Continuing the journey (Wed – Dec 12)

I find myself eager to create some kind of trackable framework that will guide my choices and focus in the coming weeks and months of this journey, yet I keep getting stuck. There are so many things I still want to do that require a little bit, if not a lotta bit of courage.

HPIM0979The one year mark was really just another step along the way in a journey that is endless.

I got to thinking about the Serenity Prayer yesterday morning – especially the second request: God grant me…the courage to change the things I can. I’m facing some decisions and some necessary steps around finances that are scary right now. And I’ve been wrestling with some depression. Not the truly overwhelming kind, but the kind that keeps my energy level just low enough that I’ve run out of steam by the end of the work day. Getting any tasks done beyond dinner and planning for the morning feels daunting.

In the morning, when I’m getting ready for work, I’m inspired and eager to write a post. I make a mental or even physical list of some tasks I want to get done. Fill out the student loan repayment paperwork. Order this or that item online. Finish categorizing the expenditures I downloaded from my bank account so I can figure out a budget. Start checking out some of the roommate websites so I can begin looking for a better living situation.

It all sounds really good in the morning and I eagerly await the time when I’ll be able to tackle these projects. Yet by the time I get home, especially from my 3-day-per-week job, my brain is mush and all I want to do is fix dinner and relax in front of a DVD for an hour or so. Then an hour turns into two or even three and it’s time to get ready for bed and the next day.

The idea of giving up watching DVDs in the evenings continues to cross my mind as a worthy goal. After all, I could get a lot done in the two or three hours I have free each evening if I wasn’t distracted by some movie or TV show. I’ve toyed with the idea of tracking my abstinence in this area, but I’m not convinced this is all that different than my original goal of wanting to clear out the clutter. One year sounded like an adequate period of time to make a significant difference in the amount of clutter that surrounds me. Yet I look around my room and the only thing that seems noticeably different from this time last year is me! (Which is a very good thing. :-))

So I’m still thinking about how to shape this new leg of the journey. (Or would it be a “log” of the journey?  ;-))

I brought an old photo of me to work to scan into a jpeg file recently. It was taken when I was around twenty. I’m sitting on my then boyfriend’s bed, holding a beautiful Mexican West Coast rattlesnake. Yes, you read me – a rattlesnake. A “fixed” rattlesnake that is. If she bit me (which she wouldn’t – she was really quite gentle), I would receive no venom.  (Btw, I would be disinclined to perform any venom-ductectomies on vipers anymore, but back then, it seemed okay.)

It's amazing what can become comfortable in the right circumstances

It’s amazing what can become comfortable in the right circumstances

I’m reminded of the fact that when I first met my boyfriend, I was terrified of snakes – ANY kind of snake. When I was over at his place, I would sit on the end of his bed, just inches from the (open!) door, ready to bolt if one of the snakes he took from a cage made a move toward me. Even when I saw the young kids who lived next door to me eagerly and fearlessly stroking the snakes my boyfriend held out for them to see, I was still ready to run shrieking from the room.

Yet, over the course of the first year we dated, I started learning about his snakes. I learned about their habits and their temperaments, and I watched him handling them and staying safe. Then one day when I was over at his place, he was holding his boa constrictor when the doorbell rang. Without thinking, he simply handed it to me and went to answer the door. It was the first time I had even touched a snake, yet I found myself fascinated and unafraid! In fact, I was soon eager to hold any of the snakes that were gentle and not at all inclined to bite!

In barely a year’s time, I had gone from being truly terrified of these beautiful creatures to being fascinated and unafraid of them – and I couldn’t even tell you how or when it happened, except to say that it happened incrementally. The more I learned about them, the less I came to fear them.

It’s been well over twenty-five years now since I’ve held a snake. I daresay I would have to go through another period of getting familiar with them to feel brave enough to touch one or hold one again. But remembering that transition from absolute terror to comfort with them makes me wonder – what do I fear now and what will it take to overcome that fear?

Room for Fear and the Challenge of Facing It – Day 300 (Sat – Oct 6)

Was it only yesterday morning that the words “Be of good courage” provided the emotional release I must have needed? It seems longer ago than that…

I have been letting go of many things, including expectations around how much time I have in the mornings. For more than ten years, I have spent at least 20-30 minutes every morning doing a little reading, then reflecting on what came to me, filling page after page in my now dozens of journals.

