Friday, November 19, 2010

The Hard Slog

It's been a tough couple of weeks in the world of Housing and Street Outreach. Clients are facing eviction, dealing with courts and probation, lots of missed appointments and abandonned opportunities.

Earlier in my career I'd have said I was headed for burnout. It used to almost creep up on me without my knowing it. One reason for this is that burnout can come about in a number of ways. It can be the result of taking on the emotional burden of our clients' challenges. Or, it can come from too long a period in overdrive - simply trying to do too much. Another route is to let the formal boundaries between work life and home life collapse, and suddenly find yourself getting calls at home and handling client issues during family time. And it can result from believing that you are the one sure and necessary partner who will make or break your client's success.

I'm better about all these things than I once was. The first time I experienced burnout, it showed up in the imbalanced way I began doing my work - putting a zealot's energy into the transformative features of the program, like goal-setting and personal vision work, but ignoring the basic and practical management elements, like whether clients were completing chores and observing 'lights out'. It was a typical beginner's pitfall: believing - or wanting to believe - that all my charges needed was to be inspired and set free of constraints. My boss at the time sent me home for some manditory vacation time. It took a few days and a little distance from the transitional group home for me to see that he was right.

These days, I'm  better at managing my pace, which translates into recognizing the pace my clients are on, and the place they are in, and accepting that these are not easily changed. And still, it's sometimes hard to maintain the faith - to me, essential in this work - that growth is happening every day, whether I see it or not.

I'm glad the weekend is here. I WILL separate from the job for a couple of days, and attend to more personal needs. And hopefully, when I pick it up again on Monday, I'll be a bit refreshed. Faith is easier on a good night's sleep.


  1. "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
    -Ecclesiastes 9:11-

    It can be a terrible burden to help people in crisis and seemingly perpetual misery to keep faith and keep going. Glad to hear you have some time to step back from the brink.

  2. Toby, you've quoted one of my all time favorite works. So humbling, inspiring, grounding, isn't it. Thanks for your comment, fellow traveler!