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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60 Days: to 60, to New Beginnings, and to Transformation

At some point within the next 60 days, I will have turned 60. Yep, the big Six-Oh. A year I’ve never been able to envision for myself. Don’t know why. My pastor told me once that everyone has an age in their minds that they think they’re going to die or that they can’t see themselves living beyond. The goofy part is that I’ve also presumed I’ll live well into my 80s or 90s because relatives on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family have done so. My dad’s father died at 98, his older brother is still going at 93, and his younger brother is in his late 80s. My mom’s dad made it to 86, her sister made it to 99, and their aunt made it to 93. Longevity is in the genes! So whatever is going on with that notion of not picturing myself post-50, apparently it’s a normal thing. (The pastor who told me that – his ‘age-limit’ was 35. We were both in our late 40s when we had this conversation.)

As to new beginnings, I’ve been wanting to move for quite some time. Tonight I learned that I’m going to have to move. My landlady has found an opening in a retirement home and will be moving there in two months. The deadline is actually the end of March, but I’m hoping to be in a happier new place before then. We’ll see what my Higher Power has in store.

Transformation is the never ending quest and the never ending journey, for transformation happens again and again whenever I create the space and find the willingness for change. During the next 60 days, my student loans will all be out of the deferment they’re in, I’ll have a payment schedule and I’ll either be finding a new rhythm to my life (which is another new beginning, of course) or I will have crashed and burned. Even as I’m quaking in my proverbial boots, I’m determined to find the new rhythm.

I’m so tired of letting fear control my ability to move forward. Just when I think I’m making progress, and indeed I have made progress, I find myself faced with another challenge, another paralyzingly fearful decision to make or action to take. In this case, I have a twofold situation. I have loan paperwork to process (and my loans are about the size of a mortgage…oy…) and I have to find a new place to live. Both of these are major stuff on the stress-factor scales.

My plan is to avail myself of my Al Anon resources – books, meetings, my sponsor, and phone calls (the basic tools of the program), take things one small step at a time, and do my best to recognize and appreciate the progress I’m making along the way.

I’m terrified, and I don’t want to be. I feel backed into a corner, yet I still have choices. I have no idea how things will turn out – but I know that my Higher Power wants to fill my life with blessings if I’m willing to receive.

For the next 60 days I’m going to do my best to move into my 60s with a little more grace and ease than I’ve moved into most of the other decades of my life.

To begin the countdown, I’d like to appreciate some of my recent steps toward this end:

  • The night before last, I sorted three cartons of paper piles into three broad categories that can now be sorted further when I have time (financially related, scrapbook related and everything else).
  • In the past week I made a program call, called and texted friends and even called a family member to seek emotional support through some bumpy moments, including a health crisis with my brother that led to my taking a good, hard look at my own self-care practices.
  • I reached out and asked for help in sorting my scary paper piles.
  • I’ve asked someone who is also looking for a place to live if she’d like to connect to see if we might be compatible and want to find a place together.
  • I’ve come to the startling realization that with my newly begun, virtually full-time employment, I have more choices around renting, including signing a lease. (It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position.)
  • I’ve found healthy ways to exform the fears that keep trying to rear their gnarly little noggin’s.
  • I’ve written and published this post! 🙂

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 166 (Fri/May 25): The unexpected grace of small steps and 12-Steps

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1). Time. Timing. Time…

Last Friday I learned that I need to reduce my thyroid medication a bit, which explains the poor sleep and the too-frequent feelings of anxiety. It takes time for the shift in dosage to have an impact, so I’ll have to be patient.

On the heels of this helpful news, I began letting go and attending to the needs for my body to have adequate rest – which includes not pushing myself every minute of every day. With my schedule, it’s been hard to get to many tasks, from balancing my checkbook to writing my blog posts. Still, I realized I could actually create more ease in my schedule. I wonder, now, if that’s what actually opened the door to some unexpected grace.

