For many months I have been a psychologist on the outskirts of two identities: one being a trauma psychologist and trainer of local counselors in international disaster environments, another being a clinician maintaining a much more traditional role, gradually building a private practice in Denver. Nearly every morning since my return from Burma I drive to my favorite fitness studio. I have done so on snowy roads, rainy roads and fall time roads. This ever-changing driving experience makes it feel like I have been back much longer than I have. During the day I see clients, attend meetings and write grants with the hopes that both worlds can continue to be a part of my life. Currently it seems I am existing in limbo between these two identities searching for sustainability and nourishment.
I wake up early because mornings are my favorite. Waking up before the sun makes it feel as though the world is my secret. I walk the dog in the dark, pleased to see there are no other lights on in my building and return to smell the aroma of fresh coffee grounds from the canister. The ritual is pleasing because it is something I do in both lives and it is one of the few consistencies in my exceptionally inconsistent life. The one thing I miss about doing this in Burma and Thailand is watching the monks walk the streets gowned in red and gold, humbly asking for alms.
Inwardly I feel both at peace with my role in life and suffer quiet trepidations of a woman who has witnessed too much global human suffering in all its forms. My clinical practice is growing slowly and has been blessed by the dedication of brave souls who desire happiness in all its forms. In the end I do the same thing here as I did abroad; listen, reflect and empathize. That’s the thing about humanity, in the end we are more alike than we are different and I tend to feel sadness for the western who thinks that I couldn’t possibly practice here after seeing what I’ve seen abroad in conflict zones are counties enduring horrific government oppression. That for some reason I might feel bored with the stories of my clients in America baffles me. The truth in the matter is I have seen just as much pain, just as much suffering, just as much torment in the West as I have seen abroad.
It’s the dead of winter, the mornings darker longer and my window only gets a short sliver of the direct sun before it passes over the building and leaves for the evening. I can’t quite tell if it is this that affects my mood or if it’s something bigger, something more existential. While most of the time I am deeply, seriously happy and content with my life, in part because I am deeply, seriously and contentedly in love with an amazing man, I also experience moments where darkness rumbles through me as if my soul is suffocating in cement.
While my personal life is in a great place; blessed by love, family and friendships all over the world, I hope I find a way to make my professional life work. I love my life in all its colors but given the painful loss I endured just over a year ago and the complicated nature of my work, it has been a tricky life as of late. For example, it is painfully hard to hear that psychiatric treatment and child protection are not a right or even an option in most parts of the world. The good news is that as I close my eyes, my tired self is swept by waves of gratitude for what I have and the possibilities of 2010.