That Flighty Temptress . . .

So now, as my mind reverberates with the cacophony of mental vibrations resulting from the clashing of my many worlds, I am forcefully reminded of the word God spoke into my heart when I was 17: “I have given you a homeless heart.” Today, I feel that deeply. Here I am in my little apartment, the place I have called home longer than any other, but I feel strangely out of place. This awkwardness, this sense that I have traded brightness for stability, will continue until the vicious and monotonous pace of work and life sweep me up again. In a few weeks this grief and inner conflict will be a distant memory, and I will again be comfortable in this habitat that I call home.

The question is . . . do I want to be comfortable?

I wrote that almost exactly 8 months ago, in the last week that I did any real blogging, right after I got back from my month home in Mexico.  And ever since, that last question has taken up space in the back of my mind, one of those thoughts that wavers on the divide between consciousness and disregard.

My life has generally been one of churning change, at least since I was 11.  Living between countries, moving between homes, never quite unpacking, constantly saying goodbye.  The closest I’ve ever gotten to choosing change was moving to California.  It was absolutely my choice, but I made it because after weeks of interviewing the only other career option I could find was the grocery store I worked at all through college.  I know that it was God’s way of pushing me out here.  I spent about 5 months reveling in the naive belief that I had finally found stability.  Then it all unraveled and I found myself in yet another maelstrom of constantly shifting change.  A year after that, I found Chamberlain’s.  What a mess I was in those days!  Depressed, lonely, unfocused, insecure, self-conscious . . . I could go on and on.  I should have been fired so many times.  But I wasn’t.  People believed in me, saw my potential, didn’t let me quit, protected me, listened, guided, and were ever patient.  Slowly, I finally found my stride.  I listened, I learned, I came out of my fog, I grew up.  I made friends.  I finally, truly, and completely unpacked.  I got cats.  I bought furniture made out of real wood.  I became confident, I learned how to trust my instinct.  I finished my master’s degree with honors.  I grew, cultivated, and maintained an amazing network of colleagues who speak well of me.  I became someone who, for the first time, feels like my someone.  I’m not perfect and I’ve got problems, but they’re STABLE problems.

Needless to say, I have CLUNG to this stability.  It has been my lifeblood, my one great accomplishment.  I have had opportunities to let go, but I haven’t.  I’ve had reasons – really GOOD reasons – to walk away, but I dug in my heels.  Do I want to be comfortable?  A. B. S. O. L. U. T. E. L. Y.  I want to feel safe and adequate.  I want to be better than anyone else at what I do.  We all do.  Change does not endorse these things.  Not at all.

And yet that thought clung to the sides of my brain . . . do I want to be comfortable?  On a whim and out of curiosity I did a quick job search just to see what was out there.  Item #2 on the results list: Social Worker for the Refugee Foster Care program at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.  Must speak Spanish.  Hmm.  Interesting.  Yeah, right.  I don’t know if I’m ready for THAT kind of change. . .

That Sunday my pastor came up to me with that look that says I better pay attention.  “God wants to do something in your life this year.  He wants to take you to new places.  He wants to do something in your life, but you can’t go on what you feel.  You can’t go on your emotions or on your thoughts.  You just have to have faith.  That’s your word for this year.”  Aw, crud.

So I went and talked to a few people, told them about the job.  The consensus was unanimous: everyone said they felt it in their guts, they got goosebumps, they felt so much excitement . . . irrefutable confirmation.  So I updated my resume (which I highly recommend if you’re ever feeling a bit inadequate – it’s a great morale booster) and sent it in to Catholic Charities in the third week of January.  I sent it in too late, but they were planning to hire again soon so just call back in a few weeks.  Okay, I can handle that.

As the months slipped by, major change did indeed start to happen.  Chamberlain’s got reorganized, and I was promoted.  The changes were a result of some really challenging advocacy by myself and my coworker; it was a time of grief, loss, victory, and learning.  I am definitely stronger because of that experience.  Since then, I have had the opportunity to help implement things that have desperately needed implementation.  I have been able to be creative again and develop new ideas that work.  I like my job more than I have in years.

