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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Seeking Balance – What *does* it look like?

It’s been over a month since I’ve written a post, even though dozens of times I’ve had ideas and experiences I wanted to share. It seems as though my life has been about rediscovering balance…and it still feels elusive.

At the beginning of March, I moved into a house with three other roommates. I never thought I’d want to move in with so many strangers, yet it has been a pleasant and delightful adjustment. The gay couple who own the house have been so easy to get along with, always wanting to make sure I’m comfortable and happy here. And I am! Just the other night, one of them told me I was the best roommate they’ve had. It was a lovely affirmation of what I already knew – that this is exactly the right place for me to be right now.

Last night, I was surveying the corner of my room that I reorganized a week or so ago. It’s still rather chaotic, not particularly helpful in terms of making things accessible, and not at all what I want it to be. It’s the corner where I’d like to put my tall bookshelf – the one that’s in storage. It’s filled with boxes and buried behind a layer of boxes and will need considerable effort to bring here. A challenge for another day…

It occurred to me last night that one of the reasons this place still doesn’t feel like home is because I’m still not close to being settled. I have truly been honoring the slogan “Easy does it!” I have been settling in slowly, letting things find their proper places in my bedroom, in the bathroom, and in the kitchen. The bathroom is happily in order. We haven’t yet expanded my space in the kitchen because I haven’t been inclined to rush and organize anything – I’ve wanted to take my time. And now I’m ready to begin transforming my room.

That’s the funny thing about transforming living spaces – it takes time and it usually begins by transforming ourselves first.

Most of March I was tired – unaccountably tired and sleepy virtually every day. My days were literally about getting up, getting ready for work, going to work, coming home, eating dinner right away, and heading to bed an hour later. I felt really good if I got something as simple as adding up my checkbook done. I wondered how I could ever do anything else I wanted to do in life. It turned out that at least part of the problem was that we needed to further adjust my thyroid medication. (Too much hormone and you sleep poorly. Oy…)

The last couple of weeks I’ve finally begun to feel a bit better. My schedule hasn’t changed a lot, but I now have the energy to begin asking myself what I can do differently. And on my mind now are two particular questions: What can I do differently to be able to enjoy more of life during the week, so there’s more to my life than sleeping, eating and working? And what can I do to make my room feel more like home?

The first question will require my inventorying what I’m doing now, considering “How Important Is It?” (the slogan from last week’s meeting) around each part, and discovering what I might do differently. My journey in Al Anon has taught me to listen and notice what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve discovered that small changes have the biggest and most lasting impact, which is exactly why I’ve been disinclined to rush to rearrange my room.

Have you ever had the experience of quickly moving and settling in, even if only for a visit with a relative, only to discover you can’t remember where xyz is because you so quickly put things away and it isn’t where it used to be or usually is? Well, I have – dozens and dozens of times! And I’m tired of it and no longer willing to do that. But I do want to create some order and begin to make this place feel like home.

The balance I’m seeking right now may not be earth-shatteringly important. But it is important to my serenity. It is to pay attention to what I’m doing, to see what I might be able to do differently, and to enjoy the incremental improvements in my energy by considering how I can make this house my home.

Baby steps, Bob. Baby steps. 😉

Pretending is hard (Wed – Dec 19)

HPIM1975I’m sitting here with a patch over one eye, trying to calm down the irritation that has persisted for about a week now. I see the eye doctor on Friday. They’re giving me a discounted rate and treating me as a returning patient rather than a new patient. I have no insurance, and we’re keeping what they do to a minimum. I just want to make sure my eyes aren’t in danger of any permanent damage and to make sure I’m taking care of them properly.

A caring friend asked me why I was wearing the eye patch. I began by saying that I thought it was “dress like a pirate day,” but I knew her question was sincere. So I told her. I’ve had pain in my right eye for too many days in a row and there’s something I can see that was never there before. Sunday I about freaked when I saw this anomaly. The next day, my Higher Power sent me a(nother) “do not be afraid” message and reminded me that all will be well.

