Dispatch No. 2

Lunch Break, and C.S. Lewis on Undulation

It’s not a good sign for the week that I’m getting my days mixed up. It’s Tuesday of the week before I go on a week-long vacation, and in my head it’s already Wednesday. I’m a day ahead of myself and the omens keep piling up.

I have a half-hour before my next client, but their bus brought them here early. Normally I would be inclined to see them early, as I don’t feel like wasting anyone’s time. Today however, I’m in the middle of my lunch, and with my door slightly cracked, I can hear them out in the hallway making clicking noises and whistling at a low volume to get me to poke my head out of the door. It’s not like they’re even knocking. Even that would be preferable to being signaled at like some sort of caged chimp. I will see them at precisely their appointment time, and until then I will be savoring my salad, writing, and not reinforcing inappropriate behavior.

These sorts of incidents with clients are fortunately few and far between. I have a good rapport with my clients, and even in the midst of scheduling mishaps or other frustrations, I tend to find it easy to collaborate with my clients and maintain a good relationship. The agency I work for isn’t heavily tied to other resources for clients and rarely is my word the deciding factor preventing someone’s return to work or reception of disability or whatnot. This sort of role allows the therapy to be more pure, more focused on the individual and the emotions behind their distress. I prefer very much to keep it this way.

Working in mental health, I’m bound to come across some situations with folks who are in the habit of being pushy or demanding of their providers. It’s the same in any service industry really. I usually do a good job of dealing with it, but during times of low blood sugar, my batting average suffers.

I’m terribly excited for a week away from work. It will be wonderful to get some time to clear my head, read a good book, hopefully get refocused. As I’m getting my start in the field, I’m finding that there’s a natural rhythm to how my motivation fluctuates. Motivation might not be the right word entirely. I find myself engaged and present almost all the time for my clients, but my belief in the service I’m providing wavers, and I’m sure this affects the product I deliver.

The closest thing I can relate this hot and cold phenomenon to is the natural ebb and flow of one’s spirituality. C.S. Lewis dubs this, “the law of undulation” in The Screwtape Letters. If my memory serves me correctly, the lesser demon Screwtape writes to his young charge that the best thing they can do to drive a wedge between their patient and “The Enemy (God,)” is to make him feel that this rhythm is a fatal flaw instead of something to be expected. I firmly believe that with my counseling, a fluctuation in intensity of my engagement and belief in it is to be expected.

A week away from the game will be the best thing for myself and my clients to keep us all moving in the right direction. It’s a two-way street, after all, and I need to be recharged so I can continue learning as well. Hopefully when I come back, there’ll still be folks whistling and clicking outside my door, ready to talk and learn and grow.

Actually, I hope they’ll just knock.