Today is Epiphany and it has me thinking of personal epiphanies that suddenly bring on a new knowing, resonance, reckoning. As I reflect, I feel a deep gratitude for the gifts held in the Epiphany and my own personal epiphanies.  

The story of this epiphany involves a Texas Department of Motor Vehicles,  a state psychiatric hospital patient and a social worker. Sounds like the set up for a joke, right? In review, it seems most of my epiphanies involve a good measure of humor; perhaps levity and Light travel together—May it be so!

I am the social worker, in my story of illumination, and the lead character is a beautiful patient who was soon to be discharged. He and I decided together that it would be a good idea for him to get a new state ID, before his upcoming discharge. And that, Dear Reader, is what brought us to our story’s setting, the DMV. 

Here’s where our common humanity can make us giggle uncomfortably, because we  ALL know how the DMV can challenge us, on our most resourced (and benevolent!) days. So, it’s easy to imagine how taxing this outing was for our story’s lead. He, who was trying to get his feet under him, as he dealt with intrusive paranoid thoughts, and felt the stressors  (and hope?) of his pending discharge. 

It’s important to leave, for a moment, the DMV and to get some back story on the social worker. This social worker (ahem, I) had been out of the field for many years and was struggling with my own insecurities and my and others’ expectations of me. I was working on a team with a talented, hard working and thorough psychiatrist, who I admired deeply. She had a very strong work ethic and was demanding of her team. For so many reasons, that have to do with my own striving and misplaced sense of worth, I SO longed for the “gold star” from her, the recognition that I was trying, “doing good” and “up to par.” And, this is important to our story: I took every word she said to heart

So, now, back to the DMV: Though the staff had gone out of their way to assist us with expedited gentle kindness, the patient had reached his absolute limit and was exiting stage right. Perhaps it was the request for a second photo “this time look at the camera” that had been the bridge too far for him. Regardless of what had prompted it, he was leaving, and in a hurry. There I was in hot pursuit. I was quite concerned, not wanting him to leave the general area before our ride arrived. 

As my pace quickened, we were neck and neck striding through the crowded waiting area, with me uttering attempts at support and reassurance: “this doesn’t have to happen today” and “the van will be here in a minute”…and who knows what else. All the while, the patient is calling me every name (but Dearest) under the sun. Loud profanities are washing over me and the waiting room and I’m just wanting to keep him close…keep him safe. 

It’s then when we pass a diminutive elderly woman, and I hear her say quietly to her companion, “I sure hate to hear a man talk to his woman like that.” I chuckle inwardly and press on. 

At last, my ward, teacher and the hero of this story has mercy on me and settles, just as we reach the parking lot. We wait together, the two of us-in silence, for that big white van to retrieve us. As we wait, I’m calming, but the illumination comes to me as I sit in that van looking out the window feeling so much peace and gratitude, pondering how his words hadn’t touched me, how they have had absolutely NO impact on my care toward him, my mission with him or (and this is the big one) on my own sense of self. 

In that moment, I realized that I get to choose, Choose, CHOOSE to be tossed about, or NOT,  by the names others call me and the ideas they have about me. That I each and every time I could CHOOSE to let it all wash over me and into the ground… how good, bad or ugly, it doesn’t capture my worth or essence.  

What came, was just what I most needed at that time; it was that I could CHOOSE to respect and admire our psychiatrist and work alongside her and pour in with her and then LET GO of needing for her to have good words for me, or even good opinions of me. I SAW so clearly (it was illuminated) that I got to BE and love and care so much more FREELY when I wasn’t trying to control the narrative. It was illuminating to feel bone deep that so much of what others see in me or say about me, is a reflection of what’s going on with them. 

These were things I would have told you I knew prior to this situation, but the epiphany was having a felt sense of how freeing detachment from others’ opinions and words and moods could be. 

Today, may you breathe more deeply, smile more often and feel more at home (and safe) in your own beautiful (and imperfect) life….