Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Exciting Adventures Waiting

I was running today after work. My route had more hills than I anticipated and with each vertical climb I looked more and more like a thirsty castaway stumbling to shore than a graceful runner crossing the finish line.  My ego tells me she's too fragile to quit, so I trudge on.  As I reach the top of each hill I smile and enjoy my tumble downward expending little energy to keep myself upright. I start thinking about my childhood and how we used to sled down this big hill in the park near our house.  It wasn't a super high hill, but it was very steep and took my breath away every time I scooted myself over the edge.  I thought about how many times we climbed that hill with our sled in hand, muscles burning, frozen feet, and an excitement that carried us quickly to the top just to sail downward again.  How many hours did we slide down and climb up, slide down and climb up, slide down and climb up?
The hill in front of me now looks a lot different than my childhood hill.  The slope seems steeper, there are more trees in the way, and the bumps are rockier.  And, why am I no longer excited to climb these hills in my life for the thrill of sailing back down?  Why do I dread every uphill battle in my life? Why do I complain every time I have to work on something?  Why do I whine and cry when things don't go my way?  Maybe it's because I forgot that when I get back to the top there's an exciting adventure waiting.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How I Deal with the Lasts of Life

This is a picture of my daughter and my youngest child's last first day of school. We went to our last graduation ceremony on June 5th. We put on our last graduation party June 18th, and we watched his last game of lacrosse at a tournament in Colorado on June 29th. We'll be taking him to college in august for our last freshman move in date and attending our last parent's weekend in September. With so many lasts this past year it was easy to slip into a sad, mildly depressed state of mind. All the questions of the soon to be empty nester mom rolled through my mind like ticker tape; Who am I if I'm not just a mom? Did I do enough for our kids to be contributing members of society? Who's going to be there if they get hurt or sick? How will they ever make it to the dentist? And a myriad of other worries depending on the day.

Fortunately, I have friends who've "been there, done that" and were able to guide me through this season of life. I've also developed a practice of questioning my frame of mind. So I asked myself often throughout this past year, "Is this a healthy way to experience this situation or is there another lens with which I could use to make this a better experience?"

Sometimes I let myself be sad. I told myself it was OK to grieve this last high school graduation ceremony because I would never get a chance to do it again. But other times I decided I wanted to enjoy the experience for all it was worth, like being in Colorado for the last lacrosse tournament. I didn't want to miss the beauty of my surroundings by allowing myself to focus on the fact that this was the last few games we'd see him play. So I chose to focus my mind on being grateful to be in the mountains of Colorado, and being grateful I have a family to enjoy it with, and being grateful we are all healthy enough to be there, and grateful we had the resources to get there. The list could go on and on.

The point is my thoughts control my feelings and I control my thoughts. Knowing this one fact is a huge blessing because it means even though I can't always control my situation, I can control how I will experience every situation. I can choose to let myself be sad or disappointed or angry and sometimes that's a healthy option. But I can also choose to see the positive in every experience, be kind to others when things don't go as planned, and enjoy a beautiful moment in time even if I know it constitutes the last time it will happen. And having that much control over how I experience my life gives me more time to think about the future and what fun and exciting experiences the next season of life has in store!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Grief Can Be Good

I was going to say I left my old job two weeks ago, but I left more than a job.  I left a fun-loving group of co-workers who I called my dysfunctional second family, because I spent more time with them than I spent with my own family.  I left a group of patients that shared the deepest parts of their lives with me, as well as their kid's lives, and pictures of Mine-craft robots, and sparkled flowers, and little hand prints from the copy machine.  I left a comfortable office space where tears were shed, laughter was heard, and many Almond Joy and Mounds Bars were consumed.

I knew this would be a tough situation to walk away from so I gave almost an entire month's notice, made an appointment with my therapist, and took a week off before my new job started so I had some time to adjust.  But none of this preparation kept me safe from the grief that finally caught up to me.  Near the end of my week off I woke up one morning at 4:00 a.m. the same time I'd gotten up for work the last 2 years.  I turned to look at the clock, and realized right away I could go back to sleep, and then it hit me; I won't be going back to my old job.  I won't work again with my co-workers, and I won't see my patients again. Tears ran down my face and onto the pillow as I cried myself back to sleep.  I cried the next day when I looked at all the cards and gifts I'd received sitting on my dining room table.  I cried when I opened the Menards ad from the Sunday paper, and I cried when I ate a snack size Mounds bar.  After a few days of crying I decided to do what I would advise my patients to do; embrace it.  I told myself it's ok to be sad because it means I shared enough of myself to earn the trust of others and develop strong relationships.

