I observe people on social media everyday announcing that they are leaving their jobs and opening their practices. They post pictures of their offices, furniture and decor. They are proud. They are excited. They are ready to embark on a new entrepreneurial adventure. They are at the beginning of something. I am coming to the end of something and perhaps the beginning of something else.
I’ve always mulled over decisions in the back drop for long periods of time and then all at once — I pounce. It’s time; I’m ready to close the physical location of my therapy office. I’m not retiring. No, I still not only need to work…but I also want to work. In fact, I have been working from my home office for 10 months. Closing my own office that I rent is like closing an important chapter in my career. I hope it’s a middle-ish chapter and not a late one. I can think of a few colleagues who have closed their practices. Some are retiring, others are moving and reducing their work loads or shifting to a different focus in their work. Still some others have left the profession all together. I will rent space two afternoons per month from some beloved colleagues. But I will not continue to be solely responsible for a therapy office. This will be the first time I haven’t had that in 20 years.
I’m still providing clinical supervision for those seeking licensure and consultation for independently licensed colleagues. I still have a few therapy clients. However, almost all of it is provided at a distance. I didn’t set out to have a distance practice. It was born out of necessity. I know that there will continue to be a need for brick and mortar practices and locations for therapy and other services. I certainly don’t think distance work is for everyone whether that be therapists, supervisors, clients or supervisees. What it does wonderfully is provide access. For me, it made working possible when it was not feasible for me to do what became a labor intensive process of going to the office to work.
For about 4 months I was on portable oxygen. Rolling an oxygen tank around is both life preserving and life limiting. A tank could last me 4 hours before I would need to hook up a new tank. I needed to wear oxygen while I was sitting, walking, talking, driving and even sleeping. I had a home compressor to use in the house. I used a 25 ft line to keep myself mobile in my home. I could wear the oxygen cannula in my nostrils when I went into my home office to work. It was an adjustment for my supervisees, consultees and clients but we navigated it. It was a visible representation that I needed a change. I think that allowed the people I served to process why this change was necessary and to come along for the journey.
It is very clear to me that at different stages of life we must stop and assess not only what we need but what we want. While my health is improved, I still have limitations related to work. I am still able to work; however I limit my pace and my load and my “yes’s.” It is important to be able to fulfill projects. It is important to be able to attend to the numerous doctors appointments that are part of the new normal of being an oncology patient.
I have found that people are very invested in “the fight.” I have many well meaning and caring former students, former supervisees and colleagues. It means a lot to me to have so much support. It means a lot to me to have the support of my siblings and friends. The truth is no matter how loved I am, the experience of being diagnosed with cancer and being treated for it is very isolating emotionally and psychologically. It is not isolating because people avoid me…far from it. I have so many people coming toward me that it at times feels like an the human equivalent of an avalanche. Instead for me it is isolating because so many people have difficulty accepting this reality and they have difficulty being in conversations about treatment; about what it’s like to deal with one’s impending mortality; and about what it’s like to balance hopefulness with anxiety. What matters most to me is supporting my mother; serving my clients (including supervisees and consultees and colleagues); taking care of myself and enjoying the simplicity of my home and creature comforts. As the late Mary Oliver said “let the soft animal of your body…love what it loves.” Or in my case “want what it wants.” What I want is to cultivate as much ease as I can during a time that is ripe with stress.
I want nothing more professionally than to focus on building my online platform for training and consultation services. I want to continue to share what I have gained professionally. I want to continue to provide for my own care by supporting myself financially. I want to continue to be of use and benefit to the profession I hold dear. So it is the closing of one chapter and the continuity of the rest of the book.
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