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

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26 Days Until…the Beginning? – Day 340 (Thu – Nov 8)

In what was a radical reversal of yesterday morning’s driving experience, today there were so few cars on the freeway when I drove onto it that I wondered how I could have missed the traffic during what should have been an expanding rush hour. Then I noticed a “herd” of cars a little ways ahead of me and a “herd” of cars further behind me. A moment of grace, “merging” onto a freeway when there are no cars nearby with which to merge.

As I drove by the location of yesterday’s accident, there were several large mounds huddled together, covered in black plastic. The battered cars? Other wreckage? It made the contrast between yesterday’s virtually non-moving clog and today’s spacious openness all the more apparent.

I arrived at work peacefully, which was a pleasant way to begin a day that became wildly busy for me. It occurs to me now that I was too busy to experience the vague depression I felt earlier this week – even just yesterday. The contrast between the weekend with my trans friends and its many conversations about things that are deeply meaningful to me leaves my work at my contract job feeling inadequate, disappointingly focused on a sort of bottom line of wanting to “better serve” their customers in order to boost the net profit. It’s quite a different mindset than my other job with a wonderful and small non-profit organization whose purpose is to nourish people. Although my hourly income is better at my temp job, it doesn’t feel purposeful the way my other job does.

Tuesday night, shortly before bed, I was searching for something to read. I wasn’t in the mood for a fiction book and I didn’t feel drawn to any of my Al Anon literature. Then one book caught my attention. I found it this summer in one of the boxes of discards outside the library: The Courage to Be Rich, by Suze Orman. I felt drawn to this book, in part because finances are an ongoing concern of mine. I never suspected how timely this book would be for me right now. I’ve often heard, When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I must be ready.

The second paragraph in the book talks about courage being the most important quality one needs in order to change one’s life. Orman talks about her own experience and the point at which she asked herself if she could find the courage to change. I had an O-M-G experience when I encountered that particular phrase – especially because she’s talking about changing how we think and how we see ourselves in many ways, not just around our financial affairs.

One of the many places I have highlighted already reads, “It takes courage to ask for what you want. And it takes courage to live honestly, wisely; true to yourself—and true to your desire for more” (from the “Introduction: The Soul of Courage,” p 4). She goes on to say that there isn’t anything wrong with wanting more and that we shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting more.

In the first chapter she dives head first into those areas with which I’m already familiar in many areas of my life: fear, shame, and anger. I don’t think I’ve noticed before just how much fear and shame, and even anger I suspect, I have around money and my financial situation. But the questions she poses started helping me to see that I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s helpful that she classifies how we feel about money as a reflection of our “current truths” about it. If these are only “current truths,” that means I can begin to change them as I delve into this work.

I’m still taking all this in – there’s so much to digest. And I’m only on page 14! It dawns on me just now that this also speaks to one of my identified character weaknesses from my Step 6 inventory: deprivation thinking. My whole life I have never felt I deserved more than what I had at any particular moment. I never felt worthy. This book is challenging me to examine those beliefs and to get to the heart of how I see myself. I can tell this will not be a quick read and that it will get me digging deeper than I expected into this area of my life.

The grace I experienced this morning going to work seems like a reflection of the way God works in our lives. It leaves me wondering what God has in store for me around finances and housing, around work and ministry, around having someone with whom to share my life. Changing my beliefs about myself seems like a good way to open my side of the ‘door.’

I wonder how far I’ll be able to get in 26 days…

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.

Day 136 (Wed/Apr 25): Taking a moment to appreciate the little things

My "kitchen" - at least it's indoors

I live in an area where there are a lot of people living on the streets. There are few places I walk where I don’t encounter someone asking for help. Sometimes I offer a dollar or two; sometimes I don’t. It depends on what feels right at the moment. At the very least, I try to offer a smile and perhaps a caring remark.

Yesterday, when I was walking on a main street after leaving my car for some repairs, a young man barely out of (or not yet out of) his teens asked for 50 cents. I was in a rush and taken by surprise, and apologetically said no. His face stayed with me and I prayed for him as I rode public transportation to work. I dubbed him “Michael.”