With my recent, self-imposed (though much appreciated) early work schedule, I don’t always have time to write in my journal in the morning. So I’ve been trying new things. One of them is to simply read something that helps me to hear God’s voice. Usually I read from my Al Anon literature, like The Forum magazine or Hope for Today (one of the daily readers), or I read from an inspirational resource, like the Daily Guideposts devotionals or the Guideposts magazines. I like hearing other people’s experiences, how they’ve made it through the difficult times and how they celebrate the rejoicing times.

It was the third devotion I read yesterday that brought on tears as I recognized the depth of my loneliness. I hadn’t actually noticed it while trying to work on the challenges in my life right now. In fact, I would likely have told you that I’m not especially lonely these days. But there it was!

As I reflected on these feelings on my way to work, I noticed that clearing out so much unneeded stuff from my room last weekend had actually created room for more feelings and more fear to emerge. It was as if I had begun disassembling the wall of protection I’d hidden behind for such a long time. Without all the conspicuous clutter and my constant concern about what to do with it, my mind had room to turn to other things. And the next “other things” are the many stashes of paper living in various spaces in my room, from orderly boxes to random piles.

It’s within the paper piles that the scary stuff lives: the stuff that brings up emotions, triggers fear, and generally intimidates me, sometimes even overwhelming me when I think about addressing it. If I open the piece of mail from the credit card company, for instance…here, let me grab one right now and open it…

Okay. This one is a “REMINDER NOTICE.” (They capitalize that to make sure I don’t think it’s some other kind of notice, I suppose, or perhaps to make sure that I am, indeed, “reminded” that I promised to send them $25 a month.) It’s from the “RECOVERY DEPARTMENT.” (More caps.) Of course, “recovery” for them means getting as much money from me as they can before they give up. “Recovery” for me means learning to let God lead me through this maze of challenges as I am restored to sanity.

What happens for me, in the very process of facing the unopened envelope, is that I’m afraid I will open the envelope to discover that something is happening that is the very opposite of what I want to happen. So I procrastinate and let the papers accumulate. Then last weekend, I had to go and do what I realize was a remarkable amount of cleanup in my room. So much so that I really have no more excuses to not begin plowing through the stacks of paper.

The words I read yesterday, especially “Be of good courage,” came on the heels of newly realized feelings of loneliness. They became both the reminder that this work must be done alone (for the most part) and the encouragement for me to hang in there. At an InterPlay retreat last Saturday, I was encouraged to ask someone to simply come be with me while I sort through stuff. Just thinking about that possibility brings up fear and uncertainty, because I know that having someone with me as a supportive witness would intensify the experience.

Rats! Here come the fears and the tears, as I am reminded that there is a reason I’m being led through all of this inner work incrementally, one small step at a time. It is hard work. And it is often intensely emotional…and powerfully cleansing when I have the courage to take even the smallest of steps.

I can only do one piece or take one step at a time…

It’s scary around the edges – Day 294 (Sun – Sep 30)

My room has gone through a transformation today. The transformation isn’t quite complete, but the difference between how it looked when I woke up and what it looks like now is huge. When I got up, one side of my desk had a chaotic pile of stuff that needed sorting, clearing out, and organizing. There were cloth boxes full of silly things, like jars and baggies, as well as boxes with my printer, paper for the printer, and other random stuff.

My primary goal was to clear this space and set up my printer. But I kept looking at the disaster zone on top of the desk and wondering if I might possibly be able to do something about that today as well.

As I continued to nibble on the pile throughout the day, I noticed a feeling of uncertainty hanging around the edges of my thoughts. I was afraid to think about it too much, because the reality is that I don’t know what it feels like to have a space that isn’t chaotic. Sure, I have corners and places within the room that are organized and fairly neat. But for decades, I have also had piles or boxes that are an accumulation of un-dealt-with stuff, especially papers. I would wager that I still have a few pieces of unopened mail that are older than my son (who is an adult) stashed somewhere in my oldest (and biggest) storage unit. (I have three.)

Sadly, the consistent “before” state…

For too many years, I have often felt overwhelmed by various pieces of my life and things like mail and other papers have multiplied and accumulated by – quite literally – the boxful. What kept lurking around the edges of my thoughts today is that once I’ve sorted through the miscellaneous non-paper-pile stuff, I will no longer have an excuse not to begin working on the paper piles. And that scares the pee-waddlin’ out of me! Dang! Just saying that “out loud” magnifies the fear bubbles coursing through my veins right now.

