23 Days – Leaps and Stumbles (Sun – Feb 17)

May I always remember that growth happens even in the rocky places

May I always remember that growth happens even in the rocky places

I’m finding myself challenged – yet again – in this 60-day journey to a new beginning. This is my birthday month and I have come to think of myself as being “birthed” into the “third trimester” of my life – and it is coming with “labor pains”!

There’s something going on here that I don’t yet fully understand. Even though I “get” that recovery and progress are not consistently even and straight lines of progression, I seem to be ricocheting from serenity to fear and back again in varied and repeating cycles. And it isn’t fun at all!!!

Mostly the fear is around finding a place to live. For the past several years I have moved a ridiculous number of times. Sometimes I’ve been house-sitting, sometimes renting, sometimes living on grace with family. Now, I’m two weeks away from the date my landlady (and I) would like me out of here. A week and a half ago, I spent a day gripped by fear that I couldn’t shake, worrying about the situation. The more I fought against the fear, the more it stuck with me (of course).

Since that particularly difficult day, I have gradually moved back toward serenity and peace with the situation. Last weekend, I had some delightful time with a couple of different friends and appreciated a bit of help moving a few things into a storage unit. It felt good to take those preliminary steps that will make the actual move a bit easier.

This evening, I posted another ad on a popular free-“classifieds” website, as my earlier post had expired a few days ago. What I find puzzling is that editing and re-posting my ad served to trigger anxiety rather than to bring me some peace of mind for again being pro-active. What is up with that?

What keeps rolling around in my mind is that this may somehow be tied not only to the frequent changes in where I’m living in recent years, but also to a somewhat similar early childhood experience. I do not remember this, but my (younger) sister has told me that our mom let go our apartment every summer and took us to live with her parents. Our mom was a single-mom trying to raise two young girls on a teacher’s salary. It wasn’t easy for her and saving rent for the summer evidently helped.

What I remember is spending lots of time at my grandparents’ home and at my cousins’ home, which was conveniently nearby. I remember having fun, playing, feeling very much part of a big, loving family. There were five kids in their family and it was a place where I felt safe, accepted and loved.HPIM2039

Yet, as I continue to think about it, I suspect that the constant moving, which probably meant we could keep much, in terms of possessions, were more of stressful than memory indicates for me. When I imagine what it might have been like for me – leaving our current apartment every summer and whatever else was familiar, then returning to different apartment in the fall (though they were almost always in the same complex) – I can’t help but imagine it must have felt terribly insecure. Having fun visiting cousins you like is great fun; having to start all over in a new apartment with few possessions every year probably wasn’t.

When we finally did move into an apartment where we stayed year round, my sister and I lost all our toys one day when the charity truck took all the toy boxes on the porch, instead of the ones my mother intended them to have. My sister and I were crushed! And mom didn’t do anything to see about getting them back. Another loss. Another incident that left me with a need to hang on tightly to what I have.

I don’t know that these early childhood experiences of repeated loss were traumatic, but I do suspect they are at the heart of my deep-seated yearning for a consistent, reliable place in which to live and perhaps even at the heart of my ridiculous accumulation of the stuff that makes it so hard to keep changing living spaces.

I don’t quite know how I feel at the moment, but it does feel a little better to share about this here. Hanging onto the serenity is rather like trying to grasp mercury. It doesn’t work. I can only keep my hands open and let myself experience the surrender of trusting in a God who loves me and wants my happiness even more than I do.

As my sponsor has told me often, trust the process. For now, that means I will continue with my nightly practice of writing my thank-you note to God, jotting down the things I’ve done or noticed in the day that are affirming, and reviewing my “Dream Book” (which is growing) before I turn in for the evening. Whatever has happened that day, I appreciate the opportunity to remember where to place my faith.

Let me come with open hands...

Let me come with open hands…

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42 Days: A Hair Trigger? Finding the smooth lane on a bumpy road (Tue – Jan 29)

HPIM0541 CroppedI had no idea how much a roommate website could trigger fear, followed quickly by anxiety and anger brought on by the fear. Talk about a “hair trigger” Al-Anon reaction! Oy!

