Day 21 – Sunday, December 25: Trusting the process

My sponsor often says, “Trust the process.” It reminds me to remember that taking all the small steps, working the program, and simply continuing on the path will bring changes and transformations along the way. I may not be able to see the changes right away. Usually it happens when I do something so differently from my pre-recovery behavior that it catches my attention.

Today, “Trust the process,” came to mind as I let go of my hopeful plans to work on my blog while my aunt and uncle were enjoying Christmas Day dinner elsewhere. They both awoke with sore throats and (wisely) decided to stay home and take it easy. For my uncle, this included spending time in his office. When they were having dinner and I peeked into his office to see if I might use his computer, I saw that he was in the middle of a sewing project and had stuff all over the desk. (The man amazes me. He endlessly repairs things, including his many denim shirts and pants. May I be so active and productive in the years to come!)

Since I had to abandon my anticipated blog-time, I decided to do something fun. I headed to the movie theater to catch what looks to be a delightful and enjoyable movie…only to discover it wasn’t even on the electronic ticket purchasing menu! I overheard someone say “sold out” to someone else and wondered if it might be this movie. In any case, I drove by a couple more theaters, then let it go and returned home.

Later, while watching some DVDs, I found myself antsy to do something toward my goals. Since finances are a primary concern and I have difficulty keeping a handle on what I actually have to work with, I recently purchased some “realistic” play money to see if working with that could help me get a better picture of my monthly resources.

I counted out one paycheck’s worth of play money. Then I set aside my usual set monthly expenditures: my tithe, storage, cell phone, car insurance, and so on. I then figured out what I typically spend on gas and what I need for a couple of other bills. The remaining amount was disconcertingly little for food, other groceries, and everything else from public transportation to vitamin supplements to unexpected necessities.

As my anxiety started to increase, I remembered something I recently read in a book by one of my favorite authors. The (true) story was of a man who was struggling in his business. Rather than stressing about it, he took the small amount of money he had, gave thanks for it, and paid what he could. Over time, as he continued this practice, his finances did indeed improve.

It was truly helpful to begin seeing what I have to work with on my present income, to remember to be thankful for what I have, and to know that I can always do something. As I let go the fear, I found myself able to see what I do have, rather than what I don’t – and that was a blessing!

Today’s action step(s):

  • Going through two plastic bins of nutritional supplements I’ve had for some time and releasing almost all of them. (I’m passing them onto a friend to see if they might be helpful to her, which admittedly made it much easier to release them.)
  • Using play money to help me get a better picture of my available finances.

Day 17 – Wednesday, Dec. 21: Mixed feelings

This morning I woke up with the freedom to not leap out of bed and get a busy start to my day. I lay there and began to thank God for the things I was noticing and appreciating in that moment: Being able to sleep until I was “done.” The comfort in my right eye, which has been bothersome these past few days. The space over the holidays to attend to such things as student loan paperwork and other financial matters. Even the time to start jotting down the many things that actually do need my attention if I am to take care of myself better.

When I thanked God for my aunt and uncle and having a safe space to stay for the holidays, I ended up in tears as a mixture of pain and appreciation filled me. The ‘pain’ is the loneliness I feel and the longing for family, particularly for my son and for the aunt, uncle and cousins I grew up with from my mother’s side of the family. (I’m staying with my dad’s older brother.) My other uncle has passed on and my other aunt lives in a lovely and personable assisted-living facility several hours away. My cousins, their children, have, of course, grown up and now have families of their own all around the state. My son is living a couple of states away and neither of us have the funds for travel to see each other. I wonder if he knows how much I miss him and how often.

The appreciation I felt is deep gratitude for being with family rather than strangers and for being in a place that feels safe and familiar. It gives me the space to attend to the challenges that are on my plate at the moment. And these are the edges where fear tends to live.

Student loan paperwork to defer repayment, finding housing where rent will not be needed (at least for a time), and addressing healthcare issues with no insurance can be challenging on a well-paid day. They feel intimidating to me right now, when my finances are so tight. I wonder how I will ever be able to take care of these things on my present income.

When I try to muster the energy and courage to search for work, it just isn’t there if I’m in the midst of feeling overwhelmed. The release of tears this morning helped. It is helpful to acknowledge just how difficult this journey is for me right now.

