56 Days – Remember to breathe, remember to breathe… (Tue, Jan 15)

Did you know that listening to upbeat music helps my spirit but muddles my thinking when it comes to writing a post? Well, it does. But I shall press on because I have had a most unfun day.

I don’t know why I thought it would be a good, even really good idea to begin my day by doing the processing of my student loan paperwork, to have the payments reduced. It sounded like a good idea – especially because I need to get it done ASAP. Unfortunately, when I entered my new and improved income, it turns out my monthly payments are alarmingly large. The federal government has the ludicrous notion that anything above 150% of the national poverty level constitutes “discretionary” income. Clearly they have not lived where the cost of living is ridiculous.

My uncle once asked me why I didn’t move somewhere less expensive to live. I pointed out that one needed to have a job and that it costs hundreds of dollars (at least) to actually move. Unless one has virtually nothing more than a few suitcases and a box or two, there are expense involved in relocating. (He hadn’t thought about that piece.) Of course, there are probably cheap places to live somewhere nearby…if one doesn’t mind living in a place where one’s belongings and one’s physical being, for that matter, are at risk on a daily basis. I mean, I’m sure there’s some kind of dump that goes for cheap. I’d rather live in my car.

I’ve been wrestling with this all day, trying to separate the reality from the wildly terrifying detours my imagination keeps spinning. Not too successfully… Finally, on the drive home, I remembered that I’m on this self-imposed 60-day journey. It gradually dawned on me that maybe I could hang in there for 60 days without doing something radical or insane. Then again, what would I do?

There’s always driving off a cliff. But I’d have to find a suitable cliff. Then I’d worry about all the unfinished business I’d leave behind. My son would get stuck cleaning up the mess and that is not a burden I would wish to lay on him by design. I could run screaming from the building – but it’s cold – and now dark – outside and who needs that? I could simply stand in my room and scream till my throat gives out, but my housemates might not appreciate it and I’m quite certain I’d rather not discover what it feels like to end up in a straight jacket.

What’s most annoying about this is the way the fear is fogging up my brain. I felt like I was moving in slow motion all day at work. I would have to think about things very carefully because I was viewing it through a cloud of fear and despair. My logical mind just doesn’t get a chance when my Al Anon, Adult Child terrified perspective grabs on for dear life. What exactly I think will happen I don’t know. It’s that vague, unidentifiable fear that spells disaster and emotional, if not physical, death. Especially, for me, when there are legal authorities like the government involved.

On the upside – I was actually too stressed to eat much today! Usually I start eating when I’m stressed. Maybe this could actually turn out to be a perk!

This morning, I truly believed I’d appreciate having bravely taken this first step in this loan process. Now I’m having to work hard to feel appreciative. Perhaps by tomorrow I will feel better. Right now the anxiety is too fresh. So, let me do a quick gratitude list and notice some things that might help me as my body continues to process this challenge.

  • I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and to be able to meet my monthly expenses for now.
  • I’m grateful to have a place to work two days a week where I can express my feelings and let my body have some of the movement it needs, whether it’s a quick dance, a quick temper tantrum, or any other kind of movement that supports my bodyspirit.
  • I’m grateful that I have people who encourage and affirm me at both my places of work.
  • I’m truly grateful for the years I have in Al Anon and the bits of wisdom that can bubble to the surface in times of stress.
  • I’m grateful beyond words that I have faith in a Power greater than myself and that this Higher Power, whom I call God, cares about me and is watching over me no matter what is going on in my life.
  • I am grateful to be reminded that all I really have to do is the best I can and God will take care of the rest. Thanks be!
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Gracefully(?) Weathering an Al-Anon Moment – Day 354 cont. (Thu – Nov 22)

My preferred spot

I don’t know how many times I find myself grateful for the many tools of the Al Anon program. Today I’m especially grateful for the reminder to HALT. Whenever something catches me off guard, something to which my first response is to resist, I try to notice whether I’m feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. If I am, I try to stop or at least pause before putting my foot in my mouth and biting down.

Today is Thanksgiving Day and my landlady – let’s call her Lulu (for the alliteration in landlady) – is expecting a number of family members (and possibly a friend or two) for the meal. I have no idea how many are coming or what time they’re eating. Lulu feels no need to inform her tenants of her plans (even when we’re affected by them). Indeed, I only had a heads up about today’s influx of people because my other housemate overheard her on the phone (which is easy to do – she has a loud voice).

