by Robert Hilliker, LCSW, LCDC
As we continue the growth and development of our great experiment, our attempt to create a meaningfully connected community of helping professionals, I can’t help but reflect so far on the ups and downs from my own perspective.
The first thing I have learned is that I want a community in which to belong. I want to be connected in an authentic way with the people I work alongside. It doesn’t take much analyzing to figure that one out, anyone that knows me knows the how and why of my desire for community. However, what I have found so far is that my intention for community can be difficult for me to translate into action. Case and point, I recently added an additional day of client service to my weekly calendar as I continue to grow my private practice, and I literally found myself (this feels vulnerable and a little embarrassing to share, but it’s true) calculating that if I ‘just didn’t take a lunch hour and saw a client instead’ that it would generate thousands of dollars more in the course of a year. I mentioned this brilliant idea to my wife, Maria, who looked at me flat out and said, “Robert, I love you but that’s crazy.” To which I said something smart-ass like “it’s just so crazy it might work.” In all seriousness though I heard Maria in that moment and I heard how ridiculous it sounded that I might ‘just’ defy my basic biological needs to have some more money at the end of the day. That isn’t who I am? Is It? Yikes! It really freaked me out, because when I’m my best self I know that the most meaningful work I have ever done as a helping professional was almost always the stuff I made little to no money doing.
Over the last few weeks several powerful moments were laid at my feet that helped me to get centered again. The first thing that happened was our February Peer Consultation Group, which turned out to be a dyad this month with Rebecca Whitson. I felt worried and fearful about a family session I was going into and I shared this with Becca and she gave me her undivided, delighted attention. She offered me an anchoring thought to carry with me as I attempted to help this family, but more importantly she sparked that place in me, I call it a soul connection, which can only come to life in the context of relationship. I felt genuinely seen and heard by her in that moment. The intention of a connected community became real to me in that moment as the intent was transformed into action.
The next thing that happened was that the person leading my personal men’s group, which meets in my office on the weekend, brought a process to the group. He gave each man in the group an envelope with our names on them and he asked us to open the envelopes. Inside the envelopes we found a Texas Mega Millions Lottery ticket for each of us. He then asked us if we won lottery what would be different about our daily lives? Would we change anything? Would we stop working? Take a trip? Buy a house? My answer came quickly, no.
No I would not change my job, my house, or my family. I realized how special it was that even if I won the lottery I would come to work the next day, not because of money (obviously, since I would have $59,690,000 give or take); but instead because I have the distinct blessing of having a vocation that is also my avocation. As I continued to reflect on this idea throughout the day I realized that no matter what happened in that Tuesday’s lottery drawing I had already won the lottery! I didn’t win by the way, but I did call Maria, then two men from my group, then I called Will, my partner at Lovett, and I shared with them how grateful I was for their friendship and partnership and their devotion to our relationship. Again I had reclaimed this intention of community with the actions required to build one: gratitude and the belief that there is always enough. I’m enough, there is always enough work, there is always enough love and compassion when I need it most, there is simply enough, and I am grateful. When I seek abundance as a response to fear and scarcity I lose sight of this truth and it muddies my action and the intention I carry.
The next thing that came my way was another consultation group I am part of that meets at Lovett. We had gotten off schedule and hadn’t meet in a couple months. There was talk about disbanding our group that had been meeting continuously for several years. I wondered if maybe we had just run our course and we should move on. I had also begun to believe that maybe this was one of the things that should come off my calendar each month to help me in paring down my over-packed schedule. These 90-minute groups full of colleagues I love, trust, and look to for support started to sound like such a burden. We decided, in typical therapist fashion, that we must at least meet once more to have a proper termination. I walked into the group (late, because I hate terminations) and sat down, actually I sank into my chair. I felt peace. I felt at home. Immediately I thought to myself ‘Robert, this is not what you cut out of your busy schedule. This is what you fight to keep.’ Luckily, that was a sentiment shared by the entire group and we spent our remaining time coordinating our schedules for the year to ensure we made space to continue our meaningful work together.
So, my takeaways from our great experiment thus far are:
• That it isn’t enough to want a community; you have to work at it.
• That I have to adjust my unreasonable expectation that if you simply ‘build it, they will come’
• And, if collectively we share a vision that manifests in our actions “We” succeed where “I” fail.