On the way to work yesterday, I decided to sing. Not sure why, but listening to music or anything else didn’t appeal to me. So I made up songs about what I was doing and how I was feeling. Somewhere into the ‘how I was feeling’ part, the deep pain of missing my son surfaced and I began to weep. It’s been three and a half years since I’ve seen him. Neither one of us has the income to travel the distance between us. The one time recently when we thought there might be a possibility of getting together, it turned out it wasn’t going to work. And in my present living situation, presuming my landlady didn’t openly object, he’d only be able to sleep on the floor and hope that I didn’t step on him in the night.

HPIM1972Life is hard right now and I’m not feeling very courageous. I try to tell myself that it takes courage to face each day, to keep hanging in there when it feels so hard. That doesn’t always help much. I’m feeling alone. I’m facing a transition in my student loan repayments status that terrifies me. My living situation is still depressingly stressful while I have little energy for looking for a new place. And my body is experiencing more than the usual aches and pains as a result of it all.

Last Thursday at lunch, one of my colleagues asked me what I was doing for Christmas. It was one of those rare occasions when the lunchroom was practically empty. It was just the two of us. I shared with her about how long it’s been since I’ve seen my son. I told her a little about my less-than-happy living situation. When I mentioned that I might go to an Al Anon meeting on Christmas Day, she said she’d been in Al Anon as a teenager. Interesting how that explained why I felt a kind of connection with her.

It was an odd conversation in a way. She was getting ready to fly to Paris to join her family. I was talking about spending Christmas alone in my room. She flies to Paris often (having been born there and having dual citizenship). I can’t imagine the freedom to fly to see my son a few states away.

HPIM1976Still, it was nice to not have to pretend my holidays will be a fun-filled family event. I’ve gotten to where I dread people asking me what I’m doing for the holidays or even how I am. I’ve been having these moments of feeling like I’m at the end of my rope. Not in a suicidal kind of way, but rather in an “I’m going to throw things through the window and run screaming from the building” kind of way. Last week, in a particularly dark moment, I remembered a flower essence remedy that helps when you’re at your limit. I found some in my “medicine bag.”

The remedy is called Sweet Chestnut and it’s connected with the principle of release. I’ve been thinking a lot about release lately as I’ve tried to get along as best I can. As I read the description in Mechthild Scheffer’s book Bach Flower Therapy: Theory and Practice (Thorsons Publishing Group, 1986 – the best book on the flower remedies, in my opinion), she was describing exactly what I was feeling – what I am still feeling to some extent. Sweet Chestnut, she writes, is for those who are experiencing “that terrible, that appalling mental despair when it seems the very soul itself is suffering destruction. It is the hopeless despair of those who feel they have reached the limit of their endurance” (p. 161).

As alarming as that sounds, it is also the point when one is about to move into a “crucial inner change” – a time of releasing old destructive patterns and initiating new stages of spiritual growth and development. “One realizes that everything is taken from one because one needs to go forward empty handed if one is to be able to take hold of the new life that is coming towards one; that one has to give oneself up completely to be totally reborn” (p 162).

A positive response can happen during this challenging time, a time author and minister Catherine Ponder would likely call “chemicalization.” For this is the time when the old is being stripped away to make way for the new. The result, if one is willing, is a deeper trust in God in a time where transformation has made room for prayers to be heard and miracles to happen.

I know I’m here. I know I’m on the brink. But answering the questions of “how are you doing?” or “what are you doing for Christmas?” are no less easy because I’m on the edge of transformation. So I pretend to be fine most of the time because few people ask those questions truly wanting an honest answer. And I’m not always sure what that honest answer would be.

