42 Days: A Hair Trigger? Finding the smooth lane on a bumpy road (Tue – Jan 29)

HPIM0541 CroppedI had no idea how much a roommate website could trigger fear, followed quickly by anxiety and anger brought on by the fear. Talk about a “hair trigger” Al-Anon reaction! Oy!

In an effort to be pro-active in finding a place to live, I registered on one of those roommate-matching websites. It sounded like a good idea…sort of. First, I encountered very limited space allowed for what should be a field to let someone know a little about you. Then came fields like your favorite movie/TV show/music/etc. – which, of course, would certainly be my primary criteria for finding a compatible roommate. Not! Although I suppose it might help me eliminate some.

A couple of days later, when I had a few moments to log on and add a bit more to my profile, there was a message in my inbox. Sadly, the person must not be good at reading what I wrote, for she lives in the wrong direction from where I’d said I’d like to be. Perhaps she’s as geographically challenged as I often feel…

This afternoon, I decided to add more to my profile, disliking the way it was feeling more and more like a poorly designed dating site. I did a quick search and was discouraged by what popped up. I live in an area where there are a number of educational institutions and the proliferation of people looking for someone to share their room – not apartment – for what should be rent for one place or a shared apartment boggles my mind. I keep wondering, who gets the side of the bed closest to the bathroom?

I suspect the very reason it was triggering me so much is because it does come across like a dating website. It suggests that competition is steep and your questions better be cleverer than everyone else’s or you won’t get far. To make matters more challenging, the rent I can pay is on the low end of the scale around here. But it’s what I can manage for now.

HPIM1810Ironically? Poetically? Perhaps perfectly appropriately, this morning I turned to a devotion reading in my Daily Guideposts 2012 that must have foreseen my afternoon. The verse with it went something like, No one can discern their own errors. The reflection with it was about a woman who filled in for her rabbi one Saturday morning. She knew well the words she would be reading and reciting; what she failed to consider were the logistics of moving from point A to point B during the service. She encountered one after another of mishaps – a locked cabinet that she should have unlocked, a piece she was supposed to remove but wasn’t tall enough to reach, and so on. Yet after the service, people kept thanking her for making it inspiring.

She was baffled! How could such a klutzy performance be “inspiring”?! When she asked a friend who was there about people’s surprising response, her friend told her that because it had not gone perfectly, but had still been done, others saw it as something doable. It didn’t have to go professionally and perfectly, as they were used to seeing with their rabbi. (Glad I caught the “rabbit” vs. “rabbi” typos! ;-))

The message of this woman’s experience hit home for me in a profound way. I hope I will be able to apply it to my attempt to use a roommate-finding website. As I left the office, with the fear escalating into anger, I struggled to find my rational mind. I recognized that I was being triggered and I began to sort out the reasons why. Or at least, I got a start on it. There are probably lots of reasons really. But being able to recognize what’s happening, even if I feel like I can’t control it, helps. It reminds me that I have a program, I have tools, and I don’t have to do it perfectly.

It’s not about my answers, the details of my profile or anything else on my listing being “perfect.” It’s about taking a first step toward what I want – which is a place to live.

I’m grateful that just writing this here reminds me that this is about taking a first step and about letting God meet me wherever I am, however far I do or do not get. At my meeting Saturday, there were four slogans in a sequence that caught my attention: This Too Shall Pass, Let It Begin With Me, Let Go and Let God, and Keep It Simple. I want to remember these slogans and appreciate how they can remind me that this really is about taking it one day, one step at a time.HPIM0822

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49 Days – Clouds along the way (Tue – Jan 22)

I’m feeling a muddle of emotions right now. Yesterday morning I couldn’t reach the loan company, so I went ahead and uploaded the documents they should need to figure out my payments. It felt good to get that done, even if I’m not quite certain what all they’ll need. Thankfully, I was able to release it to God long enough to get busy at work and be distracted by my tasks there.

Shifting...

Shifting…

Last night, my landlady said something about the inaugural address and asked if I’d seen it. Then she remarked that it would be best if I could be out of the house by the first of March, that I could move “anytime.” A few minutes later she told me that someone would be coming by to look at the desk and the dresser in my room today. She said they wouldn’t touch them; just step into the room long enough to get a quick look. I tried to appreciate the advance warning, even though I feel vulnerable having anyone come into my room while I’m gone – even her. The deflation at how often I’ve felt like I have no privacy flowed back into my thoughts.