I have options

The encounter got me to remembering a woman I used to see when I was a kid. At some point I learned her name was Mary. Mary wore a voluminous, light brown, tent-shaped coat, winter or summer, which I now suspect may have covered her entire wardrobe. I knew she had no place to live and that was a mystery to me back then. Now that I live in an area with so many homeless people, the image of Mary has often come to mind. I can still see her standing on the street near the liquor store, across from the gas station and an auto parts store. I have wondered what may have happened to her.

The strain of constantly peering at the computer for days on end has left my eyes strained and irritated. I

It's not much, but so much more than some

decided to take a few minutes this morning to soothe them with a warm, wet washcloth. That simple act of running hot tap water over the washcloth led me to think about Mary and Michael and so many others, and the countless little things we take for granted. I have learned to appreciate many things I take for granted in recent years, as I have needed to move from place to place, sometimes house-sitting, sometimes staying with family or friends as an act of grace, sometimes being able to actually pay for my own place. But this morning, I thought of even the most basic things with renewed appreciation:

Access to hot tap water, for everything from washing dishes and showering to the simple things, like creating a warm compress for my eyes. Microwave ovens, toaster ovens and regular ovens, too. A bed to sleep in. Fresh water to drink. A refrigerator in which to put food that would otherwise spoil.

It does the job

Lights in the rooms to enable me to see, to work, to feel safe. A roof over my head. A bank account – no matter how low or high the balance at any given moment, right now I’m appreciating the ability to have one.

Shoes for my feet – in fact, having choices about what to put on my feet, knowing they are all in good condition. The choice to let go of my favorite ones when they have worn out. Clothes and the spaces to store the ones I’m not wearing, the ones I don’t need to wear.

Food. Music. Transportation. Family. Friends. Places to feel safe. Moments of quiet…

I'm safe and warm at night

There is so much in life to be grateful for, even when the going is hard. Today I’m grateful for the little things, as well as the bigger ones.

Big and Small Steps:

  • Allowing myself to ignore certain phone calls, knowing they would derail my serenity and disrupt my work.
  • Making a (small for them, good-sized for me) payment toward that “debt” – they can accept it or not.
  • Attended a Debtors Anonymous meeting Sunday.

Noticings:

  • That the step/stair exercises I was doing were actually triggering the discomfort in my low back. (Whoops!…Rats! Gotta find something else to do for exercise.)
  • How much easier it is to keep my serenity when I choose the time and place for difficult phone conversations.
  • How much more important my own self-care is becoming to me, and…
  • How much I’m beginning to consider the “big picture,” if you will, of my life by seeing beyond my immediate circumstances, especially in terms of finances.
  • How much better I felt this morning after I rolled back over and let myself return to sleep, even though my alarm awakened me only an hour later. 🙂

Day 132 (Sat/Apr 21): From persistence to derailed in one short phone call…

I realize I am simply not having enough time lately to write the kind of posts I like to do. So, I am giving myself permission to write some mini-posts. There is just too much happening to not need to talk about it.

Yesterday, I started a post and I probably need to read it to hear the reminders in it for myself. As you can see, it never made it to the site. So, I’m including it here. But first I’ll begin with the derailing part…

My cell phone rang. “Restricted” displayed. Against my better judgment, I answered. After all, my aunt and uncle have their number blocked… It was the creditor I mention below. They’re starting to get pushy. I’m not willing to give them the chunk of money they want. I don’t know what to do right this moment. And my body reacts will all those unpleasant chemicals that scream “AUGH!!!!”

For now, I keep shaking out my arms and jumping up to do some kicking and other “thrusty” movements (as I learned in InterPlay). I’m grateful to be at work at a place where I can do this.

I also cling tightly to my faith and my Al Anon program, reminding myself to simply thing about what the “next right thing” might be. When I slow it down enough, it helps me to manage the unmanageable. I know I’m not the only one who goes through this. It’s just that I feel so alone when it’s happening on that visceral level that shifts me from serene to survival in a split second…

So, I take a deep breath…let it out with a(n audible) sigh…and remind myself that this too shall pass and God is always there for me.

