Rest for the Weary?

Virtually every morning I write in my reflection journal, usually in response to a devotional reading or some snippet I’ve read from my Bible. I say “virtually” because, as rich and nourishing as this practice has become, I have learned to hold even this with an open hand. My early schedule has challenged me to rethink what I have time for each morning. I used to take half an hour or so to read and reflect, often gaining insights along the way. Anymore, I’m often sleepy and simply don’t have the energy or inclination to spend my mornings rushing about to get everything – including some reflection writing – done before leaving for work.HPIM1992 T back

When I read the passage that starts, “Come to me, all you who are weary…and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28), I thought of how often I feel the need for more sleep these days. Then I read the verses that followed and began to think beyond my yearning for restful sleep. I still need the rest that sleep brings – don’t get me wrong. But I’m noticing other things, other ways these words speak to me.

“Rest” can be the recovery I experience as I continue to work my program, as in rest from the insanity of compulsive behaviors like overeating. “Rest” could even be letting go and taking a break from staying so focused on my recovery work that I miss the rest of what life has to offer. Sometimes I feel as if all my attention is focused on my recovery work, especially, specifically actually, around wanting to begin making progress in my newly restarted OA journey. I’m in this ‘learning about the nature of this illness’ and ‘how to work the program’ state where reading and thinking – and sometimes writing – about it are helping me understand myself and giving me a glimpse into what recovery might look like for me.

It’s different than my Al Anon challenges, in that it involves reactions to foods, as well as triggers and compulsive behaviors that I don’t fully understand and am powerless to control without the help of a program and my Higher Power.  Yet it is also like my Al Anon/ACA challenges for these very reasons. The primary difference is that my OA issues directly impact my physical well-being, as well as my emotional and spiritual well-being.

I’ve long been aware that I have what I would call an ‘addictive-type’ personality. Even in high school, I knew that if I took up smoking or drinking, I would probably become a chain smoker and an alcoholic. (Fortunately I never liked either.) But the notion of compulsively eating is a new concept to me and I’m still – and gratefully – taking in what I’m learning about it in the OA literature.

The need for humility...

The need for humility…

Today, I’m grateful to have read beyond verse 28 in the passage from Matthew, for I noticed something. Jesus says that he is “gentle” and “humble in heart.” As I wrote out the verses, it occurred to me that Jesus is not only “gentle” with us, he is also gentle with himself when he needs to be – as when he goes off by himself to pray and perhaps rest from the burdens he carries. And he’s humble – a characteristic needed in 12-Step work. The need for humility is also something I noticed as lying behind several of my character weaknesses.

I had to review the Steps because I was sure one of the first three steps used this word. It turns out it’s Step Seven: “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.” Yet even beginning this program requires learning to be humble. It takes humility to recognize, acknowledge and accept that we are powerless over alcohol or compulsive eating or debting or whatever it is that leads us into these rooms.

Humility speaks to me of the willingness to admit our powerlessness. And that, for me, means I also have to be gentle with myself as I find the humility to fully accept my own powerlessness and as I learn to turn to God for help every step of the way.

Rest? I suspect it comes when we give up the struggle and find the humility and the willingness to let go and let God do that which we cannot do for ourselves. Maybe that’s when sleep truly becomes “rest.” It’s 8:43 p.m. now. It’s so-o-o past my bedtime. Zzzzzzzzzzz…

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The door to grace? Day 337 – 29 days left (Mon – Nov 5)

Last night I experienced a moment of unexpected grace.

I am the “speaker seeker” for the Saturday Al Anon meeting I regularly attend and next weekend is our speaker weekend. There was, as yet, no one scheduled to speak. I had talked to a few people about a month ago to see if any were willing to be the speaker for this month or for December, but hadn’t gotten any firm commitments.

I had started leaving myself reminders to make some calls, but just couldn’t seem to get there. Interestingly, I wasn’t particularly anxious about it. I was almost more curious than anything else, wondering what was up.