So many things have been coming clear to me in the past few weeks. The first significant “aha” was to realize just how much shame I have had around having so much stuff. I honestly didn’t realize I felt shame. I readily acknowledged a bit of embarrassment and the fact that it has been burdensome and inconvenient come moving time (and I’ve moved a ridiculous number of times in the past few years), but “shame”? Yet there it was!

Acknowledging that – and sharing those feelings with trusted friends (including my Al Anon sponsor) – must have created cracks in my walls of defense. Little by little, other insights followed. I realized – I mean truly realized – that this is a lifelong journey. There will always be more stuff to sort through, more mail to deal with, more papers to organize. This isn’t going to just “get done” and that’s it. This is a part of life! You probably already “get” this, right? But for me, for the first time in my life, it felt not only okay that this isn’t a task that will be “completed,” it felt pretty good. I don’t know if I can explain it, but it did feel good to realize this.

Not ideal, but so-o-o much better!

The next realization was that I didn’t have to deal with everything all at once. I can’t begin to guess at how long I’ve held the notion that I have to deal with all my stuff (i.e., the countless boxes in storage) all at once, in one continuous marathon clear-out-and-organize session. Otherwise it will never happen. (Can you relate?) But it suddenly dawned on me what a huge step it would be if I were actually able to go through and organize, sort and clear out just the stuff in this room. OMG! That feels like a mountain in and of itself!

So today, I tried not to think too much about what comes after I get my room into a workable, working space and just kept plodding along. It felt pretty good to throw away lots of things I really didn’t need. Small things that didn’t take up much space, but made for a lot of clutter come moving time. And you know what? I discovered there actually is a desk under the clutter!

I don’t know what it will feel like in the morning, and there’s certainly more to do, but for the first time in the month since I moved into this room, I’ll actually be able to sit at a desk to read and perhaps even do some journaling before I head to work. I’m sure the fear will resurface when I get to the rest of the stuff, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the progress I’ve made. :-)

Who knew it could look like this!

Day 104 (Sat/Mar 24): Eight days – The good grief of letting go, a journey within the journey

Ruh roh...It's been rough...

 I’m striving to let go my nervous apprehension. I’m not sure I tracked my spending accurately with this last small paycheck. If my checking account is overdrawn by more than a few dollars… Let me go check it now…

Actually, let me wait a bit. It occurs to me that letting this go is what’s called for, since I’m powerless to change choices I’ve already made. Earlier today, I was talking with a friend of mine. We were talking about releasing. She has realized she needs to release some of the stuff she has in her place. She gave away some of her kitchen things, finally letting go of the need to make sure they went to just the right people. I could relate to that feeling, of wanting to give things away but wanting to make sure they went to people who would appreciate them. As she was talking about this, it dawned on me that giving them to a thrift store, especially all those wonderful ones that are run by charities, would put them out into the world where “just the right” person might more easily find them. It was helpful for me to have her talking about this process.

When she talked about going through some papers, especially old letters, that’s when it was obvious the work she was doing was hard. It’s the emotional attachment that keeps me hanging on to some things. If not that, then it’s the fear of needing or wanting them again. With all the fear and uncertainty I’ve experienced in the last…well, perhaps most of my life, as someone raised in a home impacted by the family disease of alcoholism, it’s no wonder I’ve accumulated so much stuff. Life has always been too uncertain to take the chance of letting something go that I might need.

This past week, with my days busy working, then coming home and relaxing in front of a DVD while I ate dinner, before writing my blog posts, I kept thinking about what life might look like if things suddenly became “normal” and I could actually afford to find and pay for a place to live and begin supporting myself again.

Sometimes it's not the right time to move

You know, it’s literally been decades since I’ve been a single person, all by herself, taking care of herself through her own efforts. It’s no wonder it feels so scary! For so many years I have either not been alone (with either husband and/or son to share my days) or I have been supported through other means (like student loans all through grad school).

I keep forgetting that there are many ways in which my life is a whole new experience.

I’m not yet sure where the balance is for me. As I move through these sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle shifts in my schedule and my days, I notice the little things that make a difference. Sometimes, it’s the letting go of the routine that has kept me steady (or so I thought). Other times, it’s developing a new routine. Still other times, it’s none of the above and all of the above all at the same time.

