Saturday, June 22, 2019

Take Care Of Yourself - You're Important Too

My life is a little rough and raw right now.  Yes, I've recovered from my fall in DC, thank you for asking.  I have had other issues, however, in my personal life which make my need for self care to be important, albeit difficult to achieve.  It's funny that as I moved through my daily life before, I really didn't give as much thought to self care, mostly because it wasn't imperative.  Once it became imperative, I was shocked that I had so little of it in my life.  Yes, I had my running and strength training, which keep me sane.  What I realized, though, was that there are many aspects to self care, and what I was missing was balance.  You see, running and strength training for me are solitary pursuits, and I like them that way.  What I didn't have, however, is much of a community in general.  Socially, people are hard for me.  I really don't know how to make small talk, I feel awkward asking personal questions (maybe because that's all I do in my professional life), and I always feel like I talk too much about me, which makes me uncomfortable.  In time of need, people are important, so I've been making more of an effort.  What I don't have is a lot of time to go out and be with others, even when I want to.

As a result, I am loving social media.  I found a running group on Facebook that's connected to one of my favorite podcasts.  This group of people is perhaps the most supportive, the most caring and the most active group of folks I could have found.  With them, I feel safe posting my run times, talking about my running issues, sharing their and my personal records and challenges.  They feel like family, even though I've never met any of them in person. I commiserate with someone about their rough week at work, cheer when a new member completes their first race, get excited when someone moves to a new state or country.  We know lots about each other, and you will NEVER see a snarky comment on that page, which says volumes.  I joined an online coaching program for my running, and as I post my daily runs, I get feedback and cheerleading from the coaches and other members and I do the same for others.  Maybe to you, this all sounds like torture, but to me, it reminds me that there are people who care out there, even when I can't get to them in person.  It means a lot.

Here in the Trenches, divorce can be isolating.  The process of ending a marriage or a relationship and all the attendant issues that come with it leaves most people fairly rough and raw.  Divorce is an uncomfortable issue for most people, and folks in the Trenches are highly of conscious of that.  Their friends avoid them because they don't know what to say or do, or because they're tired of listening.  The process itself feels all consuming, and life-sucking.  Yet, folks in the Trenches have to go on with their daily lives and also deal with their legal issues.  What these folks need more than anything is self-care.  They need something to provide them with an outlet and a community who cares for them without judging.  It's hard to do, but vital.  While in the Trenches is not the time to venture out of your comfort zone, but rather to work with it to get the support you need.  What is it that gives you energy?  What resources are there for that activity?  What groups are there to support you, whether in person or virtually?  It can take some work to find what connects for you, and I know that's not what you feel like doing.  Do it anyway, because you won't know how much you needed it until you find it.  Here in the Trenches.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

When is Helping Really Not Helping?

For the past few years, we have had two mourning doves make a nest on top of our outdoor water heater.  Our water heater is just outside the back door, so it's shielded from predators.  Unfortunately for the birds, it also tends to heat up periodically during the day when in use, plus its smooth surface makes nest building difficult.  They have had marginal success in raising their family from egg to launch.  Yet, they return every year.  This year, we decided that they needed help, so we built a little wooden platform with a railing on top of the water heater.  We figured it would insulate the nest from the heat and stop the pieces of nest from sliding to the ground.  We built and we waited.  The doves came back, but they didn't like our platform.  They built a piece of a nest on it, and then abandoned it.  They still like our house; they simply decided to build their nest on top of the trellis which is less than 6 inches away.  As I sit here writing this post, I can see Mama Dove out there sitting on her nest, and I can hear Papa Dove talking to her.  They are content, even though the water heater with the platform is arguably the better nesting site.  We need to learn from them (although we probably helped the odds of the chicks surviving by moving them from the water heater).

If those darn doves don't help us here in the Trenches, I don't know what does.  In law school, or medical school, or any other professional school, we are taught to solve the problem.  We are taught that our training is to help us solve our clients' problems.  We, as professionals, think we are taught the answers to the questions.  It's no surprise that when we are set loose into the world of helping people, we dive almost immediately into problem solving mode.  We listen to our clients in order to solve the problem.  What we discover is that our training makes us lousy listeners, and because we are lousy listeners, we are poor problem solvers.

Let's look at our doves.  We watched them, we identified a problem and we provided a solution.  The doves didn't like the solution because of one or more of a number of things.  Maybe they didn't think they had a problem.   Maybe the urge to nest is greater than the desire to launch live offspring.  Maybe they enjoyed the periodic warmth of the water heater.  Maybe they weighed the options and decided it was more important to have a nest sheltered from the elements and predators, than anything else.  We don't know because doves can't talk.  Our clients, however, can and do talk to us.  When we listen to understand what they're saying, rather than simply to solve the problem, we gather valuable information.  We learn what is important to them.  We hear their concerns.  We ask them questions.  We work with them to solve the problem as they see it, not as we are trained to see it.  They feel heard.  They feel understood.  Most importantly, because of all of that, they take our advice because it makes sense to them and their experience.  Here in the Trenches.