Day 60 – Thursday, Feb. 9th (60/306): Shifting gears and “unfreezing” the fear response

In the conversation with my friend Wednesday morning, as we talked about fear, she mentioned the paradigm of “fight or flight.” It’s a familiar paradigm to me. What was new to me was the expanded paradigm she described, which recognizes a third response: “fight, flight or freeze.” More so than taking flight, certainly more than fighting, “freezing” is a familiar response for me.

Such responses are embodied reactions to fearful situations for all of us. I bring them up here because I want to remember something my friend suggested – an exercise that creates a kinesthetic experience to help me (and my body) learn a new, healthier response to fear.

The exercise is simple and can be done almost anywhere. You begin by “freezing,” standing perfectly still in one spot, consciously, intentionally, for several moments – long enough that your body knows it has “frozen,” stopped in its tracks. Then you intentionally choose to look about, turning your head if you like, but keeping the rest of your body in the “freeze.” Next, you choose a spot, then very intentionally choose to move to that spot. The dynamic experienced by you (and your body) is one of creating a new practice of moving from freezing to action. The fact that you consciously choose to do this helps you to discover that you can choose new responses to fearful situations as well.

Our conversation was really quite interesting. She pointed out that things that trigger fear can feel like they are life and death to us, even when we know that, in reality, they aren’t that big a deal. In the grand scheme of things, they might even be ridiculously non-threatening. Yet that doesn’t diminish the fearful response we might be feeling. It’s important to honor the fact that our bodies can experience something as threatening, even as our logical mind tries to tell ourselves we shouldn’t be so frightened. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

We talked about how intense emotional reactions to current events, that seem out of proportion to the situation, are often connected to something from our past. Reflecting on the current situation and asking ourselves what it reminds us of from the past may help uncover what is triggering the disproportionate reaction. Even if it doesn’t, acknowledging that our response is disproportionate and that it may be connected to some event from our past can help us let go some of the fear (or anger or other intense emotion) and move through the experience a little more easily.

Today I received a call from a staffing agency about a temp position. The position would begin Monday and be virtually full-time (Mon-Fri, 9:00-4:00) for six weeks. It was interesting to notice my body’s reaction to the possibility of needing to suddenly shift gears – the EEK! response. If I get the job, it would mean a sudden shift in when I can do my work at my present job, with no transition period. Boom! I would suddenly go from 14 to 46.5 hours per week.

I really hope I get the job – if this is where I’m meant to be for a time. I truly need the money, and I like the organization and would appreciate the opportunity to work there. Could it be that my ability to adjust to this possible change so quickly – I “unfroze” rapidly after the initial call to see if I was interested – happened as a result of Wednesday’s conversation about fear and learning how to respond to it differently?

And I haven’t even practiced the freezing, choosing a spot and moving to it yet!

Action step(s):

  • Had lunch with a friend and did an informal “informational interview” with her about chaplaincy work. (Which led me to even more questions we didn’t get to!) Networking!!
  • Said yes to a possible temp position and became willing to adapt as needed.
  • Listened to my body’s need for quiet this evening.

Day 59 – Wednesday, Feb. 8th (59/307): Blessings and Self-care

I’m late in getting this posted. In fact, I’m late in getting it written. It’s amazing how much time can pass in such a short period.

Tuesday turned into a surprisingly good day. Not that I expected a “bad” day, but sometimes things happen in ways that bless and nourish unexpectedly. That’s what happened.

I came in early to work and submitted a job application. It’s for a full-time, temporary position. We’ll see if anything comes of it. Part of my ongoing challenge is being willing to let go this part-time job I love to make space for the support I need. I know that if I am blessed to find fuller-time employment, it will be a blessing for all, including my present employers. Whether or not I receive even a response to this job application (aside from the auto-reply “we got your application” email), it felt good to submit it.

Later in the morning, when I was the only one in the office (which seldom happens), a friend called. Since it was quiet and I had the time, our conversation ranged to the personal. We ended up scheduling a time for the following morning for her to do some energy work with me. Wednesdays have often been my day off from the office, so the timing was perfect.

Tuesday afternoon, I went to a check-in at JVS. When asked how I was doing with my job search, I could feel my body tense up. I had expected a check-in around using the computer lab, not an all around check-in. As the conversation continued, with only three of us in the group, I found myself struggling with fear and resistance, feeling of inadequate for not doing more.

