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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noticings:

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

Action step(s):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a blessed and wonderful day!

Day 49 – Sunday, Jan. 29th (49/317): Permission to Rant

The odd thing about a journey of introspection and self-discovery is that one lives constantly in a state of time warp – or at least I do. It feels like it’s been days since I last posted, yet it was less than 48 hours ago that I began my last post. It feels like so much has happened, even though seemingly “nothing” has happened.

Yesterday, I spent the day doing one of the things I love most: InterPlay.* One of my favorite InterPlay leaders provided us with a wholly nourishing day of “Deepening.” The funny thing is, I can’t always tell whether what I’ve experienced has been deep or profound. I only know it is what my body and my body-spirit needed, and for this I am so grateful.

During our extended warm-up time, I spent a few minutes enjoying some gentle stretching, squirming, floor-time, made unexpectedly cuddly by the soft scarf I wore and loosing my hair from its band. It occurred to me that one reason it felt so nourishing was because I spend so much of my week feeling rushed.

I rush in the mornings to fix both lunch and breakfast before I begin what I hope will be a quiet, reflective time with my journal, my Bible(s) and God. I’d rather not rush before such time, but the clock is ticking.

Then I rush to get out the door to avail myself of the limited, better parking spaces where I feel safe leaving my car. At work, there are always multiple things that need my attention, many of them yesterday. (That’s why it’s so important for me to find a place to work where I like the people and respect the company. I am more than willing to work hard, but I want to feel like my work is serving a good cause, a worthy purpose, something that reaches out to the world in a healthy, even healing way.) So I rush at work to get some of the too-many things done.

Then, if I’m running errands after work, I rush to do them before the traffic gets heavy. I do not enjoy the fullness of rush-hour traffic. I prefer to find fullness in other things – like InterPlay, and gentle, fluid squirming on a lovely wooden floor, in a cocoon of music.

The InterPlay day became playful, satisfying, and nourishing as we babbled and danced and witnessed. The best part was my opportunity to rant before witnesses.

There is something deeply satisfying about being able to rant as loudly, as softly, as freely as I did while having the freedom to move or dance or be as still as I wanted. (I was rarely still.) It was completely wonderful and wonderfully liberating just to say, before witnesses, how hard this journey is. And it is hard. It is very hard at times.

I hold that in most of the time when people ask. Most people ask how you’re doing because they genuinely care, but few people ask at a time and in a way that invites honest sharing. Not everyone wants the honest answer, even if it’s brief. But yesterday, I was free to do and say whatever I wanted, whatever I needed – and I needed to rant. I didn’t even know it till it started pouring out of me!

It was a blessing. A gift. An honest expression of what was up for me in that moment, and that was enough.

Our delightful leader suggested I blog about ranting because most of us don’t feel free to rant. We are seldom given permission to rant about all that’s not working comfortably in our lives. We hold it in. We bury it. We even forget it’s there at times – until it erupts in ways that can be unpleasant, even horrible. If you’ve ever held anything in that you need to let out, you’ve probably discovered how unfun it can be when it finally bursts out of you unannounced.

So, I encourage you to find a place where you can rant out loud. If at all possible, have one or more witnesses who can be there to support you, to give you the space to speak what’s on your mind and be heard by them. They need say nothing. You need say nothing once you are done – unless you want to say something and want to invite their noticings. This is about affirming your right to feel what you feel and not have to hold it in. And sometimes, all you need is permission to rant. So, go for it! You have my permission!

p.s. I’m going to spend a little less time worrying about the word-length of my posts and give myself permission to do other things with that time. 🙂

Action step(s):

  • Giving myself the gift of an InterPlay day.
  • Ranting about all the stuff that’s hard right now!
  • Spending this afternoon cooking, to make my morning lunch preparation a little easier for this week.

* Visit http://interplay.org to learn more about InterPlay.

Saturday, Jan. 7th (27/339): Reviewing the week

Saturdays may be good days to reflect back on the week – especially to think about answering questions I posed in my new framework. It may be deflating to discover how little I’ve done in this arena. Then again, I may find I’ve done more than I realized, even if it wasn’t in quite the form(s) I anticipated.

Question #1: Where did I demonstrate courage?