The paper-collecting box

Letting go of things can be hard, for we get attached to things that seem important, even are important for a time. But when exactly they cease to be important can pass by unnoticed until we suddenly discover they are a burden we no longer want.

 I do not know what lies ahead for me or how I will make it through the days and weeks ahead. I keep letting go when things start to feel overwhelming or scary. I know that I trust God and I want to trust Hir more. The process of experiencing this continues to involve the letting go of deeply held convictions around my own self worth, which leads to a lot of tears, even a sense of loss as I let go old perceptions about myself.

This morning I wanted to read something about grief because I have been feeling a lot of sadness and loss lately of things that aren’t always easy to identify. Sometimes I think it’s simply grieving the loss of the familiar. I know it’s letting go of long-held beliefs.

Where might this go?

There’s a passage in Nehemiah (8:7-12) when the people are weeping after learning about “the Law.” The priests who are teaching them tell them not to grieve, that their strength is in the “joy of the Lord.” Then it says, they went “to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (NRSV) It struck me that what they understood was the depth of God’s love for them.

I feel so close to “getting” that, too, at ever deeper levels – levels that will enable me to truly believe I deserve to receive God’s abundant blessings. We all do.

Big and Small Steps:

  • Called a friend and offered her a ride to a place we both wanted to go.
  • Let go worry about the time and discovered I got all my errands done in plenty of time this afternoon.
  • Decided to work at my regular job tomorrow after learning I don’t need to go in to the temp job, since I was already mentally geared to work a few hours. (Yay for more time at my regular job!)

Noticings:

  • How nice it was to let go the seeming urgency to check my bank balance. I think I’ll wait till after I post this…
  • How scary it feels to be on the edge of poverty week in and week out…
  • How peace-bringing it is to let go and trust.

Day 93 – Tue, Mar. 13th (93/273): Yesterday’s journey – letting go

Tears sprang up quickly when I opened my journal to the page with these words on it: Now a word came stealing to me, my ear received the whisper of it. (Job 4:12 NRSV). I don’t know that I can articulate exactly what it was about this verse that moved me… Perhaps it’s the reminder that God is whispering to me and I am learning to hear what is being said more clearly, more often.

 I’m still on the precipice of fear, feeling as if things are about to change in a big way. Wanting it. Fearing it. Leaning towards it. Backing away. Stumbling in my uncertainty, like a little child crying because she needs something, but not yet knowing what that is or how to ask for it.

I wore my Bluetooth, with the cell phone ringer turned up, on the way home from the office yesterday, hoping for a call to return to the temp job, the call to lead me to more income for this  month. I shed some tears as the phone remained silent, feeling powerless, my hope for additional income this month seeming to fade away. My hopes of making progress in some small way around finances seemed to shrink with every silent mile toward home. Not actually toward “home,” but rather toward the place I am staying for now.

I felt a bit resistant last night, but still determined to spend a few minutes sorting papers. The lid from the 10-ream paper box, brought home from work, has made it more convenient to migrate my (unsorted) papers between my “desk” and my bed each morning and evening. It has also made it easier to ignore them.

Ten minutes. That’s been my intention for days now – to spend only/at least ten minutes a day attending to my growing pile of papers. I had pulled out my green, plastic file box, put it on the bed and found some information I needed earlier in the evening. Now it waited there, open and ready to receive.

There are so many empty hanging files in it, there’s little space for adding papers. There’s little order or space to organize, but I decided to do something anyway. I turned on another DVD episode of Murder, She Wrote on my computer and began picking through the top of the pile.

Church bulletins landed in one folder. Notes from and related to the Islam class in another. A (paid) bill joined the folder with my other receipts.

I didn’t push it. I didn’t deal with more than the simple, obvious categories. It’s the dozens of little slips of paper, the notes, the tidbits of information or of things I want to remember that create clutter within the pile. I skipped past those – for now.

 I ended up working on the task for twenty or thirty minutes, nibbling away slowly as I paid just enough attention to the show to be able to follow it. I didn’t notice how long I worked. I just noticed that I was getting a start and appreciated that I was making an effort despite my lack of enthusiasm. I enjoy doing this much more when there’s space to file and a clearer order to the file. But I’m not in my own space. I’m staying – graciously blessed – with family, and for this I am grateful. Very grateful.

