Day 67 – Thursday, Feb. 16th (67/299): Leaving the rest to God

This week has been a time of changes, blessings, disappointments, gifts… I’ve noticed some things as I continue to reflect on this journey.

A year ago, shortly before Christmas, I found myself wanting to focus on the twelve Days of Christmas. It wasn’t so much what I planned to do as the fact that I had a place to direct my focus. What I noticed, as I turned my attention toward attending to those twelve days – which is something I’d never done before (I don’t think singing the song counts ;-)) – was that my Christmas suddenly didn’t feel quite so empty or lonely even though I was just as alone as I had been before. In fact, in some ways, I was more alone than in previous years.

I recognized in this something I’ve been experiencing recently. As my attention has become consumed with financial issues, I have seemingly lost interest in other concerns, such as the desire for love and romance that used to be on my mind virtually all the time. I’m increasingly interested in attending to my own self-care and, with that, being able to let go the things I’ve never been able to control but have nonetheless clung to as though I could control them.

Yet even this awareness doesn’t stop the tears when they well up, triggered by something I’ve read, something I’ve watched on TV or a DVD, something that reminds me that the road is still rough, hard, a long way from where I want to be. This afternoon I learned that the longer-term temp job didn’t come through. Disappointment seeps in amidst the gratitude for the extra twenty hours of income this week and I didn’t realized how much so until something on TV raised tears when it wasn’t especially sad.

Yet there have been blessings this week as well. The possibility of additional paychecks coming at regular weekly intervals got me to thinking about how to more wisely use the income. In recent years, I’ve often quickly spent any monies that came to me, as if to spend it quickly was the only way to enjoy it. This week, I came to realize that each paycheck would and could only be a small piece of the resources I would need to be able to get back on my feet and move forward.

I began planning – loosely, lightly, carefully. Tithe first. Pay a little on my credit cards. Put aside a little toward rent or a rent deposit. See if I might buy a piece of clothing here or there to expand my “professional” wardrobe. (Most of what I have is in the jeans and T-tops arena.) Remembering my plan from a little over a year ago when I got my new cell phone, to purchase one ringtone a month (which I’ve actually not done), helped me to realize that all these things can happen in small steps.

As unremarkable as it may seem to actually think about and plan financially, it is nonetheless a remarkable experience for me. It is virtually uncharted territory for this long-time instant-gratification addict. I suspect it took a kind of “hitting bottom” for me, where I ran out of available resources to discover and discovered that I can do without this or that, at least for a time.

I was also unexpectedly blessed in the temp job I had when part of the job involved looking at photos of condos and apartments and homes. My work involved uploading photos for “profiles” of places for rent. There was something about seeing so many beautiful homes that opened the door for me to begin dreaming. In fact, it opened the door to dreams bigger than I’ve ever truly had. For the first time that I can remember, I could actually see myself being able to someday afford one of those homes. They weren’t places for the very rich; they were simply nice places that people with good, solid incomes can afford. For too long, I have let my limited resources determine the size of my dreams and the past two-days have expanded those dreams in an unexpected and wonderful way.

Okay, it’s late now (for me), so I’ll close by saying that I’m appreciating all that’s happened this week. The ups, the downs, the changing tides of what I would and wouldn’t be doing for the next few weeks. As I was reminded to do in a reading from Courage to Change, I’ll attend to my responsibilities and leave the rest to God.

Actions step(s):

  • Listened to my body’s needs and got a long, full night’s sleep Tuesday night (9 hours!).
  • Did my best at my temp job (and was affirmed by my boss, who may call me again to work there if I’m available).
  • Called the temp agency to check in, rather than waiting to see if the other job was available. So much better than dangling in the unknown.

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 53 – Thursday, Feb. 2nd (53/313): Gratitude and patience

This morning I awoke with a desire to write about gratitude. One of the best antidotes for me when I’m feeling down or having a particularly rough time is to make a gratitude list. It reminds me of the blessings I have and the things that are going well or at least better in my life.