During the meeting I attended last night, I felt serene – or perhaps just sleepy (or both). I wondered if there was someone there I might ask to be our speaker. I had already let go and accepted the possibility that I might not find anyone. I wasn’t particularly concerned, though it would be nice to have a speaker.

During announcements, I didn’t mention the upcoming speaker meeting (which I would normally have done). Then, after the meeting, the woman who had given me a tentative ‘yes’ for December came to tell me that December wasn’t going to work for her. She then asked me if I had found anyone for this month (which she had thought wouldn’t work for her when we spoke a few weeks ago). When I said ‘no,’ she told me she would be glad to be our speaker!

I was struck by the fact that I had followed the leading I had been given – which had actually been to do nothing. I kept thinking I should make calls, but I would forget or simply be too tired. Yet, through it all, I didn’t feel particularly anxious. I just kept wondering how things would work out and kept listening for those nudges to lead me in a particular direction.

So many times it’s tempting to get busy and “make” something happen when, in fact, what I need to do is to “be still.” I know now that the reason I never felt an urge to make a call was because God already knew that I wouldn’t need to find someone to speak. She was already on her way to me, even though neither of us knew it till last night.

As I drove home from work today, I was thinking about this experience. It occurred to me that this was no different than a lot of other things I’d like to have happen in my life – like finding a new place to live or a more sustaining work situation. Those kinds of changes usually require patience and more waiting than I’d like. Rushing about in a frantic search usually leaves me exhausted and no further ahead than before I started.

The next time I’m tempted to push myself to try to “make” something happen, I hope I can remember this tangible experience of waiting and leaving space for God’s grace. Perhaps it’s the waiting that allows the door to open…

The Countdown: 30 days till the journey is “done” – Day 336 (Sunday – Nov 4)

I began this journey December 4th, almost a year ago, expecting to regularly and frequently be going through the paper piles and doing lots of other things that took more courage than I felt I had. With only 30 days remaining in this year of breaking through my fears, it could be deflating to look around my room and notice the many places those paper piles have not only not shrunk, but even grown. Then again, if I take a look inside, I am in awe of the ways I have changed and been changed.

My hope for these 30 days until December 4th is that I might use this time to consider what has happened – hopefully with frequent, perhaps shorter posts (it could happen!), and I’ll try not to worry about adding pictures when I don’t have the time.

I spent the past three days with a group of amazing and wonderful people, mostly transgendered or genderqueer in some way. Most of them active and involved, even being the leaders in their various faith communities. Being around them never fails to inspire me to continue the inner work I am doing. I’d like to share some of what I wrote in my journal this morning, beginning with a verse from Psalm 90: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” (NKJV)

In the past day or so, I’ve been thinking about new beginnings and how this day that begins the 30-day countdown of my ‘blog journey’ feels like a new beginning to me. Interesting, how it doesn’t feel like a journey to a new beginning, for the new journey has already begun.

This verse reminds me that God has been with me throughout this year of challenges and changes. The conference felt like a time of introspection and renewal. My trans friends and colleagues rekindle my desire to do ministry even as a I also appreciate that the “be still” process needs to continue. The author of a devotion I read talks about lying in a tree house as a kid, looking up at the sky, and not needing words to talk to God. She speaks of her experience as one of being in a “sacred space.”

I thought of the “sacred spaces” created through the differing faith expressions shared at the conference. There were people from Pagan, Jewish and Christian traditions, among others. Diverse experiences of the Divine were made available to all.

I don’t know that I have ever had the experience of being truly unwelcome in a particular faith group or 12-Step meeting, although my ACA/Al-Anon mentality can sometimes leave me thinking I might be unwelcome. Most, if not all of my trans friends have been rejected from these places that usually claim to “welcome” all who feel drawn to be there. Being around them enables me to show my support for their journey and deepens my own as I consider the courage they have needed just to be who they are.