This one takes some thought, since I tend to think demonstrating “courage” has to involve something big and bold, something that makes me quake in my shoes. But maybe demonstrating courage is about taking small steps or noticing things that happened more easily than before. This afternoon actually provides an example of the latter.

I used to avoid going to almost all parties, especially large parties. I was nervous around strangers, I felt out of place if there was alcohol (I’m not a drinker), and loud music has put me on edge. These are, of course, cliché images of parties. However, today I went to a friend’s celebration of her 50th birthday. The big advantage for me was, admittedly, that it took place at the InterPlay studio. I knew there would be people I didn’t know, but also people I did know. It was in a comfortable setting and for a friend I’m especially fond of. Afterwards, I began noticing the differences in how I responded in circumstances I would formerly have avoided or left as soon as possible.

While I used to shy away from people I didn’t know, today I comfortably introduced myself to at least one person before things got going. While I used to prefer fading into the background, today I boldly put myself out there to join performance, play and dancing. While I used to experience anxiety around taking initiative in any part of the event, today I simply asked one person if there was a clean-up plan and, finding that there wasn’t, got things started. While I used to flee as soon as the music got too loud (which it did after the main event), today I stayed until the time felt right to leave for other reasons. It seems a very small thing, but I’m appreciating the recovery that must have been happening for me to feel as comfortable as I was today. And you know what else? Doing this was remarkably easy! I might even be able to do this in another, less familiar setting!

Today I also began serving as “secretary” for my Al Anon meeting. I knew I would be nervous, so I made sure my notes were readable and got there extra early. And you know what? I experienced very little nervousness at all! I suspect the real courage came in making the decision to serve in the first place.

Question #2: Where did I let my fear hold me back?

This one’s harder to tell. I’m reminded that I did make a call that has tended to make me nervous in the past: calling my auto insurance company to give them my new address. And this reminds me of one task I have been anxious about addressing: changing my address with the DMV. I don’t know why this always feels scary to me, but it does. There’s something about contacting an official government body to change my address when my address is once again temporary that intimidates me. I’m in a different county, so that changes the locations for potential jury duty summons and I’m never quite certain whether the voter registration piece is picked up with it. Plus I really don’t like having to look for the new polling place. Sigh… I guess I have been letting fear get in the way of performing this seemingly simple task. Rats!

Action step(s):

  • Taking the time to make the notes for my meeting readable.
  • Making a new sign for the meeting and a “patch” for another sign.
  • Deciding on a “secret mission” that I’ll have to tell you about a month from now.

Friday, Jan. 6th (26/320): A word about fear

I notice that the more I fight fear and try not to be afraid when I really am, the more tension I create in my body and the more discomfort I experience as a result. I start wearing my shoulders around my ears and muscles tighten both up and down my body. Not helpful!

When I acknowledge the fear, as I was able to do yesterday, when I admit that things are hard and that I am scared, I find relief from the fear. It’s not that it completely disappears; it’s more that it fades into the background and I am freed to focus my attention where it’s needed. I’ve often heard, “what you resist persists.” I realize this is true for my feelings of fear, as well. I hadn’t recognized how true until the dam burst and the tears – and fears – came pouring out.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that most of my fears fall into two categories: fear of change or fear of the unknown. When I look at the things that provoke anxiety in me, I almost inevitably find one or both of these. For instance:

  • Looking for work – both;
  • Changing careers – the unknown;
  • Finding a place to live – both;
  • Money challenges – the unknown;
  • Relationships (in general, but especially romantic ones) – both.

Other things generate more complex feelings of fear:

  • Going through accumulated piles of papers feels overwhelming. My clutter provides a kind of protective shield. Since I tend to feel socially inept and am afraid of making social blunders, it becomes a convenient excuse for not having guests come to visit. Clearing out the clutter feels very scary indeed.
  • Letting go of furniture and other household items is scary. I’m afraid I won’t be able to replace these things if I let them go. Of course, having lots of stuff makes it harder (and more expensive) to move, which I’ve done often in the past few years. In fact, this exemplifies precisely the kind of deprivation thinking I’m striving to change as part of this journey.