It had finally dawned on me that I had some available vacation time. So I shortened my work days on Friday and Saturday. It seemed like such a small thing, to realize I could actually use my vacation time, yet I had been clinging to those vacation hours out of fear of not having them. Once I decided to avail myself of these hours, I immediately began experiencing more ease in body and spirit.

I was tempted to run

Sunday, I attended a Debtors Anonymous (DA) meeting. I arrived feeling a lot of anxiety and fear. My work at the temp place had been extended through July, for two days a week. That means regular weekly income that might come close to a normal, if not particularly large monthly income when combined with my regular part-time job. It’s been so long since I’ve had an adequate monthly income I hardly know what to do. So I didn’t speak at the meeting for quite some time. I just listened.

What I heard were words of encouragement and hope. One man shared that he had already paid down all but $400 of a $10,000 line of credit in only two years and that his income had increased 50%. Such financial blessing is beyond my ability to conceive right now, but it inspired me nonetheless. It’s the second time in recent weeks that I’ve heard someone share about making so much progress in reducing their debt. I’ve come to realize there are more possibilities than I thought around my financial situation.

I also kept hearing references to DA being a primarily spiritual program. While I can’t articulate what that means for me, on a body-spirit level I know what it means and I could feel a shift in the corners of my thinking.

The next day, Monday, I knew I would have a window of privacy during the my workday and planned to take advantage of it. I called the three creditors whose calls I have been ignoring for the past couple of weeks. I first spoke to the one for the credit card that had not yet charged off and affirmed my intention to pay the $105 to keep the charge off this month. (Although, after making that payment last night, I’ve decided it’s probably in better to let it charge off, so the late fees and interest can cease and I can begin actually paying down the balance.) The call was surprisingly gracious and the representative expressed appreciation for my having initiated the call.

Next I spoke to the agency handling the largest of my three debts. To my amazement (and incredible relief) they are willing to accept $20 payments each month for now because it shows my intention to pay the debt. The rep gave me a website for making online payments when I asked about doing that. What an unexpected blessing!

I cannot rush this process…

The third call was to the company who had been pressuring me for a $500 up-front payment. I had sent them $50 in April and $50 earlier this month. I was again amazed and relieved that they had concluded this was a monthly commitment and that they were okay with that!

After that third call, I simply sat there, practically stunned by the grace and ease of the conversations and the results. I know that in God’s time the rest of this will sort itself out in a way that will be best for me. The results of these calls were an affirmation of God’s grace.

The next day, Tuesday, while I was happily back at my part-time job for the whole day during the week (yay!), I was given the incredible gift of being able to participate in an InterPlay event happening this coming week. My work schedule will only allow me to be there for the opening day and most of the next day, but some loving friends have enabled me to attend for free. I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself! I also attended an InterPlay class that evening.

I left there feeling overwhelmed by the grace and unexpected blessings of the past few days. Is this really all about letting go and letting God move in my life? I believe it is – and I’m doing my best to keep getting better at getting out of God’s way!

InterPlaying…

Noticings:

  • How much easier it’s becoming to let go worry about the details.
  • How good it feels to post again!
  • How much easier it’s becoming to accept God’s grace when it arrives…

Action steps:

  • Calling my creditors.
  • Deciding to stay home tomorrow to let myself simply have the space to rest and catch up on a few things.
  • Picking up a notebook to help me track and get a handle on just how much I spend on what.

Day 151 (Thu/May 10): What am I missing?

I’ve been reading this book – a light, romance novel. I would have put it down after the first ten to twenty pages except that I’ve enjoyed other books this author has written and it did keep making me laugh. What I found troublesome is the way the ‘heroine’ and ‘hero’ start using the word “love” – at least in their thoughts – within a couple of days of knowing each other. But the heroine is intent on warding off all prospects of love based on a marriage that ended badly.

Around page 269 (after I had decided the book was enjoyable enough to finish), I noticed the heroine kept saying the same (stupid) things over and over again. She kept having the same arguments, returning to the same inane reasons for wanting to push the hero out of her life despite all the worthy things she’d observed in him. One too many repetitions of “she loved a man who didn’t exist” (he hadn’t given out his full name until late in the game) led me to increasing frustration and annoyance with her stupidity…until I asked myself how many times I repeat things to myself that aren’t true, that don’t help me, or that keep me from seeing the progress I’m making.

