Is it really a dance?

It’s been over a year since I wrote a post and over five years since my idealistic launch into creating this blog. I had visions of clearing the clutter out of my room and my life, hopefully within a year. I just had no idea how much of the clutter was in my own mind and thoughts.

This evening, after the most recent kerfluffle with an unhappy housemate, I thought of the often quoted image of taking two steps forward and one step back. I noticed that this is the natural rhythm one finds in a dance and wondered, does my recovery and growth need to follow a similar rhythm? Do I always needs to take one or more steps “back” after a number of steps “forward”? Is it a requirement of growth and becoming the person God invites me to be to stumble along the way when striving to become a more gracious person?

Sometimes it feels that way.

I have often experienced a sort of upheaval after making a lot of progress in my journey and wondered if it is a necessary part of the recovery process. A necessary part of growing into the person I want to become. Tonight this image of dancing suddenly seems like a very helpful and appropriate one for this journey. I have experienced what feels like more than one step back after making great strides toward better attitudes, more loving perceptions of those around me and other shifts in my thinking. What is clearer to me, in this moment, is that those seemingly backward steps are actually opportunities to recognize my progress and to see where I no longer wish to be.

In what was a surprising discovery to me recently, I realized that something that has bothered me – a lot – in the two and a half years I’ve lived in this house, with these housemates, may actually be a great gift. Namely, their seemingly complete inability to properly clean up after themselves in the kitchen. (By properly, I mean actually cleaning up, as opposed to ignoring the mess or simply smearing around the spills and leaving dishes and pans with bits of dried food and grease on them. I know. I know. I’m asking a lot…) So this has been an issue for me for some time – and still bothers me – but now I see in it the gift it holds, if I’m willing to receive it.

When I was married to my son’s father, he wouldn’t roll out of bed until mid to late morning, when I was onto other tasks. What could have been a beautiful bed in our room looked perpetually messy, thus making the entire bedroom look messy. (Especially since the bed practically filled the small room.) Ever since we parted ways, I have truly enjoyed being able to make my bed first thing, every morning, and delighted in the way the whole room looks instantly neater, no matter now not-so-neat it is. I’ve finally come to realize that whenever I may be fortunate enough to move into my own place, or even simply to a place with more conscientious housemates, I will likely take joy in being able to have a clean kitchen on a daily basis and become much better at cleaning up after myself because of the ongoing challenges in my present situation.

My intention for this year has been to become more loving, and I have made progress. Now, when I stumble and find myself inwardly raging at my housemates, I hope I can remind myself that it’s merely a step back, as in a dance, that each time I change direction, I’m also given the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. That new perspective, as was the case this evening, can help me to again move forward on the dance floor appreciating that “backward” step, buoyed by the knowledge that it’s part of the dance, part of the process, part of the ever-expanding journey of recovery.

I hope you’re learning to dance as well.

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2 Days – Holding Still for the Chocolate Pot (Sun – Mar 10)

It’s hard to believe it has already been almost 60 days since I started another journey within the journey. There has been so much going on – most of it an inner journey of discovery and letting go of barriers I hadn’t even realized were there.

What, you may ask, is the “Chocolate Pot”? I’ve explained where the term arose for me in a tab now at the top of this page. The short version is that the “chocolate pot” is a delicious and wonderful place to be – and that’s where I’ve landed!HPIM0796

After months of being challenged on a daily basis to let go and let things unfold, I went through a crisis moment. Actually, it was more like a crisis day with a bleed through to a couple of days preceding and following that one incredibly rough day. I wrote about it in my last post. It wasn’t long before I had my 60th birthday, which may have contributed to the intensity of it all. For some reason, “60” was a significant birthday for me. In fact, it feels like 60 is a significant year for me – and it’s barely begun!

Whatever the basis for my fears around finding a place to live, ultimately I had to hold still, to let go and let God do the work that only God can do. And amazingly enough, that opened the door. A little more than two weeks ago, someone responded to my online ad looking for a place to live. He said he liked what I said in my ad and sent me the link to his ad. A couple of phone calls and a few text messages later and I came to see the place. It was a bit farther away from both my places of work than I’d hoped, but I knew within the first few moments that I would enjoy having him as a housemate.

It's how I feel!