When I emerged from my room to get something for lunch, Lulu told me she was expecting more company and they drive SUVs. This is a neighborhood where parking is limited to one side of the street and the spaces fill up quickly with so many driveways sprinkled along the way. Plus it’s hilly and narrow. Lulu has her own small garage that opens into the alley for her car and she has a 2-car open “garage” that opens onto the street. She asked me to move my car into the open garage because the SUVs will not fit in there.

Last night, all the spaces that were reasonably close to the house were full, so I backed into the garage. It’s a painted cinderblock affair that has two very narrow carports. The thing is you have to make a choice. Either you drive head first into the right space or you back into the left space. Neither space is wide enough to be able to open both driver and passenger car doors. In fact, if one car is already in one of the spots, you have to be careful not to hit their car door while opening your own car door.

It’s a one-sided affair!

When Lulu asked me if I could move my car into the garage, all the while justifying her reasons for needing the space I was (happily) occupying on the street, I felt myself simmering. In fact, I was getting ticked off at her – not because it was such an unreasonable request, but because she has often been unconcerned, even dismissive, when I have expressed a desire for something or even simply expressed my feelings. Once I mentioned that the “garage” was kind of creepy in the dark because it has no lights. She said she couldn’t do anything about it and essentially told me, “Too bad!”

Thus, her request for me to move into a space I had intentionally moved out of earlier in the day (there were no close spaces yesterday when I got home) was not well received. I grumbled a little, barely resisting the urge to say, “Why the heck should I?!”

Fortunately, I recognized that I was not only hungry, I was starting to get to the shaky, need-food-now!!! stage. So I told her I just needed to get my lunch and that I’d think about it.

Yep, they’re all taken…

I tried to relax and enjoy a few minutes of my movie while I ate, but I found myself wrestling with my anger. I considered the facts. One: it literally took me almost ten minutes to back into the garage yesterday as I tried to angle my car in from what must have been a very awkward angle. (Cinderblock posts and walls are not kind to paint jobs.) Two: I didn’t want to give up my favorite parking spot. Three: It will be dark when I leave in the morning and it’s very dark in that parking garage – the street lamp doesn’t quite get in there. (Creepy!) Four: I didn’t want to have my day interrupted later to move my car back onto the street – I would have been “waiting” for that interruption and been unable to relax and enjoy my day.

Then I thought about the flipside of the coin and went out to see just what the parking situation was. The truth is, there was no parking anywhere near the house. Then I thought about backing in again so I could at least drive out nose first in the morning. And if I didn’t pull back too far – just far enough to be able to open my door – then maybe it wouldn’t be too awfully dark. And maybe, just maybe, it would be a kind thing to do.

Yep, full that way too. (But notice the smart guy parked facing downhill. That’s my preference on this silly hill!)

So I moved my car and, in doing so, discovered that if you drive almost into the driveway across the street, it is much easier to back in.

It’s still not a place I care to park. I tend to schlep a lot of stuff with me, so I truly prefer to be able to put things in the passenger seat from the passenger side of the car. (My back seat’s otherwise occupied.) And the street curves, so you can’t really tell if anyone’s coming till you’re out there. Yet once I’d decided to move my car and leave it there, it was actually pretty easy to do it with (mental) ease – and physical ease, as it turned out!

It occurred to me later that choosing to say “I’ll think about it” was actually the best possible response I could have given Lulu. It was a way to “halt” when I felt very hungry and increasingly angry. Plus it gave me some space to do just that – think about it. It gave me time to recognize and have my feelings (which were mostly angry) without directing them toward her. And it gave me time to consider my options.

Judging by the sudden increase in volume and number of voices I’m hearing in the kitchen, it sounds like the additional guests found parking. I’m glad I was able to help. 🙂

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 183 (Mon/Jun 11): Finding my way back

I’ve lost sight of why I’m blogging – or not blogging, as has been the case more recently. It has been such a helpful thing to record my feelings here, to process the work I’m doing or not doing.

