There is no magic wand

There are times like this, in the middle of the night, when I wake up for a pitstop and worry sneaks in before I can get back to sleep. Not helpful. I fruitlessly wish for a magic wand to erase the fearful thoughts from my mind to allow me once again to get the rest every body needs.

I’ve been on my recovery journey for almost ten years now. When I began, I had no idea it was an endless journey. Not that I presumed I’d immediately “get” all the things I needed to “get” to be recovered. It’s more that I had no idea of the many layers of recovery that were both needed – and possible. I am humbled, I am grateful, I am relieved that this is a journey that continues for as long as I am alive and have the capacity to live and grow and understand and change.

The past couple of weeks, my recovery focus has been on Steps 8 and 9: made a list of all persons we had harmed and became ready to make amends to them all; made direct amends wherever possible, except when to do so would injure myself or others. When my sponsor and I met last, I pulled out the amends list I had started…in 2012. It had overwhelmed me then; my body tells me it terrifies me now. And that feels unreasonable to me.

This journey is not simple. It’s not easy. At times, it isn’t even fun. (Imagine that.) Yet it is so very worthwhile! I don’t think it’s worthwhile; I know it’s worthwhile. I have been graced with more blessings than I ever thought possible, in terms of how I think, how I’m experiencing my life. There are times when I look back over the last few months and I am in awe of how much I’ve changed – at how much my Higher Power, whom I call God, has transformed me and my thinking.

That’s why it puzzles me and frustrates me when I get stuck in fear, in feelings of being overwhelmed, in the anger and resentment and general grumpiness that have been accompanying me these past couple of weeks. My sponsor and I laughed when she shared about the “earthquake” in her own thinking with a book we have both been recently reading. Now I’m having my own “earthquake,” as the gnarly, ugly bits of resentment still present in me are getting stirred up.

The crazy part is, I still want to take these Steps toward greater recovery, albeit in that “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! I’m freaking scared and already feel terrible enough about myself that I’m not sure I wanna do this at all” kind of way. You know, that digging-my-heels-in way of insisting that I be dragged into this, even as I know I cannot be dragged into this. I can choose to stand still or to walk forward. I suppose walking backward is an option, but that is unthinkable. It already feels like I’m walking backward just to have the negative feelings stirred up and brought to the surface, as if one can ever stay clean and tidy mucking out the stables that have held those hurts and resentments.

A few days ago, I read in The Forgiveness Handbook that “our biggest demons are those we do not have the courage to face” (p 42, Diana L. Guerrero). I think she’s right. And I think I’ve found one of my biggest demons. At least it feels that way in this moment. I’ve also often heard that I need to trust the process – trust that working the Steps, doing the best I can to do my part, and letting go of the results will bring me to the recovery I desire. I know it’s true. Both intellectually and on deep body levels, I know it’s true, because I’ve experienced the truth of it over and over again.

When fear and worry creep back in, I futilely long for that magic wand to make the fear, the pain, the feelings of being overwhelmed vanish, to return me to the serenity that’s hiding in the closet once again, the serenity that was with me so deeply only a few days ago. Yet, ironically, I also know that it is precisely my willingness to walk through the fear and the pain, even kicking and screaming all the way, that enables me to return to that serenity and experience the deep inner healing that comes with it.

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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…

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

52 Days – Am I Afraid to Be Happy? (Sat – Jan 19)

Last night my fears were trying to get the better of me, so I cast about for what to read. I had a Guideposts, a Forum, a DA book – A Currency of Hope, and Ponder’s Open Your Mind to Receive. I was floundering, wondering what would be most helpful to me to read, feeling anxious and worried even about such a small thing.

I briefly considered the Ponder book, but thought I needed something other than “merely” opening my mind to receive. I was unsettled, unable to think clearly. I opened the DA book and found a story that I had already bookmarked to read: “Busting Out of Debtor’s Prison.” I started reading it. I connected with things the author was relating about his experience. He spoke of feeling angry when his Pressure Relief Group told him he needed to earn more money.

I felt angry at the idea of being told that too. Earning more money would just raise my monthly payments on my student loans! Of course, that wouldn’t be until next year when I “re-qualify.” And I keep forgetting that I would still have the other 85-90% of that extra income to use for other things.

I want to surrender my fears to my Higher Power

I want to surrender my fears to my Higher Power

I’d truly like to learn how to stop my mind from racing to that place of fear! It’s especially ridiculous (although it feels fearful, rather than “ridiculous”) because I rarely even have clear thoughts about what that unseen, expected disaster might be! Mostly it’s a vague sense of pending disaster that has no basis in reality. And mostly, when I stop to think about it, when I can calm myself down and think more clearly, I discover that my worst imaginings are, themselves, ridiculous.