It’s how I feel!

We talked for half an hour to an hour. He showed me all around the house, including the garage and the back yard area, and told me about himself, his partner, and the woman who rents the third bedroom from them. The house was lovely and clean and full of the little amenities that most of us take for granted until we no longer have them. In fact, I’m appreciating those amenities on a daily basis. It was a delight and a joy, for example, to be able to make a sandwich simply because the refrigerator (which is one of two and practically all mine!) is only a couple of feet from the beautiful granite counter top. Instead of having to go outside to a dingy little garage, get my sandwich fixings out of the tiny fridge, go back inside the house, make my sandwich in a cluttered and often not-too-clean kitchen, then return all the fixings to the tiny fridge in the dingy garage, I now have the luxury of simply opening a refrigerator door, grabbing what I need, turning around and placing it on the counter to prepare my food. Have you ever stopped to appreciate such a delightful convenience? I take very little for granted these days. It’s one of the gifts of the rough road.

The real “chocolate pot” for me, though, is in the combination of both lovely home and lovely roommates. The Asian couple who owns the place (two gay men) have made me feel comfortable and welcome. In fact, Tony (the housemate I met when I saw the place) greeted me with “Welcome!” and gave me a hug when I arrived with my first load of things to move in last weekend. What a wonderful beginning!

It *does* feel serene...

It *does* feel serene…

I had fun with the possibilities before coming to see the place, drawing on my (positive) stereotypical images of gay men and Buddhists. I posted on my social media site: ‘Two gay men! Three Buddhists! You know what that means? The house will not only be beautiful, it will be spotless! And it will be like a year-round Serenity Retreat!’ The funny thing is, the house is beautiful and clean, if not quite spotless. And our schedules are so different, we each can enjoy quiet time in the house alone, so serenity is easily accessible on a daily basis.

I have no illusions that my new home (love that it feels like a home) will be an endlessly serene and perfectly harmonious experience. What I do know, that I didn’t know just a short time ago, is that I can choose how I want to respond to anything that isn’t quite as I’d prefer. I can communicate about it, if it’s something that can be changed or negotiated. I can let it go if it’s not very changeable. Even my commute-times, one of which is on a very congested freeway that takes significantly longer to get to work now, provides an opportunity to let go and simply enjoy the time for reflection.

Yesterday, I met with my sponsor. As I was sharing about the recent move, about how I was managing things financially, and about how I have been experiencing the transition, she remarked at the difference she sees in me. As she put it, I’m a completely different person than I was not that long ago. I knew what she meant. Even two months ago, I would not have been ready for this wonderful new place to live.

HPIM0853

So nice to have new friends!

Holding still..So worth it! 🙂

A break in the wall – Day 317 (Tue – Oct 23)

Do you ever have trouble deciding what to do? Not because you don’t have anything to do; rather because there are too many things to do. That’s how it feels for me right now. I keep floundering. Do I go through mail? Do I organize my shelves? Do I do Step work for my next meeting with my sponsor? Do I start my Step work for the other programs in which I’m less active? (Everything goes back to Al Anon for me, so that’s my primary program and the one that helps me with the others.)

Do I read? Do I relax? Do I blog? What is it exactly that I’m “supposed to be” doing right now – besides hiding from the emotional turmoil just below the surface?

In the past ten days, I have been through an upheaval of body memories and emotions. Old memories are surfacing, clarity is arising around those experiences, and possibilities for positive change are determined to filter through the confusion of unexpressed grief, fear and anger to let themselves be known. I tried writing about this, but I find myself talking in circles and don’t quite know what to do.

Without going into detail, I had an experience of recognizing on a deep level the abusive nature of a previous relationship. I had spent years discounting how I had experienced it because it wasn’t physically violent in direct or tangible ways. Therefore, it couldn’t really have been abusive, right?

“WRONG!” my body tells me.

I’m still trying to sort through the myriad thoughts and feelings that have surfaced and continue to unfold. Later this week, I’m going to work with a dear friend who is trained in areas that will help me to process this. We’re going to do some InterPlay work with this because I need to work on a body-spirit level and avoid getting stuck in my head. I’ve already spent too much time analyzing and compartmentalizing my experiences of this. It’s time to listen to what my body has to tell me about how this did (and still might) affect me.

