Day 100 (Tue/Mar 20): Twelve days – Take time to breathe, a journey within the journey

A bit of a blur...

Twelve days left (in Lent) and I’m noticing a tendency to ramp up my activity level as though I were suddenly super-person. It feels like a whirlwind dance when I received a call to come into work the next morning with no time to consult with my supervisor before saying yes or no. It’s hard to know quite where the lines are for healthy boundary-setting. It feels like I need the income almost desperately and I worry that saying I can’t come in that day will blow my chances for extra work this week. And it would have. Another person wasn’t available Friday, so they called someone else. Still…

I brought up my need to attend to some work at my regular job and we settled on my working at the temp position in the morning and my other job for the afternoon tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the afternoon and feeling very grateful that I caught up quite a bit in my work last week. That rarely happens – that I get to the mostly-ignored-due-to-lack-of-time tasks.

Faster...faster...

This afternoon I basically sprinted from the temp job to my regular workplace, thinking I’d get a bit of work done. But on the way, I realized the very most I could do would be an hour before the 6:00 class I’m attending. So I opted for writing this instead. I have been so eager to post daily for this 18-day period that I’ve been ignoring the fact that being online after 8:30 in the evening means I can’t get to sleep till late. (Anything past 9:00 or 9:30 is late when you get up before 4:45 a.m.)

This week I’m appreciating discovering how to juggle my work schedule. There really isn’t enough time in the day for me to work 8 hours, then work some more. I need time to breathe. One of my priorities for this next couple of weeks is to truly attend to my self-care. Taking time to stretch a lot last night and taking some ibuprofen before bed resulted in my feeling more comfortable today than I have in days. The quick fixes don’t work, so more stretching is in order. Too many work hours doesn’t work either, so pacing is in order. The slowing down and noticing the pace kind (although the walking kind would probably make my body happy).

At this moment, it feels like I’ve been in a rush all day. That’s not what I want. I’m looking forward to doing some InterPlay this evening, where my body can move and my voice can enjoy itself. (We don’t talk much at the temp job – it’s lots of computer work.) I don’t know what’s in store, but whatever it is, I’m glad for the opportunity to play.

It's time to stop and enjoy the flowers

Afterwards, I’ll finally eat some dinner (getting hungry now – may need a snack), relax in front of a DVD TV episode (I’m on a Murder, She Wrote kick), then probably fall asleep early.

So, with class already starting, I’d better get this posted and take time to breathe… If you’ve never been to an InterPlay event, one of our favorite things to do is to take a deep breath and let it out with an audible sigh. It feels so nice. Try it.

Noticings:

  • How sleepy and tired I am after such a short night’s sleep. Zzzzzzz…
  • How rushed I feel as I hurry to post this before going to class. 😦

Day 97 (Sat/Mar 17): Fifteen days – Healing cannot be rushed, a journey within the journey

This morning, I worked on my blog first thing – before breakfast, before bathing, before making my bed. I don’t normally do that. Yet every now and then, it feels good to enjoy the freedom to start my morning differently.

Perhaps it was because I began my day with my blog that my first reading and reflection in my journal led me to the inspiration for a new blog. There are times when I want to talk about God and faith and the many things that cross my mind in this realm that aren’t particularly a part of this conversation here. Now I have the beginnings for a new site. I look forward to starting it.

The second reflection I read this morning helped me remember why I’m here, doing this blog – especially with regard to my illusions around what it means to break through my fears. Among my (many) favorite verses in the Bible are these words accompanying my second reading: One thing I do, forgetting these things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal… (Phil. 3:13-14 NRSV)

A year ago January, I experienced in these words the subtle difference between reaching forward from where I am now and trying to leap over the present challenge to something down the road. I’m still learning how to reach forward from where I am in this moment. Yet I’m getting much more patient with myself and appreciating the fact that leaping over obstacles isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes it is. Other times we miss huge and wonderful opportunities to be transformed when we try to avoid the hard stuff. I’ve spent too much of my life already doing that. In recent years (decades actually) I have discovered that unexpected blessings often come only through the struggles.

