Day 85 – Mon, Mar. 5th (85/281): Standing on the precipice

How can it be that I visit so many places on the emotional map in such a short period of time? In the past 48 hours, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in serenity, taken a few brief stints through anxiety, started to visit confidence but only stayed a short while, spent about half an hour in tense apprehension, then found myself in mortal fear when I realized I was on the precipice of accepting God’s abundant grace. 

All it took this morning was remembering the words I had glimpsed in my reflection journal the day before: Ask and it will be given you… The tears and the fear came in an instant as I asked, Is that all I really need to do? Ask?

I am astonished that such a simple thing as accepting the fact that I am worthy, I am lovable and God does want to bless me abundantly is such a frightening and difficult concept to grasp. I’m struggling here… The words aren’t flowing. They feel awkward, too thought out. They lack the emotion, the deeply intense emotion I was feeling just a couple of hours ago. And that’s what happens: I come to the precipice, the diving board, ready to jump off, start thinking about what it means to be able to jump off – as in trusting that I am loved that much, that I will be supported, even abundantly blessed – and I back off, turn around and run the other way, not daring to believe I could possibly be worth the dreams that I hold.

 That’s when the deep emotions, the fear and the tears it brings, subside and my logical brain shifts into gear, trying to reason out the whys and wherefores of what’s going on. I’m not the least bit convinced it’s entirely helpful that this happens. However, I did notice that one of the fears that holds me back from really being able to see myself as being financially comfortable (not “wealthy” necessarily, but reasonably comfortable) is that my image of people who can easily handle their usual expenses and have the means to enjoy some of the “luxuries” (like health care, vacations, the occasional new computer, etc.) seem to always live in these beautiful, if simple, immaculate homes where everything in place and clutter doesn’t exist.

I remember visiting some in-laws a number of years back. They were a young couple, with two or three young children. I don’t remember where he worked, but she was busy with the kids and with doing a side-business they had. I wasn’t in their home more than a handful of times, but every time I was there I noticed that it was beautiful and immaculate. There wasn’t a speck of dust or a bit of clutter in sight. Granted, I didn’t go poking into the bedrooms and closets, but still… This moderately nice, non-luxurious home was absolutely beautiful and typifies my image of what it means to be financially stable, even comfortable: everything is supposed to look nice all the time because that’s what people who can manage their finances do.

When I lay this out here, it sounds ridiculous to think that financial comfort and stability somehow equals lovely, well-kept, neat-and-clean-at-all-times homes. But that’s the imprint on my brain right now. I won’t even talk about the one visit I paid to a truly wealthy home, owned quite literally by a billionaire. It was simple, beautiful and, of course, you guessed it, without a speck of dust or clutter in sight. And I’m pretty sure they do it all themselves. (They don’t live like one might expect billionaires to live.)

So, what’s the point? I’m not sure I know. I’m a big fan of metaphors and God often uses them to speak to us, certainly to me. This morning I was coming to grips – or wanting to come to grips – with the fact that receiving blessings and abundance can be as simple as asking God for what I want in life. Yet the idea of asking for all the things I want, trulyasking, not just hemming and hawing about it, but sincerely coming to God and making my requests known, scared the pee-waddlin’ out of me! Then, when I got to the office, I thought the “sweet spot” parking space was already taken. So I parked and walked to the office door. There, directly in front of it, was the space – empty and waiting for my car. I moved my car and thought about how sometimes the gift is right there, waiting for us and we just can’t see it.

One small step at a time

I’m standing on the edge of that precipice of abundant grace. I can feel it. I can sense God’s desire to bless me in wholly unexpected and amazing ways. Maybe, just for today, I will simply remember this and trust that I am walking through that wall of fear one step at a time.

Noticings:

  • How different it feels in my body when I’m experiencing the intense emotion of getting ready to take a big, scary step and how quickly the feeling in my body shifts when my logical, figure-things-out brain takes over.
  • How much I enjoyed watching a documentary on Muslims – it was wholly relaxing, in contrast to the “half an hour in tense apprehension” I experienced Sunday with the discouragingly biased agenda of the presenter in our adult ed class.