The thing is, as difficult as this has been (I know there’s a ton of grief just waiting for the right window to open so it can spill out), it has also led to the deconstruction of certain beliefs about myself and relationships. In short, I have realized that something I believed about myself might not be true and that I may have the ability to move more gracefully into a new relationship than I would ever have thought possible.

That realization itself leaves my head fairly spinning, as I continue to integrate this new information.

Perhaps I’ll be able to talk about this more later. As I continue to discover what is and isn’t true about myself, I know it will reshape how I see the world and what I see as possibilities for my life. For now, I’m grateful to discover that pulling out a single stone from the wall sometimes leads to an avalanche that creates a new door to a brighter other side.

(Am I making any sense at all today?)

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 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. :-))

Day 94 (Wed/Mar 14): Eighteen days – Shifting focus, a journey within the journey

Yesterday I was having a pretty difficult time. I had caught myself in the old familiar pattern of “waiting until.” It’s not a helpful place to be. I kept casting about for something – an affirmation, a perspective, an action – something that would help me to shift my thinking. I finally found it this morning, after responding to the gentle nudge to read the next reflection in last year’s journal.

I’ve never been particularly geared toward the liturgical seasons of the church. I’m aware of when it’s Advent or Lent because it’s generally mentioned in the bulletin or from the pulpit. Yet the Christmas before last, I felt a desire to be attentive to the Twelve Days of Christmas. I suspect it was because I needed some sort of predetermined period of time to reflect on what was happening in me.

Changes... transformations... within and without

I had been through surgery the day before Thanksgiving (a thyroidectomy) and was still recovering the fullness of my voice. My body was still adjusting (increasingly happily) to the changes as we found the right dosage for my now-necessary thyroid hormone med. And there seemed to be a lot going on inside my body-mind-spirit, just like there is now.

I wanted to make a change in my attitude. Despite the continued (physical) healing, there was something unhappy, unhealthy rumbling around inside and I didn’t like it. One of the things that came to mind while I was driving was to let go my judgments of other drivers. It seemed like a small thing, but I had slipped into a pattern of being continually annoyed with other drivers. Even when people were doing something that didn’t affect me in any way, I had been criticizing how they drove. I decided, rather causally I thought,  to let go that tendency to judge.

During that brief “season,” I got better and better at letting go the tendency – even the temptation – to judge. In fact, it not only became easy, I discovered how much more enjoyable my driving time became. It didn’t matter whether it was a quick trip to the store or a longer, busier drive to work. I found my time in the car could be a time of relaxing and enjoying myself! In practicing letting go, I had begun developing a pattern of letting go of judgments (before I even had a chance to feel annoyed), of appreciating others, and of being grateful for all kinds of things I noticed or thought of while I drove. 

As I re-experienced the impact of that short journey this morning, I remembered how I had felt when I was continually criticizing others and how I felt when I let it go and began appreciating others. I noticed the familiarity of the former and recognized how much I have been criticizing myself of late. I’ve been fast becoming stuck in patterns of judgment about my own activities – or lack thereof.

I’ve decided to change that.

For the remaining eighteen days of Lent, I shall practice releasing thoughts of self-judgment or criticism when they arise. Reading my experience from a little over a year ago helps me remember that I may not be able to control the thoughts that pop into my head, but by choosing what to do with them, the nature of those thoughts can be transformed. The key is to notice the unwanted thought or behavior and release it right away. By choosing to redirect my thoughts toward something uplifting or encouraging, by forgiving myself when I wish I’d done something a little differently, and by taking time to notice and appreciate what I am doing “well,” I will open the door to a happier experience of life, no matter what is happening outwardly.

I will endeavor to post daily for the next 18 days, in order to remind myself of my successes, no matter how small. Just planning this is already lifting my spirits! 🙂

Exactly!

Noticings:

  • How readily I could feel in my body what it felt like a year ago (both the negative and the positive) and how easy it was to recognize similar feelings now.
  • How hopeful my entire body feels in this moment because of this shift in thinking. (The shift has, indeed, taken place merely by setting the intention. Isn’t that a blessing!)

