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

Tuesday, Jan. 3rd (23/343): Finding the energy I need

I notice that physical energy, as well as emotional energy, often shapes my days. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether I’m experiencing physical-fatigue or the emotional fatigue that comes from feeling overwhelmed by my circumstances.

Last night I went to an ACA meeting that was near by, then didn’t get to sleep until late. As a result, I feel fuzzy-headed this evening because I could have used another hour of sleep this morning. I’ve been eating off and on the past few hours trying to wake up – as if more food would actually do that. (Now, there’s a classic demonstration of insanity, being that overeating almost always makes one sleepy!) I suppose caffeine or a sugar-blast might do something, but I rarely consume either. Sadly, that means I tend to go for carby foods, like tortilla chips, that make me sleepier, rather than wider awake. Dumb, really dumb. I’m probably a good candidate for OA, but I know it would become a distraction from the work I’m already doing.

As it is, I’ve already noticed that even thinking in terms of blog categories like health, paper sorting, step work and so on is already redirecting my focus from my original aim. I know I imagined myself daily, valiantly tackling of stacks of papers and boxes of this and that, to sort, distill and organize for this twelve month journey. Superwoman on the go! But doing that kind of work – with or without having to also look for employment – presumes two very particular things: lots of emotional energy and plenty of physical energy to go with it. Neither of which I seem to have in abundance these days. At least not yet.

So, my question is: How do I work on improving (i.e., increasing) my physical and emotional energy levels so I will not only want to do more but will feel like doing more?

As with most things, I’m taking a small step approach. For example, I often make faces to stretch and scrunch my facial muscles during the day. Doing that reveals how tight those muscles are, especially my jaw muscles from grinding my teeth. (A sure sign of stress.) Last week, I found some extremely sore muscles along the sides of my neck. It took me a few days of “monster face making” to get that soreness worked out. I suspect it’s related to the tightness in my shoulders. Tight muscles tell me I’m tense and being tense is not helpful when networking, interviewing or even writing cover letters. One of the things I hear often at JVS, is that it’s important not to let the fatigue of the job search show during an interview.

Since two primary goals for me are expanding my employment/income level and clearing out the excessive clutter in my life, both of which have intimidated and/or overwhelmed me often, I want to remember that taking care of my physical and emotional health is an important part of this process.

Action step(s):

  • Continuing my short, core exercise routine each morning, including discovering (just this morning) a simple way to get a deeper workout.
  • Paid the two bills from yesterday’s to-do list.
  • Set a time to do some more “house” cleaning (closets, actually) for a friend for some extra cash.

Sunday, January 1st (21/345): Rebuilding the framework

First, a word about the “countdown,” now displayed after the date. The “21” refers to day-number and the “345” refers to days-remaining for this year-long journey. I’m backing up seven days simply to make the tracking process easy for me. My planner has this kind of countdown displayed throughout. Today reads 1/365, for example. I decided that twenty will be much easier to add/subtract and that twenty-seven would just be annoying. Besides, I may ‘need’ those extra seven days! 😉

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, the purpose behind it, and how to have some sort of framework to help me be more intentional about my efforts. I find myself a bit lost amongst all the things I’d like to do on this journey and I flounder with how to stay on track. In reflecting on this, I arrived at this framework to help me get on-track:

  1. I’ll post at least four times a week, hopefully more often.
  2. Each week, I will post around these categories: Body Talk; Paper Walk; Step Talk; Faith Walk; Job Talk. (I intend to include the latter every week until it is no longer needed.)
  3. At least twice a month, I will have a Money Walk post. (I will expand on what these categories mean on the “Why This Blog” page.)
  4. I’d like to respond each week more specifically to these questions: Where did I demonstrate courage? Where did I let my fear hold me back? And how am I making room? (As in, how am I creating the space for better health, finances, and so on?)
  5. In terms of what I want to do around each of these categories and this process in general, my goal is to discover and implement healthy practices that are doable, repeatable, sustainable, enjoyable and rewarding. Whether it’s about health, financial affairs, the search for employment, or the development of other ideas, finding healthy new ways of responding to life will be what most assists me on my journey of recovery.
  6. I will continue to note the action step(s) at the end of each post. They may or may not be directly relevant to the theme of the post.

As I have time (and internet access), I will continue to expand this blog-site. I would like to have a page where I can share some of my favorite books, authors, websites and so on. I mention some in my posts, but it would be nice to be able to share in a more accessible way the resources that have helped me on my journey. There are also “technical” things I have yet to learn in order to more fully utilize this site. I hope to figure them out in the weeks and months ahead and look forward to improving my blogging skills. I would also like to start exploring your blog-sites.

One other noticing: It was interesting to discover a feeling of anxiety began to rise when I laid out these goals here – especially the one about having a “Job Talk” post every week. This is one of the prime motivators for this journey, since looking for employment has been an intimidating process which I have felt ill-equipped to do well. I’ve heard that a worthy goal should scare one. Perhaps I’ve found one!

Action step(s) taken:

  • Establishing a clearer framework for this journey and my posts about it.
  • Attending two Al Anon meetings this evening – a familiar one and a new one.

Day 24 – Wednesday, Dec. 28: Tackling the fear

This morning I was reminded to stop letting fear get in the way and to tackle the adversaries of my confidence. It was a timely reminder. This was the day I had set aside to take care of my student loan paperwork to address the very real (for the time being) situation of not having money to pay loans that would be coming due next month. Just the federal part of my loans from only one of the two companies I’m working with is scheduled to begin payments that are literally about 95% of my take-home pay. Needless to say, action on my part is required!

I started to work on this a few days ago, then realized I needed some files from storage. Yesterday, I went “shopping” in my storage units and picked up those papers and several other items. (I’m trying to not go out and buy the things I know I have in storage. I already have too much “stock”!)  Since I needed to find some information, then submit the form online, I went to the office to use my computer there.

