Graceful Moments – Day 354 (Thu – Nov 22)

In a moment of grace this morning, I felt the nudge to get up and wash my dishes. I had thought to wait a bit, to make sure everyone was up and awake. In fact, I had just started a movie that hadn’t yet finished the credits when the urge to get up and do them came.

I scooped up my dish-washing paraphernalia and dishes and went quietly to the kitchen. It was after nine, but I hadn’t heard signs of wakefulness from my upstairs housemates. I washed my dishes, laying them on a green terrycloth towel to drain. I was in the process of drying them when my landlady/housemate’s daughter and her son arrived, loaded down with the fixings for their Thanksgiving dinner. I finished drying and scooped away all my stuff just in time for her to start using the sink to bathe the turkey.

A graceful moment.

A little while later, I noticed my landlady outside my window. I first presumed she had taken the dog out for a potty break, then noticed she was looking at something. She turned around and walked back to go inside. I was vaguely aware of a brief glance in my direction. It dawned on me a couple of minutes later that she had gone out to see if the clothesline was available. I had put some towels in the dryer, because I, too, discovered the clothesline was already in use. She has a thing about using the clothesline instead of the dryer. I felt grateful that I truly did intend to hang my towels outside and that I wouldn’t have to hear her tell me again that she wishes I’d use the clothesline. And, I confess, a small part of me wanted to say, “So there!” – which is a not-so-graceful response.

Yet, it still felt like a graceful moment. (Or at least a “Whew!” moment. ;-))

This week has been sprinkled with moments of grace, serendipitous occurrences that suggest things may have started coming together for me. Sunday evening, I opened an envelope from Guideposts to give a friend of mine a subscription to their magazine. In the envelope was a postcard with an angel. She’s holding a young boy who is clinging to her, eyes closed in trust and comfort. It was just the image I needed to remind me of the prayer request I had sent in. There were several things I asked prayer for, but this image reminded me especially of my desire to see my son. (We live just far enough apart to make visiting difficult and we’ve both had some financial limitations to further inhibit the desire to see each other. It’s been over three years.)

I’m keeping the angel postcard where I can see it often to remind me of this particular prayer. Another graceful moment.

Tuesday, I finally bought a book I’ve been wanting to get for a couple of years now. It’s written by Phil Porter, one of the co-founders of InterPlay. It’s called The Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual Part One. I’d only read one short excerpt from it before, which is posted on the InterPlay store’s website and seems so classic-Phil.

Later that evening, as I was noticing how uncomfortable I felt from having eaten too much and how squishy the jelly-roll around my middle has become, an unexpected and startling proclamation popped out of my mouth: “I love my body!” In that moment, I did love and appreciate my body, yet as recently as the day before I had been unhappy with the mushier parts and wondering if I would ever again feel good about my appearance.

The very next day at lunch, yesterday in fact, I opened the book to one of the first pieces. The title caught my eye and made me laugh: “lumpy thighs.” Perfect, I thought! As I read, I was surprised at how much it spoke to me. The short piece talks about learning to spend more of our time celebrating our bodies and ourselves just as we are, instead of spending our time trying to “fix” ourselves. I realized that in that unexpected statement of the night before, I had begun to celebrate my body just the way it is. (I highlighted almost two thirds of this piece.)

I “just happened” to buy that book hours before I began to redefine how I see my body. And I “just happened” to turn to a reading in it the next day that helped me to recognize – and claim – this shift in perspective.

Another moment of grace.

There’s so much more going on that I haven’t even attempted to capture here. Indeed, I barely capture it all anywhere. Could it be, as I close in on the one-year anniversary of my first post, that more has been happening than it seems? That I am being transformed in ways I didn’t even realize?

Patience has its rewards

A break in the wall – Day 317 (Tue – Oct 23)

Do you ever have trouble deciding what to do? Not because you don’t have anything to do; rather because there are too many things to do. That’s how it feels for me right now. I keep floundering. Do I go through mail? Do I organize my shelves? Do I do Step work for my next meeting with my sponsor? Do I start my Step work for the other programs in which I’m less active? (Everything goes back to Al Anon for me, so that’s my primary program and the one that helps me with the others.)

Do I read? Do I relax? Do I blog? What is it exactly that I’m “supposed to be” doing right now – besides hiding from the emotional turmoil just below the surface?