Big and Small Steps:

  • Spoke words of forgiveness and release for myself and my judgments around a recent disappointing situation.
  • Danced my prayer! (If you’ve never tried moving and ‘dancing’ while you pray, you should. It’s amazing how much the body experiences in a prayer that is accompanied not only by words, but by movement.)

Day 57 – Monday, Feb. 6th (57/309): Coming out/Breaking Out

Before you leap to the popular understanding of what “coming out” means, let me start by saying that I don’t happen to be gay, bi or trans, though I count my many LGBTQ friends among my “heroes.” They have had to break through many (valid) fears and barriers to claim who they are. Whenever I’m around these friends, I wonder, how long will it take me to claim who I am, to be the person God created me to be?

I’ve carefully avoided talking about queerness in any sense of the word. And just in case you haven’t been hanging around academia in places like Berzerkley and other planets, queer is actually a term used and appreciated in academia around gender studies and the like, to explore the ways we push against the status quo and notions of the way things are or have been (as if they ever were a particular way). But I am not an academician, so I won’t even attempt to go there. I offer this point merely as a way of quieting, hopefully, the discomfort or concern some people feel about using the word “queer” in connection to notions of sexual orientation or gender.

I might as well tell you right now that I enjoy using the word “queer” because I rather like pushing against, well, lots of things that make some people uncomfortable. We are too often told what we “should” or “shouldn’t” do or say by others and that in itself is a good reason to question the way things are. (It’s also the nature of Aquarians to be a bit contrary.)

But my queerness – or lack thereof – is not what this is about for me. What I’m trying to do is to keep pushing at the boundaries I’ve built around myself that keep me from breaking through my fears. When I began considering bringing up LGBTQ topics (like, this morning), I balked. That’s not really what my blog is about, I thought. I don’t want to derail the conversation (even if it has largely been one-sided) that is here to help me break through my fears. Then I noticed that bringing up a subject about which I feel passionate (as in supporting LGBTQ people) brought up fear. Oops! And I thought this journey was merely going to be about organizing and purging the paper piles and finding adequate employment…

“Coming out,” for me, is about breaking through my fears and not being afraid to be who I am. I have so many friends who have had to face far worse fears than I do to be who they are and they are not only fine, they are amazing and often wonderfully successful because of who they are. The fact that I am so drawn to my lesbian and trans-women friends made me wonder about myself. Eventually I realized that the attraction I experience is not what I experience toward (“straight”) men, but rather the admiration for those who have had the courage to become more fully themselves.

For me, as someone who has considered herself to be shy most of her life, part of my “coming out” will be to embrace the closeted extrovert in me. I remember remarking to my pastor once that I was shy. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, “You’re shy?!” The memory of that moment stayed with me. It is only in the past couple of years that I have come to recognize that my shyness has really been about fear and being afraid to be who I am for fear people would dislike or reject me

There’s so much more to say on all this, but I’ll stop for now. Be prepared, though, now that I’ve brought up one of my favorite topics. (See, Aquarians really do like to be contrary and, I suspect, do a bit of trouble-making!)

Have a blessed and wonderful day being yourself!

Action step(s):

  • Writing a birthday card to my birthday “twin,” even though it’s a bit late.
  • Giving myself permission to perhaps regularly get to work early and take some time for my own tasks before “clocking in” – like writing this post.
  • Bringing up the “Q” word in this blog – despite the fact that I feel extremely nervous doing so. (Have I lost you now? ;-))

Day 51 – Tuesday, Jan. 31st (51/315): A small(?) revelation

This morning I awoke with a dream about a rattlesnake. (I happen to love snakes, btw.) I knew Snake was bringing me a message of transmutation (at least according to Sams and Carson), which means that something that might be experienced as a poison can actually be transmuted into something harmless with the proper frame of mind.

Since one of my creditors told me just a few days ago that my account may go to collection if I don’t make a significant payment this month, financial matters and my need to be willing to go down this unhappy road sprang to mind. My anxiety level rose several notches as I started thinking about potential financial disasters – like bankruptcy. I’ve been there, many years ago, and do not want to repeat the experience. I wondered if the dream was telling me to get ready to experience something I absolutely do not want to experience.

As I showered, dressed and prepared breakfast, I thought about the feelings of shame and failure that accompanied that experience and of how much I didn’t want to go there again. Then I noticed my body-spirit reacting as if I were on that disastrous financial path already. It helped a little to recognize this, especially since it’s something that might not happen. It didn’t fully relieve the stress, but I let it go as best I could.