I decided as part of embracing the pain I would start brainstorming how to bring my gifts to my new office.  I pressed and dried some flowers I received, framed them and placed them on a wall I stare at all day.  I made a collage from all the pictures that patient's kids made for me. I put my angel of peace keychain on my new work keys and my angel of hope figurine on a shelf by my desk.  I placed a very special silver ring on a necklace that I either wear when it matches my outfit or I hang on my computer screen.  I have a journal I started writing in and a book of weird facts I read on my own or to my new clients for light discussion topics.  I drink water out of my "amazing, wonderful, fabulous" red cup, and I put up a calendar from June covered with smiley faces representing a new start and a great victory for one woman whose whole future is ahead of her.

I'm crying again.  And it still hurts, but the pain is partially eclipsed by the gratitude I feel to have been a small piece in someone else's recovery.  To think that by sharing part of myself with others their lives might be different in some way is humbling.  I asked my therapist months ago when I felt like I was burning out, "how do I do this job without caring so much?"  It was a rhetorical question because I knew I wasn't capable of doing this job without caring.  And although it's the caring that makes this job of chemical dependency counseling so tough, it's also the caring that makes the job so rewarding.  So, tomorrow when I go to work in my new office I will make a conscious decision to remember the people I left behind, continuing to pray for their health and happiness, and I will be willing to open my heart to care about my new patients.  Then I'll pick up the eight ball on my desk and ask it how my day is going to go.  And if it replies with any negative responses I'll shake it again and again and again until it says, "Outlook good."

Monday, September 7, 2015

Change Is Hard

Two years ago I started working as a drug counselor at a Methadone clinic.  In my first week  I was given an office, a list of clients, and a computer in a box to put together.  It took me about 6 months to get used to waking up at 4 a.m. to start at 5:30, and it took another 6 months to get the hang of what I was doing but it only took a couple of months to get attached to my clients.  My clients are either Heroin addicts or addicted to opiate pain medications like Oxycodone or Percocet.  Some of them have done some pretty crazy things to support their habit, and some have had some pretty crazy things done to them and in their drug habit found a way to numb the pain.  Most of them have both.  As a collective whole, people see a Methadone clinic as a place where police are called, deals are made in the parking lot, clients are searching for a cheaper way to get high, and a few unlucky people overdose and die.  But I think if everyone had a chance to the know the clients individually as I have they would see something more.

I have had the privilege of seeing adult children regain the trust of their parents, find jobs, and begin their lives going back to school or choosing a trade.  I have seen men and women; mothers and fathers regain control of their lives, overcome a past of abuse or neglect, and build relationships and confidence in themselves.  Of course there are as many variations of these examples as there are people.  I wish I could tell each and every story, because they are amazing and inspiring, but they are also confidential and just thinking of a few of these heroic stories makes me tear up.  I have been blessed to have a front row seat to watch these miracles happen which is why it will be so difficult to leave this job.

About 2 weeks ago I was given a job offer I couldn't refuse.  It's a long story but I don't have any doubt that it's the next right step, not because it's "better" than working at a Methadone clinic but because I think God made it pretty clear to me that He is bringing me full circle with this new job.  If He hadn't made it so clear it would have been a much more difficult decision.  Many of my clients are in the beginning or middle of their miraculous story and they have let me into the vulnerable areas of their hearts and trusted me to walk their road with them.  I know from experience that is a scary risk to take and when a counselor leaves or can't be there it's easy to close up that vulnerable space and keep people out to avoid being hurt again.  So, I worry about many of my clients.  I know there are other good counselors that can walk that road with them, but it will take time, effort, and risk to keep the vulnerable space open and let someone else in. However, if there is anything I've learned from my clients, it is that they are stronger than they think they are and have overcome more than I could have imagined.  So, I know they have what it takes to keep walking their journey toward an oasis of peace and rest.  I'm praying that they will believe in themselves as much as I believe in them.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thinking in the Rain

It's raining.  Normally I like the rain, ...especially at night when I'm curled up in bed and the roof becomes a drum and the rain dances an inconsistent pattern of methodical beats that leads my restless mind out of a chaotic series of thoughts and worries from the day and into a meditative state of bliss.  But today the rain is a little depressing.  I just got back from Colorado where the sun shone on everything all day until it retreated behind the mountains each evening.  I heard the sun shines 300 days a year in Colorado.  I don't know if that's true, but we had beautiful, sunny days the entire week were there.  It's what is drawing my heart back West; the sun on the giant red rock formations begging me to climb upward, the sun glittering off the window panes of the cute little shops where people flow in and out buying things nobody ever needs, and the sun on the windshield and my arm hanging out the car window as we drive down a highway that appears to lead to the edge of the earth. 