In the past ten days, I have been through an upheaval of body memories and emotions. Old memories are surfacing, clarity is arising around those experiences, and possibilities for positive change are determined to filter through the confusion of unexpressed grief, fear and anger to let themselves be known. I tried writing about this, but I find myself talking in circles and don’t quite know what to do.

Without going into detail, I had an experience of recognizing on a deep level the abusive nature of a previous relationship. I had spent years discounting how I had experienced it because it wasn’t physically violent in direct or tangible ways. Therefore, it couldn’t really have been abusive, right?

“WRONG!” my body tells me.

I’m still trying to sort through the myriad thoughts and feelings that have surfaced and continue to unfold. Later this week, I’m going to work with a dear friend who is trained in areas that will help me to process this. We’re going to do some InterPlay work with this because I need to work on a body-spirit level and avoid getting stuck in my head. I’ve already spent too much time analyzing and compartmentalizing my experiences of this. It’s time to listen to what my body has to tell me about how this did (and still might) affect me.

The thing is, as difficult as this has been (I know there’s a ton of grief just waiting for the right window to open so it can spill out), it has also led to the deconstruction of certain beliefs about myself and relationships. In short, I have realized that something I believed about myself might not be true and that I may have the ability to move more gracefully into a new relationship than I would ever have thought possible.

That realization itself leaves my head fairly spinning, as I continue to integrate this new information.

Perhaps I’ll be able to talk about this more later. As I continue to discover what is and isn’t true about myself, I know it will reshape how I see the world and what I see as possibilities for my life. For now, I’m grateful to discover that pulling out a single stone from the wall sometimes leads to an avalanche that creates a new door to a brighter other side.

(Am I making any sense at all today?)

It’s scary around the edges – Day 294 (Sun – Sep 30)

My room has gone through a transformation today. The transformation isn’t quite complete, but the difference between how it looked when I woke up and what it looks like now is huge. When I got up, one side of my desk had a chaotic pile of stuff that needed sorting, clearing out, and organizing. There were cloth boxes full of silly things, like jars and baggies, as well as boxes with my printer, paper for the printer, and other random stuff.

My primary goal was to clear this space and set up my printer. But I kept looking at the disaster zone on top of the desk and wondering if I might possibly be able to do something about that today as well.

As I continued to nibble on the pile throughout the day, I noticed a feeling of uncertainty hanging around the edges of my thoughts. I was afraid to think about it too much, because the reality is that I don’t know what it feels like to have a space that isn’t chaotic. Sure, I have corners and places within the room that are organized and fairly neat. But for decades, I have also had piles or boxes that are an accumulation of un-dealt-with stuff, especially papers. I would wager that I still have a few pieces of unopened mail that are older than my son (who is an adult) stashed somewhere in my oldest (and biggest) storage unit. (I have three.)

Sadly, the consistent “before” state…

For too many years, I have often felt overwhelmed by various pieces of my life and things like mail and other papers have multiplied and accumulated by – quite literally – the boxful. What kept lurking around the edges of my thoughts today is that once I’ve sorted through the miscellaneous non-paper-pile stuff, I will no longer have an excuse not to begin working on the paper piles. And that scares the pee-waddlin’ out of me! Dang! Just saying that “out loud” magnifies the fear bubbles coursing through my veins right now.

So many things have been coming clear to me in the past few weeks. The first significant “aha” was to realize just how much shame I have had around having so much stuff. I honestly didn’t realize I felt shame. I readily acknowledged a bit of embarrassment and the fact that it has been burdensome and inconvenient come moving time (and I’ve moved a ridiculous number of times in the past few years), but “shame”? Yet there it was!

Acknowledging that – and sharing those feelings with trusted friends (including my Al Anon sponsor) – must have created cracks in my walls of defense. Little by little, other insights followed. I realized – I mean truly realized – that this is a lifelong journey. There will always be more stuff to sort through, more mail to deal with, more papers to organize. This isn’t going to just “get done” and that’s it. This is a part of life! You probably already “get” this, right? But for me, for the first time in my life, it felt not only okay that this isn’t a task that will be “completed,” it felt pretty good. I don’t know if I can explain it, but it did feel good to realize this.

Not ideal, but so-o-o much better!

The next realization was that I didn’t have to deal with everything all at once. I can’t begin to guess at how long I’ve held the notion that I have to deal with all my stuff (i.e., the countless boxes in storage) all at once, in one continuous marathon clear-out-and-organize session. Otherwise it will never happen. (Can you relate?) But it suddenly dawned on me what a huge step it would be if I were actually able to go through and organize, sort and clear out just the stuff in this room. OMG! That feels like a mountain in and of itself!