In an effort to be pro-active in finding a place to live, I registered on one of those roommate-matching websites. It sounded like a good idea…sort of. First, I encountered very limited space allowed for what should be a field to let someone know a little about you. Then came fields like your favorite movie/TV show/music/etc. – which, of course, would certainly be my primary criteria for finding a compatible roommate. Not! Although I suppose it might help me eliminate some.

A couple of days later, when I had a few moments to log on and add a bit more to my profile, there was a message in my inbox. Sadly, the person must not be good at reading what I wrote, for she lives in the wrong direction from where I’d said I’d like to be. Perhaps she’s as geographically challenged as I often feel…

This afternoon, I decided to add more to my profile, disliking the way it was feeling more and more like a poorly designed dating site. I did a quick search and was discouraged by what popped up. I live in an area where there are a number of educational institutions and the proliferation of people looking for someone to share their room – not apartment – for what should be rent for one place or a shared apartment boggles my mind. I keep wondering, who gets the side of the bed closest to the bathroom?

I suspect the very reason it was triggering me so much is because it does come across like a dating website. It suggests that competition is steep and your questions better be cleverer than everyone else’s or you won’t get far. To make matters more challenging, the rent I can pay is on the low end of the scale around here. But it’s what I can manage for now.

HPIM1810Ironically? Poetically? Perhaps perfectly appropriately, this morning I turned to a devotion reading in my Daily Guideposts 2012 that must have foreseen my afternoon. The verse with it went something like, No one can discern their own errors. The reflection with it was about a woman who filled in for her rabbi one Saturday morning. She knew well the words she would be reading and reciting; what she failed to consider were the logistics of moving from point A to point B during the service. She encountered one after another of mishaps – a locked cabinet that she should have unlocked, a piece she was supposed to remove but wasn’t tall enough to reach, and so on. Yet after the service, people kept thanking her for making it inspiring.

She was baffled! How could such a klutzy performance be “inspiring”?! When she asked a friend who was there about people’s surprising response, her friend told her that because it had not gone perfectly, but had still been done, others saw it as something doable. It didn’t have to go professionally and perfectly, as they were used to seeing with their rabbi. (Glad I caught the “rabbit” vs. “rabbi” typos! ;-))

The message of this woman’s experience hit home for me in a profound way. I hope I will be able to apply it to my attempt to use a roommate-finding website. As I left the office, with the fear escalating into anger, I struggled to find my rational mind. I recognized that I was being triggered and I began to sort out the reasons why. Or at least, I got a start on it. There are probably lots of reasons really. But being able to recognize what’s happening, even if I feel like I can’t control it, helps. It reminds me that I have a program, I have tools, and I don’t have to do it perfectly.

It’s not about my answers, the details of my profile or anything else on my listing being “perfect.” It’s about taking a first step toward what I want – which is a place to live.

I’m grateful that just writing this here reminds me that this is about taking a first step and about letting God meet me wherever I am, however far I do or do not get. At my meeting Saturday, there were four slogans in a sequence that caught my attention: This Too Shall Pass, Let It Begin With Me, Let Go and Let God, and Keep It Simple. I want to remember these slogans and appreciate how they can remind me that this really is about taking it one day, one step at a time.HPIM0822

26 Days Until…the Beginning? – Day 340 (Thu – Nov 8)

In what was a radical reversal of yesterday morning’s driving experience, today there were so few cars on the freeway when I drove onto it that I wondered how I could have missed the traffic during what should have been an expanding rush hour. Then I noticed a “herd” of cars a little ways ahead of me and a “herd” of cars further behind me. A moment of grace, “merging” onto a freeway when there are no cars nearby with which to merge.

As I drove by the location of yesterday’s accident, there were several large mounds huddled together, covered in black plastic. The battered cars? Other wreckage? It made the contrast between yesterday’s virtually non-moving clog and today’s spacious openness all the more apparent.

I arrived at work peacefully, which was a pleasant way to begin a day that became wildly busy for me. It occurs to me now that I was too busy to experience the vague depression I felt earlier this week – even just yesterday. The contrast between the weekend with my trans friends and its many conversations about things that are deeply meaningful to me leaves my work at my contract job feeling inadequate, disappointingly focused on a sort of bottom line of wanting to “better serve” their customers in order to boost the net profit. It’s quite a different mindset than my other job with a wonderful and small non-profit organization whose purpose is to nourish people. Although my hourly income is better at my temp job, it doesn’t feel purposeful the way my other job does.