Here are ten things for which I’m thankful in this moment:

  1. I’m grateful to have awakened at 5:55 this morning. The days seem to go so quickly that I appreciate it whenever I awaken between five and six without my alarm clock.
  2. I’m grateful for giving myself a day off from work. I will easily get in more than my allotted/paid fourteen hours this week.
  3. I’m grateful for my job. Work provides a social environment, a distraction from other concerns, and an opportunity to feel and be useful, as well as a steady paycheck to help me through the month.
  4. I’m thankful for the increasingly present comfort in my neck and eye. (I have thyroid eye disease. Stress leads to neck pain, and neck pain often leads to eye pain.)
  5. I’m grateful to remain so consistent in doing core exercises and a bit of stretching virtually every morning. I vary it a bit, taking advantage of the extra time on mornings where I don’t need to be out the door quite so early. I know my body is appreciating it.
  6. I’m grateful to have made small steps toward finding work yesterday. No matter how small the step, every step, for me, is healthy progress in a journey that feels too slow at times.
  7. I am truly thankful for what I call my “scripture reflection” time. This journaling process continues to yield insights into thoughts and behaviors that help me to change and grow. I am frequently blessed by responses from God. And I appreciate the value in taking time to hold still and to consider how I want to be in this world.
  8. I’m grateful for increased flexibility in my upper back, which I’m noticing more often. For decades (perhaps since childhood), there was one spot that refused to budge under chiropractic care, except on rare occasions. Could increasing willingness and flexibility in other matters be making space for increasing flexibility in my upper back?
  9. I am grateful for my paycheck and for the opportunities it provides to pay what I can and let go the rest.
  10. I’m thankful even for the depression that sneaks in from time to time. For it allows the tears to flow and the difficulty of this journey to again be released. What follows more often than not is relief from the struggle and an openness to resume the journey with a little more hope and a little more courage.

This morning, I sought out one of my favorite verses to remind me of the gift of patience: Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4 NKJV) These words never fail to remind me that this is a journey. It takes time for me to learn new practices, develop new behaviors and discover that I can do more than I thought I could.

There are moments when it feels like I’ve been on this journey forever, instead of barely two months. In some ways I have. In some ways, we all have. Yet each stretch of the journey has its own rhythm, its own purpose. I remember one person I heard years ago, or perhaps I read it in a book. This man took a journey for one year, during which time he examined what he had done each day that he wanted to have done better, differently. He recorded his insights in his journal each night. It became a year of transformation for him.

I hope this journey will be one of transformation for me. Finding more gainful employment and beginning my own consulting work would be outward manifestations of “success.” Letting patience have its perfect work would be a much greater reward.

p.s. A few more for the gratitude list:

11. I’m grateful that I wrote all of the above this morning, before the day got bumpy with fear around financial matters.

12. I’m grateful to have met with my sponsor this evening. She always gives me some helpful perspectives when I’m feeling too overwhelmed to think clearly.

13. I’m grateful to my son, for having pointed out a great article on moving past the blocks that come from fear. I’m going to start rereading it in just a few minutes.

Action step(s):

  • Ate a different combination of grains for breakfast. (Too often I eat the exact same thing every day; a varied diet is much healthier.)
  • Balanced my checkbook.
  • Took out cash from the ATM to better monitor my spending (I hope).

Day 51 – Tuesday, Jan. 31st (51/315): A small(?) revelation

This morning I awoke with a dream about a rattlesnake. (I happen to love snakes, btw.) I knew Snake was bringing me a message of transmutation (at least according to Sams and Carson), which means that something that might be experienced as a poison can actually be transmuted into something harmless with the proper frame of mind.

Since one of my creditors told me just a few days ago that my account may go to collection if I don’t make a significant payment this month, financial matters and my need to be willing to go down this unhappy road sprang to mind. My anxiety level rose several notches as I started thinking about potential financial disasters – like bankruptcy. I’ve been there, many years ago, and do not want to repeat the experience. I wondered if the dream was telling me to get ready to experience something I absolutely do not want to experience.

