I’m back in good ol’ North Carolina after a wonderful visit with my family! (Recap coming soon.) Now that I’m back at work, I’ve been reflecting on a recent experience with a patient. It’s a complex situation that I obviously cannot delve into here on BNP, but suffice it to say that my patient and his wife has been through a lot. I marvel at their ability to keep moving forward despite obstacles and let downs, and it made me think of the quote below.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ―Mary Anne Radmacher
May we all find the quiet courage we need.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I wanted to share a quote from one of the women I most admire. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the second female Supreme Court Justice and an all-around remarkable woman.
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made… It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
When I think of Chipotle, I think of delicious burrito bowls, quirky stories on the cups, and the weird music that they play in there. However, my recent visit to Chipotle was inspirational. Yes, last week I was inspired by a Chipotle bag. (I’ll file that one under “Things I Did Not Expect to Write in My Blog.”) The quote on the bag was from Steven Pinker, psychology professor at Harvard. The bag I saw had the last line from his “Two-Minute Case for Optimism.” Hope you enjoy the quote and essay as much as I did!
“We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one.” -Steven Pinker
One of the oldest sayings in social work is, “I’m a social worker, not a miracle worker!”
While it’s mostly a joke, I am frequently called into situations when no one knows what to do. In some ways, it’s intimidating to be viewed as the resident problem solver, but I also love the opportunity to be creative and explore options. Those “What now?” situations can be frustrating, especially if I’m in a time crunch or none of the options are good, but they keep me on my toes and teach me so much, no matter the outcome. My friend Caroline introduced me to the following poem, and it resonated with me. Perplexity, though trying, is what brings out my best work and the most important lessons I learn.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
One of the trickiest things about social work (or really any helping profession) is genuinely caring about people without taking on all of their burdens. Obviously most people are attracted to helping professions because they want to do just that: help. However, it’s easy to see why people burn out in social work and related fields. As caring people, there is a tendency to empathize and take on that person’s pain, but you also need to be able to step back and see the problems without being overwhelmed by them. I was recently introduced to the quote below, and it resonated with me. It speaks to the paradoxical nature of being a social worker; you must care deeply but retain a certain level of detachment.
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” – Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe
Instead of sharing a quote, this week I want to share a story from our wedding that continues to inspire me. Hands down, the best part of our wedding was having all of our family and friends in the same room. The amount of love and support we felt that day is something that I will never forget. There were many memorable moments with our guests, but one interaction in particular has stuck with me.
One of Derek’s dad’s friends, we’ll call him Mr. G, traveled from Boca Raton, Florida to Lexington, Kentucky for the wedding. We were pleasantly surprised that he and his wife could make it, given the lengthy trip. When we talked to Mr. G, he gave us the best, most touching advice. Derek and I told him how happy we were that he and Mrs. G made the trip to be a part of our special day. Mr. G then told us that his sister passed away from breast cancer at a young age, and now he never misses an opportunity to celebrate life and love. He was grateful that he could be there to witness that beginning of our marriage.
Our encounter with Mr. G reminds me to appreciate every moment. It reminds me that there will be hard, dark times in my life, but I still need to choose to celebrate life. It reminds me that every day is a gift, but especially those days when we get to celebrate love, friendship, and new life.
This week I selected a quote from Oliver Sacks. Dr. Sacks is a neurologist and author. I read his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and I recommend it if you’re interested in neurological or psychological case studies. I enjoy Dr. Sacks’ writing because he writes with compassion for his patients. He makes it clear that there is more to gain from case studies than solely scientific knowledge. As a social worker in the healthcare field, I especially know this to be true. On a daily basis patients teach me about spirituality, the role of family and social support, meaning-making, quality of life vs. quantity of life, and death. The wisdom patients impart to me, purposefully or not, has been my greatest source of learning, and for that I am grateful.
“In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with the disease, we gain wisdom about life.” – Oliver Sacks