Monday, March 11, 2013

Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.

I quit my job! (Sort of) I still work for the Arc, but starting Thursday I will be considered indefinitely unavailable to take on any shifts. So, as if I were quitting entirely, I gave my two weeks notice so that they could start finding replacements. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the Arc, we provide respite services for families who have children with disabilities and household services to older adults with disabilities. I love the people, but the unwieldy schedule and constant driving between homes are an absolute headache.

The last two weeks have yielded a range of emotions. First I was sad to leave. Besides Owen, the only people I see on a regular basis are those I work with, and we have been through a lot together. I work in their homes helping them to prepare food, shower, care for wounds, and any other random task they ask me to do. I have helped them apply icy-hot to sore muscles, clipped their toenails, laughed with them, and found quiet routines in their presence. As I leave to take my own respite, I fear that the isolation may overwhelm me.

Once I had submitted my change of schedule I mentally checked out. Unengaged in what I was doing, I went through the motions daydreaming of my break to come. For the first time in a year of working with the Arc, I forgot to go to an assigned shift. My old-man-client-buddy didn't get his dinner that night, and I felt awful. I emailed him a note that I was sorry, and he responded, "It's okay. I had pop-tarts for dinner! HAHAHA!"

In the final days I find myself soaking in every minute. Though I ceased to notice it for the past several months, my job constantly offers new experiences. Within a three day period I faced new challenges, found more efficient solutions to previous problems, met new people, and talked about new subjects with the regulars. Suddenly my job had a new rush of meaning.

Why does it take an end to remind us of the novelty of the beginning?

Primed for new experiences, Owen and I decided to try out a new local bar this weekend.  We decided to talk to each other as if we were on a first date. I found that I listened better than usual. Owen talked about his childhood and family, and though I usually think that I've heard it all before, I actually noticed new details in what he said. I felt energized to share interesting stories about my family that I hadn't shared in a long time, like how my aunt used to live in a green school-bus on the Mesa in New Mexico. We didn't get bogged down in our current life issues, like often happens when we talk to each other.

Simply paying closer attention to the people around you, especially the day-to-day people, can make an average day feel like a day of new experiences and bring fresh interest in the people you see on a regular basis. In the first few weeks of working with the Arc, one of my clients shared a poem he had written with me. His words are simple, but they reflect with great depth his experience as a person with disabilities who's opinions and feelings are too often overlooked, even by those who are closest to him.
He says, "Open your eyes. Open your heart."

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