Friday, January 07, 2005

My reward for the day

Sad young woman; disappointment dripping down on her cheeks, only half hearing the words from the woman on the phone- cueing in on the words that meant waiting longer for full time employment in an assisted setting. She knows what she wants, and what she wants is this job- with people she likes working with, the daytime hours, not too far away from home, and the paycheck it will bring. She has learned the job, she knows exactly how to get there on time, and the money will mean she can do things on the weekend that she was previously enjoying- movies, shopping, music- going out with her fiancé; life as an adult with a little breathing room. Right now she has to save almost all the part time pay and the state and federal assistance she receives to buy groceries, pay bills and rent. We all want a job where we like the work and the people and have a little money left over to do a few things that make life fun.

The woman on the phone was trying to gently explain to her, then telling me--how the company was ready to hire a team from the work group, said it would happen in January, but now are not sure they can hire them- maybe budgetary problems or a contract of theirs that fell through. At that point, the very nice woman on the phone was quite ready to let me deal with things that were stuck in a disappointed loop in the young woman's mind, so she said her goodbyes to me, with a message for the young woman and hung up.

I listened to how much the young woman wanted this job, and how long she had been waiting, and how ready she was. I listened to the words that poured out - and in between got a sense of how much she didn't understand, and even hints that she might feel it was something she had done wrong.

How to acknowledge her disappointment, not step on or negate the emotions, yet help her reframe so she can see more than the immediate picture? How to suggest that sometimes no matter what, things go a different direction than we expected, but it often isn't the terrible thing we think it will be? Is it possible or even right for me to suggest a different way of looking at things? I know this young woman's tendency to get stuck on certain kinds of things and be unable to think about anything else. This particular event could even be synchronistic, but how to explain synchronicity where abstract thinking is difficult?

"I'm sorry for crying, for getting so upset" the young girl says shortly. I understand you are disappointed" I say gently. "And crying is not something you have to say you are sorry about". "Crying is ok when something makes you sad and unhappy, just as talking about what it is that makes you unhappy, is ok."

After a few moments of silence, I tell her: "There are two possibilities that you might want to think about- two things that could happen. The first is that after a little wait, this will all fall into place - you will finally have this job and in the meantime you have all these appointments and important beginning of the year errands that we can get out of the way. The second possibility is that this isn't the right job for you but you will find a better one. You have a lot of people working with you, a lot of people on your side to help make this happen." I held out my hands in balance scale fashion- "over here, with a little more waiting, you get this job you want; over here you get a different job that will also be just right for you."

Now I know there are all sorts of other possible variables in the outcomes... and all of them are dependent on a lot of other people working behind the scenes in different ways. But it is true- I didn't lie- this job or another one- and if the first one falls through, the other one will be better because it will be hers.

You should have seen the huge smile that lit up her face when she thought about it as a win-win situation- no matter what happens.

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