When I thought about someone only being able to take a cursory look, I asked her if she might want to tell them that the desk is quite high. It is actually inconveniently high – even with my adjustable chair at its highest position, the desk is still too tall to use comfortably. My landlady stated emphatically that she was not going to tell them that! She knows it’s too high for most people.

I went back to cooking my dinner, bothered by the idea that this person will only get a quick glance at the desk and possibly end up unhappy with it once they get it home, if they decide to buy it. I don’t know if it’s an Al Anon thing to be almost compulsively honest at times, but it bothers me that she plans to make a point of not mentioning something that might understandably – and quite reasonably – deter the sale. It feels terribly unethical.

So now, I feel like my privacy is being invaded and I’m somehow facilitating a bit of deceit. And it bothered me for quite some time. It also bothered me that she has gone from “we have plenty of time” (i.e., till the end of March) to I can move “anytime,” best by “March 1st.” It feels as if I’m on ground that keeps shifting.

I am, in fact, eager to find a place – or at least for a place to find me. I’m also intimidated at the prospect of getting on one of those roommate websites or the area online advertising sites. A part of me feels anxious to get this going. But I asked my Higher Power for clarity around what the next right step should be and got the message: my loans. They have an imminent, even immediate deadline, whereas I do have a few weeks in which to find a new home.

As depression tries to sneak up on me again, I am considering some of the things I have been reading in the past few weeks, asking myself how to see all this differently.

One step at a time

One step at a time

I read a wonderful reprint of an article by Norman Vincent Peale, the well-known author of the long-time best seller, The Power of Positive Thinking. In the article, titled “Do It!” [Guideposts, January 2013, pp 24-25], Peale states that if we’ll only take the first step in what we believe to be the right direction, God will support us the rest of the way. He talks about taking action as a way of liberating energy and building confidence and how those unfulfilled tasks become energy drains. In short, he recommends that whenever we believe we are moving in the direction God wants us to move, we should just do it!

I did notice how I had little bursts of productive energy after taking even small, seemingly-unfruitful steps with my loan process. In the past couple of days, I’ve gotten some papers sorted to where I can tackle them more easily and last night I got my checkbook up-to-date. (It’s always helpful to know how much is actually in there, don’t you think?)

Sunday evening, I read a terrific article in the February O Magazine, called “Off the Beating Path” by Martha Beck (pp 43-45). Last night felt like I hit a “rumble strip,” as Beck calls those bumpy patches where things seem to be going the wrong direction. One of the ways to navigate these times is to reverse how we see things. When we think it looks like disaster, flip our thinking and consider the possibility that it’s actually a good thing and look for the ways that it is.

At this precise moment, it’s more head knowledge than heart knowledge for me in my present circumstance. Yet being encouraged to move “anytime,” by March 1, does free me to do just that, without having to worry about how much notice I will need to give. I’m trying not to think of it as my timeline shrinking – which is ironic because I would truly love to be able to say, “Hey! Found a place! Moving this weekend!” Now I know that would actually be okay. As for the “let’s not tell prospective buyer the desk is annoyingly tall” thing…I need to let that go. It doesn’t have my name on it and reminding myself of that by writing it here actually helps me to see the truth in that. I didn’t realize how much I was getting caught up in taking responsibility for someone else’s behavior.

You know what else, just acknowledging that has lifted the depression quite a bit! An “Ahhh! Moment” – just like the cover of O invites. Thank you once again for giving me a place to sort out what’s going on inside. 🙂

Growth happens in even the tiniest of spaces

Growth happens in even the tiniest of spaces

(Btw, have I mentioned that “cross talk” is perfectly acceptable here?  ;-))

52 Days – Am I Afraid to Be Happy? (Sat – Jan 19)

Last night my fears were trying to get the better of me, so I cast about for what to read. I had a Guideposts, a Forum, a DA book – A Currency of Hope, and Ponder’s Open Your Mind to Receive. I was floundering, wondering what would be most helpful to me to read, feeling anxious and worried even about such a small thing.

I briefly considered the Ponder book, but thought I needed something other than “merely” opening my mind to receive. I was unsettled, unable to think clearly. I opened the DA book and found a story that I had already bookmarked to read: “Busting Out of Debtor’s Prison.” I started reading it. I connected with things the author was relating about his experience. He spoke of feeling angry when his Pressure Relief Group told him he needed to earn more money.

I felt angry at the idea of being told that too. Earning more money would just raise my monthly payments on my student loans! Of course, that wouldn’t be until next year when I “re-qualify.” And I keep forgetting that I would still have the other 85-90% of that extra income to use for other things.

