Sometimes I just feel lost…

It’s the middle of the night. Actually, for me, it’s only a couple of hours before my alarm will remind me that it’s time to get up, get dressed, and head to a job that helps pay the bills in a reasonably gracious way, but is not a place that feeds my soul. I’m grateful I have two jobs and that the other job is one I care about a good deal.

Yesterday, my son called me. We hadn’t talked in a few weeks and I was glad to hear his voice. It touches me when he reaches out. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t reach out to him more often. But our conversation was just what I needed, even though I hadn’t known what that was.

He picked up on something in my voice. When he tried to identify what it was, he said I sounded “negative.” Oddly, I hadn’t even realized I was coming across that way. I was simply focusing on him and how he was doing, with little interest in talking about me and my life. Maybe that was the tip-off.

He asked me if I felt “happy,” if my life and where I was living right now felt “stable.” (He’s already becoming a good psychologist, even though he still has two more years of undergrad work to do.) I told him “no” that I didn’t feel what I would call “happy,” but that my life felt “stable,” sort of… How “stable” can it feel when my housemate may rent the other room but I may simply be surprised one day to find a stranger moving her things in? How “stable” can it feel when the ‘housemate’ living in the converted garage never communicates, in that I never know if she’s around and may – or may not – need to use the bathroom we share? (And will share with the new roommate, when she comes.) How stable can it feel when I rarely see either housemate because one is a night owl to the point that she often doesn’t come home till a few hours after I’ve been asleep and I leave before dawn and the other has an indecipherable schedule that includes frequently staying elsewhere and communication amongst us is a foreign concept to them both?

After my son and I got off the phone, I was appreciating the opportunity to hear his voice and to connect (we talked for a full hour) and feeling grateful that he had helped me see something I hadn’t quite brought into focus: I’m depressed.

I have noticed feeling defeated, almost hopeless, on a number of occasions, but hadn’t connected the dots. It’s odd, in a way, at least to me, that depression has a way of sneaking up on me without my realizing that the negative attitudes bubbling around in my thoughts are actually an indicator that I’m moving into depression. I have always seen myself as a positive person and an optimist, so it’s hard for me to recognize, let alone accept, that I have shifted into a negative, depressed frame of mind – even though I see the clues.

Somewhere along the way, in the past two to three years, I seem to have lost my way. The passion I felt while I was in grad school, anticipating work that was meaningful, rewarding, satisfying, seems to have faded. I feel buried in a life focused – or not so focused – on survival, paying the bills and simply getting from one day to another. My energy level varies from day to day, rising most when I have projects at work that can capture my attention and keep me from thinking of how powerless I feel over my life right now. Even the longing for a loving relationship has joined the vague pile of hopes that sometimes feel unreachable.

Yet this is not where I want to be. This is not where I want to stay, in terms of my attitude, my feelings, my energy. I may not have much control over my energy, but I can make choices around my attitude.

I won’t pretend to feel “happy” or “stable” or “good” when I don’t feel that way. But it helps to recognize what’s happening. Now that I know I’ve been sliding toward depression, I can accept that and let it go. I’ve discovered that when I try to fight feeling depressed – which most often happens when I don’t yet realize that I am, indeed, depressed – it makes it worse. What works best for me is to realize I’m feeling depressed, to recognize my powerlessness over it, and to do what I can to help myself through it.

Before bed, I pulled out some of my flower remedies to get started. (Larch, for confidence; Sweet Chestnut, for optimism; and, after admitting the despair underlying the depression, Gorse.) When I woke up in the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, wondering how to find my way out of the quagmire of defeat, I pulled out a book that has never failed to help me walk through the dark periods: When the Heart Waits, by Sue Monk Kidd.

It will go in my backpack “tomorrow” (which is to say, in a couple of hours) and I will again appreciate the best part of being dependent on public transportation: the time and freedom to read as I take both bus and train to get to work. I may not be very bright and alert all day (funny how lack of sleep does that), but at least I’ll be on a good path to find my way again.

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49 Days – Clouds along the way (Tue – Jan 22)

I’m feeling a muddle of emotions right now. Yesterday morning I couldn’t reach the loan company, so I went ahead and uploaded the documents they should need to figure out my payments. It felt good to get that done, even if I’m not quite certain what all they’ll need. Thankfully, I was able to release it to God long enough to get busy at work and be distracted by my tasks there.

Shifting...

Shifting…

Last night, my landlady said something about the inaugural address and asked if I’d seen it. Then she remarked that it would be best if I could be out of the house by the first of March, that I could move “anytime.” A few minutes later she told me that someone would be coming by to look at the desk and the dresser in my room today. She said they wouldn’t touch them; just step into the room long enough to get a quick look. I tried to appreciate the advance warning, even though I feel vulnerable having anyone come into my room while I’m gone – even her. The deflation at how often I’ve felt like I have no privacy flowed back into my thoughts.