For a little while, I felt energized to begin tackling some of these scary things and resume the tiny steps toward my goals. But I can’t always turn on that tear-release-valve and capture a sudden burst of energy and confidence. Most of the time, I have to keep reading things, reminding myself that I am not alone on this journey, and keep taking those baby steps. (The movie “What About Bob?” comes to mind. Maybe I should look for it at the library.)

How do you face these kinds of challenges in your own life? Or what kinds of challenges are you facing? I’d be interested to hear, if you’re willing to share.

Take care and be blessed.

Today’s action step(s):

  • Threw away a formerly favorite velour sweater that I virtually never wear anymore. 😦
  • Checked bank balance and downloaded statement to balance.
  • Re-posted ad to find housing on Craigslist.

Day 16 – Tuesday, Dec. 20: I remembered the reason I’m doing this

Quick, before my aunt and uncle return and he begins his evening round of Freecell, I shall post!

There’s an event coming up later this week and I have been hemming and hawing about going. Some of the activities are not fun for me, nor comfortable. In fact, if it weren’t for the company, I wouldn’t go at all. Then I remembered the point of this journey is to break past my fears. So, I’ve decided to go. I’m still a little nervous about showing up properly attired and equipped, but I’ll get over it.

I realized, the discomfort I feel around certain kinds of activities is rooted in fear. The fears are silly, actually. They include things like worrying about what people might think of me if I’m not dressed a certain way, if I don’t want to partake of certain foods or beverages, if I don’t think such-and-such is fun or any number of other things I might do “wrong.” I notice that notions of “right” and “wrong” are often at the heart of my fears, as if life were all about doing things “right” or “wrong.” Who decides which is which in the first place? And since when is our world so black-and-white that there’s a dichotomy of judgment around any given behavior or activity?

In any case, I’ve decided to attend at least this one event precisely because it’s uncomfortable and scary for me. The cost is minimal. The people who will be there include many I know and like. And I might even forget myself and have some fun. Besides, I want to exercise my “pretending to be brave” behavior so I can have an opportunity to discover that my fears were (of course) completely unfounded. As I have often discovered before, my fears about doing xyz are usually far worse than actually doing xyz.

So, that’s it for today. No major breakthroughs today. Although I did release a small item I had started to hang onto. I realized holding onto silly little things (like this envelope with Russian words printed on it – I have a thing about the Russian language) is the very reason I have accumulated such an alarming amount of stuff, including lots and lots and lots of papers, in the first place. I also let go of preconceived notions about what kind of cereals I might buy and had a wonderful experience of buying some new, cool, gluten-free cereals at this wonderful whole foods store nearby. I think my body’s going to appreciate that!

Okay, enough for now. Dinner’s a-cooking and I want to be ready to relax and enjoy it when it’s done!

Todays action step(s):

  • Deciding to go to ignore my fears and apprehensions and go to a gathering with some of my friends.
  • Signing up for more workshops to help me in my job search.

Day 15 – Monday, Dec. 19: Falling behind or catching up?

I’m not honestly sure whether I had unrealistic expectations when I set my goals for this blog or simply underestimated the challenge of limited computer access. I have come to realize that trying to take “action” toward my goals every single day does not allow much room for grace. Nor does it allow me room to grow or to integrate what I am learning – especially if I put narrow parameters on what form the steps of the journey take. However, I still prefer to think in terms of my intention to daily attend to this project and it remains an ongoing conversation in my thoughts.

 I don’t have access to an online computer right now, as I am writing this, and actually the power just went out, so I have to shut my computer down for now…

 Power’s back on for now. We’ll see if I can complete this entry…

I’m learning a lot about letting go these days. Most of my weekend, which began Friday evening after a full day’s work, was spent at InterPlayce in the Life Practice Program – our final weekend for this group. The weekend was full of opportunities to dive into the things that are “up” for me, which includes my fears. I came home too tired to even think about tackling anything “productive.” After the first week or so of working on this blog until past my usual heading for bed time, I have been reluctant to push the envelope. Even now, I should be getting ready for bed – I really need the sleep. But I’ve missed too many days already.

It would be nice to be able to say I tackled a particular something-or-other this weekend, but the truth is, I came home and either headed straight for bed or unwound a little and then headed for bed every evening for the past three nights. The mail I picked up on Friday still awaits my attention (except the two Christmas cards from cousins). The piles and clutter still linger. My resume is not yet revised after some new and helpful suggestions. Yet I know all of these things will be taken care of in time.