In discovering that, I have learned that some experiences will not, cannot, be rushed.

I am in just such an experience right now. It seems like every time I try to hurry some part of it along, I end up in a heap on the ground, having tripped over the very thing that actually needed my attention. So I’m reminding myself – often – that I need to move slowly enough to pay attention to my steps and to notice when I need to change direction.

Looking back to where I’ve been, through reading my journals from a year ago, I continue to learn from past experiences. This morning I appreciated traveling through one particular journey of healing. It gives me a perfect example of how journeys of healing cannot be rushed.

The morning after my thyroidectomy (as a result of Grave’s disease, a hyperthyroid condition), I was able to speak (a very good sign), but sounded to my own ears like a bullfrog. In the days that followed, I continued to feel like I was croaking when I spoke. Yet others told me my voice was soft, but otherwise normal sounding. (It was devastating to feel so alone in my experience with my voice!)

When I first attempted to sing, I couldn’t sustain any note for more than a second or two, and there were scarcely any notes I could access at all. Six weeks after the surgery, I was beginning to ‘stretch’ my voice. I could sustain a note for a bit and my range was expanding. My volume, according to others, was getting stronger as well. I discovered I could sing (a bit) in falsetto what my voice could not quite do in full.

 I’m not sure when my voice began to sound “normal” to me again. Perhaps I simply got used to the new way my voice sounded, with less “software” in my neck. In the weeks and months that followed, I gradually regained my voice. I practiced singing to some of my favorite CDs while driving. I remember the day I could actually sing a particular song at a worship service. (I cried in gratitude!) I had to take care of my voice through this journey, moving slowly, expanding gradually, since my throat quickly grew hoarse if I pushed it. Yet little by little, I found my way back to being able to sing (and speak) as vigorously as ever.

The defining moment for me on this journey with my voice was when I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do to rush the healing process. It was going to take as long as it took and I was powerless to change that. Once I grasped that, I was able to relax and let myself move slowly, gently, giving my body and my voice the time they needed to heal.

This journey of finding the courage to change is so much like my experience with my voice. Once in a while I forget that this is a journey not only of recovery, but of healing.

 

Big and Small Steps:

  • Leaving my phone turned off at times to give me the space to think, to create, to nourish my body-spirit. It also gives me the space to choose when I want to talk to creditors who hope for more than I can give at this moment.
  • Changing the title of this section. “Action step(s)” never felt quite right, since some of these things aren’t all that “actiony.” 😉
  • Taking the time to recognize that I needed to write and post this now unless I wanted to be up late this evening.
  • Looking for some books at the library about women and courage. (Delighted with the first part of one book and finding another interesting. One more on request.)
  • Realizing that plans for how I approach this blog are flexible and it’s okay to experiment and try new things.

Noticings:

  • How much I’m continuing to enjoy taking digital photos. My library is growing and I’m seeing so many little things I might otherwise have missed.
  • How shifting the language from “Action step(s)” to “Big and Small Steps” changes the language I’m inclined to use from past tense to ongoing. Interesting…
  • How helpful tears of release can be. (It’s not too late to invest in Kleenex stock – I’m sure I’m raising the value! ;-))
  • How glad I am that I’m out of grade school where some children insist on pinching each other if they aren’t wearing green on St. Patty’s Day! (I don’t wear green. Perhaps I could try some leaves in my hair??)
  • How good it feels to be able to tithe more than once a month, even when the checks are small. 🙂
  • How glad I am to be here, with you now.

 

Day 73 – Wednesday, Feb. 22nd (73/293): Depression is inconvenient, bothersome and, well, depressing!