The trip this past weekend raised memories for me that weren’t always fun. I was reminded of experiences that were very hard – emotionally, financially, and in other ways that wove in and out with my journey of recovery. It was a joy to see a familiar face from Colorado; it was depressing to remember that this person had affirmed in me a particular call to ministry that did not come to fruition. It was cool to see classmates in their clergy attire; it was deflating to not know where I’m going in this arena. It was an incredible blessing to have the funds to make the trip; it was (and is) deflating and disconcerting not to know what my income will be the week after next.

I keep feeling like there’s something obvious I’m missing. Some important piece of this journey that’s eluding me at the moment.

I’m experiencing a slowly growing fear around finances. They’re great at the moment, but I don’t know what comes after this temp position ends. I haven’t yet put aside some of the funds, mostly because I haven’t had the time and energy to figure out where I’m at. I haven’t updated my checkbook in a week. My balance looks good online, but I have a few bills to pay. I have 5 voicemails not yet picked up, probably all regarding my credit card accounts. I keep meaning to play them. I keep wondering when to return their calls. But I’ve been falling into bed early these past few days and I don’t want to talk to them when I’m that tired.

It’s not just my financial situation that’s ruffled my sense of serenity. It’s the unsettledness I feel since this weekend’s trip. Seeing my good friend achieve his goal, his calling, and being asked what I’m doing by people I care about (and some I don’t even know) leaves me again asking myself, What am I doing? What should I be doing?

I’m being affirmed in the work I’m doing. I’ve been affirmed in many ways in recent weeks, including by the friend I stayed with this past weekend. I’m even beginning to see myself in new ways. Yet I feel like I have a case of the “stupids.” It’s as if the most basic choices and decisions should be obvious to me, but they’re not. I’m growing unhappy with my present living situation (staying with my aunt and uncle), but don’t have the financial stability to look into rentals. I’m growing comfortable in certain ways that make me nervous that I’ll be tempted to stay where I am. (Except that I truly would love to move into a place – a room or an apartment or whatever – I could set up as my own for however many months or years I might live there. I’m waiting only for financial stability to actually be able to pay the rent.) I’m so out of practice at job hunting that it now terrifies me to think about taking action in this direction. (It’s time for a few drops of Rock Rose, Elm and Olive in my mouth and my glass of water.)

Then, just in case there wasn’t enough going on, a few minutes ago I learned that my temp job may extend to two days a week for a longer period of time. I’m not sure how I feel about all this just yet. This afternoon has felt unsettled and mixed up. My sponsor and I had our wires crossed on when to meet and my day suddenly became fuller and busier than I anticipated.

What does all this mean? What am I missing??  Or is this merely the stirring up to make a better something when the dust settles…

Day 132 (Sat/Apr 21): From persistence to derailed in one short phone call…

I realize I am simply not having enough time lately to write the kind of posts I like to do. So, I am giving myself permission to write some mini-posts. There is just too much happening to not need to talk about it.

Yesterday, I started a post and I probably need to read it to hear the reminders in it for myself. As you can see, it never made it to the site. So, I’m including it here. But first I’ll begin with the derailing part…

My cell phone rang. “Restricted” displayed. Against my better judgment, I answered. After all, my aunt and uncle have their number blocked… It was the creditor I mention below. They’re starting to get pushy. I’m not willing to give them the chunk of money they want. I don’t know what to do right this moment. And my body reacts will all those unpleasant chemicals that scream “AUGH!!!!”

For now, I keep shaking out my arms and jumping up to do some kicking and other “thrusty” movements (as I learned in InterPlay). I’m grateful to be at work at a place where I can do this.