I pray that your own holidays are abundantly blessed with friends, family, and joyful memories. 🙂HPIM1983

Just for today I can trust – Day 313 (Fri – Oct 19)

There are  only 53 days left in this year-long journey, but who’s counting? In fact, something tells me I’ve only just begun…

I don’t always realize how tense my body is until something jogs me into awareness. In a lovely devotion I read this morning, the author talks of “letting go into a simple state of trusting God…just for today,” she writes, “I will allow myself to be truly ‘at sea,’ mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually” (Daily Guideposts 2012, p. 322, Marilyn Morgan King). At sea – relaxed and drifting along on the ocean’s current on gentle waves of trust.

“Just for today,” a favorite 12-Step slogan that sometimes eludes me. This morning when I read those words in the same “breath” as the words “trusting God,” I suddenly noticed the tightness in my muscles, in my entire being really. It was as if I were poised, tensed, ready to leap into action – as though I could immediately begin to change my circumstances, even though it was barely past six a.m.

My fridge & pantry…Why ever would I want to move?!

I was feeling the need to take action – in particular, to find a graceful way to move into a better living situation…ASAP! Of course, “ASAP” is the place where grace seldom lives. As soon as I realized that the sense of urgency creating tension in my body does not come from God and certainly does not reflect trust in God, I felt myself begin to unwind.

It was surprisingly like a light bulb turning on when I realized that I didn’t have to trust God every second of every day; I could trust God with just this day and let that be enough. It dawned on me that I don’t have to do it all now. (I know I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ve discovered that some things take more repetitions to sink in and register than other things.) I don’t have to do it all now. Could somebody please turn that into a sign for me and put it where I’ll see it every day?

I remembered that I can simply make progress and move forward, let go and trust, and even wait patiently one day, sometimes one hour or one moment at a time.

Just for today, I don’t need to rush or to worry; I can let go and trust that God’s divine love for me is doing its perfect work in my life. I don’t have to see it; I can be still and know.

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 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 149 (Wed/May 8): An unexpected journey, unexpected blessings

I find myself floundering, wondering how to regain the semblance of balance I had only a couple of weeks ago… At least it felt like balance compared to the last few weeks.

Last week was a quiet week, especially in comparison to the preceding weeks, which were all about frantically getting ready for a summit (that, I’m told, turned out to be a great success). I would get home, fix dinner, plan my next day’s lunch, then “recover” for an hour or so before heading for bed. I worked six, sometimes seven days a week. It seemed like there was no time for anything but work. Last week felt like the calm after a storm – at least until I committed to a whirlwind trip out of town for the weekend.

A dear friend of mine was being ordained and installed at his new parish. Not only that, he was being installed at a church where one of my best friends attends. It made for a joyful opportunity to be there for him and to visit with a friend I haven’t seen in a few years. The challenge was the distance – about 8 hours each way, but my long-time friend was thrilled at the prospect of my coming there and more than happy to offer a place to stay. Other things opened the way to my being able to make the trip, both time-wise and expense-wise, from having the money and opportunity for some car repairs to the willingness of both my employers for me to take the day off on Friday. I was grateful.

Yet amidst my eagerness to be there were the stirrings of other intense feelings. I began my own journey through seminary with the expectation that I would become a pastor. That changed my last year there – for good reasons and in ways that I celebrate as well. But the change in my expectations still required adjustment and the emotional pot of those changes gets stirred up when I witness my classmates being ordained.

Thus the weekend became a jumble of emotions: joy and celebration, as well as grief and an inescapable feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty each time well-meaning colleagues asked me what I’m doing these days. “Looking for work” (when I’m not actively doing so) or “doing temp work” (even though it is blessing me) are not the answers I cared to give. So I floundered with what to say and each person heard something a little different, depending on how well I knew them. To strangers who asked where I was “serving,” I usually replied simply, “I’m not a pastor.” Each repetition reminded me that I’m also not doing the work I long to do. Each answer left me wondering how and when I will begin to do the work that calls me, the work that inspires and excites me…

Saturday evening, I headed to my room early, exhausted from the day’s events. I wrote in my journal. I let the pain and grief rise to the surface and wept quietly, when what I wanted to do was to sob loudly. I wondered how I would make it through Sunday morning and hoped my face would not reflect the grief that I knew would still be there.