This day does feel like a “new beginning” for me. The ten(!) hours of sleep I got helped, I’m sure. Yet it’s more than that. It’s even more than being thirty days away from the end of this 366-day journey.

It’s about having learned that I can “be still” and let my insides transform so that my “outsides” can begin manifesting those changes. It’s about learning that letting go in countless small ways is teaching me how to let go in bigger ways and how to let go with even greater ease.

It’s about discovering that even trusting God happens incrementally; that it’s not a simple decision I make, after which I can heave a sigh of relief, check it off my to-do list, and call it “done.”

It’s about learning to dream again and discovering that it’s the dreaming itself that’s important. I don’t have to know if or how any of these dreams may manifest, let alone when; it’s simply important that I do the dreaming and, through giving myself that permission, experience the growing belief that I am loved by God and I am just as worthy of experiencing these dreams as anyone else – as are you.

It’s about learning to trust, one day at a time, in God’s provision for me, in God’s love for me. And as I trust, I find I do have the courage to take those next steps of my journey through life.

Note: Your comments, experiences and reflections are welcome and appreciated. This is a place where “cross talk” can be a good thing! 😉

And for anyone who might notice: Admittedly, the math of my day numbers in previous posts doesn’t quite add up from the day I began this blog journey, but I needed to keep it simple. I adjusted the day count around the first of the year, adding 20 rather than 27 to whatever day of the year my calendar said, in order to make it easier to track. Yet this is, in fact, day 336, not day 345. 🙂

Day 98 (Sun/Mar 18): Fourteen days – Grace and space, a journey within the journey

Have you ever had those moments when there’s a collision of graceful happenings in your life? They come out of the blue, completely unexpected, and are made all the more beautiful because of their happenstance. Yesterday I had such a day.

After carefully updating my checkbook, I did some errands. A new toner cartridge. A new thumb drive. (My recent photo-taking indulgence needs more space!) Gas for the car. A few essentials at the grocery store. Then to the library to hang out for a while before the meeting. Libraries are one of my favorite places to be. My watch battery died a couple of weeks ago, so I set a quiet alarm on my cell phone to notify me when I needed to leave for my Al Anon meeting.

In the meeting, I recounted the insanity of my having rehashed the communication mishaps of the previous week – the crazy stuff that led me to this journey within the journey. I forgot to mention that I’d been called to return to the same temp job. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the meeting, everyone helped return the chairs and I organized the materials. People were enjoying chatting after the meeting. I didn’t even notice what time I left with a friend of mine. She doesn’t have a car, so we sometimes enjoy the opportunity to catch up while I drive her home. We often go by the store as well.

Yesterday, this angel told me she wanted to pay for my groceries as an expression of appreciation for the many times I’ve given her rides. I was stunned! I had been wondering if I had enough money from my recent check to spend on groceries, what with a couple of bills yet to pay and the (expensive) toner cartridge to buy. Yet God provides.

While we were at the store, I couldn’t reach the rice-milk carton I needed. It was on a top shelf and there had obviously been lots of people buying some that evening. The remaining cartons were out of reach for all but the tall. An attractive man noticed my struggle and handed me one. When I remarked that they needed to rearrange their shelves, he began doing just that. Later, he was just ahead of me when my friend and I came up to the checkout counter. It occurred to me just how easily it can happen, when people meet and connect.

When my friend and I pulled onto the freeway, listening to a beautiful song from Like Breathing, I was amazed at how few cars there were. It was like landing in an expanded gap between groupings. I thought we might catch up to a congested spot, but it never happened. God had my attention. So much serenity on a “busy” freeway on a Saturday evening.

After dropping off my friend, I experienced the same thing getting back onto the freeway. Yet I could see a lot of headlights a fair distance behind me. I was playing that song again and the tears started flowing. Between the generosity of my friend and this incredible experience of virtually no traffic at a time when lots of cars were actually on the freeway, the notion of a chance encounter with someone…it all came together in a powerful affirmation of God’s grace in my life.

