Friday, October 30, 2009

Twenty-five years of "stuff"




Interesting photos huh? You wonder, perhaps, what are they of? They are pictures of, over two decades of "stuff" I have collected that represents my life's work - a ministry of sorts - as my work is a calling to serve - a life of honoring humanity - work that served the vulnerable and needy, broken, wounded, addicted - often helpless - yet hopeful people whose lives crossed with mine - miraculously crossed with mine.
My degrees and certifications were framed, my books lined shelves - everything from Miss Piggy's Guide To Life to The Courage To heal, folders of carefully chosen inspirational writings and poems, props for groups like the "Golden Key" which when passed around each person would share about what this golden key' would open were it to be magical, my little 'box of miracles' and box of quotes' and when passed around the group members would pick a random miracle or quote card and share on what it meant to them, and my basket - oh my basket. - filled with cards and letters from clients and family members of clients who took the time to write to me to say 'thanks'. Each card and note holds such special meaning and humble hope. And I passed this tradition on to one of my most shining and promising interns - now a Master's degree Marriage and Family Therapist - I recall her saying, "the only cards in my basket are the two from you"!! I said, "just wait - your basket will be over flowing soon". Her basket is full - :-) And so I leave much of me in her to continue to serve and respect and honor those in need. In that I find some solace and relief from my own grief of my ministry's end. At least at my place of employment. Another intern of mine, and later hired, was wrongly terminated. She is a powerful resource and advocate for her clients. She has a strong presence, high standards, and fights for what is right only to have her spirit broken by an inhumane system that blames and oppresses. She is rising above and she will soar. I told her the other day that she is a "graduate with honor"!!

The items in those boxes and piles of pictures and my 'peace sign' and my welcome sign that my intern Sophie made for me that said ""A peaceful gathering place' which hung over my door to my office, candles and my radio and cassette player, all served to brighten the lives of so many people who came seeking help - hope - understanding - some left treatment and died - so tragic - most lived - many relapsed - but they kept trying with courage and determination that inspired me. Their lives often wrought with horror, abuse and loss and yet they kept trying. I am not ashamed to say that I cried with people and I laughed with them too. I listened and I never judged - I believed in each and every person that I served. Every single one!

This is not easy to let go of. I am quite sad today. An era has come to an end. My career is closing down. I am on a per Diem list which means I can be called in to fill in for clinicians that need time off - however, my ability to do so is contingent upon my symptoms and right now my symptoms are such that I cannot work and manage my health. I know I have served well, and have done so for almost a quarter century and for that I am forever filled with gratitude. There are so many mixed emotions as I conclude this active ministry - I don't have any regrets - except, well, except that at times I, for the greater good, or so it seemed, allowed a cold inhumane management to 'win'. My thinking being that if I resist too much I will be terminated and then I wont be able to serve. I am amazed at how much I tolerated and I regret that I did. It was always a 'toss up'. And obviously a far more complicated situation than this one statement could ever convey. I saw spirits die and lives destroyed, blame inaccurately placed and hearts broken - - I gathered with co-workers and wrote letters for change. We stood by one another when one of us was delivered an unnecessary blow - we all took so many hits. We provided space and time and support for one another to be heard so we could get back on the front line and serve, advocate, be the voice of those silenced by disease, brokenness, social status and despair - I have been privileged to work next to truly honorable, respectful, caring, and life-giving people in my 20+ years in human services - and some not so life-giving as well. Miss-use of power is ramped and I fought against it my entire career. And I say that with much pride.

And so the boxes are here - twenty five years of stuff, precious stuff - with meaning and purpose - all carted upstairs by three of my closest friends and past co-workers. I am going to sort through it all and hang some things and store some things and maybe even throw away some things. It is hard right now to look at the array of boxes and strewn "stuff" that represents a whole career - so I picked through my basket of cards and notes and chose one randomly because whatever it says, I know, will capture a quarter century of service:

A young woman writes-

"Gail
thanks for teaching me to appreciate the beauty of individual freedom-even for someone like me who always believed I had none - and you gave me an opening so that I can see other perceptions beyond my own.
Love____________"

that is one example of hundreds of cards and letters - all of which give testimony, witness to my humble service - that I was given the chance to "be" so others could find their own hope, healing, recovery and self - love. As I move on and I realize that the lives closest to me that I will continue to serve and be served by, all of my blog-friends included, that I am open to and being given endless opportunity to love and be loved - give, and be given to, share and listen, and continue to "be". And as I let myself surrender I know, that as much as this all seems so different, it is really all quite the same. So I will grieve as I have a right to do - and I will move on to the new place my life has taken me - still with love in my heart - my truths as my proof that I have lived and survived, my calling to serve is all around me. My core both within me and in our home is solid and life-giving and true - I am still being called....

Love Gail
peace.....

36 comments:

Whitemist said...

