Day 166 (Fri/May 25): The unexpected grace of small steps and 12-Steps

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1). Time. Timing. Time…

Last Friday I learned that I need to reduce my thyroid medication a bit, which explains the poor sleep and the too-frequent feelings of anxiety. It takes time for the shift in dosage to have an impact, so I’ll have to be patient.

On the heels of this helpful news, I began letting go and attending to the needs for my body to have adequate rest – which includes not pushing myself every minute of every day. With my schedule, it’s been hard to get to many tasks, from balancing my checkbook to writing my blog posts. Still, I realized I could actually create more ease in my schedule. I wonder, now, if that’s what actually opened the door to some unexpected grace.

It had finally dawned on me that I had some available vacation time. So I shortened my work days on Friday and Saturday. It seemed like such a small thing, to realize I could actually use my vacation time, yet I had been clinging to those vacation hours out of fear of not having them. Once I decided to avail myself of these hours, I immediately began experiencing more ease in body and spirit.

I was tempted to run

Sunday, I attended a Debtors Anonymous (DA) meeting. I arrived feeling a lot of anxiety and fear. My work at the temp place had been extended through July, for two days a week. That means regular weekly income that might come close to a normal, if not particularly large monthly income when combined with my regular part-time job. It’s been so long since I’ve had an adequate monthly income I hardly know what to do. So I didn’t speak at the meeting for quite some time. I just listened.

What I heard were words of encouragement and hope. One man shared that he had already paid down all but $400 of a $10,000 line of credit in only two years and that his income had increased 50%. Such financial blessing is beyond my ability to conceive right now, but it inspired me nonetheless. It’s the second time in recent weeks that I’ve heard someone share about making so much progress in reducing their debt. I’ve come to realize there are more possibilities than I thought around my financial situation.

I also kept hearing references to DA being a primarily spiritual program. While I can’t articulate what that means for me, on a body-spirit level I know what it means and I could feel a shift in the corners of my thinking.

The next day, Monday, I knew I would have a window of privacy during the my workday and planned to take advantage of it. I called the three creditors whose calls I have been ignoring for the past couple of weeks. I first spoke to the one for the credit card that had not yet charged off and affirmed my intention to pay the $105 to keep the charge off this month. (Although, after making that payment last night, I’ve decided it’s probably in better to let it charge off, so the late fees and interest can cease and I can begin actually paying down the balance.) The call was surprisingly gracious and the representative expressed appreciation for my having initiated the call.

Next I spoke to the agency handling the largest of my three debts. To my amazement (and incredible relief) they are willing to accept $20 payments each month for now because it shows my intention to pay the debt. The rep gave me a website for making online payments when I asked about doing that. What an unexpected blessing!

I cannot rush this process…

The third call was to the company who had been pressuring me for a $500 up-front payment. I had sent them $50 in April and $50 earlier this month. I was again amazed and relieved that they had concluded this was a monthly commitment and that they were okay with that!

After that third call, I simply sat there, practically stunned by the grace and ease of the conversations and the results. I know that in God’s time the rest of this will sort itself out in a way that will be best for me. The results of these calls were an affirmation of God’s grace.

The next day, Tuesday, while I was happily back at my part-time job for the whole day during the week (yay!), I was given the incredible gift of being able to participate in an InterPlay event happening this coming week. My work schedule will only allow me to be there for the opening day and most of the next day, but some loving friends have enabled me to attend for free. I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself! I also attended an InterPlay class that evening.

I left there feeling overwhelmed by the grace and unexpected blessings of the past few days. Is this really all about letting go and letting God move in my life? I believe it is – and I’m doing my best to keep getting better at getting out of God’s way!

InterPlaying…

Noticings:

  • How much easier it’s becoming to let go worry about the details.
  • How good it feels to post again!
  • How much easier it’s becoming to accept God’s grace when it arrives…

Action steps:

  • Calling my creditors.
  • Deciding to stay home tomorrow to let myself simply have the space to rest and catch up on a few things.
  • Picking up a notebook to help me track and get a handle on just how much I spend on what.
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Day 155 (Mon/May 14): On releasing guilt

I’m fast concluding that releasing guilt, like so many other aspects of life, is a process, a journey that has ebbs and flows, times of ease, times of struggle. (Who knew?)

This morning, I turned to page 217 in my Bible simply because that number was what popped into my mind when I considered what to read for my reflection. I started reading about people dying and being afflicted with tumors and thought, “Bleck! This is not what I want to use for my reflection!” But I persisted, especially as I had begun in the middle of a chapter. It didn’t necessarily get “better,” but I found myself intrigued by a couple of lines in the chapter that started on that page. The people were told to return the ark to God with a “guilt offering” and they would be healed (1 Sam 6:1-3).