Tuesday night, shortly before bed, I was searching for something to read. I wasn’t in the mood for a fiction book and I didn’t feel drawn to any of my Al Anon literature. Then one book caught my attention. I found it this summer in one of the boxes of discards outside the library: The Courage to Be Rich, by Suze Orman. I felt drawn to this book, in part because finances are an ongoing concern of mine. I never suspected how timely this book would be for me right now. I’ve often heard, When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I must be ready.

The second paragraph in the book talks about courage being the most important quality one needs in order to change one’s life. Orman talks about her own experience and the point at which she asked herself if she could find the courage to change. I had an O-M-G experience when I encountered that particular phrase – especially because she’s talking about changing how we think and how we see ourselves in many ways, not just around our financial affairs.

One of the many places I have highlighted already reads, “It takes courage to ask for what you want. And it takes courage to live honestly, wisely; true to yourself—and true to your desire for more” (from the “Introduction: The Soul of Courage,” p 4). She goes on to say that there isn’t anything wrong with wanting more and that we shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting more.

In the first chapter she dives head first into those areas with which I’m already familiar in many areas of my life: fear, shame, and anger. I don’t think I’ve noticed before just how much fear and shame, and even anger I suspect, I have around money and my financial situation. But the questions she poses started helping me to see that I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s helpful that she classifies how we feel about money as a reflection of our “current truths” about it. If these are only “current truths,” that means I can begin to change them as I delve into this work.

I’m still taking all this in – there’s so much to digest. And I’m only on page 14! It dawns on me just now that this also speaks to one of my identified character weaknesses from my Step 6 inventory: deprivation thinking. My whole life I have never felt I deserved more than what I had at any particular moment. I never felt worthy. This book is challenging me to examine those beliefs and to get to the heart of how I see myself. I can tell this will not be a quick read and that it will get me digging deeper than I expected into this area of my life.

The grace I experienced this morning going to work seems like a reflection of the way God works in our lives. It leaves me wondering what God has in store for me around finances and housing, around work and ministry, around having someone with whom to share my life. Changing my beliefs about myself seems like a good way to open my side of the ‘door.’

I wonder how far I’ll be able to get in 26 days…

The door to grace? Day 337 – 29 days left (Mon – Nov 5)

Last night I experienced a moment of unexpected grace.

I am the “speaker seeker” for the Saturday Al Anon meeting I regularly attend and next weekend is our speaker weekend. There was, as yet, no one scheduled to speak. I had talked to a few people about a month ago to see if any were willing to be the speaker for this month or for December, but hadn’t gotten any firm commitments.

I had started leaving myself reminders to make some calls, but just couldn’t seem to get there. Interestingly, I wasn’t particularly anxious about it. I was almost more curious than anything else, wondering what was up.

During the meeting I attended last night, I felt serene – or perhaps just sleepy (or both). I wondered if there was someone there I might ask to be our speaker. I had already let go and accepted the possibility that I might not find anyone. I wasn’t particularly concerned, though it would be nice to have a speaker.

During announcements, I didn’t mention the upcoming speaker meeting (which I would normally have done). Then, after the meeting, the woman who had given me a tentative ‘yes’ for December came to tell me that December wasn’t going to work for her. She then asked me if I had found anyone for this month (which she had thought wouldn’t work for her when we spoke a few weeks ago). When I said ‘no,’ she told me she would be glad to be our speaker!

I was struck by the fact that I had followed the leading I had been given – which had actually been to do nothing. I kept thinking I should make calls, but I would forget or simply be too tired. Yet, through it all, I didn’t feel particularly anxious. I just kept wondering how things would work out and kept listening for those nudges to lead me in a particular direction.

So many times it’s tempting to get busy and “make” something happen when, in fact, what I need to do is to “be still.” I know now that the reason I never felt an urge to make a call was because God already knew that I wouldn’t need to find someone to speak. She was already on her way to me, even though neither of us knew it till last night.

