.  So, when my Fijian brothers and sisters called out to me and used this phrase I was right there with them.  I was there because we spoke the same language, no matter what the distance was that separated our home, culture, and...  We both were able to see someone for who they were, good or bad, challenged or not, we both knew that there was something good in there, and it could be brought out.  When this happened there was possibility and opportunity to live a good life, no matter what.  This journey taught me that know matter how different our lives were, we could still treat others with respect, kindness, and compassion, and most importantly we could each learn through each others eyes.  As I do, I will leave you with this vicarious experience, one that I know helped shape and influence my lens in a great manner.

Until we meet again you be well out there, I See You Baby!

September 14, 2012

You Must Enter By Yourself

Here we are... Today' writing is inspired by
the teaching that I have been invested in this week, and demonstrated so well by a recent quote I came across "Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself." 

This journey that I find myself on has taught me much, and in turn I have been given an opportunity and platform to showcase my model in many forums.  One that is greatly influenced from the experience(s) I have acquired, the education that I have been afforded, and the wisdom that I have achieved as a result.  Therefore, when I teach others I tap into what I can see, what I can hear, and what I know will help open up some doors.  As a facilitator of learning my style is rooted within the opportunity to show others what they may not always accept for themselves.  You can say its influenced from my social work training and practice, an influence that taught me so much about myself in order to be able to help others.  Yeah, that is a part of it, but there are many parts, one's that I have developed from my practice, and others that I work really hard to learn, understand, accept, and apply.  I am a participant observer in every way, one who strives to learn something new with every opportunity that presents itself.  With that being said, I don't have all the answers, and honestly I don't subscribe to.  You see, learning is not always about having the "right" or "correct" especially in the field of helping others change for the better, Can You Hear Me?

So, as I strive to reach and teach I respect the mutual process that I am engaged in and with.  I practice what I know will support, guide, and develop; active listening, being objective, empathic, and open to challenge.  I allow those that I am trying to reach to understand that it is okay to show you, not being so overly concerned about having the best, or most.  I let them know that the skills and development will come, and what you do not want to do, is force the process.  When this happens your practice will suffer, and you will most likely end up frustrating both yourself and those you are working hard to reach.  I tap into that place and source that led them into this career, one that is amazingly powerful, difficult, inspiring, and challenging beyond what one could expect.  I want to learn through their eyes so that I can open that door.  I want to help them help themselves when at times their pride, stubbornness, insecurity, and the walls that they have created will not allow them to move forward as they could.  I want them to be accountable for themselves, while not allowing the "contagion" factor to negatively influence their opportunities, growth, and development.  I want them to fully understand that their work can make a difference, but at the same time it can do damage when they are not aware, well, or engaged with the process.  I want them to be proud of their title and role, while understanding the attacks, assaults, and negativity that can come are part of it, never personal.  I want them to always remember the passion that drove them into this career, and when they are presented with challenge, I want them to fight for what is right, with respect and integrity.  I want to open the door, but they must enter by themselves!

It's been my honor to share a part of my thought process that comes from that space and place deep within. There is only one intention here, helping others change for the better as they strive to provide!  Be well to yourself out there, appreciate what you have, the rest will work itself out as it should...

September 7, 2012

Greatest Strength/Greatest Vulnerability

"Most of us became counselors because we wanted to assist others in need. Yet our capacity for compassion, along with the intensity of our work can, at times, leave us vulnerable for "compassion fatigue." This is a term that was coined to describe the set of symptoms experienced by caregivers who become so overwhelmed by the exposure to the feelings and experiences of their clients that they themselves experience feelings of fear, pain, and suffering including intrusive thoughts, nightmares, loss of energy, and hyper-vigilance. It can be cumulative (from the effects helping many clients) or occur in response to a particularly challenging or traumatic individual case. This extreme state of anxiety and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped becomes traumatizing for the helper. For this reason it is sometimes called "vicarious traumatization" or "secondary traumatization" (Figley,1995).

Good day to all those that can hear me!  Today I bring you some words, thoughts, and an opportunity to process further what exactly does "Compassion Fatigue" mean to you?  This piece was influenced as a result of some recent posts/outreach that I put out there on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/DJcanUhearmeAs you will notice I included the above definition and explanation as a means to set the stage.  Please note that there are many versions and thoughts on this subject matter, and this is one of many, but one that I felt represented the topic well.  However, more than an explanation of, or further definition, I want to take this opportunity to share some of my own experiences, in addition to creating awareness on your part.  What you will do from here is really up to you...