As I showered, dressed and prepared breakfast, I thought about the feelings of shame and failure that accompanied that experience and of how much I didn’t want to go there again. Then I noticed my body-spirit reacting as if I were on that disastrous financial path already. It helped a little to recognize this, especially since it’s something that might not happen. It didn’t fully relieve the stress, but I let it go as best I could.

When I sat down to eat breakfast and do my morning reflections, I read more of Snake’s message from my book. It speaks of being willing to experience anything without resistance. Then it describes all the positive things we can experience through accepting all aspects of our lives. By the time I got to the sentence about this symbol coming to me because I need to transmute some thought, I had a revelation!

I was struck by the powerful realization that even if my worst nightmare strikes and I have to go down that path again, I do not have to experience it as failure or as shame. Those are judgments I have laid upon myself. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I have done my very best to manage my financial affairs and I will continue to do my best. My best is the best I can do with what I know and where I am right now, even when it’s a far cry from where I want to be. If creditors “force my hand,” so to speak, I may need to make different, unplanned choices. But whatever choices I make, I do not need to carry guilt and shame and a sense of failure along with the challenge of financial recovery.

I am still integrating this reality into my consciousness. There are so many cultural values that lead us to feel badly about ourselves that it was astonishing, really, to discover that I don’t have to accept someone else’s judgment, nor do I need to judge myself that way either. It is even freeing me of residual guilt and shame from my experience twenty-some years ago. It’s amazing how much that shifted things for me and how much freer I feel to keep doing what I can to get back on my feet.

Since this was the beginning of my scripture reflection time, I then opened my Bible – or rather let it open to whatever page it might. The verse I found was encouraging indeed:

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9  NRSV)

To which I say, Amen!

p.s. Does anyone else get stupid and/or irrelevant suggestions for tags for their posts?

Action step(s):

  • Spoke to my other creditor (who was much more supportive) and committed to making a small payment this week.
  • Took a small amount of money out at the ATM so I could use cash for the grocery store to help me attend to how much I’m spending.
  • Chose my grocery items carefully, adding the total up in my head as I went.

Day 43 – Monday, Jan. 23rd (43/321): Gratitude

Today I had the opportunity to do something that scared me. I couldn’t believe how shaky I felt before heading over to the government assistance office. Is it possible that the wee bit of caffeine I had almost twenty-four hours previously could still be setting my nerves on edge? It seems so ridiculous, yet I felt powerless to change my body’s reaction. I tried to remind myself that they are there to help me. It helped. But I was still nervous.

I had no idea if I was eligible for assistance or how long it would take. The weather had been windy and rainy through the night and I hoped for at least a small break while I walked the few blocks from work to there. I let go again and again of any expectations around how things might happen or what I might receive. I’m so glad I did that work. It turns out I do qualify, but in my present situation with no rent or utility payments (too bad storage units don’t count), I’m only eligible to receive $17 per month! Needless to say, I cancelled the whole application process.

Amazingly, I wasn’t particularly disappointed. In fact, I ended up feeling more gratitude than anything else and one of my first thoughts was that this didn’t come through because God has something better in mind for me!

The remarkable thing was the number of blessings that seemed to surround this whole experience.  Here’s a gratitude quicklist:

  • I was very grateful there was little to no rain the times I needed to walk between my work office and the other office.
  • I felt truly blessed to be able to get a same-day appointment to find out about my eligibility.
  • When I discovered that I was so close to the edge of eligibility as to not be worth it, I felt even more grateful that I wasn’t kept hanging with an appointment several days away.
  • I felt relieved, even grateful to not have to be part of the whole assistance program system. Since income determines eligibility and an increase in income reduces benefits, I feel freer to receive more income when I can simply receive it and enjoy it!

I realize that adult children of alcoholics often function well in a crisis, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to find myself rather excited to be freed from the burden of someone watching my income, even though it means I have to figure out how to stretch the $3.97 in my purse and $45 in the bank until payday. Weird, huh? I’m certain it has to do with the fact that being broke and financially strapped is familiar to me. My body-spirit tends to go, “Oh! I’ve been here before. No problemo!”

