11 May 2011

Nothing to Hang On To

The bad news is you're falling through the air, nothing to hang on to,
 no parachute.  The good news is, there's no ground.
-       Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Yes, it feels like falling, what’s happening in my life these days.  Yet I realize that it was I who stepped off the cliff into this new job.  It involves working with adolescent girls who’ve been victims of trauma for all or most of their young lives, girls who’ve been shunted and shuffled through the “system” of foster care that may have lacked any real caring, that often has been unkind, and certainly been inconsistent and unsafe. 

The feeling of falling comes from the questions floating around and inside of me.  How will I respond to the triggers of my own emotions as I observe these girls’ struggles?  What will I do with my anxieties when, as will surely happen, one of the girls tests my capacity to care by acting out, perhaps violently?  How will I take care of my own needs during an eight-hour shift in a place where trauma and its effects color the environment?  Such questions make me long for a parachute, something to slow the descent so I can take time considering these questions.

It feels like falling as well because I did fall, during training in physical restraint and take-down – skills I must have to work in this place, and which I will need to use to keep the girls, and myself and others, safe.  In the fall I sprained my fifty-nine year old ankle – there certainly was ground under me then, on which my foot twisted and bent wrongly.  Since then new questions have arisen.  Will I be able to, at my age, use these skills without getting hurt again, or hurting one of the girls?  Am I too old to even be attempting this work?  WHAT was I thinking in accepting this job?

It seems that all there is to hang on to is what’s inside of me.  And throughout my life I’ve not trusted what’s there – even as I’ve gained experience and knowledge, pursued education and worked on healing my own traumatic wounds.  Throughout I’ve wanted, even believed I’ve needed, something or someone else to grasp on to for safety – in order to believe I was o.k. 

     Experience tells me that I've got what I need to hang on to even as it all feels scary and unsafe in this free fall.  And if I could ask each of you, in person, who have supported and encouraged me over the past several years as I've learned and risked and changed I know you'd reinforce my "enough-ness", tell me to trust, to keep on risking.  And you'd tell me to how fortunate these girls will be to have me working with them.  And you'd be correct.

     Hmmmmmmm - something to consider - that won't add to the anxiousness - as I fall. 

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