This may be one of the most honest posts I’ve ever written. In fact, as I’m starting to write here I don’t really know all I’m about to share. And I’m going to publish it on the internet for anyone and everyone to potentially see?
Maybe I won’t write this after all….
… OK. I will….for a lot of reasons, but mostly for the reason that I never want someone else to feel that they’re alone or that the rest of us have it all figured it out and they’re the odd one who just can’t get it together.
The idea for this post came last week when a client told me “I wish we could just swap lives. You have it all figured out and I’m sure you would never be sitting where I am. Why couldn’t I just figure it out like you have.”
Eek. Really?! Is that how it seems? While that’s flattering in some ways, it’s scary too! Because the reality is….I don’t have it all figured out. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I don’t have ANY of it figured out.
Counseling can be tricky. I remember being in grad school and doing practicum hours thinking “I can’t help these people. I have never been where some of them are. They won’t trust me if I haven’t experienced what they are. I can’t be a support in a foreign setting.” Professors would recommend the “fake it ’til you make it” approach. I never agreed with that. I wanted (and still want) to be genuine with my client. But before I knew it- I was working on practicum hours, intern hours, beginning my counseling career in a center and eventually opening my own practice. I was called on by client after client who invited me on their journey and we walked together. We cried together. We worked through the issues together and while I wasn’t always IN their shoes, I was definitely walking along WITH them. And I have realized- I don’t have to have experienced it all to have the ability to help.
No one wants to go to the counselor who rolls up to the building late, Dr. Pepper bottles and Starbucks cups falling out of the car door as they step out with breakfast on their shirt, toothpaste on their face, their yoga pants on and night retainer still in. People want the professional, educated, trained and capable individual who can walk with them on their darkest of days, help shed light on the path ahead, educate them on life skills and hold their hand while they are very brave and do hard work.
But no matter how wonderful that professional is, I truly believe that professionals (and all people) have to be real. We can’t put on the face in front of our clients that says “I’ve got it. Whatever life throws at me- I know what to do, how to handle it and exactly what steps to take.” Because no one can handle it all the time. I surely don’t.
The world of social media makes it harder for people to truly be real. We put out the posts, tweets and hashtags that promote to the world just how perfectly amazing our lives are. #nofilter #blessed It can make it harder when we experience hard times to feel we are able to really honestly share that. [Though let me clear- I really don’t think social media is the place to air dirty laundry.]
Have I experienced every single thing my clients have? No. Do I feel I need to have experienced it all to help them? Not any more. While I may not have experienced it all personally, I surely have my own baggage I carry. Yes I do. It’s a very nice set of luggage actually. Not just the cute little carry on size either.
So while I know I am very blessed and feel that God is using me where I am intended to be….there are moments from my past (and I’m sure will be in my future, too) where I have had it anything but figured out. So here is my #nofilter confession:
I don’t have it all figured out. There have been days where I am pretty sure my kids hate me – and the yelling in our house is not just their own. There was a time when I wasn’t sure my marriage was going to survive a very dark time. I have relationships with family members that took decades (not kidding- decades!) to heal. I have times when the insecurities about myself crawl out of the luggage and cause me to wonder if I’m doing enough, doing it right or anywhere close to good enough. I have days where I feel I have nailed all that life offers only to be followed with a day where I’m pretty sure I can’t mess it up more. I have been the patient the doctor tells the crushing news to that the ultrasound no longer shows a heartbeat. I have moments where I feel I’m working professionally exactly where I should be and then I look at my resume and realize – it took a long time to get here and the path was anything but straight! I’ve have the times when I stuffed feelings down farther than I should and then sat on the counselors couch and cried as they all came out. I’ve made mistakes. I sin. I ask for forgiveness and then try again the next day to do it a little better. I need Grace. Often.
Switching lives with someone may be initially of appeal but the reality is….we all have baggage. And we’re all learning to deal with it. Sometimes it comes in big, awkward boxes that the best of the FedEx guys couldn’t handle and we stumble over it as we process, accept, deal and sort through it. Other times our baggage is easier to contain in a cute, little rolling train case. Whatever the size, shape or intensity – we all have it. And for those who say they don’t….well…..#blessed (or maybe #denial).
So while I promise my family, friends, clients and most importantly myself that I will never be the one to roll up late with the Starbucks falling out of the car and retainer in….I’m dedicated to being human and totally, completely, 100% real.