Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring is Here!

Yesterday I did 108 Sun Salutations. Spring is here!

It’s not the first time I’ve done 108 Sun Salutations, 108 Vinyasas or 108 prostrations, but it was the first time I haven’t counted. Yesterday I let go, and had faith in my teacher to do the counting for me. I tried to breathe through each salute as if it was the first, or the last, and let go of my need for control. It sort of worked.

Doing 108 Sun Salutations is as much an exercise of the mind as it is of your physical body and your breath, and boy did my mind try to play games with me. In the past I’ve done them in sets of 12, so you know that there are nine sets and you get a break after every 12. Yesterday, I just breathed. Without my glasses on, I counted even see the 108 flowers on the mirror, one of which was taken down after each flow, no way of knowing how far I’d come, or how far I had to go.

It’s interesting to observe where my mind goes, when my body is pushed, there’s sweat pouring from me, and I’m in a room with forty two other dripping people. I thought about work, I thought about my past, I thought about my future, I let the thoughts come, and I let the thoughts go, trying to come back to my breath, and only my breath.

There was also a constant battle going on between my mind and my body, as I worked to find the balance between pushing myself, and killing myself. After five years of yoga I usually know the difference. 

It started with my feet, they hurt, they felt crampy, “maybe you should just take a break”, said a part of my mind. Then it was my calves, and my hamstrings, aching, and a part of my mind saying “maybe you should just give up”. Other parts of my mind fought back, I knew I could do this, I’d done it before, I deepened my breath, deepened my resolve, and my teacher put on the Spice Girls. Definitely not the most reverent or bliss inducing choice, but the absolute perfect thing to give me the energy to keep going.

I danced my way through the next three songs.

Then it got hotter, or it felt like it was. I began to modify my Sun Salutations, proud of myself for getting through so many, as I’ve always modified all of them in the past.

My body is amazing.

I started to shiver despite how hot I was, and started wondering if this was a symptom of heat stroke, even though I know it isn’t, and besides, I was still dripping away. And all of a sudden in amongst the aches, the shivers, the sweat, and the back and forth in my mind, we were down to our last 12. Deep breaths. Jump Backs. Counting out loud. Rihanna. Gaga.

It was over.

I lay in savasana and decided not to move. I was overwhelmed with the heat, and the physical effort and the emotional battle. But, there was a smile on my face, and there is now as I write this. We do this all so that we can come back to savasana. How amazing does savasana feel after a practice like this.

The final mind battle was the urge to flee from the room. In the wise part of my mind I know that the longer the savasana the better, after all that exertion and all that breathing. Other parts of me though just wanted out, to be cool, to have salt, to have sugar, to have anything that wasn’t savasana in a hot room. And I breathed, and I waited, until  I slowly left the room and joined some of my Sangha as we sat and shared our joy.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Do I?

I've been trying to figure out lately whether I like my job. I'm working in a job that would definitely not have been my first choice if I had my pick of social work positions. I accepted it because I was unemployed and it was a permanent job in government during a government hiring freeze. I accepted it on the advice of a trusted supervisor. I accepted it because I had to, or risk losing my unemployment insurance. So, I accepted the job, and I turned down another one just after. I'll never know if I would have liked the other one better. So here I am, new job, and really feeling like it's not an amazing fit but that I can still do some very good work, but do I like it?

Let's start with the good things about my job.
- I'm learning a lot about case management
- I get a lot of independence
- I have an assistant who does my filing
- I get to do a ton of networking
- We have every colour of post-it flag ever (in fact our supply room is twice the size of my last supervisor's office)
- It's downtown so I can go for indoor walks through the skywalks and tunnels when it's freezing cold out
- It's only one bus from home
- I'm learning a lot about geriatrics
- I make more money than I've ever made before

And some not so great things.
- I have very little client contact
- SO much dealing with money
- I never see my supervisor
- I get NO feedback on my work other than grammar corrections
- It's busy all the time but I find the work itself boring
- I feel extremely awkward having an assistant
- We're not allowed to hang things on our walls or put tacks in them
- I work for lawyers.