As I drove home from work today, I was thinking about this experience. It occurred to me that this was no different than a lot of other things I’d like to have happen in my life – like finding a new place to live or a more sustaining work situation. Those kinds of changes usually require patience and more waiting than I’d like. Rushing about in a frantic search usually leaves me exhausted and no further ahead than before I started.

The next time I’m tempted to push myself to try to “make” something happen, I hope I can remember this tangible experience of waiting and leaving space for God’s grace. Perhaps it’s the waiting that allows the door to open…

Just for today I can trust – Day 313 (Fri – Oct 19)

There are  only 53 days left in this year-long journey, but who’s counting? In fact, something tells me I’ve only just begun…

I don’t always realize how tense my body is until something jogs me into awareness. In a lovely devotion I read this morning, the author talks of “letting go into a simple state of trusting God…just for today,” she writes, “I will allow myself to be truly ‘at sea,’ mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually” (Daily Guideposts 2012, p. 322, Marilyn Morgan King). At sea – relaxed and drifting along on the ocean’s current on gentle waves of trust.

“Just for today,” a favorite 12-Step slogan that sometimes eludes me. This morning when I read those words in the same “breath” as the words “trusting God,” I suddenly noticed the tightness in my muscles, in my entire being really. It was as if I were poised, tensed, ready to leap into action – as though I could immediately begin to change my circumstances, even though it was barely past six a.m.

My fridge & pantry…Why ever would I want to move?!

I was feeling the need to take action – in particular, to find a graceful way to move into a better living situation…ASAP! Of course, “ASAP” is the place where grace seldom lives. As soon as I realized that the sense of urgency creating tension in my body does not come from God and certainly does not reflect trust in God, I felt myself begin to unwind.

It was surprisingly like a light bulb turning on when I realized that I didn’t have to trust God every second of every day; I could trust God with just this day and let that be enough. It dawned on me that I don’t have to do it all now. (I know I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ve discovered that some things take more repetitions to sink in and register than other things.) I don’t have to do it all now. Could somebody please turn that into a sign for me and put it where I’ll see it every day?

I remembered that I can simply make progress and move forward, let go and trust, and even wait patiently one day, sometimes one hour or one moment at a time.

Just for today, I don’t need to rush or to worry; I can let go and trust that God’s divine love for me is doing its perfect work in my life. I don’t have to see it; I can be still and know.

Day 192 (Wed Jun 20): Between peace and panic

Why do I feel at times like I’m still a beginner?

Today has been an odd day, where I have flowed (and sometimes bounced) between peace and panic.

My car still sounds and feels like it needs some attention. The challenge is, its symptoms are not clear enough to readily describe to a technician. I decided to drop by the dealership and see if they might have time to check it out today. They didn’t. But it was helpful to talk with the person in charge of my car’s maintenance. She helped me consider other possibilities to the nature of the problem. (And no, it isn’t the driver.)

We have an appointment for Tuesday morning.

Because my finances are not quite steady, I was nervous about going there this morning. So I said some prayers, then turned on the CD I’ve been enjoying a lot lately. My favorite song is called “Strength for the Journey” (I think). For once, I let myself become enveloped in the words. I surrendered to them and the message I needed to hear: that I need to let go and let God handle this because I can’t do this alone.

When I turned to my little devotional book while I was waiting for the garage to open, I was amazed to find that today’s reading reflects what I had been hearing and “getting” from the song: that we must rely on God and others to help us on our way. These are the words I especially appreciated reading this morning:

Self-sufficiency is impossible. As much as we hate to admit it, no one can get through life on his or her own strength. At some point, we all need help…God knows we can’t get by alone. That’s why…[God] reaches down to help us up. (June 20 in Every Day With Jesus ©2011 Worthy Publishing)

After feeling myself surrender to the song lyrics on the way to the garage, reminding me that I want my Higher Power to be my strength for this journey, these words were a welcome affirmation. They expanded the peace I had been feeling on the way.

Perhaps that’s why it felt so decidedly ridiculous to experience such an opposite state a short time later. At 8:30 this morning, less than an hour later, I wrote this in what I thought might become a blog draft: Okay, this is just plain annoying! Just thinking about preparing a posting [e.g., in Craigslist] to find a new place to live is raising my anxiety level. I can feel the butterflies in my tummy going berserk and I feel anxious all over. Augh! This feels so dumb and silly!