Action step(s):

  • Watched an excellent documentary on Muslims to help give me more balanced information and considered how I might expand the conversation at church to include a truer, more informed picture of this faith tradition.

Day 56 – Sunday, Feb. 5th (56/310): Getting unstuck

The past three days have been full, indeed. “Coincidental,” you could say, defined as being when God wants to remain anonymous.

Thursday afternoon, I met with my sponsor and she helped me see how much I was trying to shrink myself to fit into the tiny box called my present finances and circumstances. I’ve been stuck in small thinking and small acting as fear and worry overwhelm me. During the meeting, I talked a blue streak. At one point, we read from Al Anon’s Courage to Change – a reflection indexed under “worry.” It talked about choosing not to figure out my plans for the day the moment my eyes are open and, instead, taking time to listen and enjoy the morning (p. 95).

That night I read the article “How to Get Unstuck.”* In this helpful and insightful article, Bolles looks at how our “Safekeeping Self” (the part that wants to stay in its familiar, comfort zone) takes over our “Experimental Self” (the part that would gladly pursue and leap upon networking, job hunting and other adventures) when we are making changes that are scary. Normally, these parts of us function in balance, with one or the other being more active at any given moment. But as I read, I easily recognized how my Safekeeping Self has my Experimental Self in a death grip. Talking too much, as I’ve been doing a lot lately, is just one of the symptoms.

What I’d read from Courage to Change about taking time to listen in the morning instead of planning from the second I wake up echoed a recommended strategy in the article: change some of the routines we obsessively cling to when the Safekeeping Self is overreacting. So I did.

Friday morning, I again gave myself time when I first got to the office to do some personal work before beginning “work” work. I paid several bills (online). Since I had already mentally subtracted these payments from my paycheck, it was surprisingly easy, almost fun to pay them! It felt more like marking off a check box, than taking money out of my account. I don’t believe I’ve ever had that experience while paying bills before. 🙂

Yet Friday was also a day of feeling confused and overwhelmed much of the day. Confusion, btw, is the Safekeeping Self’s favorite weapon. Talk about frustrating! So I let go, relaxed that evening, and read several pages from Courage to Change right before sleep.

Saturday, I let my morning unfold. I journaled (in my “regular” journal) for quite some time, mostly reviewing what I’d read in Bolles’ article. Hunger arrived, so I fixed my breakfast and enjoyed some jigsaw puzzle time while it was cooking and while I ate about half of it. I wrote a bit more while I finished my breakfast. Then I took a shower to help wake up my body after all that sitting.

In the article, Bolles suggested that if you’re a person of faith (which I happen to be), you might pray for God to lead you through all confusion. I was ready! After my shower, I went on a search in my Bible and filled seven 3×5 cards with over a dozen verses and passages  that remind me that God is there to lead me out of the confusion. Then I did my “scripture reflection” before heading to the office to pick up my forgotten planner, to do one work task, and to do some internet stuff. From there, I went to my Al Anon meeting.

Afterwards, I discovered my aunt had called. My uncle had fallen and been taken to the emergency room (in an ambulance); my aunt was at home, waiting for a report. Ultimately they turned out to be minor injuries (he’s a tough old bird), but she and I wound up staying awake till 2:00 a.m. waiting for a call to confirm his status. Today has been about waiting for more updates, then finally getting him home. He’s napping now (when my aunt isn’t talking to him – she cracks me up!); she’s continuing to check in with family; and I’m trying to stay awake till (an early) bedtime.

These past few days have been about recovery, discovery and finding my way out of confusion – or at least to a door to a better path. I’m already doing some of the things suggested in the article (it is worth reading) and look forward to making more progress this week. Yesterday, I found myself looking at job postings with more interest and enthusiasm than I’ve felt in long time.

What a difference it makes to read things that nourish my spirit and let things unfold. And what a blessing it turned out to be to have had so much grace before the excitement of the past 24 hours!

Action step(s):

  • Read “How to Get Unstuck” article and began implementing strategies.
  • Read from Courage to Change before bed.
  • Paid several bills online – joyfully!
  • Spent 45 minutes at work catching up on something that’s been hard to do during the week. (Yay!)
  • Did some job-searching online and found a few possibilities. (It’s a start!)

