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. 🙂

Room for Fear and the Challenge of Facing It – Day 300 (Sat – Oct 6)

Was it only yesterday morning that the words “Be of good courage” provided the emotional release I must have needed? It seems longer ago than that…

I have been letting go of many things, including expectations around how much time I have in the mornings. For more than ten years, I have spent at least 20-30 minutes every morning doing a little reading, then reflecting on what came to me, filling page after page in my now dozens of journals.

With my recent, self-imposed (though much appreciated) early work schedule, I don’t always have time to write in my journal in the morning. So I’ve been trying new things. One of them is to simply read something that helps me to hear God’s voice. Usually I read from my Al Anon literature, like The Forum magazine or Hope for Today (one of the daily readers), or I read from an inspirational resource, like the Daily Guideposts devotionals or the Guideposts magazines. I like hearing other people’s experiences, how they’ve made it through the difficult times and how they celebrate the rejoicing times.

It was the third devotion I read yesterday that brought on tears as I recognized the depth of my loneliness. I hadn’t actually noticed it while trying to work on the challenges in my life right now. In fact, I would likely have told you that I’m not especially lonely these days. But there it was!

As I reflected on these feelings on my way to work, I noticed that clearing out so much unneeded stuff from my room last weekend had actually created room for more feelings and more fear to emerge. It was as if I had begun disassembling the wall of protection I’d hidden behind for such a long time. Without all the conspicuous clutter and my constant concern about what to do with it, my mind had room to turn to other things. And the next “other things” are the many stashes of paper living in various spaces in my room, from orderly boxes to random piles.

It’s within the paper piles that the scary stuff lives: the stuff that brings up emotions, triggers fear, and generally intimidates me, sometimes even overwhelming me when I think about addressing it. If I open the piece of mail from the credit card company, for instance…here, let me grab one right now and open it…

Okay. This one is a “REMINDER NOTICE.” (They capitalize that to make sure I don’t think it’s some other kind of notice, I suppose, or perhaps to make sure that I am, indeed, “reminded” that I promised to send them $25 a month.) It’s from the “RECOVERY DEPARTMENT.” (More caps.) Of course, “recovery” for them means getting as much money from me as they can before they give up. “Recovery” for me means learning to let God lead me through this maze of challenges as I am restored to sanity.

What happens for me, in the very process of facing the unopened envelope, is that I’m afraid I will open the envelope to discover that something is happening that is the very opposite of what I want to happen. So I procrastinate and let the papers accumulate. Then last weekend, I had to go and do what I realize was a remarkable amount of cleanup in my room. So much so that I really have no more excuses to not begin plowing through the stacks of paper.

The words I read yesterday, especially “Be of good courage,” came on the heels of newly realized feelings of loneliness. They became both the reminder that this work must be done alone (for the most part) and the encouragement for me to hang in there. At an InterPlay retreat last Saturday, I was encouraged to ask someone to simply come be with me while I sort through stuff. Just thinking about that possibility brings up fear and uncertainty, because I know that having someone with me as a supportive witness would intensify the experience.

Rats! Here come the fears and the tears, as I am reminded that there is a reason I’m being led through all of this inner work incrementally, one small step at a time. It is hard work. And it is often intensely emotional…and powerfully cleansing when I have the courage to take even the smallest of steps.

I can only do one piece or take one step at a time…

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

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

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

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

Sadly, the consistent “before” state…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knew it could look like this!

Challenging Choices – Day 288 (Mon – Sep 24)

The trouble with change is that there are so many choices to be made as a result of the change. Moving, in particular, presents its own challenge because virtually everything has been thrown up in the air to land in a different place. Sadly, my desk top and the corner to the left of it still look like that’s what actually happened. This is where the challenging choices come in.

Did I mention the room is quite small?

It’s the end of a day that started before 5 a.m. when my alarm clock went off. I’m tired. I probably shouldn’t have followed dinner with that delicious Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt. (I feel too full, which doesn’t help.) And I’d like to start getting ready for bed in about half an hour so I can get a reasonable night’s sleep before the alarm goes off early tomorrow morning. I have clothes to get ready, things to put away, and breakfast and lunch to plan.