I want to surrender my fears to my Higher Power

I want to surrender my fears to my Higher Power

I’d truly like to learn how to stop my mind from racing to that place of fear! It’s especially ridiculous (although it feels fearful, rather than “ridiculous”) because I rarely even have clear thoughts about what that unseen, expected disaster might be! Mostly it’s a vague sense of pending disaster that has no basis in reality. And mostly, when I stop to think about it, when I can calm myself down and think more clearly, I discover that my worst imaginings are, themselves, ridiculous.

I am so grateful for the things I read last night. I am grateful to have read the story from my DA book. And I’m even more grateful for having returned to the Ponder book and to be reminded by the words from the Book of James, that I do not have because I do not ask (James 4:2).

In the passage from James 4, I was struck by the words in verse 4:1 that talk about our cravings or our desires being at war within us. That rings so true for me. I notice that I long both for a place of my own and for a place where I have a roommate with whom I enjoy sharing the space, that I might have the social connection of another person in the home. I long for an independent income that frees me from the need to work at a “regular” job, yet I love being able to be around others and share the experiences that bring laughter and friendship through the workplace. I long for a love in my life, yet I’m afraid to be open to the possibility of this happening with someone I’ve not yet met. I’m afraid of the unknown, for I have no control over it.

I want to rush toward changing my words and changing my experience, yet the idea of being abundantly blessed scares me! Which seems completely crazy, ridiculous! But it does…and I don’t really understand why. Is it really just the unknown that scares me? Is it some unarticulated sense of responsibility that a part of me knows will come with it? Is it the fact that I would have to change how I see myself or how I do things if I suddenly were financially blessed and found myself in a loving committed relationship where my life would no longer be just “my” life but would be a part of “our” life?

Am I truly afraid to be happy and blessed? And if I am, why?

I want the courage to jump into the "hoop."

I want the courage to jump into the “hoop.”

56 Days – Remember to breathe, remember to breathe… (Tue, Jan 15)

Did you know that listening to upbeat music helps my spirit but muddles my thinking when it comes to writing a post? Well, it does. But I shall press on because I have had a most unfun day.

I don’t know why I thought it would be a good, even really good idea to begin my day by doing the processing of my student loan paperwork, to have the payments reduced. It sounded like a good idea – especially because I need to get it done ASAP. Unfortunately, when I entered my new and improved income, it turns out my monthly payments are alarmingly large. The federal government has the ludicrous notion that anything above 150% of the national poverty level constitutes “discretionary” income. Clearly they have not lived where the cost of living is ridiculous.

My uncle once asked me why I didn’t move somewhere less expensive to live. I pointed out that one needed to have a job and that it costs hundreds of dollars (at least) to actually move. Unless one has virtually nothing more than a few suitcases and a box or two, there are expense involved in relocating. (He hadn’t thought about that piece.) Of course, there are probably cheap places to live somewhere nearby…if one doesn’t mind living in a place where one’s belongings and one’s physical being, for that matter, are at risk on a daily basis. I mean, I’m sure there’s some kind of dump that goes for cheap. I’d rather live in my car.

I’ve been wrestling with this all day, trying to separate the reality from the wildly terrifying detours my imagination keeps spinning. Not too successfully… Finally, on the drive home, I remembered that I’m on this self-imposed 60-day journey. It gradually dawned on me that maybe I could hang in there for 60 days without doing something radical or insane. Then again, what would I do?

There’s always driving off a cliff. But I’d have to find a suitable cliff. Then I’d worry about all the unfinished business I’d leave behind. My son would get stuck cleaning up the mess and that is not a burden I would wish to lay on him by design. I could run screaming from the building – but it’s cold – and now dark – outside and who needs that? I could simply stand in my room and scream till my throat gives out, but my housemates might not appreciate it and I’m quite certain I’d rather not discover what it feels like to end up in a straight jacket.

What’s most annoying about this is the way the fear is fogging up my brain. I felt like I was moving in slow motion all day at work. I would have to think about things very carefully because I was viewing it through a cloud of fear and despair. My logical mind just doesn’t get a chance when my Al Anon, Adult Child terrified perspective grabs on for dear life. What exactly I think will happen I don’t know. It’s that vague, unidentifiable fear that spells disaster and emotional, if not physical, death. Especially, for me, when there are legal authorities like the government involved.

On the upside – I was actually too stressed to eat much today! Usually I start eating when I’m stressed. Maybe this could actually turn out to be a perk!

This morning, I truly believed I’d appreciate having bravely taken this first step in this loan process. Now I’m having to work hard to feel appreciative. Perhaps by tomorrow I will feel better. Right now the anxiety is too fresh. So, let me do a quick gratitude list and notice some things that might help me as my body continues to process this challenge.