I also cling tightly to my faith and my Al Anon program, reminding myself to simply thing about what the “next right thing” might be. When I slow it down enough, it helps me to manage the unmanageable. I know I’m not the only one who goes through this. It’s just that I feel so alone when it’s happening on that visceral level that shifts me from serene to survival in a split second…

So, I take a deep breath…let it out with a(n audible) sigh…and remind myself that this too shall pass and God is always there for me.

Now, this is what I began writing yesterday/Friday at lunch (and I’m not even going to read it or proof this post – “Uncle!”):

This morning, my reflection time centered around a wonderful passage from Luke (11:5-13). It’s about persistence (“shameless persistence,” according to the New Living Translation). I feel so grateful for this passage and the reflection with it in my Life Recovery Bible (a 12-step edition, with helpful reflections related to the steps, to the Serenity Prayer and to other recovery themes). This particular reflection was on the 7th Step – humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. It talks about the importance of asking for help when we need it – and I realized that’s exactly what I did yesterday.

The last couple of days I’ve been pretty stressed about my credit card debt situation. At a time when I finally am receiving some decent (albeit temporary) income, it seems I am getting resistance to my desire to continue making payments. The person at the collection agency “offered” me the option of giving them $500, then continuing with my small monthly payments (for a period of time not clearly defined) to bring things to a kind of “halt,” where they would cease their more aggressive efforts to collect on the debt. Sounds good, at least from their perspective.

The thing is, I’m wrestling (and starting to get ahead, finally) with the guilt of knowing I actually could pay if I was willing to sacrifice other needs – and am not willing to do that. My car visited the auto-hospital yesterday for a check-up. She received minor servicing and a diagnosis of front brakes in imminent need of replacement, a squeaky belt in need of same, and a leak in the oil pan (which is fortunately still covered by my extended warranty). The brakes and the belt replacement are going to run close to, you guessed it, the exact amount the collector would like me to hand over to them.

I totally reached the frazzled, stressed, can’t-figure-out-which-end-is-up stage yesterday afternoon. I had headed to a Debtors Anonymous (DA) meeting Wednesday, only to find the parking lot filled with both cars and homeless people. (The meeting is at a church that ministers to the homeless.) I was running late anyway and found myself unwilling to leave my car unattended with all my stuff in it. (It’s sadly acting as a storage extension at the moment.) So yesterday, when the fuses in my mind were about to blow, I tried calling a friend from my Al Anon group who also attends DA meetings, but didn’t reach her. Next I texted my sponsor (who also attends DA herself) to see if she might be available for a phone chat.

We connected later and I’m so glad we did. She affirmed my intention to take care of myself and my vehicle first. She reminded me of the progress I’ve made. (Always helpful to hear.) And she applauded the fact that I’m finding out about my options and learning what I need to know if I have to go the worst-case route. (I refuse to use the “B” word on my blog. If you use it, I’ll edit it! ;-)) We talked for almost an hour and it was amazing how helpful it was just to be able to talk to someone about how stressed I was feeling.

That ends what I wrote yesterday. Today, I’ll simply leave it there. I enjoyed a lot of serenity for about 36 hours. Now I’ll look toward rediscovering it again as I wrestle with how to respond to this morning’s unwanted phone call.

Thank you for being there… Things are kind of hard right now…

Day 128 (Tue/Apr 17): Visiting places on the emotional map

So much yet to come together...

Now I remember why it was almost an entire week between my last two postings. This temp job is exhausting! When I see how stressed my supervisor is, I find myself especially grateful for my recovery journey. Of course, it’s easier to notice things when you’re not the one in the middle of them. I’ve been wondering what I might do to help her let go the fear that everything won’t get done. There’s this huge summit we’re preparing for and, since it’s the first one like this they’ve done, she’s a little freaked out about it. There are about fifty million little pieces needed to pull it all together and time is fast approaching. So I’m doing what I can to help – which is, of course, why I’m working there in the first place.

I must say, it’s interesting to be able to observe the way other people are handling the stress of this situation while also observing my own responses and reactions. Yesterday, for instance, I had a healthcare appointment. It was at a clinic I’ve never been to, to see someone I’ve never met. I tend to be skittish around medical doctors to begin with (I much prefer the chiropractic/naturopathic routes for my healthcare) and throwing in the whole “everything new” piece had me on edge.