As I continued to reflect on the experience this morning, I noticed even more things. More moments of grace that had happened throughout a day when I’d chosen to let go worry or concern about such mundane things as time or hurrying.

  • I took the time for lunch and left a little later than planned, but decided not to worry. Traffic was light.
  • At a traffic light, when I asserted my (debatable) right of way, I realized I didn’t want to be or feel pushy. From that point on, there was increasing ease.
  • At the library, the lot was full, but the street next to the library was free, with several spaces. They quickly filled within a few minutes while I ate a snack in my car before going in.
  • There were lots of people in the library waiting for their turn to check out materials. I found a short line and enjoyed a tiny tot “helping” her mother scan the items.
  • I found parking spaces with ease at the places I shopped.
  • I went through checkout lines with little or no waiting.
  • My friend blessed me with a large sack full of food.
  • Then God cleared a wide swath for me all the way home!

When the tears came, my question for myself became: Am I afraid of receiving bigger blessings?

I’m still working on the answer…

From a beautiful card my son sent me...words I need to read - often.

 

Big and Small Steps:

  • Attended an ACA Al-Anon meeting this evening. It was nice to just sit and listen.

Noticings:

  • How nourishing libraries can be for me when I simply want a place to be. I love the quiet, the sounds, the excitement of little kids insisting on scanning their own books at the checkout station, the patience of parents who are teaching their children the value of this place.
  • How I still tend to overeat when I’m feeling some anxiety – perhaps especially when I’m not acknowledging the anxiety in order to deal with it in healthier ways.
  • How I still crave something sweet after dinner, even though I haven’t indulged in sugary desserts in a number of years. Interesting how eating patterns linger…
  • How serenity can linger and stay with me for some time after it arrives.

Day 61 – Friday, Feb. 10th (61/305): We were not given a spirit of fear

How fragile courage can be when it’s new, unpracticed, still developing… I went to work today, looking forward to the brief phone interview for the temp job, already planning how I might accommodate my present work responsibilities for the weeks I would be largely unavailable during normal business hours if I get the job. I wanted to give my colleague a heads up, in case my schedule needs to abruptly change. It caught her off-guard, as it had me, and the timing was poor. My eagerness rapidly shrank back to distress and concern. Would it work? Will I have to choose between a job I’d like to keep and a job I may need to be able to make ends meet in the coming weeks?

I was truly wishing I had my copy of Courage to Change with me. I would have turned to some pages on fear, worry, or some similar topic. (The thought to bring it had been there when I was getting ready for work. Once again, I dismissed the nudge I was getting from you know Who.)

So, I cast about in my memory banks for some 12-Step wisdom and remembered that I can choose what kind of attitude I want to hold. I could let my dismay and renewed fear dislodge the confidence I felt earlier this morning or I could remember that I need to take care of myself and trust God to work it out.

The irony, I realized as I was writing this, is that I had been given a classic “fear not” verse just this morning during my reflection time. In fact, I had recorded three such verses in my journal:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10 NRSV)

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7 NKJV – This is one of my favorites.)

I’m also now remembering the spider that startled me when it dashed across my comforter as I was preparing for bed last night. Oy! Spider reminds me that if I am not decisive enough about changing my lot in life, I may end up being consumed by my fears and limitations. (Sams & Carson’s Medicine Cards, p 209) I wasn’t thrilled to abruptly encounter the speedy little critter, but I appreciated the message. (Services were held for it this morning…)

Ya think Someone’s trying to tell me something about letting go of my fears and moving past them? I can take a hint! (And I’d prefer not to wait till the 2 by 4 is needed!)