When I asked what the instructor included under the umbrella of “networking,” she said she considered any contact with other people, especially in person or at least by phone, to be “networking.” The way she described it started shifting my perception of networking. Suddenly I saw networking as being available to me anytime I’m talking to someone else and am willing to mention that I’m looking for work. It was rather like what my pastor calls a “BFO” – a Blind Flash of the Obvious. Yet it hadn’t been obvious to me before. As I continued to think about the conversation, I realized that finding opportunities through people I know has actually been true for several of my employment situations over the years. I just hadn’t noticed it till now.

Thus, Tuesday became a day of unexpected gifts – little things that added up to a pretty nice day.

As for Wednesday’s activities… What can I say? After the lovely time connecting with my friend in the morning to receive a most welcome Reconnective Therapy (“RCT”) treatment (see http://www.reconnectivetherapy.com/start.htm for more information), I gave myself an entire day of relaxation. I know little, as yet, about RCT, except that I trust this friend and have had wonderful healing experiences through many forms of energy and healing work. Not surprisingly, the topic of fear came up. Also not surprisingly, the area of my body where she was led to begin treatment was the very place where the fear and trauma of a particular experience when I was a young child had been held in my body’s memory. I had uncovered the trauma some years back; now my friend was bringing healing to this area. What a gift!

I was having a touch of digestive unsettledness already, so when she talked about how I would be integrating this experience and would need to hydrate a lot over the next few days, something told me to listen to my body’s need to simply hold still. I’m not sure I remember when I’ve ever let go of “responsibilities” for a whole day before, but I did this day. I spent virtually the entire day enjoying Columbo movies on DVD and enjoying a beautiful jigsaw puzzle I recently received as a birthday gift. It was lovely.

Action step(s):

  • Submitted a job application!
  • Followed-up on monthly billings at work and cleared out the erroneous papers that I’d been afraid to toss too soon (i.e., cleared out the chaos and created order!).
  • Attended a follow-up workshop at JVS.
  • Connected with a friend and availed myself of a wonderful healing session.
  • Gave myself an entire day of self-care.

Day 56 – Sunday, Feb. 5th (56/310): Getting unstuck

The past three days have been full, indeed. “Coincidental,” you could say, defined as being when God wants to remain anonymous.

Thursday afternoon, I met with my sponsor and she helped me see how much I was trying to shrink myself to fit into the tiny box called my present finances and circumstances. I’ve been stuck in small thinking and small acting as fear and worry overwhelm me. During the meeting, I talked a blue streak. At one point, we read from Al Anon’s Courage to Change – a reflection indexed under “worry.” It talked about choosing not to figure out my plans for the day the moment my eyes are open and, instead, taking time to listen and enjoy the morning (p. 95).

That night I read the article “How to Get Unstuck.”* In this helpful and insightful article, Bolles looks at how our “Safekeeping Self” (the part that wants to stay in its familiar, comfort zone) takes over our “Experimental Self” (the part that would gladly pursue and leap upon networking, job hunting and other adventures) when we are making changes that are scary. Normally, these parts of us function in balance, with one or the other being more active at any given moment. But as I read, I easily recognized how my Safekeeping Self has my Experimental Self in a death grip. Talking too much, as I’ve been doing a lot lately, is just one of the symptoms.

What I’d read from Courage to Change about taking time to listen in the morning instead of planning from the second I wake up echoed a recommended strategy in the article: change some of the routines we obsessively cling to when the Safekeeping Self is overreacting. So I did.

Friday morning, I again gave myself time when I first got to the office to do some personal work before beginning “work” work. I paid several bills (online). Since I had already mentally subtracted these payments from my paycheck, it was surprisingly easy, almost fun to pay them! It felt more like marking off a check box, than taking money out of my account. I don’t believe I’ve ever had that experience while paying bills before. 🙂

Yet Friday was also a day of feeling confused and overwhelmed much of the day. Confusion, btw, is the Safekeeping Self’s favorite weapon. Talk about frustrating! So I let go, relaxed that evening, and read several pages from Courage to Change right before sleep.

Saturday, I let my morning unfold. I journaled (in my “regular” journal) for quite some time, mostly reviewing what I’d read in Bolles’ article. Hunger arrived, so I fixed my breakfast and enjoyed some jigsaw puzzle time while it was cooking and while I ate about half of it. I wrote a bit more while I finished my breakfast. Then I took a shower to help wake up my body after all that sitting.

