Karen at the Core

Black, Seed, Dandelion, Close-Up, White, Macro, Wind

So the big news (for me, at least) is that I have begun training as a peer counsellor with Cowichan Family Life Association in Duncan. What follows is an excerpt from my journal for this past weekend. (Names and details have been altered.)

The exercise starts simply enough. We are handed two sets of instructions: one entitled “How to Care for Extroverts.”*and the other “How to Care for Introverts.”** We are asked to consider which of the items describes our own personal needs. I tick off 11 of the 12 items under Introverts: no surprise there and only one item under Extroverts: “Let them hug you.” Yes, I like hugs. We are divided into pairs; I will work with Marnie. Each pair is asked to discuss our choices with our partner, taking turns as either speaker or listener, with the listener paraphrasing and reflecting back the speaker’s comments: basic counselling skills, lesson two.

As I am listening, I consciously try to slow down the conversation, breaking it down into smaller, manageable bits, so I can paraphrase accurately and completely. Sometimes I paraphrase content, sometimes I reflect feelings or the meanings that appear to be attached to her comments. “It sounds like being a mom is a really important part of who you are,”  or, “I’m curious. What happened when he made eye contact with you? What went through your mind?” As the conversation continues, though, we start spontaneously reflecting back and forth. I know this is not what is supposed to happen. The focus is supposed to stay on the speaker, but I let the conversation take on a life of its own, and we drill further and further down into just who it is, we really are. At one point, she says, “Being a caregiver. That is who I am at the core. It’s just that important.”

I nod and consider. Perhaps this is true, but being a caregiver is something we do. Is what we do the same as who we are? I pose the question: “I wonder if it’s possible to strip away all the layers of our personalities, all the roles. I wonder if we can. What would we find at the core?”

“I am a caregiver. That’s who I am,” she says again.

Suddenly, I am struck by an image in my own imagination. I see a final layer being stripped away. It is black, rigid, and (this may be important) constructed. What is even more important though, is the discovery of what remains behind: a glowing ball of light. It would fit comfortably in the palm of my hand. In that instant, I recognize what’s at the center of who I am. Love. That is who I am at my very core: love. “Dang,” I think, “I like this woman.”

Later on, as our day draws to its closing, we are asked, “Are you a willow or an oak tree?”

Each of us, in turn, replies. “I think I am an oak. I stand pretty strong against the wind.”

“I am a willow. I will bend, but I will not break.”

I am the last to reply. “I am neither,” I tell the group. “I am a dandelion seed, floating on the wind,” adding mischievously, “looking for somebody’s lawn to settle on.”

“What would it take to plant you?” our instructor asks.

“Ah,” I tell her, “you misunderstand the metaphor. I have no need to be planted.” I recall that moment of discovery in my earlier conversation with Marnie, and I tell the story of my first encounter with the hawk…my hawk. (Ride the rising wind.) “Who is Karen at her core?” I ask, rhetorically. “Love. That’s who I am. That’s why I’m so drawn to this work.” My hand lifts upward, like the seed. “I am who I am, right where I need to be. Right now, in this moment, I ride the rising wind.”


*How to Care for Extroverts

(1) Don’t ignore them.

(2) Feed their egos.

(3) Let them be the center of attention.

(4) Don’t tease them for having a lot of friends.

(5) Take them to parties.

(6) Introduce them to new people often.

(7) Let them hug you.

(8) Learn that sometimes they will talk loudly.

(9) Keep eye contact.

(10) Don’t force them to be quiet.

(11) Don’t be startled when they suddenly start a conversation.

(12) Let them be friends with you.


** How to Care for Introverts

(1) Respect their need for privacy.

(2) Never embarrass them in public.

(3) Let them first observe in new situations.

(4) Give them time to think. Don’t demand instant answers.

(5) Don’t interrupt them.

(6) Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.

(7) Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing

(8) Reprimand them privately.

(9) Teach them new skills privately.

(10) Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities.

(11) Don’t push them to make lots of friends.

(12) Respect their introversion. Don’t try to remake them into extroverts.


~ by karenmcl on November 23, 2017.

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