Three weeks ago I learned that I was taking too much thyroid medication. My low energy levels were not because I needed more thyroid hormone; rather I needed less. Contrary to popular belief, too much results in poor sleep and a state of increasing fatigue as the body’s metabolism gets stuck in a higher gear. When I found myself positively dragging, thoughts of staying up later to write more posts for my blog simply weren’t on the list of practical things to do to take care of myself.

This is kinda how it’s feeling…

The other thing I’ve noticed is that the longer the gaps between posts, the more I have stored up. So much is happening in what feels like such a short time. My time with the temp position was extended through July on a 2-day per week basis. Now that I’ve done a bit of work in Debtors Anonymous and through a random question from an acquaintance, I’ve realized that the steady income for these two months, although providing much-needed income, are still keeping me at a poverty-level income.

I never knew I was trying to live at poverty level. I knew I was broke and that I needed more money. I even knew that it was ridiculous for anyone to expect to make ends meet with only 14 hours a week at a modest hourly pay rate. But I didn’t truly understand that my income was considered poverty-level. Ironically, I thought that because I’m making more per hour than I ever have before, something must be going well. Right? Wrong! My base of comparison was a job I had seven years ago when rates of pay – and cost of living – for everyone were lower. (Did I mention that I am rather oblivious to certain areas of ‘reality’ – like what it takes to live with all your basic needs met with a reasonable amount of ease?) I think I need to develop at least a wee bit more awareness in certain areas…

I don’t know how frequently I’ll be posting in the coming weeks. I inadvertently discovered that my uncle really doesn’t like me on his computer. The viruses he recently discovered, in his mind, have likely come through my internet use on his computer. He uses his computer a lot, but doesn’t understand how some things happen. That’s okay. I’ll simply avail myself more intentionally of the internet when I’m at the office. Coming in a little early, staying late, and lunch and break times will suffice.

This is how I *want* to feel!

On my radar at the moment: the need to find other housing. My aunt and uncle would like their guestroom back so other family members can come to visit this summer. The challenge for me already is to remember to trust that God is bringing me to a good, new place. I was grateful that the Al Anon slogan we talked about at one of the meetings this weekend was “Easy Does It.” Sound words for me right now, as I am occasionally tempted to “hurry up” and find a new place – as if it were as simple as dropping by the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread. I suppose one can always do that – if you don’t happen to care about the kind of bread you’re getting or how much it costs.  😉

Positive step(s):

  • Gathering my spending numbers to get a handle on just how much I *do* need each month
  • Gathering my income numbers to find out how much I have actually been earning the past few months
  • Called a friend, then talked with my sponsor when I was tempted to make a hasty decision and rush out of an uncomfortable situation when the timing would not have been in my best interest

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 59 – Wednesday, Feb. 8th (59/307): Blessings and Self-care

I’m late in getting this posted. In fact, I’m late in getting it written. It’s amazing how much time can pass in such a short period.

Tuesday turned into a surprisingly good day. Not that I expected a “bad” day, but sometimes things happen in ways that bless and nourish unexpectedly. That’s what happened.

I came in early to work and submitted a job application. It’s for a full-time, temporary position. We’ll see if anything comes of it. Part of my ongoing challenge is being willing to let go this part-time job I love to make space for the support I need. I know that if I am blessed to find fuller-time employment, it will be a blessing for all, including my present employers. Whether or not I receive even a response to this job application (aside from the auto-reply “we got your application” email), it felt good to submit it.

Later in the morning, when I was the only one in the office (which seldom happens), a friend called. Since it was quiet and I had the time, our conversation ranged to the personal. We ended up scheduling a time for the following morning for her to do some energy work with me. Wednesdays have often been my day off from the office, so the timing was perfect.

Tuesday afternoon, I went to a check-in at JVS. When asked how I was doing with my job search, I could feel my body tense up. I had expected a check-in around using the computer lab, not an all around check-in. As the conversation continued, with only three of us in the group, I found myself struggling with fear and resistance, feeling of inadequate for not doing more.

When I asked what the instructor included under the umbrella of “networking,” she said she considered any contact with other people, especially in person or at least by phone, to be “networking.” The way she described it started shifting my perception of networking. Suddenly I saw networking as being available to me anytime I’m talking to someone else and am willing to mention that I’m looking for work. It was rather like what my pastor calls a “BFO” – a Blind Flash of the Obvious. Yet it hadn’t been obvious to me before. As I continued to think about the conversation, I realized that finding opportunities through people I know has actually been true for several of my employment situations over the years. I just hadn’t noticed it till now.