In the article, Bolles suggested that if you’re a person of faith (which I happen to be), you might pray for God to lead you through all confusion. I was ready! After my shower, I went on a search in my Bible and filled seven 3×5 cards with over a dozen verses and passages  that remind me that God is there to lead me out of the confusion. Then I did my “scripture reflection” before heading to the office to pick up my forgotten planner, to do one work task, and to do some internet stuff. From there, I went to my Al Anon meeting.

Afterwards, I discovered my aunt had called. My uncle had fallen and been taken to the emergency room (in an ambulance); my aunt was at home, waiting for a report. Ultimately they turned out to be minor injuries (he’s a tough old bird), but she and I wound up staying awake till 2:00 a.m. waiting for a call to confirm his status. Today has been about waiting for more updates, then finally getting him home. He’s napping now (when my aunt isn’t talking to him – she cracks me up!); she’s continuing to check in with family; and I’m trying to stay awake till (an early) bedtime.

These past few days have been about recovery, discovery and finding my way out of confusion – or at least to a door to a better path. I’m already doing some of the things suggested in the article (it is worth reading) and look forward to making more progress this week. Yesterday, I found myself looking at job postings with more interest and enthusiasm than I’ve felt in long time.

What a difference it makes to read things that nourish my spirit and let things unfold. And what a blessing it turned out to be to have had so much grace before the excitement of the past 24 hours!

Action step(s):

  • Read “How to Get Unstuck” article and began implementing strategies.
  • Read from Courage to Change before bed.
  • Paid several bills online – joyfully!
  • Spent 45 minutes at work catching up on something that’s been hard to do during the week. (Yay!)
  • Did some job-searching online and found a few possibilities. (It’s a start!)

 * What Color is your Parachute? 2009 by Richard Nelson Bolles, “How to Get Unstuck” in Appendix B, pp 339-350. (Btw, I have not seen this article in the later editions of Parachute. Check with your library if you want to find it. It’s worth the effort!)

Day 52 – Wednesday, Feb. 1st (52/314): Super-admin? No wonder it’s exhausting just looking!

I went to bed last night, anticipating a productive day of submitting an online job application and perhaps finding new job opportunities. I figured I could either use my uncle’s computer (if my aunt played tennis and he headed to the club for his usual walk) or go to the library and use the computer there. As it turned out, his computer was available for me.

I spent several minutes reformatting my resume, in case I needed to copy and paste it into an online form. Then I felt myself feeling hesitant by the time I got online. I went to the website where I had found the position I was considering – not a lot perhaps, but I figured the application online process itself would be good practice.

The position was already two weeks old (which, sadly, is rather old in this fast-paced market). So I decided to look at the recent job postings. As I read some of the position announcements, I felt a mix of frustration, fear and deflation. So many job descriptions look like a potentially good fit (i.e., I’m qualified), until I get to one or two things I don’t have specific experience in doing (i.e., maybe I’m not qualified). For example, I’ve never done international travel arranging or even planning, per se. Even though I know I could learn to do these, might enjoy the learning, and even do them well, part of me feels intimidated at the prospect.

I’m no longer young and might not be seen as someone ready to eagerly learn new skills and looking for a career. (I’m always willing to learn new things and actually prefer to stretch my horizons, but I’m not looking for a “career” in office work.) I’ve felt so overwhelmed by this whole job-hunting process that I’m often tired and feeling “highly motivated” (a popular requirement in job descriptions) is rarely how I feel.

Then there’s the list of other requirements emphasizing superior skills that feel all the more intimidating when I’m tired and reading descriptions that are clearly not my dream job: highly organized, strong attention to detail, excellent multi-tasking ability, highly punctual, strong written and verbal skills, enthusiastic admin to support a dynamic investigator, demanding and fast-paced environment, highly responsible…  That’s not even counting further requirements, such as the writing sample and three letters of recommendation to be submitted with the usual cover letter and resume in one description.

In short, best intentions aside, I soon felt overwhelmed and exhausted after reading only a few position announcements. That, in itself, was deflating.

I try to tell myself that I’m doing the best I can, given the circumstances and my experience. It doesn’t always help. So I cast about, thinking of what I was willing to do today and took a few small steps. I posted my updated resume on a job-search website and made it more searchable. I discovered that 33 employers had read my old resume, even though I didn’t know it (which tells me I needed a more impressive resume and/or profile). I later spent some time developing content for my consulting website. It’s a small start, but a start nonetheless. I even helped my aunt break up branches and scoop up leaves into containers for the compost recycling.

