Work that social work

In high school I read an article in a young person’s magazine, probably Teen People, about activism and inequality. I told my mom I wanted to be a human rights activist, her only response was to not end up in jail. While this lead to my vegetarian phase and habit of watching videos on PETA’s website, I like to think it led to something more.

When I decided I wanted to be a social worker in college, it seemed pretty natural. I remember learning about the challenges people face based upon the school they attend, a disability they have, or the language they speak at home. I  worked hard the next 10 years to push myself out of my comfort zone, I thought that would make me a kickass social worker. I needed to witness how others live.

This has carried me along. I’m not currently at my dream job. I always wanted to work with immigration. With violence. With Spanish speaking families and survivors. I don’t really want to be an outpatient therapist and the thought of having a private practice seems frightening. So what do I do with this expensive degree and license I’ve acquired? I don’t want to live in a marginalized society. I’m not a fan of oppression. But I also don’t want to do case management, or policy work. I don’t know how to be a community organizer. Am I being too picky?

A coworker and I were finally given the green light to pursue our LACs- to work towards becoming addiction counselors. While I’ve only attended 1/10 trainings, I think it’s exactly where I need to be. Our trainer repeats the phrase, “What is so painful that someone would sacrifice joy?” The reason that pushes people to turn to substances as a way to numb. Finding themselves losing their past self.

I had a few clients this week that were exactly who she was talking about. Often, at the point that someone willingly goes into therapy, they’ve hit a point of acknowledgement. And usually shame. Both clients I’m thinking of were vulnerable, curious, and paralyzed by their use. I respect their openness with me, a vulnerability I previously couldn’t find in myself. Seeing another person’s pain, hearing their hurt. Standing alongside without judgement. Maybe this is the social work I’ve been looking for. In the past, I didn’t think this was enough. Now it feels pretty powerful.


Reading me

The therapy chronicles continue! This time part therapist, part coworker. These are not new thoughts for me, but rather a (mini, please so mini) shout out for accountability. Warning- The words that follow include in-depth, exhaustive internet Googling research.

I was told recently that I am “hard to read.” This got in my head, in a curious way. AND THEN OTHER PEOPLE AGREED. Ok, I’ve received that feedback before. But I honestly thought I had been so forward with that person. I know my sense of humor, that sarcasm thing, can make me come across a certain way. I’ll acknowledge that when my blank face is on, I don’t express emotion. I did some googling, because I really don’t know what to do different. The internet said “hard to read” means I hide my feelings.

The internet also said:

“People act like they want to peel away your layers, they want to piece you together because if they do, it takes away the fear of the unknown. On the rare occasion that someone does genuinely want to know you, you’ll show them every quirk and crack in your carefully constructed persona because when the time is right, it’s thrilling to be that vulnerable.”

This is sounding like a John Legend song.

I’m thinking “hard to read” isn’t the whole picture here. Lets focus our inquiry on sarcasm.  Extensive internet research tells me that sarcastic girls like me are rarely serious, say mean things when displaying affection, and sometimes regret things that come out too quick. Also, texting is hard. Sarcastic women have good judgement to read situations and are basically emotional superheroes.

And then the internet said:

“Sarcasm is likely a defense mechanism to keep that huge heart of ours protected, or it’s a coping mechanism because sometimes, even the most confident people freak out over meeting new people or working a room. Don’t let this one, very strong, overbearing personality trait overshadow the entire person, or her ability to love. It just means you’ve found a woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Just know that when we do give you sweet compliments, they are genuine. In the end, life’s too short not to rub salt in the wounds. Let your life dance lightly on the edge. We all enjoy being kept on our toes a bit. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not a ballerina, and I won’t dance on pointe forever.”

But I WAS a ballerina (in training) and I WILL make you dance forever! Cue evil laugh. Can I blame this on being a Scorpio?

Ok, serious now. My perspective leads me to believe I’m avoiding rejection, avoiding vulnerability, avoiding shattering the emotional stability I’ve found. Distractions veiled with humor. I make anything into a joke. I can laugh about things instead of being upset or embarrassed.

This is different than oh say, a year and a half ago when I (in my opinion), expressed my emotions without hesitation. I reacted to my emotions quickly. And now I feel more content, cheerful, and I don’t need to react. I can “soften, and ease through it,” as therapist has quoted countless times. I have to be serious at work all day, in my personal life it’s nice to keep people on their toes, be lighthearted, enjoy. And when I’m positive and funny, I’m not sad and depressed. It’s a one sided human experience.

