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 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 61 – Friday, Feb. 10th (61/305): We were not given a spirit of fear

How fragile courage can be when it’s new, unpracticed, still developing… I went to work today, looking forward to the brief phone interview for the temp job, already planning how I might accommodate my present work responsibilities for the weeks I would be largely unavailable during normal business hours if I get the job. I wanted to give my colleague a heads up, in case my schedule needs to abruptly change. It caught her off-guard, as it had me, and the timing was poor. My eagerness rapidly shrank back to distress and concern. Would it work? Will I have to choose between a job I’d like to keep and a job I may need to be able to make ends meet in the coming weeks?

I was truly wishing I had my copy of Courage to Change with me. I would have turned to some pages on fear, worry, or some similar topic. (The thought to bring it had been there when I was getting ready for work. Once again, I dismissed the nudge I was getting from you know Who.)

So, I cast about in my memory banks for some 12-Step wisdom and remembered that I can choose what kind of attitude I want to hold. I could let my dismay and renewed fear dislodge the confidence I felt earlier this morning or I could remember that I need to take care of myself and trust God to work it out.

The irony, I realized as I was writing this, is that I had been given a classic “fear not” verse just this morning during my reflection time. In fact, I had recorded three such verses in my journal:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10 NRSV)

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7 NKJV – This is one of my favorites.)

I’m also now remembering the spider that startled me when it dashed across my comforter as I was preparing for bed last night. Oy! Spider reminds me that if I am not decisive enough about changing my lot in life, I may end up being consumed by my fears and limitations. (Sams & Carson’s Medicine Cards, p 209) I wasn’t thrilled to abruptly encounter the speedy little critter, but I appreciated the message. (Services were held for it this morning…)

Ya think Someone’s trying to tell me something about letting go of my fears and moving past them? I can take a hint! (And I’d prefer not to wait till the 2 by 4 is needed!)

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the temp job. I didn’t receive word one way or the other this afternoon, but the gentleman interviewing me said it might be Monday morning before we (candidates) would know. Until then, I’ll plan my work keeping the possibility in mind, but let go the worry about receiving the job. I know that if I am fortunate enough to get this or some other position, God will be able to sort out the details.

Action step(s):

  • Went into work early and caught up on some personal emails.
  • Responded to an email that came because my resumé is posted on a job site. The message undoubtedly goes out to everyone with a resumé on the website (they’re looking for sales people), so I flipped things and asked the inquirer to let me know if he knows anyone who needs a good admin!
  • Asked a friend, who inquired how things were going, to let me know if she hears of any admin positions. She said she’d keep it in mind. “Networking” again! Whoo hoo! 🙂
  • Boldly shopped for some healthy foods, knowing that God will provide if I run short later in the month.

Day 60 – Thursday, Feb. 9th (60/306): Shifting gears and “unfreezing” the fear response

In the conversation with my friend Wednesday morning, as we talked about fear, she mentioned the paradigm of “fight or flight.” It’s a familiar paradigm to me. What was new to me was the expanded paradigm she described, which recognizes a third response: “fight, flight or freeze.” More so than taking flight, certainly more than fighting, “freezing” is a familiar response for me.

Such responses are embodied reactions to fearful situations for all of us. I bring them up here because I want to remember something my friend suggested – an exercise that creates a kinesthetic experience to help me (and my body) learn a new, healthier response to fear.

The exercise is simple and can be done almost anywhere. You begin by “freezing,” standing perfectly still in one spot, consciously, intentionally, for several moments – long enough that your body knows it has “frozen,” stopped in its tracks. Then you intentionally choose to look about, turning your head if you like, but keeping the rest of your body in the “freeze.” Next, you choose a spot, then very intentionally choose to move to that spot. The dynamic experienced by you (and your body) is one of creating a new practice of moving from freezing to action. The fact that you consciously choose to do this helps you to discover that you can choose new responses to fearful situations as well.

Our conversation was really quite interesting. She pointed out that things that trigger fear can feel like they are life and death to us, even when we know that, in reality, they aren’t that big a deal. In the grand scheme of things, they might even be ridiculously non-threatening. Yet that doesn’t diminish the fearful response we might be feeling. It’s important to honor the fact that our bodies can experience something as threatening, even as our logical mind tries to tell ourselves we shouldn’t be so frightened. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

We talked about how intense emotional reactions to current events, that seem out of proportion to the situation, are often connected to something from our past. Reflecting on the current situation and asking ourselves what it reminds us of from the past may help uncover what is triggering the disproportionate reaction. Even if it doesn’t, acknowledging that our response is disproportionate and that it may be connected to some event from our past can help us let go some of the fear (or anger or other intense emotion) and move through the experience a little more easily.