The bottom line is that I feel stuck. I might like this job more if I hadn't got laid off from the old one. One of the hard things about this job is that I'm resentful about having to be there at all. I also keep coming across stuff the person before me screwed up and having to fix it. On the other hand, I feel like in this job I really get to have a voice for the voiceless, and I like that. I just sort of feel like I could use my gifts and talents better somewhere else. That administration just isn't the best place for me. And yet, I'm not looking for a new job. I want my old job back. Still. And if I stay in government it will be a lot easier. Plus, I really don't want to start anything new, I don't want to have to start everything all over again, I've only been in this job 11 weeks. I'd like to work my way up to having holidays somewhere so my dad and I can go to Europe. I'd like to work my way to having a bank of sick time, in case I get sick. I'd like to be somewhere, and make a name for myself. I was doing all those things at the old place....

There isn't any room for advancement at this job. I'm 26 and I'm already at the top if I stay here. The only way to be higher would be to become a lawyer, which just isn't happening. My supervisor is a lawyer. I also don't see myself being able to have much impact on any policy changes or systemic issues at this job. I can do my little bit, but I feel like I could do more somewhere else. It strikes me that perhaps I need to set a time limit on this job. Give myself time to learn the job, to adjust, and to give it a real and full chance, but if after a time frame I'm still not happy, giving myself permission to look for something new. And really, I'd at least like to get through my three month review...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Privacy Laws

My city is not that big, it’s fewer than 1 million people, which means that when you work in the social services field, you can run into the same people, over and over again, no matter where you are working or volunteering. Because I tend to focus on similar populations (homeless, high risk, “dangerous”, substance abusing etc…) that becomes even more of an issue. Basically, it means that I’ve known some of my clients for 10 years, through at least five different jobs and volunteer positions, which is great, in some ways, but definitely makes things more challenging in other ways.

Here’s the scenario, you have a signed confidentiality/release of information with a client on your caseload. You’ve known them 10 years, but they’ve only been on your caseload at this job for 6 months. Keep in mind here, that in each of the places you’ve worked you would have had signed consents on file for disclosures to certain people, not necessarily the all the same places/people, plus, these consents would no longer apply to you as you are no longer there. You are talking to someone from the justice system who is working on a presentencing report; they ask you how long you’ve known the client, what do you tell them?

The answer is of course, complex andI went and talked to my supervisor, who also didn’t have a good answer. My reflection on the situation? I’m still not sure what the correct answer was/is. I think in the spirit of the information acts, I gave an appropriate answer. The acts are meant to protect the best interests of the people, and in this case, providing relevant information was in his best interests, in my opinion (now, don’t get me started on how the justice system ignored everything I said).

Any thoughts? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Why

So, how does a social work wind up out of work, especially a social worker who up until March had three jobs? Simple, government.

Without going into too much detail, just because the internet isn’t exactly the world’s most secure forum, I was working for government, government cut backs, term not renewed. The end. I quit my other two jobs before my trip to Malawi in April deciding to focus on church and my full time job with the government. Working 56 hours a week just wasn’t doing it for me….

I think the hardest part of all of this, is that I really, really, liked my old job. I liked my caseload (all 180 of them), I liked my coworkers, I liked what I did, and I even liked my supervisor. I won’t lie to you either, it was the highest paying job I’d ever had, good for the mortgage and all sorts of house disasters (of which there were many). I’m finding it very hard to apply for new jobs, because I’m still stalled at the old job. Not quite sure how to move past that, I’m guessing though, that, like most things, it will take time.

While I wait for the time to pass, I've got some stories to tell, some social issues to discuss, and some ranting to do. Stay tuned!  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Things that keep me sane right now

I can't remember the last time that I didn't have something to do. I would guess that it was the summer between grade 10 and grade 11, about eleven years ago. Even then, I babysat more days than I didn't, and worked at gymnastics camp, so if we're really looking back, the last time I had this long a break would have to be when I was about twelve.

It's been two whole weeks of unemployment. It's definitely a BIG change for me.

I started school when I was five, I did the normal kindergarten to grade 12. I worked the summer between grade 12 and university, and for the next four years I worked/took classes/went to practicum and worked over the summer. I started my first "real" job the day after my graduation. Each time I've switched jobs I've taken less than a week to make the transition. Now, I'm finally having a real and true break. It's weird.

