Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thursday 13: Work(ing) It Out

I've had alot of jobs in my career. I've owned my own business for most of it, consulting, training, developing programs, counseling, running a restaurant, starting an artisian cooperative, marketing a movie theatre and school system and myself, writing (yay!), and as of exactly one year ago, psychotherapist in an inner city.
This week I thought I'd focus on my work: the reasons I like it, some observations, the touching moments, some of the funny stuff.
1. The city I work in has been in federal receivership for some time. There are some middle class neighborhoods--even a few upper class ones--but for the most part, the buildings and neighborhoods are dirt poor. And transient. Many of the folks I see have little or almost no furniture at all--a bed, a table, maybe one couch, a couple of chairs. That's not everybody, but at first I didn't understand: with no car and no money, when you move, you leave what little you have behind.
2. I have close to twenty clients, including some kids, ages 4, 9, 12, 13, & 17. I've never worked with kids before last year, and never with individuals and families in so much turmoil. I didn't expect to like it so much, or to be so comfortable doing it. I think I'm someone who tries to make lemonade from lemons, and that approach seems to help.
3. Last week my 12 year old client, who I see at school, suggested I bring some donuts and a Dunkin Donuts' Coolata with me every once in a while. "We should have donuts together sometimes," she smiled.
4. Even though I need to be extra careful in high crime areas, I'm pretty comfortable. I make sure I learn and know what I need to be careful about, and if I'm not sure, I ask my client and he/she will fill me in. But the one thing I cannot bring myself to do is pull into a corner gas station in most parts of the city. I just have this notion of me innocently pumping gas and getting zapped in a drive-by shooting.
5. I asked my thirteen year old Hispanic client what her court-appointed lawyer was like. "Well," she said, "He's white," emphasizing the word 'white' as if that should tell me everything I need to know."Oh," I said, "you mean white like me?" She stopped and took this in for a second, and then we both laughed out loud, in that moment both of us colorblind.
6. I am talking about S-E-X with 13 year olds and 17 year olds. And because I am sometimes not sure what's appropriate either developmentally or culturally, I have to ask them who's doing what and why and how and when. I'm totally amazed how much these kids tell me and how willing they are to listen to advice and admonitions.
7. I have a deal with one of my girls: NO drugs, NO gangs, NO babies. That is the plan to get her from today to college. I drive her crazy because I make her repeat this mantra almost every time I see her.
8. I get a lot of hugs in this job.
9. I suggested to a middle aged woman with a horrible history of childhood abuse that perhaps she could step in and mother the little girl inside her when things got really scary. I saw her last week and she told me she did just that. "My little girl was so afraid she was going to get hit, so I stepped in and put my arms around her and told her I would protect her." The woman paused. "And you know, I felt empowered when I did that." Myself, I was thrilled hearing this for the rest of the day.
10. I get to go to all these different elementary, middle and high schools. I like that. I stopped in to meet the principal of the high school last week because I'm thinking about pitching a group or workshop for high school seniors called "How To Be An Adult." (This title is from my friend Nerissa Nield's book of the same name). I would want to develop and run this group myself.
11. I spend 3 to 4 hours a week doing paperwork I don't get paid for. I call it the volunteer part of my job. I bitch about it to myself non-stop the whole time.
12. Recently a client asked me if I'd like to go to the Casino with her some day. What's wrong with this picture?--therapists don't socialize with clients and a casino no less. Still, I know it's a compliment because it means she is comfortable with me and our back-door counseling, somewhat due to the fact that I see alot of people in their own homes.
13. I work two long days each week, spend another half day doing reports and bills, and use the rest of my time writing, promoting my new book, helping my mom, doing life's non-stop chores, and now working on my yard. It's quite a well paced life these days. I look back on raising Jess and working sometimes 60 hours a week and don't have a clue how I did it.

Does anyone have thirteen things to say/share/chat about besides me? Just because you do it one time (Soulbrush...) doesn't mean you have to keep doing it. Tsup!


  1. Kj, you're an amazing woman and I'm proud to call you my friend.
    The work you do couldn't be done by just anyone.
    You have to have the heart, grit, determination and love for your fellow human being. You have to 'take no prisoners' and kick some ass along the way.
    I'm sure one of the hardest parts of this work is wearing your heart on your sleeve because I KNOW YOU DO and I don't think you need to apologize for it but I do think you need to be careful.
    There are people out there who will take advantage of your great big heart my friend because that's what they do. It's a score, a conquest, a way to undo a wrong that's been done to them.
    Please remember not to take any of it personally. It's their stuff, not yours.
    You, my friend are the good guy and the world is a better place because of people like you.