When I thought about someone only being able to take a cursory look, I asked her if she might want to tell them that the desk is quite high. It is actually inconveniently high – even with my adjustable chair at its highest position, the desk is still too tall to use comfortably. My landlady stated emphatically that she was not going to tell them that! She knows it’s too high for most people.

I went back to cooking my dinner, bothered by the idea that this person will only get a quick glance at the desk and possibly end up unhappy with it once they get it home, if they decide to buy it. I don’t know if it’s an Al Anon thing to be almost compulsively honest at times, but it bothers me that she plans to make a point of not mentioning something that might understandably – and quite reasonably – deter the sale. It feels terribly unethical.

So now, I feel like my privacy is being invaded and I’m somehow facilitating a bit of deceit. And it bothered me for quite some time. It also bothered me that she has gone from “we have plenty of time” (i.e., till the end of March) to I can move “anytime,” best by “March 1st.” It feels as if I’m on ground that keeps shifting.

I am, in fact, eager to find a place – or at least for a place to find me. I’m also intimidated at the prospect of getting on one of those roommate websites or the area online advertising sites. A part of me feels anxious to get this going. But I asked my Higher Power for clarity around what the next right step should be and got the message: my loans. They have an imminent, even immediate deadline, whereas I do have a few weeks in which to find a new home.

As depression tries to sneak up on me again, I am considering some of the things I have been reading in the past few weeks, asking myself how to see all this differently.

One step at a time

One step at a time

I read a wonderful reprint of an article by Norman Vincent Peale, the well-known author of the long-time best seller, The Power of Positive Thinking. In the article, titled “Do It!” [Guideposts, January 2013, pp 24-25], Peale states that if we’ll only take the first step in what we believe to be the right direction, God will support us the rest of the way. He talks about taking action as a way of liberating energy and building confidence and how those unfulfilled tasks become energy drains. In short, he recommends that whenever we believe we are moving in the direction God wants us to move, we should just do it!

I did notice how I had little bursts of productive energy after taking even small, seemingly-unfruitful steps with my loan process. In the past couple of days, I’ve gotten some papers sorted to where I can tackle them more easily and last night I got my checkbook up-to-date. (It’s always helpful to know how much is actually in there, don’t you think?)

Sunday evening, I read a terrific article in the February O Magazine, called “Off the Beating Path” by Martha Beck (pp 43-45). Last night felt like I hit a “rumble strip,” as Beck calls those bumpy patches where things seem to be going the wrong direction. One of the ways to navigate these times is to reverse how we see things. When we think it looks like disaster, flip our thinking and consider the possibility that it’s actually a good thing and look for the ways that it is.

At this precise moment, it’s more head knowledge than heart knowledge for me in my present circumstance. Yet being encouraged to move “anytime,” by March 1, does free me to do just that, without having to worry about how much notice I will need to give. I’m trying not to think of it as my timeline shrinking – which is ironic because I would truly love to be able to say, “Hey! Found a place! Moving this weekend!” Now I know that would actually be okay. As for the “let’s not tell prospective buyer the desk is annoyingly tall” thing…I need to let that go. It doesn’t have my name on it and reminding myself of that by writing it here actually helps me to see the truth in that. I didn’t realize how much I was getting caught up in taking responsibility for someone else’s behavior.

You know what else, just acknowledging that has lifted the depression quite a bit! An “Ahhh! Moment” – just like the cover of O invites. Thank you once again for giving me a place to sort out what’s going on inside. 🙂

Growth happens in even the tiniest of spaces

Growth happens in even the tiniest of spaces

(Btw, have I mentioned that “cross talk” is perfectly acceptable here?  ;-))

Day 105 (Sun/Mar 25): Seven days – One day at a time, a journey within the journey

Some decisions are easier than others

This week has been challenging, with seemingly short nights and long days. Today I worked at few hours and enjoyed the quiet of being there on a Sunday afternoon. I’d rather not have this as a regular schedule, but it was nice for today.

I’m in the midst of considering difficult decisions around my finances. As unhappy possibilities came to mind, I started to feel distressed. Then I moved toward depression. Somewhere along the way, I finally recognized that it isn’t time to make any decisions, one way or the other. It helped to remember an experience from a little over a year ago.

Several years ago, I learned I had a condition known as Grave’s disease. It’s a hyperthyroid condition and it wasn’t particularly fun to have my metabolism so out-of-control. The first doctor that diagnosed it wanted to inject me with radioactive iodine, designed to kill off part of the gland and hopefully restore more normal levels. Of course, the entire gland eventually dies and one has to carry documentation around, like, forever, to explain why the dirty bombs are going nuts when you pass through the detectors. But other than that, it sounded just ducky. (Not!!!)