So today, I tried not to think too much about what comes after I get my room into a workable, working space and just kept plodding along. It felt pretty good to throw away lots of things I really didn’t need. Small things that didn’t take up much space, but made for a lot of clutter come moving time. And you know what? I discovered there actually is a desk under the clutter!

I don’t know what it will feel like in the morning, and there’s certainly more to do, but for the first time in the month since I moved into this room, I’ll actually be able to sit at a desk to read and perhaps even do some journaling before I head to work. I’m sure the fear will resurface when I get to the rest of the stuff, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the progress I’ve made. 🙂

Who knew it could look like this!

Day 95 (Thu/Mar 15): Seventeen days – Changing gears, a journey within the journey

My day was transformed yesterday by the decision to remain judgment-free toward whatever I do or don’t do each day. Since it was a day off work and I had no appointments, I had the freedom to let my day unfold. After that wonderful beginning (i.e., the decision to do 18 days of affirmations only), I let go the plans I had been originally considering (like going to the post office and the library) and let myself be led from one task (or “non-task”) to another.

I had remembered an email a friend sent me a few weeks ago and decided to check it out. She had sent me a link to a website for non-profit organizations and philanthropic endeavors. (Foundation Center) She had suggested it to me because I can subscribe to receive notices of job announcements – which I have now done!

As I explored the site a bit, deciding which types of emails I might be interested in receiving, I found a job listing for an organization I’ve been considering contacting because I admire the work they’re doing. (Contacting them is in my “hope I can get up the nerve to do some informational interviewing here” virtual file. ;-)) I printed out the description, eager to see if I might be a good fit. The position is for an executive assistant. While I am a terrific administrative assistant, I’ve never pursued this level of administrative work.

After a bit of internal wrestling, I finally acknowledged and accepted two things. One is that I don’t really want a job that requires the level of energy this one would require to do well. It’s not that I don’t put a lot of energy into my work – I do. But I want to have energy left over at the end of the day for other things, including InterPlay, Al Anon, and a ministry site I’m developing with a friend of mine. Oh yeah. And a social life.

 The second thing I accepted is that I don’t really want a job that is so critically dependent upon my being there, as this one would be, that there would be no room for the occasional meeting or absence during the work day as my other interests expand. (This job sounds like they want not just a right arm for the director, but a left arm and one or two legs as well. Oy!)

Still, I may consider applying simply for the experience and the possible opportunity to connect with the organization. It really is the kind of place I would enjoy being – in another capacity.

There are a couple of other things I thought about. A couple of thank-you notes to write. A follow-up call to set up an interview at a place I’m uncertain I’d like to work. The interesting thing about the latter is that I had pulled out the message with the person’s name to call, thinking I might call her yesterday. Then I ended up completely forgetting about it as the day progressed. The interview practice would be good and I might even find something I’m interested in doing.

The thank-you notes are in that fuzzy, not-too-certain-if-it’s-the-appropriate-thing-to-do, it’s-kind-of-late-but-still-could-be-good category. It’s also uncharted territory for me. It’s job related, so it’s a little bit nervousness-producing. I’ll keep considering it.

All this is to say that I had lots of opportunities to practice letting go any judgments about what I did or did not get accomplished. Mostly, I’m appreciating how incredibly freeing it was to be intentional about not judging myself. I found that I had to keep reminding myself that there really was nothing that needed to be on a “should” do list for me. At the end of the day, what mattered most was that I felt good about myself, whatever I had or had not done.

No wonder it's all about small steps

The interesting result was that I actually took more steps toward finding work opportunities yesterday than I have in a long time, even though I didn’t have a specific intention to do so.  I’m curious to see what happens in the next two and a half weeks. 🙂

Big and Small Steps:

  • Found an interesting job possibility and printed out the description. I’m now registered on the site and will receive emails about other jobs (plus I can look on the site for more).
  • Filed some job-search related papers in my binder and typed up the “pitch” I had developed at the JVS workshop. It felt good to refresh my memory.
  • Updated my checkbook and know exactly how much is there. For the first time in years, I recently added back into the balance the minimum amount of $150 I was keeping as a cushion. (It has not served me well when I’m as broke as I’ve been in recent months.)

