Day 59 – Wednesday, Feb. 8th (59/307): Blessings and Self-care

I’m late in getting this posted. In fact, I’m late in getting it written. It’s amazing how much time can pass in such a short period.

Tuesday turned into a surprisingly good day. Not that I expected a “bad” day, but sometimes things happen in ways that bless and nourish unexpectedly. That’s what happened.

I came in early to work and submitted a job application. It’s for a full-time, temporary position. We’ll see if anything comes of it. Part of my ongoing challenge is being willing to let go this part-time job I love to make space for the support I need. I know that if I am blessed to find fuller-time employment, it will be a blessing for all, including my present employers. Whether or not I receive even a response to this job application (aside from the auto-reply “we got your application” email), it felt good to submit it.

Later in the morning, when I was the only one in the office (which seldom happens), a friend called. Since it was quiet and I had the time, our conversation ranged to the personal. We ended up scheduling a time for the following morning for her to do some energy work with me. Wednesdays have often been my day off from the office, so the timing was perfect.

Tuesday afternoon, I went to a check-in at JVS. When asked how I was doing with my job search, I could feel my body tense up. I had expected a check-in around using the computer lab, not an all around check-in. As the conversation continued, with only three of us in the group, I found myself struggling with fear and resistance, feeling of inadequate for not doing more.

When I asked what the instructor included under the umbrella of “networking,” she said she considered any contact with other people, especially in person or at least by phone, to be “networking.” The way she described it started shifting my perception of networking. Suddenly I saw networking as being available to me anytime I’m talking to someone else and am willing to mention that I’m looking for work. It was rather like what my pastor calls a “BFO” – a Blind Flash of the Obvious. Yet it hadn’t been obvious to me before. As I continued to think about the conversation, I realized that finding opportunities through people I know has actually been true for several of my employment situations over the years. I just hadn’t noticed it till now.

Thus, Tuesday became a day of unexpected gifts – little things that added up to a pretty nice day.

As for Wednesday’s activities… What can I say? After the lovely time connecting with my friend in the morning to receive a most welcome Reconnective Therapy (“RCT”) treatment (see http://www.reconnectivetherapy.com/start.htm for more information), I gave myself an entire day of relaxation. I know little, as yet, about RCT, except that I trust this friend and have had wonderful healing experiences through many forms of energy and healing work. Not surprisingly, the topic of fear came up. Also not surprisingly, the area of my body where she was led to begin treatment was the very place where the fear and trauma of a particular experience when I was a young child had been held in my body’s memory. I had uncovered the trauma some years back; now my friend was bringing healing to this area. What a gift!

I was having a touch of digestive unsettledness already, so when she talked about how I would be integrating this experience and would need to hydrate a lot over the next few days, something told me to listen to my body’s need to simply hold still. I’m not sure I remember when I’ve ever let go of “responsibilities” for a whole day before, but I did this day. I spent virtually the entire day enjoying Columbo movies on DVD and enjoying a beautiful jigsaw puzzle I recently received as a birthday gift. It was lovely.

Action step(s):

  • Submitted a job application!
  • Followed-up on monthly billings at work and cleared out the erroneous papers that I’d been afraid to toss too soon (i.e., cleared out the chaos and created order!).
  • Attended a follow-up workshop at JVS.
  • Connected with a friend and availed myself of a wonderful healing session.
  • Gave myself an entire day of self-care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

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

Day 50 – Monday, Jan. 30th (50/316): Grace comes when I let go and stop rushing

Yesterday’s post helped me to see things differently. There’s something in the process of journaling and reflecting on what I’ve experienced that shifts my thinking, which is exactly why I’ve chosen to blog about this journey.

Usually it takes me a very long time from the moment I wake-up in the morning until I’m out the door. I’ve been looking for ways to streamline my mornings without making them an exercise in frantic rushing. It’s not that I stumble around in a fog or anything. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I have a lot to do between waking and leaving, besides which early mornings are also one of my best idea-hatching times. It can get distracting if I’m not careful.

After yesterday’s post, I’ve thought a lot about rushing. What makes me feel rushed. Why I tend to rush. Whether or not I even need to rush. What I discovered is that I tend to rush out of habit, out of a misperception of what’s important and necessary for my mornings, sometimes trying to do too much.

This morning, I decided to pay attention and make conscious choices all morning long. From the moment I awoke at 4:44 (much more fun to see on the clock than 4:45 or 4:50), I made a point of not letting my mind wander. I normally appreciate the creative ideas that come to me while I’m doing all my usual morning, getting-ready stuff, but I also realize that it can eat up a chunk of time I don’t have to spare.

After an impressively efficient morning of simply getting things done (helped by preparation of lunch the day before and having clothes laid out the night before), I was leaving the driveway at 6:53! Whoo hoo! The best part was that I did not feel rushed! And not only did I find parking near work, I was blessed with the “sweet spot”: the one parking space directly in front of the door that is not metered – close, free parking all day long!