  • I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and to be able to meet my monthly expenses for now.
  • I’m grateful to have a place to work two days a week where I can express my feelings and let my body have some of the movement it needs, whether it’s a quick dance, a quick temper tantrum, or any other kind of movement that supports my bodyspirit.
  • I’m grateful that I have people who encourage and affirm me at both my places of work.
  • I’m truly grateful for the years I have in Al Anon and the bits of wisdom that can bubble to the surface in times of stress.
  • I’m grateful beyond words that I have faith in a Power greater than myself and that this Higher Power, whom I call God, cares about me and is watching over me no matter what is going on in my life.
  • I am grateful to be reminded that all I really have to do is the best I can and God will take care of the rest. Thanks be!

59 Days: It’s a start

I don’t know if I’ll be up for posting every day or not, but I’d like to give it a shot. Tonight I’m too tired to write much, but I want to be able to track my progress and this is a good place to do that.

Today I got started on my loan process – or at least I found out what I need to actually take the next steps. It was, of course, not nearly as scary as I expected, although it was still scary. I feel good about at least finally doing something in that direction.

Later, I finally balanced my last bank statement and updated my checkbook. It’s odd how the little things can keep falling through the cracks until they become “projects.”

It felt good to talk about my living situation at a meeting today. Someone chatted with me afterwards that she appreciated hearing my share, which is affirming to hear.

Today I’m thankful for the small steps of progress toward addressing my student loan paperwork, for getting some work done at the office when it was nice and quiet (I could ignore the phone, heh heh!), for getting my checkbook updated and for a meeting to keep me grounded in the program. 🙂HPIM1992 T back

60 Days: to 60, to New Beginnings, and to Transformation

At some point within the next 60 days, I will have turned 60. Yep, the big Six-Oh. A year I’ve never been able to envision for myself. Don’t know why. My pastor told me once that everyone has an age in their minds that they think they’re going to die or that they can’t see themselves living beyond. The goofy part is that I’ve also presumed I’ll live well into my 80s or 90s because relatives on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family have done so. My dad’s father died at 98, his older brother is still going at 93, and his younger brother is in his late 80s. My mom’s dad made it to 86, her sister made it to 99, and their aunt made it to 93. Longevity is in the genes! So whatever is going on with that notion of not picturing myself post-50, apparently it’s a normal thing. (The pastor who told me that – his ‘age-limit’ was 35. We were both in our late 40s when we had this conversation.)

As to new beginnings, I’ve been wanting to move for quite some time. Tonight I learned that I’m going to have to move. My landlady has found an opening in a retirement home and will be moving there in two months. The deadline is actually the end of March, but I’m hoping to be in a happier new place before then. We’ll see what my Higher Power has in store.

Transformation is the never ending quest and the never ending journey, for transformation happens again and again whenever I create the space and find the willingness for change. During the next 60 days, my student loans will all be out of the deferment they’re in, I’ll have a payment schedule and I’ll either be finding a new rhythm to my life (which is another new beginning, of course) or I will have crashed and burned. Even as I’m quaking in my proverbial boots, I’m determined to find the new rhythm.

I’m so tired of letting fear control my ability to move forward. Just when I think I’m making progress, and indeed I have made progress, I find myself faced with another challenge, another paralyzingly fearful decision to make or action to take. In this case, I have a twofold situation. I have loan paperwork to process (and my loans are about the size of a mortgage…oy…) and I have to find a new place to live. Both of these are major stuff on the stress-factor scales.

My plan is to avail myself of my Al Anon resources – books, meetings, my sponsor, and phone calls (the basic tools of the program), take things one small step at a time, and do my best to recognize and appreciate the progress I’m making along the way.

I’m terrified, and I don’t want to be. I feel backed into a corner, yet I still have choices. I have no idea how things will turn out – but I know that my Higher Power wants to fill my life with blessings if I’m willing to receive.

For the next 60 days I’m going to do my best to move into my 60s with a little more grace and ease than I’ve moved into most of the other decades of my life.