Now, this is what I began writing yesterday/Friday at lunch (and I’m not even going to read it or proof this post – “Uncle!”):

This morning, my reflection time centered around a wonderful passage from Luke (11:5-13). It’s about persistence (“shameless persistence,” according to the New Living Translation). I feel so grateful for this passage and the reflection with it in my Life Recovery Bible (a 12-step edition, with helpful reflections related to the steps, to the Serenity Prayer and to other recovery themes). This particular reflection was on the 7th Step – humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. It talks about the importance of asking for help when we need it – and I realized that’s exactly what I did yesterday.

The last couple of days I’ve been pretty stressed about my credit card debt situation. At a time when I finally am receiving some decent (albeit temporary) income, it seems I am getting resistance to my desire to continue making payments. The person at the collection agency “offered” me the option of giving them $500, then continuing with my small monthly payments (for a period of time not clearly defined) to bring things to a kind of “halt,” where they would cease their more aggressive efforts to collect on the debt. Sounds good, at least from their perspective.

The thing is, I’m wrestling (and starting to get ahead, finally) with the guilt of knowing I actually could pay if I was willing to sacrifice other needs – and am not willing to do that. My car visited the auto-hospital yesterday for a check-up. She received minor servicing and a diagnosis of front brakes in imminent need of replacement, a squeaky belt in need of same, and a leak in the oil pan (which is fortunately still covered by my extended warranty). The brakes and the belt replacement are going to run close to, you guessed it, the exact amount the collector would like me to hand over to them.

I totally reached the frazzled, stressed, can’t-figure-out-which-end-is-up stage yesterday afternoon. I had headed to a Debtors Anonymous (DA) meeting Wednesday, only to find the parking lot filled with both cars and homeless people. (The meeting is at a church that ministers to the homeless.) I was running late anyway and found myself unwilling to leave my car unattended with all my stuff in it. (It’s sadly acting as a storage extension at the moment.) So yesterday, when the fuses in my mind were about to blow, I tried calling a friend from my Al Anon group who also attends DA meetings, but didn’t reach her. Next I texted my sponsor (who also attends DA herself) to see if she might be available for a phone chat.

We connected later and I’m so glad we did. She affirmed my intention to take care of myself and my vehicle first. She reminded me of the progress I’ve made. (Always helpful to hear.) And she applauded the fact that I’m finding out about my options and learning what I need to know if I have to go the worst-case route. (I refuse to use the “B” word on my blog. If you use it, I’ll edit it! ;-)) We talked for almost an hour and it was amazing how helpful it was just to be able to talk to someone about how stressed I was feeling.

That ends what I wrote yesterday. Today, I’ll simply leave it there. I enjoyed a lot of serenity for about 36 hours. Now I’ll look toward rediscovering it again as I wrestle with how to respond to this morning’s unwanted phone call.

Thank you for being there… Things are kind of hard right now…

Day 120 (Mon/Apr 9): Kipping

Some things take time to bear fruit

Have you ever done gymnastics – particularly on the uneven parallel bars? Well, it’s been a hundred years since I’ve done that and I was never particularly great at it. But I loved it anyway and had a great time trying to do as much as I could…and as much as I was brave enough to try.I remember learning to kip on the unevens. It’s that move you see the Olympic and other televised gymnasts do with such grace. They make it look so easy, as if anyone can do it by just leaping toward the lower bar, hands outstretched to grab it, swinging under it, then doing a sort of abrupt snap back with the arms and hips (the “kip”) and, voila!, you’re on the bar with your hips at hand level, ready for your next move. There’s only one teensy little catch: your untrained body has not a clue as to how to actually make this move!

I remember trying and trying and trying, seemingly countless times, but my hips and legs and everything else couldn’t seem to get the knack of that sudden movement that seemed so effortless when I saw others do it. Since it involves arms and hips and legs and hands all working in one coordinated movement, it seemed like different parts of my body would get their particular part, but trying to get everything working together felt impossible. Then I almost got it. And once I almost got it, I got more of it – until suddenly my body understood what it was supposed to do and I could do it!