And then the call came in June.  They don’t need a social worker, but they’re over-funded.  They’ve decided to incorporate a mental health component to the Refugee Foster Care program and need a clinician to pioneer it.  Would I interview?  Deep breath. . . okie dokie.  I knew in my gut that this was it. I honestly gave them every reason NOT to hire me.  I told them I needed a lot of transition time before I’d be able to start.  I told them I think clinical theory is generally irritating and that my clinical perspective is called common sense.  I told the supervisor interviewing me that he’s really bad at responding to emails.  I showed off my dry wit in discussing the possible benefits of “duct tape therapy.”  Turns out that all that stuff actually made them like me more.  They didn’t want anyone obsessively stuck into a theoretical mindset.  They countered my 30-day transition request with the assumption that I would want 45, and said they’d rather wait longer for the right person.  They joined my humor with their own even stronger variety (or rather, the kind I pull out when I’m NOT sitting in an interview).  They said they wanted to make sure that whoever they brought in would fit in well with their office culture and be able to handle some decent practical jokes.  They told me at my second interview on July 12th that I was the first of three second interviews and I’d hear back in a week or so.  Thirty minutes after I left the building I got an email asking if I could come in so they could extend me a formal offer.

And so it has transpired that because of a trip to Mexico that led to a blog that ended in a question that stuck in my brain and caused me to consider the words of my pastor I applied for a job that I didn’t get which allowed me to get a promotion to learn so many things and develop a lot more confidence so that when a position was invented and tailor-made for me I would be ready to recognize and answer the Call and choose . . . change.  A new adventure.

And now . . . let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, Adventure. 

– Albus Dumbledore

So now I find myself facing the most dramatic change I’ve ever chosen, and wondering what the heck I was thinking.  It is much more difficult than I ever imagined.  I knew it would be hard, but I never imagined how much of my identity and my confidence is wrapped up in my job.  Chamberlain’s has been my home, my family.  I’m honestly not quite sure how I’m going to make it without these people and without all these kids running around all over the place.  Things will sure be awfully quiet.  And I’ve been grieving. . . a lot.  It’s kinda like a mini-suicide, choosing to walk away from this amazing place that has become part of me.  But again, I am blessed.  My new supervisor left a similar position about a year ago, and went through a very similar experience.  He had the compassion to ask me how I was doing, and then gave me my first directive: take an extra week between jobs to grieve, rest, and do something fun.  My 45 days became 52. God knows our needs.

Today was the day that I announced that I’m leaving.  All the grownups and all the kids, back to back.  I had the conversation 7 times, and they asked me questions that required answers:  Why?  Why now?  Do you want to leave us?  Can’t you wait until I leave first?  Will you forget us?  If you’re sad, why do you want to leave?  Just tell them you changed your mind because you love us too much!  Who’s gonna take care of us?  You’ve been in my life for so long, how can I do it without you? . . . It’s amazing the gift children have for mirroring our own thoughts and emotions back to us.

My answers came to me easily, without my planning it.  When we’ve learned what we’re meant to learn, there’s no more action.  And when we’re not active, we stay still.  And when we sit too long on the couch just because it’s comfy and we love it and are happy there, we get fat and lazy and stiff.  And if I get fat and lazy and stiff in my job, I’m no good to anyone.  You’ll always be in my heart.  I couldn’t forget you even if I tried.  You’ll always be able to find me if you really want to.  And no, I don’t want to leave you at all, but I need to.  It is time.

And I think about adventures.  No adventure begins without a goodbye, without a loss, without a significant risk, without throwing yourself into the unknown.  We must indeed step out into the night to pursue Adventure; she beckons us with hope and promise and excitement, luring us into the dark where all our wits are tested.  I’m afraid of this dark; I’m not sure what I’ll find in there.  Depression tempts me, pulling me back into the safe cocoon of isolation I lived in . . . before, during times of change and uncertainty.  I have a healthy fear of that place, and now I have the chance to find out how well I stand on my own two feet.  But over and over I hear in my head, “You can’t go on your emotions or on your thoughts.  You just have to have faith.”  So to the best of my ability I’m ignoring the doubts and crying through the grief and moving on.

I know this is right.  I’m excited, thrilled in fact!  It’s so weird to be so sad and so excited at the same time.  I get to create, invent, plan, organize. . . with a lot more available resources.  I’m really good at that stuff.  I get to grow my Spanish into a professional arena, which is something I’ve been wanting for a long time.  I get to immerse myself in other cultures again, dive into that long-dormant passion of culture and identity and assimilation.  All my years of obsessing over who and why I am, all the philosophizing that drove everyone crazy . . . it matters now.  These passions, these questions, the years of searching through my grief, the goodbyes, the moves, the uncertainty . . . it has new value.  God planned it all, he made me who I am and how I am so that I could be what He has made me to be.

