Retirement: Eulogy for a Beloved Professional Life
After 40 years in private psychotherapy practice, today is my last day. I am retiring from doing analysis and analytic psychotherapy. It’s not an easy thing, for sure, taking down the shingle that I worked so hard to establish. It brings memories of that first “client”, a family that a fellow student and I met with early in our training. During class we worked before a one way mirror while our supervisor directed us through an ear piece. The family never returned. Our kind supervisor consoled, Don’t worry. The important thing is that you learn.
As with most things in my life, I took the rocky path to establishing myself professionally. Yes, I sought out the best supervision and therapy that I could afford, but establishing oneself in private practice is also a business venture, one that requires contacts and referrals and networking. Having little experience in the public and non-profit sectors, I had to work extra hard at developing referral bases. I supplemented my income with very part time work at a couple of agencies doing psychotherapy. I remember a prospective client (again, who came for only one session!) criticizing my thread-worn chairs, the only furniture I thought that I could afford at the time. But slowly my referral base supported a viable practice.
In 1989 I was accepted into candidacy at the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, and the next years (partially recorded in my book Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation) were ones of accelerated growth. I had some wonderful teachers. One, Donald Sandner, MD, became an important mentor. He told my candidacy group of the importance of having a spiritual discipline. It mattered less what that discipline was, he explained, just that you had one.
I have come to see this is true. My work hour by hour has also proven to be part of my spiritual discipline. Each hour I get another chance to practice sitting without preconceived ideas or judgement and simply being present and getting to know who is there. We who do this work enjoy the privilege of sharing such deep places of soul work. When it works, we all grow.
I imagine this will continue, but now in other ways. Although I am stopping the day to day work of deep analytic holding of personal work, I will continue to do some consultation, teaching, and presentations. My work with the psyche will concentrate on my writing and land use activism.
When my mother retired from teaching, she said she wanted to do it early enough that she could have the time with my father. He was a farmer. She said she wanted to be available if he came home and said, Let’s go to Assumption and get some tractor parts and have lunch.
I take my queues from her and also from that first supervisor who once told me her greatest regret in life was that she put her work before her family at a time she wished she had been more present. This is part of it as well. My husband is older than I, and I want time with him. I also want to be more available to my children and my grandchildren.
Nevertheless, today when I lock the door for the last time and turn in my key, I will give thanks for this professional path that has grown me and sustained my family and me, while also giving me the gift of sharing in so many lives.