What’s next? TSOTLS Ch 4: The statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas.

“The slender threads of causality are rewoven and reinterpreted as we attempt to explain to ourselves and others how we became the people we are.”

There is no doubting that our past influences our present state. Counsellors and psychologists worldwide are familiar with the impact, influence and often ongoing unexamined integration ones family of origin (FOO) has on why we as individuals act the way we do. We long for meaning. We long for connection. We long for authenticity, to be.

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D…is for distinctions

WOOHOO – 4 DISTINCTIONS!

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but somehow I managed to pull out 4 Distinctions for my 4 Masters units this year.  I was stoked to get the news.

Making the decision to study was not an easy one.  Being a single dad working full-time and limited availability for lectures I knew it was going to be a big call. As I weighed up the pro’s and cons for taking on study; for the timing of it, for the recognition of likely challenges and competing demands on time, energy, and need to balance being there for my boys; I knew it to be something I both needed to do, but also was the right time.

My first assessment came in the form of n HD for an in class counselling session with another student. This served as a deep encouragement and confirmation that I’d made the right decision.

It hasn’t been an easy year.  There were times I had to leave my boys and cut into “our time” to attend compulsory lectures. I can stress how much I hate this dynamic.  I’ve always been a proactive hands-on dad. I have a great relationship with my boys and whilst not perfect (none of us are) I endeavour to be physically & emotionally present with them whenever they are with me.

There were times when I had to juggle writing essays whilst doing road trips for work. On one particular occasion I was away in Shepparton attending and participating in a conference.  After working all day and joining the conference dinner I returned to my hotel room. I’d laid out my notes, my laptop hummed music (I work so much better this way!) and was grappling with the topic of change, a topic I’m comfortable with, but by midnight found myself falling asleep still having over 1000 words to write.

The problem was that when the conference ended the next day I had a 2.5 hour drive directly to my subject class where I was meant to be handing my assignment in.  This was worth 50% of my overall assessment. Thankfully I’d learnt a technique some 20 yrs earlier to go to sleep and have at least one REM cycle.  Fighting sleep was pointless, my brain was groggy!

I set my alarm for 3:30AM and thankfully had coffee to kickstart and stimulate the brain and elevate the eyelids. Somehow I powered up and sentences streamed like a waterfall and paragraphs gelled together like mortar. Through the day I managed to do some final editing and got the essay printed off. It was a relief to arrive safely back at home exhausted after my morning madness and head-nodding lecture.

Thankfully most essays weren’t completed under such circumstances. Thankfully my boys are forgiving. Thankfully my priority has not been to complete all readings and get the best marks possible. My priority has been to maintain balance.  My priority has been to model to my boys that ongoing learning is important and that achieving goals is to be valued.

Yes the year has been challenging, but I am satisfied.  I am content.  I am proud of my efforts, my learnings, and my outcomes. To receive 4 Distinctions went beyond my hopes. I’d love to stop working and study full-time but that isn’t an option. And so, I continue to straddle the study/work/family/social life balance…and pray that my feet don’t slip!

D…is for damn, where does time go?

Confession and explanation time, particularly to those who have graciously chosen to follow my blog.

I’m new to this, and oddly I feel conflicted between wanting to blog in order to somehow offer something of value to you the reader, partly to disseminate so many of my random musings and eclectic (some say extensive) experience(s) – and feeling bad (a false guilt thing going on) because I strangely feel like I’m letting you down (whoever you are); and at the same time knowing that it’s been a somewhat busy season of life and finding time to write consistently on top of work, study – and the deadlines for assessments, running a home, juggling shared parenting, coaching my eldest sons basketball team, trying to keep up with friends who are likewise juggling and balancing life’s often competing demands; and so telling myself that I can’t do everything…and that’s ok!

There are times & seasons in life when cutting myself some slack is important (for those who know anything about being a first born, a Leo (if you’re into that sort of thing), with an over-developed sense of responsibility and an ever-unfolding, but still ever-present perfectionist streak, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

So, I’m back. I’ve completed the last of my assessments for my semesters study (woohoo!!) and now have some head and time space to catch up on my blogging.

Before I do get back into it and pick up on my previous blog…in my travels I’ve met some incredible people over the past month or so.

I met one woman who spoke about hope in the midst of a battle zone.  She was a Palestinian Christian living in East Jerusalem. She was inspiring and full of laughter as she spoke about what life is really like without citizenship, living under suspicion and constant conflict.  But I was saddened when I asked her how she was going to go transitioning back into ‘home’ after travelling Australia.

After her 4 weeks here, she said I was the only person who’d asked how she was, and was going to cope.  Way too often, people are seen for what we can get from them, including guest speakers, and we de-humanise them into a commodity and our interactions become transactional, often without intending to and realising that’s what we are doing.  I’ve worked in public non-for-profit education/awareness/fundraising roles for over a decade and know the delicate tightrope of this dynamic.

I met an incredibly vibrant young woman working in the medical field.  As we chatted over coffee (ironically she doesn’t normally drink coffee and this 5pm catch up kept her up until after 3am…for those avid coffee drinkers, what an amateur! lol – we did laugh about it!) she told me a story that nearly flawed me. I wasn’t expecting it and 2 weeks on find myself still reflecting on it.

She was diagnosed with cancer 5 yrs ago, a rare cancer. As she shared a little of her struggle through chemo, including how her cat would sit on her lap while spending hours on the toilet throwing up (and now gets ticked off when toilet breaks aren’t nearly as long!); and it reminded me of way too many people (including my own dad) I know who’ve battled the many murderous malicious and bastard strains of cancer – if you haven’t picked it up, I hate it!  But this woman, her courage, her tenacity, she was, no, is inspiring. Her goal whilst receiving treatment came to her through a picture, she would live to walk the New York Manhatten climb. She is well on her way to achieving this goal. She’s so aware that she’s been gifted a new lease on life, but she needed a goal, a reason, to help navigate the darker days.

There’s a saying that I love “Shit happens, keep living anyway”. Finding hope is so important in the face of adversity.  Having something, or someone, to pull you through the dark night of the soul (keep an eye out for an upcoming blog on this) is critical to simply surviving times of trauma, tragedy, and even terror.

The final conversation was one with a church leader, a pastor.  Someone I’ve known for years who recently has gone through his own dark patch. He inspires me because of his perseverance, patience and prayerful disposition in dealing with difficult (massive understatement!) people and political dynamics in which he works – I question whether I would be as tolerant. As we chatted he made a couple of remarks that both saddened and amused me.  The first was this: “I don’t see the point in counselling, always talking about things of the past, just get on with life.” And yet he recognised that at this point, for reasons he couldn’t identify, he was stuck. The second comment came immediately after: “But funnily enough perhaps I should see you.” The irony wasn’t lost on me.

As someone undertaking a Masters in Clinical Counselling this was encouraging, but not a new thing. I’ve had people make similar comments over the years in all sorts of different contexts. In a recent essay I referred to research that showed that most people don’t have a friend that will sit and listen to them for any more than 20 minutes. Having a listening ear, someone to share life with, who genuinely takes an interest and tunes in is a rare thing. I hope that you have someone who listens to you.

When (not if, I assume most people have had to deal with something) you’ve had your own battles with life, what have you found has got you through?