I’d like to put more energy into my job-hunting efforts, so I think I’m going to have to cut myself some slack when I don’t have the energy to tackle it like gang-busters and accept the fact that small steps, hopefully coming more often, do lead me in a helpful direction.

Action step(s):

  • Posted my updated resume on a job-search website.
  • Did more work developing my business website and plan.

Day 50 – Monday, Jan. 30th (50/316): Grace comes when I let go and stop rushing

Yesterday’s post helped me to see things differently. There’s something in the process of journaling and reflecting on what I’ve experienced that shifts my thinking, which is exactly why I’ve chosen to blog about this journey.

Usually it takes me a very long time from the moment I wake-up in the morning until I’m out the door. I’ve been looking for ways to streamline my mornings without making them an exercise in frantic rushing. It’s not that I stumble around in a fog or anything. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I have a lot to do between waking and leaving, besides which early mornings are also one of my best idea-hatching times. It can get distracting if I’m not careful.

After yesterday’s post, I’ve thought a lot about rushing. What makes me feel rushed. Why I tend to rush. Whether or not I even need to rush. What I discovered is that I tend to rush out of habit, out of a misperception of what’s important and necessary for my mornings, sometimes trying to do too much.

This morning, I decided to pay attention and make conscious choices all morning long. From the moment I awoke at 4:44 (much more fun to see on the clock than 4:45 or 4:50), I made a point of not letting my mind wander. I normally appreciate the creative ideas that come to me while I’m doing all my usual morning, getting-ready stuff, but I also realize that it can eat up a chunk of time I don’t have to spare.

After an impressively efficient morning of simply getting things done (helped by preparation of lunch the day before and having clothes laid out the night before), I was leaving the driveway at 6:53! Whoo hoo! The best part was that I did not feel rushed! And not only did I find parking near work, I was blessed with the “sweet spot”: the one parking space directly in front of the door that is not metered – close, free parking all day long!

At work, things were a little wacky. My computer refused to speak to the server to enable me to print. (Not helpful.) Yet, surprisingly, I was able to set things up using my colleague’s computer before she got there so that I had plenty of no-printer-needed, “manual labor” tasks to do. This turned out to be especially helpful since the computer repair person was already scheduled to come in and we ended up totally updating my system software. I did little, if any, computer work from noon on.

I also wonder if the way I began my day at work may have contributed to what became an unexpectedly productive day given the circumstances. I arrived at work at 7:05, but took the first 55 minutes I was there to attend to personal stuff. I addressed some online “paperwork” for my student loans. I wrote my tithe check and put a check for one of my storage units in the mail. (Payday is actually not till tomorrow, but I want my storage check to arrive on time.) I even started this post (though barely) before “clocking in” at 8:00.

In other words, I took time for myself, attending to some necessary personal business, at the beginning of my day, rather than expecting to have the time (and energy) at the end of the day. It felt good. Once (officially) at work, I found myself getting an unexpected task done. I went through a stack of miscellaneous notes – from September! – that had simply been ignored for more pressing tasks. It was mostly silly stuff, like updating addresses in the database. Yet it had been forgotten in the rush of other work during the ensuing months. It felt really good to clear out that tiny spot on my desk!

There is something worth noticing about rushing and choosing not to rush. I discovered I can be efficient and get things done in a timely manner without feeling like I have to hurry. In doing so, I make room for grace, even in the simple things like clearing out a small stack of neglected notes.

Action step(s):

  • Stayed focused and made efficient use of my time this morning.
  • Attended to student loan paperwork, wrote my tithe check, and mailed a payment.
  • Cleared out some neglected papers on my desk at work.

Day 49 – Sunday, Jan. 29th (49/317): Permission to Rant

The odd thing about a journey of introspection and self-discovery is that one lives constantly in a state of time warp – or at least I do. It feels like it’s been days since I last posted, yet it was less than 48 hours ago that I began my last post. It feels like so much has happened, even though seemingly “nothing” has happened.

Yesterday, I spent the day doing one of the things I love most: InterPlay.* One of my favorite InterPlay leaders provided us with a wholly nourishing day of “Deepening.” The funny thing is, I can’t always tell whether what I’ve experienced has been deep or profound. I only know it is what my body and my body-spirit needed, and for this I am so grateful.