So, when I posted the information on "Compassion Fatigue" my goal was to provide support/education to those providers who may be susceptible & vulnerable (whether they recognize it or not), while reinforcing the Prevention, Resiliency and Treatment model.  This generated some engagement and response, which I was pleased to see as this allowed me to believe that the message was somewhat heard.  Often times in our profession there is this unheard culture where you don't acknowledge when you are suffering, when things are affecting/effecting you in a stressful and compromising manner.  Call it being stubborn, prideful, and perhaps at times not secure with your abilities and competencies, and how this may play itself out when others (i.e. co-workers, supervisors, etc.) are informed of what you are presenting with.  Now, this is not the entire culture as there are many examples of great support systems in many helping professional circles, but lets not dismiss the opposite as it does exist.  I can speak first hand to that from my own experiences working within two large public "non-social work/social service" systems where there was support, but not the kind that could adequately address the symptoms and effects of "Compassion Fatigue."  This was unfortunate as I was exposed to many intense, challenging, and traumatic events that I know had a direct effect on me, whether I was able to see it from a conscious understanding or not.  

Can I say that these past experiences directly attributed to the challenges and stressors that eventually led to serious burnout (a byproduct of Compassion Fatigue)?  Sure, they had an affect and effect as a result, how could they not?  When it was happening I was not always so kind to myself, self-care, and overall well-being.  However, I learned some valuable lessons as a result, which in turn only enhanced my practice, awareness, and opportunity to help others work through these moments of challenge.  So, be mindful of the warning signs and symptoms, and recognize when (and you should) reach out for the support that can adequately help you help yourself. I can assure you that when you do, and if you commit to the necessary work, you will be rewarded both in your personal and professional circles.  I'll leave you with this to help you process a little further:

"While our training, professionalism, and good boundaries within our helping roles are protective, really anyone with the capacity for true compassion, empathy, concern and caring is vulnerable to compassion fatigue. In other words, the greatest strength that you have to bring to your occupation- your capacity to develop a compassionate connection with your clients-is also your greatest vulnerability. Therefore, it is not a characteristic that you would choose to give up, rather it is more logical to educate yourself so you understand compassion fatigue and know what you can do if you begin experiencing symptoms. Realize that the more prolonged exposure to traumatic events you experience (working too long of hours), the more personal life demands you have, and the more isolated you become from others collectively increase your vulnerability for compassion fatigue" (Panos, 2007).

Until we meet again, be strong out there, stand up and stay up!

 "Not everything that is faced can be changed.  But nothing can be changed until it is faced"
~James Baldwin 

September 4, 2012

A Few Words

Spontaneous words today.  As I was in the midst of working, just going at it, I paused. It was the right time to reflect on what my purpose was, where my intention was taking me, and ultimately what my outcome would be.  So, I decided to write (an opportunity to process) it out, while creating another learning lesson for all those that can hear me. I came across this quote recently, "when one teaches, two learn" and with everything I put out there, when I give I definitely receive!

Having a few days off was wonderful to say the least.  I was able to replenish my needs, while adding to my bucket.  I was able to participate in one of my favorite activities, learning through the eyes of others while being available and present in the process.  Therefore, as I found myself transitioning back to the responsibilities and duties that called I was in a good space and place. Nothing was holding me back.  Nothing made me question the influence that can easily turn that something into nothing, once again providing an obstacle needing attendance.  No, I am good and there it is .  I am in that place that has me receiving the benefits of living the quality of life that only has your best interests at heart.  That space that provides you with purpose, and the ongoing process of adding growth, awareness, and wellness to...  YOU!

So, spontaneous as this piece began, the message is quite clear.  When you take care of you, when you commit to the necessary work that YOU will need to thrive, all else just fits into place. You may not always be able to articulate it in a manner that most digest.  However, you understand (and realize) that it's not really your words that may be difficult to comprehend. No, you see the meaning behind the words can only be received if you get the message. Once this is achieved you know exactly how empowered you have become, and all that you tend to will be met head on with intention, purpose, and action.  May the week ahead treat you well, and one more thing "Keep It Up!"