I was enraged on Friday, almost to tears. I was sitting in traffic and I could feel the anger seep into my shoulders and trickle down my spine. I had just left a funeral home; I met my client there to support her while she picked up her mother’s remains. The funeral home “misplaced” her mother’s remains and it was unclear who was responsible for finding the remains. And here lies the epitome of the impoverished, they’re always neglected. They’re never taken care of, they’re never given basic human decency. When they even have the slightest emotional reaction to their trauma and heartache, they’re reminded they’re responsible for their circumstances.
I like to “fix” things, I want things to be “fixed.” It quickly became apparent to me I wasn’t going to be able to “fix” this. Frankly, most of my client’s crises can’t be “fixed” and “fixing” things isn’t the nature of my job. What really is my role here? As I found myself sitting next to her on a curb, it came to me, there was nothing I could do in that moment beside be with her until she was ready to go home.
Sitting in discomfort is something I’ve avoided my whole life. Checks out, alcohol is a terrific way to forget you’re emotionally uncomfortable. Hand me a Manhattan, a dirty martini, a few shots of whiskey and those uncomfortable feelings are as dead as a Chicago winter. So, sitting in traffic, after witnessing another tragedy, made me really reconsider this newfound sobriety. I knew there was no way I could drive home. I would have exploded till the walls fell down and then cried when there was only the skeleton of our home.
I went to the gym, punched the screen of a treadmill and forced myself to process what just happened. I thought about how I use to take care of the children I nannied. I fed them, I watched over them, I held them, I loved them. I decided to treat myself like one of them: I took a shower, I tucked my wet hair into my watch cap, and I went home with the promise I would eat until I felt full.
Did I instantly feel better? Absolutely not; I think I might have felt worse. But then today, it hit me, I don’t need to “fix” things. I don’t need to “fix” a crisis, I don’t need to “fix” a drink, I don’t need to “fix” me. I’m not a carpenter, I’m a person. I’m a person who needs to sit in discomfort to be able to experience the beauty of joy.