During our extended warm-up time, I spent a few minutes enjoying some gentle stretching, squirming, floor-time, made unexpectedly cuddly by the soft scarf I wore and loosing my hair from its band. It occurred to me that one reason it felt so nourishing was because I spend so much of my week feeling rushed.

I rush in the mornings to fix both lunch and breakfast before I begin what I hope will be a quiet, reflective time with my journal, my Bible(s) and God. I’d rather not rush before such time, but the clock is ticking.

Then I rush to get out the door to avail myself of the limited, better parking spaces where I feel safe leaving my car. At work, there are always multiple things that need my attention, many of them yesterday. (That’s why it’s so important for me to find a place to work where I like the people and respect the company. I am more than willing to work hard, but I want to feel like my work is serving a good cause, a worthy purpose, something that reaches out to the world in a healthy, even healing way.) So I rush at work to get some of the too-many things done.

Then, if I’m running errands after work, I rush to do them before the traffic gets heavy. I do not enjoy the fullness of rush-hour traffic. I prefer to find fullness in other things – like InterPlay, and gentle, fluid squirming on a lovely wooden floor, in a cocoon of music.

The InterPlay day became playful, satisfying, and nourishing as we babbled and danced and witnessed. The best part was my opportunity to rant before witnesses.

There is something deeply satisfying about being able to rant as loudly, as softly, as freely as I did while having the freedom to move or dance or be as still as I wanted. (I was rarely still.) It was completely wonderful and wonderfully liberating just to say, before witnesses, how hard this journey is. And it is hard. It is very hard at times.

I hold that in most of the time when people ask. Most people ask how you’re doing because they genuinely care, but few people ask at a time and in a way that invites honest sharing. Not everyone wants the honest answer, even if it’s brief. But yesterday, I was free to do and say whatever I wanted, whatever I needed – and I needed to rant. I didn’t even know it till it started pouring out of me!

It was a blessing. A gift. An honest expression of what was up for me in that moment, and that was enough.

Our delightful leader suggested I blog about ranting because most of us don’t feel free to rant. We are seldom given permission to rant about all that’s not working comfortably in our lives. We hold it in. We bury it. We even forget it’s there at times – until it erupts in ways that can be unpleasant, even horrible. If you’ve ever held anything in that you need to let out, you’ve probably discovered how unfun it can be when it finally bursts out of you unannounced.

So, I encourage you to find a place where you can rant out loud. If at all possible, have one or more witnesses who can be there to support you, to give you the space to speak what’s on your mind and be heard by them. They need say nothing. You need say nothing once you are done – unless you want to say something and want to invite their noticings. This is about affirming your right to feel what you feel and not have to hold it in. And sometimes, all you need is permission to rant. So, go for it! You have my permission!

p.s. I’m going to spend a little less time worrying about the word-length of my posts and give myself permission to do other things with that time. 🙂

Action step(s):

  • Giving myself the gift of an InterPlay day.
  • Ranting about all the stuff that’s hard right now!
  • Spending this afternoon cooking, to make my morning lunch preparation a little easier for this week.

* Visit http://interplay.org to learn more about InterPlay.

Day 47 – Friday, Jan. 27th (47/319): From defeat to action!

Last night I fell into the pit. I continue to be baffled at how I can feel hopeful, encouraged or even confident one minute or one day, then feel so utterly defeated the next when seemingly nothing has happened. After literally sobbing through a release of deep emotions, I was reminded of one of the things that helps me through such times. In fact, in this time of deep challenges, I have been pausing more often to think about what has helped me before and what assets I have available to me.

One of the things that helps me when I feel knocked over by circumstances or difficult emotions is the Bach flower remedies. Last night, I listened to my body-spirit’s inclination. Rather than Elm (one of my favorites – elm for feeling overwhelmed) or Rock Rose (for fear), I picked up the Sweet Chestnut and read the label to remind myself of its attributes. (Some remedies I know well; others not so much.) The label says that Sweet Chestnut is to bring peace of mind and optimism “when anguish overwhelms you” and it seems like there’s no way out. Sometimes I don’t even realize how I’m feeling until someone else articulates it for me and that was exactly what I was feeling in that moment. I went to bed soon after taking a dose and was so wiped out, my light was out less than ten minutes later.