 * What Color is your Parachute? 2009 by Richard Nelson Bolles, “How to Get Unstuck” in Appendix B, pp 339-350. (Btw, I have not seen this article in the later editions of Parachute. Check with your library if you want to find it. It’s worth the effort!)

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.

Tuesday, Jan. 17th (37/329): Job Talk…Just for today

Monday morning began with reflections on the previous day. It felt like the light had started to shine in the darkness of my recent experiences of feeling so overwhelmed. A little later in the morning, it felt good to go to the women’s InterPlay class and have the opportunity to dance, connect, babble and tell stories. I talked about this blog, about a new blog/website I’m beginning to create, even a little about my dreams. It felt good to finally register the new blog/website and make a start. Good – and a little bit scary.

The shift felt positive, transforming even. Later, I organized my handouts from the various job-search workshops I’ve attended. The rest of the day I relaxed and started thinking about what concrete steps I might take toward seeking employment.

This morning, I awoke and checked to see if there was anything in particular I needed to do to prepare for a meeting with my employment specialist today. Guilt and anxiety started creeping rapidly into my day. The coming meeting reminded me of the work I need to be doing, not just learning about doing. I had precious little to report.

I chose one of my favorite verses to use for my first reflection: Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:14 (NKJV) I needed a sense of courage; anxiety was gaining ground.

I noticed something as I wrote the verse in my journal. It says that God will strengthen my heart – not me. It’s not something I do myself; it’s something only a Power greater than myself can do for me. I took some comfort in that. Which is good, because I felt thoroughly deflated later in the day after my meeting with the employment specialist.

It seemed like I had done virtually nothing since I had last met with her. I hadn’t submitted any resumés or job applications or done any informational interviews. I hadn’t even called the people I know I want to talk to about their experiences in chaplaincy, to see what possibilities it might hold for me.

On the other hand, as I reported what I could, I realized I did do a few things. I did scout out job possibilities on Craigslist a time or two. I did get on the university job listing site and see if there was anything there for me. I did talk briefly to two people about wanting to meet with them to talk about chaplaincy work. I did check out a lead one of them gave me (though it didn’t get me anywhere – yet). And I did receive a call from a staffing agency about a position (I unfortunately wasn’t qualified to fill), which enabled me to let them know I am available for work.

Yet I completely discounted, even dismissed the tiny steps I have taken. The times I looked for employment possibilities were dismissed because I didn’t find anything that led me to submit an application. At the university, there were no positions for which I was qualified that fit. I haven’t followed up with either person to whom I mentioned chaplaincy. And I still need to call the staffing agency regularly or I will fall off their radar again.

In short, I may not have done as much as I’d like, but I’ve done more than I thought.

Earlier this evening, I discovered I have not talked about the one thing I was determined to talk about every week – job hunting. It’s time to begin both talking about it and directing more of my energy into it. I’ve nudged my thyroid medication back up toward what was normal before the stressful move the end of November and that may help with the physical energy. As for the emotional energy…

I rediscovered my “Just For Today” Al-Anon bookmark. I’ve been carrying it around all day, reading and rereading the first statement: Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.* It’s helping me remember that I cannot do everything all at once.

Action step(s):

  • Met with employment specialist
  • Registered a new blog/website to begin developing the consulting work I want to do
  • Did some careful meal planning to stretch the tiny amount of money I have left for the month
  • Mostly, I’ve trusted God a little more by letting go more often in the past two days

*This bookmark and other Al Anon literature are available at http://www.al-anon.alateen.org and at Al Anon meetings in your area.

Saturday, Jan. 7th (27/339): Reviewing the week

Saturdays may be good days to reflect back on the week – especially to think about answering questions I posed in my new framework. It may be deflating to discover how little I’ve done in this arena. Then again, I may find I’ve done more than I realized, even if it wasn’t in quite the form(s) I anticipated.

Question #1: Where did I demonstrate courage?

This one takes some thought, since I tend to think demonstrating “courage” has to involve something big and bold, something that makes me quake in my shoes. But maybe demonstrating courage is about taking small steps or noticing things that happened more easily than before. This afternoon actually provides an example of the latter.