There’s something about the immediacy of posting directly online that I have been missing. With no internet access on my own computer and limited windows of access on my uncle’s computer, it’s become easier to write my posts in a document, then use my flash drive to post them from another computer. I started this post Monday, but just couldn’t seem to get it done…

Depression…rats! It’s back and it’s persisting, although at any given moment it lifts and I find myself out from under the mire. My depression is, fortunately, the situational kind, rather than the clinical kind. For that I’m grateful. But it is nonetheless hard to get things done – make that hard to get inspired and energized to get things done – when it’s present.

For the past few days since I learned of my aunt’s passing, I’ve occupied myself primarily with jigsaw puzzles and DVDs. Yesterday, with my (other) aunt and uncle out of town, I ended up watching several hours of one of the crime dramas I enjoy (when I’m willing to endure the violence) while I did finished my third jigsaw puzzle in almost as many days. I had hoped to pounce on my uncle’s computer while they were gone for a couple of days, but I couldn’t seem to find the inclination and energy.

What helps me most on those occasions when a confluence of circumstances bring me to a place of depression (right now, it’s my aunt’s passing, my discovering I almost zeroed out my bank account when I thought I was paying attention to it, and my housing/financial situation in general) is being able to recognize that my low energy level is depression. Naming it helps me to know how to respond to it.

Naming it also frees me to not have to pretend I feel better than I do. I don’t want to stay in the depression, but my experience has been that the more I try to fight it, the worse it gets for me. Whereas, accepting that it’s there helps me to let go and just do what I can.

The other day, I employed the Serenity Prayer, asking God to grant me the serenity to accept the depression and to do what I can. It helped. I noticed that my increased energy (which manifests both in mental and physical energy – well, not quite as much physical energy as I’d like to have… ;-)) didn’t necessarily last, but even that is okay. I’m okay with windows of inclination and willingness to do xyz.

Sometimes the world looks like this when I'm depressed... (Another pic from my InterPlay graduation.)

What I’m learning about handling the depression (probably because of this blog journey/process) is that coming out of it can happen incrementally, with ups and downs, like pretty much everything else in life. Yesterday, I just about had my post written, but it felt too long. I printed it out and that’s as far as I got. I realized I wanted to separate out two very different themes that had come up in it – depression and a response to an earlier post (Day 63), but I simply didn’t have the energy.

Now, with the nudge of my aunt and uncle returning later this afternoon, I’m a little more energized to get things done. I also remembered, while writing this, another tool that helps me through and out of depression – Gorse flower remedy. I happened upon it years ago when a friend recognized I was depressed. I didn’t even know it. In our conversation that day, I made some joke about getting business cards that said “Living Corpse” on them. Later that day, I discovered that exact phrase in the description for Gorse in Bach Flower Therapy: Theory and Practice by Mechthild Scheffer. (This is a fantastic book if you really want to learn about flower remedies.)

I had been taking a few other flower remedies, but started on the Gorse after seeing those words in the description. Within days, the depression lifted! Writing this post reminded me that I hadn’t even tried that in the past few days. I guess you know what I’m going to go get as soon as I’m done.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep reminding myself of what it says on a little card I made up many months ago: Do what you can – and let go the rest. I started to check out blog-formatting things, like trying to find a footer where I could put something (couldn’t find anything I could edit) and decided to change the title of one of my categories (found several vulgar spam “comments” and wondered if the category title was inviting creepy types), but quickly started to feel overwhelmed.

A friend recently pointed out that when we feel confusion – to which I would add ‘feeling overwhelmed’ – it’s because we’re not ready to act. Many times I feel confused or overwhelmed by a sudden “need” to do xyz. Now I know – and will try to remember – that feeling confused or overwhelmed may simply be my mind and body’s way of telling me that now is not the time. That feeling of urgency, I’ve often heard said, is my will, not God’s. Today I’ll remember to be still and trust that the readiness will come when the time is right.