So, even though I began the day with hopes of receiving some financial assistance, a surprisingly big part of me is grateful I make so-o-o much money (yeah, right) that I hardly qualify. There’s a part of me that likes to rise to a challenge… Which is odd in a way because I also tend to put off other scary things I need to do. I’ll keep working on that.

When I got home this evening, I actually practiced self-care and I didn’t really plan it – it just “happened.” I spent the entire evening (till now), hanging out in the kitchen visiting with my aunt while she puttered around and I worked on a crossword puzzle. Then she broke out a jigsaw puzzle and that entertained us both till she and my uncle sat down to watch tennis and begin hors d’oeuvres and dinner, at which point I had fun finishing up the edge before heading to my room to write this and head for bed.

I have to say that for a day that began with such anxiety, after a restless night because of today’s plans, this turned into a pretty remarkable day in many ways. I feel grateful and blessed in so many ways!

Action step(s):

  • Sought financial help
  • Intentionally relaxed this evening!

Day 42 – Sunday, Jan. 22nd (42/324): Doggone Fearmobile…

Well, I was doing pretty well most of the day. I had planned to organize my papers for tomorrow’s visit to seek assistance and I had picked up some file folders from my storage unit to help organize the box of paper-chaos I have in my room. I grabbed empty folders, near-empty ones and ones that looked easy to purge. Earlier today, I found and printed various documents I figure I’ll need for tomorrow. Then I spent time this evening purging old papers from the folders I brought out of storage while I watched Murder She Wrote episodes on my computer. It was pleasantly diverting and rather satisfying to toss, tear up and carefully “shred” old medical bills and other miscellaneous things from five or six years ago. I even ran across an email from a friend that’s worth keeping.

Once I was done clearing out the papers and realized it was time to get things picked up and ready for bed, though, I started feeling nervous – a lot nervous. I keep wondering if some of that could be residual effects from the caffeine I had this morning. It was only about half a cup of not-too-strong, green chai spice tea (Stash – my favorite when I want a wee bit of caffeine). But it was probably a mistake because within a couple of hours I was very nervous. (I’m a fly weight when it comes to caffeine.) I think some of the anxiety is simply around getting ready to bare finances and having them placed under scrutiny by an agency that could help me, but might decide I just need to wipe out my tiny IRA balance…

I know this is all quite irrational and I hope I’ll be able to calm down and sleep well. I’m also hoping it’s not too rainy in the morning because I want no excuses to chicken out. I need the help right now and I need to step up and ask for it. (Dang! Where’s that fairy godmother when I need her!) So, I’m using this as an opportunity to verbalize that THIS KIND OF THING SCARES THE PEEWADDLIN’ OUT OF ME! Okay, I’ve shouted it loudly without freaking out my aunt and uncle. Now I can go into my room and add the gestures and body movement to go with the shouting.

Still, I feel pretty good about my attitude around all this and about the small bit of paper clearing I got done today. As I prepared for tomorrow, I continued to let go of expectations around outcome. I also appreciated how I’ve resisted the urge to grab more files from storage to purge because that could become a safe and easy distraction from the scarier work of looking for work and seeking help where I need it. Maybe the paper purging, too, can happen in tiny steps like this unplanned mini-purge today. It was kind of fun to tear things up and use my scissors as a “paper shredder.” 🙂

Time to head for bed, breathe deeply for a while, and see if sleep might bring the rest I need. The truth is, I know where my help comes from – and it’s not the office I’ll be visiting tomorrow.

 Thanks for listening.

Action step(s):

  • Did some journaling about my progress (And you thought I wrote it all here, didn’t you? 😉
  • Prepared for tomorrow’s application for assistance
  • Purged a few files of old papers (Yay!)

Day 40 – Friday Jan. 20th (40/326): Foiling the Fearmobile

Yesterday, a friend helped me see that my expectations for myself are, in fact, unreasonable. She wisely pointed out that having instability in housing or finances is stressful; having both at the same time, especially for an extended period, as I have, is more stress than most of us can handle and remain sane. Sane? Am I supposed to be sane? Her point was well taken – and much appreciated.