It took a few minutes for it to register that guilt is one of the character weaknesses I identified for myself in Step 6. I decided to see what I might find in Courage to Change on guilt. But before I looked in the book, I decided to prepare my own “guilt offering” to be placed in my “God box” – a written prayer asking God to take my feelings of guilt and remove them from me.

Guilt is a wholly appropriate topic for me today. I awoke with dreams of worrying about my credit card debt and what I should do about it. In an effort to take better care of myself and to maintain a sense of serenity, I have chosen to ignore most of the incoming calls from the credit card agents. I have even left the messages on my voicemail to pick up when I’m ready to deal with them (or not). It dawned on me recently that they are the ones who feel the need to keep pushing for different answers from me when I have none to offer. Repeating the same, unhappy responses to their questions – affirming repeatedly that I do not, at this time, have the income to send them as much money as they want – upsets me and renews the guilt and the worry. Since they have not been willing to honor my request for less frequent calls (one company calls me five days after we last talked – every time!), I have chosen not to take the calls just now.

As I was writing my reflection this morning, I felt guilty that I have not picked up my voice messages. Now I’m at work (on my lunch break) and it’s not the time. There are five messages – all, I suspect, from these collection agents. I have more practicing to do in order to let go my guilty feelings. I have more things to figure out with regard to how and when to respond to the messages.

I read two of the pages on guilt listed in the index in Courage to Change. They reminded me that I am imperfect because I am human (can’t escape it…), that I can “be free to look at my mistakes without blowing them out of proportion” (CtC, p 120), that I can learn to stop repeating the mistakes I’ve made and learn to make wiser choices. I already am making wiser choices and the tendency to fall back into old patterns is lessening every day.

I especially appreciate the “Today’s Reminder” with the April 29th reading:

I will not chain myself to the past with self-defeating guilt, or by inflating the importance of my errors. Instead, I want to face my past and heal old wounds so that I may move forward into a richer, fuller, and more joyous life today (Courage to Change, p 120).

The reading on page 144 in CtC also reminds me that it is easier to love myself when I accept myself as I am, imperfect choices and all. I notice I need to be reminded of this often – the idea of loving myself, that is. Sometimes I get caught up in the doing of xyz and forget that the reason I am doing recovery and other work is to be able to see and love myself more the way I know God does. Once in a while it occurs to me to ask God to give me eyes that see others and myself through the eyes of love. I even get there and stay there for a while now and then. Then I slip and fall back into old patterns of thinking and behavior. I am so grateful for 12-Step programs, wonderful little books like Courage to Change and a God whose love is big enough to overcome those times when I forget to love myself.

Day 151 (Thu/May 10): What am I missing?

I’ve been reading this book – a light, romance novel. I would have put it down after the first ten to twenty pages except that I’ve enjoyed other books this author has written and it did keep making me laugh. What I found troublesome is the way the ‘heroine’ and ‘hero’ start using the word “love” – at least in their thoughts – within a couple of days of knowing each other. But the heroine is intent on warding off all prospects of love based on a marriage that ended badly.

Around page 269 (after I had decided the book was enjoyable enough to finish), I noticed the heroine kept saying the same (stupid) things over and over again. She kept having the same arguments, returning to the same inane reasons for wanting to push the hero out of her life despite all the worthy things she’d observed in him. One too many repetitions of “she loved a man who didn’t exist” (he hadn’t given out his full name until late in the game) led me to increasing frustration and annoyance with her stupidity…until I asked myself how many times I repeat things to myself that aren’t true, that don’t help me, or that keep me from seeing the progress I’m making.

The trip this past weekend raised memories for me that weren’t always fun. I was reminded of experiences that were very hard – emotionally, financially, and in other ways that wove in and out with my journey of recovery. It was a joy to see a familiar face from Colorado; it was depressing to remember that this person had affirmed in me a particular call to ministry that did not come to fruition. It was cool to see classmates in their clergy attire; it was deflating to not know where I’m going in this arena. It was an incredible blessing to have the funds to make the trip; it was (and is) deflating and disconcerting not to know what my income will be the week after next.

I keep feeling like there’s something obvious I’m missing. Some important piece of this journey that’s eluding me at the moment.

I’m experiencing a slowly growing fear around finances. They’re great at the moment, but I don’t know what comes after this temp position ends. I haven’t yet put aside some of the funds, mostly because I haven’t had the time and energy to figure out where I’m at. I haven’t updated my checkbook in a week. My balance looks good online, but I have a few bills to pay. I have 5 voicemails not yet picked up, probably all regarding my credit card accounts. I keep meaning to play them. I keep wondering when to return their calls. But I’ve been falling into bed early these past few days and I don’t want to talk to them when I’m that tired.

It’s not just my financial situation that’s ruffled my sense of serenity. It’s the unsettledness I feel since this weekend’s trip. Seeing my good friend achieve his goal, his calling, and being asked what I’m doing by people I care about (and some I don’t even know) leaves me again asking myself, What am I doing? What should I be doing?