Tomorrow I get to see my co-workers, which is another way of saying I have to go back to work.  I call them my other dysfunctional family because we are together a minimum of 8 1/2 hours a day, longer than I'm with my family during waking hours.  I'm going to make plans for a walk with my best friend who I like to see at least once a week, but rarely happens between our schedules.  I have another group of friends that gets together every other month to celebrate our birthdays.  We are overdo.  I have some gifts for my oldest son and his girlfriend who couldn't come on the trip because of work and school schedules.  I have a lot of people here in MN to catch up with.  As much as I want to move to every wonderful place I visit, I know that life is not about where I am, but about who I'm with.  And I'd rather sit in the rain with my friends and family than stand on a sun splashed mountain alone. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015


It's been 16 months since my last post.  That sounds like I'm in a confession box.  In a way I am.  My blogs only mean something to me if I'm confessing what's really going on in my head and my heart. That was part of the reason I stopped blogging.  My job as a drug counselor was kicking my butt emotionally, and I didn't know as a professional what I could write about and not write about, and I was really too tired to write about anything at all.  But I have come along way. I can handle my job. I know what I can say and not say about my work, and I'm inspired to write again.

My inspiration came as I was glancing through facebook posts and saw a painting that caught my eye.  I clicked on it and found several more fabulous paintings full of color and texture and emotion. Then I recognized the artist's name; Terri Churchill. She had been my DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) teacher at Woodland Hills church 9 or 10 years ago.  She was a very good counselor; patient, knowledgeable, understanding, merciful, and direct.  But she also looked very tired, at least by the end of the year that I was involved.  In her recent picture on facebook surrounded by her art, I wasn't sure it was the same person. She looks about 10 years younger even though I haven't seen her in almost 10 years, and she is glowing like she's alive and experiencing all the goodness of what she was created to do.  It made me think about what I look like. Tired? Older? Do I look alive? Full of passion? I don't think so. I think I'm doing a good job at my work and it is rewarding, but I don't believe it's my true calling. I recently got this diagram from a friend depicting how you know you are doing what you were meant to do. Almost all of the words in the diagram fit my job except, "you love it."  I like my job, but I don't love it.  As a matter of fact it's draining.  It leaves me with very little energy to do anything else with my family or friends.  I love to write, but I don't know if writing is the answer.
So, I'm not going to quit my job tomorrow or anything drastic, but I am starting to think about my future differently. I think, like my artist friend, the hardest part will be jumping out of my comfort zone. I'm very comfortable at my job.  It's draining, but it is not hard and there is no risk in it for me. Writing, speaking, developing a "platform" and promoting myself; THAT's risky and uncomfortable, but I think somewhere in that mix of fear and excitement I will find my passion again and do something that energizes me. I don't know if we are all afforded a chance to do what we love AND get paid for it, but I think it's worth the effort to try. 

To see more of Terri Churchill's art you can go to: DREAMSANDVISIONSART.WORDPRESS.COM

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Less Technology

It is nearly the end of another year and I find myself, again, lacking in consistency with my blogging.  Blogging is supposed to be consistent and often and should be short and sweet and have a particular purpose and audience and without it, a writer might as well start digging their own grave, because you MUST have an online presence if you're going to "make it."  That's what I've been reading, anyway.  Since when have I done anything someone told me to do?!  On another line of thought is the matter of my cluttered house.  I have had it! I enjoy the beginning of a new year because it gives me the extra motivation I need to start things, like decluttering and reorganizing. 

I've been thinking about this for awhile and I don't know whether it will get me where I want to be, but I think it's worth a try.  I am going to go technologically backwards.  My brain is overwhelmed with the constant barrage of media and information and I often can't think straight because there are too many thoughts in my head.  I want a typewriter to write with instead of a computer so I'm not tempted to check e-mail and facebook and amazon's deal of the day every time I sit down.  I want a rotary dial telephone attached to the wall with a short tangled cord I need to unwind on occasion. I want to get rid of my cell phone, but I still have a year left on my contract.  If my technological boycott goes well, maybe that will be the first thing to go next year.  I am not against technology in the least.  I think it's amazing and miraculous and helps us in many ways, but my head hurts and I need some space to think! 

I'm convinced that decluttering my mind will help me declutter my house and it won't be so hard to make time for family and friends.  So, how will I communicate with those of you who actually enjoy reading my posts?  I'm thinking I will post a short monthly newsletter to e-mail or maybe I'll have time to write the next book I have in mind and you can find me on Amazon.  So, as the year comes to an end I will be gathering e-mail addresses from anyone who would like to receive my posts/newsletters.  If you'd like to be on my e-mail list, e-mail me at jlguiton@Comcast.net.  I know not everyone receives every facebook post, so I will try to communicate this in several different ways, so forgive me if you receive this message twice.  If you'd rather not receive my e-mails and you're a friend of mine and feel obligated, don't worry.  You know I will forget all about it in a week or two anyway.  :)  Thank you for following my blog!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!