Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mourning into Dancing

The other day a Debbie Friedman song popped up on my ipod shuffle. I had no idea it was even on my ipod or how it got there. Debbie Friedman was a singer and composer of songs, many in Hebrew, often reworking prayers from the Jewish prayerbook.

“Mourning into dancing” is Debbie Friedman’s riff on Psalm 30, a song of gratitude.

It was a day or two after I had some terribly sad, shocking news and I took it as a sign. Somehow I needed to transform my mourning into something like dancing, a creative expression of gratitude. I did not get the chance to do this before she died. She failed to give me notice.

The woman who died, suddenly, unexpectedly was my compass for over 25 years. Eda Goldstein was alternately my supervisor, or rather I was her apprentice, she was my teacher, my mentor, a model of professional accomplishment, my guru. She helped me negotiate a good bit of my professional and personal life. I was not in continuous contact with her over those 30 years, but she was always there when I got into trouble and I needed help in sorting things out. She was without peer in both her loyalty and in her wise guidance.

I think I need to say “thank you”

When I first started to go into New York City to get supervision from her, in the early 80’s, a friend and colleague noted that I was awfully quiet about what was happening there. Well I was quiet because it was a humbling experience.

I remember my  brief case was new (now scruffy, battered, ripped and repaired). The children had reached an age when I felt comfortable working more and my priorities were getting re-shuffled. I was determined to learn from a master. So I cheerfully schlepped into NYC to sit at her feet. And it was overwhelming.

She was a tough task master, she never sugar coated her counsel on cases and frequently I would smart from her observations. Later, much later, she observed that most supervisees just want to be admired, not taught. I’m sure I was one of those, but I stuck it out, nonetheless and ultimately her toughness gave me confidence.

I discovered Eda at a lecture in New Jersey. She was a annoyed with her sponsors.  Nonetheless she was a brilliant presenter at that meeting. My friend E. agreed that she was special. I decided right there that she was to be my mentor

That friend and colleague loved her too. The supervision group of which we both were a part, shared her in a way, even if they never schlepped into New York to see her, they shared her with me, her wisdom, her depth, her clear-eyed respect and compassion for clients. Among her more notable qualities was that clarity. There was a kind of laser-like quality to her thinking (and her writing). She effortlessly peeled back, down right ignored, what was extraneous, not central to the issue at hand.

Social workers all have inferiority complexes. No matter how advanced their training, no matter the length of their experience, no matter their academic credentials they feel and often are regarded as “less” than their clinical colleagues, psychologists and psychiatrists. They are paid less and related to as less, despite the fact that their training may be equivalent or even surpass other mental health professionals.

Being associated with a star like Eda Goldstein did a lot for my own professional self esteem. She is described by the Dean of New York University, School of Social Work where she taught and led faculty and students in many roles for decades: “ Eda was, and remains to the day of her death, the foremost social work scholar of contemporary psychoanalytic theory and practice. Her loss is a great loss for our community and for the field.” This scholar and brilliant clinician thought I was okay, maybe even bright. That helped a lot.

For decades I was comforted by the certainty that any idea I had, plan of action, or major move I contemplated could be run past her. I could and actually still do comfort myself with that, even though I can only do it in my imagination now. Mostly I know what she would say. But when my imagination runs aground, I am bereft.

I wish I could just send this to her. I would love her feedback. And more importantly, I would want her to know how much I loved and will miss her.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

There is really an interesting "chat" on huffington post (link below) on a piece on "inner wisdom" that I wrote for this blog some time ago.  If any are interested, see the comments section.  Others have chimed in with helpful suggestions for deepening the inner conversation.