At work, things were a little wacky. My computer refused to speak to the server to enable me to print. (Not helpful.) Yet, surprisingly, I was able to set things up using my colleague’s computer before she got there so that I had plenty of no-printer-needed, “manual labor” tasks to do. This turned out to be especially helpful since the computer repair person was already scheduled to come in and we ended up totally updating my system software. I did little, if any, computer work from noon on.

I also wonder if the way I began my day at work may have contributed to what became an unexpectedly productive day given the circumstances. I arrived at work at 7:05, but took the first 55 minutes I was there to attend to personal stuff. I addressed some online “paperwork” for my student loans. I wrote my tithe check and put a check for one of my storage units in the mail. (Payday is actually not till tomorrow, but I want my storage check to arrive on time.) I even started this post (though barely) before “clocking in” at 8:00.

In other words, I took time for myself, attending to some necessary personal business, at the beginning of my day, rather than expecting to have the time (and energy) at the end of the day. It felt good. Once (officially) at work, I found myself getting an unexpected task done. I went through a stack of miscellaneous notes – from September! – that had simply been ignored for more pressing tasks. It was mostly silly stuff, like updating addresses in the database. Yet it had been forgotten in the rush of other work during the ensuing months. It felt really good to clear out that tiny spot on my desk!

There is something worth noticing about rushing and choosing not to rush. I discovered I can be efficient and get things done in a timely manner without feeling like I have to hurry. In doing so, I make room for grace, even in the simple things like clearing out a small stack of neglected notes.

Action step(s):

  • Stayed focused and made efficient use of my time this morning.
  • Attended to student loan paperwork, wrote my tithe check, and mailed a payment.
  • Cleared out some neglected papers on my desk at work.

Sunday, Jan. 15th (35/331): Private journeys

I attended a memorial service today for a dear friend’ husband, who passed away New Year’s morning while she was at church. He died peacefully in his sleep, just hours after they had shared an enjoyable evening, planning more of their future together after more than fifty-five years of marriage.

As I listened to the stories about this unobtrusive, remarkable man (whom I had never met), and especially as my friend shared briefly about what a wonderful support he had been for her, I was struck, by way of contrast, at what a private, sometimes lonely journey recovery can be. A few tears slipped down my cheeks as I felt my friend’s loss and also my own yearning for such a relationship. I wondered if I will ever know the kind of love and connection they had.

Barely three hours later, after listening to shares of a different nature at an ACA meeting, it occurred to me that the difficulty I’ve experienced in these past six or so months might well be a gift. Like it or not, I have been forced to take a hard look at the patterns of thinking and behaving in my life, and the patterns that don’t work have become abundantly clear, as has the amount of fear that drives many of those patterns.

The gift, for me, has been manifesting in the form of healing in my thinking around relationships. I used to think I could not walk this journey alone and I really didn’t want to try. But in the past six months, I have not only discovered I can walk alone (in human terms, for I know I am never alone in the sense that God is always with me), I have come to appreciate the value in finding my own way. I have discovered that I do not need a partner or spouse to encourage me, share the burden with me, or support me. Perhaps this is obvious to you; for me it is a revelation. No, a miracle. Even as I felt the longing for someone to share my life, as I listened to the story of one man’s love for his wife, family and friends, the “need” for such support was gone.

I suspect the main reason I am receiving healing in this area of my life is because I let it go and got out of the way of my own recovery. Interesting how that works. Without conscious effort, I implemented Step 3 in the 12-Step program: I turned my life and my will in this arena over to the care of God. Clearly, God has been working on me!

I’m not sure it’s quite the same thing, but an image that comes to mind is this: one way to get over a headache is to drop a hammer on your toe! It’s called “diversion” and it seems to be working. I think I’m a bit ADD that way – the best way for me to let go of something is to direct my attention elsewhere.

Now, if I can figure out how to apply this in some way to my job hunting goals, maybe I can really make progress!

Action step(s):

  • Putting God first several times today when I could have insisted on my own way
  • Setting out some clear goals and prayer requests
  • Being attentive to the money I was spending, with an awareness of what I actually have available to spend, and making choices accordingly

Day 19 – Friday, Dec. 23: Small steps, progress and momentum

Too often I’m in a rush to have things happen. I don’t just want change, I want it now! I’m learning that most things don’t happen that way.

This morning I was thinking about the small shifts and progress I’ve noticed this week. Nine days ago I had a massage. I had not realized how tight my muscles had become until I finally felt them relax near the end of the session. The odd thing was that the moment I headed back to my car, my low back felt like it was going to give out. I wondered if my muscles were finally so relaxed that the lack of support had become evident. The following morning, the simple task of bending over felt alarmingly unstable. I was motivated to do something.

