Recently I got together with some of the girls I grew up with for lunch. It’s been more than fifteen years since we’ve all been together and I was expecting it to be a short little meetup. After all, what do we have in common after so much time apart? Instead, we chatted for more than two hours, until we all reluctantly had to get back to our families and our Sunday chores. I left feeling happy and surprised but also deeply grounded. These women know the most core parts of me. We’ve lived a lot of life in between our high school graduation and now, but still, they understand me; they brought me back to myself.
Since that lovely lunch, I’ve been thinking about that feeling of being grounded: namely how it makes this work easier. It’s different from self-care, a term which has been co-opted by pop culture so much I think it’s lost a bit of its meaning (a rant for another blog post). Being grounded is not exactly about self-care, though that certainly factors in. What I’m referring to is being strong in my own sense of self. So often in this job I’ve lost myself: because of difficult clients, micro-managers, my own counter-transference. There is often chaos in what we do, swirling around whatever the core of the issue is, preventing us from getting to the point. It’s easy to get drawn into the chaos. I think of family meetings I’ve been in where I was overtaken by stronger personalities or louder voices (hard to imagine, I know). Over the past decade of doing this work, I’ve replayed client interactions where I lost my patience or got over involved in the minutiae, missing the part I could actually help to change. At times I forgot how to listen, how to be still: core skills of our job.
I don’t recommend this strategy as a way to get grounded. As important as it is for us to examine our work, it’s even more important to walk in to the work confident in our strengths and aware of what we can’t offer. When we are grounded, when we know ourselves and feel strong in that sense of self-knowledge, that’s when our best work comes out. That’s when we are able to get to the eye of the storm and offer real help.
So. As you walk into your week, into the frustrations and successes and surprises of our work, I hope you are acutely aware of what it takes to ground you. For me, it’s being with old friends; watching my daughters play; and being outside. These are the ways I come back to myself. I hope you have a way back, too.