I went on a walk after work today.
That might not seem like much, but it’s something to me.
I had to talk myself into it. The sun was setting and I wasn’t sure whether it would be dark in thirty minutes. You see, if I walk from my house to the end of the street and do one loop around the trail and walk home, that’s thirty minutes.
And somewhere in this trying to exercise business, once again I’ve managed to convince myself that anything less than thirty minutes three times a week is “failure.”
I did well the first few weeks of January, but life is life and allergies are allergies, so I fell off the wagon. And I’m trying to get on again. But it’s hard.
Especially if talking myself into exercise means talking myself into thirty minutes.
So today, I told myself I could just walk to the end of the street and back, and do the two cul de sacs on the way home. I ended up going a little bit further, which usually happens in this case, and so I walked for 20 minutes.
Is twenty minutes thirty minutes? No. But is it better than zero minutes? Yes.
Realistically, even if I only go on a walk once a month that’s still better than I was doing a few months ago.
But it’s so so easy to fall into that all or nothing thinking.
I had a supervisory meeting today for some of my internship hours, and it was so good to even just have some of my own experiences mirrored back to me. To hear someone affirm that a 19:1 ratio is a lot – too much, even, if you’re trying to build rapport and safety and have everyone get what they need. That’s a lot of needs in one room, even if it were adults (and it’s not).
But this is the world we live in and the system we have to work in right now. And it’s better than not trying to help anyone.
A lot of the work I am doing now requires practice and intuition and trial and error. There’s no one right answer. Just feeling things out and trying to inhabit a space full of flexibility and empathy and forgiveness in the process. For myself as much as for anyone else in the room.
Drama therapy is about creativity and spontaneity. Too often, we get locked in: to responses, to patterns, to modes of thinking. Spontaneity is a skill which allows space to open up where something new or different can emerge. But spontaneity is also problem-solving, a means to an end.
Spontaneity is what allows me to choose to walk to the end of the street, or however far I want to go, instead of being locked onto a trail that I have to finish in order to get home. Spontaneity is what might allow me to see that I don’t have to walk all the way around the trail – I could go part of the way and then retrace my steps.
The more I can recognize my own patterns, the places I get stuck or freeze, the more I can live in a space where that’s not happening. And the better able I am to help others get un-stuck. But this, also, is a process. Spontaneity is having an end goal but not being so fixated on that goal that you can’t change course to avoid a storm.
Just being human can sometimes be enough. Modeling what it looks like to make a mistake and then fix it. Or to step back from a problem if it’s too heated to solve in the moment, but to actually come back to it later. Sometimes the work is validating feelings and experiences even when a behavior needs correcting. It’s trying your best to see everyone as “good,” and just lacking in some kind of skill they need to be successful.
One of the most important moments in my therapy wasn’t some revelation about my past. It was when, after several weeks of my sessions starting ten or fifteen minutes late due to the previous session running over, my therapist brought up the fact that that had been happening, apologized, and asked if there was anything I wanted to say to her about it. Having that permission to be angry or frustrated or disappointed and voice it, have it be heard, and have the problem corrected was really powerful.
And it’s hard sometimes. It takes a lot of self-awareness and compassion for the parts of myself that want to be perfect or are afraid to fail. The more I can love the parts of myself that are hard to love, the more I can love the parts of other people that are hard to love. That is the work. Showing up for people and loving them, and trying to think well of them, and being the best human being you can be.
There is this part of me that wants so much to be perfect, and to get everything right. But sometimes a walk to the end of the block is all you have the sunlight or the time for. And sometimes you just have to keep showing up and doing your best, even if you don’t have an internal metric for what is allowed to be “good enough.”