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day 20: can I get a witness?

February 21, 2011

I supervise a student intern whose plate is overflowing.  She is furiously preparing for a spring break study abroad trip, is trying admirably to complete research interviews for my agency before she does so, and has a huge paper due tomorrow.  She was in tears Friday as she considered how she was going to get everything done in time.

I so vividly remember being in her overwhelmed shoes as a student intern.  I remember my then-supervisor, Shanti, calmly offering to talk me through the process of getting it all finished.  Just having an unruffled witness to my worry, having someone to walk through my agitation with me, was an enormous help.  Of course, Shanti was modeling for me one of the roles of a good therapist, whether or not I recognized it at the time.

Late last night, my intern emailed her paper to me.  She’d been staring at it for too long, she said, and asked if I minded reading it.

It was Sunday night and I was exhausted.  I wanted to watch another episode of Lost and read some more Brene Brown.  I marked her email “Unread” and backed slowly away from my computer.

After about thirteen seconds, I sat back down and read the (long) thing anyway.

I don’t have a lot of marketable skills.  I can’t fix a toilet, darn a sock, or rebuild a hard drive.  I can (typos and grammatical mistakes in this blog notwithstanding) edit a paper.

My comments to her were honest — the paper needs a lot of work — but I hope they provide her with some measure of calm today.  Maybe all she wanted was a witness to her worry.

While I can’t install a ceiling fan, I can be that.

Hope you can be who you are today.  Thank you for showing up.

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