  2. So lovely to hear from you. Reading your post about your work, you are really making a great difference and so pleased you enjoy your job. We need more like you.

  3. Just a fly by visit to say "Hi"...

    Hi!! :)

  4. I'm with Lolo on this one - ditto to her post

  5. ditto ditto lo, but number 9 touched me personally, cos i had to learn to 'mother myself' in order to start healing many years ya you want 13 things from me or not? couldn't be sure from your post!

  6. You are a wonderful woman, KJ,this is amazing work and you have found a way to do your writing too, You are my example of how I can do it too.

  7. kj I love hearing about your work because I always have this wonderful vision of you helping and caring about those around you.

    This must be the most rewarding job. Oh and I think having that on how to be an adult would be fantastic. Hope that happens.

    I was going to say about the cancer experience in the story and mine. I believe that your story is very true for many people. Almost all of my friends could have been like that.

    For so many they see a way to change and get what they want and have needed all their lives.

    For me it is so different, because I have always had what I want. I have always seen the birds sing and have stated my truth.

    Does that make sense to you?

    Renee xoxoxo

  8. thanks for showing us this picture of you at work. wow. that is some work you are doing and it sounds like you are really helping your clients, opening new worlds for them to explore, things they can do to heal themselves. you are an inspiration.

  9. I put in a Thursday 13 today.
    I think we all need to learn to mother ourselves because honestly, no one's mother is perfect. Learning to fill in the gaps in your own personal history with what you need is survival 101. Learning not to be angry because you didn't get what you needed (or thought you needed) is graduate work. It gets easier when you realize your parents, teachers, doctors, etc. are not the omniscient beings you thought they were back then.
    I think it's interesting to read about people's days. I'm spending more time doing rather than being anxious about what I should be doing, but it's an ongoing process, hampered by the fact that I feel like I AM doing what I should be doing.

  10. Thanks for letting us peek over your shoulder. When you worked those 60 hour weeks, I'm sure the time you were able to spend with Jess was quality time.

    Your child clients might not get much quality time at all from their parent(s). - YOU give them one-on-one time and they seem to really appreciate that... and perhaps they will share their lemonade and/or donuts with others.

  11. I'm really privileged to know you KJ!

  12. These are so interesting. I know you have 'moments' you'd rather forget in your job but it sounds so satisfying. It's been years since I had a truly satisfying job. It's the perfect occupation for you and you have the work/life balance down pat. Good on you kj. You're a treat, you really are.

  13. KJ -- I can't tell you how much I *loved* this post!! Especially #'s 3, 5, and 7. And 9 is so fabulous I want to hug you right through the computer screen. :) You are a wonderful counselor!

  14. That was a lovely read, even the bit about life's non-stop chores.

  15. lolo, double ditto. i read your message loud and clear and i thank you for it.

    julie-ann, thanks for stopping by. more like me? be careful what you ask for.... :)


    thank you mim.

    soulbrush, love ya too. YES: 13 things please...

    annie, go for it. don't give up.

  16. renee, "i have seen the birds sing and have stated my truth." you are too much. i feel sorry for myself that i have not known you for the last 25 years so i could enjoy how you see things and express them for all that time. this was a very good week because of your news. xoxox

    suki, i am nothing and no one special. but i like the idea of trying to make a true difference in the lives of 20 people. thank you for your very kind words, suki.

    debra kay, there you go again saying something so profound like it just rolls off your tongue. which it does. i'm glad you are falling into your days. i think that is good.

    thanks chewy, yeah, the kids really appreciate the attention. i keep thinking they will be embarrassed to be seen with me, in school or at dd, but i ask them and they say no.

    miladysa, the privilege is mine, my good friend. 5 questions are now stewing for you...

    baino, that last sentence of your comment. i treasure it.

    hug me melissa! mwah!

  17. Oh so fantastic, thank you so very much! I am over the moon!
    My email address is
    You have made may day, thank you.

    I believe in the universe thing also and have started to realize that if you moan more things keep happening bad for you and if you channel out good vibes then good starts happening. Like they attract each other.
    So God willing, we should all have goodness around us and I know we have so much here.



  18. Excuse me, miss comment-deflector. A-HEM!

    KJ, what an incredibly strong and courageous person you are. You are a hero, especially to those who need it the most. One by one, you are helping these people better their lives and hopefully leave their detrimental situations behind, and they in turn, might help others do the same. It's a never ending chain that started with you. Bless you.