I’m getting stuck on this. I really thought I’d been acting transparent!

Well, what the hell, Becca?  What do we do? Coworker said I need to step up my game. Therapist said I need to pause before using humor, and look at what I’m avoiding in the face of laughter. Fine, I’ll try it. That’s where the accountability comes in, my friends. There is no way I’m practicing unveiled honesty without some help.


I should rename this blog Becca’s Therapy Chronicles. This week therapist and I talked about finding my place. Not in that passive woman way, c’mon. I have more of a hallway than a kitchen.

After the weekend of 2 baby showers, I spent a weekend in DC with my dearest Valentine and visited with my long lost cousins. I’m not sure when this happened, but looking around me I’m surrounded by babies, couples, house purchases, people with baby fever. That’s awesome, that’s life moving and shaking. I make my life as passionately dramatic as possible, but the stories I tell are usually about the bad TV I watch or fun info learned from my podcasts.

I don’t want my podcasts to be my best friends, I want to keep my friends. I guess I worry that my married, coupled, parent friends are passing me by and I’ll get lost in the wind. Am I supposed to find new, single friends? Lame. I don’t feel lonely, or alone, or jealous. I just don’t want to feel left out. My cousin said I sound like a Sex & the City episode (aka, compliment taken. We muse like Carrie Bradshaw as we frantically type after intakes).

Therapist told me that good friends will stick by you, and all this change is relative. In a few years, who knows, maybe I’ll be the one forcing you to come to my celebration shower. Play silly games and pretend to surprise me with registry gifts. I need to put in the effort with my friends, and the friendships will sustain. Part of this is being vulnerable, bold with the people that have earned the right to hear my story and engage in my life wholeheartedly. (Guess the author)  I remind myself, I have to do the same- despite new additions, partners, and other forward movements.

Basically, I will invite myself over to other people’s house.



Our vastly changing government has lead to many actions, thoughts, emotions, and confusion. It’s been hard to understand and accept the supporters of our new politics. I’m trying. Therapist encouraged me to extend compassion to his supporters, compassion for their fear of change and fear of poverty and loss. I’ve tried that for a few weeks…giving compassion in place of understanding.

What’s gotten me stuck, though, are people openly expressing they don’t care about others. A friend of mine described neutrality with our president, as his  own daily life isn’t expected to change much (cough…white male). When asked, “what about everyone else?” he responded with a shrug. When I asked a red coworker that same question, he responded with, “who cares?” Last night I read the Facebook comments of a post by my Uncle, a well educated, kind, articulate man. My Uncle presents the facts of society, and in the midst of the comments, someone wrote (in all caps), “American lives are more important than everyone else. Period.” That is so hard for me to write and repeat. That’s not fear, that’s hate.

I meet strangers everyday. People I don’t know, most likely will never see again. Part of my work is to speak with empathy, without judgment, and to listen without distraction. I can’t imagine not caring about the lives of other people. Don’t get me wrong, there are people I dislike. I’m no saint, but I can’t imagine caring nothing about the people around me.

This world gives me a heavy heart. I try to read positive news, about the lawyers and politicians doing what they can to stand up for what’s right. It’s hard to make sense of this, to find direction. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, disheartened, angry. This isn’t the kind of world I want to live in. Another reminder of our American privilege; there are countless people living in countries that have no voice against their oppressive governments.


Last week Therapist challenged me to live a “Bolder 2017.” The word bold brings to mind thoughts of becoming more confident, more direct, braver. More sarcastic.

I had a dream recently; someone said to me something along the lines,                                   “If I knew you would be so —, I wouldn’t have…”     That was the jist. I’ve been filling in the blanks myself. Basically, that voice wasn’t someone in my inner circle. It was someone that couldn’t acknowledge that even when I’m down, overall personality still exists.

Man, I feel happier! I’m digging myself out and above the depression hole I fell into. I’m social, made new friends, created mini (albeit some silly) goals. I’m not perfect. Yet all in all, I feel optimistic, bright, cheerful, energetic. I’m moving forward.

Don’t get me wrong, my inner critic can beat me down and I tell myself I should be more friendly, more flirty, skinnier, exercise more, learn to cook…yadda yadda. I face those things with my Brene Brown thoughts, and I get by with a little help from my friends. Those people that supported me when I was grumpy, boring, crying, or resistant to change out of my pj’s. I’m a CBT success story!

