I am having a bad day at the group home, the sort of day where I find myself drafting resignation letters in my head. There is too much to do, and not enough time. There is too much paperwork, and not enough relationship with the people the paperwork is meant to serve. There are too many people needing too much from me, and the stakes are too high if I fail. There are too many tasks that only I can do. Or so I think. But I can’t think. I can’t breathe. My heart is pounding in my chest. I found myself unable to do anything, unable to make a decision about which crisis to address first. I am having a panic attack at work. I am frozen in place.
Then Marilyn, one of the people that supposedly only I can save, comes up to me and says, “I want to go for a walk.” The spell is broken. My uncertainty and anxiety and self-absorption fall away. I put down the self-imposed burdens that were crushing the breath out of me and I help Marilyn find her walker and put her coat on.
We walk down the street to the park at Marilyn’s pace, which is quite a bit slower than mine. It is one of those spring days that makes you remember why you like being alive. We watch the robins bounce around in the bright new grass. We greet the newborn leaves unfurling on the trees. We sit on a bench by the river and listen to it carry the last of the snowmelt away. We talk to dogs. We walk home again.
I walk back into Marilyn’s home feeling lighter. The tension is gone from my shoulders. The fear is gone from my heart. A burden has been lifted from the shoulders, and my head is clear again. I can see things for what they are, and what they aren’t. I can see my role here in this place for what it is, what I am, and what I am not. I am not Superman. I am not God. I am not the only person in this agency who does their job. I am just a person trying to look after other people, who has remembered that he is also a person who needs looking after. A person who is thanking the God he is not for sending Marilyn to look after me, so that I can in turn look after her. Because that is how it works. The only way it ever has, the only way it ever will.