Now wouldn’t you think that a healthy dose of peace might have washed away the tendency toward panic? I would have! Even though I’ve experienced swings between peace and panic countless times, I still expect to remain in that place of peace when the scary thoughts arise.

I know we’ve all been there, in one way or another. Maybe you get as frustrated as I do when you lose that serenity, and fear, anxiety or outright panic starts to set in. The only thing I’ve found that helps me – and perhaps you’ve discovered this, too – is to keep returning to the things that nurture me and return me to serenity. For me that often comes in the form of uplifting music, inspirational reading, practices like InterPlay and prayer, and remembering that we are not alone on this journey. At any given moment, I may feel alone because I don’t have another earthling walking along beside me (and probably not an extra-terrestrial either, for that matter ;-)).

Helpers

The truth is, we are all loved and helped every moment of every day by our Higher Power whether we know it or not. My Higher Power is God, the God of my understanding who loves me and is patient with me, who puts up with my repeated whining and complaining and the humiliating number of blunders I make, and who loves me anyway! I don’t recall off the top of my head who said this, but I like to remember that there is nothing – NOTHING! – I can do to make God love me any more – or any less.

Thank God!

Day 166 (Fri/May 25): The unexpected grace of small steps and 12-Steps

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1). Time. Timing. Time…

Last Friday I learned that I need to reduce my thyroid medication a bit, which explains the poor sleep and the too-frequent feelings of anxiety. It takes time for the shift in dosage to have an impact, so I’ll have to be patient.

On the heels of this helpful news, I began letting go and attending to the needs for my body to have adequate rest – which includes not pushing myself every minute of every day. With my schedule, it’s been hard to get to many tasks, from balancing my checkbook to writing my blog posts. Still, I realized I could actually create more ease in my schedule. I wonder, now, if that’s what actually opened the door to some unexpected grace.

It had finally dawned on me that I had some available vacation time. So I shortened my work days on Friday and Saturday. It seemed like such a small thing, to realize I could actually use my vacation time, yet I had been clinging to those vacation hours out of fear of not having them. Once I decided to avail myself of these hours, I immediately began experiencing more ease in body and spirit.

I was tempted to run

Sunday, I attended a Debtors Anonymous (DA) meeting. I arrived feeling a lot of anxiety and fear. My work at the temp place had been extended through July, for two days a week. That means regular weekly income that might come close to a normal, if not particularly large monthly income when combined with my regular part-time job. It’s been so long since I’ve had an adequate monthly income I hardly know what to do. So I didn’t speak at the meeting for quite some time. I just listened.

What I heard were words of encouragement and hope. One man shared that he had already paid down all but $400 of a $10,000 line of credit in only two years and that his income had increased 50%. Such financial blessing is beyond my ability to conceive right now, but it inspired me nonetheless. It’s the second time in recent weeks that I’ve heard someone share about making so much progress in reducing their debt. I’ve come to realize there are more possibilities than I thought around my financial situation.

I also kept hearing references to DA being a primarily spiritual program. While I can’t articulate what that means for me, on a body-spirit level I know what it means and I could feel a shift in the corners of my thinking.

The next day, Monday, I knew I would have a window of privacy during the my workday and planned to take advantage of it. I called the three creditors whose calls I have been ignoring for the past couple of weeks. I first spoke to the one for the credit card that had not yet charged off and affirmed my intention to pay the $105 to keep the charge off this month. (Although, after making that payment last night, I’ve decided it’s probably in better to let it charge off, so the late fees and interest can cease and I can begin actually paying down the balance.) The call was surprisingly gracious and the representative expressed appreciation for my having initiated the call.

Next I spoke to the agency handling the largest of my three debts. To my amazement (and incredible relief) they are willing to accept $20 payments each month for now because it shows my intention to pay the debt. The rep gave me a website for making online payments when I asked about doing that. What an unexpected blessing!

I cannot rush this process…

The third call was to the company who had been pressuring me for a $500 up-front payment. I had sent them $50 in April and $50 earlier this month. I was again amazed and relieved that they had concluded this was a monthly commitment and that they were okay with that!