Noticings:

  • How my step workouts are actually a bit more difficult the way I’m doing them than the way I learned at the gym. (I tried the approach from the gym, which is more “balanced” in that it alternates feet throughout. Yet it’s more of a workout to do ten sets, for example, leading with one foot, then ten leading with the other.)
  • How freeing it feels to have given myself permission to affirm myself only in positive ways. I can let go the “shoulds” without guilt for the next seventeen days (or years?)! Whoo hoo!
  • How often I felt the tingle down my spine yesterday that tells me I’m following my heart.
  • How good it feels to actually know, to the penny, what’s in my checking account!
  • How totally fun it was to have taken the “No Dumping” picture this past weekend, with no idea how I’d use it, yet finding it perfect for yesterday’s post! 🙂
  • How jazzed I get working on my blog posts in the evenings, especially after such a breathtaking shift in direction yesterday. Gotta watch out if I want to get a full night’s sleep! (I didn’t. Oh well.)

Day 94 (Wed/Mar 14): Eighteen days – Shifting focus, a journey within the journey

Yesterday I was having a pretty difficult time. I had caught myself in the old familiar pattern of “waiting until.” It’s not a helpful place to be. I kept casting about for something – an affirmation, a perspective, an action – something that would help me to shift my thinking. I finally found it this morning, after responding to the gentle nudge to read the next reflection in last year’s journal.

I’ve never been particularly geared toward the liturgical seasons of the church. I’m aware of when it’s Advent or Lent because it’s generally mentioned in the bulletin or from the pulpit. Yet the Christmas before last, I felt a desire to be attentive to the Twelve Days of Christmas. I suspect it was because I needed some sort of predetermined period of time to reflect on what was happening in me.

Changes... transformations... within and without

I had been through surgery the day before Thanksgiving (a thyroidectomy) and was still recovering the fullness of my voice. My body was still adjusting (increasingly happily) to the changes as we found the right dosage for my now-necessary thyroid hormone med. And there seemed to be a lot going on inside my body-mind-spirit, just like there is now.

I wanted to make a change in my attitude. Despite the continued (physical) healing, there was something unhappy, unhealthy rumbling around inside and I didn’t like it. One of the things that came to mind while I was driving was to let go my judgments of other drivers. It seemed like a small thing, but I had slipped into a pattern of being continually annoyed with other drivers. Even when people were doing something that didn’t affect me in any way, I had been criticizing how they drove. I decided, rather causally I thought,  to let go that tendency to judge.

During that brief “season,” I got better and better at letting go the tendency – even the temptation – to judge. In fact, it not only became easy, I discovered how much more enjoyable my driving time became. It didn’t matter whether it was a quick trip to the store or a longer, busier drive to work. I found my time in the car could be a time of relaxing and enjoying myself! In practicing letting go, I had begun developing a pattern of letting go of judgments (before I even had a chance to feel annoyed), of appreciating others, and of being grateful for all kinds of things I noticed or thought of while I drove. 

As I re-experienced the impact of that short journey this morning, I remembered how I had felt when I was continually criticizing others and how I felt when I let it go and began appreciating others. I noticed the familiarity of the former and recognized how much I have been criticizing myself of late. I’ve been fast becoming stuck in patterns of judgment about my own activities – or lack thereof.

I’ve decided to change that.

For the remaining eighteen days of Lent, I shall practice releasing thoughts of self-judgment or criticism when they arise. Reading my experience from a little over a year ago helps me remember that I may not be able to control the thoughts that pop into my head, but by choosing what to do with them, the nature of those thoughts can be transformed. The key is to notice the unwanted thought or behavior and release it right away. By choosing to redirect my thoughts toward something uplifting or encouraging, by forgiving myself when I wish I’d done something a little differently, and by taking time to notice and appreciate what I am doing “well,” I will open the door to a happier experience of life, no matter what is happening outwardly.

I will endeavor to post daily for the next 18 days, in order to remind myself of my successes, no matter how small. Just planning this is already lifting my spirits! 🙂

Exactly!

Noticings:

  • How readily I could feel in my body what it felt like a year ago (both the negative and the positive) and how easy it was to recognize similar feelings now.
  • How hopeful my entire body feels in this moment because of this shift in thinking. (The shift has, indeed, taken place merely by setting the intention. Isn’t that a blessing!)

