I am consistently inspired by the hope, tenacity and compassion of the people I work with, all of whom are living with HIV or AIDS. Each time I feel the wax and wane of my motivation to keep working, to wrap my life around a job I am drawn back by those who are called my clients. In reality we are like partners. In implicit and explicit ways we learn from one another and support one another.
Just the other day I was reminded by someone who comes into my work about a very true part of human nature: it is easier to learn to live in crisis management mode and uncertainty then to live a life in progress. Sometimes the hardest parts in our journeys to heal and transform our lives are the moments when we are faced with taking action on necessary change.
When I’ m working with someone who is struggling with housing, addiction, and any manner of mental and emotional trauma, the work becomes most intense when we are the cusp of a stride forward. The greater the stride forward the great the emotional upheaval. I’ve come to notice that a lot o time the this resistance is rooted in self doubt, shame, and pure fear over becoming what we want to be rather then what we are.
I know how to doubt myself, I know how to make excuses, I know how to engage in the same old, same old no matter how destructive it may be. I know how to do it and that is safe, that is practiced, that is where I am known. Outside of that, in the world of my minds eye, my visions for my potential and dreams or my future I am lost. The motions to get there are not practiced but instead are every changing and evolving. That is, on most days, terrifying.
On the brink of getting into a safe, sober housing situation a client will sometimes relapse in a hard, hard way. The immovable object that is us, stuck in moments of our deepest self-loathing, is a crutch when we we fear that tomorrow won’t be the same, nor will any day after.
This week I lost a client who was also a friend. The death was sudden and unexpected. This person lived a life love for friends and family. But as with so many people I come to know in my work, this person also struggled mightily to overcome addiction, to separate from a violent partner and to stay positive and connected. There are few at my work who did not become close to this person and none who didn’t believe in there potential. But in the end it takes just one bad night or picking up just one too many times to push a body to the breaking point. There is a quote we often use at work during group sessions: “It is never too late to become the person you were meant to be”. Not one person at my work believed that this person couldn’t overcome. I’m hurt and angry of course. But I am also frustrated. I once decided for myself that in the long road ahead working for justice there would still be those left behind, or those who fall under the trundling wheels of the system, those we can not gather up around us and keep safe or help to heal. Those for whom justice will come to late. But damn! if I don’t want to believe that right now. I want this person back. I want to walk into work and see them in the lunch room or in the art room. I want more time. More time to keep them safe and surrounded by love and to once more tell them how very much they mean to me. I want to see the day they become who they were always meant to be. That person you could catch glimpses of during any conversation.
As of late I have been engaged in a lot of very thoughtful conversations with friends about inertia and the fear of embracing the things we truly want to be and do in this world. One friend calls it a coat, another calls it a mask. Both are good descriptors of what I feel hinders me from embracing those things that I feel would complete my self image. Those things that would set me in a constant motion of transformation and growth. I think now, if I can’t do this for myself, how could I have possibly done it for my dear friend at work who is now gone? In these moments I of course have self doubt about what I do and wonder aloud if its the right thing to do.
Well the truth is of course that we are all in process together. We use our good forces to do what we can to give a leg up to others when they need it, to give a little more of ourselves to someone who needs our support and love. I have seen the joy the accompanies the fear of taking a great stride forward and embracing the hope someone has for them self. This I learn from the people I work with each day and in truth this is what I try and replicate. Not just something I learn in class. Rather something I learn from them about the act of keep on keeping for that day when hope overcomes fear.