Grounding

Is what I’m attempting to do, as I come home, shoulders heavy with the realities of my clients’ lives. I work with homeless families in my new position. I’m a case manager, a position idolized by no one and pitied by many. It’s my second day in this position and somehow I’ve already worked my way to quietly overwhelmed.

This is, in theory, what I’ve been seeking for years: to serve people less fortunate than myself, to fight for justice, to be in a place to make an impact in a significant way. I am fighting The Good Fight on the front lines.

I am one of a half-dozen case managers on my team with 30+ years (or more) between them and I feel knowledgeless in comparison. (I also feel as if this word should exist, if only to describe my current state.)

I am shadowing. Meeting clients and sitting like a fly on the wall, listening to stories and absorbing the many suggestions that my brilliant colleagues have to offer. I am speechless, which is okay for now, but soon won’t be. Soon I’ll have to speak. Have to reflect, to comfort, to empathize outwardly. I’ll have to remind my clients of all that they have in their lives as they struggle to keep it together describing the many things they are without. The majority are without jobs or income. They all have kids. Some of them have a bit of education. Many of them have a mental or physical illness. A few of them have supports (though many of those supports have been exhausted). None of them have a place of their own. None of them have a clue how to get back on track. It’s my job to find that invisible link from the present to the future: a path to stability. A means to getting them off of the wait list for housing on which 400 other local families sit.

Somehow I’ve been judged qualified to do this. To listen, to be creative, to find solutions where there were none. That doesn’t ward off the panic that’s already begun to set in.

My new boss sat down with me today to listen to my story. To touch base. And to say, in essence, “Hey- do you think you can handle this? Are you ready for this wild ride?”

I swallowed hard and said all that I could say as a recently unemployed woman with no immediate options: “yes. Of course.” It’s hard to remember now if I met her eyes.

As I now try to shake off a long day and a head full of worries, I’m finding that the usual tricks don’t work. After work snack (binge) of banana bread and fat-laden milk? That felt great for a second. But my bubble bath felt like a sweat-inducing pool of guilt, causing me to visualize my client’s faces and wonder how long it had been since they’d had the same luxury. Sometimes all that helps is a hug from my partner, a few deep sighs, and a moment spent clickety-clacking everything out onto this old keyboard. If, in the end, I’m left with the notion that today I did my best (all that any of us can do): I admit success.