I have a hard job. I love my job. Yet another paradox in this ongoing exploration of mine.

I often feel guilty for thinking my job is hard because it is also one of privilege.

I sit in a chair all day. I do not physically labor. My job pays well. It assures me a life of financial security and personal fulfillment and meaning.

Yet if I remove the layer of comparative suffering to others who have more difficult jobs, mine is also challenging.

I sit with pain and suffering. I listen to stories of betrayal and heartbreak and grief and trauma, despair and regret and hopelessness.

Even thought it is not my pain, it can be a lot to hold. I remind myself that I am merely walking along beside others who are struggling far more than I am. I am a witness and a container for their suffering but it is not mine. I am grateful and honored to be able to support them in all of it.

And yet I feel it. I hold it along with them, my dear sweet clients who yell and cry and trust me with their most difficult feelings and experiences. It is also a challenge for me to feel so much for them and with them but to hold back from expressing it. I am a person who cries easily, along with friends and family when they are sad, as well as in response to movies, books, or TV shows. Yet that is not appropriate in therapy, so I don’t burst into tears with my clients. But it isn’t easy.

There are days and weeks that the emotional exposure takes a toll.

So how to I manage it?

Well, last week after hearing about suicidal thoughts and making a CPS report, I came home and drank a glass of wine (okay, maybe two glasses of wine) and re-watched Bridgerton, escaping from real hardship into a world of melodrama and desire and beautiful gowns and music and well-written dialogue. Other days, I take a walk or visit with friends, read novels and cuddle with my kitties. I get a massage from time to time to alleviate the emotions that I hold for people in my neck and shoulders and back.

I wouldn’t trade my work for anything but there are days that it feels draining and devastating. Most days, I am able to leave it behind when I come home. But some days that is more challenging than others. Some of it goes into my writing, channeling those raw emotions into my characters and stories. Sometimes I cry it out.

And that’s another paradox…the importance of taking care of ourselves and taking care of each other. We can’t choose one or the other, at least I can’t. I believe it has to be both. We need to have empathy and compassion for ourselves and others. We need to value ourselves and others. There is no limit to love or caring or suffering. We can, and must, give to ourselves and to others. We are all in this together.

My job is hard and I love it. Another example of the messy, wonderful paradox of living this human life.