The first week was kind of nice, I babysat a couple of times, had a couple of appointments, kept myself busy. Last week was a little harder, but for the most part, I found a daily activity, something to get me out of the house, this upcoming week, who knows. But, there are some things keeping me sane, and so, in typical me fashion, I close this post with, a list.

Things that keep me sane right now:
- setting my alarm clock
- having a reason to get up each day (without one, I just don't get up)
- the alarm clock on my coffee maker
- daily yoga practice
- the gym
- my friends
- getting out EVERY day
- planning ahead, so there's always something to fill my time
- being nice to myself
- taking things slow
- daily job search
- eating
- sleeping at night

and I'm sure many other things, but that's it for now!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Social Worker for Hire

So, it's National Novel Writing Month, and I'm unemployed. You might think that these two things have very little to do with each other, however, it's been brought to my attention that being unemployed, I should have more time to write, should, is the operative word here. The truth of the matter is, I do have more time to write, the other truth however, is that I really don't have a novel inside me right now, I just don't. SO, I decided that rather than trying to force something out of me that wasn't there, I would try to blog everyday in November. That, I think I can handle, although this short paragraph is all you're getting for today's blog!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The update of the month - from the perspective of Sophie Cat

Hi world. Sophie Cat here. I decided that it was time this blog had a touch of style and truth added to it. The title claims that I get to help, and yet rarely am I asked to contribute, so here we go, the month of August in review, by, me.

First of all, August seemed to involve A LOT of boxes. While the orange cat seemed to enjoy this, I, did not. Small minds may take delight in jumping in and out of things, but more developed minds know that boxes, in both large and small quantities, always mean that something is changing. I did not approve. Next, the boxes began fillings with all our earthly possessions, once again, I did not approve.

Come the middle of the month the boxes began disappearing, slowly at first and then faster. Finally, one day, the girl locked us in the bathroom with a bowl of water, our beds, and our litter box and what sounded like an army of people started trooping in and out of the apartment. Then, the girl and her old roommate came, dragged us out, and threw us in the back seat of the car. Everyone commented on the orange cat's big eyes and look of fear, but I was all tucked away unseen in my carrier.

The girl pulled into a garage and left us in the car for a while before she brought us in somewhere new. The room smelled all new and different, but yet all our things were there. The orange cat jumped under the bed right away and I stayed in my carrier till every one left me alone before coming out and exploring. The space seemed okay, but I was NOT impressed with all the moving about and I just wanted to go home. Alas though, the girl hoped into the bed, pulled me up, and we slept there that night, and every night since then too.

The moving however was not the worst thing that happened this month. The worst thing that happened, was what I found when I started to further explore. In her new house, the girl is harbouring a human and a feline or unknown origins. That's right, there's another cat, thankfully she comes with her own girl and is not trying to steal mine, but still. I have put her in her place numerous times, and now she runs after I give her a look in the proper way. The orange cat seems slightly interested in her, however the new cat's been hissing at him. The girl informs me that I need to be nice to him, but well, we'll see.

So that's this month. Furniture still keeps moving around, the girl flits in and out and the new cat seems here to stay. Hopefully this month will have FAR less trauma associated with it!

Things I learned this month

So here we are at the beginning of another month. At the end of group on Thursday I got them to write about ten things they learned this month and as is my new habit I did the same. Unfortunately, I lost my list, so I have to try and make it up again so I can share it. So, here it goes, hopefully.

1. If you can't find the crawl space in your new house, look under the sink.
2. Always know the name of your lawyer
3. When you're doing headstands, the pinky fingers don't interlace
4. When you're going from a headstand, through scorpion, to a half wheel, go SLOWLY (actually that applies to most of my yoga and perhaps to most of my life)
5. Some things you've come to accept as normal, are actually harassment
6. Living on the ground floor of a house (well, it's a single story house) means you can no longer just randomly change, you have to think about whether your blinds are open.
7. Living with a roommate means you can't just randomly change, you need to make sure your door is closed.
8. I talk to my cats A LOT and have entire conversations with them. While I knew this was true, I didn't realize how extreme it was till I had the roommate comment on said conversations.
9. You CAN fit a one bedroom apartment inside a 1 ton u-haul (my father didn't believe it could be done).
10. I have awesome friends (but I already knew this)

So there you have it, ten things of August!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Projection aka The Sophie Cat WILL be lonely for me while I'm away

According to wikipedia (such a reliable source I know) Freud says that "projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one 'projects' one's own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires and feelings onto someone else". In my work, I see projection a lot, however I haven't really been thinking about it a lot in terms of myself, and certainly not in terms of my relationship with Sophie Cat! Today I went to see my counsellor, who I see about once every five weeks or so, just to check in, and she pointed out to me that I seemed to be placing a lot of care and concern on what Sophie Cat might be feeling about life events worry about how they might affect her, without really being able to clearly articulate that I might be having similar feelings.