I am so grateful for the things I read last night. I am grateful to have read the story from my DA book. And I’m even more grateful for having returned to the Ponder book and to be reminded by the words from the Book of James, that I do not have because I do not ask (James 4:2).

In the passage from James 4, I was struck by the words in verse 4:1 that talk about our cravings or our desires being at war within us. That rings so true for me. I notice that I long both for a place of my own and for a place where I have a roommate with whom I enjoy sharing the space, that I might have the social connection of another person in the home. I long for an independent income that frees me from the need to work at a “regular” job, yet I love being able to be around others and share the experiences that bring laughter and friendship through the workplace. I long for a love in my life, yet I’m afraid to be open to the possibility of this happening with someone I’ve not yet met. I’m afraid of the unknown, for I have no control over it.

I want to rush toward changing my words and changing my experience, yet the idea of being abundantly blessed scares me! Which seems completely crazy, ridiculous! But it does…and I don’t really understand why. Is it really just the unknown that scares me? Is it some unarticulated sense of responsibility that a part of me knows will come with it? Is it the fact that I would have to change how I see myself or how I do things if I suddenly were financially blessed and found myself in a loving committed relationship where my life would no longer be just “my” life but would be a part of “our” life?

Am I truly afraid to be happy and blessed? And if I am, why?

I want the courage to jump into the "hoop."

I want the courage to jump into the “hoop.”

56 Days – Remember to breathe, remember to breathe… (Tue, Jan 15)

Did you know that listening to upbeat music helps my spirit but muddles my thinking when it comes to writing a post? Well, it does. But I shall press on because I have had a most unfun day.

I don’t know why I thought it would be a good, even really good idea to begin my day by doing the processing of my student loan paperwork, to have the payments reduced. It sounded like a good idea – especially because I need to get it done ASAP. Unfortunately, when I entered my new and improved income, it turns out my monthly payments are alarmingly large. The federal government has the ludicrous notion that anything above 150% of the national poverty level constitutes “discretionary” income. Clearly they have not lived where the cost of living is ridiculous.

My uncle once asked me why I didn’t move somewhere less expensive to live. I pointed out that one needed to have a job and that it costs hundreds of dollars (at least) to actually move. Unless one has virtually nothing more than a few suitcases and a box or two, there are expense involved in relocating. (He hadn’t thought about that piece.) Of course, there are probably cheap places to live somewhere nearby…if one doesn’t mind living in a place where one’s belongings and one’s physical being, for that matter, are at risk on a daily basis. I mean, I’m sure there’s some kind of dump that goes for cheap. I’d rather live in my car.

I’ve been wrestling with this all day, trying to separate the reality from the wildly terrifying detours my imagination keeps spinning. Not too successfully… Finally, on the drive home, I remembered that I’m on this self-imposed 60-day journey. It gradually dawned on me that maybe I could hang in there for 60 days without doing something radical or insane. Then again, what would I do?

There’s always driving off a cliff. But I’d have to find a suitable cliff. Then I’d worry about all the unfinished business I’d leave behind. My son would get stuck cleaning up the mess and that is not a burden I would wish to lay on him by design. I could run screaming from the building – but it’s cold – and now dark – outside and who needs that? I could simply stand in my room and scream till my throat gives out, but my housemates might not appreciate it and I’m quite certain I’d rather not discover what it feels like to end up in a straight jacket.

What’s most annoying about this is the way the fear is fogging up my brain. I felt like I was moving in slow motion all day at work. I would have to think about things very carefully because I was viewing it through a cloud of fear and despair. My logical mind just doesn’t get a chance when my Al Anon, Adult Child terrified perspective grabs on for dear life. What exactly I think will happen I don’t know. It’s that vague, unidentifiable fear that spells disaster and emotional, if not physical, death. Especially, for me, when there are legal authorities like the government involved.

On the upside – I was actually too stressed to eat much today! Usually I start eating when I’m stressed. Maybe this could actually turn out to be a perk!

This morning, I truly believed I’d appreciate having bravely taken this first step in this loan process. Now I’m having to work hard to feel appreciative. Perhaps by tomorrow I will feel better. Right now the anxiety is too fresh. So, let me do a quick gratitude list and notice some things that might help me as my body continues to process this challenge.