It takes time for the pieces to come together

I worked with a naturopath, then later an endocrinologist and other doctors, until I found a doctor who suggested “turning off” the gland with one (non-radioactive) medication and replacing it with another. My insurance changed midstream, so I switched doctors. My new doctor was willing to go along with this approach. My system settled down a reasonable amount, but when we rechecked the gland again after having it under control for a year, and it was obvious the gland was not improving, the decision to remove it was easy. I knew it was the right thing to do and I experienced no anxiety around the decision. (And it has very much proved to be the wise choice.)

It has occurred to me in the last couple of days that I will know when the time is right to make a decision about my financial situation. Until then, I can keep letting it go whenever the anxiety surfaces. I’m sure it will now and then just because it is stressful to have far more need than resources. I won’t pretend otherwise. It’s hard, and sometimes it’s very hard. (Remember to invest in that Kleenex stock! I’m convinced I’m single-handedly raising the stock value!)

All things take time to become ready

Today I find myself appreciating the reading in Courage to Change that talks about confusion being an indication that either the timing is not right or I am not ready. I think a little bit of both may be the case for me regarding my finances. For now, I am grateful to be learning to be more attentive to my bank balances. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do at least a little more temp work this week. And I’m grateful for the unknown possibilities that lie ahead.

The other thing I’m appreciating this evening is the simple fact that I’m here at my aunt and uncle’s. My uncle was helping my aunt try to make a bed with sheets that are poorly made and too small for the bed (no matter what the label on the package said) earlier this evening. The sheet tore, he tumbled backward, and he hit his head on the edge of the closet door. He didn’t think too much about it until my aunt noticed he had blood on the back of his head. I arrived home post-freak-out time (on my aunt’s part), to find my uncle calmly playing his card game on the computer. (He’s a bit of an addict with Freecell.)

I can only see a little bit of the path at a time...

My son gave me plenty of “nursing” practice while growing up (as many children do for their moms), so I played nurse and tended to the small, but definite gash on the back of my uncle’s head. I warned him to keep it clean and to (gently) shampoo in the morning and reapply the ointment. I think my aunt was much relieved to have me home and doing the nursing. I’m having to practice letting go the temptation to worry about how well he’ll take care of his head.

I continue to wonder what lies ahead for me in the coming weeks and months. My “short” stay here has extended beyond my expectations. Yet it feels as if I’m right where I need to be for the moment. I continue to do my inner work and to learn from my aunt and uncle – and to stay out of their way, like when he was making an apple-cherry pie earlier this afternoon, doing everything from cutting up and cooking the fruit to preparing the pie dough.

There’s a lot of wisdom in the saying “One Day at a Time.” For me, it’s the reminder that no matter where I am or where I’m heading, I can only get there one moment, one step, one day at a time.

Big and Small Steps:

  • Checked my bank balance and found I was okay, with a small but nonetheless positive balance.
  • Checked out some job listings on a non-profit website a friend shared with me.

Noticings:

  • How readily I pick up on other people’s intense emotions.
  • That I’m looking forward to going back to four or five posts a week after this “journey within the journey.” (I keep staying up too late writing posts!)
  • How thin the skin is on the back of the head and how soft my uncle’s hair is.

Day 91 – Sun (PM), Mar. 11th (91/275): Holding onto hope

It’s interesting to notice how quickly moods shift and elation can become deflation. It’s not so much that I was specifically “elated” earlier, but one phone call from a creditor was all it took to open the door to feeling depressed again.

I’ve been observing these transitions, noticing more specifically the train of thoughts. Much like my experience a week or two ago, there seems to be a pattern to it that is rather similar. I’d like to examine it here and see what comes up. Perhaps you’ll have a perspective to share to help me see this in a different light.

Need I say more?

For the moment – and I’m grateful for my confidence that this is for the moment and not for the long-haul – I feel depressed. Before the phone call even ended, I was feeling defeated, shot down in my buoying hopefulness around expanding work possibilities (i.e., expanding income). The representative called to inform me of the status of my card – as if I didn’t know this already. Really, they are calling to inform me of their status in relation to my debt: how much longer they can work with me, how close they are to “charging off” the debt (i.e., sending it to a collection agency), and don’t I want to speak to their in-house credit counselors? (I would gladly speak to their in-house counselors if they would be willing to accept the tiny payments I can manage now until those payments grow larger.)

Today’s call revealed that the debt is still big and growing (not news) and that the charge-off date for one card is the end of this month and the charge off date for the other card is the end of next month. They don’t need a lot of money; about $238 per month would pay off both these cards within their allotted time (at zero percent interest). It’s just that I have not yet had that much extra money per month and, quite frankly, would rather have it help me get into my own place that turn it over to them. Actually, I’d rather be able to do both. I truly would like to catch up on my credit cards. It’s just that, for the moment, mundane things like food and gas and other randomly necessary expenses are a higher priority for me.