The next morning, I did just a few minutes of core strengthening exercises before I got in the shower. It took probably less than five minutes. It was short, simple and repeatable. I’ve continued doing this each time before my shower and I can already tell a difference. I’m keeping it short because I know it won’t remain repeatable if I do my usual thing, which is to start pushing it and trying to get a whole lot done in a short period of time. I have been addicted to the “quick fix” for any number of things for as long as I can remember. But I finally get, truly get, how unhelpful the quick fix can be. Perhaps over time, I’ll even stop being tempted to seek it.

A networking techniques workshop I went to at JVS yesterday was packed with helpful information. Among the many useful things the instructor said were two words that seemed to capture what I was feeling this morning. The words were “motivation” and “momentum.” My back pain had provided the motivation; now I was experiencing some momentum.

This morning I did just a bit more during my short core “workout” (if you can call five or so minutes a “workout”) and it was rewarding to discover two things: one was that I could actually do things that I know I couldn’t have done even a week ago; the other was that I had enough wisdom to still not push it. It’s when I feel a bit stronger that I’m most tempted to start pushing myself. “Oh! I can do more now – let’s go for it” pops into my brain and I overdo things, suffer the consequences, then give up entirely.

Sound familiar? Naw! You’ve probably never ever done anything like that!

There were other small-step progress noticings as well. This week, I was at a gathering with both familiar and unfamiliar faces. What I realized this morning, probably because of what I learned at yesterday’s networking workshop, was how much more I had talked to people I didn’t know than usual. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it was a difference. I’m considering the possibility that networking might also be something I can learn in small steps. I hadn’t actually thought of it as “networking” while I was chatting with people, but that’s what it was. Maybe if I keep up the baby steps, it won’t feel so scary when I’m intentionally networking.

None of these were big changes, yet they felt significant because they were noticeable. Maybe there’s such a thing as gently-increasing momentum. I’m not sure yet, but what I’ve experienced this week feels good, and repeatable.

Today’s action step(s):

  • Allowing myself to be flexible with my schedule and my plans. In that letting go, errands were surprisingly easy and I enjoyed many moments of grace.
  • Finishing up the tasks at work that would allow me to enjoy some much-needed time off next week.

Day 9 – Tuesday: Yikes!

So much for the sense of grace floating me on a cushion of gentleness. Today I met with my employment specialist at JVS. She gave me some forms to start on while she checked her parking meter. As soon as I encountered questions like “Can you give 20 hours a week to your job search?” and “Do you have a stable place to live while you look for work?” I started feeling overwhelmed and disconcertingly close to falling apart. Thankfully, I had distracted myself by the time she came in and she did not actually go through all those (for me) deeply personal questions with unsettling answers.

Instead our conversation centered around what kind of work I want to do and where I might like to do it. This all sounds so simple, but it doesn’t feel at all simple for me right now. It feels distressing and confusing and dreadfully insecure when so much of my life feels up in the air.

Because I need income, I feel I must look for a “survival job” to pay the bills and regain my footing, but I dislike the implications of the term “survival job.” The truth is, I want to work some place – or places – where I enjoy working and want to continue working. I think I may be what some call a “nester” – I want to be able to settle in and enjoy being in one place for a long while. I like the stability; I like the familiarity; I like the opportunity to become better and more efficient at what I’m doing; and I like having a consistent rhythm to my days and weeks. The idea of looking for work that is far more “permanent” than the place I’m staying feels very disconcerting indeed.

My employment specialist encouraged me to start networking, researching some places I might like to work, setting up times to talk to people, considering volunteering, and generally putting myself out there. I could feel my body cringing at the thought. My “ohshitometer” was hitting near the red zone. (That’s pronounced “oh-shi-TAW-mi-tur,” btw.) I kept thinking of all the reasons I had other, more important things to do. You know, like sorting the papers on my desk, or reading about the things I should be doing, or sorting papers, or reading how to use WordPress, or… Well, I know I had some really “good reasons” to do anything but moving toward the many suggestions she gave me. (Lack of convenient online computer access is my current favorite.) She even recommended Toastmasters! That is totally too scary to contemplate just yet.

Still, I’ve finally officially connected with an employment specialist and now have someone who is specifically there to encourage me, send me job possibilities now and then, and generally provide some accountability for my efforts in connecting with job possibilities.

Yesterday’s Linked-In class was very helpful, yet even that kind of connecting feels scary. For reasons that baffle me when I stop to think about them, I tend to presume that everything needs to be done just so or there will be either disaster or acute embarrassment. Of course, neither of these things happens but rarely, but try telling me that when I have that bunny-in-the-headlights expression on my face and the corresponding feelings in my head!