Patience has its rewards

The thing is, there were too many little parts to this move to be able to mentally teach myself how to do it. My body had to experience it to get it. Once my body had experienced it, then it got a little easier and easier. (Perhaps more accurately in my case, it got less and less awkward. ;-))

I suppose I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I learned to kip because there are certain things in life that I just don’t seem to “get” how to do yet. They involve lots of steps or pieces or bits of knowledge that need to come together to do them with ease. Thankfully, not too many of them are the kind of thing that don’t work until all the mechanics are in place. What a relief! I don’t have a set of unevens to practice on.

Around financial matters, this morning I had an unexpected piece fall into place. With my usual monthly paycheck having landed at the end of the month, along with a decent-sized check from the temp agency, I had a little breathing room. It didn’t feel like I was spending much, yet when I checked my bank balance this weekend, I was startled at how little I had left. What the heck happened, I asked myself.

This morning I discovered that nothing “happened.”

As I wrote in my journal, reflecting on this seeming insanity, I found myself using the word “able.” I’ve been able to catch up on some of my grocery shopping. I’ve been able to buy a few clothing items. I’ve been able to restock some of my nutritional supplements. And so on. All of a sudden I realized that what I had been experiencing with regard to purchasing some of these (needed) items was what would be normal if I had a regular, full-time income. None of the purchases I was making in the past couple of weeks were unusual, indulgent (if you don’t count a few extra snack foods) or extravagant. They were simply the things I have routinely been buying, plus a few of the things I have not been able to buy in recent months.

Wow! What a difference it made to be able to recognize this. I still put on the brakes and want to move slowly with regard to how I continue to spend, but I gotta tell you – it sure feels good to know I was simply taking care of myself in what shouldbe a normal, healthy fashion.

So I continue to remind myself...

Big and Small Steps:

  • Returned the phone message from the person who called in an “attempt to collect a debt.” (Admittedly, I was relieved that I got her voicemail. ;-))
  • Checked on my student loan status and was relieved to discover all but one (which I knew about) are still in deferral for a few months. Whew!
  • Gently informed someone when she (unintentionally) left me feeling dismissed through a poor choice of words.

Noticings:

  • How quickly the sensation of hunger produces mild, but nonetheless obvious feelings of anxiety.
  • How palpable the shift was while journaling this morning, when the fourth “able” helped me see things from an entirely different perspective.
  • How much I long to have more time and internet access to explore other possibilities, like resources for other people’s photos to use. (I’d love to have a pic of a gymnast doing a kip to go with this blog, for example.)

Day 119 (Sun/Apr 8): Ups and downs, and wondering where the Easter eggs are hidden

I noticed the tension (and pain) in the tops of my shoulders yesterday, anxiety that sprang up when a phone call answered yielded nothing but silence, even though I was at work and such “non-calls” have occurred almost regularly in recent weeks. The neurotic part of me shifted from wondering if it was someone trying to scope out when people are in the office to wondering if it was a creditor trying to find me to serve some papers – even though that sort of thing wouldn’t happen until “normal” channels were already exhausted. It’s the kind of paranoia that tempts me to stop automatically identifying myself when I answer the phone at work, and I didn’t like feeling that way.

Maybe if I keep talking about it here, it’ll help me sort things out. Maybe you’ll have bits of wisdom to offer when you read this.

It dawned on me yesterday, that it’s okay if I make an occasional mistake. I caught myself worrying about whether a particular task had been done “correctly” (i.e., perfectly, all the pieces, no mistakes). Then I saw the ridiculousness of worrying about it, since anything that might have been missed could easily be corrected. I’m not sure I’ve realized just how often I do this – worry that I haven’t done a “perfect” job. I think it’s time to start letting go and recognize that I don’t have to be perfect or do things perfectly to be good at my job.