After that third call, I simply sat there, practically stunned by the grace and ease of the conversations and the results. I know that in God’s time the rest of this will sort itself out in a way that will be best for me. The results of these calls were an affirmation of God’s grace.

The next day, Tuesday, while I was happily back at my part-time job for the whole day during the week (yay!), I was given the incredible gift of being able to participate in an InterPlay event happening this coming week. My work schedule will only allow me to be there for the opening day and most of the next day, but some loving friends have enabled me to attend for free. I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself! I also attended an InterPlay class that evening.

I left there feeling overwhelmed by the grace and unexpected blessings of the past few days. Is this really all about letting go and letting God move in my life? I believe it is – and I’m doing my best to keep getting better at getting out of God’s way!

InterPlaying…

Noticings:

  • How much easier it’s becoming to let go worry about the details.
  • How good it feels to post again!
  • How much easier it’s becoming to accept God’s grace when it arrives…

Action steps:

  • Calling my creditors.
  • Deciding to stay home tomorrow to let myself simply have the space to rest and catch up on a few things.
  • Picking up a notebook to help me track and get a handle on just how much I spend on what.

Day 155 (Mon/May 14): On releasing guilt

I’m fast concluding that releasing guilt, like so many other aspects of life, is a process, a journey that has ebbs and flows, times of ease, times of struggle. (Who knew?)

This morning, I turned to page 217 in my Bible simply because that number was what popped into my mind when I considered what to read for my reflection. I started reading about people dying and being afflicted with tumors and thought, “Bleck! This is not what I want to use for my reflection!” But I persisted, especially as I had begun in the middle of a chapter. It didn’t necessarily get “better,” but I found myself intrigued by a couple of lines in the chapter that started on that page. The people were told to return the ark to God with a “guilt offering” and they would be healed (1 Sam 6:1-3).

It took a few minutes for it to register that guilt is one of the character weaknesses I identified for myself in Step 6. I decided to see what I might find in Courage to Change on guilt. But before I looked in the book, I decided to prepare my own “guilt offering” to be placed in my “God box” – a written prayer asking God to take my feelings of guilt and remove them from me.

Guilt is a wholly appropriate topic for me today. I awoke with dreams of worrying about my credit card debt and what I should do about it. In an effort to take better care of myself and to maintain a sense of serenity, I have chosen to ignore most of the incoming calls from the credit card agents. I have even left the messages on my voicemail to pick up when I’m ready to deal with them (or not). It dawned on me recently that they are the ones who feel the need to keep pushing for different answers from me when I have none to offer. Repeating the same, unhappy responses to their questions – affirming repeatedly that I do not, at this time, have the income to send them as much money as they want – upsets me and renews the guilt and the worry. Since they have not been willing to honor my request for less frequent calls (one company calls me five days after we last talked – every time!), I have chosen not to take the calls just now.

As I was writing my reflection this morning, I felt guilty that I have not picked up my voice messages. Now I’m at work (on my lunch break) and it’s not the time. There are five messages – all, I suspect, from these collection agents. I have more practicing to do in order to let go my guilty feelings. I have more things to figure out with regard to how and when to respond to the messages.

I read two of the pages on guilt listed in the index in Courage to Change. They reminded me that I am imperfect because I am human (can’t escape it…), that I can “be free to look at my mistakes without blowing them out of proportion” (CtC, p 120), that I can learn to stop repeating the mistakes I’ve made and learn to make wiser choices. I already am making wiser choices and the tendency to fall back into old patterns is lessening every day.

I especially appreciate the “Today’s Reminder” with the April 29th reading:

I will not chain myself to the past with self-defeating guilt, or by inflating the importance of my errors. Instead, I want to face my past and heal old wounds so that I may move forward into a richer, fuller, and more joyous life today (Courage to Change, p 120).

The reading on page 144 in CtC also reminds me that it is easier to love myself when I accept myself as I am, imperfect choices and all. I notice I need to be reminded of this often – the idea of loving myself, that is. Sometimes I get caught up in the doing of xyz and forget that the reason I am doing recovery and other work is to be able to see and love myself more the way I know God does. Once in a while it occurs to me to ask God to give me eyes that see others and myself through the eyes of love. I even get there and stay there for a while now and then. Then I slip and fall back into old patterns of thinking and behavior. I am so grateful for 12-Step programs, wonderful little books like Courage to Change and a God whose love is big enough to overcome those times when I forget to love myself.