Big and Small Steps:

  • Spoke words of forgiveness and release for myself and my judgments around a recent disappointing situation.
  • Danced my prayer! (If you’ve never tried moving and ‘dancing’ while you pray, you should. It’s amazing how much the body experiences in a prayer that is accompanied not only by words, but by movement.)

Day 91 – Sun, Mar. 11th (91/275): Friends, Heroes and Unexpected Blessings

This past week I finally had a lovely, long phone conversation with a dear friend of mine. We live too far apart to get to visit in person for now, so we rely on the blessings of modern technology: texting, phone calls, emails and, when we’re both connected, online chatting. One of these days I may even get Skype on my computer, so we’ll be able to see each other while we talk.

A time to embrace...It's been too long!

We’ve been through a lot of rough patches together, when one or the other of us were going through the wringer. We’ve seen each other at our low times, when everything was falling apart, and we’ve celebrated each other’s victories. This time, we were celebrating her acquisition of her own home after years of renting. What a joy!  When she told me about having met “someone,” I told her I wasn’t surprised. She asked me why. I told her that I wasn’t surprised because the doors that opened the way to a new home are the same doors that open her life up to all the other good things. In the past five to ten years, I have seen her spread her wings, little by little, and become so much more that I suspect she would have imagined she could be.

I remember how scary some of those steps she took in her life were. When we were no longer living in the same area, we stayed in touch – sometimes daily, keeping up with each other’s lives. It has encouraged and inspired me to watch her grow, to become a woman with increasing confidence and inner strength. It helps me know that I may get there yet.

Near the end of the conversation, I said to her, “You inspire me.”

Friends don't have to be here to bring me joy - but it's nice when they are!

Some of my heroes are people I don’t even know or people I barely know. I don’t think of them as people I “worship.” I have long since outgrown that kind of hero-worship. (At least I hope so.) Heroes, to me, are people who have done something with their lives that inspires me, something I want to emulate or hope to do myself. It doesn’t have to be something big. It doesn’t have to be something public. It doesn’t even have to be something other people would notice.

I’ve mentioned before that my gay/lesbian/trans friends are among my heroes. They’ve had to swim against the current of public opinion most of their lives. Yesterday, I read a eulogy delivered at my aunt’s memorial service. I realized why I felt such a closeness to her, a desire to have her in my life. She was an amazingly strong woman who came across as gentle and quiet. Her strength came from within. Another hero.My friend has also moved into the hero group. (There are many there, with room for more.) She reminds me that we don’t have to be perfect or do things right the first time. The path to greater confidence and courage happens one small step at a time, sometimes while our knees are still shaking and our hearts pounding, sometimes with our knees skinned and bleeding from the times we’ve stumbled along the way.

 As we talked about the things we were doing to take better care of our bodies, I again appreciated how small steps make a difference over time. I’m sure her progress has come in small steps; I know mine has.

In the past week, I’ve been blessed by conversations with dear friends, blessed by three full days of additional work, and blessed by discovering an effective way to get some much-needed exercise. Plus I have a couple more “heroes” to bless me as I consider how their examples inspire and encourage me to be more and more the person I know I can be.

Noticings:

  • How good it feels to be taking even small steps toward getting more exercise.
  • How grateful I am to have been on an early wake-up schedule for a few weeks before the time change. This morning was a challenge and tomorrow my body will wonder if I’ve forgotten to finish my night’s sleep!
  • How little attention I’ve been paying to the categories I thought would drive my posts. Hmmm…
  • How my journey seems to be going into deeper issues than sorting through the scary paper piles and submitting job applications, although I still want to progress in those arenas as well.

Action step(s):

  • The addition of short, effective stair “workouts” into my days.

Day 75 – Friday, Feb. 24th (75/291): Transformation happens even amidst the struggle…or because of it.

I was feeling better again yesterday, as though the depression had subsided, if not quite lifted. Then it sneak-attacked me again this morning. Like right now, when I don’t feel much like writing a blog post. Still, I know that maintaining regular posts (at least four per week) helps me to do the inner work I need to do.

On the way to work, my thoughts snowballed into tears that were connected to my aunt’s passing, family and the losses that come with growing old enough that my siblings and cousins and I are not far from being the elder generation. The precise reason for the tears was a little hazy, but it had to do with longing for connection and in knowing that my two siblings and my cousins will all be together at my aunt’s memorial service. I’ll be at home.