There’s much to do, but I can do what I can with what I have. Most papers I kept. A few I threw away. The box is a tiny bit less full than it was.

I’m still on that precipice of fear. But reading my reflection from January last year, I’m reminded that even the tiny steps toward sorting my papers, like those few minutes last night, teach me a practice of letting go that can help me learn to let go in bigger ways, more significant ways.

I read something in the February Forum (Al Anon’s publication) last night that stayed with me. It was a short quote about letting God have the steering wheel and learning to enjoy the ride. I’d like to do the same, and enjoy the ride a little more often.

Noticings:

  • How clear it was that the site I checked (see below) was not where I needed to spend my energy at this moment.
  • How often I pray for my uncle, like when I heard him coughing early this morning, trying to clear the congestion from his lungs.

Action step(s):

  • Sorted papers for twenty or more minutes, keeping it light and easy.
  • Took a quick peek at the job listings on a local organizations website. (Nothing looked like a good fit or felt right.)
  • Put the different types of hot cereals in stacking containers to make it easier to vary what I have in the mornings. (The trouble for me and many of us is not so much what we eat as that we eat too much of the same things with little variation. I am particularly guilty of this and continue to look for ways to mix things up a bit.)
  • Did the core exercise this morning that I was doing regularly for weeks, though have done it seldom these last ten or so days as I began doing short stair workouts (which are also helpful, if less targeted, for core strengthening). This morning I did both.

Day 85 – Mon, Mar. 5th (85/281): Standing on the precipice

How can it be that I visit so many places on the emotional map in such a short period of time? In the past 48 hours, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in serenity, taken a few brief stints through anxiety, started to visit confidence but only stayed a short while, spent about half an hour in tense apprehension, then found myself in mortal fear when I realized I was on the precipice of accepting God’s abundant grace. 

All it took this morning was remembering the words I had glimpsed in my reflection journal the day before: Ask and it will be given you… The tears and the fear came in an instant as I asked, Is that all I really need to do? Ask?

I am astonished that such a simple thing as accepting the fact that I am worthy, I am lovable and God does want to bless me abundantly is such a frightening and difficult concept to grasp. I’m struggling here… The words aren’t flowing. They feel awkward, too thought out. They lack the emotion, the deeply intense emotion I was feeling just a couple of hours ago. And that’s what happens: I come to the precipice, the diving board, ready to jump off, start thinking about what it means to be able to jump off – as in trusting that I am loved that much, that I will be supported, even abundantly blessed – and I back off, turn around and run the other way, not daring to believe I could possibly be worth the dreams that I hold.

 That’s when the deep emotions, the fear and the tears it brings, subside and my logical brain shifts into gear, trying to reason out the whys and wherefores of what’s going on. I’m not the least bit convinced it’s entirely helpful that this happens. However, I did notice that one of the fears that holds me back from really being able to see myself as being financially comfortable (not “wealthy” necessarily, but reasonably comfortable) is that my image of people who can easily handle their usual expenses and have the means to enjoy some of the “luxuries” (like health care, vacations, the occasional new computer, etc.) seem to always live in these beautiful, if simple, immaculate homes where everything in place and clutter doesn’t exist.

I remember visiting some in-laws a number of years back. They were a young couple, with two or three young children. I don’t remember where he worked, but she was busy with the kids and with doing a side-business they had. I wasn’t in their home more than a handful of times, but every time I was there I noticed that it was beautiful and immaculate. There wasn’t a speck of dust or a bit of clutter in sight. Granted, I didn’t go poking into the bedrooms and closets, but still… This moderately nice, non-luxurious home was absolutely beautiful and typifies my image of what it means to be financially stable, even comfortable: everything is supposed to look nice all the time because that’s what people who can manage their finances do.

When I lay this out here, it sounds ridiculous to think that financial comfort and stability somehow equals lovely, well-kept, neat-and-clean-at-all-times homes. But that’s the imprint on my brain right now. I won’t even talk about the one visit I paid to a truly wealthy home, owned quite literally by a billionaire. It was simple, beautiful and, of course, you guessed it, without a speck of dust or clutter in sight. And I’m pretty sure they do it all themselves. (They don’t live like one might expect billionaires to live.)