Odd that I never noticed just how much of a “thing” this has been for me. Because it wasn’t to the level of “obsessive” or “compulsive,” I didn’t realize there was this underlying anxiety around doing everything right. (How appropriate that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice suddenly came on the radio as I was experiencing these feelings! It’s how I feel when I’m busily trying to catch up on work and wondering if I’m doing it well.)

The past several days have been a strange mix of the space and freedom to be myself in the house, with my aunt and uncle gone, and anxiety as I face my financial challenges and have no one to divert my attention when I come home from work. Their absence is a mixed blessing.

This morning, I awoke later than usual, grateful for the ease of my Sunday schedule. I was just about finished with my journal reflection, when I realized I had time to make the 9:30 service, rather than the 10:45. (Yay for Easter Sundays, with extra services!) It was a delightful mix of “traditional” and “contemporary” music, with the bell choir opening (love it!) and the traditional (but robeless!) choir singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ (awesome!) during the first part of the service. The remainder had the contemporary group that I enjoy so much. It was nice to have both a wonderful and earlier beginning to my Sunday – especially because it’s “catch-up” day for me with regard to household tasks. (I’ve been pretty lazy about some things with nobody else around.)

This time alone also leaves me a lot of “think time.” As a result, I’m puzzling over something. I’ve worked 40 hours a week most of my adult life until six and a half years ago when I came to grad school. Now, for this past week and this coming week, I’m working 46 hours each week, Monday thru Saturday, and I have felt tired much of the time, with little energy for anything beyond work. The two weeks after this, I may work even longer hours, though I haven’t quite figured out how (or if) that will work. My question is, why is this so exhausting?

I spent my first four years in grad school preparing for a job that requires 50, 60 or even more hours per week and I was looking forward to it. Then I switched tracks and prepared for a vocation without a clear structure to it. I presumed I might have a “regular” job and pursue my vocational interests during evenings and weekends. When I talked about those interests with my sponsor the other day, she remarked how “alive” I was when I was talking about them. They are my passion! Which makes me wonder…

Will I have more energy to do the things I’m passionate about, regardless of my schedule? Is the exhaustion I feel now really all (or at least mostly) about the ongoing financial stress with no clear solution yet within sight? Am I deluding myself in believing I will have more energy when I am doing more of what excites and, well, energizes me? Or will even that be exhausting?

As I listen to the sounds and laughter of the Easter egg-hunt party next door, I wonder, where are my Easter eggs and what colors will they be?

Big and Small Steps:

  • Checked out some books at the library to help me figure out some of my financial options.
  • Let my choice of service times this morning be determined by how my morning went.
  • Caught up on lots of laundry (including my sheets and the new things I got the other day).

Noticings:

  • How readily body memories can be triggered around certain experiences, even if the mind is okay with things.
  • What a blessing gentle music can be when I’ve been feeling anxious.
  • How scattered my thoughts can be when I’m distressed and not having time, in that moment, to address my concerns.
  • What a delight energetic music can be when my energy is sagging! (Like Superman or Star Wars themes. :-))
  • How much food ends up in my mouth when I’m stressed…

Day 107 (Tue/Mar 27): Five days – God is up to something, a journey within the journey

Sometimes the gate to new places isn't easy to see

The past twelve hours have been rather interesting. I interviewed for a job helping “seniors” – being a companion, helping around the house, possibly running the occasional errand. I don’t know how suited I am for this kind of work. It’s hard to tell. But basically, I’ve landed work at another “temp agency.” Hmmm.

Then, a couple of hours later, while I was at work (at my regular job), I got a call from the (other) temp agency. They wanted to know if I would be interested in a job working 8:00-1:00, Monday through Friday. Then the eager recruiter presented the “exciting” news as to the name of the organization. When I said, “Who?” her amusement was obvious. It’s a (major?) sports team that pays its players big bucks. I asked her if I needed to like the particular sport… I did say she could submit my resumé. As I continued to think about it, I decided it would be more about whether or not I enjoyed working there (i.e., the people, the office, the atmosphere).