It has also just occurred to me that I actually did do something this weekend that I have usually been too afraid to do in times past.

A colleague said something to me that felt rude. I was taken aback and already a bit out of sorts with so much on my mind. I chewed on it for a while and resisted the urge to say something snippy. When I finally found the courage to say something (which actually happened less than an hour later), we both managed to muddle through the conversation fairly well. I told her how it had felt to me; she felt sad that I had experienced her request that way. I acknowledged that I knew it was my problem and we actually discussed how both of us might have responded differently.

It may seem odd (or not), but I believe this is one of the first times I have ever directly addressed something like this and dealt with it head on. Certainly, it is the first time I have dealt with something like this so quickly. In times past, I would have continued to stew, complained to someone else, or generally avoided facing it at all. But I work with this person and want our relationship to be free of hidden resentments. When I acknowledged that it felt scary just bringing it up with her, she understood. Near the end of the conversation, when I (jokingly) asked her if she’d write a note to my sponsor, she gave an enthusiastic, “Yes!” 😉 and we high-fived for the both of us.

I realize this is actually the sort of random occurrence I hope will happen more often as I continue to hold the intention of walking this journey.

This weekend’s action step(s):

  • Dealing with an uncomfortable and awkward situation almost immediately after it happened.

Day 11 – Thursday: Sneak attacked

Sometimes fear does a sneak attack when I’m not looking.

Yesterday I made a small payment on one of my credit cards. I closed all three accounts the first month I couldn’t make my minimum payments. I plan to catch up when I can, but the going is slow right now.

This card company called yesterday evening and I told them I’d made a payment. I’ve talked to them before. They know my situation and my intent to catch up and to pay what I can when I can.

This evening, they tried calling again! Less than 24 hours after we spoke? I was driving and couldn’t take the call. I started getting ticked off! My other CC company calls me regularly – every 5 days. That’s not great, but they keep trying to work with me and are, at least for now, willing to hang in there with me while I try to find more work. But they wait to call again until it’s been 5 days.

It has been mildly anxiety-producing to talk to the “nice” cc company every five days, but it’s manageable because they have actually been nice. Apparently they understand that you can’t get what someone doesn’t have to give you. And I appreciate them for it.

What I noticed this evening, though, is that just knowing the other card company had tried to call left me feeling anxious, frustrated, angry and fearful. It triggers for me the experience of bankruptcy some 26 or 27 years ago. Back then, I was terrified of the creditors and avoided them completely. The accounts were quickly handed over to collection agencies and things got worse. It was not fun…at all…for a very long time.

This time, I’ve tried to keep the communication open. It’s a little scary at times, but I know that avoiding problems doesn’t make them go away and sometimes it even makes them worse. So, I’m trying.

I’m not quite sure how to respond to the “other” company – whether to return their call (they never leave messages, but I recognize the number), to send them a letter (certified mail) or both. I have a website to check out to learn more about my rights. I’ll check it out and then make my decision.

The thing is, I want to do things differently than I did 27 years ago. I want to meet my responsibilities and I want to catch up on my bills. I may not be able to do it right this moment, but I’m not willing to blow all this off. It’s scary trying to do this, but it’s still what I want to do. For now. For as long as I can. I’ve been down the other road and it’s a road I don’t need to take again.

Just for tonight, I’ll do my best to let this go, to leave it in God’s hands. I may have to remind myself a few times (or a hundred) to leave this in God’s hands. It’s possible, just a teensy bit possible that I might worry, you know, a teeny, weeny bit.

Maybe it’s time to find that nifty flyer put out by a classmate’s church that has different “numbers” to call when you’re dealing with different things. Like “call” Psalm ## when you’re worried, and so on. I think I could use a bit of encouragement this evening.

Blessings!

Today’s action step(s):

  • Meeting with my sponsor.
  • Throwing away (with growing ease) papers at work once I’ve entered the information. (This is instead of hanging onto them “in case.” I have an annoying stack of those kind of papers already.)
  • Waiting to respond to the “other” cc company until I have more information.

Day 10 – Wednesday: A New Beginning

Dear friends,

Hopefully you find this (or receive) this post seamlessly. I have been thinking about changing my URL and took the plunge just minutes ago. Interesting to discover how scary such a simple (and inexpensive) process can be. Yet it was.

