This has been one of those weeks when I feel like an epic failure.
Not that everything has gone wrong this week. Far from it; in fact, many good things have happened this week. What has me feeling like an epic failure is that something went wrong with one of my clients—like wrong—and she quit therapy abruptly, which usually causes me to seriously question if I am burnt out, if I am in need of a tune-up of my skills, or if I am just slowly losing my mojo as a therapeutic person.
Obviously, I cannot share any specifics of what happened, since I want to (and legally need to) respect my client’s privacy. Let it suffice to say that we had a major parting of the ways over a religious issue; my client is very conservative and is an activist in this area, and I am a committed progressive that does not believe that my morals should ever dictate what other people are allowed to do. We have laws to dictate behavior; after that, my morals should stop with me.
I have to admit that I view this person as an extremist. I say that because she holds an ethical viewpoint that labels anyone who disagrees with this viewpoint as immoral and of lower personal character. I also view her as an extremist because she spouts “statistics” and “facts” without really examining if those statistics and facts meet the test of simple logic, which means her belief is unexamined and also unchallengeable. After all, how do you challenge someone’s viewpoint once they have chosen to simply accept whatever data they are fed by their ‘leader’ without any critical thinking?
This is where I got into trouble with her. She was sharing her views and statistics, and I lost my ability to smile and remain silent. And of course, that loss is why I feel like an epic failure right now. I’m not okay with losing my patience with someone and arguing against their opinion. I’m not supposed to speak sternly to a client, ever. I’m not okay when I act like this whether it happens with clients or just with people in general. Sadly, I find myself behaving like this often enough for me to be embarrassed to admit to it.
It’s my birthday today, and I keep hoping that my increasing age will grant me greater amounts of patience, compassion, silence (oh how I could use some ability to remain silent!), and wisdom. While I often get really nice presents for my birthday, God has not yet chosen to shower me with the gifts of patience, silence, and wisdom. I don’t know that I actually need to be more compassionate that I am, but I often think that I would be better at tolerating extremist viewpoints or just generally stupid behaviors and viewpoints if I was more compassionate.
Then again, maybe if I didn’t give a damn that would help too.
But I digress.
I keep waiting to grow up, to become more of all the things I thought I would become with age. It isn’t happening, at least not the way I want it to. I won’t deny that age has granted me a number of characteristics that I didn’t possess at 22. I told my oldest daughter not long ago that the greatest gift of aging is that you calm the hell down. Actually, I think I said it more colorfully than that. Nonetheless, I have calmed down a great deal since my 20s. I have also become a bit more comfortable with having others tell me that I have screwed up. Sometime in my 30s I decided that being wrong isn’t as horrible as we like to make it out to be. Discovering you are wrong is embarrassing and it hurts your pride a little, but only just a little, as long as you don’t act like you’re being accused of a capital crime and start defending yourself as if your life was on the line. The truth is that being wrong represents an opportunity to learn from someone, to thank them for their honest feedback, and to prove yourself to be a responsible and accountable adult. Oh yeah…and you get to be certain, at least for a moment, that you are now just a little ‘righter’ than you were a minute ago. Nice, huh?
Growing older has also granted me the wisdom of realizing that things are never as great or as bad as they seem, and that I need to step back and let things unfold, instead of going straight into freak-out mode. I used to freak-out over the slightest little thing that didn’t go well…now I moan a little and grump a bit, and then get on with dealing with whatever it was that just happened. I suppose that this could come under the heading of ‘Calm the hell down’ but it also contains a great big piece of ‘Look for the good to show up, because God always sneaks in a little good into everything’. God has a funny habit of blessing me even in the midst of the ickier parts of life, which has led me to start looking for the hidden blessings in just about everything.
You know, considering just how much aging has blessed me with already, I guess that it’s reasonable to hope that sometime in the next 30 years, God will sneak a little patience, silence, and wisdom into this hard head of mine. Maybe He’ll drop a little more compassion into my heart just for fun as well. In fact, perhaps this particular epic failure will contain the seeds of great things…a few more hidden blessings from God.
So for my birthday, it appears that God has gifted me with hope that I’m still growing up and growing wise, and that is a very nice present indeed. Well played, God. Well played.