Look carefully and you might see the seeds for new possibilities

Still a few hours later, I ended up talking to one of my cousins. My aunt had told her earlier that day about my morning interview. So my cousin, who is doing the books for another care-providing company, put in a good word for me. They were interested to know if I might be available Saturday. (I’m actually not, this particular Saturday.) I told my cousin I wasn’t even certain this type of care-giving is my kind of work.

Then I asked how her situation was going. (She recently nearly lost a client while her husband had surgery and she couldn’t be in two places at once.) When I mentioned that I had wondered if there wasn’t something I could do to help out, we got to talking about my work experience. We’re going to get together and see if I know the program they use well enough to possibly work for them part-time.

Just last night I was reading more about the principle of release in Catherine Ponder’s book Open Your Mind to Receive. She made a statement that caught my attention: Elimination of something from your life is always an indication that something better is on the way (p. 26). In my conversation with my friend last night, I had discussed releasing some of my debts. It isn’t what I hoped to be doing, but it may be the necessary reality if I’m going to be able to move forward. As I read Ponder’s words, I noticed a shift already taking place in my thinking at the possibility of making these different choices around my finances. (Btw, do you have to actually have money to speak of “finances” and “financial affairs”? ;-))

Trust requires a willingness to try the unexplored

This morning, as I was writing my journal reflection, my financial situation was wandering around in the background of my mind. I was asking myself if the choices I’m considering are choices I can make with integrity. What came to mind was another time when I had a difficult decision to make and did not want to make a rash decision. It was a relationship and my choices around it would affect at least three people. I had acted hastily in a previous relationship and regretted it afterwards. I did not want to make the same mistake again. So I did my best and hung in there for some time. When it finally became clear that the relationship was not going to work, I knew my decision to leave would be the right one – and it was. It has been better for all concerned.

My overreaction to (another) call from one of my creditors last night helped me to see that things are not going to work out between us. I can’t give them what I don’t have and they no longer seem willing to accept what I can give them. This morning I recognized the same feelings I had years ago around that relationship: I have done the best I can, but if they are no longer willing to work with me, I may need to take a different course of action. I had been paying my credit card bills first and living on the “leftovers” for months before I couldn’t keep up the payments. Now it’s time to let go and let God guide me as to what to do.

I find it most intriguing that less than twenty-four hours after deciding to let go my well-intended (no-longer-acceptable) efforts, I have three (even four) possible job offers.

Yep, God is definitely up to something.

Maybe it's time to discover what's at the top of the stairs...

Big and Small Step(s):

  • Taking an interview, even though I’m not certain how good the fit. It reflects my desire to explore the possibilities God places before me. (Did I mention that this company had called me in response to an application I submitted in September?) (!)
  • Saying yes to the possibility of another temp opportunity (one that might last three months), recognizing that we can approach this on a trial basis and realizing I can ask for my “usual” pay rate.

Noticings:

  • How different – in a good way, a strong way – I feel, even as I’m considering a difficult financial choice. I have the confidence now that I lacked years ago to realize that I do have choices.
  • How much more confidence I had in myself at this interview…
  • How much underlying serenity I have, despite the uncertainty and changing landscape of my work life right now. Interesting… Nice. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One small step at a time

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

Noticings:

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

Action step(s):

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

Day 70 – Sunday, Feb. 19th (70/296): Unexpected grace

I’m noticing how quickly I start to feel depressed at any given moment these past couple of days. It’s a subtle depression; not the clinical kind. Still… Sometimes it manifests simply as a desire to be quiet. Sometimes it manifests as a lack of interest in doing anything in particular. Yet even when it’s the latter, it seems to have a purpose. Perhaps I’m meant to use this time to listen to my body and see what it has to tell me about this journey…

InterPlay Graduation

Timidly approaching the "hooplah" at an InterPlay graduation - green feathers everywhere!