I used to avoid going to almost all parties, especially large parties. I was nervous around strangers, I felt out of place if there was alcohol (I’m not a drinker), and loud music has put me on edge. These are, of course, cliché images of parties. However, today I went to a friend’s celebration of her 50th birthday. The big advantage for me was, admittedly, that it took place at the InterPlay studio. I knew there would be people I didn’t know, but also people I did know. It was in a comfortable setting and for a friend I’m especially fond of. Afterwards, I began noticing the differences in how I responded in circumstances I would formerly have avoided or left as soon as possible.

While I used to shy away from people I didn’t know, today I comfortably introduced myself to at least one person before things got going. While I used to prefer fading into the background, today I boldly put myself out there to join performance, play and dancing. While I used to experience anxiety around taking initiative in any part of the event, today I simply asked one person if there was a clean-up plan and, finding that there wasn’t, got things started. While I used to flee as soon as the music got too loud (which it did after the main event), today I stayed until the time felt right to leave for other reasons. It seems a very small thing, but I’m appreciating the recovery that must have been happening for me to feel as comfortable as I was today. And you know what else? Doing this was remarkably easy! I might even be able to do this in another, less familiar setting!

Today I also began serving as “secretary” for my Al Anon meeting. I knew I would be nervous, so I made sure my notes were readable and got there extra early. And you know what? I experienced very little nervousness at all! I suspect the real courage came in making the decision to serve in the first place.

Question #2: Where did I let my fear hold me back?

This one’s harder to tell. I’m reminded that I did make a call that has tended to make me nervous in the past: calling my auto insurance company to give them my new address. And this reminds me of one task I have been anxious about addressing: changing my address with the DMV. I don’t know why this always feels scary to me, but it does. There’s something about contacting an official government body to change my address when my address is once again temporary that intimidates me. I’m in a different county, so that changes the locations for potential jury duty summons and I’m never quite certain whether the voter registration piece is picked up with it. Plus I really don’t like having to look for the new polling place. Sigh… I guess I have been letting fear get in the way of performing this seemingly simple task. Rats!

Action step(s):

  • Taking the time to make the notes for my meeting readable.
  • Making a new sign for the meeting and a “patch” for another sign.
  • Deciding on a “secret mission” that I’ll have to tell you about a month from now.

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).

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s action step(s):

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

Day 24 – Wednesday, Dec. 28: Tackling the fear

This morning I was reminded to stop letting fear get in the way and to tackle the adversaries of my confidence. It was a timely reminder. This was the day I had set aside to take care of my student loan paperwork to address the very real (for the time being) situation of not having money to pay loans that would be coming due next month. Just the federal part of my loans from only one of the two companies I’m working with is scheduled to begin payments that are literally about 95% of my take-home pay. Needless to say, action on my part is required!

I started to work on this a few days ago, then realized I needed some files from storage. Yesterday, I went “shopping” in my storage units and picked up those papers and several other items. (I’m trying to not go out and buy the things I know I have in storage. I already have too much “stock”!)  Since I needed to find some information, then submit the form online, I went to the office to use my computer there.

Right now, my loans are in deferment because I am considered “unemployed” by their standards. When I first applied for deferment, I was told that I needed to have at least six interviews for fulltime positions during that time if the deferment would need to be extended. I’ve only had two. Many of the positions I’ve applied for (which is admittedly not an impressive number) have not even acknowledged receipt of my application. So goes today’s job market…

Then I had this idea. What if I simply asked if I am eligible to continue to have them in deferment? If I’m not, I can continue the paperwork I had planned to do already. But if I am… As it turns out, there is no requirement of “six interviews” for either the federal loans or the other loans with this company. I was told that yes, I could submit the request to extend the deferment. The online form for the non-federal loans did, however, ask if I had made at least six diligent attempts to find full-time employment. I nervously checked the “yes” box. My efforts feel so feeble compared to people I have met who are boldly out there submitting five or six applications a week. I don’t know how they do it. Clearly they are not ACAs struggling with things like fear of rejection or, worse, uncertainty about the kinds of jobs they even want.