I’m being affirmed in the work I’m doing. I’ve been affirmed in many ways in recent weeks, including by the friend I stayed with this past weekend. I’m even beginning to see myself in new ways. Yet I feel like I have a case of the “stupids.” It’s as if the most basic choices and decisions should be obvious to me, but they’re not. I’m growing unhappy with my present living situation (staying with my aunt and uncle), but don’t have the financial stability to look into rentals. I’m growing comfortable in certain ways that make me nervous that I’ll be tempted to stay where I am. (Except that I truly would love to move into a place – a room or an apartment or whatever – I could set up as my own for however many months or years I might live there. I’m waiting only for financial stability to actually be able to pay the rent.) I’m so out of practice at job hunting that it now terrifies me to think about taking action in this direction. (It’s time for a few drops of Rock Rose, Elm and Olive in my mouth and my glass of water.)

Then, just in case there wasn’t enough going on, a few minutes ago I learned that my temp job may extend to two days a week for a longer period of time. I’m not sure how I feel about all this just yet. This afternoon has felt unsettled and mixed up. My sponsor and I had our wires crossed on when to meet and my day suddenly became fuller and busier than I anticipated.

What does all this mean? What am I missing??  Or is this merely the stirring up to make a better something when the dust settles…

Day 149 (Wed/May 8): An unexpected journey, unexpected blessings

I find myself floundering, wondering how to regain the semblance of balance I had only a couple of weeks ago… At least it felt like balance compared to the last few weeks.

Last week was a quiet week, especially in comparison to the preceding weeks, which were all about frantically getting ready for a summit (that, I’m told, turned out to be a great success). I would get home, fix dinner, plan my next day’s lunch, then “recover” for an hour or so before heading for bed. I worked six, sometimes seven days a week. It seemed like there was no time for anything but work. Last week felt like the calm after a storm – at least until I committed to a whirlwind trip out of town for the weekend.

A dear friend of mine was being ordained and installed at his new parish. Not only that, he was being installed at a church where one of my best friends attends. It made for a joyful opportunity to be there for him and to visit with a friend I haven’t seen in a few years. The challenge was the distance – about 8 hours each way, but my long-time friend was thrilled at the prospect of my coming there and more than happy to offer a place to stay. Other things opened the way to my being able to make the trip, both time-wise and expense-wise, from having the money and opportunity for some car repairs to the willingness of both my employers for me to take the day off on Friday. I was grateful.

Yet amidst my eagerness to be there were the stirrings of other intense feelings. I began my own journey through seminary with the expectation that I would become a pastor. That changed my last year there – for good reasons and in ways that I celebrate as well. But the change in my expectations still required adjustment and the emotional pot of those changes gets stirred up when I witness my classmates being ordained.

Thus the weekend became a jumble of emotions: joy and celebration, as well as grief and an inescapable feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty each time well-meaning colleagues asked me what I’m doing these days. “Looking for work” (when I’m not actively doing so) or “doing temp work” (even though it is blessing me) are not the answers I cared to give. So I floundered with what to say and each person heard something a little different, depending on how well I knew them. To strangers who asked where I was “serving,” I usually replied simply, “I’m not a pastor.” Each repetition reminded me that I’m also not doing the work I long to do. Each answer left me wondering how and when I will begin to do the work that calls me, the work that inspires and excites me…

Saturday evening, I headed to my room early, exhausted from the day’s events. I wrote in my journal. I let the pain and grief rise to the surface and wept quietly, when what I wanted to do was to sob loudly. I wondered how I would make it through Sunday morning and hoped my face would not reflect the grief that I knew would still be there.

I always feel better after a night’s sleep, no matter how rough the evening before. I process things physically and something about simply resting and “forgetting” about whatever has been on my mind, as only happens in sleep, allows me to wake up refreshed. It doesn’t mean the grief was gone, but the intensity of the emotions, the pain especially, was significantly less. (I hoped no one would notice the telltale bags and dark circles under my eyes.)

I’m so glad I was able to muster a bit of cheerfulness at hearing my friend preach his first sermon as an ordained pastor. What a joy it was to be able to be there. After his sermon, I turned to my other friend and simply said, “Wow!” She obviously had the same response.

Despite my mixed feelings from the day before, something happened in the hours that followed that morning. I left for home feeling inspired and changed in ways I’m still sorting out. But I’ll have to save an exploration of that for a later post. It is time for me to head for bed and get some rest. As I was getting ready this morning and beginning to feel rushed, I asked myself if I was truly attending to what my body and spirit needed at the beginning of the day. From that moment on, I began to move at a pace that was peaceful, as well as productive. Tonight, I’m going to do the same.

Thanks for still being here. 🙂

(For whatever reason, the computer I’m using is not happy with my attempts to add photos. Maybe I’ll try again in the morning…)

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