37: Itching for a Change

37: Itching for a Change

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Itching for a Change

Becoming acquainted with yourself is a price well worth paying for the love that will really address your needs.

~Daphne Rose Kingma

I wanted to be a receptionist in a doctor’s office when I grew up. As a kid, I played with a blue plastic phone and a calendar, answering the phone with a smile and filling in time slots for patient appointments. Fifty years later I am still filling in my calendar, but my plastic phone has been replaced by an iPhone and as a clinical psychologist I serve as my own receptionist. A vanilla candle on the corner of my desk perfumes the air with a subtle scent as I listen to life stories in forty-five minute intervals — sound bites of love, loss, dreams, and tragedy. Worn green leather chairs cushion our time together. I have a photographic memory for only two things: my patients’ lives from one week to the next, and baking recipes.

One Christmas holiday a few years ago, my work stress was intensifying due to the difficulty of cases and the number of clients I chose to see in a day. It was a cold Thursday evening that I sat listening to a young woman recount a horrific car accident she had witnessed the previous night: “She flew through the air as the car careened around the curve and slid off the embankment. I knew it was my neighbor when I saw her red and green socks through my headlights as she hit the pavement. She always wore funny socks with her snow boots.”

I drove home holding tight to the steering wheel, snow beginning to fall. As I opened our front door to the smell of baked potatoes, my neck suddenly became hot and itchy.

My daughter asked, “What are all those red spots, Mom?” A warm bath seemed to help but the next week it happened two more times after a long day of work. I realized I was itching for a change. I had to figure out how to simplify and live my next fifty years more peacefully.

Shortening my workweek and seeing fewer patients was only the beginning. More importantly my mid-day is now reserved for someone special whose self-care trumps all others. My blue yoga mat sits regally in the corner of my office, always a reminder of the importance of my own physical, emotional, and spiritual alignment. I steal away to a small yoga studio around the corner. It is my sanctuary where I connect to myself. I need to do that — it’s at the core of my ability to help heal and connect with others.

Yoga is like putting on my reading glasses, allowing me to see what is closest to me, which can get blurred when caring for others. When I am centered and balanced, I can better read my patients’ stories. A therapist’s work is all about change and transition — both our personal growth and that of our clients. The inevitable pain and challenge of our journey is softened in yoga class as we experience a sweet calm in the transition between our in breath and our out breath and from one pose to the next. Standing poses challenge my balance, reminding me of the importance of finding that equanimity in our busy lives. I try to wear clothes that easily travel from one practice to the other, from mat to office, my seams holding the healing energy.

Like the soothing bath on a cold night just a few years ago, I now bathe in the light of daily yoga and meditation to sooth the inevitable rough spots in life. As I meet my true self on the mat I am better able to meet the truth in others. What an honor to hold on to the simplicity of that receptionist job I dreamed of as a child.

~Priscilla Dann-Courtney


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