So, back to the present challenge: the depression that threatens to swamp me if I hold these feelings in…

My colorful pens, my trusty journal

What I noticed, as I got off the phone feeling increasingly depressed, is that I am feeling angry. I’m angry at them for not being willing to let me do what I can until I can do more, regardless of how long it takes. I’m angry at them for calling and shooting down my excitement over being able to make at least one, if not more, “extra” payments this month. Mostly though, I’m angry at myself for feeling powerless to change this as quickly as both of us want.

I feel like I’m lying when I tell them I have no other resources from which to draw. I have one tiny IRA. If I cashed it out, I could partially catch up one payment. I’m not willing to do that. (Duh!) I might have an income tax refund coming. I’ll know more in a week or so. But I’m not willing to hand that over either. However big or small it is, I have here-and-now needs that take precedence over past due credit card bills.

I feel angry at myself that I’m still, obviously, paralyzed enough by my fears to not have more actively done something to generate more income. It would be one thing if I was submitting applications right and left. At least I could say that I’m trying. But doing all this inner work, no matter how important, still leaves me feeling like a liar and a failure when I tell my credit card company I’m trying to expand my income. The truth is I dowant to expand my income; I even want to expand my work hours. I just feel inept and overwhelmed, still, about how to go about it more effectively.

Gathering words of encouragement

It’s all well and good to talk about small steps and the progress I’m making. I doappreciate that. Truly. It’s quite another thing to have a creditor breathing down my neck and not be able to say, “Hey, I’m going to be able to catch up my payment in x weeks (or months). Can you hang in there just a little bit longer??”

Just for tonight, or perhaps this moment, I’m feeling angry, frustrated and powerless. I feel deflated and defeated. This is why my morning reflection journaling time is so important to me, as is reading books like Al Anon’s Courage to Change and Catherine Ponder’s Open Your Mind to Receive.  It’s much like pouring clear water into a class of long-dried mud. It takes time – and lots of water – to loosen the old patterns of thinking and clear the way for the new. It’s amazing just how many repetitions of certain words and concepts it takes for the encouragement to build and build until the depression or defeat doesn’t stand a chance of survival. Fortunately, I have a lot of reps of that variety ‘under my belt,’ so I know I will feel better when I start my day tomorrow.

Two wonderful verses come to mind right now. I think I’ll hold onto them this evening and use them for my reflection in the morning.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Ps 30:5 NKJV)

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.(Ps 143:8 NKJV)

A favorite book, my journal, a reminder

Day 91 – Sun, Mar. 11th (91/275): Friends, Heroes and Unexpected Blessings

This past week I finally had a lovely, long phone conversation with a dear friend of mine. We live too far apart to get to visit in person for now, so we rely on the blessings of modern technology: texting, phone calls, emails and, when we’re both connected, online chatting. One of these days I may even get Skype on my computer, so we’ll be able to see each other while we talk.

A time to embrace...It's been too long!

We’ve been through a lot of rough patches together, when one or the other of us were going through the wringer. We’ve seen each other at our low times, when everything was falling apart, and we’ve celebrated each other’s victories. This time, we were celebrating her acquisition of her own home after years of renting. What a joy!  When she told me about having met “someone,” I told her I wasn’t surprised. She asked me why. I told her that I wasn’t surprised because the doors that opened the way to a new home are the same doors that open her life up to all the other good things. In the past five to ten years, I have seen her spread her wings, little by little, and become so much more that I suspect she would have imagined she could be.

I remember how scary some of those steps she took in her life were. When we were no longer living in the same area, we stayed in touch – sometimes daily, keeping up with each other’s lives. It has encouraged and inspired me to watch her grow, to become a woman with increasing confidence and inner strength. It helps me know that I may get there yet.

Near the end of the conversation, I said to her, “You inspire me.”

Friends don't have to be here to bring me joy - but it's nice when they are!

Some of my heroes are people I don’t even know or people I barely know. I don’t think of them as people I “worship.” I have long since outgrown that kind of hero-worship. (At least I hope so.) Heroes, to me, are people who have done something with their lives that inspires me, something I want to emulate or hope to do myself. It doesn’t have to be something big. It doesn’t have to be something public. It doesn’t even have to be something other people would notice.

I’ve mentioned before that my gay/lesbian/trans friends are among my heroes. They’ve had to swim against the current of public opinion most of their lives. Yesterday, I read a eulogy delivered at my aunt’s memorial service. I realized why I felt such a closeness to her, a desire to have her in my life. She was an amazingly strong woman who came across as gentle and quiet. Her strength came from within. Another hero.My friend has also moved into the hero group. (There are many there, with room for more.) She reminds me that we don’t have to be perfect or do things right the first time. The path to greater confidence and courage happens one small step at a time, sometimes while our knees are still shaking and our hearts pounding, sometimes with our knees skinned and bleeding from the times we’ve stumbled along the way.