This morning I awoke feeling a bit uncertain as to what I was feeling, which was unexpected. Often when deep emotions come up at night and I acknowledge and release them, I wake up feeling energized, more confident. That didn’t really happen this time. Instead, I woke up and continued to listen and consider what I have been noticing lately.

At the job-search workshops I’ve attended, I’ve heard over and over that we need to “sell” ourselves to potential employers because there’s so much competition. We have to impress them with why we are not just a great candidate, but really the best candidate and the right candidate for them.

To be honest, I despise having to “sell” myself to anyone. In part, because I feel tend to feel inadequate (classic ACA syndrome), but also because I am not one of those people who’s good at putting on a bright smile and pretending to be eager and confident unless that’s how I actually feel. The notion of “pretending” in order to impress a potential employer (in the sense of pretending you’re confident and capable even if you’re terribly nervous vs. lying-pretending) seems phony to me. If I can’t be honest about my skills, abilities and interest in your company, and if you aren’t impressed with the real me, then I’m clearly not the right person for you and you’re not the right employer for me. So, I’ve resisted this idea and I’ve realized just how much I thought that’s how I have to approach job hunting. Today, I decided I don’t have to pretend I’m something I’m not – on paper or in an interview. (May there soon be interviews!)

It occurred to me that I hadn’t begun doing some of the things I had recently committed to doing. In fact, I’ve been so stuck in feeling stuck that I’d forgotten to look past that to what I can do. I realized one simple thing I can do is to start asking people if they know of any jobs for which I’m qualified. I realized I need to find someone I can talk to on a regular basis about this – like a ‘coach’ or support person, someone who’s willing to encourage me on a regular basis (who doesn’t charge a fee for their services). I began affirming my willingness and openness to good things happening that are beyond my control. I began trusting God to bring me what I need. And I remembered to not try to tackle all of my problems at once.

And you know what? Things started to happen today. Small things, maybe, but significant things. A colleague at work asked me how I was and I ended up telling her how much difficulty I was having even looking for possible jobs. We ended up chatting awhile and, even though I could feel a part of me tense up at some of her ideas, there must have been something vital in my speaking of this to another person, because something shifted in me. (I love those healthy shifts!) I did more this afternoon toward opening the door to employment opportunities that I’ve done in the past several weeks. These are small steps, but worthy ones.

I am so grateful for the way this day unfolded. 🙂

Action step(s):

  • Called and left a message at a free healthcare organization to seek support for my thyroid care.
  • Called the staffing agency to get me on their radar at another nearby location.
  • Left messages for three different people to talk about chaplaincy (one of the vocations I feel drawn to consider).
  • Spent some time working on my resume and gathering missing pieces that may be required for online applications.
  • Received a return call from one of these people, enjoyed a lovely conversation, and set up a time to talk the week after next.

Day 44 – Tuesday, Jan. 24th (44/322): Fledgling networking effort

I confess, I’m feeling rather pleased with myself tonight. Not in an arrogant way, but in a way that appreciates my stepping out and doing something I have been afraid to do for, well, forever really. Or so it seems.

There was an event scheduled for this afternoon at one of the seminaries I attended. I had made note of it on my calendar in case I decided to go. When I noticed it again yesterday, I thought, Ooh – maybe there’s free food! So I checked my email for more information. It turns out the dinner options were to pay $9 for the available meal or bring your own. I still had only $3.97 in my purse. Hmm… I let various scenarios roll around in my mind about what I could do for dinner in the BYOD category.

This morning, I decided to dress for the occasion in case I went. (Usually I just wear jeans to work.) I found my plastic bag of quarters (and a few other coins) minted in the past decade or so. I don’t really collect coins; there was just something fun about noticing and trying to collect one of each of the different state designs. Now it served as an emergency stash. I pulled out $2.85, added the weight to my wallet and bought something at the taco shop on my way to the event.

Somewhere in the past 24 hours or so, the idea came to mind of attending this event as an opportunity to network. It’s a location where I feel comfortable and people with whom I share similar ideals and interests. It’s also a place where I regularly meet people who might be able to help me as I move into my new career.

As it turns out, I gained far more from this experience than I expected:

1 – Just mentioning my certificate program (Sexuality and Religion) sparks conversation. Most people react with anything from confusion to amusement to curiosity – all of which are fodder for talking about the work I want to do. I’ll definitely remember this when I want to network around ministry opportunities.