So here we go . . . time to finish strong and hurl myself into the dark tunnel so I can feel my way through to the adventure on the other side!

“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”

– C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

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About Thoughts by Sallie

I am a missionary kid who grew up in Mexico. I have 2 first languages. The two most amazing places that I have seen stars are in the Amazon rain forest and at the Sea of Galilee. I have moved 34 times in my life. I think that working with at-risk foster kids for 5 1/2 years is a greater accomplishment than earning a master's degree. My most favorite meal is popcorn, apples, and cheese. I am happiest when I am being hugged by a child. Jesus is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? My life's dream is to help children become more than they could ever imagine. I have Attention-Deficit Disorder, and I take medicine every day that helps me to think straight; it's not a cure, but it sure does help. I get lonely and feel very isolated sometimes. I love nostalgia. I HATE shallowness. I love taking pictures of windows. I am most proud when I see my friends grow and accomplish new things. I am most motivated by my love for and commitment to others. I am overflowing with thoughts. I am an ellipses. I am Rasha.

7 responses »

  1. Youre right: this was a long story! But also a beautiful, faith-filled,scary, brave story that is still being written! ! Good luck as God writes your next chapter! Love you!

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  2. This is beautifully written Sallie, I so appreciate you sharing your journey so openly, earnestly and poignantly. The work you have done is amazing and you have so much to be proud of, you made a huge difference, and your work will ripple in the lives of your clients and coworkers for years to come. I so miss having you in supervision, I was always so grateful for your insight!
    Leaving stability is hard, I left a stable well paid career to go back to graduate school and become what I am today. That career gave me a lot of perceived financial safety, which I had not had growing up, and it was one of the most difficult things I had done at the time. But reinvention has been good to me. I am so happy, grateful, and more fulfilled now that I am on the right path, if I hadn’t taken that turn I wouldn’t have met you, and been a part of all the lovely work done here at Chamberlain’s.
    Your new position sounds like just what you have been preparing for and I know you will be amazing and all those kids are so lucky to have you!
    Keep in touch!

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  3. Thank you for leading me here, Sallie. This is indeed a time for change for many of us… and the gift it comes in is sometimes difficult to see and even harder to understand. But you’ve illuminated your change. I’m very happy for you! I too am faced with change…. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and am in the middle of radiation therapy. I am presently cancer free and praying this will last. This too is a gift – how will my experience with cancer change me as a therapist, mother, wife and friend? What is the lesson to be learned from this experience on the path to dying — held in the light– and cured? I’ll ponder your words, process them quietly and they will make a difference in my life. Clearly, when cancer presents itself, at least for me, I must listen to it… it has something to say. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to listen to you.

    Please keep updated on the changes in your life…. where you are going.

    ~Lisa
    P.S. I’ve left a link to a diary I wrote recently, my daughter took the photos of the horses jumping.

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    • Wow, Lisa, I had no idea. Thanks for sharing about your year . . . I’m sure it has been an adventure of epic proportions. My first therapist was a breast cancer battler for two decades; to the very end teaching, learning, and practicing. Her grace and serenity in the midst of everything always amazed and inspired me. Her faith was strong and drove her. This is not to be depressing, because she did ultimately lose the battle, but confidence that when we are faced with such battles we rise to the occasion. Seek life, and it will find you. My greatest life lesson from living in Israel, falling asleep to the sound of shellings echoing off the hills every night, feeling Jerusalem quake powerfully from the force of a bomb was this: life is fleeting, but relationships are not. If we quit on life, there’s nothing left. You inspire me, Lisa. You are the master story-writer, and the story you write is full of strength and beauty.

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    • Sallie, I have been with you through this amazing journey over the past 2 years that has led us from stagnancy to growth. There is a part of me that grieves you…the bond & strength that we found to stand up for truth. We were powerful and pushed for what was good & healthy. Chamberlains clinical department is changing and growing because of our efforts. Change is not easy or comfortable but it is so good & right. I truly believe if you do good things good things happen. Simple but true. I love you for inviting me to say the truth and keep saying it until it was heard. You are a dear friend now & always. Fly! I will find you & we will revel in our success.

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