The odd part of it is that I’m okay with this. Several days ago I had been at peace with the realization that I didn’t have the money or the confidence in my vehicle to travel down to the memorial service. Then yesterday evening, after my sister called earlier that day to say that she and my brother would be going to the service, I put myself through a whirlwind of trying to find a way to get there.

I could afford to take the train down to my sister’s, but not the trip back. I could get a ride part way back with one of my cousins, but that wouldn’t have connected me to the train or any other public transportation to return me to wherever I would leave my car. Finally I realized that even if I could get help with train fare, my cousins would have to leave soon after the service (one has a plane to catch), so I wouldn’t really get to spend any time with them after all. And being with them, even more so than my siblings, was what I wanted. It was the way to be with my aunt.

Sometimes we find family simply by being with those who love and play with us. (Another InterPlay graduation moment.)

So I let it go. I returned to my earlier plan to stay home and began to experience serenity.

At bedtime, since I had finished a fiction book I was reading, I considered what to read before going to sleep. I chose to begin (again) Catherine Ponder’s book Open Your Mind to Receive. (She’s one of my favorite authors.) As I read those first pages again, slowly, already getting sleepy, I was struck by the possibility that my life could truly become quite different. In the introduction, Ponder asks why a “loving Creator” who wants to heal our physical bodies wouldn’t also want to heal our “sick pocketbooks.”

Suddenly, I had the clear thought, the spark of belief, that my financial situation could be radically different in only one year from what it is right now. The belief stemmed not from “magic thinking” as a friend of mine calls it, where our problems are suddenly swept away by a major windfall or the like, but rather from the simple fact that I am changing and being changed. Little by little my relationship with myself is being transformed and I am learning how to respond differently to my circumstances. I’m learning how to make wiser choices around financial matters and so many other things.

As I learn to love and appreciate myself, those fearful reactions to my financial circumstances at any given moment are shifting toward healthier choices, wiser choices. I may still bumble along in any given situation, but I am learning. Every now and then I am shown this by the deep responses that go past my thoughts and into my whole being to tell me that I “got” something that seemed elusive before. It may be only a seed, or it may be the first sprouts from that seed. Whichever it is, it is a sign of growth within and for that I am truly grateful.

Noticings:

  • How I can feel it in my whole body, my entire being, when I “get” something on a deeper, more profound level.
  • How serenity so often follows when I let go of something that is not working.
  • How God provides when I really need it – a paycheck that came just in time to pay a bill and to get me through the rest of the month.

Action step(s):

  • Looking for other options for attending my aunt’s service – then letting it go when it wasn’t working.
  • Attending to the deep needs of my spirit, even as I said yes to another possible temp job.

Day 45 – Wednesday, Jan. 25th (45/321): Reflecting on the journey

Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant and patient God is with you?  (Romans 2:4 NLT)

The crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places made smooth.  (Isaiah 40:4 NKJV)

To everything there is a season…  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV)

I continue to journey through my reflection journals from a year ago, amazed at how often those events speak to my present experience.

A year ago, I was still recovering from my thyroid surgery. It affected my voice and the recovery from that seemed especially slow. To my own ears, my voice sounded deep, unnatural, odd – I had no volume. To others, it sounded “normal,” if more quiet than usual. I couldn’t sing, which was especially hard through the holidays. It was painful to have others cheerily tell me how much better I looked and sounded; they didn’t understand my suffering.

I feel alone on my journey now, wrapped up in the pain of my private fears that seem like fears no one else would understand (even though I know that’s not true). My fears don’t seem reasonable even to me.

Looking back, I realize it’s been close to two months since I’ve applied for a job. When I think in these terms, of what I haven’t done, I feel fearful, paralyzed, afraid to try because the need feels so urgent. Yet when I look at my journey of recovery from surgery a year ago, I am reminded that even though it felt like it took forever to recover my voice, my ability to speak, then sing normally actually returned in a remarkably short time.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how long I have – and haven’t – been on this ‘blog journey’ and the very reason I gave myself a year. The time window isn’t about a deadline for xyz to happen; it’s a reminder to me that change, especially major change, takes time.

A speaker I once heard remarked that change happens in an instant, and I think that’s true. But the effects of a given change, the integration of that change into new patterns of thinking or behavior, the transformation made possible by that change, all of these responses to change take time. New behaviors take practice to become habits. New ideas take time to develop. New ways of thinking need to break through the clog of old thought patterns before they can overcome them and become the norm.

