There will come a time when you believe everything is finished: Yet that will be the beginning.–Louis L’Amour
It happened and I didn’t foresee it or really even plan it. But looking back now, I can see the outline of my transformation in reverse perspective.
I have spent many hours in serious thought about my life options over the last two years. When my husband unexpectedly died I was beset with constant fear and loneliness. Despite having been self-supporting and independent at seventeen, now in my sixties I doubted my ability to ever feel secure or whole again.
Through more than two decades of private therapy practice my husband had always been at my side, assisting with billing issues, sometimes taking a turn at the front desk, always ensuring that supplies were where they needed to be when we needed them, handling and organizing our accounts and always being friendly and helpful to patients and their family members.
Ten years ago he left salaried work himself and we quickly evolved to a shared joint practice relationship: what I came to call our “mom and pop shop.”
Then he died unexpectedly three years ago on Memorial Day.
Every nook and cranny of our office seemed to remind me of him. I could barely enter the room where he did his work. In many important ways I stopped minding the company store and left it to others to do what each of us had done. Loyal staff made up some of the difference and my contractual colleagues continued to support the practice and kept it going these three years at a half-time level.
My life was forever changed and I felt too broken and lost to form a new identity for myself as a widowed, single woman. Through the months of grief the quicksand of sadness and loss would easily overwhelm me. To avoid the uncertainty and pain and I plunged myself further into my contractual professional work. I quickly turned much of my attention away from the practice and my home life to my duties at the Air Force eventually becoming a full time salaried employee serving mental health needs of military members and their families. I could express my feelings safely within my squadron support group but preferred to focus on care delivery as much as I was able. I was able to keep up the pace and forged ahead until this spring when I learned that the professional contract with the military would expire mid-May and renewal was very uncertain.
I began to see my situation from a new vantage point and recognize that I was filling too many of my hours with the demands of work and I had restricted by time for relaxation, quiet and activities I had enjoyed before my heart became so broken by grief. I had put my camera on a shelf along with many other customary pleasures. I was suffering from what many therapists refer to as “burn out.”
It soon became clear to me that I must let go of the very work that had been giving me so much comfort and a semblance of self-control through my grief. I had to let go.
Weighing my options, I decided to return to my community-based private practice rather than seek other full time employment or wait for the contract to be funded. Despite learning from my colleagues that the contract did move to pending status, I moved forward with my plan to return to private practice. I missed the flexibility of setting my own hours and being able to schedule time away from the office to take care of personal needs and have time to enjoy other parts of my life.
There are new assurances in my life that I can identify: I notice that I now feel more lasting positive emotions and my spontaneity has reappeared. I can enjoy occasional quiet times. A handful of deep friendships have regrown themselves and now flourish. I see that I can enjoy my life again.
Another bright spot I can identify is that I return back to the community with additional skills I strengthened, honed and reinforced in my work within the strong mental health group at Andrews Air Force Base. I have built additional skill in working with traumatic stress, sleep disorders, and applying innovative cutting edge and carefully researched treatment strategies to help a variety of patient needs.
So I have made my exit, said my goodbyes and expressed my deep gratitude to amazing work colleagues and leaders who have supported me these four years…
While I had cut back the community practice the office location has deteriorated–the roof leaks when it rains hard and the heating and air conditioning systems are inadequate and costly. Lewis and I were considering a move when he died, but the idea of moving without him to an new office was overwhelming to me. So I didn’t and my tolerant colleagues and I “made do” at the undesirable location.
Fortunately over the course of the last year I did some initial homework and identified another suitable office suite across the main road and nearer other medical and legal offices and the new town hall in our town center.
After a trip to the doctor to check out my “vital parts” in mid-April I offered a lease to the landlord and within just hours I began to press forward with the move. Day be day, book by book, shelf by shelf, trash heap by growing trash heap, a beautiful new office took shape.
The two part time consultants were eager to move with me and the office manager and I managed to begin scheduling patients there within just two weeks.
I have been away from the Air Force for three weeks now and am relieved to find that patient referrals have rapidly expanded and have come from many directions. Some part of me is not completely surprised: the same thing happened when I first started the practice. Then as now, I just needed to trust myself and finally believe that I could succeed and thrive on my own.
So here I am and it is a new day and I am moving on best as I can….:-)
Here is one of my favorite songs about losing one’s love in life:
HOME TO MYSELF
I wake up and see
The light of the day shining on me
Make my own time, it’s mine to spend
Think to myself: my own best friend
It’s not so bad all alone
Coming home to myself again.
Now I understand
Whatever I feel is whoever I am
Watching my life and how it’s grown
Looking on back to things I’ve known
And it’s not so bad all alone
Comin’ home to myself again.
It’s not so bad to get lost in my tears
And to laugh and to cry for the years gone by
Oh my, oh my
Now somehow I know
I’ve come a long way, got a long way to go
But something inside is making me strong
And in the bad times I’ll get along
‘Cause, it’s not so bad all alone
Comin’ home to myself again
I’m comin’ home.
and here is a you tube video that captures the melody quite well: