Saturday, October 24, 2009

Build a better sandwich

Dear body,

Have I ever told you that I appreciate all that you do to support me? You put up with my self-inflicted late nights that arise from my need to go the extra mile in all of my work, even when the sanest thing to do is aim straight for a Pass and go to bed.

You enable me to spin, kick, jump, twirl, dip and all sorts of other bizarre things in the name of what I call "dance".

You walk me to some places and drive me to others, all while ensuring that I don't trip on the pavement (which I have done before) or collide with a parked car (which I have also done before) in my fatigue.

In appreciation, I would like you to enjoy being fuelled with the best food I can afford.

However, you know I am a very intermittently employed full-time student and so the best that I can afford is usually not very fancy.

Also, although I have pulled off some pretty impressive kitchen stunts, I have also been known to fail splendidly.

Still, I will try my best and sometimes, the results will surprise us both.

When I am pressed for time, you will have to put up with sandwiches. But they might be astonishingly good sandwiches that leave me a little incredulous. Can anything this good come out of Ren's kitchen?

And when I have the luxury of a whole weekend morning, you might get to enjoy a more lavish plate without me rushing you on to our next appointment.

Either way, this is my way of saying thank you, not so much to you as to the One who created you -- or is that me? Well, us. Because according to some people, this is the way to live.

The rest of me

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ancient and present

"All nations surround me; in the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off." (Psalm 118:10)

I don't know about nations, but I am definitely surrounded by work. Files on my right, books on my left and behind me and on my coffee table and under my desk. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the masses and masses of things calling out for attention, easy to trip over them, easy to forget the perspective that I had but recently.

"In the name of the LORD..." and in no other...

"... I will surely cut them off." No research paper is too daunting. I can say to the challenge of completing all of this work in such a short time, "You pushed me violently so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me" (Psalm 118:13).

Yes, in these last weeks my postgrad degree has come to resemble some kind of malevolent wild predator in my mind, hence the Facebook status messages about hunting and capturing and shooting. For a mostly non-violent person, I am becoming very bloodthirsty. (It's what happens when you take a lifelong daydreamer, have her be a writer for 13 years, and then train her in narrative therapy. Inevitable.) But instead of asking "Who's stalking whom?", I shall just answer the question with, "I'll win."

And I will win.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


That pretty much describes the state of my mind at present. I cannot believe how difficult and time-consuming it's been to watch my counselling DVD. And I haven't even got to work writing my critique, this is just watching the video of me in practice and I'm already groaning with fatigue.

I wonder what this says about me. Get me to see six clients in a seven-hour span on a single day, and I'll gladly do it. Ask me to co-facilitate an anger group at a time normally reserved for dinner and quality time with a book, and I'll do that, too. Not only because I need the hours but because I love the time that I spend with clients. But make me record myself counselling and then watch it in detail? I would rather run around my apartment building while barking. Or hand-wash every single tea towel I own. Or manually shred two kilos of carrots for cake. Not that any of those things will earn me a pass for this subject.

I sure hope my lecturer doesn't feel this drained when it's time for her to view the video.

Blargh. So depleted, I wander off to find something fun to do before I embark on Part II: Writing the Critique.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Of all the titles Andrew Lloyd Weber has to choose for his sequel to Phantom, he has to go and rip off our song title from Drunk Before Dawn. Are there really so few words in the English language? How about Love Lives On? More optimistic, isn't it? BAH.

(I'm not bitter, oh no I'm not. Why should I mind that a world-famous composer happened to pick the title of a song I co-wrote to be the title of his new, no doubt extravagantly produced and wildly popular musical? Why, indeed? Really, one has better things to do around here. Like maybe finish packing and tidying up so as not to miss one's flight to Melbourne.)

I really should go close that suitcase.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Time to breathe...

I know, breathing is something I do whether or not I have the time to focus on it. But the past few weeks have made me appreciate the privilege that is sitting (or lying, but that usually leads to another sort of physiological activity that is becoming a bit too automatic these days... snooooore) down with nothing to do.

I finally passed the 100-client-hour mark at noon yesterday. I am now only 98 hours away from completing my requirement to graduate (apart from the countless papers I need to write, classes to attend, presentations I need to give and should have given by now if not for my beautifully tired mind convincing me that it was scheduled for Week 9, not Week 8).

In huffing and puffing my way to that dazzling goal of 200 client hours, I had begun to forget what that means: 200, 2 x 100 x 60 minutes. Well, 50, because 10 minutes out of each session are for the counsellor to reflect alone. Two hundred hours with clients. I had lost touch with the overwhelmingly scary magic that is counselling. My clients are real people with real needs that brought them here... the tears that get released sometimes (and I am thankful for a bottomless supply of tissues at my placement) are authentic.

While negotiating the blind curves of my life at breakneck speed, I think I've lost a few pieces of baggage... some of it for the better, some at the expense of my knowing myself more fully. I'd begun to forget who I am and what I'm doing here. Sometimes I wonder, in the morning as I pack two meals for a whole day at the centre: how on earth did I get here? Who is this person who listens to clients, nods silently at times and throws them daring challenges at others? What makes it OK for these people to place their trust in me? (Apparently, the fact that my supervisor recommended that they see me is enough. And I'm grateful, because how else would I complete the 200 hours? But still, the facet of my personality that I fondly call Thomas demands of me: What makes you think that you can help these people? Are you a safe receptacle for their questions, disappointments and dreams? Exactly who do you think you are, coming into people's lives like that? [Even though technically, it is they who draw me into their lives through the courage to talk... but Thomas doesn't seem to appreciate that.])

The fact that I doubt is probably the most ridiculous part of all this, because it goes to show that I still believe I'm the one doing all the work. How arrogant I am, to think that I could change anyone for the better. It's like walking up to a sculptor and telling her chisel, "Nice job" or "That's not a good likeness". I've been so caught up in worry over whether I'm a good chisel that I've forgotten to look at what's being done by the one who holds me in his hand, using me to bring out more of his likeness in my clients. The performance anxiety, harm anxiety and "Can-I-reach-200-hours-by-February-so-I-can-graduate" anxiety pale in light of the fact that for reasons only God fully knows, he wants me to be here, now, with these people whose lives I am honoured to share.

And how light my shoulders feel as I breathe in the relief of that truth.
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