Monday, I got the keys to my new house. My new roommate and her cat move in on Thursday, and the cats and I move in next Wednesday. Then the last two weeks of September, I am going on a vacation with my dad and leaving my cats with my roommate to look after. Naturally, I expect that Sophie Cat is going to hate this. That she's going to have anxiety, that's she's going to be stressed, that she's going to pine for me. I worry that she'll get sick, or stop eating, or go back to her old evil, angry and hissing self. I worry that she'll hate the new cat and that things won't work out. I worry that she'll miss me terribly. And while these concerns are semi realistic (cats don't like change, especially Sophie Cat, there may also be some projection going on here).

Perhaps, I'm a bit nervous about not liking my roommate, just as I'm worried that Sophie will hate the new cat. Perhaps I'm a lot worried about getting homesick for my house and my cats, just like I'm worried Sophie won't like the new set up. Perhaps I'm worried that with my limited diet I won't be able to find food I can eat. And I'm sure there's some part of me that worries about what it will be like spending two weeks with my father. (I probably won't start hissing any more than I already do though...)

So these week, I plan to spend more time paying attention to projection. Not just what I'm projecting onto the cat, but what I'm projecting on to other people. I think it's an important thing to look at, particularly with clients, but in my personal life as well. It will be interesting to look at, and see if I notice anything. Also, I think I'll pay a little extra attention to my Sophie Cat. For both ours sakes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

on disclosure and/or did I tell you that?

That's a picture of her highness madam Sophie Cat licking out the inside of an empty cat food bag. I always give them the bag to play with, but I've never seen her disappear completely into it until tonight. The picture reminds me of being a counsellor in some ways, because for the most part, we stick a lot of our personal lives away in back corner and we don't talk about them with clients; they only see a little piece of us, like the tail sticking out of the bag. It's not a perfect metaphor, but the picture works for today's topic.

As a counsellor, I try to be quite "real" with clients. I share perhaps slightly more about my personal life than some, but I think for the most part, I really am quite guarded. All of my clients know I like cats, of course, they can't help but know as soon as they set foot in my office. Many of them also know that I have a second job and where it is, and I'm okay with that. For the most part though, that's it. I see know point in giving out information about my personal life unless it's relevant to the client and in their best interests. The point of counselling is certainly not for me to tell MY story. When I do groups I think I tend to share more of myself, simply because I am constantly having to come up with examples. Even then, they mostly revolve around fairly generic things, such as the fact that I have friends, and a family, nothing very specific.

Because of the above, it surprised me, when a client recently commented not just on me moving into my house, but on me getting a roommate. You see, I very much do NOT remember telling her this, and I'm really not sure why I would have. I might have shared with the group she was in that I was moving (and honestly it was probably in the context of cats, and how they don't like change, and how people don't either), but I have no idea why I would talk about the roommate thing. I didn't tell my family till yesterday. I mentioned the situation to a couple people on my team and the best we can figure is that the client must have over heard me talking to my coworkers at some point, listened, and remembered. Either that or I'm really not paying attention to what I'm saying.

I think, regardless of how the client found out about the details of my life, it's a reminder to watch what I say at work. I need to be more mindful about disclosure and make sure I am keeping the focus on the client, including the small talk we make. It also means that I probably need to watch my volume and watch where I am talking to coworkers, especially remembering that the room we eat lunch in has vents which carry sound quite far. There are definitely some things I share with coworkers, particularly over lunch, that I wouldn't want my clients to know about.

As professionals, there is so much power in what we say, and I think it's good to remind myself o this more often than I do. Words have power, and clients pay attention to what we say. Time to start paying closer attention to my words.