Have a blessed and wonderful day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

Day 45 – Wednesday, Jan. 25th (45/321): Reflecting on the journey

Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant and patient God is with you?  (Romans 2:4 NLT)

The crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places made smooth.  (Isaiah 40:4 NKJV)

To everything there is a season…  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV)

I continue to journey through my reflection journals from a year ago, amazed at how often those events speak to my present experience.

A year ago, I was still recovering from my thyroid surgery. It affected my voice and the recovery from that seemed especially slow. To my own ears, my voice sounded deep, unnatural, odd – I had no volume. To others, it sounded “normal,” if more quiet than usual. I couldn’t sing, which was especially hard through the holidays. It was painful to have others cheerily tell me how much better I looked and sounded; they didn’t understand my suffering.

I feel alone on my journey now, wrapped up in the pain of my private fears that seem like fears no one else would understand (even though I know that’s not true). My fears don’t seem reasonable even to me.

Looking back, I realize it’s been close to two months since I’ve applied for a job. When I think in these terms, of what I haven’t done, I feel fearful, paralyzed, afraid to try because the need feels so urgent. Yet when I look at my journey of recovery from surgery a year ago, I am reminded that even though it felt like it took forever to recover my voice, my ability to speak, then sing normally actually returned in a remarkably short time.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how long I have – and haven’t – been on this ‘blog journey’ and the very reason I gave myself a year. The time window isn’t about a deadline for xyz to happen; it’s a reminder to me that change, especially major change, takes time.

A speaker I once heard remarked that change happens in an instant, and I think that’s true. But the effects of a given change, the integration of that change into new patterns of thinking or behavior, the transformation made possible by that change, all of these responses to change take time. New behaviors take practice to become habits. New ideas take time to develop. New ways of thinking need to break through the clog of old thought patterns before they can overcome them and become the norm.

I have learned that being gentle with myself yields far better results than trying to force myself to do almost anything I am not ready to do. Even the readiness comes more easily with gentleness. And gentleness requires patience with the seeming slowness of my process. I wrote some things in my journal a year ago that I want to reiterate here, as they are worth remembering, worth reclaiming.

I wrote that I was “coming to love” the practice of letting go. I notice that I must again be “loving” it because it has become one of the best and most helpful things I have learned to do. In fact, I believe it may be the key to success for me – in finding employment, in developing my consulting/ministry work, and in making the space to receive God’s abundant blessings for my life. Each time I remember to let go of the outcome of any given action, I feel a sense of release, even relief, and am freed to move forward with greater ease.

I am also learning to listen more attentively to that still small voice that would guide me whenever I am willing to listen. During my recovery from surgery, I had to do a lot of listening to know how to best care for myself through the changes that followed. It was a season of healing, of growth and of discovering new ways to listen to my body-spirit and to God. Last year, I wrote:

This “season” probably began as one of listening. It is becoming one of still listening, even as I begin the doing. Perhaps that’s the art of life: learning to listen, then do, always continuing to listen as we do.  (SJ #37, 1/21/2010, p 149)

This morning has become a “season” of reflecting. I find myself deep in thought, deep in the peace of recognizing and appreciating that I am making progress. I am continuing to listen, to learn, to let go and do the deep inner work that is required to be able to blossom and become my best self, the person God created me to be.

As I learn to be kind, tolerant and patient with myself, I discover that God is right beside me, smoothing out the rough places little by little as I gain more strength for the journey. What a blessing to know I am never alone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

Thursday, Jan. 5th (25/361): Hard but good…

Today was hard. Early this morning, my fearful thoughts ran something like this:

  • What if I called the staffing agency?
  • They might demand time I’m not (yet) willing to give and try to make me do something unwanted or want me to put everything else on hold…
  • Augh! I don’t want to call! I’m afraid it might start a chain reaction!
  • New possibility–>I could get clear on what I’m willing to do.
  • Here’s where I get stumped…
  • I could call and be willing to set clear boundaries around my availability.
  • What about being open to either direction? [i.e., admin assist work and ministry]
  • Eek! What I really want to do is some kind of ministry; if I jump into office work, I might get stuck there.
  • How do I let go of this fear???
  • What are all those presumptions I’m making about these…