I have learned that being gentle with myself yields far better results than trying to force myself to do almost anything I am not ready to do. Even the readiness comes more easily with gentleness. And gentleness requires patience with the seeming slowness of my process. I wrote some things in my journal a year ago that I want to reiterate here, as they are worth remembering, worth reclaiming.

I wrote that I was “coming to love” the practice of letting go. I notice that I must again be “loving” it because it has become one of the best and most helpful things I have learned to do. In fact, I believe it may be the key to success for me – in finding employment, in developing my consulting/ministry work, and in making the space to receive God’s abundant blessings for my life. Each time I remember to let go of the outcome of any given action, I feel a sense of release, even relief, and am freed to move forward with greater ease.

I am also learning to listen more attentively to that still small voice that would guide me whenever I am willing to listen. During my recovery from surgery, I had to do a lot of listening to know how to best care for myself through the changes that followed. It was a season of healing, of growth and of discovering new ways to listen to my body-spirit and to God. Last year, I wrote:

This “season” probably began as one of listening. It is becoming one of still listening, even as I begin the doing. Perhaps that’s the art of life: learning to listen, then do, always continuing to listen as we do.  (SJ #37, 1/21/2010, p 149)

This morning has become a “season” of reflecting. I find myself deep in thought, deep in the peace of recognizing and appreciating that I am making progress. I am continuing to listen, to learn, to let go and do the deep inner work that is required to be able to blossom and become my best self, the person God created me to be.

As I learn to be kind, tolerant and patient with myself, I discover that God is right beside me, smoothing out the rough places little by little as I gain more strength for the journey. What a blessing to know I am never alone!

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

Friday, Jan. 6th (26/320): A word about fear

I notice that the more I fight fear and try not to be afraid when I really am, the more tension I create in my body and the more discomfort I experience as a result. I start wearing my shoulders around my ears and muscles tighten both up and down my body. Not helpful!

When I acknowledge the fear, as I was able to do yesterday, when I admit that things are hard and that I am scared, I find relief from the fear. It’s not that it completely disappears; it’s more that it fades into the background and I am freed to focus my attention where it’s needed. I’ve often heard, “what you resist persists.” I realize this is true for my feelings of fear, as well. I hadn’t recognized how true until the dam burst and the tears – and fears – came pouring out.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that most of my fears fall into two categories: fear of change or fear of the unknown. When I look at the things that provoke anxiety in me, I almost inevitably find one or both of these. For instance:

  • Looking for work – both;
  • Changing careers – the unknown;
  • Finding a place to live – both;
  • Money challenges – the unknown;
  • Relationships (in general, but especially romantic ones) – both.

Other things generate more complex feelings of fear:

  • Going through accumulated piles of papers feels overwhelming. My clutter provides a kind of protective shield. Since I tend to feel socially inept and am afraid of making social blunders, it becomes a convenient excuse for not having guests come to visit. Clearing out the clutter feels very scary indeed.
  • Letting go of furniture and other household items is scary. I’m afraid I won’t be able to replace these things if I let them go. Of course, having lots of stuff makes it harder (and more expensive) to move, which I’ve done often in the past few years. In fact, this exemplifies precisely the kind of deprivation thinking I’m striving to change as part of this journey.

Change can be scary and the unknown can be even scarier. But life is and always will be full of change and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I would like to be more open and willing to change and I’d like to start seeing the unknown as an adventure. In what may be a tiny step in this direction…

I have often been attached to wanting things the way I want them. For example, I’ve (inwardly) thrown fits when a product I like disappears from the shelves. I finally got tired of expending so much energy trying to change things beyond my control that I started consciously working to let these things go. Today, when I couldn’t find the cereal I wanted, I ended up buying a totally different kind. Instead of leaving the store upset or annoyed because they didn’t have what I wanted, I realized I was making a small change that I might even like. I was able to enjoy the adventure of trying something new.

It symbolized a willingness on my part to accept change with a little more grace – and that felt pretty darn good! Especially because I’ve discovered that transformation in one area of my life often results in transformation in other areas, which is a wonderful thing on a path of recovery! 🙂

(Btw, did I mention that the staffing agency called me yesterday afternoon? I guess that answered my question from yesterday morning!)

My action step(s):

  • Turned off my alarm and allowed my body the extra rest it needed after an interrupted night’s sleep.
  • Went to an InterPlay class today. My body so-o-o appreciated moving and stretching and loosening up some of those tight muscles.

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