Day 149 (Wed/May 8): An unexpected journey, unexpected blessings

I find myself floundering, wondering how to regain the semblance of balance I had only a couple of weeks ago… At least it felt like balance compared to the last few weeks.

Last week was a quiet week, especially in comparison to the preceding weeks, which were all about frantically getting ready for a summit (that, I’m told, turned out to be a great success). I would get home, fix dinner, plan my next day’s lunch, then “recover” for an hour or so before heading for bed. I worked six, sometimes seven days a week. It seemed like there was no time for anything but work. Last week felt like the calm after a storm – at least until I committed to a whirlwind trip out of town for the weekend.

A dear friend of mine was being ordained and installed at his new parish. Not only that, he was being installed at a church where one of my best friends attends. It made for a joyful opportunity to be there for him and to visit with a friend I haven’t seen in a few years. The challenge was the distance – about 8 hours each way, but my long-time friend was thrilled at the prospect of my coming there and more than happy to offer a place to stay. Other things opened the way to my being able to make the trip, both time-wise and expense-wise, from having the money and opportunity for some car repairs to the willingness of both my employers for me to take the day off on Friday. I was grateful.

Yet amidst my eagerness to be there were the stirrings of other intense feelings. I began my own journey through seminary with the expectation that I would become a pastor. That changed my last year there – for good reasons and in ways that I celebrate as well. But the change in my expectations still required adjustment and the emotional pot of those changes gets stirred up when I witness my classmates being ordained.

Thus the weekend became a jumble of emotions: joy and celebration, as well as grief and an inescapable feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty each time well-meaning colleagues asked me what I’m doing these days. “Looking for work” (when I’m not actively doing so) or “doing temp work” (even though it is blessing me) are not the answers I cared to give. So I floundered with what to say and each person heard something a little different, depending on how well I knew them. To strangers who asked where I was “serving,” I usually replied simply, “I’m not a pastor.” Each repetition reminded me that I’m also not doing the work I long to do. Each answer left me wondering how and when I will begin to do the work that calls me, the work that inspires and excites me…

Saturday evening, I headed to my room early, exhausted from the day’s events. I wrote in my journal. I let the pain and grief rise to the surface and wept quietly, when what I wanted to do was to sob loudly. I wondered how I would make it through Sunday morning and hoped my face would not reflect the grief that I knew would still be there.

I always feel better after a night’s sleep, no matter how rough the evening before. I process things physically and something about simply resting and “forgetting” about whatever has been on my mind, as only happens in sleep, allows me to wake up refreshed. It doesn’t mean the grief was gone, but the intensity of the emotions, the pain especially, was significantly less. (I hoped no one would notice the telltale bags and dark circles under my eyes.)

I’m so glad I was able to muster a bit of cheerfulness at hearing my friend preach his first sermon as an ordained pastor. What a joy it was to be able to be there. After his sermon, I turned to my other friend and simply said, “Wow!” She obviously had the same response.

Despite my mixed feelings from the day before, something happened in the hours that followed that morning. I left for home feeling inspired and changed in ways I’m still sorting out. But I’ll have to save an exploration of that for a later post. It is time for me to head for bed and get some rest. As I was getting ready this morning and beginning to feel rushed, I asked myself if I was truly attending to what my body and spirit needed at the beginning of the day. From that moment on, I began to move at a pace that was peaceful, as well as productive. Tonight, I’m going to do the same.

Thanks for still being here. 🙂

(For whatever reason, the computer I’m using is not happy with my attempts to add photos. Maybe I’ll try again in the morning…)

Day 95 (Thu/Mar 15): Seventeen days – Changing gears, a journey within the journey

My day was transformed yesterday by the decision to remain judgment-free toward whatever I do or don’t do each day. Since it was a day off work and I had no appointments, I had the freedom to let my day unfold. After that wonderful beginning (i.e., the decision to do 18 days of affirmations only), I let go the plans I had been originally considering (like going to the post office and the library) and let myself be led from one task (or “non-task”) to another.