When I sat down to eat breakfast and do my morning reflections, I read more of Snake’s message from my book. It speaks of being willing to experience anything without resistance. Then it describes all the positive things we can experience through accepting all aspects of our lives. By the time I got to the sentence about this symbol coming to me because I need to transmute some thought, I had a revelation!

I was struck by the powerful realization that even if my worst nightmare strikes and I have to go down that path again, I do not have to experience it as failure or as shame. Those are judgments I have laid upon myself. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I have done my very best to manage my financial affairs and I will continue to do my best. My best is the best I can do with what I know and where I am right now, even when it’s a far cry from where I want to be. If creditors “force my hand,” so to speak, I may need to make different, unplanned choices. But whatever choices I make, I do not need to carry guilt and shame and a sense of failure along with the challenge of financial recovery.

I am still integrating this reality into my consciousness. There are so many cultural values that lead us to feel badly about ourselves that it was astonishing, really, to discover that I don’t have to accept someone else’s judgment, nor do I need to judge myself that way either. It is even freeing me of residual guilt and shame from my experience twenty-some years ago. It’s amazing how much that shifted things for me and how much freer I feel to keep doing what I can to get back on my feet.

Since this was the beginning of my scripture reflection time, I then opened my Bible – or rather let it open to whatever page it might. The verse I found was encouraging indeed:

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9  NRSV)

To which I say, Amen!

p.s. Does anyone else get stupid and/or irrelevant suggestions for tags for their posts?

Action step(s):

  • Spoke to my other creditor (who was much more supportive) and committed to making a small payment this week.
  • Took a small amount of money out at the ATM so I could use cash for the grocery store to help me attend to how much I’m spending.
  • Chose my grocery items carefully, adding the total up in my head as I went.

Day 44 – Tuesday, Jan. 24th (44/322): Fledgling networking effort

I confess, I’m feeling rather pleased with myself tonight. Not in an arrogant way, but in a way that appreciates my stepping out and doing something I have been afraid to do for, well, forever really. Or so it seems.

There was an event scheduled for this afternoon at one of the seminaries I attended. I had made note of it on my calendar in case I decided to go. When I noticed it again yesterday, I thought, Ooh – maybe there’s free food! So I checked my email for more information. It turns out the dinner options were to pay $9 for the available meal or bring your own. I still had only $3.97 in my purse. Hmm… I let various scenarios roll around in my mind about what I could do for dinner in the BYOD category.

This morning, I decided to dress for the occasion in case I went. (Usually I just wear jeans to work.) I found my plastic bag of quarters (and a few other coins) minted in the past decade or so. I don’t really collect coins; there was just something fun about noticing and trying to collect one of each of the different state designs. Now it served as an emergency stash. I pulled out $2.85, added the weight to my wallet and bought something at the taco shop on my way to the event.

Somewhere in the past 24 hours or so, the idea came to mind of attending this event as an opportunity to network. It’s a location where I feel comfortable and people with whom I share similar ideals and interests. It’s also a place where I regularly meet people who might be able to help me as I move into my new career.

As it turns out, I gained far more from this experience than I expected:

1 – Just mentioning my certificate program (Sexuality and Religion) sparks conversation. Most people react with anything from confusion to amusement to curiosity – all of which are fodder for talking about the work I want to do. I’ll definitely remember this when I want to network around ministry opportunities.

2 – I met a woman (“AC”) who is doing a wonderful arts-based ministry and has three different organizations as a part of her support system. This is a model I have thought about a number of times, since what I want to do doesn’t fit in the typically available job descriptions. We talked a bit and exchanged contact information. I’m very interested in learning more about how she coordinated her ministry and checking out her website as I continue developing my own.

3 – AC gave me the opportunity to see the value of networking in action. During the course of the dinner conversation, someone brought up a concern about their worship space and suggested bringing AC in for a consultation. Voila! A potential client – just from networking!

4 – I discovered that I might have something to offer AC! When we talked about websites, I mentioned my blog, which led to talking about some things she didn’t know that I’ve learned. Another great reason for networking!

