Day 100 (Tue/Mar 20): Twelve days – Take time to breathe, a journey within the journey

A bit of a blur...

Twelve days left (in Lent) and I’m noticing a tendency to ramp up my activity level as though I were suddenly super-person. It feels like a whirlwind dance when I received a call to come into work the next morning with no time to consult with my supervisor before saying yes or no. It’s hard to know quite where the lines are for healthy boundary-setting. It feels like I need the income almost desperately and I worry that saying I can’t come in that day will blow my chances for extra work this week. And it would have. Another person wasn’t available Friday, so they called someone else. Still…

I brought up my need to attend to some work at my regular job and we settled on my working at the temp position in the morning and my other job for the afternoon tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the afternoon and feeling very grateful that I caught up quite a bit in my work last week. That rarely happens – that I get to the mostly-ignored-due-to-lack-of-time tasks.

Faster...faster...

This afternoon I basically sprinted from the temp job to my regular workplace, thinking I’d get a bit of work done. But on the way, I realized the very most I could do would be an hour before the 6:00 class I’m attending. So I opted for writing this instead. I have been so eager to post daily for this 18-day period that I’ve been ignoring the fact that being online after 8:30 in the evening means I can’t get to sleep till late. (Anything past 9:00 or 9:30 is late when you get up before 4:45 a.m.)

This week I’m appreciating discovering how to juggle my work schedule. There really isn’t enough time in the day for me to work 8 hours, then work some more. I need time to breathe. One of my priorities for this next couple of weeks is to truly attend to my self-care. Taking time to stretch a lot last night and taking some ibuprofen before bed resulted in my feeling more comfortable today than I have in days. The quick fixes don’t work, so more stretching is in order. Too many work hours doesn’t work either, so pacing is in order. The slowing down and noticing the pace kind (although the walking kind would probably make my body happy).

At this moment, it feels like I’ve been in a rush all day. That’s not what I want. I’m looking forward to doing some InterPlay this evening, where my body can move and my voice can enjoy itself. (We don’t talk much at the temp job – it’s lots of computer work.) I don’t know what’s in store, but whatever it is, I’m glad for the opportunity to play.

It's time to stop and enjoy the flowers

Afterwards, I’ll finally eat some dinner (getting hungry now – may need a snack), relax in front of a DVD TV episode (I’m on a Murder, She Wrote kick), then probably fall asleep early.

So, with class already starting, I’d better get this posted and take time to breathe… If you’ve never been to an InterPlay event, one of our favorite things to do is to take a deep breath and let it out with an audible sigh. It feels so nice. Try it.

Noticings:

  • How sleepy and tired I am after such a short night’s sleep. Zzzzzzz…
  • How rushed I feel as I hurry to post this before going to class. 😦

Day 99 (Mon/Mar 19): Thirteen days – Confessions…, a journey within the journey

Sometimes what looks like a wall is actually a gateway to someplace new

Earlier today I wrote: I’m actually feeling really grateful for my part-time job. On Friday, I received a late-notice, can-you-work-today call from the temp agency. She asked if I was available to work Friday, Monday and Tuesday. I was thrilled! On the other hand, I knew whatever we were doing might not require three whole days, as the last 9-day job turned out to be a 3-day job. As it happens, between Friday and today, I only worked a total of 10.75 hours. I’m grateful for the extra money, truly I am. I’m more grateful still for the distraction of my part-time “permanent” job and the fact that it distracts me from the deflation of such a short temp assignment.

It’s interesting to notice that I continue to think about a “lost” 6-week temp job that sounded great in many ways,

Just taking a step back can reveal new possibilities

including logistically. It occurs to me that the only reason I keep thinking of that job or other “missed” opportunities is because I am presuming that I’ve lost something that was mine to lose, which isn’t the case. I’m also presuming they would have changed my financial situation – which means I’m not remembering to trust God to take care of the details.

On the other hand, it’s fair to honor the reality that it’s deflating to have opportunities shrink after my anticipation rises. I’m just astonished to see how quickly my “fat” check disappeared and…

Ruh roh! I was just starting to beat myself up – and for things over which I’m powerless. See how easy it is to slip into that mode! I gotta remember to not let the deflation determine how I see things. It’s a darn good thing you’re here to remind me that I said I was only going to affirm the good in each day! 🙂

Later today…

God is always there, active, behind every act of releasing and letting go

Last night I was reading some more in Catherine Ponder’s book. She was talking about the power of releasing and letting go. I’ve mentioned before that I’m inching my way through this book, even though I’ve read it at least a couple of times, some chapters more than that. I feel the need to slow down and take in on deeper levels each concept she’s describing.