Anytime I meet a new doctor, we have to do a kind of dance that reveals, for me, whether or not this person actually respects the fact that I know something about my own body. Too often I have met doctors full of their own arrogance, who are convinced I couldn’t possibly know anything. So, knowing this about myself and my history, I prayed and did my best to let go of all my fears before going there and while I was there.

I put it all in my inner "God box"

I was hoping for an on-the-spot blood draw to check my thyroid, but such was not the case. They don’t have that facility and the doctor wanted to check my cholesterol as well. With this, my anxiety rose. While I would actually appreciate knowing where my levels are these days, I dislike having to do the fasting bit. It isn’t required for thyroid testing, but it is for the other. The doctor also wanted to have me do another kind of test and I felt things spinning out of control. I didn’t want all that! I just wanted to know what my current TSH level is so I know if I need to adjust my thyroid meds!

Then grace stepped in. The doctor renewed my prescription on the spot, for the same dose I’m on now (which is easy to tweak as needed). It turns out the lab is not only open at 7:00 (earlier than some of the labs I’ve gone to), it is a short distance down the street from my “regular” job. In other words, God is making it very easy for me to have the lab work done as conveniently as possible. Once done, I can go to the office, feed myself, and spend a few hours in an environment that is fully supportive.

The thing is, I didn’t know all this about the lab till later. When I got done at the clinic and learned they do not validate parking, I tried to have my ticket validated at the offices they’re connected to. Unfortunately the person who had told me she would validate my ticket was not in. The rate is $1.25 for every 15 minutes – something I had not bargained for. I’ve been so broke for so long that even this small expenditure felt like too much and I burst into tears once I got in my car. I knew it was irrational and that I was overreacting. I also knew I was reacting more to the anxiety of seeing a new doctor and feeling out-of-control about how everything went.

It seems so odd and so silly to fly all over the emotional map from day to day. It feels so incongruous to go from bursting into tears to feeling deep gratitude for the little graces, all within a matter of hours. I suppose the moments of tears or anxiety won’t go away; they will just become easier to handle and last for briefer periods. I’ve noticed this already and appreciated it many, many times.

On the way home today, after a frantically busy day, after assuring my supervisor that it would, indeed, all come together, while inching along in the rush hour traffic, I was blessed by the most wonderful song on a CD I had not yet played. I don’t remember all the lyrics, but they said something about the river of peace holding my hand. It was a wonderful song to hear after a busy and hectic day…

Grace...

Noticings:

  • How blank my mind is right now…and how okay I am with that! 😉

Day 119 (Sun/Apr 8): Ups and downs, and wondering where the Easter eggs are hidden

I noticed the tension (and pain) in the tops of my shoulders yesterday, anxiety that sprang up when a phone call answered yielded nothing but silence, even though I was at work and such “non-calls” have occurred almost regularly in recent weeks. The neurotic part of me shifted from wondering if it was someone trying to scope out when people are in the office to wondering if it was a creditor trying to find me to serve some papers – even though that sort of thing wouldn’t happen until “normal” channels were already exhausted. It’s the kind of paranoia that tempts me to stop automatically identifying myself when I answer the phone at work, and I didn’t like feeling that way.

Maybe if I keep talking about it here, it’ll help me sort things out. Maybe you’ll have bits of wisdom to offer when you read this.

It dawned on me yesterday, that it’s okay if I make an occasional mistake. I caught myself worrying about whether a particular task had been done “correctly” (i.e., perfectly, all the pieces, no mistakes). Then I saw the ridiculousness of worrying about it, since anything that might have been missed could easily be corrected. I’m not sure I’ve realized just how often I do this – worry that I haven’t done a “perfect” job. I think it’s time to start letting go and recognize that I don’t have to be perfect or do things perfectly to be good at my job.