I find myself faced with too many choices. I could (and probably should soon) bring my check register up-to-date. I realize I’m not at all certain what my balance actually is. (Online banking is helpful, but too often misleading.) I would like to start putting things in the desk drawers, rather than having them scattered on top of the desk or temporarily perched in various other places in the room. However, before I can put things in the desk, I’d like to remove the old and grimy-looking drawer liners and replace them with fresh, new contact paper. Plus the drawers stick when pulled, so I have some sanding to do. There are still a few boxes I need to sort and clear out. The bookshelves are only partly organized – some things are where they may stay, other things are temporarily hanging out till I can put them in more convenient places.

I could check my email, write in my reflection journal, read some Al Anon literature, relax and watch a DVD, make a call about tomorrow’s possible lunch date, write a blog post (clearly you can see which choice I made this evening), or start early preparing for the morning (picking out clothing, cutting up food for breakfast, and so on).

It’s a mystery to me how I ever used to be able to do so much before and still get my rest! I used to have a three-hour window between getting up and getting out the door; now I have a two-and-a-quarter-hour window.

How’s this for dazzlingly large…not!

Does it truly make that much difference to have my “kitchen” scattered in three locations (bedroom, kitchen and garage) when my bedroom is only five steps from the kitchen and the garage is reasonably close (although it won’t feel that way in the rain)? At my aunt and uncle’s, my bedroom was down a long hallway from the kitchen and my refrigerator was just past the good-sized dining area. Yet I seemed to have been able to get more done in the morning and to have consistently had time for my morning journaling. What am I missing??

It was more convenient to have all my refrigerated food indoors, where it only took a dozen steps each way to retrieve one more thing if I forgot it. It is challenging to have to stop and carefully plan everything I need so I only have to go to the garage once (hopefully) while preparing breakfast and lunch – especially because it’s dark out when I’m fixing all this.

But what bothers me more than anything else is the frequent sacrificing of my reflection and journaling time. That’s my time spent talking to and listening to God. That’s the time when I ground myself for the day. That’s the time I depend on to be reminded that I am not alone on this journey even though I often feel alone. At least in terms of human companionship.

I dislike having to make choices between multiple things that are important and/or multiple things that I want to be doing. I dislike having to rush or forego my journal time with God if I’m going to prepare food that adequately nourishes my body (except that I haven’t found time to properly evaluate the foods I’m preparing and suspect I need to overhaul my breakfast and lunch choices). In short, I dislike – sometimes intensely – feeling under a time crunch both morning and evening and keep wondering how on earth I’ve been able to do seemingly so much more in the past…

Yet despite this frustrating time of adapting to a new and, let’s face it, rather inadequate living space – perhaps even because of the challenges, there are incredible moments of letting go that seem to come with greater and greater ease than ever before. Could it be that this is the winepress and I’m the grapes being pressed to yield the best part of the fruit?

One bona fide perk of this tiny room – the view out the windows lined up along one wall!

Changes, Challenges and Choices – Day 283 (Wed – Sep 19)

I’m finding it hard to get started again with my blog posts after such a long gap and after not having internet access on my home computer for nine and a half months. But maybe that was a necessary “gestation” period for something more to come.

Interesting how things change in ways we didn’t expect (or want). It felt so right deciding to move into this place. And actually I believe it was the right thing to do. It’s just that I had hoped for a place that felt far more welcoming and comfortable than this has been so far. There are moments when I feel like the whiny Israelites, complaining that they got what they wanted, only to discover they didn’t like what they got!

I’m living in a room that is about 8′ by 12′. The distance between the twin bed on one wall and the desk on the facing wall is all of 34″ (almost 34″ that is). On either side of the desk, unfortunately, there are still piles of my as-yet unsorted boxes and such. I’m having to be very patient and gentle with myself these days. I arrive home from work with little energy for tackling such tasks as organizing my room. But little by little I see progress. I just didn’t expect it to take so long.

The changes that come naturally to any move are unavoidable. Different room arrangements, different furniture (in my case, at least), different logistics of where things are in relation to each other, both room-wise and stuff-wise. Following my initial move into the downstairs apartmentette, I schlepped all my things into my newly painted room, with it’s newly sanded and finished floor and a new 5’x8′ rug bridging the gap between bed and desk. I made the move pretty much all in one day, which was exhausting. But it was really nice to simply get it done.