I’m beginning to think that some (many? most?) people really don’t care where they work as long as they have a job. I’m afraid I do. It actually matters to me that I like the those with whom I work and for whom I work. It matters to me that the job pay me enough that I’ll be able to stay there rather than to immediately begin looking for a position that pays more. Yet at least one person I spoke to last summer about my student loans suggested that any job, even a minimum wage job, should be on my apply-to list. Call me weird, but I prefer a job I look forward to going to each day and a company whose mission I am pleased to support.

So, long story short, the anxiety I felt about qualifying for some kind of “you don’t have to pay on these just yet” status turned out to be a simple process that took only a few minutes (once I had the answers to my questions). Whew! Breathing room.

Today’s action step(s):

  • Taking a 40-minute walk with LOTS of uphill stretches. Oy! (But it breaks the sitting-on-my-assets-all-day cycle.)
  • Taking care of student loan situation. YAY!
  • Organizing the chaotic array of items I had to bring with me to my temporary abode. It feels so-o-o much nicer to walk in the room and not feel depressed, guilty or overwhelmed by this mess, even if most of the stuff is still there.
  • Putting a few items in my car to take to storage. (I made a wee bit more space when I went “shopping” there yesterday.)
  • Scheduling a “play date” with a friend! Tomorrow, we’re going to go to a movie, probably grab a bite to eat, and enjoy catching up. (I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure this qualifies under the “have fun” category – you know, one of those things ACAs have difficulty doing. 😉

Day 23 – Tuesday, Dec. 27: Argh… Then again…

Do you ever have those days when things just keep not working? Well, I’m having one of those days.

I went early to work on a computer before my resume workshop this morning. First the computer shut down when I was in the middle of writing an email. Then the programs took so long to open, I thought they hadn’t. After I finally got going, then wanted to try a different approach, the computer froze up altogether. We had to do a hard shutdown – about ten minutes before my workshop. Not helpful.

Now, I’ve spent a frustrating 20 of my allotted 60 minutes on the library computer, fighting with a similarly slow and seemingly unresponsive computer. Argh! I really don’t think it’s all about being impatient, but I confess that I have been.

My crackpot theory is that I’m having this kind of day because preparing for the resume lab raised my anxiety level in the first place. The thing is, I feel the need to find a job that will provide a regular paycheck that will allow me to take care of my financial responsibilities. But my presumptions around that are that this means a desk job, doing office work – which I happen to be good at and generally enjoy. But what I really want to do is the kind of work my recent seminary training prepared me to do, which is things like education, lay ministry, chaplaincy, developing some new curricula, and so on. (I’m not going to be a pastor, btw, but I do want to do things that support people spiritually and emotionally.)

When I think about getting full-time work as an administrative assistant, I usually first start to feel trapped and ‘panicky’ (not in the clinical sense, just in the ridiculous, Al-Anonish, mind racing off in stupid directions kind of panicky). I forget that I might actually love being an admin at the right kind of organization where I can also help provide spiritual and emotional support for people.

My question for myself right now is this: How am I limiting myself in my desire to find satisfying, gainful employment by these presumptions and the preconceived ideas, which are triggering the fear?

I don’t have any brilliant (or coherent) answer to this at the moment. I keep hearing that I need clarity around what I want – and I know that’s true. If I don’t feel clear in what I want, how can I possibly come across as a good candidate, let alone top candidate for any given job?

What I noticed last night as I quickly made a few changes to my resume for this morning’s workshop is that there’s a kind of domino effect that happens when I work on my resume. The resume tweaking leads to anxiety about getting it “right.” The idea of actually submitting the resume leads to anxiety about how I present myself in the cover letter and resume. The idea of actually getting an interview makes me nervous for all the same reasons. And all of these thoughts lead to the work that might really help me find a place and work I would enjoy – informational interviewing. And that, at the moment, scares the peewaddlin’ out of me! Although I notice I actually start feeling a twinge more interest and excitement at the prospect of doing informational interviews around chaplaincy work or certain organizations. Hmmm…

I need to remember that I only have to take this one small step at a time. Do you suppose I could tattoo this on my hands or somewhere I might remember it more often?

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

© 2013 LuciasJourney.com