My car sounded a little odd coming home last night, so I decided to take the train to work after worrying about it. I felt more serene making that decision. The funny thing was, it became an ongoing exercise in releasing and letting go. I didn’t leave the house quite as early as I’d hoped. It would have been early enough if I was driving, but getting to the station, parking and catching the train added extra time. Then the train I needed was having computer trouble, which delayed it arriving and delayed us en route.

I continued to let it go, recognizing that I was powerless to change any of this. It was too late to change my mind and there was absolutely nothing I could do. Whenever anxiety about being late started to arise, I reminded myself that I had no control over this, including the reaction of my supervisor. I kept releasing it into God’s hands. I left messages in a couple of places, although I didn’t have the number for my supervisor. When I got there, she was totally fine and obviously pleased I had left a message with a her colleague.

This evening, I was refiguring my finances and thinking how I would use the small check I’ll receive this week and the even smaller one next week. I kept releasing it all, trusting that God is sorting out details I can’t (and may never) see. I felt serene despite some discomfort in my body. (Too much sitting; too little walking.) So I began releasing even that, electing to do what I can (stretching) and let go the rest.

It’s amazing how quickly things can change when we let go. Around 6:00 I got a call from the temp agency. (Weren’t they closed??) Could I return in the morning and work there the rest of the week?

I’m not holding on too tightly to the expectation of being there all week. We’ll see how things unfold. I am going to talk to them tomorrow about my part-time job and see if we can strike a balance that allows me to fulfill my responsibilities at both jobs. Whatever happens, I’m going to keep practicing letting go. 

Oh, the confession? My body tells me I’m still holding a lot of fear. My mid-back, low-back and hip are not happy campers. I also get a little overly excited when things start changing quickly, careening between nervousness, pleased-excitement and uncertainty about what will happen next. When I say I feel serene, I mean it. I’m just not convinced all of me has caught up with how wonderful it is to need to practice release!

Big and small steps:

  • Still enjoying the step workouts and did a bit of stretching this morning and a fair amount more this evening.
  • Asked the temp agency about shifting my schedule – which opened the door to them suggesting I work it out with the supervisor at the temp job.
  • Found some coupons for having my car serviced.

Noticings:

  • How tempting it is to try to “force” my body to loosen up and relax. (Uh, it doesn’t work.)
  • How grateful I am to have more work this week.
  • How grateful I am for my present employers (at my ‘regular’ job) – especially for their flexibility when I’m getting short notice about working elsewhere.

Day 98 (Sun/Mar 18): Fourteen days – Grace and space, a journey within the journey

Have you ever had those moments when there’s a collision of graceful happenings in your life? They come out of the blue, completely unexpected, and are made all the more beautiful because of their happenstance. Yesterday I had such a day.

After carefully updating my checkbook, I did some errands. A new toner cartridge. A new thumb drive. (My recent photo-taking indulgence needs more space!) Gas for the car. A few essentials at the grocery store. Then to the library to hang out for a while before the meeting. Libraries are one of my favorite places to be. My watch battery died a couple of weeks ago, so I set a quiet alarm on my cell phone to notify me when I needed to leave for my Al Anon meeting.

In the meeting, I recounted the insanity of my having rehashed the communication mishaps of the previous week – the crazy stuff that led me to this journey within the journey. I forgot to mention that I’d been called to return to the same temp job. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the meeting, everyone helped return the chairs and I organized the materials. People were enjoying chatting after the meeting. I didn’t even notice what time I left with a friend of mine. She doesn’t have a car, so we sometimes enjoy the opportunity to catch up while I drive her home. We often go by the store as well.

Yesterday, this angel told me she wanted to pay for my groceries as an expression of appreciation for the many times I’ve given her rides. I was stunned! I had been wondering if I had enough money from my recent check to spend on groceries, what with a couple of bills yet to pay and the (expensive) toner cartridge to buy. Yet God provides.

While we were at the store, I couldn’t reach the rice-milk carton I needed. It was on a top shelf and there had obviously been lots of people buying some that evening. The remaining cartons were out of reach for all but the tall. An attractive man noticed my struggle and handed me one. When I remarked that they needed to rearrange their shelves, he began doing just that. Later, he was just ahead of me when my friend and I came up to the checkout counter. It occurred to me just how easily it can happen, when people meet and connect.