Today I received a call from a staffing agency about a temp position. The position would begin Monday and be virtually full-time (Mon-Fri, 9:00-4:00) for six weeks. It was interesting to notice my body’s reaction to the possibility of needing to suddenly shift gears – the EEK! response. If I get the job, it would mean a sudden shift in when I can do my work at my present job, with no transition period. Boom! I would suddenly go from 14 to 46.5 hours per week.

I really hope I get the job – if this is where I’m meant to be for a time. I truly need the money, and I like the organization and would appreciate the opportunity to work there. Could it be that my ability to adjust to this possible change so quickly – I “unfroze” rapidly after the initial call to see if I was interested – happened as a result of Wednesday’s conversation about fear and learning how to respond to it differently?

And I haven’t even practiced the freezing, choosing a spot and moving to it yet!

Action step(s):

  • Had lunch with a friend and did an informal “informational interview” with her about chaplaincy work. (Which led me to even more questions we didn’t get to!) Networking!!
  • Said yes to a possible temp position and became willing to adapt as needed.
  • Listened to my body’s need for quiet this evening.

Day 53 – Thursday, Feb. 2nd (53/313): Gratitude and patience

This morning I awoke with a desire to write about gratitude. One of the best antidotes for me when I’m feeling down or having a particularly rough time is to make a gratitude list. It reminds me of the blessings I have and the things that are going well or at least better in my life.

Here are ten things for which I’m thankful in this moment:

  1. I’m grateful to have awakened at 5:55 this morning. The days seem to go so quickly that I appreciate it whenever I awaken between five and six without my alarm clock.
  2. I’m grateful for giving myself a day off from work. I will easily get in more than my allotted/paid fourteen hours this week.
  3. I’m grateful for my job. Work provides a social environment, a distraction from other concerns, and an opportunity to feel and be useful, as well as a steady paycheck to help me through the month.
  4. I’m thankful for the increasingly present comfort in my neck and eye. (I have thyroid eye disease. Stress leads to neck pain, and neck pain often leads to eye pain.)
  5. I’m grateful to remain so consistent in doing core exercises and a bit of stretching virtually every morning. I vary it a bit, taking advantage of the extra time on mornings where I don’t need to be out the door quite so early. I know my body is appreciating it.
  6. I’m grateful to have made small steps toward finding work yesterday. No matter how small the step, every step, for me, is healthy progress in a journey that feels too slow at times.
  7. I am truly thankful for what I call my “scripture reflection” time. This journaling process continues to yield insights into thoughts and behaviors that help me to change and grow. I am frequently blessed by responses from God. And I appreciate the value in taking time to hold still and to consider how I want to be in this world.
  8. I’m grateful for increased flexibility in my upper back, which I’m noticing more often. For decades (perhaps since childhood), there was one spot that refused to budge under chiropractic care, except on rare occasions. Could increasing willingness and flexibility in other matters be making space for increasing flexibility in my upper back?
  9. I am grateful for my paycheck and for the opportunities it provides to pay what I can and let go the rest.
  10. I’m thankful even for the depression that sneaks in from time to time. For it allows the tears to flow and the difficulty of this journey to again be released. What follows more often than not is relief from the struggle and an openness to resume the journey with a little more hope and a little more courage.

This morning, I sought out one of my favorite verses to remind me of the gift of patience: Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4 NKJV) These words never fail to remind me that this is a journey. It takes time for me to learn new practices, develop new behaviors and discover that I can do more than I thought I could.

There are moments when it feels like I’ve been on this journey forever, instead of barely two months. In some ways I have. In some ways, we all have. Yet each stretch of the journey has its own rhythm, its own purpose. I remember one person I heard years ago, or perhaps I read it in a book. This man took a journey for one year, during which time he examined what he had done each day that he wanted to have done better, differently. He recorded his insights in his journal each night. It became a year of transformation for him.

I hope this journey will be one of transformation for me. Finding more gainful employment and beginning my own consulting work would be outward manifestations of “success.” Letting patience have its perfect work would be a much greater reward.

p.s. A few more for the gratitude list:

11. I’m grateful that I wrote all of the above this morning, before the day got bumpy with fear around financial matters.

12. I’m grateful to have met with my sponsor this evening. She always gives me some helpful perspectives when I’m feeling too overwhelmed to think clearly.