I always feel better after a night’s sleep, no matter how rough the evening before. I process things physically and something about simply resting and “forgetting” about whatever has been on my mind, as only happens in sleep, allows me to wake up refreshed. It doesn’t mean the grief was gone, but the intensity of the emotions, the pain especially, was significantly less. (I hoped no one would notice the telltale bags and dark circles under my eyes.)

I’m so glad I was able to muster a bit of cheerfulness at hearing my friend preach his first sermon as an ordained pastor. What a joy it was to be able to be there. After his sermon, I turned to my other friend and simply said, “Wow!” She obviously had the same response.

Despite my mixed feelings from the day before, something happened in the hours that followed that morning. I left for home feeling inspired and changed in ways I’m still sorting out. But I’ll have to save an exploration of that for a later post. It is time for me to head for bed and get some rest. As I was getting ready this morning and beginning to feel rushed, I asked myself if I was truly attending to what my body and spirit needed at the beginning of the day. From that moment on, I began to move at a pace that was peaceful, as well as productive. Tonight, I’m going to do the same.

Thanks for still being here. 🙂

(For whatever reason, the computer I’m using is not happy with my attempts to add photos. Maybe I’ll try again in the morning…)

Day 115 (Wed/Apr 4): Taking time to breathe…

I didn’t realize how tired I am and how rushed I’ve felt till I had the opportunity to slow down a bit in the last 24 hours. Last night, I didn’t get home until after 7:00, after working all day, then running errands. I wasn’t about to begin a blog post as late as, well, actually as late as I am now. But I don’t want to keep not posting, so I’ll just keep this short.

I’ve been at my new temp position three days now. Today, I worked half a day at my “regular” job in the morning, then the temp assignment in the afternoon. I have to say, my whole body-spirit felt like dancing as I was driving to my regular job. It was delightful to be back in the familiar comfort of working with people I know and appreciate and enjoy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the people at my temp assignment – I just don’t know them very well as yet.

I’ve noticed this week just how much I feel rushed. I catch myself with my shoulders hunched and I don’t even know how long they’ve been that way. Then I realize I’m feeling tense, like I have to hurry, hurry, hurry. I’ve been reading more in On Becoming Fearless (by Arianna Huffington), in the chapter on work. (I’m a book “nibbler,” btw. I’m a slow reader to begin with and some things I like to read slowly to take them in.)

Each moment *is* a gift!

Huffington talks about workaholics often being afraid that they need to prove themselves. They keep pushing themselves out of a (misguided) need to constantly prove themselves. This thought has been coming to mind when I notice myself tensed and pushing. There’s the usual new-at-a-job, hope-they-like-me kind of nervousness that certainly drives my efforts. But I think it’s more than that. I sometimes have that same feeling at my regular job, although that, admittedly, is often driven by the frequent circumstance of too little time to do all that needs doing.

This morning, I realized I just didn’t want to keep rushing. I’m already getting up early and I wanted to get to work extra early this morning, with this first “split shift” work day. So I opted to not fix a full lunch and bought a burrito at a fast food place near work. Even that small choice created some ease to the beginning of the day. This evening, I’ve let go lots of things and might have foregone this, as I did last night, except that so much is happening and it helps me to be able to share it with you here.

With my aunt and uncle out of town for a few days (they left this morning), I’m enjoying the space and freedom to not wash my dishes right away, do my laundry (I’m waiting for the second load to finish drying), leave my lunch and breakfast “bags” (of things I use to make them) out in the kitchen, and generally enjoy the space to breathe a bit. For a few days, I won’t have to drag my bag of breakfast cereals and my bag with my lunch containers back and forth between my bedroom and the kitchen. I’ll have the freedom to cook my dinner whenever I’m ready, without coordinating with my aunt’s time in the kitchen. I’ll even have the freedom to get on my uncle’s computer anytime I need.