 As we talked about the things we were doing to take better care of our bodies, I again appreciated how small steps make a difference over time. I’m sure her progress has come in small steps; I know mine has.

In the past week, I’ve been blessed by conversations with dear friends, blessed by three full days of additional work, and blessed by discovering an effective way to get some much-needed exercise. Plus I have a couple more “heroes” to bless me as I consider how their examples inspire and encourage me to be more and more the person I know I can be.

Noticings:

  • How good it feels to be taking even small steps toward getting more exercise.
  • How grateful I am to have been on an early wake-up schedule for a few weeks before the time change. This morning was a challenge and tomorrow my body will wonder if I’ve forgotten to finish my night’s sleep!
  • How little attention I’ve been paying to the categories I thought would drive my posts. Hmmm…
  • How my journey seems to be going into deeper issues than sorting through the scary paper piles and submitting job applications, although I still want to progress in those arenas as well.

Action step(s):

  • The addition of short, effective stair “workouts” into my days.

Day 82 – Fri, Mar. 2nd (82/284): It’s official – depression is depressing and sneaky

My goal at the beginning of the year (i.e., January 1st, rather than the beginning of “my” year, which began December 4th) was to write at least four posts a week. Up till this week, I had maintained that goal. Of the eight (Sun-Sat) weeks so far this year, not counting this one, I posted 4 times four weeks, 5 times three weeks and 6 times one week. This is only my second post this week and tomorrow is the end of the week.

Feeling the strength of a strong support...thinking of God

Yep, depression is sneaky. I started posts on Tuesday and Thursday, but couldn’t summon the energy to finish either one. Tuesday’s effort was so short, I’ll post it here:

“When I left work (i.e., my ‘regular’ job) today, I was not feeling very adventurous. I was feeling nervous, stressed and uncertain. I had received a call and accepted a temp job. It’s nine days (or a bit less if I’m fast enough, perhaps) and I can truly use the income. So, what gives?”

It began in my head on the way home from work, I “captured” my thoughts on the computer with plans to write more later, and it never happened. In fact, within a couple of hours, my thoughts had already moved on to other things and my energy was low. Tomorrow, I thought, I’ll finish up. Except I don’t seem to have so much as started a post on Wednesday.

Thursday, I got a little farther on a fresh post. I got 330 words written. It began like this:

“Ooh. Bumpy waters again. And the waters are coming in the form of unexpected tears of unknown origins. It’s one thing when I know what’s bringing up tears. It’s disconcerting and sometimes frustrating – as in I feel powerless to change it – when they seem to come out of nowhere…”

It “ended” like this: “Depression sneaking in again…”

Someone had said something this week to which I was inwardly overreacting. It seemed to consume much of my day and I was soon feeling depressed. I didn’t know how or where to release the feelings bottled up inside, so I held them in.

The cycle begins...

Depression is, for me, often subtle in the way it can creep up gradually before I even realize I’ve opened the door. I’ve heard that the repression of emotions, keeping our feelings bottled up inside, can lead to depression. Well, it was working. I was holding in my feelings of hurt and rejection and was soon feeling depressed both physically and emotionally. I was grateful to have a get together with a friend that evening.Before we met, I decided to do some “drawing” in my doodle-journal. I wanted to track the sequence of my thoughts and feelings during the day using pictures and words. (Are unsmiling smiley faces “drawings”?)

...and the cycle continues...

It was helpful to notice the  route my mind had taken: uncertainty –> fear –> more uncertainty and more fear –> attempts to control –> seeking affirmation (i.e., Tell me it’s going to be okay!) + a not-right-now-I’m-busy response –> feeling rejected –> two reactions: (1) feeling hurt –> holding it in / (2) feeling guilty –> feeling angry at myself –> feeling angry toward others –> holding it in ==> back to more uncertainty and more fear.

In sharing this with my friend, I don’t know that I exactly found the way to break the cycle but it definitely helped to not be holding all this in by myself.So much has been happening that I could write a few posts. I won’t hold my breath on completing two more before Sunday, but it feels good to at least get this one done.

I need a little help keeping my balance right now...

Noticings:

  • Holding my emotions in is not helpful – it takes me too quickly into feelings of depression.
  • Moving and talking help my body, mind and spirit to let go and release the energy that’s bogging me down.