  

After publishing my blog post Friday, about my aunt’s passing, and adding the picture of the two of us, I felt uplifted. It shifted the experience from sorrow to an appreciation of the time and relationship we had over the decades. I have had two photos of her as part of my changing desktop backgrounds. I have enjoyed seeing her face on a daily basis for the past few years. In a way, since I’ve known she was gradually making her way toward her Maker, I’ve been saying good-bye to her for some time. Soon I will celebrate my aunt and our relationship with my InterPlay friends. Wonderful things, fun things, any-things can happen at InterPlay!

Today I hurried to church to be on time for the next installment of the Islam class. I had finally sent an email to both the presenter and the pastor, expressing my concern about the tone being set. (My post last Sunday – Day 63 – expresses how disturbed I was over some of what was said. The reply, which I opened today, disturbs me even more…) As it happened, the presenter was ill and we had no adult ed class this Sunday. So, I found myself with an unexpected hour before the service.

Serendipitously, I had not brought anything to read or do. (I suffer from a touch of boredomphobia, so usually have something to read/do with me at all times.) I had fleetingly considered bringing my Courage to Change with me, in case I had some time between the adult class and the service. Instead I had “fearlessly” decided to go to church with only a notebook for taking notes during the class. (Technically, I did have a sudoku book in my bag, but it doesn’t count because it lives there all the time.)

Faced with “too much time and too little to do,” I actually connected with a few people who were enjoying the extended fellowship time. I’m typically shy about engaging in conversation with people I don’t know and hesitant to join a group already engaged in conversation. It felt good to have taken even these small “social steps” this morning. It was an unexpected blessing.

Sadly, I learned that a much-loved, elderly member had taken a fall Thursday, slipped into a coma and died the next day. Between that sad news on top of my aunt’s passing and wonderful music that often moves me anyway, I was grateful to have my handkerchief and a few tissues with me. Hanky for the eyes; tissues for the nose. By the end of the service, the hanky was damp and the tissues soggy. It felt good to let out more tears. I knew I had been holding them back, even if I couldn’t feel them being held back. My aunt was too special to me not to have had more tears than I had shed on Friday.

This morning’s tears were likely also the result of a clash of several emotional situations. Sadness at the death of my aunt. Sadness at the loss of my fellow parishioner. And the stress of my financial situation. In a kind of “double-whammy” Friday, shortly after I posted on my blog, I decided to print out my recent checking account activity, just to be sure how much I had to work with for the week. I was stunned to discover that most of my meager savings account balance had transferred into my checking account to cover my gas and grocery purchases this past week! I truly thought I had been paying better attention to my spending. Quite obviously not! Sigh… Sometimes the learning curve feels awfully steep…

Then, in a moment of grace – or rather, an hour of grace – I ended up in a fascinating conversation with a gentleman who was visiting our congregation. We talked at length about things related to interfaith dialogue and how to create greater harmony among people of different traditions and experiences, among other things. He belongs to the same faith tradition as one of my cousins and asked what her name was, in case they’ve met. I asked if he knew a good friend, who’s active in the United Religions Initiative (http://www.uri.org/about_uri/), which promotes interfaith dialogue. I’ll be curious to see if my friend and my cousin ever become a mutual connection for us.

I suspect we could have talked much longer, but my body was talking to me, suggesting such things as lunch and a chair. (We were standing out in the parking lot.) We exchanged email addresses and will likely stay in touch. While it didn’t occur to me to mention my interest in administrative office work, this felt like a networking connection that might bless me in my ministry pursuits as they begin to develop. It was a delightful and wholly unexpected gift, one that left me smiling and feeling quite blessed by the entirety of my church experience today.

Action step(s):

  • Sent an email to the presenter of the class that disturbed me so much last Sunday.
  • Checked my bank balance (which turned out to be a darn good thing!).
  • Gave myself a quiet, self-care day on Saturday.
  • Let go the temptation to pull from the small balance left in my “retirement” account. I’d still rather learn how to do more with what I do have than wipe out everything I have.
  • Did some judicious grocery shopping with the $21 I had in my purse, grateful to have had some cash to tide me over till my temp-work paycheck lands in my account sometime this week.
  • Had more worthy social interactions at church – stretching me just a bit more out of my safety/comfort zone. 🙂

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