To sleep, perchance to dream...

There’s so much more I could say, but you know what? I’d like to wrap this up and start moving toward bed!

Noticings:

  • How good it felt to be able to work at my regular job for a few hours today.
  • How nice it is to be appreciated at my temp assignment.
  • How peaceful I find the sound of rain on the roof.
  • How perfect God’s timing was this past weekend, with an InterPlay retreat on Saturday and an enjoyable Palm Sunday before being thrust into a busy 46-hour work week schedule.
  • How the wind moves the curtains through even the closed louvered windows in my bedroom.
  • How much I look forward to the time when I will again enjoy a morning where I don’t have to get up and go somewhere…
  • How nice it’s going to be to not have to be quiet when I get up in the mornings for the next week or so!

Day 102 (Thu/Mar 22): Ten days – The “Should” monster, a journey within the journey

I *do* feel a little lost hanging out in financial neverland...

This morning as I was driving to my temp job, I noticed the residual anxiety from the evening before. Speaking to a creditor who was trying to “problem solve” for me wasn’t particularly helpful. It seems so odd sometimes how cavalier they can be about how I should resolve my situation. Borrowing money from family or friends seems a favorite suggestion. This particular person even suggested borrowing from the bank. (Let’s see… Credit rapidly washing down the drain. Go to a bank and ask for money to pay off one debt that I can’t pay because I don’t have the income, so I can have a new debt with no money to pay it. Hmmm. Am I missing something here?!)

So, as I drove, I asked myself what was the exact cause of the anxiety I was feeling. I knew there was something else besides guilt and frustration at being in the situation in the first place. Suddenly it dawned on me:

I was feeling anxious because I think there’s something I’m supposed to be doing that I’m not doing.

Wow! There’s the dreaded “Should” monster, alive and well in my mind!

This is *not* the "Should" Monster. This is my fearless protector!

A devotion I read earlier in the morning had triggered some of the feelings I was experiencing. The author had said that when we “fall short” of the “high calling” of Christ, we “betray” him/God. I’m going to try not to get on a religious rant here…but that’s not the God of my understanding!! Yet here I was, feeling like I had fallen short, thinking there were a bunch of things I should be doing that I wasn’t. The truth is, even though I don’t believe for a moment that God feels “betrayed” whenever we fail to do our very best, just reading this triggered all the guilt I’ve felt for being in such a financial situation in the first place. The author nailed me on my feelings, even though my mind knows better. Sigh…

It was recognizing the “Should” monster that helped me let go and release the temptation to beat myself up. And it was having those feelings thrown in my face that helped me to realize they were there in the first place. (I really know how to have a good time in my morning conversations with God, don’tcha think? ;-))

This evening, I am thankful for having recognized what was going on and being able to let it go before I began my thrilling work day of reading and editing endless job descriptions. Tomorrow, I’ll see how far I can get in the 106 I have left to do. Oy…

Let me always see the beauty around me

 Big and Small Steps:

  • In the last 24 hours, I’ve spoken with both my credit card companies. It’s the best I can do for the moment.
  • Updated my checkbook again. (It’s interesting that I was surprised at my balance, even though I was aware of it last week. I guess I didn’t need to pay attention when I knew there wasn’t anything there, so I forgot about it!)

Noticings:

  • How much better it feels to have called my second creditor this evening and gotten that conversation out of the way (for now – they call periodically).
  • How surprised I was that the second creditor, who had been the less cooperative of the two, seems a bit more helpful at the moment. Well, perhaps “patient” is a better word.
  • How much I actually enjoy feeling more “professional” looking when I’m dressed for my temp job. (I’ve virtually lived in denim pants for the past twenty-five years or so.)
  • How much I’m looking forward to currants in my hot cereal in the morning! (I’ve been out for a couple of days and just got some more today. :-))

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