Action step(s):

  • Paid several bills and already have them entered in my checkbook and my checkbook total updated. (As compared to having a few weeks worth to enter just a week ago…)
  • Invited a friend to join me in developing another blog/website. Doing so felt good and re-energized me!
  • Took about 200 pictures to start a library of pics I may use on my blog. (Aren’t digital cameras fabulous?)
  • Honored my need to slow down today and let go the feeling (translate: illusion) that I had to rush to and at work.
  • Worked more on my other website! (Now that felt good! I’d love to have many more hours of time and internet access to do this and look forward to when that happens.)
  • Received a call for a job interview (from an application last September!), told them I was, indeed, still looking for work, yet also honored my commitment to work Monday at my “regular” job and my commitment to a temp job from the 6th through the 16th. They said to call them when I’m done with the temp job. Not sure if this is the “right” opportunity, but it occurs to me that I can get some interviewing practice at the very least! Whoo hoo!

Day 78 – Monday, Feb. 27th (78/288): A reflection on building – and balancing – one step at a time…

This morning I read a verse about God needing to build the house, otherwise those who are building it are laboring in vain. Then I read another verse, about yeast permeating every part of the dough. Between the verses and my reflections with them more than a year ago, the pieces started coming together.

I liked the words in the first verse (Psalm 127:1), but I wasn’t seeing how they fit with my desire to seek employment. Busily searching for position announcements feels out-of-synch with letting God build the house. Then a verse about God doing it quickly when it’s time flashed to mind, followed by the verse that goes something like “though it seems slow, wait for it.” The push-pull again of wanting to take this journey slowly enough to hear what I need to hear, while feeling the pressure of the outer world of creditors and loan requirements. Breathe… Sigh…

The verse about the yeast and the dough (Matt. 13:33) struck a deep chord with the particular translation that reads, “Even though she put only a little yeast in the three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough” (NLT). The reminder raised tears of gratitude, as I remembered that what I’m learning permeates all the areas of my life, eventually changing the way I respond to the world.

Sometimes the steps I’m taking seem so small, it feels like I’m getting nowhere or that I’m inching along too slowly to get where I need to go. I went back and reread the verse from Psalm 127, about God building the house. I realized that I let God do the building anytime – and every time – I stop to ask for guidance or hold in my awareness my intention to follow the path I believe God has for me. Progress, not perfection…

As for the seeming slowness of my journey, it helps to remember that these seemingly small steps add up and make a big difference over time. After an InterPlay retreat Saturday, I’m noticing again how what began as a spontaneous practice of playing with balance, by standing on one leg and seeing how well I could hold it while moving other limbs, turned out to be a gift of building strength in my legs and my body. I started playing with balancing on one leg at a time as a metaphor for playing with balance in my life. When I discovered that I could easily rise from a squat to a stand using only my legs (i.e., no flapping arms or bending forward), I wondered when I had gained the strength in my legs. It gradually dawned on me that it was the playful balancing on one leg that had built up my leg-strength little by little.

Similarly, I suspect, the seemingly small steps I’m taking in this journey of breaking through my fears may be doing far more than I realize. With each bit of confidence I gain, each experience of practicing social or networking skills, each moment I pause to consider how to respond to a particular circumstance, I am learning and I am strengthening my “core” in ways that make it increasingly easy to make healthier choices for myself.

Noticings:

  • How healing it was to tell some of the story and to dance on behalf of my aunt in the day between her burial and her memorial service.
  • How often I like to stand when I’m at home – often at the kitchen counter, doing a puzzle or simply visiting with my (other) aunt while she works in the kitchen. I suspect the standing is my body’s way of balancing the all-day-sitting work I do.

Action step(s):

  • Updated and balanced my checkbook. (I’d really like to pay closer attention this coming month and not be surprised by the bank.)
  • Gave myself permission to take things slowly when I felt a bit depressed, which actually led to my getting some things done, like my checkbook balancing.
  • Kept focused on getting ready for work this morning, attempting to “be here now” (as compared to many mornings when my mind is busily writing blog posts or making other plans).

Day 76 – Saturday, Feb. 25th (76/290): Noticing the depression, the peace, the bursts of energy and more

Yesterday became a surprisingly peaceful day. After getting to the office and taking the time to write my last post, I soon found myself going through the tasks on my desk without any sense of urgency or need to hurry. I simply kept attending to one thing after the other, beginning with being able to post data on my colleague’s computer without having to rush, since she wouldn’t be in for a few hours.

The odd thing was that I ended up working much longer than I had planned, not out of any compulsion to stay or sense of obligation, but because I was simply enjoying the freedom to be here and to work as long as I wanted. I got caught up in catching up on a particular type of correspondence, which helped me to work my way through some incomplete tasks that were filling up my folders. It felt good to clear them out one by one.

Working in a part-time job with far too much to do in far too little time often presents the challenge of picking and choosing which tasks garner my attention at any given moment. Perhaps that’s why yesterday was so nice. There were several people in the office, which doesn’t happen all the time. The atmosphere was quietly productive in a serene, sometimes playful sort of way. And the truth is, I was enjoying being around people, even if we weren’t often in conversation.