However, to be honest, this day was actually surprisingly graceful despite the scary steps (or should I say, talking about the scary steps). Without planning to, I let things unfold this morning, rather than trying to fit everything I usually do into the time between waking up (or thinking about waking up) and getting out the door. I still have some reflection writing to do, because I tried unbending my self-imposed rules this morning, but I’m looking forward to it ending my evening. It felt good to let things happen with greater ease. I’m still thinking about how I might – or might not – want to do things differently on the mornings I work. Because I went with the flow, I left later than I’d hoped, but right when I was ready, encountered surprisingly unclogged traffic and easily found close parking to work, a blessing that happens inconsistently. Between work and returning home, the transitions went surprisingly smoothly and I feel good about what I got done.

I’ll try not to think too much about the scary steps I hope to begin taking soon and look forward to a full night’s sleep.

Thanks for being there.

Blessings!

My action step(s):

  • Meeting with my employment specialist.
  • Registering for more JVS workshops in the next two weeks (Developing an “Elevator” Pitch, Networking Techniques, and a Resume Lab).

Days 6-8 – Saturday-Monday: Discovering grace

Today (Monday) I experienced what it’s like to make room for grace.

This weekend, I hit a wall. When I imagined doing this project, I had a Pollyanna vision of daily sorting through this box, working on that job application, and generally being “productive” in some way toward the goal I set for myself. I anticipated endless energy, as if things would suddenly be different simply because I had set a goal that was far enough out to give me time to get somewhere, not realizing I would become a task master, fearing that a single day missed might become two, then three, then more. I figured that pushing myself was the answer. Except I forgot one tiny thing – I respond poorly to being pushed, even when I’m doing the pushing.

Because I had been blogging late each night, knowing it was late but determined to push through, I got up Saturday morning, showered, had breakfast, then ran out of steam! I went back to bed for two hours, then felt fuzzy for most of the day…and weekend. I did go by my storage unit on my way to a meeting, however, and picked up some things to sort.

Fortunately, I had a built-in reprieve on Sunday. After church, I helped my aunt finish spiffing-up the house before my cousins arrived for a family dinner. I enjoyed the visit, but kept yawning. They left early (around 8:00) and I was asleep shortly after 9:00.

The post I had started yesterday (Sunday) was startlingly different from my experience of today. My impatience was evident: “You see, I want all the stuff in the room next to me to be cleaned up, cleared up, organized and either in storage or neatly accessible for me now! I don’t want it to take a few weeks. I don’t want to have to have this messiness right next to me where I see it every time I open the door! I want to be surrounded by the order and neatness that has virtually never been a part of my surroundings, except in isolated instances (like before I move in and live for a few days) and I keep wondering why things aren’t happening faster!”

That’s how I was feeling – and I was exhausted from the constant pushing. But today, things shifted for me. By the end of the day, I had discovered how much more gracefully things go when I take time to listen, to let go, and to be gentle with myself.

I was wait-listed for a workshop at JVS this afternoon. It was full, but you can show up early and hope to get in. So I totally let go of expectations around getting in and made the trip to the City. If I didn’t get in, I would only be out some time and about $7.80 of BART fare. It was when I was driving home from the BART station after the trip that I noticed just how much grace had accompanied me this afternoon.

  • I found close, free parking.
  • I had a short wait for the train.
  • I had a delightful conversation with a stranger on the way to SF.
  • I got into the workshop (and it was pretty full).
  • A classmate next to me alerted me to the Linked-In II class next Monday.
  • I immediately registered and got in!
  • I got to the BART station quickly after class and had barely a 2-minute wait for my preferred train.
  • I easily got a seat – facing forward!
  • And I was greeted by carolers near the station exit – singing one of my very favorite Christmas carols, no less.

I even had easy traffic driving home.

Where does grace start? Was it the decision to follow my intuition to attend this workshop? The releasing of expectations around getting into it? Or was it in choosing to be kind to myself for the last twenty-four hours?

Every day this week, I have something scheduled and each ‘event’ is something that moves me in a healthy, helpful direction. Today, it was the workshop at JVS. Tomorrow, my first appointment with my employment specialist. Wednesday, a massage. Thursday, a meeting with my sponsor. Friday through Sunday, (InterPlay) Life Practice Program. Maybe I can carry what I learned today into the rest of my week…

(Btw, my mouse, which has not worked to scroll both directions for months now, is suddenly working properly. Who says miracles can’t happen every day?)

As for “progress” on my project each day (or each blog), I’ve decided to put those notes at the bottom each time. They aren’t often interesting, although I rather like keeping tabs so I can appreciate my progress.

My “action” step(s):

  • Saturday I picked up three containers of herbs and vitamins from storage to sort and clear out what I no longer want or need.
  • An ongoing step: to use (up) the lotion in the partially empty bottles I’ve been hanging onto to consolidate into a single bottle.

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