I will come out and say it. I love my job. I really do.
And I also realize just how lucky I am to feel that way.
The fact is that every single day, I have the privilege of being in service to people in need. Sure, I have challenging days -- days when something negative happens (or someone negative happens); deadlines that do not really care if I am not feeling well or would just rather go to the beach... days just like everyone else has at work. For the most part though, I am very fortunate to be able to say that I do what I love and I love what I do.
However, despite having been in love with this career for many years and no matter how long I continue to do what it is that I do, there is one thing to which I will never become accustomed:
I see thousands of letters each month; letters that ask questions, share stories and seek advice. I also know that the only way that we can be remotely effective in helping people is to be compassionate and understanding, while maintaining the necessary professional demeanor that those in need -- well, need. You cannot lean on someone who is akin to a cooked piece of spaghetti and if I am falling apart when I read a letter or listen to a widowed's story, I am essentially useless to help.
But... the faces.
Be it online, in letters and emails or shown to me personally, I also see thousands of photographs -- and thousands of faces.
These are not faces that have been ravaged by illness or taken from this earth by tragic accident or wars.
These are faces of couples in love.
These are faces in wedding garb with a look of unabashed joy that hold a promise for the future.
These are faces in military uniform with looks of pride in service and protection of our country and its freedoms.
These are the faces of families enjoying a life for which they have worked so hard and deserve to enjoy.
These are faces laughing on family vacations, opening presents at the holidays and blowing out birthday candles.
Yet, whenever I look at these pictures, I also know that one of the faces smiling back at me is now missing from this earth forever.
I know that illness, accident or tragedy has stolen one of those smiling faces away - away from family, loved ones and friends.
Away from a life being lived.
Leaving families torn apart and emotional ruin in its collective wake.
And I cry.
Quietly, away from the public eye, in the sanctuary of a quiet space where I don't have to be "on" or professional... I cry.
I cry for the broken promises that those photographs held -- promises broken by the evils of sickness and tragedy.
I cry for the widowed who have buried their spouses and now endure overwhelming grief.
I cry for the children who have lost parents many years before those sorts of goodbyes are supposed to happen.
There are some that think I am unprofessional both in behavior and confession; that I have to achieve and maintain some kind of "distance" in order to continue doing what I do.
To them I say... too bad.
I choose not to be distant. I do not want to quit feeling. I do not want to stop crying over the faces. I do not ever want to stop looking at the faces -- for they are all beautiful; each and every one. I will continue to do what I do with the same passion and professionalism -- but I will also continue to look at the faces.
And you can be certain that in the quiet of nightfall and in moments of introspect -- I will also shed a tear.
Professionalism be damned.
PLEASE NOTE: Part 2 of last week's article, "Avoiding Dating Faux Pas" will be published in June.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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