These past eight days have been a strange mix of depression and loneliness, peace and connection, small bursts of energy and sudden “who turned off the lights?!” moments of fatigue. I appreciated reading that Lent is a time of slowing down. I can use some slowing down right now, even as I sometimes feel the need to shift gears into more action. It gives me permission to attend to the inner journey even more closely.

When that happens, I find I’m able to notice things I might otherwise rush past. For instance I noticed I was able to respond differently to a call from the staffing agency. When they called to see if might be interested in another temp position that is farther away than I would like and would require a commute through a particularly congested stretch of freeway, rather than hesitate and send out the signal that I wasn’t interested, I said, “Tell me more.” That simple act gave me a few moments to adjust to the idea that even though this is far from what I would consider an ideal location, I want to be open to what might be there and, certainly, to the much-needed income. I never know when I might encounter unexpected blessings, like those that came through my last temp job.

Perhaps it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, being able to say, “Tell me more.” Yet for me, it was a new and helpful way for me to respond when my kneejerk reaction was to inwardly groan at the prospect of that particular location. It’s moments like these, when I’m able to respond in a different, healthier way that I appreciate this journey of introspection and moving slowly.

Noticings:

  • How nice it was to choose to relax and stay at work yesterday until I felt ready to leave.
  • That it was a good decision to stay home this weekend, as much as I would have liked to have said good-bye to my aunt with my cousins and siblings.
  • How good it feels to be able to dance and move and “babble” today.
  • How much I’ve enjoyed having pictures in my post and wondering where to find more.

A word about “noticings”: Noticing is something we do a lot of in InterPlay. It’s not about making judgments or trying to make meaning or sense of whatever we’re noticing. It’s simply observing what it is and letting that inform our experience in whatever ways it does.

Action step(s):

  • Attending a Day of Deepening at InterPlay, giving my body and my spirit a space to play, to move and to be in community.
  • Saying ‘yes’ to the possible temp job despite the location and schedule because I want to be open to possibilities, rather than closing them off.

Day 75 – Friday, Feb. 24th (75/291): Transformation happens even amidst the struggle…or because of it.

I was feeling better again yesterday, as though the depression had subsided, if not quite lifted. Then it sneak-attacked me again this morning. Like right now, when I don’t feel much like writing a blog post. Still, I know that maintaining regular posts (at least four per week) helps me to do the inner work I need to do.

On the way to work, my thoughts snowballed into tears that were connected to my aunt’s passing, family and the losses that come with growing old enough that my siblings and cousins and I are not far from being the elder generation. The precise reason for the tears was a little hazy, but it had to do with longing for connection and in knowing that my two siblings and my cousins will all be together at my aunt’s memorial service. I’ll be at home.

The odd part of it is that I’m okay with this. Several days ago I had been at peace with the realization that I didn’t have the money or the confidence in my vehicle to travel down to the memorial service. Then yesterday evening, after my sister called earlier that day to say that she and my brother would be going to the service, I put myself through a whirlwind of trying to find a way to get there.

I could afford to take the train down to my sister’s, but not the trip back. I could get a ride part way back with one of my cousins, but that wouldn’t have connected me to the train or any other public transportation to return me to wherever I would leave my car. Finally I realized that even if I could get help with train fare, my cousins would have to leave soon after the service (one has a plane to catch), so I wouldn’t really get to spend any time with them after all. And being with them, even more so than my siblings, was what I wanted. It was the way to be with my aunt.

Sometimes we find family simply by being with those who love and play with us. (Another InterPlay graduation moment.)

So I let it go. I returned to my earlier plan to stay home and began to experience serenity.

At bedtime, since I had finished a fiction book I was reading, I considered what to read before going to sleep. I chose to begin (again) Catherine Ponder’s book Open Your Mind to Receive. (She’s one of my favorite authors.) As I read those first pages again, slowly, already getting sleepy, I was struck by the possibility that my life could truly become quite different. In the introduction, Ponder asks why a “loving Creator” who wants to heal our physical bodies wouldn’t also want to heal our “sick pocketbooks.”

Suddenly, I had the clear thought, the spark of belief, that my financial situation could be radically different in only one year from what it is right now. The belief stemmed not from “magic thinking” as a friend of mine calls it, where our problems are suddenly swept away by a major windfall or the like, but rather from the simple fact that I am changing and being changed. Little by little my relationship with myself is being transformed and I am learning how to respond differently to my circumstances. I’m learning how to make wiser choices around financial matters and so many other things.

