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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