Unfortunately the transition has been difficult, fraught with challenges. The short version (of the most annoying challenge) is that my bedroom still serves as my pantry/kitchen extension and the kitchen is essentially only a place I can use…a little. I have been allowed one small shelf-drawer – the bottom one of a lower cupboard. In other words, I can keep a few things on a shelf-drawer that’s just a couple of inches above the floor. Aside from a teensy area (less than a square foot) in the kitchen refrigerator and a few things that are now in the freezer (which was less than 1/4 full and appears to stay that way), all of my things that need freezing or refrigerating live in a tiny refrigerator in the (non-attached) garage!

The refrigerator is, thankfully, not on the garage floor. It is perched atop a makeshift cupboard which is my “pantry.” (Swell…) It’s too vulnerable to outdoor multi-legged critters from various insect families, so I’m only keeping things there that are in cans, jars, or seriously non-perishable and virtually all of them are in small plastic tubs to deter invasions. Thus, things like my boxes of cereal and granola need to live on the built-in bookshelf in my small bedroom. (So much for lots of book shelf space.)

Preparing a bowl of cereal, for instance, required grabbing a box of cereal from my bedroom, getting my bowl out of the shelf-drawer in the kitchen, pouring the cereal in the bowl, carrying the bowl out to the garage, getting the milk out of the tiny fridge to pour on my cereal, then trekking back into the house to eat the cereal. (Thank God, I haven’t yet had to do this in the rain.) I finally started keeping a small amount of milk in a small, washed & recycled plastic juice bottle in the fridge. It’s too small for my housemates to object to, but big enough to save me a few trips to the garage.

All this is to say that I am facing these and similar challenges on a daily basis – sometimes several times a day. Which leads me to “choices.”

I have to admit that it is taking a lot of very conscious effort to keep letting go and setting aside my irritation when everything about living here feels like the very opposite of what I’ve been praying for. It is only by reminding myself that this is a temporary situation and that I am blessed to have a comfortable bed and now, at long last, an internet connection that I am able to find any serenity at all. I’m finding myself truly grateful for my recovery work and for the support and encouragement I receive from my 12-step friends. I am discovering just what it means to live “one day at a time” when I very much want things to change for the better. I know they will. I just pray that it comes sooner rather than later.

In the meanwhile, I take care of myself by continuing to work my program and prepare for better things to come. Letting go, remembering to trust, and noticing my journey are all a part of the process.

Actions, Small Steps and Noticings:

  • I released my bike and was able to give it to a program friend who truly needed one (and actually rides it, unlike me ;-))
  • I bought a $20 computer table at IKEA.
  • Things go much better when I remember to be patient and gentle with myself. I really can only do one thing at a time… (Who knew?!)

Day 219 (Jul 17): What does it mean to “be still”?

For the past few weeks, I have been unwilling to continue the endless pushing that seemed to have become a part of my daily life. My mornings had become a stressful, rushed process of the many tasks I need to do before I leave for work – or at least thinkI need to do before I start to work. The litany of tasks looks something like this:

From table to bed…

Get up. Migrate alarm clock to the desk/table (where I can see it more easily). Make the bed. Migrate the piles on my desk to the bed. Gather my two bags – one with my lunchbox, the other with my cereal bowl and ingredients – and take them to the kitchen. Head to the bathroom to brush my teeth, shower and dress. (I leave my clothes for work in the bathroom at night. One less things to schlep in the morning.) Take my pj’s and other things back to my room. Go to the kitchen to fix/cook my breakfast and prepare my lunch. Gather my bags (lunchbox now full), breakfast and glass of water and go back to my room. Eat my breakfast while I do my morning journal reflection. Take my dishes back to the kitchen if I have time to wash them. (Otherwise, they wait in my room till I return home later in the day.) Brush my teeth, finish dressing, organize my things and head out for my day.

Btw, every time I go from my room to the bathroom or the kitchen, I have to pass my aunt and uncle’s room, where they are (hopefully) still sleeping peacefully. Thus my mornings are about doing a number of tasks as quietly as possible, including repeatedly tiptoeing down a hopelessly squeaky hallway in hopes that I do not awaken them, because all of this starts at 4:45 a.m.

