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 151 (Thu/May 10): What am I missing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big and Small Steps:

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

Noticings:

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

Day 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 42 – Sunday, Jan. 22nd (42/324): Doggone Fearmobile…

Well, I was doing pretty well most of the day. I had planned to organize my papers for tomorrow’s visit to seek assistance and I had picked up some file folders from my storage unit to help organize the box of paper-chaos I have in my room. I grabbed empty folders, near-empty ones and ones that looked easy to purge. Earlier today, I found and printed various documents I figure I’ll need for tomorrow. Then I spent time this evening purging old papers from the folders I brought out of storage while I watched Murder She Wrote episodes on my computer. It was pleasantly diverting and rather satisfying to toss, tear up and carefully “shred” old medical bills and other miscellaneous things from five or six years ago. I even ran across an email from a friend that’s worth keeping.

Once I was done clearing out the papers and realized it was time to get things picked up and ready for bed, though, I started feeling nervous – a lot nervous. I keep wondering if some of that could be residual effects from the caffeine I had this morning. It was only about half a cup of not-too-strong, green chai spice tea (Stash – my favorite when I want a wee bit of caffeine). But it was probably a mistake because within a couple of hours I was very nervous. (I’m a fly weight when it comes to caffeine.) I think some of the anxiety is simply around getting ready to bare finances and having them placed under scrutiny by an agency that could help me, but might decide I just need to wipe out my tiny IRA balance…

I know this is all quite irrational and I hope I’ll be able to calm down and sleep well. I’m also hoping it’s not too rainy in the morning because I want no excuses to chicken out. I need the help right now and I need to step up and ask for it. (Dang! Where’s that fairy godmother when I need her!) So, I’m using this as an opportunity to verbalize that THIS KIND OF THING SCARES THE PEEWADDLIN’ OUT OF ME! Okay, I’ve shouted it loudly without freaking out my aunt and uncle. Now I can go into my room and add the gestures and body movement to go with the shouting.

Still, I feel pretty good about my attitude around all this and about the small bit of paper clearing I got done today. As I prepared for tomorrow, I continued to let go of expectations around outcome. I also appreciated how I’ve resisted the urge to grab more files from storage to purge because that could become a safe and easy distraction from the scarier work of looking for work and seeking help where I need it. Maybe the paper purging, too, can happen in tiny steps like this unplanned mini-purge today. It was kind of fun to tear things up and use my scissors as a “paper shredder.” 🙂

Time to head for bed, breathe deeply for a while, and see if sleep might bring the rest I need. The truth is, I know where my help comes from – and it’s not the office I’ll be visiting tomorrow.

 Thanks for listening.

Action step(s):

  • Did some journaling about my progress (And you thought I wrote it all here, didn’t you? 😉
  • Prepared for tomorrow’s application for assistance
  • Purged a few files of old papers (Yay!)

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!

Thursday, Jan. 12th (32/334): Curses! Foiled again…

Today I was brought up short by just how intimidated I am by the notion of developing my pitch. A “pitch,” in this instance, is a brief ‘audio commercial’ I can offer when someone asks me what I do. Since I’ve done administrative office work most of my life and am now moving toward church work (e.g., education and consulting), I’ve been struggling with the tension between seeking work that can pay the bills now (which I presume would be office work) and wanting to pursue my passion (the work that may take time to become substantially income-producing). When someone asks me what I do or what I want to do, all my insecurities leap to the fore and what comes out of my mouth is anybody’s guess.

Today I attended a workshop on developing a pitch. I think I thought we’d do more talking about how to do it than actually preparing our pitches. I was wrong.

The odd part is that when we began, by introducing ourselves and giving a pitch, I wasn’t particularly intimidated. I just let the truth about where I was and what I want to do pop out of my mouth and it was actually fairly decent. In fact, one person spoke to me during the break and affirmed the importance of the work I want to do. But later, when we were asked to write out our pitch and given a suggested format, I froze! I couldn’t seem to get past the first sentence: “I am a ____ with experience in ____.” And I got equally bogged down in the rest of the suggested sentences. It was ridiculous…and frustrating…and distressing. My response had been better when it was unplanned and spontaneous!

I didn’t realize just how distressed I was till near the end. Shortly before we were to go around the room again, with our hopefully new and improved pitches, I looked at the instructor helplessly. She came over, made a command decision that I should focus on an administrative assistant pitch, asked me a few questions, and quickly sketched out a framework. It was actually quite helpful and I think I’ll now be able to develop one or more pitches I can use.

Still, I’m wondering why I feel so intimidated by those questions “What do you do?” and “What kind of work are you looking for?” I was practically quaking in my shoes today (even sitting down). I suspect it reflects the extent of my feelings of inadequacy. Even though I recognize (and have been affirmed in) my education, knowledge and gifts for doing this work, I have no track record as yet. So I will continue to examine what lies behind these fears and continue to work on my pitches.

I’m curious about something though… On my way home on the BART, I struck up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. This is something I rarely do. It helped that she was friendly and equally willing to chat. Still, I wondered if it was the way my nervous energy from the workshop found its way out of my body – or at least some of it did. I still felt the anxiousness driving home and even now typing this.

That’s when I need to remember to take all this one step at a time…

Action step(s):

  • Attending two workshops – one on online applications; the other on developing my pitch
  • Learning more about Word and Excel 2007 (If I am going to look for office work, it might help to be up-to-speed on the newer versions of these programs.)
  • Learning more about WordPress (for both this blog and the one I want to set up for my ministry work)

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).

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