When my friend and I pulled onto the freeway, listening to a beautiful song from Like Breathing, I was amazed at how few cars there were. It was like landing in an expanded gap between groupings. I thought we might catch up to a congested spot, but it never happened. God had my attention. So much serenity on a “busy” freeway on a Saturday evening.

After dropping off my friend, I experienced the same thing getting back onto the freeway. Yet I could see a lot of headlights a fair distance behind me. I was playing that song again and the tears started flowing. Between the generosity of my friend and this incredible experience of virtually no traffic at a time when lots of cars were actually on the freeway, the notion of a chance encounter with someone…it all came together in a powerful affirmation of God’s grace in my life.

As I continued to reflect on the experience this morning, I noticed even more things. More moments of grace that had happened throughout a day when I’d chosen to let go worry or concern about such mundane things as time or hurrying.

  • I took the time for lunch and left a little later than planned, but decided not to worry. Traffic was light.
  • At a traffic light, when I asserted my (debatable) right of way, I realized I didn’t want to be or feel pushy. From that point on, there was increasing ease.
  • At the library, the lot was full, but the street next to the library was free, with several spaces. They quickly filled within a few minutes while I ate a snack in my car before going in.
  • There were lots of people in the library waiting for their turn to check out materials. I found a short line and enjoyed a tiny tot “helping” her mother scan the items.
  • I found parking spaces with ease at the places I shopped.
  • I went through checkout lines with little or no waiting.
  • My friend blessed me with a large sack full of food.
  • Then God cleared a wide swath for me all the way home!

When the tears came, my question for myself became: Am I afraid of receiving bigger blessings?

I’m still working on the answer…

From a beautiful card my son sent me...words I need to read - often.

 

Big and Small Steps:

  • Attended an ACA Al-Anon meeting this evening. It was nice to just sit and listen.

Noticings:

  • How nourishing libraries can be for me when I simply want a place to be. I love the quiet, the sounds, the excitement of little kids insisting on scanning their own books at the checkout station, the patience of parents who are teaching their children the value of this place.
  • How I still tend to overeat when I’m feeling some anxiety – perhaps especially when I’m not acknowledging the anxiety in order to deal with it in healthier ways.
  • How I still crave something sweet after dinner, even though I haven’t indulged in sugary desserts in a number of years. Interesting how eating patterns linger…
  • How serenity can linger and stay with me for some time after it arrives.

Day 97 (Sat/Mar 17): Fifteen days – Healing cannot be rushed, a journey within the journey

This morning, I worked on my blog first thing – before breakfast, before bathing, before making my bed. I don’t normally do that. Yet every now and then, it feels good to enjoy the freedom to start my morning differently.

Perhaps it was because I began my day with my blog that my first reading and reflection in my journal led me to the inspiration for a new blog. There are times when I want to talk about God and faith and the many things that cross my mind in this realm that aren’t particularly a part of this conversation here. Now I have the beginnings for a new site. I look forward to starting it.

The second reflection I read this morning helped me remember why I’m here, doing this blog – especially with regard to my illusions around what it means to break through my fears. Among my (many) favorite verses in the Bible are these words accompanying my second reading: One thing I do, forgetting these things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal… (Phil. 3:13-14 NRSV)

A year ago January, I experienced in these words the subtle difference between reaching forward from where I am now and trying to leap over the present challenge to something down the road. I’m still learning how to reach forward from where I am in this moment. Yet I’m getting much more patient with myself and appreciating the fact that leaping over obstacles isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes it is. Other times we miss huge and wonderful opportunities to be transformed when we try to avoid the hard stuff. I’ve spent too much of my life already doing that. In recent years (decades actually) I have discovered that unexpected blessings often come only through the struggles.

In discovering that, I have learned that some experiences will not, cannot, be rushed.

I am in just such an experience right now. It seems like every time I try to hurry some part of it along, I end up in a heap on the ground, having tripped over the very thing that actually needed my attention. So I’m reminding myself – often – that I need to move slowly enough to pay attention to my steps and to notice when I need to change direction.

Looking back to where I’ve been, through reading my journals from a year ago, I continue to learn from past experiences. This morning I appreciated traveling through one particular journey of healing. It gives me a perfect example of how journeys of healing cannot be rushed.