13. I’m grateful to my son, for having pointed out a great article on moving past the blocks that come from fear. I’m going to start rereading it in just a few minutes.

Action step(s):

  • Ate a different combination of grains for breakfast. (Too often I eat the exact same thing every day; a varied diet is much healthier.)
  • Balanced my checkbook.
  • Took out cash from the ATM to better monitor my spending (I hope).

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 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!

Tuesday, Jan. 10th (30/336): Breaks – a bit of body wisdom (I hope)

Yesterday, I tried something different at work. Most days, I’m scheduled to work four to five hours, so I don’t plan a lunch break. Then I end up working six or seven hours and I’m wiped out by the end of the day. It’s not that I don’t eat, because I do. I just eat at my desk and keep working, thinking I won’t be there much longer. Yesterday, I planned to work a longer day, so I made a point of taking a half-hour lunch break. I relaxed and read a (fiction) book while I ate and discovered it was quite nice, even though I was only about fifteen feet from my desk.

For some reason, I find it hard to take breaks. Some of this is logistics. I don’t have the money to go to a restaurant where I might enjoy time away from the office. The neighborhood where I work is not conducive to taking walks. That leaves staying at the office. However, my co-workers are actually quite respectful of my break time on those rare occasions when I’ve actually taken a break. Thus, it can only be self-imposed nonsense that leads me to feel like I “can’t” take a break. This is especially dopey since we are encouraged to take care of ourselves in body, mind and spirit.

However, it occurs to me that this isn’t the first place where I’ve struggled with this particular boundary. I’m not quite sure what the deal is. At my last job, which was full-time, I eventually started using the conference room when it was empty and once in a while the cafeteria, but I still ended up eating at my desk at times.

One of the things that makes me nervous about the possibility of seeking full-time work right now is the fact that I’m often wiped out after only a five- or six-hour workday. So how well would I do if I was suddenly working eight hours a day?

I tend to pour myself into my work, going at full speed, and that requires adequate sustenance, rest (i.e., at night) and taking breaks. The labor laws recognize the need for breaks and build in requirements for this. So why, then, is it uncomfortable, even disconcerting for me to decide to take a break?

A job I had some years back comes to mind. There literally was nowhere to go outside the small building to take a break, so I tended to just work straight through. My boss, who was a large, intimidating man, got used to me being available the entire time I was there. When I finally started taking breaks, he had a hard time getting used to the idea that I wasn’t available when I was on break or at lunch. I was, after all, only thirty or so feet away from my desk. I was anxious, but I stood my ground and he learned to respect it. Sort of.

My suspicion as to the real reason I feel guilty taking breaks is that I still see myself as being somehow inadequate. That perfectionist mindset hovers near my shoulder and tells me, “You’re not good enough! You should have all of it done by now!” Never mind that I’m trying to do 20-30 hours worth of work in 14 hours. Never mind that my supervisor and bosses are pleased with my work and have never said anything to indicate they expect more. Never mind that any job tends to have an endless flow of work that renews itself every month, every week or even every day.

Maybe it’s time to experiment with taking breaks at work. And maybe, just maybe, I might discover that I actually work more effectively for the time I’m there.

Action step(s):

  • Took a lunch break at work Monday!
  • Went to bed very early last night.
  • Respected the reality that I can’t get it all done and simply did what I could today.
  • Let go and deleted tons of emails from my office email (mostly from 2010). Wheee!
  • Did some cleaning for a friend and earned some extra money!
  • Gave myself permission to post this online Wednesday morning so I could get to sleep at a more reasonable hour Tuesday evening!

Friday, Jan. 6th (26/320): A word about fear

I notice that the more I fight fear and try not to be afraid when I really am, the more tension I create in my body and the more discomfort I experience as a result. I start wearing my shoulders around my ears and muscles tighten both up and down my body. Not helpful!

When I acknowledge the fear, as I was able to do yesterday, when I admit that things are hard and that I am scared, I find relief from the fear. It’s not that it completely disappears; it’s more that it fades into the background and I am freed to focus my attention where it’s needed. I’ve often heard, “what you resist persists.” I realize this is true for my feelings of fear, as well. I hadn’t recognized how true until the dam burst and the tears – and fears – came pouring out.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that most of my fears fall into two categories: fear of change or fear of the unknown. When I look at the things that provoke anxiety in me, I almost inevitably find one or both of these. For instance:

  • Looking for work – both;
  • Changing careers – the unknown;
  • Finding a place to live – both;
  • Money challenges – the unknown;
  • Relationships (in general, but especially romantic ones) – both.