Odd that I never noticed just how much of a “thing” this has been for me. Because it wasn’t to the level of “obsessive” or “compulsive,” I didn’t realize there was this underlying anxiety around doing everything right. (How appropriate that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice suddenly came on the radio as I was experiencing these feelings! It’s how I feel when I’m busily trying to catch up on work and wondering if I’m doing it well.)

The past several days have been a strange mix of the space and freedom to be myself in the house, with my aunt and uncle gone, and anxiety as I face my financial challenges and have no one to divert my attention when I come home from work. Their absence is a mixed blessing.

This morning, I awoke later than usual, grateful for the ease of my Sunday schedule. I was just about finished with my journal reflection, when I realized I had time to make the 9:30 service, rather than the 10:45. (Yay for Easter Sundays, with extra services!) It was a delightful mix of “traditional” and “contemporary” music, with the bell choir opening (love it!) and the traditional (but robeless!) choir singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ (awesome!) during the first part of the service. The remainder had the contemporary group that I enjoy so much. It was nice to have both a wonderful and earlier beginning to my Sunday – especially because it’s “catch-up” day for me with regard to household tasks. (I’ve been pretty lazy about some things with nobody else around.)

This time alone also leaves me a lot of “think time.” As a result, I’m puzzling over something. I’ve worked 40 hours a week most of my adult life until six and a half years ago when I came to grad school. Now, for this past week and this coming week, I’m working 46 hours each week, Monday thru Saturday, and I have felt tired much of the time, with little energy for anything beyond work. The two weeks after this, I may work even longer hours, though I haven’t quite figured out how (or if) that will work. My question is, why is this so exhausting?

I spent my first four years in grad school preparing for a job that requires 50, 60 or even more hours per week and I was looking forward to it. Then I switched tracks and prepared for a vocation without a clear structure to it. I presumed I might have a “regular” job and pursue my vocational interests during evenings and weekends. When I talked about those interests with my sponsor the other day, she remarked how “alive” I was when I was talking about them. They are my passion! Which makes me wonder…

Will I have more energy to do the things I’m passionate about, regardless of my schedule? Is the exhaustion I feel now really all (or at least mostly) about the ongoing financial stress with no clear solution yet within sight? Am I deluding myself in believing I will have more energy when I am doing more of what excites and, well, energizes me? Or will even that be exhausting?

As I listen to the sounds and laughter of the Easter egg-hunt party next door, I wonder, where are my Easter eggs and what colors will they be?

Big and Small Steps:

  • Checked out some books at the library to help me figure out some of my financial options.
  • Let my choice of service times this morning be determined by how my morning went.
  • Caught up on lots of laundry (including my sheets and the new things I got the other day).

Noticings:

  • How readily body memories can be triggered around certain experiences, even if the mind is okay with things.
  • What a blessing gentle music can be when I’ve been feeling anxious.
  • How scattered my thoughts can be when I’m distressed and not having time, in that moment, to address my concerns.
  • What a delight energetic music can be when my energy is sagging! (Like Superman or Star Wars themes. :-))
  • How much food ends up in my mouth when I’m stressed…

Day 108 (Wed/Mar 28): Four days – Light is dawning, a journey within the journey

When it rains...things get wet!

This is getting more and more interesting… I kid you not, this is what I wrote in my reflection journal this morning:

“I feel as if I’m in that moment right before taking in and releasing a deep breath. My life feels as if it’s about waiting, when it seems like it should be about “action.” I may know why this odd “waiting for something to happen” feeling lingers. I have made some plans for my time the rest of this week. Not a lot of plans and some are quite open to change. Yet it seems as if anytime I’ve thought I’ve known what I’m doing, something has come along to change things…I find myself again waiting for the call that suddenly changes my plans.” (SJ 45, p30) (Yes, I number my pages and my journals.)

I had barely been to work an hour when I got a phone call from the temp agency.

“Are you available to work today?”

“I’m already working.”

Then, a few hours later, I get another call from the same agency. Am I interested in returning to the place I’ve been temping these past couple of weeks? It’s doing different work with (presumably) different people, for a longer term – five or so weeks, full-time, at $5-7 an hour more, to start Monday.