The morning after my thyroidectomy (as a result of Grave’s disease, a hyperthyroid condition), I was able to speak (a very good sign), but sounded to my own ears like a bullfrog. In the days that followed, I continued to feel like I was croaking when I spoke. Yet others told me my voice was soft, but otherwise normal sounding. (It was devastating to feel so alone in my experience with my voice!)

When I first attempted to sing, I couldn’t sustain any note for more than a second or two, and there were scarcely any notes I could access at all. Six weeks after the surgery, I was beginning to ‘stretch’ my voice. I could sustain a note for a bit and my range was expanding. My volume, according to others, was getting stronger as well. I discovered I could sing (a bit) in falsetto what my voice could not quite do in full.

 I’m not sure when my voice began to sound “normal” to me again. Perhaps I simply got used to the new way my voice sounded, with less “software” in my neck. In the weeks and months that followed, I gradually regained my voice. I practiced singing to some of my favorite CDs while driving. I remember the day I could actually sing a particular song at a worship service. (I cried in gratitude!) I had to take care of my voice through this journey, moving slowly, expanding gradually, since my throat quickly grew hoarse if I pushed it. Yet little by little, I found my way back to being able to sing (and speak) as vigorously as ever.

The defining moment for me on this journey with my voice was when I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do to rush the healing process. It was going to take as long as it took and I was powerless to change that. Once I grasped that, I was able to relax and let myself move slowly, gently, giving my body and my voice the time they needed to heal.

This journey of finding the courage to change is so much like my experience with my voice. Once in a while I forget that this is a journey not only of recovery, but of healing.

 

Big and Small Steps:

  • Leaving my phone turned off at times to give me the space to think, to create, to nourish my body-spirit. It also gives me the space to choose when I want to talk to creditors who hope for more than I can give at this moment.
  • Changing the title of this section. “Action step(s)” never felt quite right, since some of these things aren’t all that “actiony.” 😉
  • Taking the time to recognize that I needed to write and post this now unless I wanted to be up late this evening.
  • Looking for some books at the library about women and courage. (Delighted with the first part of one book and finding another interesting. One more on request.)
  • Realizing that plans for how I approach this blog are flexible and it’s okay to experiment and try new things.

Noticings:

  • How much I’m continuing to enjoy taking digital photos. My library is growing and I’m seeing so many little things I might otherwise have missed.
  • How shifting the language from “Action step(s)” to “Big and Small Steps” changes the language I’m inclined to use from past tense to ongoing. Interesting…
  • How helpful tears of release can be. (It’s not too late to invest in Kleenex stock – I’m sure I’m raising the value! ;-))
  • How glad I am that I’m out of grade school where some children insist on pinching each other if they aren’t wearing green on St. Patty’s Day! (I don’t wear green. Perhaps I could try some leaves in my hair??)
  • How good it feels to be able to tithe more than once a month, even when the checks are small. 🙂
  • How glad I am to be here, with you now.

 

Day 96 (Fri/Mar 16): Sixteen days – Getting out of God’s way, a journey within the journey

I was stunned at the turn of events this morning – especially when I considered the last few days.

I found myself still wrestling with being powerless to effect any change in my job status. Still enjoying my part-time job; still hoping for more work. It was a joy to receive my paycheck yesterday; a challenge to realize how little it will take before it will be gone, since my printer’s almost out of toner.

A conversation with a friend yesterday reminded me of how much harder I make it for myself. I hold onto something, trying to change it, powerless to do so. I give it to God. Then I take it back. I realize what I’ve done and give it back to God. I forget and start chewing on it again. Back and forth. Back and forth. She reminded me that God loves me enough to give me the freedom to hold on, even while hoping I’ll let it go. It was fun to be able to laugh about how foolish we can be.

This morning I received a call from the staffing agency: “We’re sorry for the short notice, but would you be able to come into work today?”

Would I! Within an hour, I was back at the place I worked last week, slightly nervous, yet eager to work, grateful to be called back and grateful to be earning more money for this week.

 What’s truly amazing, though, is the context surrounding this blessing.

Since today, Friday, was going to be a day off, I hadn’t set my alarm. I relaxed last night and slept well. I woke up before 5:00, right about my usual time. I awakened slowly, enjoying the time to stretch, talk to God, and consider my plans for the day. Mostly I had no idea what I’d end up doing. I got up and began my normal morning routine of showering, fixing breakfast, then doing my reflection journal time. When I was done, I was considering writing the thank-you note I kept not quite getting to all week long. It was to have been to the people at the place I worked last week. No need for it now! (Or yet.)