To begin the countdown, I’d like to appreciate some of my recent steps toward this end:

  • The night before last, I sorted three cartons of paper piles into three broad categories that can now be sorted further when I have time (financially related, scrapbook related and everything else).
  • In the past week I made a program call, called and texted friends and even called a family member to seek emotional support through some bumpy moments, including a health crisis with my brother that led to my taking a good, hard look at my own self-care practices.
  • I reached out and asked for help in sorting my scary paper piles.
  • I’ve asked someone who is also looking for a place to live if she’d like to connect to see if we might be compatible and want to find a place together.
  • I’ve come to the startling realization that with my newly begun, virtually full-time employment, I have more choices around renting, including signing a lease. (It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position.)
  • I’ve found healthy ways to exform the fears that keep trying to rear their gnarly little noggin’s.
  • I’ve written and published this post! 🙂

New Beginnings, Tiny Transformations (Tue, Jan 1st)

An affirmation for the new year!

An affirmation for the new year!

In the past two weeks, it feels like there are new beginnings in my life. So many things keep arising for me. Little things. Tiny shifts in my thinking that give me a new perspective. Sometimes it’s even tiny shifts in how I do things.

For instance, the other day I put my washcloth on the other faucet handle in the shower. Since I keep a cloth for wiping the counter on one handle, it dawned on me that it made more sense to keep the cloth I use frequently within closer reach. Yet it had never occurred to me to switch the two. Indeed, I had never given it any thought.

It makes me wonder, how many other little – or not so little – things do I do in my life that could be done a little more easily, conveniently, even efficiently if I thought about them for a few moments?

I certainly don’t intend to scrutinize everything I do, but it’s interesting to notice that many of these shifts are happening as a sort of chain reaction to small changes. There’s something about being open to new possibilities, about being willing to change, that clears a path for change to simply happen – unexpectedly, gracefully, with an ease that wouldn’t have been available if I hadn’t first let go.

HPIM1909Each time I become willing to make a change in one thing, I find myself willing to make other changes. With that willingness – and the changes that accompany it – creative new possibilities spring forth. Okay, so switching which washrag hangs where isn’t all that creative. Still, I’m noticing that my willingness and openness to change and be changed is trans­forming bits and pieces of my experience that I never thought about doing differently.

With the end of 2012, today seems like a day to reflect on my dreams and my desires for my life. The word “goals,” I confess, feels intimidating. “Goals” feel like targets and targets require being hit or you’ve missed or, worse, failed. Goals are places to be reached, rather than a journey to be taken. Dreams and desires continue to expand and transform as my circumstances and, more importantly, my thinking change. Things I couldn’t conceive of including in my dreams become new, exciting additions to my dreams, sometimes replacing former, limited versions of themselves. Even the way I imagine possibilities is changing.

Saturday I shared my fledgling “Dream Book” with my sponsor. Inspired by the “Possibilities Book” Georgia (played by Queen Latifa) has created in Last Holiday, combined with an annual collage party I’ve enjoyed attending for the past few years, I decided to create a “scrapbook” of dreams and desires. It’s not technically a scrapbook. It’s actually a large binder (purple, of course) with pages filled with images I’ve cut or torn out of magazines and catalogs. For the time being, I’m most interested in images of the kind of place I’d like to live – welcoming, comfortable, spacious, although I continue to clip any and all images that reflect my dreams.

Changing my thinking

Changing my thinking

So far, I have only a few pages in the book, but the pile of images from which to choose keeps growing. Right now I’m searching for images of kitchens, since I feel limited in my freedom to enjoy using the kitchen where I live right now. Among the images I’ve selected is one with a friendly-looking woman. It conveys both the notion of a kitchen to enjoy and a roommate who invites me to enjoy and share it with her.

My sponsor was so pleased to see what I’ve started. After she looked through the book (all 6 pages of it), she returned to a card I had tucked into one of the front pockets of the binder. It’s a list I created when I began my 7th Step. It has six of my character weaknesses, along with their positive counterparts, written with colored markers and in such a way as to create its own visual image of what I want to release and what I want to expand in my life. The last one on the list is “Deprivation Thinking”; the positive counterpart, “Expectations of Abundance.” She pointed to that and said, “You’re already doing this.”

Today I wanted to spend some time considering and affirming my dreams and desires for this year and for my life, perhaps by adding more pages to my dream book. Yet without realizing it, I let my Higher Power lead me and I soon found myself organizing some paperwork for a meeting I attend. The funny thing is, I didn’t even start out intending to do that. I simply wanted to update my notes for the last month. But one thing led to another and I was gifted with an unexpectedly productive afternoon!

I’m not quite finished, but now I know I don’t have to be finish today. I can continue it another time. What a change from old patterns of thinking that led me to believe that it would never get done if I didn’t complete it now! It’s surprisingly freeing to discover I can see so many things differently.

I’m still hoping to work a little on my “scrapbook” this evening, but I’m going to let those plans unfold as well.

It's a beginning!

It’s a beginning!

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