That is very intense!
As I contemplate what I can and can not do, i can understand your bitter sweet feelings. I am glad you halped so many in the time you had.

Teacher's Pet said...

You have made a positive difference, Gail...and the best 'stuff' isn't stuff..It's what's in the hearts and minds of those you have tenderly helped...and it's what's in your heart as you remember and smile from deeeep within knowing: If I helped one person, I've made a difference. And you've helped countless people...and those seeds continue to spread. I send you a hug as you go through the things you can touch...and an even warmer and tighther hug as you replay your life's work...one that has made a difference.
Love,
Jackie

Gail said...

HI JOEY-
Yes, many indeed and each one helped me too. ANd I too contemplate what I can and cannot do and I adjust, and adjust and adjust.........

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Gail said...

Hi Jackie-

Thanks for being SO validating and wise as you 'see' the worth of my life's work. :-) and that the seeds are still growing.

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Eileen said...

I think it's great to have all those 'tangibles' stored in boxes, but I think it's even more meaningful to have, as Jackie said, the knowledge that you have made a vast and positive difference in the lives of others.
And I so agree, that your 'serving' can continue on and on. The fact that it's not in the capacity of a paid position does not make your serving any less valid.
There are so many of us that benefit from each and every post of yours.

Love and Prayers,
Eileen

Gail said...

Hi Eileen-

"thank you"
SO much for all your support and validation. I know everything you said is true :-) and I am arriving there - as such wisdom is a process and not an event. phew....

love Gail
peace.....

Iktomi said...

that is a wonderful post, i'm thankful for all the people you've helped. :) and i know it's difficult to have to give something up due to unforseen circumstances but i'm just as sure that you'll be able to serve in an equally important capacity in this new chapter of your life. :)

Gail said...

Hi Iktomi-

Oh "thank you" SO much for your kind words to me. Hug the baby - he is adorable. :-)

Love you
Gail
peace.....

Wanda said...

I hope your sadness doesn't linger Gail and you work through it with the pride of knowing you helped so many during your 25 years of service. You've just moved from one stage to another, with the same abilities to help someone, just in a different way!

Smiles,
Wanda

Gail said...

Hi Wanda-

Oh no, my sadness wont linger. I am already moving away form my feelings of grief. I will be fine.
And I know that I will adjust to my 'new stage'.

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Bernie said...

Gail, I feel so humble and proud to call you friend....you have helped so many... many others wouldn't have given a thought too.. I love your "stuff" and I bet those favorite quotes and everything in that basket is priceless....I know you will keep serving Gail, it is part of who you are. "A beautiful and wonderful human being".....:-) Hugs

Diana said...

It's all good Gail. You did a lot of good. And it's not over. It's just in a different form.
Love Di

cinner said...

Gail, this was a beautiful post and a true view into all your goodness. You have helped so many people, when I stopped work due to my illness, I reinvented myself because at the time I had put so much of me into work. that I could not imagine life any other way. Now I am the same person just live a little differently. What you have is a wonderful heart and personality that still has so much to do, now you can be your own boss and that can be liberating too. Big hug, I am glad you have all those treasures. It would be good if you could honor them on display...some of them anyway. Love you. take care.

Gail said...

@CINNER-

Thank you SO much for sharing of oyur transition. I know I am still me' and I love the "no boss" aspect more than words can say. phew. I love how you "get me" :-)

@DIANA-
Thanks Di - your words tome mean so much as they remind me that my work is not over, only in a different form. :-)


@BERNIE-
You are SO right - I will always 'serve' because that is who I am. ANd I will be even more 'free' to do so now that I am out from under sme of the oppressive management. :-)



Love you ALL
Gail
peace......

Comrade Kevin said...

I am sure you made a remarkably positive influence in many lives and for that you can be justly proud.

Gail said...

Hi Kevin-

thank you SO much for your validating comment - your words mean a lot to me.

Love to you
Gail
peace......

giggles said...

Gail,

One door closes...another opens.

I am sad for your "loss" yet hopeful in what lays ahead in your future. You have helped so many in your role, my guess is that just the "method of delivery" will change.

I too expect to go through a transition. And while I am quite nervous, I also have the faith and knowledge that I (and family) will be fine. We'll remain solidly on our feet.

I am "comforted" in the knowledge that who I am, my identity, remains solidly in tact, and only my role will be changing, a new one will hopefully emerge and become defined....

My wish for you is that you enjoy this time to explore what your next "role" in this life is...and then that you enjoy that new role...! (Wish that back for me, kay??!!)

Gail said...

HI GIGGLES-

I am thrilled to share in this part of our life's journey together. I wish for you as you wish for me too. :-) We each know who we are, our gifts and talents and hearts - it's all good. Amen

Love you
Gail
peace......

Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord said...