A little later, as I did my morning reflection time, the verse that spoke to me was: “Do not judge according to appearance…” (John 7:24) I thought about my present circumstances. I’m staying at my aunt & uncle’s because I don’t have the money to actually pay rent, no matter how low. My monthly paycheck from my part-time job lets me pay some of my bills and buy some food and gas. I sort of get by. If it weren’t for the occasional financial gift from friends and the like, I don’t know how I’d make it at all. All this is to say that this is a very rough patch for me at the moment.

The challenge with looking for work is that because of my financial need, I don’t feel free to pursue the work I’m passionate about because it doesn’t come in a neat package with a regular paycheck. I’m also on this intentional journey to break through my fears, and finding employment is one of the scariest things for me. Right now, things appear really bleak and, from the outside,it might look like I’m doing almost nothing to change my situation. But the truth is, I know I’m doing some of the hardest work there is.

Still, the financial piece has made it hard for me to relax and simply get on with the stuff (I don’t know how to do very well yet) that could lead to improving my financial situation. I attended an interview workshop today. It was very helpful, even though it triggered my fears as well.

Later, shortly before I met with my sponsor, I was reading the preface and intro in Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, an Al-Anon publication. It was timely to read about grief when I’ve had these bubbles of grief trying to rise to the surface. I especially liked what it said on page 7 – that I don’t have to confront everything all at once and I can be patient and gentle with myself, trusting that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. That’s worth rereading for me.

My sponsor unwittingly helped me get the tears rolling. (Thanks be!) She named and affirmed that things are hard for me right now and that it’s okay to say that it’s hard. I don’t have to pretend that it’s not. I so needed to cry…

I appreciated coming across something I wrote a year ago that’s helpful for me now: The process of healing is not likely to be a straight line. It was a relief to recognize this. When I feel afraid, I feel like I’ve lost faith, like I don’t trust God to take care of me. My sponsor reminded me that God knows how hard this is for me and my feelings of fear are a normal, human response to the very real challenges I’m facing. I’m so grateful that it’s okay to be human and that healing is happening even when I don’t yet see the results.

My action step(s):

  • Attending an interview workshop.
  • Doing some research on chaplaincy positions/requirements.
  • Testing and improving my skills on MS Word and Excel 2007.
  • Meeting with my sponsor.
  • Letting go my self-imposed need to work tomorrow (when I’ve already fulfilled my hours for the week).

Day 27 – Saturday, December 31: Rethinking the year and other things

This year’s a little hard to rethink. Would I have moved out with my friend had I known I would be asked to leave barely six months later because I couldn’t make the rent? Maybe. My financial situation would not likely have been much better had I stayed where I was and I needed a place where I felt nourished, and with more light and space. For a while I did feel that way and maybe getting out of the other place was the point.

What might I have done differently had I realized how quickly I would slip into a financial quagmire? If I think about it, I was just as scared of launching into new areas of looking for work then as I am now, perhaps even more. I’m still better at studying the how-to-do-it than I am the actual doing it. Sometimes those baby steps feel like I’m just marching in place. Yet I’m not certain I was able to do much more than I did.

One of my former classmates has a motto I’ve thought about often in the years since I’ve met him: Do something that scares you every day. It’s always sounded like something I wish I could do with the ease he seems to have around it. As if doing something that scares you is an exciting adventure to be explored. Right now, I’m not certain I’m doing something that scares me even once a week. The thing is, I think I’m scared of feeling scared, if that makes any sense. It’s as if I’m afraid I’ll fall apart or something if I try to do something and can’t because of the fear.

I’ve heard that courage is not about being fearless, but continuing on despite the fear. Maybe that’s all I need to do – keep taking those steps, even when they feel tiny. The fact of the matter is, they will not always be tiny; every now and then I’ll be able to take a bigger step, even a leap. Who knows, maybe I’ll even learn to run a bit. It could happen!