At my ‘desk’ I noticed I barely missed a call from one of my credit card companies (the phone was still off). Then I noticed the battery could use a bit of freshening. I had just plugged it into the charger when I saw the call from the staffing agency coming in. The ringer was still off and I was fixing to text a message to a friend. Wow! Talk about timing!

In short, everything around my being able to work today (and at least Monday next week) was God’s timing:

  • Friday was a day off, though I often work on Fridays – I was available.
  • I was up early and had already showered and eaten breakfast when the call came – I was virtually ready. (Just had to change clothes and pack a lunch.)
  • I caught the call while the ringer was still off because I was holding it in my hands. A miracle!
  • I had postponed calling to set up the interview for another job – an interview I would probably have had to cancel to be available to work.
  • I kept postponing writing the thank-you note – and now it’s not needed.
  • I needed a little extra money to take care of printer toner and a couple of other things – and God has provided.
  • I had just yesterday succeeded in letting go any expectations around if and when I might get “recalled” by this company – and… Well, you know the rest!

Right now, I am feeling so grateful for the amazing gift of God’s timing when I get out of the way!

Big and Small Steps:

  • Took a few minutes to do some much-needed stretches this morning. My body sure appreciates it!
  • Let go of the desire to polish this post as much as usual, since I’m starting to fade and I haven’t even got this online yet.

Noticings:

  • How easily things happen when I let go and remember to leave God in charge.
  • How nervous and excited I was this morning, even though I was returning to somewhat familiar territory.
  • How much I enjoy the InterPlay CD I’ve been listening to this past week. I realized I can “play” along with the artists on the CD!
  • How often I forget to do some planned tasks, only to discover they weren’t meant to happen.
  • How eager I am to get to sleep!

Note: If you want an audio InterPlay experience, I highly recommend the CD Like Breathing (available with the book What the Body Wants or separately). It is filled with beautiful, delightful and even wildly fun tracks!

Day 95 (Thu/Mar 15): Seventeen days – Changing gears, a journey within the journey

My day was transformed yesterday by the decision to remain judgment-free toward whatever I do or don’t do each day. Since it was a day off work and I had no appointments, I had the freedom to let my day unfold. After that wonderful beginning (i.e., the decision to do 18 days of affirmations only), I let go the plans I had been originally considering (like going to the post office and the library) and let myself be led from one task (or “non-task”) to another.

I had remembered an email a friend sent me a few weeks ago and decided to check it out. She had sent me a link to a website for non-profit organizations and philanthropic endeavors. (Foundation Center) She had suggested it to me because I can subscribe to receive notices of job announcements – which I have now done!

As I explored the site a bit, deciding which types of emails I might be interested in receiving, I found a job listing for an organization I’ve been considering contacting because I admire the work they’re doing. (Contacting them is in my “hope I can get up the nerve to do some informational interviewing here” virtual file. ;-)) I printed out the description, eager to see if I might be a good fit. The position is for an executive assistant. While I am a terrific administrative assistant, I’ve never pursued this level of administrative work.

After a bit of internal wrestling, I finally acknowledged and accepted two things. One is that I don’t really want a job that requires the level of energy this one would require to do well. It’s not that I don’t put a lot of energy into my work – I do. But I want to have energy left over at the end of the day for other things, including InterPlay, Al Anon, and a ministry site I’m developing with a friend of mine. Oh yeah. And a social life.

 The second thing I accepted is that I don’t really want a job that is so critically dependent upon my being there, as this one would be, that there would be no room for the occasional meeting or absence during the work day as my other interests expand. (This job sounds like they want not just a right arm for the director, but a left arm and one or two legs as well. Oy!)

Still, I may consider applying simply for the experience and the possible opportunity to connect with the organization. It really is the kind of place I would enjoy being – in another capacity.

There are a couple of other things I thought about. A couple of thank-you notes to write. A follow-up call to set up an interview at a place I’m uncertain I’d like to work. The interesting thing about the latter is that I had pulled out the message with the person’s name to call, thinking I might call her yesterday. Then I ended up completely forgetting about it as the day progressed. The interview practice would be good and I might even find something I’m interested in doing.

The thank-you notes are in that fuzzy, not-too-certain-if-it’s-the-appropriate-thing-to-do, it’s-kind-of-late-but-still-could-be-good category. It’s also uncharted territory for me. It’s job related, so it’s a little bit nervousness-producing. I’ll keep considering it.