You are still being called, and offer the world hope through this blog - through the honest sharing of your experiences.
What a wonderful thing to read, though - about your career and the ways in which you touched others' lives. Thank you, Gail. I've seen glimpses of what I hope to accomplish through what you wrote about here.
Love & joy to you!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

You have an ongoing legacy. Be rightly proud. You have been allowed the rare privilege of serving—and you served well. Now you have another calling. Where? I don't know…but maybe right here on this blog. You haven't been "put out to pasture," you've changed pastures, a pasture you are expected to take nourishment from so you can enrich the lives of others. Be proud of this, too; it means you've been granted a promotion.

PENolan said...

Hope you enjoy a million sunsets and moonrises while you sort through all your memories.

Gail said...

HI TRISH-

I love your words and I will so savor every moment of sun and moon-rising through these memories - thank you for saying it so beautifully

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

And thank you so much for your wonderful validating words to me. I did get a chuckle about my NOT being put out to pasture - great analogy. :-) And yes, a legacy indeed has been left with more calling to be answered.

Love you
Gail
peace......

Gail said...

HI Joy Girl-Megan

Thank you for your kind words. I am honored that glimpses of my life's work have inspired you. I find that most humbling.

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

TheChicGeek said...

Gail, your post made me cry. You truly are such a special person and I have no doubt that you have blessed all the lives you have touched...and, I know too, that they have blessed you. To be able to serve and help others, to really make a difference in this world...even one life...that's what makes this life worth living. You have left a great legacy to those that follow you.

I believe you may have left your "employment," but your ministry lives with you each and every day as you touch us all with your spirit, your words, your love.

Thank you, Gail. I'm so honored to call you my friend.
Love,
Kelly

Jenn Jilks said...

This post rings a bell for me. I fought long and hard in my teaching career: I fought the system, an abusive principal, and found a job transfer. I was so happy with my new boss!
Then I dropped everything to care for ailing parents. I left the best class of students I had ever taught. I moved 430 km for a new job in Muskoka, in a school with an incompetent new principal. Both of my parents had cancer. I learned lots, but had no one to help me. Since then, I have begun to do volunteer work with Hospice. I feel that the window opened and I am doing different 'work' in a different place. I am so happy with the changes, despite frustration with the educational system, and now the health care system.
As my parents were dying, I began taking courses (online) for an M.A. in Counselling Psychology. I realized that the frustrations in the system were the same as health care & education. I dropped it and concentrate on volunteering. I have learned so much. All the best.

Gail said...

HI KELLY-CHIC GEEK-
Thank you so much for sharing your heart with me - that my sharing moved you to tears is both humbling and inspiring. and yes, my service to others is so active, just in a different forum. And I am honored to call you friend, as well. :-)

Love you
Gail
peace.....

Gail said...

HI JENN-

It is obvious that you really understanding the frustrations of human services and education systems. I think it is wonderful that you are volunteering and helping SO many. Yours has been a long hard road with many losses.
Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

Gail, so fitting here is my posted response to your visit to APOGEE Poet... "Gail, End and Beginnings - The Embracing Circle of Life - Blessings Always."

Yours is a most special calling. And to all who have been graced by your love, your knowing, your quest, gratitude fills their hearts, allowing them to feel the light of your understanding, giving them the vision of faith for themselves and the ability to bring it forward to others.

You are ever in celebration dear Gail!!

Yours is the 'stuff' of destiny lived.

In loving friendship,

Rose Marie

Gail said...

ROSE MARIE-

I often sigh out loud when I read your heart felt comments tome - tody was no exception. :-) And it is so true that your comment tome on your post was quite aligned with my experience. I SO appreciate your validation of my journey and life - and I feel deeply your presence in my soul.

Loving you
Gail
peace.....

JackiesMagic said...

I like what Ikitomi said.. that "you'll be able to serve in an equally important capacity in this new chapter of your life."

So.. if not for you, someone else will be inspired from watching this Lemonade movie trailer. So cool!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJltcT7DH7g&feature=player_embedded

Gail said...

HI JACKIE-

thanks so much and I will check out that movie trailer. :-)

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Silindile Ntuli said...

With more people like you the world would be a better place. You've touch a lot of lives and your unselfish giving nature is inspiring.

Gail said...

HELLOSILINDILE-
And welcome - so nice to "meet" you. a:-)

Thank you for your very kind words to me. I will stop by your blog and say hello soon.
Love Gail
peace.....

Choices said...

Gail,
You should be very proud of yourself because all the boxes full of cards and letters just shows how much you have touched others in a kind and loving way. Those are memories to hold on to forever. Memories like the ones you shared stay in your heart always.
Take care of yourself, Gail.

Gail said...

HI CHOICES-ANNE

Thank you so much for your kind and loving words to me. ANd yes, I have so many wonderful memories and "proof", if you will, of lives that have crossed with mine and all of us the better for it. :-)

Love Gail
peace.....