As I learn to love and appreciate myself, those fearful reactions to my financial circumstances at any given moment are shifting toward healthier choices, wiser choices. I may still bumble along in any given situation, but I am learning. Every now and then I am shown this by the deep responses that go past my thoughts and into my whole being to tell me that I “got” something that seemed elusive before. It may be only a seed, or it may be the first sprouts from that seed. Whichever it is, it is a sign of growth within and for that I am truly grateful.

Noticings:

  • How I can feel it in my whole body, my entire being, when I “get” something on a deeper, more profound level.
  • How serenity so often follows when I let go of something that is not working.
  • How God provides when I really need it – a paycheck that came just in time to pay a bill and to get me through the rest of the month.

Action step(s):

  • Looking for other options for attending my aunt’s service – then letting it go when it wasn’t working.
  • Attending to the deep needs of my spirit, even as I said yes to another possible temp job.

Day 73 – Wednesday, Feb. 22nd (73/293): Depression is inconvenient, bothersome and, well, depressing!

There’s something about the immediacy of posting directly online that I have been missing. With no internet access on my own computer and limited windows of access on my uncle’s computer, it’s become easier to write my posts in a document, then use my flash drive to post them from another computer. I started this post Monday, but just couldn’t seem to get it done…

Depression…rats! It’s back and it’s persisting, although at any given moment it lifts and I find myself out from under the mire. My depression is, fortunately, the situational kind, rather than the clinical kind. For that I’m grateful. But it is nonetheless hard to get things done – make that hard to get inspired and energized to get things done – when it’s present.

For the past few days since I learned of my aunt’s passing, I’ve occupied myself primarily with jigsaw puzzles and DVDs. Yesterday, with my (other) aunt and uncle out of town, I ended up watching several hours of one of the crime dramas I enjoy (when I’m willing to endure the violence) while I did finished my third jigsaw puzzle in almost as many days. I had hoped to pounce on my uncle’s computer while they were gone for a couple of days, but I couldn’t seem to find the inclination and energy.

What helps me most on those occasions when a confluence of circumstances bring me to a place of depression (right now, it’s my aunt’s passing, my discovering I almost zeroed out my bank account when I thought I was paying attention to it, and my housing/financial situation in general) is being able to recognize that my low energy level is depression. Naming it helps me to know how to respond to it.

Naming it also frees me to not have to pretend I feel better than I do. I don’t want to stay in the depression, but my experience has been that the more I try to fight it, the worse it gets for me. Whereas, accepting that it’s there helps me to let go and just do what I can.

The other day, I employed the Serenity Prayer, asking God to grant me the serenity to accept the depression and to do what I can. It helped. I noticed that my increased energy (which manifests both in mental and physical energy – well, not quite as much physical energy as I’d like to have… ;-)) didn’t necessarily last, but even that is okay. I’m okay with windows of inclination and willingness to do xyz.

Sometimes the world looks like this when I'm depressed... (Another pic from my InterPlay graduation.)

What I’m learning about handling the depression (probably because of this blog journey/process) is that coming out of it can happen incrementally, with ups and downs, like pretty much everything else in life. Yesterday, I just about had my post written, but it felt too long. I printed it out and that’s as far as I got. I realized I wanted to separate out two very different themes that had come up in it – depression and a response to an earlier post (Day 63), but I simply didn’t have the energy.

Now, with the nudge of my aunt and uncle returning later this afternoon, I’m a little more energized to get things done. I also remembered, while writing this, another tool that helps me through and out of depression – Gorse flower remedy. I happened upon it years ago when a friend recognized I was depressed. I didn’t even know it. In our conversation that day, I made some joke about getting business cards that said “Living Corpse” on them. Later that day, I discovered that exact phrase in the description for Gorse in Bach Flower Therapy: Theory and Practice by Mechthild Scheffer. (This is a fantastic book if you really want to learn about flower remedies.)

I had been taking a few other flower remedies, but started on the Gorse after seeing those words in the description. Within days, the depression lifted! Writing this post reminded me that I hadn’t even tried that in the past few days. I guess you know what I’m going to go get as soon as I’m done.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep reminding myself of what it says on a little card I made up many months ago: Do what you can – and let go the rest. I started to check out blog-formatting things, like trying to find a footer where I could put something (couldn’t find anything I could edit) and decided to change the title of one of my categories (found several vulgar spam “comments” and wondered if the category title was inviting creepy types), but quickly started to feel overwhelmed.

A friend recently pointed out that when we feel confusion – to which I would add ‘feeling overwhelmed’ – it’s because we’re not ready to act. Many times I feel confused or overwhelmed by a sudden “need” to do xyz. Now I know – and will try to remember – that feeling confused or overwhelmed may simply be my mind and body’s way of telling me that now is not the time. That feeling of urgency, I’ve often heard said, is my will, not God’s. Today I’ll remember to be still and trust that the readiness will come when the time is right.

Have a blessed and wonderful day!

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