She asked me if I’d considered government assistance. Right now, I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the rest of the month. Seeking assistance has been on my mind off and on for more than a week. Today, I took a few minutes to find out where the office is, download an application form, and fill it out. (Yay, fill-outable pdf forms!) Then I stuck it in my bag to consider when I might actually go there.

There is something about baring your financial soul to a government agency that makes me more than a little nervous. If I zeroed out my checking and savings accounts, I might squeeze by this month. I worry that the agency would expect me to do just that. I wish I had a “prudent reserve” but my savings accounts have been nothing more than temporary holding cells for my checking account. I’d like to change that. Truly I would. I just haven’t learned how – yet. Adequate income would help.

When I left work this afternoon, I drove by the agency, to see where it is. I discovered there’s nearby two-hour parking, but nothing else free and long enough for the often lengthy process. It was raining. I didn’t feel like getting wet, so I drove home. But I kept thinking about the form in my bag and the fact that the office would be open for another hour and a half.

I paced a bit in my room and debated whether to drive back over there. I decided to do it. On the way, I realized something important: the only reason for me to avoid going there was fear.

Oy! Got me! The very reason I started this blog – to practice breaking through the fear.

I let go any expectations about the outcome of going there late on a Friday afternoon. I knew that (a) I might discover they only let people out, not in, by that time of day; (b) I might not get anywhere even if I got in; or (c) I might be able to get started. In only a few minutes, I learned that it was to be “b” – late in the day, too many people already there. I was encouraged to come by Monday morning, the earlier the better.

I resist doing this sort of thing because it scares me. I’m paranoid that I’ll leave out some detail or do something wrong (like earning a few extra bucks cleaning) and lose my eligibility for assistance. It’s crazy, I know, but my reaction is visceral. I can’t help it. I’m still feeling a bit shaky and I haven’t even begun the process. This weekend, I’ll see if I can lay my hands on the information I will need to be armed and ready come Monday morning. I may not need it yet, but it will help me to answer their questions.

Now it’s time to breathe, shake out the nervousness, and relax for a bit. Maybe I can even take a moment to appreciate my willingness to face this particular fear.

p.s. Is it weird that it even feels scary to post this?

Action step(s):

  • Took a first step toward getting much needed help despite the fear!

Sunday, Jan. 15th (35/331): Private journeys

I attended a memorial service today for a dear friend’ husband, who passed away New Year’s morning while she was at church. He died peacefully in his sleep, just hours after they had shared an enjoyable evening, planning more of their future together after more than fifty-five years of marriage.

As I listened to the stories about this unobtrusive, remarkable man (whom I had never met), and especially as my friend shared briefly about what a wonderful support he had been for her, I was struck, by way of contrast, at what a private, sometimes lonely journey recovery can be. A few tears slipped down my cheeks as I felt my friend’s loss and also my own yearning for such a relationship. I wondered if I will ever know the kind of love and connection they had.

Barely three hours later, after listening to shares of a different nature at an ACA meeting, it occurred to me that the difficulty I’ve experienced in these past six or so months might well be a gift. Like it or not, I have been forced to take a hard look at the patterns of thinking and behaving in my life, and the patterns that don’t work have become abundantly clear, as has the amount of fear that drives many of those patterns.

The gift, for me, has been manifesting in the form of healing in my thinking around relationships. I used to think I could not walk this journey alone and I really didn’t want to try. But in the past six months, I have not only discovered I can walk alone (in human terms, for I know I am never alone in the sense that God is always with me), I have come to appreciate the value in finding my own way. I have discovered that I do not need a partner or spouse to encourage me, share the burden with me, or support me. Perhaps this is obvious to you; for me it is a revelation. No, a miracle. Even as I felt the longing for someone to share my life, as I listened to the story of one man’s love for his wife, family and friends, the “need” for such support was gone.