Thus, Tuesday became a day of unexpected gifts – little things that added up to a pretty nice day.

As for Wednesday’s activities… What can I say? After the lovely time connecting with my friend in the morning to receive a most welcome Reconnective Therapy (“RCT”) treatment (see http://www.reconnectivetherapy.com/start.htm for more information), I gave myself an entire day of relaxation. I know little, as yet, about RCT, except that I trust this friend and have had wonderful healing experiences through many forms of energy and healing work. Not surprisingly, the topic of fear came up. Also not surprisingly, the area of my body where she was led to begin treatment was the very place where the fear and trauma of a particular experience when I was a young child had been held in my body’s memory. I had uncovered the trauma some years back; now my friend was bringing healing to this area. What a gift!

I was having a touch of digestive unsettledness already, so when she talked about how I would be integrating this experience and would need to hydrate a lot over the next few days, something told me to listen to my body’s need to simply hold still. I’m not sure I remember when I’ve ever let go of “responsibilities” for a whole day before, but I did this day. I spent virtually the entire day enjoying Columbo movies on DVD and enjoying a beautiful jigsaw puzzle I recently received as a birthday gift. It was lovely.

Action step(s):

  • Submitted a job application!
  • Followed-up on monthly billings at work and cleared out the erroneous papers that I’d been afraid to toss too soon (i.e., cleared out the chaos and created order!).
  • Attended a follow-up workshop at JVS.
  • Connected with a friend and availed myself of a wonderful healing session.
  • Gave myself an entire day of self-care.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

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 23 – Tuesday, Dec. 27: Argh… Then again…

Do you ever have those days when things just keep not working? Well, I’m having one of those days.

I went early to work on a computer before my resume workshop this morning. First the computer shut down when I was in the middle of writing an email. Then the programs took so long to open, I thought they hadn’t. After I finally got going, then wanted to try a different approach, the computer froze up altogether. We had to do a hard shutdown – about ten minutes before my workshop. Not helpful.

Now, I’ve spent a frustrating 20 of my allotted 60 minutes on the library computer, fighting with a similarly slow and seemingly unresponsive computer. Argh! I really don’t think it’s all about being impatient, but I confess that I have been.

My crackpot theory is that I’m having this kind of day because preparing for the resume lab raised my anxiety level in the first place. The thing is, I feel the need to find a job that will provide a regular paycheck that will allow me to take care of my financial responsibilities. But my presumptions around that are that this means a desk job, doing office work – which I happen to be good at and generally enjoy. But what I really want to do is the kind of work my recent seminary training prepared me to do, which is things like education, lay ministry, chaplaincy, developing some new curricula, and so on. (I’m not going to be a pastor, btw, but I do want to do things that support people spiritually and emotionally.)

When I think about getting full-time work as an administrative assistant, I usually first start to feel trapped and ‘panicky’ (not in the clinical sense, just in the ridiculous, Al-Anonish, mind racing off in stupid directions kind of panicky). I forget that I might actually love being an admin at the right kind of organization where I can also help provide spiritual and emotional support for people.

My question for myself right now is this: How am I limiting myself in my desire to find satisfying, gainful employment by these presumptions and the preconceived ideas, which are triggering the fear?

I don’t have any brilliant (or coherent) answer to this at the moment. I keep hearing that I need clarity around what I want – and I know that’s true. If I don’t feel clear in what I want, how can I possibly come across as a good candidate, let alone top candidate for any given job?

What I noticed last night as I quickly made a few changes to my resume for this morning’s workshop is that there’s a kind of domino effect that happens when I work on my resume. The resume tweaking leads to anxiety about getting it “right.” The idea of actually submitting the resume leads to anxiety about how I present myself in the cover letter and resume. The idea of actually getting an interview makes me nervous for all the same reasons. And all of these thoughts lead to the work that might really help me find a place and work I would enjoy – informational interviewing. And that, at the moment, scares the peewaddlin’ out of me! Although I notice I actually start feeling a twinge more interest and excitement at the prospect of doing informational interviews around chaplaincy work or certain organizations. Hmmm…

I need to remember that I only have to take this one small step at a time. Do you suppose I could tattoo this on my hands or somewhere I might remember it more often?

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