All this is to say that I had lots of opportunities to practice letting go any judgments about what I did or did not get accomplished. Mostly, I’m appreciating how incredibly freeing it was to be intentional about not judging myself. I found that I had to keep reminding myself that there really was nothing that needed to be on a “should” do list for me. At the end of the day, what mattered most was that I felt good about myself, whatever I had or had not done.

No wonder it's all about small steps

The interesting result was that I actually took more steps toward finding work opportunities yesterday than I have in a long time, even though I didn’t have a specific intention to do so.  I’m curious to see what happens in the next two and a half weeks. 🙂

Big and Small Steps:

  • Found an interesting job possibility and printed out the description. I’m now registered on the site and will receive emails about other jobs (plus I can look on the site for more).
  • Filed some job-search related papers in my binder and typed up the “pitch” I had developed at the JVS workshop. It felt good to refresh my memory.
  • Updated my checkbook and know exactly how much is there. For the first time in years, I recently added back into the balance the minimum amount of $150 I was keeping as a cushion. (It has not served me well when I’m as broke as I’ve been in recent months.)

Noticings:

  • How my step workouts are actually a bit more difficult the way I’m doing them than the way I learned at the gym. (I tried the approach from the gym, which is more “balanced” in that it alternates feet throughout. Yet it’s more of a workout to do ten sets, for example, leading with one foot, then ten leading with the other.)
  • How freeing it feels to have given myself permission to affirm myself only in positive ways. I can let go the “shoulds” without guilt for the next seventeen days (or years?)! Whoo hoo!
  • How often I felt the tingle down my spine yesterday that tells me I’m following my heart.
  • How good it feels to actually know, to the penny, what’s in my checking account!
  • How totally fun it was to have taken the “No Dumping” picture this past weekend, with no idea how I’d use it, yet finding it perfect for yesterday’s post! 🙂
  • How jazzed I get working on my blog posts in the evenings, especially after such a breathtaking shift in direction yesterday. Gotta watch out if I want to get a full night’s sleep! (I didn’t. Oh well.)

Day 94 (Wed/Mar 14): Eighteen days – Shifting focus, a journey within the journey

Yesterday I was having a pretty difficult time. I had caught myself in the old familiar pattern of “waiting until.” It’s not a helpful place to be. I kept casting about for something – an affirmation, a perspective, an action – something that would help me to shift my thinking. I finally found it this morning, after responding to the gentle nudge to read the next reflection in last year’s journal.

I’ve never been particularly geared toward the liturgical seasons of the church. I’m aware of when it’s Advent or Lent because it’s generally mentioned in the bulletin or from the pulpit. Yet the Christmas before last, I felt a desire to be attentive to the Twelve Days of Christmas. I suspect it was because I needed some sort of predetermined period of time to reflect on what was happening in me.

Changes... transformations... within and without

I had been through surgery the day before Thanksgiving (a thyroidectomy) and was still recovering the fullness of my voice. My body was still adjusting (increasingly happily) to the changes as we found the right dosage for my now-necessary thyroid hormone med. And there seemed to be a lot going on inside my body-mind-spirit, just like there is now.

I wanted to make a change in my attitude. Despite the continued (physical) healing, there was something unhappy, unhealthy rumbling around inside and I didn’t like it. One of the things that came to mind while I was driving was to let go my judgments of other drivers. It seemed like a small thing, but I had slipped into a pattern of being continually annoyed with other drivers. Even when people were doing something that didn’t affect me in any way, I had been criticizing how they drove. I decided, rather causally I thought,  to let go that tendency to judge.

During that brief “season,” I got better and better at letting go the tendency – even the temptation – to judge. In fact, it not only became easy, I discovered how much more enjoyable my driving time became. It didn’t matter whether it was a quick trip to the store or a longer, busier drive to work. I found my time in the car could be a time of relaxing and enjoying myself! In practicing letting go, I had begun developing a pattern of letting go of judgments (before I even had a chance to feel annoyed), of appreciating others, and of being grateful for all kinds of things I noticed or thought of while I drove. 

As I re-experienced the impact of that short journey this morning, I remembered how I had felt when I was continually criticizing others and how I felt when I let it go and began appreciating others. I noticed the familiarity of the former and recognized how much I have been criticizing myself of late. I’ve been fast becoming stuck in patterns of judgment about my own activities – or lack thereof.

I’ve decided to change that.