I suspect the main reason I am receiving healing in this area of my life is because I let it go and got out of the way of my own recovery. Interesting how that works. Without conscious effort, I implemented Step 3 in the 12-Step program: I turned my life and my will in this arena over to the care of God. Clearly, God has been working on me!

I’m not sure it’s quite the same thing, but an image that comes to mind is this: one way to get over a headache is to drop a hammer on your toe! It’s called “diversion” and it seems to be working. I think I’m a bit ADD that way – the best way for me to let go of something is to direct my attention elsewhere.

Now, if I can figure out how to apply this in some way to my job hunting goals, maybe I can really make progress!

Action step(s):

  • Putting God first several times today when I could have insisted on my own way
  • Setting out some clear goals and prayer requests
  • Being attentive to the money I was spending, with an awareness of what I actually have available to spend, and making choices accordingly

Saturday, Jan. 14th (34/332): A reflection

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving… Ephesians 4:32 (NRSV)

I’m wrestling with something again and I’m not quite sure yet what it is. Once again, tears flow easily and often, at the least provocation. What that means for me is that devotions raise tears for all sorts of reasons, as do TV shows and movies. Sometimes when that happens, I just wonder what’s up. Or rather, what’s really up?

It may be fatigue from an inadequate level of thyroid hormone (I’m having to listen to my body to adjust my dose, since I have neither insurance nor the funds to seek medical assistance right now). It could be fatigue from financial worries or anxiety around the need to more diligently (i.e., actively) seek other employment. It could be fatigue from the deep inner work that continues to happen simply because I am doing this work. It could be none of the above. Or all of the above. Or any number of other things I might not have noticed.

This verse did not raise the tears this morning, but my reflection with it from a year ago did, as I was reminded to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving of myself and the journey so closely mirrored what I seem to be experiencing now.

Too often I become frustrated when my mental and physical energy lag far behind what’s needed to make significant headway on my many to-do lists. When that happens and I then notice it’s happening, I often discover my whole body is tensed, poised to charge ahead even when I’m not up to charging, physically or emotionally. As many times as I have discovered that I get more done with greater ease when I let go and treat myself gently, it’s apparently a lesson I am still learning. (I made this observation last year and it is again true.)

This morning I gave myself permission not to rush. I got up late (7:15 – late for me) and I enjoyed the freedom to take my time with my reflection writing. I have a daily practice of writing reflections in response to one or more verses from the Bible. It is my time to listen, to reflect, to pay attention to what’s going on inside me, both emotionally and spiritually. I know it is time well spent, as it is this practice that has kept me going through the various ups and downs of the past ten or so years.

Maybe, I wrote in December 2010, just for today, I can stop trying to push myself and, instead, let the Holy Spirit guide my feet, one step at a time. These were words I needed to hear.

Yesterday I felt like I hit a wall, an invisible barrier to moving forward with the mental to-do list forming in my head. I was thinking of making a specific, job-search-related list of things to do. They were to be goals that included some of the tasks encouraged by the instructors at JVS. As I noticed the “wall,” I began to ask myself the reason for that wall. Was it Spirit telling me, “Not this way” or “Not yet”? Or was it fear getting in the way? I didn’t come up with a clear answer.

When I got home, I fixed something to eat and ended up spending the evening relaxing. My aunt and uncle went to her son’s for dinner, so I had the freedom to use my uncle’s computer (i.e., internet access!). Instead of blogging, as I had thought I might do, I “played.” Was I relaxing? Or was I avoiding the question about the “wall”? It’s hard to tell. In any case, I let go my initial intentions around blogging an introspection and simply enjoyed the fun of solving an annoyingly difficult crossword puzzle with the help of online resources.

I thought about my to-do list as I was going to bed and awoke with the same thoughts. I felt determined to be “productive.” Now I’m not so sure that’s what God was asking of me this day. It occurred to me yet again how seldom I pause to ask for Guidance about what to do. My days and plans are driven by financial need and fear, worry about things I can’t control, and uncertainty about how to best spend my days. I still feel like an uneducated youth who hasn’t learned the basic skills of life.