I’m asking myself, why does it feel so scary to do this? The simple answer, and possibly the most honest one, is that I have spent ridiculous amounts of money over the years starting new adventures, then failing to follow through. I know that’s what’s being triggered for me now. I have bought exercise equipment or paid for gym memberships, begun using them enthusiastically, then quickly petered out. I have bought dozens (hundreds?) of books or magazines, only to have them remain virtually untouched. I have also bought other random things to “improve” my situation or “help” me to xyz, only to realize later what a waste of money it was.

So, what’s different about this? The truth is, I don’t know – yet. Only time will tell. Why do it? Quite honestly, because my original domain name doesn’t really do much for me. It was simply part of an email address I’ve sometimes used when I want to be somewhat anonymous and it’s what I used when I first started nibbling at an earlier notion of this blog. However, “Lucia’s Journey” echoes how I feel about this blog, about this process and about my life in general. It feels like a blog title that can lead me anywhere I may choose to go.

Yesterday, I saw what may have (formerly) been a Porcupine on the side of the freeway. When I got home, I looked up Porcupine’s message (according to at least one author). Porcupine reminds me to trust, to have faith, to remember to play. Porcupine’s ‘contrary’ message reminds me that it is time to start anew by having faith in my ability to move through this challenging time with joy. This is what I want to remember for this day.

Blessings to you!

Today’s action step(s):

  • Registering/purchasing a new domain name.
  • (Not sure if it counts for me exactly, but) Helping my aunt and uncle load all their released clothing/shoes to take to a shelter. I’m not sure, but I’m wondering if my goal to clear stuff out might be contagious! 😉

Taking the plunge – setting the goal.

Six months ago, I moved into an apartment with a friend, eagerly anticipating a new chapter in my life. I had spent the previous six years in seminary, completing first an MDiv, then a certificate program. After living on student loans and going alarmingly into debt, I was eager to begin this new phase of my life. My education and training prepared me for many things…except how to do some of the most basic things of life. This past week, I moved out of that apartment because I hadn’t been able to make ends meet.

I have learned that I am woefully inadequate in my education around things that most people (I naively presume “most” people) seem to do with ease. This realization came through the  journey I began in Al Anon (the program for friends/families of alcoholics) barely a year after I started seminary. My 12-Step journey has shined a bright (sometimes annoying) light on the nature of this inadequate “education.”

But this blog is neither about my journey through seminary nor my program of recovery, though either my surface from time to time.

This blog is my way out of the fears that have held me captive, undermined my best-intended efforts, and generally made life far rougher than it has needed to be. I never realized just how much fear had seeped into the smallest details of my daily living until the past couple of months. My job search has been sporadic and inadequate. My move out of the apartment was ridiculously difficult, given the amount of stuff I’ve accumulated. And I realize I hardly know where to begin to change my life.

Yet change it I will, with God’s help – and maybe yours!

I was talking to my friend Di the other day and said something we both thought was worth remembering. It went something like, “Wanting to change isn’t going to change anything unless there’s action behind it.” Her observation was that action is a demonstration of my willingness to change. So this is my guide to the action I believe will transform me.

As I have watched myself struggle through the last two to three months, I have noticed more and more places where the underlying problem is actually fear. I would never have guessed as much, but fear has crept into my life in so many places that it’s become pervasive. And the idea of facing it head on is, well, terrifying! Surprise, surprise! So, this is my goal:

Learning (from experience) that changing patterns of behavior takes time, and being inspired by Julie Powell’s example in the movie Julie & Julia, I have decided that for the next 365 days, I will work on the many areas in which fear has led me to hold onto things I don’t need, avoid taking steps I do need, and generally gotten in the way of my doing countless things that would make my life happier and more manageable.

My plan is to daily tackle some task of letting go, clearing out, stepping out or doing any number of other things – big or small – that I have avoided doing or simply not known how to do and to use this site to track or reflect upon my progress. My hope is that you will find me and share with me your own experiences of breaking through fears or tackling the tasks that have been intimidating in your own life. Perhaps we can learn together. (And I would love to figure out how to have a “counter” on the site to count down the days.)

I talked with my son yesterday about starting this blog and expressed concern about how to begin. He told me to just go for it. He wisely echoed what was going through my own mind – that I could spend forever figuring out how to do this just right and how to do all the things I want to do on this site. And it could become just another way in which my fears derail my best intentions. So, here I am and here this is, for better or worse, learning to blog and learning to live fearlessly – or at least live with joy at the heart of each day!

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