So, what’s the point? I’m not sure I know. I’m a big fan of metaphors and God often uses them to speak to us, certainly to me. This morning I was coming to grips – or wanting to come to grips – with the fact that receiving blessings and abundance can be as simple as asking God for what I want in life. Yet the idea of asking for all the things I want, trulyasking, not just hemming and hawing about it, but sincerely coming to God and making my requests known, scared the pee-waddlin’ out of me! Then, when I got to the office, I thought the “sweet spot” parking space was already taken. So I parked and walked to the office door. There, directly in front of it, was the space – empty and waiting for my car. I moved my car and thought about how sometimes the gift is right there, waiting for us and we just can’t see it.

One small step at a time

I’m standing on the edge of that precipice of abundant grace. I can feel it. I can sense God’s desire to bless me in wholly unexpected and amazing ways. Maybe, just for today, I will simply remember this and trust that I am walking through that wall of fear one step at a time.

Noticings:

  • How different it feels in my body when I’m experiencing the intense emotion of getting ready to take a big, scary step and how quickly the feeling in my body shifts when my logical, figure-things-out brain takes over.
  • How much I enjoyed watching a documentary on Muslims – it was wholly relaxing, in contrast to the “half an hour in tense apprehension” I experienced Sunday with the discouragingly biased agenda of the presenter in our adult ed class.

Action step(s):

  • Watched an excellent documentary on Muslims to help give me more balanced information and considered how I might expand the conversation at church to include a truer, more informed picture of this faith tradition.

Sunday, Jan. 8th (28/338): Silliness really

It’s silly really. Writing yesterday’s post helped me discover that fear was the only thing holding me back from updating my address with the DMV. So I did it today! And I prepared and printed a voter registration form. (Apparently, since I changed counties, I can’t do it online. Bummer. It makes sense, but still.)

What’s scary about either of these things, you may ask? Probably nothing really. But these are governmental agencies and there’s a part of me that distresses at the idea of giving them my change of address since it probably isn’t really a “legal” address in the sense that I’m “staying” here, not “living” here. So if it isn’t my “legal” address, but I’m not actually living on the streets, do I check the “I have no home” box on the form?

I gave the DMV both my physical and mailing addresses when I moved into an apartment a couple of years ago. But this summer, they sent my parking ticket reminder to my physical address – which was actually no longer my address. Had it come to my PO Box – i.e., the mailing address – I would have received it right away. Fortunately, I had already paid it. How dumb is that?

Jury duty actually pops up from either the DMV records or the voter registration records. I guess they figure they increase the odds of finding you. The last time I got a jury duty summons was a date when I had a commitment I could not change. Fortunately, I was able to change it, but I have worried that I might soon get another summons at my old address, not know it, then have a warrant sworn out for my arrest for ignoring it!

The truly silly part for me today was after I pulled my car registration and insurance cards out of my glove compartment. I supposedly needed my car registration to complete my DMV form online. I grabbed the four slips of paper I saw from my glove box to make sure I had what I needed. (I rarely clean these out of my car. In fact, I think there’s a collection of old registrations in the box by my feet. It’s waiting for me to go through it and sort/purge/file.)

I looked at the old registration and insurance forms and pondered for a few minutes. Do I need them for anything? My address on one of them was an old physical address. Hmm. Might I need either of them for anything? Finally, I boldly turned on the shredder and stuffed them in it, while part of my mind shrieked and worried, “But what if I need them?!”

This is a perfect example of the absolute insanity of my thoughts at times – which is why I have about a million and a half pieces of paper I do not need cluttering my room and filling up my storage units. (Yes, “units,” plural.)

However, the good things is that I noticed today how much easier it was to change my address and register to vote than ever before and how little anxiety I actually felt when I shredded those old forms.

I hesitate to get too excited about how significant these small steps are. Yet I believe something is changing in me, that these small, even baby-sized steps are actually adding up and making a difference in my life. I know that God is also working on me (probably doing most of the work), since my steps are truly small, indeed. Still, it feels good to have taken these steps with such ease!

One more thing… My aunt and uncle received their gas/electric bill this weekend. It is $390! For one month! That is literally almost half my monthly pay right now. That’s why it surprises me that this actually became a helpful reality check for me. My life has been so topsy-turvy in terms of living spaces for the past 3 1/2 years that I have no idea how much a typical utility bill might be. Theirs may be higher than average because they are older and need to keep their home warmer than some people. Plus they have everything imaginable on automatic timers that must use some kind of juice to run. Still, it helped me realize that just as I need to “grow” my income, I need to get a more realistic picture of the cost of living.

