Rest for the Weary?

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

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

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

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

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

The need for humility...

The need for humility…

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

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

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

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

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A pointless delay or Divine intervention? Day 339 – 27 days left (Wed – Nov 7)

Sometimes I wonder if those little things that delay my getting out the door in the morning are actually my Higher Power lending a helping hand to keep me from harm’s way.

This morning, I had hoped to get out the door about ten minutes sooner than I actually did. Come to think of it, I intended to remember to leave even earlier than that, since there was to be road construction with up to twenty-minute delays on the route I normally take. But I had forgotten all about that this morning until I was walking out to my car. Since there was nothing I could do about leaving any earlier, I let it go.

As I approached the turn onto the back road I normally take, a very ‘still small voice’ said, Go right. Without missing a beat, I simply turned right instead of left, as I usually do. To my surprise and delight, there were virtually no cars going the way I was going and I encountered lots of green lights. Then, as I drove over the freeway on my way to the on-ramp, I noticed the traffic was backed up and seemingly at a stand still.

By this time, there wasn’t much I could do about the route I’d chosen, nor were there any alternate routes from that point. So I slowly – very slowly – inched my way along until I finally merged. It wasn’t even stop-and-go traffic. It was stop, inch, pause, inch, wait…

It took about half an hour to cover the distance that normally takes perhaps five minutes. I knew there must have been an accident in the stretch where we still only had two lanes before we could spread into four. I began praying for the people involved, the emergency response teams that were either there or on their way, and even for the emergency vehicles trying to make their way through the clog of cars.

When I finally drove past the accident site, which was much farther ahead than I had guessed, I saw at least four cars that looked badly mangled from the collisions that had obviously happened.

My efforts to let go and simply pray for those involved, including releasing concern about being late for work (I knew no one would be upset – which is something I might not have recognized a few short months ago), enabled me to experience a lot of serenity during what could have been a stressful driving experience. Most people I know aren’t too happy when their 15-minute commute turns into a 45-minute commute. Yet I was truly at peace with that part and more concerned about whomever may have been in those badly damaged cars.

Shortly before I left the office at the end of the day, I heard that two people had been killed in that accident. In checking online just now, that, as so often happens, may be an exaggeration. According to the report I read, two people did suffer major injuries and six cars were involved. Apparently a trailer had come off of a big rig and caused the multi-vehicle accident, closing that section of the highway until shortly after I got there. Leaving considerably earlier wouldn’t have gained me more than a few short minutes.

As I was driving home, it dawned on me that if I had left as early as I would have liked, I might have either been a participant in the accident or perhaps a witness to it. As I learned a few minutes ago, it happened far earlier than that. Still, it helps me to appreciate the value in “being still” and letting things unfold. Even the time it takes me to get ready for work and out the door in the morning. Perhaps even the time it takes for my life to change in the bigger ways over which I seem to have so little control.

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 101 (Wed/Mar 21): Eleven days – Adventure is a state of mind, a journey within the journey

My Life Practice Program group

I am so grateful that I went to InterPlay last night. Even though I was half an hour late to class, I connected seamlessly with the group and had a wonderful time. There was a remarkable young woman there with whom I connected. She and I had a lot of interests and experiences in common. It’s quite remarkable! And so typical of my InterPlay experiences – especially when I listen to those gentle nudges to be there for a particular class or event.

Today I found myself wrestling again with the uncertainty and challenge of my changing schedule. It finally dawned on me that I was starting to get frustrated with myself that I couldn’t figure out how to find more ease, more balance in juggling the temp job with my need and desire to be at my regular, part-time job. Today I worked half a day at each place. When I noticed myself struggling, I had to remind myself to let go even the struggle.

This morning, I had reflected on a verse that begins: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. (Isaiah 43:18 NIV) I thought of all those embodied memories that are not so easy to forget. I don’t know about you, but mine tend to spring up whenever something rekindles them, sometimes unexpectedly, often unannounced.

It helps – a lot – to know that our bodies have their own memories. When I start to feel panicky, I can pause to consider what previous experience might have been triggered. Like right now, for instance. My body is filled with nervous anxiety after taking a call from one of my credit card companies. I so much want to be able to catch up on my payments before they have to “charge off” my accounts (i.e., send them to a collection agency), but I cannot give them and will not promise them money I do not have or expect to have. And talking about the anxiety seems to be making it worse! Augh!!

Much needed reminders...

The embodied reaction I’m having stems from an experience of crashing and burning financially more than twenty years ago. But the experience was so intense it became ingrained in my body. Having similar conversations about bills I can’t pay brings back those body memories.

Gosh this is fun… Not! It is time to release this into God’s capable hands because there’s very little I can do about it at the moment. (I sure am getting lots of opportunities to practice release. Hmmm.)

Generally, when I uncover the reason I’m overreacting to a particular situation, such as realizing that it’s triggering the body memories of former experiences, it does much to relieve the anxiety or at least to help me understand it. At this particular moment, I’ve only gotten as far as understanding it. 😉

There’s something I’ve heard often at Al Anon meetings: HALT. It means what it looks like – to stop, to pause, to cease whatever we’re doing. But the word is used as an acronym to remind us that whenever we feel Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, it is notthe time to make decisions or sometimes even to open our mouths and say anything. I know I’m tired this evening and I’m angry at the moment – frustrated by my inability to catch up my credit card bills when I wanted so badly to meet my responsibilities. So, for the moment, I won’t make any decisions about what to do.

Drawing how I feel lifts my spirits

It occurs to me that this is also an opportunity to let go the escalating tendency to berate myself for past failures and recent poor choices in how I’ve managed my finances. I’m glad I’m on this journey within the journey. I may have to work at it, but my goal is to focus on what I am doing that’s positive and helpful and to let go the rest. That reminds me…

A year ago, I reflected on the word “adventure” and how some people are able to see all the challenges and new things in life as adventures. There are some things that feel and sound like adventures to me, but this isn’t quite what I had in mind. It’s one of the things that feels more scary than adventurous.

A year ago, I was still regaining energy after my thyroid surgery and “adventure” sounded like something that requires a great deal more energy than I had at that moment. As I reflected in my journal about things I was eager to do, I wrote: “I’m just not sure I want to use that precise word [i.e., “adventure”] just yet. But I’d like to want to use it.”

That’s how I feel now. I’d like to think of my experiences and challenges as adventures. I’d like to see my financial situation as a challenge I’m eager to overcome. I’d like to have the mental, emotional and physical energy to tackle the whole networking/job-search experience with gusto. I’d like to look forward to new experiences with eager anticipation. I’d like to feel excitement more often than anxiety, to laugh more often than cry.

Most of all, I’d like to take joy in the unexpected because I am utterly certain it is God’s work at hand and that the results will be wonderful.

The blossoming of joy

Big and Small Steps:

  • Giving myself permission to turn off my phone for the rest of the evening.
  • Continuing to let go when things take longer than I expect.

Noticings:

  • How much I enjoy the way I learned to appreciate subtle patterns and differences in all sorts of creatures as a result of my first husband’s interest in snakes. I noticed this while I was watching some not-so-ordinary, beautiful little birds outside our window and appreciating the delicate markings that make them unique.
  • How much of a physical sensation anxiety can be.
  • How truly grateful I am for my time at InterPlay last night. My entire body-spirit was profoundly happy to be there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No wonder it's all about small steps

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

Big and Small Steps:

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

Noticings:

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

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