On a good morning, I can get all this done in just over two hours – if I’m efficient and what I’m fixing for breakfast and for lunch doesn’t take too long to prepare. It takes more than a couple of minutes to make a sandwich or to cut up a few fresh veggies. I’ve given up cooking the kind of breakfast my body most appreciates and have settled for having a bit of meat (for the protein) and hot cereal most mornings.

Time to write…reflect…

In other words, the beginning of my day, most days, is the quintessential opposite of “being still.” Because things like traffic and parking come into play, leaving early is a primary concern of mine, so everything hinges on my departure time. Thus, even when I do have the time to do my morning reflection, I feel “under the gun,” watching the clock, shortening up my reflection, rarely having time to really hold still and listen.

As I put on my current favorite necklace this morning, a small metal disk with the words “Be still” on it, I found myself wondering, What does it mean to “be still”?

Does it mean doing nothing? Does it mean more slowly “rushing” about so it doesn’t feel so rushed? Does it mean dropping things from the routine even when they are important things? (I’ve wrestled with the change to my morning reflection time, for example, where I used to take as long as an hour and have time to write two reflections. Now, many mornings, I barely complete one.) Or does it mean focusing on what I’m doing so “precious” seconds aren’t lost in daydreaming? Or is it possible to let my mind “wander” in conversation with God while I perform tasks (hoping I remember what I’m doing)?

I’ve noticed that when I’m experiencing serenity, I can be surprisingly efficient. Worry isn’t crowding in to clutter my thoughts and derail my efforts at getting things done quickly. When my mind wanders down the path of fear, I forget what I’m doing and have to go back to do this or that because I forgot it in my distraction. But serenity isn’t a switch I can simply flip to the “on” position when I need it. It takes practice and, for me, it requires a desire for serenity that outweighs the temptation to worry.

I would be most interested to hear of your experiences of what it means to “be still.” Have you thought about it a lot? Have you practiced it? How do you practice “being still”? Or is it, like it is for me at times, something you aspire to and only occasionally experience, wanting more?

…to listen…

I may not be here as often these days, with internet access still found in places other than my own computer. But I’m here, and I’d love to hear from you.

Day 192 (Wed Jun 20): Between peace and panic

Why do I feel at times like I’m still a beginner?

Today has been an odd day, where I have flowed (and sometimes bounced) between peace and panic.

My car still sounds and feels like it needs some attention. The challenge is, its symptoms are not clear enough to readily describe to a technician. I decided to drop by the dealership and see if they might have time to check it out today. They didn’t. But it was helpful to talk with the person in charge of my car’s maintenance. She helped me consider other possibilities to the nature of the problem. (And no, it isn’t the driver.)

We have an appointment for Tuesday morning.

Because my finances are not quite steady, I was nervous about going there this morning. So I said some prayers, then turned on the CD I’ve been enjoying a lot lately. My favorite song is called “Strength for the Journey” (I think). For once, I let myself become enveloped in the words. I surrendered to them and the message I needed to hear: that I need to let go and let God handle this because I can’t do this alone.

When I turned to my little devotional book while I was waiting for the garage to open, I was amazed to find that today’s reading reflects what I had been hearing and “getting” from the song: that we must rely on God and others to help us on our way. These are the words I especially appreciated reading this morning:

Self-sufficiency is impossible. As much as we hate to admit it, no one can get through life on his or her own strength. At some point, we all need help…God knows we can’t get by alone. That’s why…[God] reaches down to help us up. (June 20 in Every Day With Jesus ©2011 Worthy Publishing)

After feeling myself surrender to the song lyrics on the way to the garage, reminding me that I want my Higher Power to be my strength for this journey, these words were a welcome affirmation. They expanded the peace I had been feeling on the way.

Perhaps that’s why it felt so decidedly ridiculous to experience such an opposite state a short time later. At 8:30 this morning, less than an hour later, I wrote this in what I thought might become a blog draft: Okay, this is just plain annoying! Just thinking about preparing a posting [e.g., in Craigslist] to find a new place to live is raising my anxiety level. I can feel the butterflies in my tummy going berserk and I feel anxious all over. Augh! This feels so dumb and silly!

Now wouldn’t you think that a healthy dose of peace might have washed away the tendency toward panic? I would have! Even though I’ve experienced swings between peace and panic countless times, I still expect to remain in that place of peace when the scary thoughts arise.