I suspect there was something about that eye-opening moment that helped make the whole DMV/Voter Registration piece easier.

Action step(s):

  • Changed my address with the DMV
  • Re-registered to vote (since I changed counties)
  • Shredded a couple of old forms despite the fear!
  • Went through the stack of literature I brought home from yesterday’s meeting and was able to throw out a whole bunch of those. (Why not tidy up those files as well!)

Friday, Jan. 6th (26/320): A word about fear

I notice that the more I fight fear and try not to be afraid when I really am, the more tension I create in my body and the more discomfort I experience as a result. I start wearing my shoulders around my ears and muscles tighten both up and down my body. Not helpful!

When I acknowledge the fear, as I was able to do yesterday, when I admit that things are hard and that I am scared, I find relief from the fear. It’s not that it completely disappears; it’s more that it fades into the background and I am freed to focus my attention where it’s needed. I’ve often heard, “what you resist persists.” I realize this is true for my feelings of fear, as well. I hadn’t recognized how true until the dam burst and the tears – and fears – came pouring out.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that most of my fears fall into two categories: fear of change or fear of the unknown. When I look at the things that provoke anxiety in me, I almost inevitably find one or both of these. For instance:

  • Looking for work – both;
  • Changing careers – the unknown;
  • Finding a place to live – both;
  • Money challenges – the unknown;
  • Relationships (in general, but especially romantic ones) – both.

Other things generate more complex feelings of fear:

  • Going through accumulated piles of papers feels overwhelming. My clutter provides a kind of protective shield. Since I tend to feel socially inept and am afraid of making social blunders, it becomes a convenient excuse for not having guests come to visit. Clearing out the clutter feels very scary indeed.
  • Letting go of furniture and other household items is scary. I’m afraid I won’t be able to replace these things if I let them go. Of course, having lots of stuff makes it harder (and more expensive) to move, which I’ve done often in the past few years. In fact, this exemplifies precisely the kind of deprivation thinking I’m striving to change as part of this journey.

Change can be scary and the unknown can be even scarier. But life is and always will be full of change and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I would like to be more open and willing to change and I’d like to start seeing the unknown as an adventure. In what may be a tiny step in this direction…

I have often been attached to wanting things the way I want them. For example, I’ve (inwardly) thrown fits when a product I like disappears from the shelves. I finally got tired of expending so much energy trying to change things beyond my control that I started consciously working to let these things go. Today, when I couldn’t find the cereal I wanted, I ended up buying a totally different kind. Instead of leaving the store upset or annoyed because they didn’t have what I wanted, I realized I was making a small change that I might even like. I was able to enjoy the adventure of trying something new.

It symbolized a willingness on my part to accept change with a little more grace – and that felt pretty darn good! Especially because I’ve discovered that transformation in one area of my life often results in transformation in other areas, which is a wonderful thing on a path of recovery! :-)

(Btw, did I mention that the staffing agency called me yesterday afternoon? I guess that answered my question from yesterday morning!)

My action step(s):

  • Turned off my alarm and allowed my body the extra rest it needed after an interrupted night’s sleep.
  • Went to an InterPlay class today. My body so-o-o appreciated moving and stretching and loosening up some of those tight muscles.

Monday, Jan. 2nd (22/344): A productive trip on the Paper Walk path

I spend a lot of time in my room at my aunt and uncle’s since that’s where my computer and other things are. When I emerged to see what my aunt and uncle were up to earlier, I didn’t see them anywhere. I knew I didn’t need to look far for either one of them. My uncle was probably in his shop, since he wasn’t in his office. My aunt didn’t appear to be in the house, which means she was ‘playing’ outside. She loves to rake and trim and otherwise tend their yard and the numerous trees, plants and shrubs around it. In other words, they were both busy doing things, productive things. I found myself wanting to be similarly engaged.

When I first got up this morning, I spent a few minutes journaling. A number of things were on my mind as I thought about ways to handle differently those times when I feel overwhelmed. Just thinking about all the stuff I can/should/need/want to do can get my mind spinning to where I don’t even know where to start. I decided to jot down some of the things I thought I wanted to do today. The interesting part was that I jotted down a quick list of six things and suddenly nothing further came to mind. I realized it felt doable, or at least approachable. So, I transferred the list onto a tablet and decided to see how the day would go.