Other things generate more complex feelings of fear:

  • Going through accumulated piles of papers feels overwhelming. My clutter provides a kind of protective shield. Since I tend to feel socially inept and am afraid of making social blunders, it becomes a convenient excuse for not having guests come to visit. Clearing out the clutter feels very scary indeed.
  • Letting go of furniture and other household items is scary. I’m afraid I won’t be able to replace these things if I let them go. Of course, having lots of stuff makes it harder (and more expensive) to move, which I’ve done often in the past few years. In fact, this exemplifies precisely the kind of deprivation thinking I’m striving to change as part of this journey.

Change can be scary and the unknown can be even scarier. But life is and always will be full of change and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I would like to be more open and willing to change and I’d like to start seeing the unknown as an adventure. In what may be a tiny step in this direction…

I have often been attached to wanting things the way I want them. For example, I’ve (inwardly) thrown fits when a product I like disappears from the shelves. I finally got tired of expending so much energy trying to change things beyond my control that I started consciously working to let these things go. Today, when I couldn’t find the cereal I wanted, I ended up buying a totally different kind. Instead of leaving the store upset or annoyed because they didn’t have what I wanted, I realized I was making a small change that I might even like. I was able to enjoy the adventure of trying something new.

It symbolized a willingness on my part to accept change with a little more grace – and that felt pretty darn good! Especially because I’ve discovered that transformation in one area of my life often results in transformation in other areas, which is a wonderful thing on a path of recovery! 🙂

(Btw, did I mention that the staffing agency called me yesterday afternoon? I guess that answered my question from yesterday morning!)

My action step(s):

  • Turned off my alarm and allowed my body the extra rest it needed after an interrupted night’s sleep.
  • Went to an InterPlay class today. My body so-o-o appreciated moving and stretching and loosening up some of those tight muscles.

Sunday, January 1st (21/345): Rebuilding the framework

First, a word about the “countdown,” now displayed after the date. The “21” refers to day-number and the “345” refers to days-remaining for this year-long journey. I’m backing up seven days simply to make the tracking process easy for me. My planner has this kind of countdown displayed throughout. Today reads 1/365, for example. I decided that twenty will be much easier to add/subtract and that twenty-seven would just be annoying. Besides, I may ‘need’ those extra seven days! 😉

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, the purpose behind it, and how to have some sort of framework to help me be more intentional about my efforts. I find myself a bit lost amongst all the things I’d like to do on this journey and I flounder with how to stay on track. In reflecting on this, I arrived at this framework to help me get on-track:

  1. I’ll post at least four times a week, hopefully more often.
  2. Each week, I will post around these categories: Body Talk; Paper Walk; Step Talk; Faith Walk; Job Talk. (I intend to include the latter every week until it is no longer needed.)
  3. At least twice a month, I will have a Money Walk post. (I will expand on what these categories mean on the “Why This Blog” page.)
  4. I’d like to respond each week more specifically to these questions: Where did I demonstrate courage? Where did I let my fear hold me back? And how am I making room? (As in, how am I creating the space for better health, finances, and so on?)
  5. In terms of what I want to do around each of these categories and this process in general, my goal is to discover and implement healthy practices that are doable, repeatable, sustainable, enjoyable and rewarding. Whether it’s about health, financial affairs, the search for employment, or the development of other ideas, finding healthy new ways of responding to life will be what most assists me on my journey of recovery.
  6. I will continue to note the action step(s) at the end of each post. They may or may not be directly relevant to the theme of the post.

As I have time (and internet access), I will continue to expand this blog-site. I would like to have a page where I can share some of my favorite books, authors, websites and so on. I mention some in my posts, but it would be nice to be able to share in a more accessible way the resources that have helped me on my journey. There are also “technical” things I have yet to learn in order to more fully utilize this site. I hope to figure them out in the weeks and months ahead and look forward to improving my blogging skills. I would also like to start exploring your blog-sites.

One other noticing: It was interesting to discover a feeling of anxiety began to rise when I laid out these goals here – especially the one about having a “Job Talk” post every week. This is one of the prime motivators for this journey, since looking for employment has been an intimidating process which I have felt ill-equipped to do well. I’ve heard that a worthy goal should scare one. Perhaps I’ve found one!

Action step(s) taken:

  • Establishing a clearer framework for this journey and my posts about it.
  • Attending two Al Anon meetings this evening – a familiar one and a new one.

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