Crash! Bang! Boing!

 

Wait a sec?!

Okay. So here’s the deal. I work for a small non-profit organization, filling an important niche, working with people I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate. The only reason I don’t work more (paid) hours is that we don’t have the luxury of the kind of income larger for-profit organizations have. This isn’t like a part-time job at some fast-food place where anyone can jump in and learn all they need to know in a couple of hours. It’s not that I’m irreplaceable. Certainly I am. But there’s a big difference between having time to make arrangements and suddenly saying, “See in five weeks!” (Not even counting the withdrawal pains I would experience…)

Fortunately, this last position is still in the “maybe” pile, both in terms of whether the company wants me and whether I would accept the position. I debriefed it with my supervisor, mostly because I was still reeling from the “if this happened it would be a HUGE change in my work (and non-work) schedule and would dramatically impact my ability to do my work at this organization” standpoint. It helped to be able to talk about it to someone right away.

As I’ve continued to process this in the hours since, I have noticed and even learned some things about myself.

Opportunities bloom and go...

1. I need time to process changes, especially big changes. One way or the other, I at least need time to get used to the idea. I don’t shift gears that quickly. I’m not sure I ever have.

2. All of this is up in the air. I mean, ALL of it. I haven’t been offered any positions anywhere as yet and I may not be offered either of the temp positions that have just come up. My reactions are based on possible changes, not actual changes in my life.

3. It is clear to me that I want to act with integrity and make choices that honor me, my part-time job employers and the needs of any position I might accept – in that order. As I have considered this, I recognized something I hadn’t fully “gotten” before…

Slippery when wet...or when approached in fear

4. My initial reaction to this possibility (and the other recent ones, for that matter) – in other words the “Crash! Bang! Boing!” –  is based solely on a wild leap in my imagination as to what the changes might mean. In other words, I’m leaping to conclusions about the way things might change. And most of those conclusions are fear-based. (See? I knew I needed to do this blog…) For instance: fear that working 40 hours a week would be completely exhausting; fear that I might miss a “real” (i.e., “permanent”) job that would come along; fear that I might not like the work or the people in this new department; fear that I would have to give up a job I love for a temporary influx of income; worry about the other potential employers I’ve recently connected with; and so on.

5. The most important thing I realized, however, is this. Whether or not I’m offered this 5-week position, which could bring me more income than I’ve earned in the past several months combined, I don’t want financial fear to be the reason for my choice. In fact, I don’t want any kind of fear to be the reason for any of my choices around work.

I'm listening...Help me to hear

This past week, I have discovered that my confidence in myself and my sense of self-worth have grown a lot. With the positive feedback I’ve received through these recent temp experiences (as in, “We’ll ask for you next time we need help!”), I have begun seeing myself as competent, capable, and worth so much more than I did a few months, possibly even a few weeks ago.

As I discover this about myself, I realize I have choices I didn’t used to think I have. I can negotiate with potential employers to see if we might strike a balance. I could set more specific boundaries with the temp agency. I could even ask the recruiters to lobby for my needs (as in, “She’s really worth it. Can you be flexible?”).

It’s rather amazing to me to discover that I have choices and that I’m worth it. The light is dawning, helping me to see that I am worth having as an employee and the right employer, whether offering me temp work or a long-term position, will want me to act with integrity with my present employer and will respect my decision to do so.

Stretching, reaching, still staying connected to my Higher Power - God

(This is so much longer than I anticipated. There’s just so much on my mind right now…)

Noticings:

  • That I’m hungry again – which is probably why I can’t think more succinctly! Must be time for a snack before bedtime… 😉
  • That after a bazillion years of eating canned fruit, it just dawned on me a few minutes ago that eating four halves of canned pears is like eating two whole pears. Talk about a sugar bomb! (Whoops! Too late…) Doh!
  • How much fuel my body requires when my mind is racing about.