  • I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and to be able to meet my monthly expenses for now.
  • I’m grateful to have a place to work two days a week where I can express my feelings and let my body have some of the movement it needs, whether it’s a quick dance, a quick temper tantrum, or any other kind of movement that supports my bodyspirit.
  • I’m grateful that I have people who encourage and affirm me at both my places of work.
  • I’m truly grateful for the years I have in Al Anon and the bits of wisdom that can bubble to the surface in times of stress.
  • I’m grateful beyond words that I have faith in a Power greater than myself and that this Higher Power, whom I call God, cares about me and is watching over me no matter what is going on in my life.
  • I am grateful to be reminded that all I really have to do is the best I can and God will take care of the rest. Thanks be!

60 Days: to 60, to New Beginnings, and to Transformation

At some point within the next 60 days, I will have turned 60. Yep, the big Six-Oh. A year I’ve never been able to envision for myself. Don’t know why. My pastor told me once that everyone has an age in their minds that they think they’re going to die or that they can’t see themselves living beyond. The goofy part is that I’ve also presumed I’ll live well into my 80s or 90s because relatives on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family have done so. My dad’s father died at 98, his older brother is still going at 93, and his younger brother is in his late 80s. My mom’s dad made it to 86, her sister made it to 99, and their aunt made it to 93. Longevity is in the genes! So whatever is going on with that notion of not picturing myself post-50, apparently it’s a normal thing. (The pastor who told me that – his ‘age-limit’ was 35. We were both in our late 40s when we had this conversation.)

As to new beginnings, I’ve been wanting to move for quite some time. Tonight I learned that I’m going to have to move. My landlady has found an opening in a retirement home and will be moving there in two months. The deadline is actually the end of March, but I’m hoping to be in a happier new place before then. We’ll see what my Higher Power has in store.

Transformation is the never ending quest and the never ending journey, for transformation happens again and again whenever I create the space and find the willingness for change. During the next 60 days, my student loans will all be out of the deferment they’re in, I’ll have a payment schedule and I’ll either be finding a new rhythm to my life (which is another new beginning, of course) or I will have crashed and burned. Even as I’m quaking in my proverbial boots, I’m determined to find the new rhythm.

I’m so tired of letting fear control my ability to move forward. Just when I think I’m making progress, and indeed I have made progress, I find myself faced with another challenge, another paralyzingly fearful decision to make or action to take. In this case, I have a twofold situation. I have loan paperwork to process (and my loans are about the size of a mortgage…oy…) and I have to find a new place to live. Both of these are major stuff on the stress-factor scales.

My plan is to avail myself of my Al Anon resources – books, meetings, my sponsor, and phone calls (the basic tools of the program), take things one small step at a time, and do my best to recognize and appreciate the progress I’m making along the way.

I’m terrified, and I don’t want to be. I feel backed into a corner, yet I still have choices. I have no idea how things will turn out – but I know that my Higher Power wants to fill my life with blessings if I’m willing to receive.

For the next 60 days I’m going to do my best to move into my 60s with a little more grace and ease than I’ve moved into most of the other decades of my life.

To begin the countdown, I’d like to appreciate some of my recent steps toward this end:

  • The night before last, I sorted three cartons of paper piles into three broad categories that can now be sorted further when I have time (financially related, scrapbook related and everything else).
  • In the past week I made a program call, called and texted friends and even called a family member to seek emotional support through some bumpy moments, including a health crisis with my brother that led to my taking a good, hard look at my own self-care practices.
  • I reached out and asked for help in sorting my scary paper piles.
  • I’ve asked someone who is also looking for a place to live if she’d like to connect to see if we might be compatible and want to find a place together.
  • I’ve come to the startling realization that with my newly begun, virtually full-time employment, I have more choices around renting, including signing a lease. (It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position.)
  • I’ve found healthy ways to exform the fears that keep trying to rear their gnarly little noggin’s.
  • I’ve written and published this post! 🙂

Continuing the journey (Wed – Dec 12)

I find myself eager to create some kind of trackable framework that will guide my choices and focus in the coming weeks and months of this journey, yet I keep getting stuck. There are so many things I still want to do that require a little bit, if not a lotta bit of courage.

HPIM0979The one year mark was really just another step along the way in a journey that is endless.

I got to thinking about the Serenity Prayer yesterday morning – especially the second request: God grant me…the courage to change the things I can. I’m facing some decisions and some necessary steps around finances that are scary right now. And I’ve been wrestling with some depression. Not the truly overwhelming kind, but the kind that keeps my energy level just low enough that I’ve run out of steam by the end of the work day. Getting any tasks done beyond dinner and planning for the morning feels daunting.