Part of me believes that being “bolder” is really just becoming more of myself.

So, people- keep me encouraged to be bold!

My normal

I’ve been pondering the concept of my “normal” recently. As I’ve mentioned, the last thing Ron ever did for me was to be my friend. I wrote to his mother to tell her this, and in her response she asked me to reach out when I returned to DG. I was ready this past August, so I did. Talking to my mom about these plans, she made a comment about this not being expected or common. Then she said, “but you’re a social worker.” As if that made my seemingly un-normal plans with Ron’s mom, something natural for “somebody like me.”

Talking to his mom about the last time I saw him, the last night anyone saw him, I remembered Ron as calm, patient, present. I remembered myself as anxious, distracted, and unhappy.  I don’t want that to be my normal again.

The past few weeks I’ve had moments of sadness. It’s hard to know who to talk to sometimes. I don’t have Ron with me now, but I’m  lucky to have words he sent me in Oct. 2014.  I wrote them in my journal and have reread his thoughts often. His personality was often filled with humor. When he expressed compassion it was meaningful. Reading this today, what strikes me most is missing past emotions, of personal growth, and Ron’s mention of a future he was not able to live:

“I’m having a flashback to better times in my love life and thought of you. Eventually you stop missing the person and only miss the emotions that were felt. I don’t miss him, but I miss that feeling. I don’t know if I will ever have an experience (with Sinatra) to overshadow that, but I try to keep in mind that saying…’Smile, because it happened.’ I realized that I didn’t miss him, but the ghost of a relationship long dead, that helped me immensely. I mean, think of it… you both have grown and changed the past year. Would you take him back if it happened? It took forever to get there but it happened. And once it happens everything suddenly seems so silly.

That’s part of growth. You get smarter, wiser, not so foolish, a bit apprehensive, and a lot more cautious. When the time comes to let your walls down again you will be much more savvy about it. The person will have to prove even more worthy. You will take longer because you’ve been burned, and if he is worth anything, he will understand, and maybe he has been burned too.

I guess it’s my acceptance of being single. I also don’t view life as happening so swiftly. Everyone seems to be getting married and having kids…we are not even 30 years old! Maybe it will take me until I’m 40 to find a guy I consider to be the love of my life. That is a long time from now! I have time to work on me, and if I’m not good with me, things with a guy are not going to be as great as they can be. Every day, every week is a growth. I’m not the same person I was 4 months ago but I’m always better. Life is a lesson and I will learn no matter what card is dealt. Right here is where I would normally say, ‘and I’m trying to get back to my old self,’ except that I’m not. I have no interest in my old self. My old self was weak and suggestive and not at all who I am now or want to be. Instead of ‘getting back to my old self,’ I’m paving a new path.”


Saturday was my Colorado Party! I was surprised how many people came out to celebrate. My heart felt so full.

Today I realized it was more than “Becca in Colorado turns 4.” It was celebrating myself, surrounded by the people that showed up in my life when I needed them. As I’ve written, this year threw me overboard. While it’s hard to lean on others, I acknowledge the importance of supporting each other when things are tough, and being grateful, joyful with each other when things are great. I remember earlier this year worrying about being a burden, being a downer, looking miserable. A few things I was told: “They’re your friends, they want to be there for you,” “Most of us are therapists, everyone in this room can handle your tears,” and “Don’t worry, we’re your family.” These words came from significant, yet not expected, stellar people in my life. It felt so wonderful to invite my people together, in my home, looking happy, simply because I asked them to.

As a female, I do my fair share celebrating significant life changes as they occur for people around me. Don’t get me wrong, no emotion compares with feeling intense happiness for another person. In the same breathe, I want to celebrate other things that happen in our lives, from accomplishing career goals, performances, buying property, or simply feeling better after a crappy few months- life can have so much to celebrate.

My 92 year old Great Aunt recently said, “You better hurry up and get married.” And while yes, that is the path society tells me I should take, (darn you romantic comedies!) how can I be upset with my single, adult life? If I were to regret not having a husband, it would be regretting the multitude of adventures I’ve experienced, the people that crossed into my life, and even the plain ole personal growth that has made me who I am. How could I ask for anything more? That is more than enough reason to celebrate.