2 – I met a woman (“AC”) who is doing a wonderful arts-based ministry and has three different organizations as a part of her support system. This is a model I have thought about a number of times, since what I want to do doesn’t fit in the typically available job descriptions. We talked a bit and exchanged contact information. I’m very interested in learning more about how she coordinated her ministry and checking out her website as I continue developing my own.

3 – AC gave me the opportunity to see the value of networking in action. During the course of the dinner conversation, someone brought up a concern about their worship space and suggested bringing AC in for a consultation. Voila! A potential client – just from networking!

4 – I discovered that I might have something to offer AC! When we talked about websites, I mentioned my blog, which led to talking about some things she didn’t know that I’ve learned. Another great reason for networking!

5 – I heard lots of information that I’ve mentally catalogued for future reference and made some new acquaintances. One person has an online book being edited and hopes to soon market it on Amazon.com. I learned something about an issue I’ve not had the time to study more closely. Plus there were many other good ideas shared.

6 – Best of all, or perhaps more importantly, I discovered how easily “networking” can happen, how much I can learn simply by listening to others, and how low my confidence is right now.

You may wonder about this last observation – a “best of all”?! I believe it’s vital for me to be aware of what’s going on in my inner world and discovering just how little confidence I have was a helpful noticing. Listening to people speak with such confidence and enthusiasm about their passions is the very thing I want to be able to do. In some ways, it’s a growing edge for me – I can feel quite passionate about this work, but when it comes to articulating it to someone else, I start to trip and stumble. In other ways, it helps me to recognize the difficulty of my present struggle.

This journey isn’t about pretending I’m not struggling or trying to push through by ignoring the painful places. It’s about being willing to notice what’s going on, change what I can, and support myself throughout the process. Like the Serenity Prayer says: I need to accept the things about myself I cannot change – which includes recognizing what’s true and what’s not; I need to change those things I can that no longer serve me well – which takes willingness, practice and patience; and I need the wisdom to know the difference – which means letting go and letting God show me what work I need to do and how to best do it.

I’m going to need more practice at networking before it feels comfortable, but tonight was a great start. Once again, I feel grateful and so blessed!

Useful step(s):

  • Stepped out of my comfort zone and went to an event primarily to practice networking.
  • Let go expectations around this evening.
  • Introduced myself to two more people just before I left expressly to practice networking.

Wednesday, Jan. 18th (38/328): Climbing trees at 92? (or, something’s changing in me)

Something is happening here. Somewhere along the way in the past day or two, pieces fell into place for me and I began to see things in a new way.

Words on a postcard, below an event announcement: “Fear not!” A timely, helpful reminder. Dolphin reminding me to breathe, to let my breath release deep emotions, even to move past them. The gradually unfolding realization that each piece of a job search can and probably should happen incrementally, step by step, without forcing, without a sense of urgency, without a misperceived need to hurry just because my ‘pocketbook’ is slim.

Today I set myself the task of checking out a website that gathers position announcements from other websites. Even as I planned to check it out, I kept letting go and reminding myself that I might find nothing. More importantly, that I did not need to search endlessly trying to find something at this moment. The job for me might not even be there yet. It might not be ready for me; I might not be ready for it. Maybe, for now, it’s about practicing the process of doing the work.

It was an important thing for me to realize that whatever I do, like searching for job postings or checking my Linked In account, I need to begin to do it regularly. Instead of trying to do the occasional, intense session, I will be better served to do my work briefly, more often, incrementally. It will also be more gentle that way, if the fear tries to surface.

How come I didn’t see this before? I think it’s because I was too focused on the fear and couldn’t see anything past it. Fear tends to work that way.

Later, when I was virtually falling asleep at barely 2:00 in the afternoon, I took something out to the kitchen to work on, just to get out of my overly warm room. From there I became sidetracked by watching my uncle pruning the fig tree. I was wrong about his age, by the way. He isn’t 91 at all. He’s 92 1/2! If I can figure out how to put up a photo of him climbing in the fig tree as he was finishing the pruning, I will. I know you won’t believe me otherwise. 🙂

When I loaded the photos I took onto my computer, I started noticing a whole lot of pics I don’t want or need. I started doing some “housecleaning.” I removed a lot of duplicate photos. I released a lot of photos that now seem odd to me to have taken in the first place. Many were of the piles of boxes in whichever apartment as I was moving in or moving out of. A number of photos were taken “in case” I needed proof of something (like the condition of an apartment). I deleted over 200 photos! It feels good to have done this small clean-up task.