In the morning, when I’m getting ready for work, I’m inspired and eager to write a post. I make a mental or even physical list of some tasks I want to get done. Fill out the student loan repayment paperwork. Order this or that item online. Finish categorizing the expenditures I downloaded from my bank account so I can figure out a budget. Start checking out some of the roommate websites so I can begin looking for a better living situation.

It all sounds really good in the morning and I eagerly await the time when I’ll be able to tackle these projects. Yet by the time I get home, especially from my 3-day-per-week job, my brain is mush and all I want to do is fix dinner and relax in front of a DVD for an hour or so. Then an hour turns into two or even three and it’s time to get ready for bed and the next day.

The idea of giving up watching DVDs in the evenings continues to cross my mind as a worthy goal. After all, I could get a lot done in the two or three hours I have free each evening if I wasn’t distracted by some movie or TV show. I’ve toyed with the idea of tracking my abstinence in this area, but I’m not convinced this is all that different than my original goal of wanting to clear out the clutter. One year sounded like an adequate period of time to make a significant difference in the amount of clutter that surrounds me. Yet I look around my room and the only thing that seems noticeably different from this time last year is me! (Which is a very good thing. :-))

So I’m still thinking about how to shape this new leg of the journey. (Or would it be a “log” of the journey?  ;-))

I brought an old photo of me to work to scan into a jpeg file recently. It was taken when I was around twenty. I’m sitting on my then boyfriend’s bed, holding a beautiful Mexican West Coast rattlesnake. Yes, you read me – a rattlesnake. A “fixed” rattlesnake that is. If she bit me (which she wouldn’t – she was really quite gentle), I would receive no venom.  (Btw, I would be disinclined to perform any venom-ductectomies on vipers anymore, but back then, it seemed okay.)

It's amazing what can become comfortable in the right circumstances

It’s amazing what can become comfortable in the right circumstances

I’m reminded of the fact that when I first met my boyfriend, I was terrified of snakes – ANY kind of snake. When I was over at his place, I would sit on the end of his bed, just inches from the (open!) door, ready to bolt if one of the snakes he took from a cage made a move toward me. Even when I saw the young kids who lived next door to me eagerly and fearlessly stroking the snakes my boyfriend held out for them to see, I was still ready to run shrieking from the room.

Yet, over the course of the first year we dated, I started learning about his snakes. I learned about their habits and their temperaments, and I watched him handling them and staying safe. Then one day when I was over at his place, he was holding his boa constrictor when the doorbell rang. Without thinking, he simply handed it to me and went to answer the door. It was the first time I had even touched a snake, yet I found myself fascinated and unafraid! In fact, I was soon eager to hold any of the snakes that were gentle and not at all inclined to bite!

In barely a year’s time, I had gone from being truly terrified of these beautiful creatures to being fascinated and unafraid of them – and I couldn’t even tell you how or when it happened, except to say that it happened incrementally. The more I learned about them, the less I came to fear them.

It’s been well over twenty-five years now since I’ve held a snake. I daresay I would have to go through another period of getting familiar with them to feel brave enough to touch one or hold one again. But remembering that transition from absolute terror to comfort with them makes me wonder – what do I fear now and what will it take to overcome that fear?

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…

A break in the wall – Day 317 (Tue – Oct 23)

Do you ever have trouble deciding what to do? Not because you don’t have anything to do; rather because there are too many things to do. That’s how it feels for me right now. I keep floundering. Do I go through mail? Do I organize my shelves? Do I do Step work for my next meeting with my sponsor? Do I start my Step work for the other programs in which I’m less active? (Everything goes back to Al Anon for me, so that’s my primary program and the one that helps me with the others.)

Do I read? Do I relax? Do I blog? What is it exactly that I’m “supposed to be” doing right now – besides hiding from the emotional turmoil just below the surface?

In the past ten days, I have been through an upheaval of body memories and emotions. Old memories are surfacing, clarity is arising around those experiences, and possibilities for positive change are determined to filter through the confusion of unexpressed grief, fear and anger to let themselves be known. I tried writing about this, but I find myself talking in circles and don’t quite know what to do.

Without going into detail, I had an experience of recognizing on a deep level the abusive nature of a previous relationship. I had spent years discounting how I had experienced it because it wasn’t physically violent in direct or tangible ways. Therefore, it couldn’t really have been abusive, right?

