There have been so many stories and lessons swimming in my head over the past several weeks. Life has been so crazy, though, so it’s hard to sit down and get it all out to where it makes sense. I have been living with the girls for two months now, and I could fill volumes with what I have learned. From foreign vocabulary (a dirty is a marijuana cigarette sprinkled with cocaine), to the scariest Walmart bathrooms, to the logistics behind starting a business in jail, to how to hold one’s hands while creating a goddess braid, my education has expanded by leaps and bounds.
The biggest lesson I have learned over the past week has been how to be FOR everyone, but not SIDE with anyone. While navigating some escalating concerns among a house full of women who do everything together, similar to group counseling or family therapy, I had to find a way to empathize with each individual but not take sides with any one person all at the same time. This is crucial in group counseling, but I am also learning it is crucial in a family. While I am not a parent, I am serving some of the functions of one as a night time house mom. Learning to navigate the waters of conflict is difficult enough in my own relationships, but learning to navigate conflict among four grown women who have their own experiences, opinions, feelings, and preferences, is a whole different ball game. The bottom line is I am not their therapist, I am just here to facilitate a safe and relatively stable environment.
I have learned that everything from what to listen to in the car to which movie we watch to who gets what kind of coffee creamer this week has to be a conversation. I imagine if I were mom, I could exert something similar to “I told you so”, but that won’t work here because I am not a mom and they aren’t kids. My goal is to be respectful and empathic and impartial and unwavering all at the same time.
It is an artful balancing act best. If I overthink it, I miss something. If I don’t pay attention, I risk hurting someone or miscommunicating something. Now, I know it isn’t about me, or me getting it right, but in high conflict situations, balance is key. I get it wrong. I hurt feelings. I say things I shouldn’t have said. I slip up and get called out and and start over again.
So I guess it isn’t about knowing the right stuff or even balancing at all. I guess it is more about five of us learning how to pick our battles, have compassion, forgive, and wake up again with a fresh start tomorrow than anything else.
Balancing acts are exhausting, anyway.