For the remaining eighteen days of Lent, I shall practice releasing thoughts of self-judgment or criticism when they arise. Reading my experience from a little over a year ago helps me remember that I may not be able to control the thoughts that pop into my head, but by choosing what to do with them, the nature of those thoughts can be transformed. The key is to notice the unwanted thought or behavior and release it right away. By choosing to redirect my thoughts toward something uplifting or encouraging, by forgiving myself when I wish I’d done something a little differently, and by taking time to notice and appreciate what I am doing “well,” I will open the door to a happier experience of life, no matter what is happening outwardly.

I will endeavor to post daily for the next 18 days, in order to remind myself of my successes, no matter how small. Just planning this is already lifting my spirits! 🙂

Exactly!

Noticings:

  • How readily I could feel in my body what it felt like a year ago (both the negative and the positive) and how easy it was to recognize similar feelings now.
  • How hopeful my entire body feels in this moment because of this shift in thinking. (The shift has, indeed, taken place merely by setting the intention. Isn’t that a blessing!)

Big and Small Steps:

  • Spoke words of forgiveness and release for myself and my judgments around a recent disappointing situation.
  • Danced my prayer! (If you’ve never tried moving and ‘dancing’ while you pray, you should. It’s amazing how much the body experiences in a prayer that is accompanied not only by words, but by movement.)

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 91 – Sun (PM), Mar. 11th (91/275): Holding onto hope

It’s interesting to notice how quickly moods shift and elation can become deflation. It’s not so much that I was specifically “elated” earlier, but one phone call from a creditor was all it took to open the door to feeling depressed again.

I’ve been observing these transitions, noticing more specifically the train of thoughts. Much like my experience a week or two ago, there seems to be a pattern to it that is rather similar. I’d like to examine it here and see what comes up. Perhaps you’ll have a perspective to share to help me see this in a different light.

Need I say more?

For the moment – and I’m grateful for my confidence that this is for the moment and not for the long-haul – I feel depressed. Before the phone call even ended, I was feeling defeated, shot down in my buoying hopefulness around expanding work possibilities (i.e., expanding income). The representative called to inform me of the status of my card – as if I didn’t know this already. Really, they are calling to inform me of their status in relation to my debt: how much longer they can work with me, how close they are to “charging off” the debt (i.e., sending it to a collection agency), and don’t I want to speak to their in-house credit counselors? (I would gladly speak to their in-house counselors if they would be willing to accept the tiny payments I can manage now until those payments grow larger.)

Today’s call revealed that the debt is still big and growing (not news) and that the charge-off date for one card is the end of this month and the charge off date for the other card is the end of next month. They don’t need a lot of money; about $238 per month would pay off both these cards within their allotted time (at zero percent interest). It’s just that I have not yet had that much extra money per month and, quite frankly, would rather have it help me get into my own place that turn it over to them. Actually, I’d rather be able to do both. I truly would like to catch up on my credit cards. It’s just that, for the moment, mundane things like food and gas and other randomly necessary expenses are a higher priority for me.

So, back to the present challenge: the depression that threatens to swamp me if I hold these feelings in…

My colorful pens, my trusty journal

What I noticed, as I got off the phone feeling increasingly depressed, is that I am feeling angry. I’m angry at them for not being willing to let me do what I can until I can do more, regardless of how long it takes. I’m angry at them for calling and shooting down my excitement over being able to make at least one, if not more, “extra” payments this month. Mostly though, I’m angry at myself for feeling powerless to change this as quickly as both of us want.

I feel like I’m lying when I tell them I have no other resources from which to draw. I have one tiny IRA. If I cashed it out, I could partially catch up one payment. I’m not willing to do that. (Duh!) I might have an income tax refund coming. I’ll know more in a week or so. But I’m not willing to hand that over either. However big or small it is, I have here-and-now needs that take precedence over past due credit card bills.

I feel angry at myself that I’m still, obviously, paralyzed enough by my fears to not have more actively done something to generate more income. It would be one thing if I was submitting applications right and left. At least I could say that I’m trying. But doing all this inner work, no matter how important, still leaves me feeling like a liar and a failure when I tell my credit card company I’m trying to expand my income. The truth is I dowant to expand my income; I even want to expand my work hours. I just feel inept and overwhelmed, still, about how to go about it more effectively.

Gathering words of encouragement

It’s all well and good to talk about small steps and the progress I’m making. I doappreciate that. Truly. It’s quite another thing to have a creditor breathing down my neck and not be able to say, “Hey, I’m going to be able to catch up my payment in x weeks (or months). Can you hang in there just a little bit longer??”

