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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Am I too idealistic?

What a stressful week. The worst yet. If work had been this stressful from the beginning, I probably would be working at Starbucks by now, so at least it goes in waves.

Lots of second-guessing myself this week. Internal strife among clients, which brings out my meek and timid side. The side I hate, the side I wish didn't exist, yet the side I am learning to come to terms with because I just am not an aggressive person, and no amount of wishing will make me so.

I work with a lot of forceful personalities. A lot of cynics (not that the two go hand in hand). But I'm encountering the cynical side a lot lately, and it's hard.

One co-worker tells me frequently that I let people get away with murder. (In her defense, she's very blunt, but a kind-hearted, not cruel, person.) I can do nothing but agree. She's right. I can't seem to get clients to toe the line. Client from hell, bane-of-my-existence knew exactly how much she could get away with when she was with me. She didn't try it with anyone else.

But lately, this same co-worker has been spewing too much cynicism for me. Today, I got a new client who came in and decided she wanted to leave two hours later. "You know she got here, didn't like what she saw, and is going back to him," this co-worker (our follow-up counselor) said. "You'll know when you've worked as long as I have, that's what they always do."

Maybe that's what they always do. (Or I should say usually, because it takes a battered woman seven to ten times to leave an abuser for good--or until he kills her.) I know my clients, no matter how much I help them--get them set up with Food Stamps, counsel them on the dynamics of domestic violence, help them raise their self-esteem--I know they're likely to end up going back.

I'm not naive in that respect. A few months ago, I found out my favorite client of all time, a precious jewel of a sweet woman, left the fantastic independent housing I helped her gain to move back in with her husband who has threatened to kill her many times. Disappointed? A little. I was so proud of everything she accomplished on her own. I thought she was on her way to a better life. Surprised? Hell no. And I didn't feel personally offended that she did not take everything I was offering and become Superwoman.

But I have to act like they're not going back. Like the work I'm doing is so important, it will change her life, give her hope, and give her a future without fear. It's absolutely the only way I can do this job. I just don't think I could stand to help someone, to stay late, work overtime to find shelters in another state when I was thinking, "Why bother? Why should I work this hard to find info for you when you're not going to use it?"

I've always striven to work without strings attached. To not attach importance to someone taking my advice or help, or ignoring it. I thought I have always done a good job of that, but I wonder if I need to pretend, at least, for the sake of my optimism, that they are going to use what I give them.

That my work is not in vain.


Blogger erin said...

"...takes a battered woman seven to ten times to leave an abuser for good..."

Actually, I just kind of gave it some quick thought in my head and yeah... it probably took ME seven tries to leave him for good...

That's astronomical.

Have I said this yet?: I don't know how you do it.

Do you have any vacation time planned in the near future? I think you need some down-time. I worry...

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Gigi said...

LE, you inspire me. A lot.

2:14 PM  

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