“WRONG!” my body tells me.

I’m still trying to sort through the myriad thoughts and feelings that have surfaced and continue to unfold. Later this week, I’m going to work with a dear friend who is trained in areas that will help me to process this. We’re going to do some InterPlay work with this because I need to work on a body-spirit level and avoid getting stuck in my head. I’ve already spent too much time analyzing and compartmentalizing my experiences of this. It’s time to listen to what my body has to tell me about how this did (and still might) affect me.

The thing is, as difficult as this has been (I know there’s a ton of grief just waiting for the right window to open so it can spill out), it has also led to the deconstruction of certain beliefs about myself and relationships. In short, I have realized that something I believed about myself might not be true and that I may have the ability to move more gracefully into a new relationship than I would ever have thought possible.

That realization itself leaves my head fairly spinning, as I continue to integrate this new information.

Perhaps I’ll be able to talk about this more later. As I continue to discover what is and isn’t true about myself, I know it will reshape how I see the world and what I see as possibilities for my life. For now, I’m grateful to discover that pulling out a single stone from the wall sometimes leads to an avalanche that creates a new door to a brighter other side.

(Am I making any sense at all today?)

Room for Fear and the Challenge of Facing It – Day 300 (Sat – Oct 6)

Was it only yesterday morning that the words “Be of good courage” provided the emotional release I must have needed? It seems longer ago than that…

I have been letting go of many things, including expectations around how much time I have in the mornings. For more than ten years, I have spent at least 20-30 minutes every morning doing a little reading, then reflecting on what came to me, filling page after page in my now dozens of journals.

With my recent, self-imposed (though much appreciated) early work schedule, I don’t always have time to write in my journal in the morning. So I’ve been trying new things. One of them is to simply read something that helps me to hear God’s voice. Usually I read from my Al Anon literature, like The Forum magazine or Hope for Today (one of the daily readers), or I read from an inspirational resource, like the Daily Guideposts devotionals or the Guideposts magazines. I like hearing other people’s experiences, how they’ve made it through the difficult times and how they celebrate the rejoicing times.

It was the third devotion I read yesterday that brought on tears as I recognized the depth of my loneliness. I hadn’t actually noticed it while trying to work on the challenges in my life right now. In fact, I would likely have told you that I’m not especially lonely these days. But there it was!

As I reflected on these feelings on my way to work, I noticed that clearing out so much unneeded stuff from my room last weekend had actually created room for more feelings and more fear to emerge. It was as if I had begun disassembling the wall of protection I’d hidden behind for such a long time. Without all the conspicuous clutter and my constant concern about what to do with it, my mind had room to turn to other things. And the next “other things” are the many stashes of paper living in various spaces in my room, from orderly boxes to random piles.

It’s within the paper piles that the scary stuff lives: the stuff that brings up emotions, triggers fear, and generally intimidates me, sometimes even overwhelming me when I think about addressing it. If I open the piece of mail from the credit card company, for instance…here, let me grab one right now and open it…

Okay. This one is a “REMINDER NOTICE.” (They capitalize that to make sure I don’t think it’s some other kind of notice, I suppose, or perhaps to make sure that I am, indeed, “reminded” that I promised to send them $25 a month.) It’s from the “RECOVERY DEPARTMENT.” (More caps.) Of course, “recovery” for them means getting as much money from me as they can before they give up. “Recovery” for me means learning to let God lead me through this maze of challenges as I am restored to sanity.

What happens for me, in the very process of facing the unopened envelope, is that I’m afraid I will open the envelope to discover that something is happening that is the very opposite of what I want to happen. So I procrastinate and let the papers accumulate. Then last weekend, I had to go and do what I realize was a remarkable amount of cleanup in my room. So much so that I really have no more excuses to not begin plowing through the stacks of paper.

The words I read yesterday, especially “Be of good courage,” came on the heels of newly realized feelings of loneliness. They became both the reminder that this work must be done alone (for the most part) and the encouragement for me to hang in there. At an InterPlay retreat last Saturday, I was encouraged to ask someone to simply come be with me while I sort through stuff. Just thinking about that possibility brings up fear and uncertainty, because I know that having someone with me as a supportive witness would intensify the experience.

Rats! Here come the fears and the tears, as I am reminded that there is a reason I’m being led through all of this inner work incrementally, one small step at a time. It is hard work. And it is often intensely emotional…and powerfully cleansing when I have the courage to take even the smallest of steps.

I can only do one piece or take one step at a time…

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