If you have a copy of Courage to Change, check out the July 28th reading. It’s one of the ones indexed under “progress, not perfection.” The author tells about how a stonecutter may strike a stone again and again with no apparent effect. Then, all of a sudden, that 100th strike breaks the stone apart. But it wasn’t really the 100th strike that did it – it was the 99 that came before it that enabled that final blow to make the difference. I’m going to try to remember this in the coming weeks and months when I’m tempted to feel like I’m not making progress. The truth is, there’s a lot of inner work going on even when I think I’m not doing anything. Every now and then I respond to something differently and realize I am making progress. That’s often all the encouragement I need to forge ahead with new resolve.

May you be blessed with all the encouragement you need for whatever challenges you’re facing!

And here’s a question for you: I’m still learning how to “blog,” in the sense of generating some discussion. What encourages you to comment or exchange ideas on a blog like this?  I’d really like to know. (Your response to this can remain private, btw – just let me know and I won’t approve it for public posting.)

Today’s action step(s):

  • Meeting a fellow program member who needed instruction in getting into the building for some special meetings today.
  • Making the commitment to be the secretary at one of my regular Al-Anon meetings, even though I no longer live close by.
  • Demonstrating my faith in God by writing my first check for 2012 to my church. (What a great way to begin my year financially!)

Day 26 – Friday, Dec. 29: Small things can feel pretty good

I had planned to work today (Friday) just long enough to prepare the deposit. Instead, I recognized that I was tired of feeling rushed and took the time to consider what other tasks would be important or helpful to address. I checked phone messages, returned calls, answered the phone, and processed payments – none of which I had planned to do. I left feeling good about what I’d done and appreciating that my work next week will go a little more smoothly because of it.

It felt good to deliver the nutritional supplements I know I won’t be using to a friend. She called and left a message later saying she’ll be able to use quite a few of them. Yay! My releasing becomes her blessing. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Later in the day, after finishing a DVD from the night before, I felt an urge to do some organizing. In the short time I’ve been here, I already have a growing paper pile. The snowball effect of this all-too-frequent occurrence has typically been that I can’t find things I need and the pile grows…and grows…and becomes several piles. I have spent countless hours in frustrating searches for some essential piece of paper as a result of these proliferating piles. Yet dealing with them often feels overwhelming and intimidating.

Have you ever noticed that each piece of paper requires some kind of decision, and each decision is based on an evaluation of each piece of paper? If it’s a bill, the evaluation is around if, how and when I can pay it and where to keep it until I pay it. If it’s some type of correspondence, the evaluation is around my need to respond or not. Even if it’s advertising, I still ask myself if I need/want/care about the product or service. No matter what the paper is, the questions inevitably include: Do I need to do something in response to this? Do I keep it or toss it? Where do I keep it until I need to respond to it and/or where do I file it where I can find it again? Throw in the lack of any sort of filing space and that opens up a whole other challenge!

I’ve discovered that I do my best “paper work” when I have the “company” of something to watch on TV. Movies I enjoy and have seen before work quite nicely. If I miss part of them because I’m engrossed in what I’m doing, no biggie. If it’s recorded, I can rewind; if not, I’ve seen it before anyway. Just such a movie was on this evening and it felt good to start working on the papers I’ve accumulated this month – which included finally opening all the mail I picked up at the post office earlier this week.

It feels like such a small step. Yet it’s exactly one of the tasks I want to do more of on this journey. If I did this even twice a week, I wouldn’t have those boxes of unsorted papers filling up my storage units. Maybe I can find another movie to keep me company and have a fresh start by New Year’s Day.

I wonder, am I the only one who wrestles with these ridiculous piles of paper that seem to reproduce like bunnies all over my desk?