5 – I heard lots of information that I’ve mentally catalogued for future reference and made some new acquaintances. One person has an online book being edited and hopes to soon market it on Amazon.com. I learned something about an issue I’ve not had the time to study more closely. Plus there were many other good ideas shared.

6 – Best of all, or perhaps more importantly, I discovered how easily “networking” can happen, how much I can learn simply by listening to others, and how low my confidence is right now.

You may wonder about this last observation – a “best of all”?! I believe it’s vital for me to be aware of what’s going on in my inner world and discovering just how little confidence I have was a helpful noticing. Listening to people speak with such confidence and enthusiasm about their passions is the very thing I want to be able to do. In some ways, it’s a growing edge for me – I can feel quite passionate about this work, but when it comes to articulating it to someone else, I start to trip and stumble. In other ways, it helps me to recognize the difficulty of my present struggle.

This journey isn’t about pretending I’m not struggling or trying to push through by ignoring the painful places. It’s about being willing to notice what’s going on, change what I can, and support myself throughout the process. Like the Serenity Prayer says: I need to accept the things about myself I cannot change – which includes recognizing what’s true and what’s not; I need to change those things I can that no longer serve me well – which takes willingness, practice and patience; and I need the wisdom to know the difference – which means letting go and letting God show me what work I need to do and how to best do it.

I’m going to need more practice at networking before it feels comfortable, but tonight was a great start. Once again, I feel grateful and so blessed!

Useful step(s):

  • Stepped out of my comfort zone and went to an event primarily to practice networking.
  • Let go expectations around this evening.
  • Introduced myself to two more people just before I left expressly to practice networking.

Day 40 – Friday Jan. 20th (40/326): Foiling the Fearmobile

Yesterday, a friend helped me see that my expectations for myself are, in fact, unreasonable. She wisely pointed out that having instability in housing or finances is stressful; having both at the same time, especially for an extended period, as I have, is more stress than most of us can handle and remain sane. Sane? Am I supposed to be sane? Her point was well taken – and much appreciated.

She asked me if I’d considered government assistance. Right now, I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the rest of the month. Seeking assistance has been on my mind off and on for more than a week. Today, I took a few minutes to find out where the office is, download an application form, and fill it out. (Yay, fill-outable pdf forms!) Then I stuck it in my bag to consider when I might actually go there.

There is something about baring your financial soul to a government agency that makes me more than a little nervous. If I zeroed out my checking and savings accounts, I might squeeze by this month. I worry that the agency would expect me to do just that. I wish I had a “prudent reserve” but my savings accounts have been nothing more than temporary holding cells for my checking account. I’d like to change that. Truly I would. I just haven’t learned how – yet. Adequate income would help.

When I left work this afternoon, I drove by the agency, to see where it is. I discovered there’s nearby two-hour parking, but nothing else free and long enough for the often lengthy process. It was raining. I didn’t feel like getting wet, so I drove home. But I kept thinking about the form in my bag and the fact that the office would be open for another hour and a half.

I paced a bit in my room and debated whether to drive back over there. I decided to do it. On the way, I realized something important: the only reason for me to avoid going there was fear.

Oy! Got me! The very reason I started this blog – to practice breaking through the fear.

I let go any expectations about the outcome of going there late on a Friday afternoon. I knew that (a) I might discover they only let people out, not in, by that time of day; (b) I might not get anywhere even if I got in; or (c) I might be able to get started. In only a few minutes, I learned that it was to be “b” – late in the day, too many people already there. I was encouraged to come by Monday morning, the earlier the better.

I resist doing this sort of thing because it scares me. I’m paranoid that I’ll leave out some detail or do something wrong (like earning a few extra bucks cleaning) and lose my eligibility for assistance. It’s crazy, I know, but my reaction is visceral. I can’t help it. I’m still feeling a bit shaky and I haven’t even begun the process. This weekend, I’ll see if I can lay my hands on the information I will need to be armed and ready come Monday morning. I may not need it yet, but it will help me to answer their questions.

Now it’s time to breathe, shake out the nervousness, and relax for a bit. Maybe I can even take a moment to appreciate my willingness to face this particular fear.

p.s. Is it weird that it even feels scary to post this?

Action step(s):

  • Took a first step toward getting much needed help despite the fear!

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