I had remembered an email a friend sent me a few weeks ago and decided to check it out. She had sent me a link to a website for non-profit organizations and philanthropic endeavors. (Foundation Center) She had suggested it to me because I can subscribe to receive notices of job announcements – which I have now done!

As I explored the site a bit, deciding which types of emails I might be interested in receiving, I found a job listing for an organization I’ve been considering contacting because I admire the work they’re doing. (Contacting them is in my “hope I can get up the nerve to do some informational interviewing here” virtual file. ;-)) I printed out the description, eager to see if I might be a good fit. The position is for an executive assistant. While I am a terrific administrative assistant, I’ve never pursued this level of administrative work.

After a bit of internal wrestling, I finally acknowledged and accepted two things. One is that I don’t really want a job that requires the level of energy this one would require to do well. It’s not that I don’t put a lot of energy into my work – I do. But I want to have energy left over at the end of the day for other things, including InterPlay, Al Anon, and a ministry site I’m developing with a friend of mine. Oh yeah. And a social life.

 The second thing I accepted is that I don’t really want a job that is so critically dependent upon my being there, as this one would be, that there would be no room for the occasional meeting or absence during the work day as my other interests expand. (This job sounds like they want not just a right arm for the director, but a left arm and one or two legs as well. Oy!)

Still, I may consider applying simply for the experience and the possible opportunity to connect with the organization. It really is the kind of place I would enjoy being – in another capacity.

There are a couple of other things I thought about. A couple of thank-you notes to write. A follow-up call to set up an interview at a place I’m uncertain I’d like to work. The interesting thing about the latter is that I had pulled out the message with the person’s name to call, thinking I might call her yesterday. Then I ended up completely forgetting about it as the day progressed. The interview practice would be good and I might even find something I’m interested in doing.

The thank-you notes are in that fuzzy, not-too-certain-if-it’s-the-appropriate-thing-to-do, it’s-kind-of-late-but-still-could-be-good category. It’s also uncharted territory for me. It’s job related, so it’s a little bit nervousness-producing. I’ll keep considering it.

All this is to say that I had lots of opportunities to practice letting go any judgments about what I did or did not get accomplished. Mostly, I’m appreciating how incredibly freeing it was to be intentional about not judging myself. I found that I had to keep reminding myself that there really was nothing that needed to be on a “should” do list for me. At the end of the day, what mattered most was that I felt good about myself, whatever I had or had not done.

No wonder it's all about small steps

The interesting result was that I actually took more steps toward finding work opportunities yesterday than I have in a long time, even though I didn’t have a specific intention to do so.  I’m curious to see what happens in the next two and a half weeks. 🙂

Big and Small Steps:

  • Found an interesting job possibility and printed out the description. I’m now registered on the site and will receive emails about other jobs (plus I can look on the site for more).
  • Filed some job-search related papers in my binder and typed up the “pitch” I had developed at the JVS workshop. It felt good to refresh my memory.
  • Updated my checkbook and know exactly how much is there. For the first time in years, I recently added back into the balance the minimum amount of $150 I was keeping as a cushion. (It has not served me well when I’m as broke as I’ve been in recent months.)

Noticings:

  • How my step workouts are actually a bit more difficult the way I’m doing them than the way I learned at the gym. (I tried the approach from the gym, which is more “balanced” in that it alternates feet throughout. Yet it’s more of a workout to do ten sets, for example, leading with one foot, then ten leading with the other.)
  • How freeing it feels to have given myself permission to affirm myself only in positive ways. I can let go the “shoulds” without guilt for the next seventeen days (or years?)! Whoo hoo!
  • How often I felt the tingle down my spine yesterday that tells me I’m following my heart.
  • How good it feels to actually know, to the penny, what’s in my checking account!
  • How totally fun it was to have taken the “No Dumping” picture this past weekend, with no idea how I’d use it, yet finding it perfect for yesterday’s post! 🙂
  • How jazzed I get working on my blog posts in the evenings, especially after such a breathtaking shift in direction yesterday. Gotta watch out if I want to get a full night’s sleep! (I didn’t. Oh well.)

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