I know we’ve all been there, in one way or another. Maybe you get as frustrated as I do when you lose that serenity, and fear, anxiety or outright panic starts to set in. The only thing I’ve found that helps me – and perhaps you’ve discovered this, too – is to keep returning to the things that nurture me and return me to serenity. For me that often comes in the form of uplifting music, inspirational reading, practices like InterPlay and prayer, and remembering that we are not alone on this journey. At any given moment, I may feel alone because I don’t have another earthling walking along beside me (and probably not an extra-terrestrial either, for that matter ;-)).

Helpers

The truth is, we are all loved and helped every moment of every day by our Higher Power whether we know it or not. My Higher Power is God, the God of my understanding who loves me and is patient with me, who puts up with my repeated whining and complaining and the humiliating number of blunders I make, and who loves me anyway! I don’t recall off the top of my head who said this, but I like to remember that there is nothing – NOTHING! – I can do to make God love me any more – or any less.

Thank God!

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 155 (Mon/May 14): On releasing guilt

I’m fast concluding that releasing guilt, like so many other aspects of life, is a process, a journey that has ebbs and flows, times of ease, times of struggle. (Who knew?)

This morning, I turned to page 217 in my Bible simply because that number was what popped into my mind when I considered what to read for my reflection. I started reading about people dying and being afflicted with tumors and thought, “Bleck! This is not what I want to use for my reflection!” But I persisted, especially as I had begun in the middle of a chapter. It didn’t necessarily get “better,” but I found myself intrigued by a couple of lines in the chapter that started on that page. The people were told to return the ark to God with a “guilt offering” and they would be healed (1 Sam 6:1-3).

It took a few minutes for it to register that guilt is one of the character weaknesses I identified for myself in Step 6. I decided to see what I might find in Courage to Change on guilt. But before I looked in the book, I decided to prepare my own “guilt offering” to be placed in my “God box” – a written prayer asking God to take my feelings of guilt and remove them from me.

Guilt is a wholly appropriate topic for me today. I awoke with dreams of worrying about my credit card debt and what I should do about it. In an effort to take better care of myself and to maintain a sense of serenity, I have chosen to ignore most of the incoming calls from the credit card agents. I have even left the messages on my voicemail to pick up when I’m ready to deal with them (or not). It dawned on me recently that they are the ones who feel the need to keep pushing for different answers from me when I have none to offer. Repeating the same, unhappy responses to their questions – affirming repeatedly that I do not, at this time, have the income to send them as much money as they want – upsets me and renews the guilt and the worry. Since they have not been willing to honor my request for less frequent calls (one company calls me five days after we last talked – every time!), I have chosen not to take the calls just now.

As I was writing my reflection this morning, I felt guilty that I have not picked up my voice messages. Now I’m at work (on my lunch break) and it’s not the time. There are five messages – all, I suspect, from these collection agents. I have more practicing to do in order to let go my guilty feelings. I have more things to figure out with regard to how and when to respond to the messages.

I read two of the pages on guilt listed in the index in Courage to Change. They reminded me that I am imperfect because I am human (can’t escape it…), that I can “be free to look at my mistakes without blowing them out of proportion” (CtC, p 120), that I can learn to stop repeating the mistakes I’ve made and learn to make wiser choices. I already am making wiser choices and the tendency to fall back into old patterns is lessening every day.

I especially appreciate the “Today’s Reminder” with the April 29th reading:

I will not chain myself to the past with self-defeating guilt, or by inflating the importance of my errors. Instead, I want to face my past and heal old wounds so that I may move forward into a richer, fuller, and more joyous life today (Courage to Change, p 120).

The reading on page 144 in CtC also reminds me that it is easier to love myself when I accept myself as I am, imperfect choices and all. I notice I need to be reminded of this often – the idea of loving myself, that is. Sometimes I get caught up in the doing of xyz and forget that the reason I am doing recovery and other work is to be able to see and love myself more the way I know God does. Once in a while it occurs to me to ask God to give me eyes that see others and myself through the eyes of love. I even get there and stay there for a while now and then. Then I slip and fall back into old patterns of thinking and behavior. I am so grateful for 12-Step programs, wonderful little books like Courage to Change and a God whose love is big enough to overcome those times when I forget to love myself.

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