Field of Possibilities

Originally written on October 10, 2019. Updated, January 2, 2020

To the tree? Or to the hills? Or to the horizon?

Two and a half months ago I finally did it. I quit my job as a therapist/yoga instructor. Unlike the “old-timers,” I had only been there for five years. It took that long for the ones who were waiting to retire to accept me as someone who might just have something of value to share. I worked hard to create a yoga program for patients. It was somewhat successful for a while. I attempted, several times, to create a similar program for staff, but to no avail. “We can’t provide something for free here when staff can go across the street and pay for it there.” Huh?

But I carried on, teaching and learning, connecting and disconnecting. I could’ve stayed for another 10 years but realized that there were too many road blocks, too many excuses and too much stuck in the past behaviors. I could’ve continued with the intention to simply ignore all the dysfunction in the system and focus on helping the patients. I could’ve. Maybe I should’ve. But I didn’t.

Working in a psychiatric hospital is not easy, for anyone. You have to be tough and tender at the same time. You have to know your boundaries and be able to play games without sacrificing your personal safety. You have to make friends with mental illness. You learn to observe pain and suffering from a very close distance, but you can’t let yourself fall into the traps that are set all around you.

I tried to push through all the negativity and sense of going nowhere. After five years, the worst thing was that there was no safe space for me to gather the parts of myself that became scattered around the hallways and group rooms every time I was there. Like the patients, I couldn’t breathe inside those buildings. I needed a “fresh air break.” 

I made the decision several months before I actually made the announcement. It was a graceful exit with some tears and many promises to “stay in touch.” I loaded my car with tubs of art supplies and handouts and books on yoga and mindfulness and creativity and trauma. I left with all the evidence of my time there in the back of my car. I hoped that the patients who had become part of my life would remember one small thing that I taught them, and that that one small thing might make a difference in their recovery. I left them with part of my spirit infused into theirs. I hope I did anyway.

The day after I left, the air outside changed. A fresh, cool wind came in from the north, bending the trees, breaking small branches and blowing dead leaves off, and filling my lungs with new life. I sat on the deck, just breathing, and feeling the soft sensation of new air on my skin. It felt like transition.

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