Right now, my loans are in deferment because I am considered “unemployed” by their standards. When I first applied for deferment, I was told that I needed to have at least six interviews for fulltime positions during that time if the deferment would need to be extended. I’ve only had two. Many of the positions I’ve applied for (which is admittedly not an impressive number) have not even acknowledged receipt of my application. So goes today’s job market…

Then I had this idea. What if I simply asked if I am eligible to continue to have them in deferment? If I’m not, I can continue the paperwork I had planned to do already. But if I am… As it turns out, there is no requirement of “six interviews” for either the federal loans or the other loans with this company. I was told that yes, I could submit the request to extend the deferment. The online form for the non-federal loans did, however, ask if I had made at least six diligent attempts to find full-time employment. I nervously checked the “yes” box. My efforts feel so feeble compared to people I have met who are boldly out there submitting five or six applications a week. I don’t know how they do it. Clearly they are not ACAs struggling with things like fear of rejection or, worse, uncertainty about the kinds of jobs they even want.

I’m beginning to think that some (many? most?) people really don’t care where they work as long as they have a job. I’m afraid I do. It actually matters to me that I like the those with whom I work and for whom I work. It matters to me that the job pay me enough that I’ll be able to stay there rather than to immediately begin looking for a position that pays more. Yet at least one person I spoke to last summer about my student loans suggested that any job, even a minimum wage job, should be on my apply-to list. Call me weird, but I prefer a job I look forward to going to each day and a company whose mission I am pleased to support.

So, long story short, the anxiety I felt about qualifying for some kind of “you don’t have to pay on these just yet” status turned out to be a simple process that took only a few minutes (once I had the answers to my questions). Whew! Breathing room.

Today’s action step(s):

  • Taking a 40-minute walk with LOTS of uphill stretches. Oy! (But it breaks the sitting-on-my-assets-all-day cycle.)
  • Taking care of student loan situation. YAY!
  • Organizing the chaotic array of items I had to bring with me to my temporary abode. It feels so-o-o much nicer to walk in the room and not feel depressed, guilty or overwhelmed by this mess, even if most of the stuff is still there.
  • Putting a few items in my car to take to storage. (I made a wee bit more space when I went “shopping” there yesterday.)
  • Scheduling a “play date” with a friend! Tomorrow, we’re going to go to a movie, probably grab a bite to eat, and enjoy catching up. (I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure this qualifies under the “have fun” category – you know, one of those things ACAs have difficulty doing. 😉

Day 3 – Wednesday: Different journeys?

In the midst of this process, I am often amazed to discover parallels between my journey from a year ago and my journey today. In one of my journals from last year, I wrote: Piece by piece, I find myself pulling together the tattered edges of my life. They have become tattered through neglect and through simply not knowing how – or perhaps being willing? – to go at them in a more effective manner. Shades of the Al Anon journey.

Years ago, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. In 1998, I read Janet Woititz’s book Adult Children of Alcoholics, recommended by a family member who wisely recognized that we were, indeed, raised in an alcoholic home, even though the alcoholic was no longer present in the home (or in our lives for the most part). I was startled to feel like I was reading about myself. One of the things Woititz said was that adult children of alcoholics “guess at what normal is.” How true that is! Lately I’ve begun noticing more and more things that I don’t know how to do. I find myself wondering how others seem to do so many things with ease. I wonder what class I missed while growing up. I wonder what class I can take to catch up. I feel anything but “normal.”

I’m not sure what I meant by “tattered edges” last November. The entry was written just three weeks before I had my hyperactive, unhappy thyroid gland removed. The surgery brought blessed relief to my body and I suspect the transition in my health is what has enabled me to work at deeper levels in other arenas. Being freed from the persistent physical challenge has allowed me to notice more the things going on inside my mind, including the fears to which I turn my attention through this blog-journey. The first two days, I was focused on letting go of stuff I don’t need. This day I reached into other arenas where fear has held me back.

Wednesday was a day of attending to one of the bigger challenges in my present life – learning how to (effectively) search for work. I have a part-time job at a place I love and hope I will be able to stay there. Needless to say, though, having only one part-time job makes life a bit challenging. Thankfully, a friend recently introduced me to a wonderful organization, “JVS” (Jewish Vocational Services) in San Francisco (http://jvs.org). This organization provides a fantastic array of workshops and training to prepare people for finding work and it’s available to whomever needs the help and support, regardless of faith affiliation. There were two JVS activities on my calendar this day.

In the morning, I went into the City to attend a cover letter and thank-you note writing workshop. All through the workshop I thought about a recent application I had submitted. I had learned that I was not being considered for the job, though my resume “impressed” the hiring committee. After attending this workshop, I could see several things I would have done differently in my cover letter that might have given me a better shot at an interview. This part of my day was more helpful than intimidating. The scary part came later – the “networking event.”

I’ve never been to a networking event and the mere idea of going someplace for the express purpose of “networking” intimidates me enormously. I barely know how to socialize with a group of friends. For whatever reason, when I’m with more than one or two people – even friends – I quickly turn into a wallflower and disappear at the first opportunity. Being intentionally with twenty or so people to “network” felt most intimidating. But I’ve made a commitment to “job searching” and learning how to do it. The truth is, I know these events are also teaching me skills that will serve me well in the work I want to do.

After a hesitant start, I found myself rather comfortably visiting with a few different people at various times during the 90 minutes I was there. I had no expectations of finding a job connection at this, so I had let go concerns about how I presented myself and practiced just being me. I was nervous at first, but I’m glad I went. I didn’t stay long, but I learned enough to know I can do this – and to realize that I’ll get better with practice.

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