Change can be scary and the unknown can be even scarier. But life is and always will be full of change and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I would like to be more open and willing to change and I’d like to start seeing the unknown as an adventure. In what may be a tiny step in this direction…

I have often been attached to wanting things the way I want them. For example, I’ve (inwardly) thrown fits when a product I like disappears from the shelves. I finally got tired of expending so much energy trying to change things beyond my control that I started consciously working to let these things go. Today, when I couldn’t find the cereal I wanted, I ended up buying a totally different kind. Instead of leaving the store upset or annoyed because they didn’t have what I wanted, I realized I was making a small change that I might even like. I was able to enjoy the adventure of trying something new.

It symbolized a willingness on my part to accept change with a little more grace – and that felt pretty darn good! Especially because I’ve discovered that transformation in one area of my life often results in transformation in other areas, which is a wonderful thing on a path of recovery! 🙂

(Btw, did I mention that the staffing agency called me yesterday afternoon? I guess that answered my question from yesterday morning!)

My action step(s):

  • Turned off my alarm and allowed my body the extra rest it needed after an interrupted night’s sleep.
  • Went to an InterPlay class today. My body so-o-o appreciated moving and stretching and loosening up some of those tight muscles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This weekend’s action step(s):

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

Day 1 – Monday: Taking action – the first step

I must say, whether or not anyone reads or comments on this blog, I am already glad I’ve started it. I want to be held accountable for my efforts to face my fears, and it’s working already.

I have noticed just how many little things seem scary to me and, thus, are often avoided. Letting go of this or that often surprises me in this way. Last week I had to move out of the apartment I had moved into barely six months ago. It was a place I had looked forward to being and my inability to make rent eventually led to my (understandable) eviction by my friend and roommate. I’m glad she set boundaries for herself, even if I am now technically “homeless.” (I am thankful for a temporary place to stay.)

What became clear to me as I was getting ready to move was how difficult it is for me to do just that. I have a ridiculous amount of stuff and moving is never easy. I have three storage units – two close-by, one too far to address anytime soon – and the $223 in storage fees I pay every month could certainly help me with rent. Yet it takes time to cull and clear out a storage unit. You know that axiom that if you haven’t used something for over a year, you don’t need it? Well, that doesn’t mean much if you don’t actually have a place to have your belongings out where they can be used. However, I do have far too many things I do not need.

Like most situations in life, I got into this one step (and piece of stuff) at a time and that’s how I’ll get out of it. In InterPlay, we often refer to “incrementality,” which encompasses the notion of those small steps that lead us into wherever we are and the reality that it will take small steps to get us to where we want to be. (Btw, if you have not yet discovered the wonder of InterPlay, I suggest you visit http://www.interplay.org to see if there’s an InterPlay class or community near you. It is one of the things that is changing my life in ways I could never have imagined just a few years ago.)

What became even clearer to me as I was actually moving and discovering I could not cram all my stuff into my storage units was that my choices will remain limited if I continue to hold onto everything that comes through my space. I could open an office supply store, a book store, and probably a general store with all the stuff I have. There are things I enjoy and want to keep; books and resources that will serve me well (if I can access them); and practical things that I use whenever I am in a space where I can use them. Then there’s all the other stuff: the countless, random things that I no longer need, no longer want, need to toss in the trash, or have held onto simply because I’ve been afraid to let go of them. It is my eagerness to clear these things out of my spaces that motivated this project.

So, despite coming home this evening thoroughly dejected after another possible housing option that didn’t pan out, I reminded myself that this is Day 1 of my 365-day project.

I pulled out a box of recently-accumulated papers, mail, magazines, etc. and got started. I opened the unopened mail and was able to toss most of it. (The important stuff generally gets opened pretty quickly.) I tossed other papers and magazines. Whenever I noticed myself starting to feel anxious going through certain types of papers, I replaced them in the box and moved on to other things. Incrementality, remember.

Wanting to do more than just cull papers, I grabbed a plastic tub of miscellaneous bathroomish things. Soon I found myself freely letting go of things I had hung onto “in case” I might need them. I was surprised at the ease with which I tossed a number of different things and at how good (even fun) it felt.

It’s a small step, a first step. I’m glad I took it. Now we’ll see what tomorrow brings – or should I say, releases?

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