Just for tonight, or perhaps this moment, I’m feeling angry, frustrated and powerless. I feel deflated and defeated. This is why my morning reflection journaling time is so important to me, as is reading books like Al Anon’s Courage to Change and Catherine Ponder’s Open Your Mind to Receive.  It’s much like pouring clear water into a class of long-dried mud. It takes time – and lots of water – to loosen the old patterns of thinking and clear the way for the new. It’s amazing just how many repetitions of certain words and concepts it takes for the encouragement to build and build until the depression or defeat doesn’t stand a chance of survival. Fortunately, I have a lot of reps of that variety ‘under my belt,’ so I know I will feel better when I start my day tomorrow.

Two wonderful verses come to mind right now. I think I’ll hold onto them this evening and use them for my reflection in the morning.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Ps 30:5 NKJV)

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.(Ps 143:8 NKJV)

A favorite book, my journal, a reminder

Day 91 – Sun, Mar. 11th (91/275): Friends, Heroes and Unexpected Blessings

This past week I finally had a lovely, long phone conversation with a dear friend of mine. We live too far apart to get to visit in person for now, so we rely on the blessings of modern technology: texting, phone calls, emails and, when we’re both connected, online chatting. One of these days I may even get Skype on my computer, so we’ll be able to see each other while we talk.

A time to embrace...It's been too long!

We’ve been through a lot of rough patches together, when one or the other of us were going through the wringer. We’ve seen each other at our low times, when everything was falling apart, and we’ve celebrated each other’s victories. This time, we were celebrating her acquisition of her own home after years of renting. What a joy!  When she told me about having met “someone,” I told her I wasn’t surprised. She asked me why. I told her that I wasn’t surprised because the doors that opened the way to a new home are the same doors that open her life up to all the other good things. In the past five to ten years, I have seen her spread her wings, little by little, and become so much more that I suspect she would have imagined she could be.

I remember how scary some of those steps she took in her life were. When we were no longer living in the same area, we stayed in touch – sometimes daily, keeping up with each other’s lives. It has encouraged and inspired me to watch her grow, to become a woman with increasing confidence and inner strength. It helps me know that I may get there yet.

Near the end of the conversation, I said to her, “You inspire me.”

Friends don't have to be here to bring me joy - but it's nice when they are!

Some of my heroes are people I don’t even know or people I barely know. I don’t think of them as people I “worship.” I have long since outgrown that kind of hero-worship. (At least I hope so.) Heroes, to me, are people who have done something with their lives that inspires me, something I want to emulate or hope to do myself. It doesn’t have to be something big. It doesn’t have to be something public. It doesn’t even have to be something other people would notice.

I’ve mentioned before that my gay/lesbian/trans friends are among my heroes. They’ve had to swim against the current of public opinion most of their lives. Yesterday, I read a eulogy delivered at my aunt’s memorial service. I realized why I felt such a closeness to her, a desire to have her in my life. She was an amazingly strong woman who came across as gentle and quiet. Her strength came from within. Another hero.My friend has also moved into the hero group. (There are many there, with room for more.) She reminds me that we don’t have to be perfect or do things right the first time. The path to greater confidence and courage happens one small step at a time, sometimes while our knees are still shaking and our hearts pounding, sometimes with our knees skinned and bleeding from the times we’ve stumbled along the way.

 As we talked about the things we were doing to take better care of our bodies, I again appreciated how small steps make a difference over time. I’m sure her progress has come in small steps; I know mine has.

In the past week, I’ve been blessed by conversations with dear friends, blessed by three full days of additional work, and blessed by discovering an effective way to get some much-needed exercise. Plus I have a couple more “heroes” to bless me as I consider how their examples inspire and encourage me to be more and more the person I know I can be.

Noticings:

  • How good it feels to be taking even small steps toward getting more exercise.
  • How grateful I am to have been on an early wake-up schedule for a few weeks before the time change. This morning was a challenge and tomorrow my body will wonder if I’ve forgotten to finish my night’s sleep!
  • How little attention I’ve been paying to the categories I thought would drive my posts. Hmmm…
  • How my journey seems to be going into deeper issues than sorting through the scary paper piles and submitting job applications, although I still want to progress in those arenas as well.

Action step(s):

  • The addition of short, effective stair “workouts” into my days.

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