Today’s action step(s):

  • Relaxing at work by doing a bit more than planned.
  • Going through my mail and organizing some of the papers on my table.

Days 6-8 – Saturday-Monday: Discovering grace

Today (Monday) I experienced what it’s like to make room for grace.

This weekend, I hit a wall. When I imagined doing this project, I had a Pollyanna vision of daily sorting through this box, working on that job application, and generally being “productive” in some way toward the goal I set for myself. I anticipated endless energy, as if things would suddenly be different simply because I had set a goal that was far enough out to give me time to get somewhere, not realizing I would become a task master, fearing that a single day missed might become two, then three, then more. I figured that pushing myself was the answer. Except I forgot one tiny thing – I respond poorly to being pushed, even when I’m doing the pushing.

Because I had been blogging late each night, knowing it was late but determined to push through, I got up Saturday morning, showered, had breakfast, then ran out of steam! I went back to bed for two hours, then felt fuzzy for most of the day…and weekend. I did go by my storage unit on my way to a meeting, however, and picked up some things to sort.

Fortunately, I had a built-in reprieve on Sunday. After church, I helped my aunt finish spiffing-up the house before my cousins arrived for a family dinner. I enjoyed the visit, but kept yawning. They left early (around 8:00) and I was asleep shortly after 9:00.

The post I had started yesterday (Sunday) was startlingly different from my experience of today. My impatience was evident: “You see, I want all the stuff in the room next to me to be cleaned up, cleared up, organized and either in storage or neatly accessible for me now! I don’t want it to take a few weeks. I don’t want to have to have this messiness right next to me where I see it every time I open the door! I want to be surrounded by the order and neatness that has virtually never been a part of my surroundings, except in isolated instances (like before I move in and live for a few days) and I keep wondering why things aren’t happening faster!”

That’s how I was feeling – and I was exhausted from the constant pushing. But today, things shifted for me. By the end of the day, I had discovered how much more gracefully things go when I take time to listen, to let go, and to be gentle with myself.

I was wait-listed for a workshop at JVS this afternoon. It was full, but you can show up early and hope to get in. So I totally let go of expectations around getting in and made the trip to the City. If I didn’t get in, I would only be out some time and about $7.80 of BART fare. It was when I was driving home from the BART station after the trip that I noticed just how much grace had accompanied me this afternoon.

  • I found close, free parking.
  • I had a short wait for the train.
  • I had a delightful conversation with a stranger on the way to SF.
  • I got into the workshop (and it was pretty full).
  • A classmate next to me alerted me to the Linked-In II class next Monday.
  • I immediately registered and got in!
  • I got to the BART station quickly after class and had barely a 2-minute wait for my preferred train.
  • I easily got a seat – facing forward!
  • And I was greeted by carolers near the station exit – singing one of my very favorite Christmas carols, no less.

I even had easy traffic driving home.

Where does grace start? Was it the decision to follow my intuition to attend this workshop? The releasing of expectations around getting into it? Or was it in choosing to be kind to myself for the last twenty-four hours?

Every day this week, I have something scheduled and each ‘event’ is something that moves me in a healthy, helpful direction. Today, it was the workshop at JVS. Tomorrow, my first appointment with my employment specialist. Wednesday, a massage. Thursday, a meeting with my sponsor. Friday through Sunday, (InterPlay) Life Practice Program. Maybe I can carry what I learned today into the rest of my week…

(Btw, my mouse, which has not worked to scroll both directions for months now, is suddenly working properly. Who says miracles can’t happen every day?)

As for “progress” on my project each day (or each blog), I’ve decided to put those notes at the bottom each time. They aren’t often interesting, although I rather like keeping tabs so I can appreciate my progress.

My “action” step(s):

  • Saturday I picked up three containers of herbs and vitamins from storage to sort and clear out what I no longer want or need.
  • An ongoing step: to use (up) the lotion in the partially empty bottles I’ve been hanging onto to consolidate into a single bottle.

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