When I grow up, I want to be productive like my aunt and uncle. (I captured her on digital “film” today as well, raking up oak leaves. She’s young – only 79.)   I want to practice moderation in many things, the way I see them do. And I want to live each day, if not to the fullest, at least in a way that leaves me feeling good about what I experienced and what I did – or didn’t – do.

Action step(s):

  • Opened the mail I picked up yesterday and the mail I picked up week before last; enjoyed the opportunity to throw things in the recycle container!
  • Searched the job-search website to see what I might find
  • Called the staffing agency to make sure I’m staying on their radar
  • Strived to keep an open mind when a new friend suggested a kind of work from which I tend to flee – I’ll at least learn more before deciding
  •  “Helped” my uncle by pulling the shorn fig branches out of the way so he wouldn’t need to climb up and down the ladder; helped my aunt gather oak leaves
  • Deleted over 200 unneeded pics from my computer
  • Tried my first photo inserts on this blog (although I have to learn how to control their placement a little better)

Tuesday, Jan. 17th (37/329): Job Talk…Just for today

Monday morning began with reflections on the previous day. It felt like the light had started to shine in the darkness of my recent experiences of feeling so overwhelmed. A little later in the morning, it felt good to go to the women’s InterPlay class and have the opportunity to dance, connect, babble and tell stories. I talked about this blog, about a new blog/website I’m beginning to create, even a little about my dreams. It felt good to finally register the new blog/website and make a start. Good – and a little bit scary.

The shift felt positive, transforming even. Later, I organized my handouts from the various job-search workshops I’ve attended. The rest of the day I relaxed and started thinking about what concrete steps I might take toward seeking employment.

This morning, I awoke and checked to see if there was anything in particular I needed to do to prepare for a meeting with my employment specialist today. Guilt and anxiety started creeping rapidly into my day. The coming meeting reminded me of the work I need to be doing, not just learning about doing. I had precious little to report.

I chose one of my favorite verses to use for my first reflection: Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:14 (NKJV) I needed a sense of courage; anxiety was gaining ground.

I noticed something as I wrote the verse in my journal. It says that God will strengthen my heart – not me. It’s not something I do myself; it’s something only a Power greater than myself can do for me. I took some comfort in that. Which is good, because I felt thoroughly deflated later in the day after my meeting with the employment specialist.

It seemed like I had done virtually nothing since I had last met with her. I hadn’t submitted any resumés or job applications or done any informational interviews. I hadn’t even called the people I know I want to talk to about their experiences in chaplaincy, to see what possibilities it might hold for me.

On the other hand, as I reported what I could, I realized I did do a few things. I did scout out job possibilities on Craigslist a time or two. I did get on the university job listing site and see if there was anything there for me. I did talk briefly to two people about wanting to meet with them to talk about chaplaincy work. I did check out a lead one of them gave me (though it didn’t get me anywhere – yet). And I did receive a call from a staffing agency about a position (I unfortunately wasn’t qualified to fill), which enabled me to let them know I am available for work.

Yet I completely discounted, even dismissed the tiny steps I have taken. The times I looked for employment possibilities were dismissed because I didn’t find anything that led me to submit an application. At the university, there were no positions for which I was qualified that fit. I haven’t followed up with either person to whom I mentioned chaplaincy. And I still need to call the staffing agency regularly or I will fall off their radar again.

In short, I may not have done as much as I’d like, but I’ve done more than I thought.

Earlier this evening, I discovered I have not talked about the one thing I was determined to talk about every week – job hunting. It’s time to begin both talking about it and directing more of my energy into it. I’ve nudged my thyroid medication back up toward what was normal before the stressful move the end of November and that may help with the physical energy. As for the emotional energy…

I rediscovered my “Just For Today” Al-Anon bookmark. I’ve been carrying it around all day, reading and rereading the first statement: Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.* It’s helping me remember that I cannot do everything all at once.

Action step(s):

  • Met with employment specialist
  • Registered a new blog/website to begin developing the consulting work I want to do
  • Did some careful meal planning to stretch the tiny amount of money I have left for the month
  • Mostly, I’ve trusted God a little more by letting go more often in the past two days

*This bookmark and other Al Anon literature are available at http://www.al-anon.alateen.org and at Al Anon meetings in your area.

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