Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Solitude is fine, but you need someone to tell you that solitude is fine.   -- Honore de Balzac

For you youngsters reading this entry, I need to tell you about the "old days." In the old days, we had something called file cabinets. In these file cabinets, we kept paper files, we saved every original because that was the only way to keep a record. If we got a copy of an article, we kept it because we had walked all the way to the library, looked it up in a card catalog and stood at the copy machine for hours at a time in order to copy every page of that article. No online access in the old days. 

One of the down sides of this record keeping format is that it takes up scads of space -- not bytes but inches, feet, yards. One of the things I'm being forced to do as I have less and less storage space in my life, is to cull my boxes and boxes of work files into more manageable linear footage. I suppose I could scan all these files and keep them on the computer like the kids today do but the idea of spending hours and hours at the scanner feels more unpleasant than piling the files on the side of my bed that's not being used. At least it wouldn't feel so empty! Hopefully it won't come to that. It could lead to some pretty ugly paper cuts. Can you believe that I found transparencies among my files?! Seriously. Transparencies. I need to ask Maddy if she even knows what a transparency is. 

Anyway, one of the things I found among these old files was one that was labeled "gifts." In this file were several dozens of cards written to me by clients, supervisees and, sometimes, colleagues over the years when I worked at the Counseling Center. I went through and read every one of them. I couldn't have found these at a better time. 

That people took the time to write a note to let me know that I'd made a difference in their lives somehow and that I was appreciated was so touching to me. It was quite an ego boost during an evening I've been feeling down and lonely. One of the cards had the Balzac saying I started this post with. I no longer remember the context of the quote in terms of the client's work with me but I'm sure it had a special meaning to her. 

One of the things I'm curious about is that I don't really get cards any more from clients any more. I stopped getting them a few years before I left the Counseling Center. I wonder what happened. Was I not as helpful to people because so much else was going on in my life or because I got burned out? Did people just stop writing thank you cards in our culture in general? Once I started in private practice, did people feel that paying me for my services was thank you enough? 

I certainly don't expect a special card for everything I do but I was struck by the difference between now and then. It's not that people don't express their appreciation. It just seems to happen in ways that are more transitory - a verbal comment or an email. I'm not sure there's anything to do with this observation. Just something I noticed. I used to be great at putting the little bit of extra effort in writing a card to someone. I, too, have let the lovely gesture of the unexpected thank you note fall to the wayside. 

I'd like to say that I'm going to commit myself to doing more of that but in truth, I don't think I will. I'm tired and busy and mildly (sometimes significantly) depressed about the state of the world around me just like everyone else so I don't know that I have the energy for it. Maybe it's just late and I'm tired and a little more depressed than usual but the world does seem like a more cynical, less grateful place these days. I'll just hold on to the "gifts" I received in the past and will use them as a reminder that there is appreciation out there whether it's written or not and, one day, when I have the energy again (which I hope I will) I'll begin to let people know in this lovely way how much I appreciate them.  

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