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the temp job. I didn’t receive word one way or the other this afternoon, but the gentleman interviewing me said it might be Monday morning before we (candidates) would know. Until then, I’ll plan my work keeping the possibility in mind, but let go the worry about receiving the job. I know that if I am fortunate enough to get this or some other position, God will be able to sort out the details.

Action step(s):

  • Went into work early and caught up on some personal emails.
  • Responded to an email that came because my resumé is posted on a job site. The message undoubtedly goes out to everyone with a resumé on the website (they’re looking for sales people), so I flipped things and asked the inquirer to let me know if he knows anyone who needs a good admin!
  • Asked a friend, who inquired how things were going, to let me know if she hears of any admin positions. She said she’d keep it in mind. “Networking” again! Whoo hoo! 🙂
  • Boldly shopped for some healthy foods, knowing that God will provide if I run short later in the month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

Day 57 – Monday, Feb. 6th (57/309): Coming out/Breaking Out

Before you leap to the popular understanding of what “coming out” means, let me start by saying that I don’t happen to be gay, bi or trans, though I count my many LGBTQ friends among my “heroes.” They have had to break through many (valid) fears and barriers to claim who they are. Whenever I’m around these friends, I wonder, how long will it take me to claim who I am, to be the person God created me to be?

I’ve carefully avoided talking about queerness in any sense of the word. And just in case you haven’t been hanging around academia in places like Berzerkley and other planets, queer is actually a term used and appreciated in academia around gender studies and the like, to explore the ways we push against the status quo and notions of the way things are or have been (as if they ever were a particular way). But I am not an academician, so I won’t even attempt to go there. I offer this point merely as a way of quieting, hopefully, the discomfort or concern some people feel about using the word “queer” in connection to notions of sexual orientation or gender.

I might as well tell you right now that I enjoy using the word “queer” because I rather like pushing against, well, lots of things that make some people uncomfortable. We are too often told what we “should” or “shouldn’t” do or say by others and that in itself is a good reason to question the way things are. (It’s also the nature of Aquarians to be a bit contrary.)

But my queerness – or lack thereof – is not what this is about for me. What I’m trying to do is to keep pushing at the boundaries I’ve built around myself that keep me from breaking through my fears. When I began considering bringing up LGBTQ topics (like, this morning), I balked. That’s not really what my blog is about, I thought. I don’t want to derail the conversation (even if it has largely been one-sided) that is here to help me break through my fears. Then I noticed that bringing up a subject about which I feel passionate (as in supporting LGBTQ people) brought up fear. Oops! And I thought this journey was merely going to be about organizing and purging the paper piles and finding adequate employment…

“Coming out,” for me, is about breaking through my fears and not being afraid to be who I am. I have so many friends who have had to face far worse fears than I do to be who they are and they are not only fine, they are amazing and often wonderfully successful because of who they are. The fact that I am so drawn to my lesbian and trans-women friends made me wonder about myself. Eventually I realized that the attraction I experience is not what I experience toward (“straight”) men, but rather the admiration for those who have had the courage to become more fully themselves.

For me, as someone who has considered herself to be shy most of her life, part of my “coming out” will be to embrace the closeted extrovert in me. I remember remarking to my pastor once that I was shy. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, “You’re shy?!” The memory of that moment stayed with me. It is only in the past couple of years that I have come to recognize that my shyness has really been about fear and being afraid to be who I am for fear people would dislike or reject me

There’s so much more to say on all this, but I’ll stop for now. Be prepared, though, now that I’ve brought up one of my favorite topics. (See, Aquarians really do like to be contrary and, I suspect, do a bit of trouble-making!)

Have a blessed and wonderful day being yourself!

Action step(s):

  • Writing a birthday card to my birthday “twin,” even though it’s a bit late.
  • Giving myself permission to perhaps regularly get to work early and take some time for my own tasks before “clocking in” – like writing this post.
  • Bringing up the “Q” word in this blog – despite the fact that I feel extremely nervous doing so. (Have I lost you now? ;-))

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

Day 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!

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