The irony is that the tasks in and of themselves are simply: updating my checkbook, opening the mail, checking email, connecting with friends, etc. Yet, if they’re so simple, why does it often feel so hard to do them, let alone keep up with them? Has our culture truly created a lifestyle with too much to do? These are not hard things to do, yet they back up on me on a regular basis. And herein lies the challenge: I feel able to do all these things and consequently find it hard, at times, to let go and to be gentle, kind, forgiving with myself.

I know I want to change and to be changed by God’s love for me. So today, I tried to let go and let things happen. Was it “enough”? Maybe not. Was it enough? Yes, it was.

Action step(s):

  • Updated my checkbook
  • Wrote out my tithe check and a check for my PO box
  • Sorted through a few papers and organized a small piece of the “file box” I have with me
  • Called a friend
  • Let go the rest

Tuesday, Jan. 10th (30/336): Breaks – a bit of body wisdom (I hope)

Yesterday, I tried something different at work. Most days, I’m scheduled to work four to five hours, so I don’t plan a lunch break. Then I end up working six or seven hours and I’m wiped out by the end of the day. It’s not that I don’t eat, because I do. I just eat at my desk and keep working, thinking I won’t be there much longer. Yesterday, I planned to work a longer day, so I made a point of taking a half-hour lunch break. I relaxed and read a (fiction) book while I ate and discovered it was quite nice, even though I was only about fifteen feet from my desk.

For some reason, I find it hard to take breaks. Some of this is logistics. I don’t have the money to go to a restaurant where I might enjoy time away from the office. The neighborhood where I work is not conducive to taking walks. That leaves staying at the office. However, my co-workers are actually quite respectful of my break time on those rare occasions when I’ve actually taken a break. Thus, it can only be self-imposed nonsense that leads me to feel like I “can’t” take a break. This is especially dopey since we are encouraged to take care of ourselves in body, mind and spirit.

However, it occurs to me that this isn’t the first place where I’ve struggled with this particular boundary. I’m not quite sure what the deal is. At my last job, which was full-time, I eventually started using the conference room when it was empty and once in a while the cafeteria, but I still ended up eating at my desk at times.

One of the things that makes me nervous about the possibility of seeking full-time work right now is the fact that I’m often wiped out after only a five- or six-hour workday. So how well would I do if I was suddenly working eight hours a day?

I tend to pour myself into my work, going at full speed, and that requires adequate sustenance, rest (i.e., at night) and taking breaks. The labor laws recognize the need for breaks and build in requirements for this. So why, then, is it uncomfortable, even disconcerting for me to decide to take a break?

A job I had some years back comes to mind. There literally was nowhere to go outside the small building to take a break, so I tended to just work straight through. My boss, who was a large, intimidating man, got used to me being available the entire time I was there. When I finally started taking breaks, he had a hard time getting used to the idea that I wasn’t available when I was on break or at lunch. I was, after all, only thirty or so feet away from my desk. I was anxious, but I stood my ground and he learned to respect it. Sort of.

My suspicion as to the real reason I feel guilty taking breaks is that I still see myself as being somehow inadequate. That perfectionist mindset hovers near my shoulder and tells me, “You’re not good enough! You should have all of it done by now!” Never mind that I’m trying to do 20-30 hours worth of work in 14 hours. Never mind that my supervisor and bosses are pleased with my work and have never said anything to indicate they expect more. Never mind that any job tends to have an endless flow of work that renews itself every month, every week or even every day.

Maybe it’s time to experiment with taking breaks at work. And maybe, just maybe, I might discover that I actually work more effectively for the time I’m there.

Action step(s):

  • Took a lunch break at work Monday!
  • Went to bed very early last night.
  • Respected the reality that I can’t get it all done and simply did what I could today.
  • Let go and deleted tons of emails from my office email (mostly from 2010). Wheee!
  • Did some cleaning for a friend and earned some extra money!
  • Gave myself permission to post this online Wednesday morning so I could get to sleep at a more reasonable hour Tuesday evening!

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