I basically let things flow and ended up getting three of the six things on the list done – and it feels good. In fact, it feels really good because one of the things was to sort through the papers on my desk. The pile was still manageable-sized compared to how big other piles have gotten, but it was also continuing to grow.

Of course, I still have to figure out where to actually put the papers. Unfortunately, I only have a box at the moment. But it still feels really good to get the sorting done. In fact, I found a couple of things that were MIA. I even gathered the notes I’d written on all sorts of scraps of papers and backs of business cards and transferred them to places where I can actually find and potentially use them, mostly on the computer.

It occurs to me that this particular foray into the sometimes scary paper piles wasn’t scary at all. It did help that I don’t really have anywhere to file anything, so I was spared having to figure out where to file certain papers. I am also pleased to say that lots of things and virtually all the random papers with miscellaneous types of notes on them are now in the recycle wastebasket. Whoo hoo!

The things that don’t yet have a check mark by them on my list: reading my WordPress book to learn how to do some of the things on this site; paying a couple of bills (these will now be on my list for tomorrow); and clarifying some job search goals. However, in transferring the miscellaneous notes onto my computer, I did gather several things that will assist me in clarifying some of those goals. So, in a way, I even made a start on that task! :-)

Action step(s):

  • Updated and balanced checkbook
  • Folded my laundry (I washed it Friday…)
  • Sorted through all of paper pile on desk and threw out quite a bit of papers :-)
  • Transferred the random notes onto my computer and got lots of helpful notes gathered to use for my blog and other work
  • Finished writing this blog in time to go check out an ACA meeting that’s nearby

Day 26 – Friday, Dec. 29: Small things can feel pretty good

I had planned to work today (Friday) just long enough to prepare the deposit. Instead, I recognized that I was tired of feeling rushed and took the time to consider what other tasks would be important or helpful to address. I checked phone messages, returned calls, answered the phone, and processed payments – none of which I had planned to do. I left feeling good about what I’d done and appreciating that my work next week will go a little more smoothly because of it.

It felt good to deliver the nutritional supplements I know I won’t be using to a friend. She called and left a message later saying she’ll be able to use quite a few of them. Yay! My releasing becomes her blessing. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Later in the day, after finishing a DVD from the night before, I felt an urge to do some organizing. In the short time I’ve been here, I already have a growing paper pile. The snowball effect of this all-too-frequent occurrence has typically been that I can’t find things I need and the pile grows…and grows…and becomes several piles. I have spent countless hours in frustrating searches for some essential piece of paper as a result of these proliferating piles. Yet dealing with them often feels overwhelming and intimidating.

Have you ever noticed that each piece of paper requires some kind of decision, and each decision is based on an evaluation of each piece of paper? If it’s a bill, the evaluation is around if, how and when I can pay it and where to keep it until I pay it. If it’s some type of correspondence, the evaluation is around my need to respond or not. Even if it’s advertising, I still ask myself if I need/want/care about the product or service. No matter what the paper is, the questions inevitably include: Do I need to do something in response to this? Do I keep it or toss it? Where do I keep it until I need to respond to it and/or where do I file it where I can find it again? Throw in the lack of any sort of filing space and that opens up a whole other challenge!

I’ve discovered that I do my best “paper work” when I have the “company” of something to watch on TV. Movies I enjoy and have seen before work quite nicely. If I miss part of them because I’m engrossed in what I’m doing, no biggie. If it’s recorded, I can rewind; if not, I’ve seen it before anyway. Just such a movie was on this evening and it felt good to start working on the papers I’ve accumulated this month – which included finally opening all the mail I picked up at the post office earlier this week.

It feels like such a small step. Yet it’s exactly one of the tasks I want to do more of on this journey. If I did this even twice a week, I wouldn’t have those boxes of unsorted papers filling up my storage units. Maybe I can find another movie to keep me company and have a fresh start by New Year’s Day.

I wonder, am I the only one who wrestles with these ridiculous piles of paper that seem to reproduce like bunnies all over my desk?

Today’s action step(s):

  • Relaxing at work by doing a bit more than planned.
  • Going through my mail and organizing some of the papers on my table.

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