Day 104 (Sat/Mar 24): Eight days – The good grief of letting go, a journey within the journey

Ruh roh...It's been rough...

 I’m striving to let go my nervous apprehension. I’m not sure I tracked my spending accurately with this last small paycheck. If my checking account is overdrawn by more than a few dollars… Let me go check it now…

Actually, let me wait a bit. It occurs to me that letting this go is what’s called for, since I’m powerless to change choices I’ve already made. Earlier today, I was talking with a friend of mine. We were talking about releasing. She has realized she needs to release some of the stuff she has in her place. She gave away some of her kitchen things, finally letting go of the need to make sure they went to just the right people. I could relate to that feeling, of wanting to give things away but wanting to make sure they went to people who would appreciate them. As she was talking about this, it dawned on me that giving them to a thrift store, especially all those wonderful ones that are run by charities, would put them out into the world where “just the right” person might more easily find them. It was helpful for me to have her talking about this process.

When she talked about going through some papers, especially old letters, that’s when it was obvious the work she was doing was hard. It’s the emotional attachment that keeps me hanging on to some things. If not that, then it’s the fear of needing or wanting them again. With all the fear and uncertainty I’ve experienced in the last…well, perhaps most of my life, as someone raised in a home impacted by the family disease of alcoholism, it’s no wonder I’ve accumulated so much stuff. Life has always been too uncertain to take the chance of letting something go that I might need.

This past week, with my days busy working, then coming home and relaxing in front of a DVD while I ate dinner, before writing my blog posts, I kept thinking about what life might look like if things suddenly became “normal” and I could actually afford to find and pay for a place to live and begin supporting myself again.

Sometimes it's not the right time to move

You know, it’s literally been decades since I’ve been a single person, all by herself, taking care of herself through her own efforts. It’s no wonder it feels so scary! For so many years I have either not been alone (with either husband and/or son to share my days) or I have been supported through other means (like student loans all through grad school).

I keep forgetting that there are many ways in which my life is a whole new experience.

I’m not yet sure where the balance is for me. As I move through these sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle shifts in my schedule and my days, I notice the little things that make a difference. Sometimes, it’s the letting go of the routine that has kept me steady (or so I thought). Other times, it’s developing a new routine. Still other times, it’s none of the above and all of the above all at the same time.

The paper-collecting box

Letting go of things can be hard, for we get attached to things that seem important, even are important for a time. But when exactly they cease to be important can pass by unnoticed until we suddenly discover they are a burden we no longer want.

 I do not know what lies ahead for me or how I will make it through the days and weeks ahead. I keep letting go when things start to feel overwhelming or scary. I know that I trust God and I want to trust Hir more. The process of experiencing this continues to involve the letting go of deeply held convictions around my own self worth, which leads to a lot of tears, even a sense of loss as I let go old perceptions about myself.

This morning I wanted to read something about grief because I have been feeling a lot of sadness and loss lately of things that aren’t always easy to identify. Sometimes I think it’s simply grieving the loss of the familiar. I know it’s letting go of long-held beliefs.

Where might this go?

There’s a passage in Nehemiah (8:7-12) when the people are weeping after learning about “the Law.” The priests who are teaching them tell them not to grieve, that their strength is in the “joy of the Lord.” Then it says, they went “to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (NRSV) It struck me that what they understood was the depth of God’s love for them.

I feel so close to “getting” that, too, at ever deeper levels – levels that will enable me to truly believe I deserve to receive God’s abundant blessings. We all do.

Big and Small Steps:

  • Called a friend and offered her a ride to a place we both wanted to go.
  • Let go worry about the time and discovered I got all my errands done in plenty of time this afternoon.
  • Decided to work at my regular job tomorrow after learning I don’t need to go in to the temp job, since I was already mentally geared to work a few hours. (Yay for more time at my regular job!)

Noticings:

  • How nice it was to let go the seeming urgency to check my bank balance. I think I’ll wait till after I post this…
  • How scary it feels to be on the edge of poverty week in and week out…
  • How peace-bringing it is to let go and trust.

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