Is it really a dance?

It’s been over a year since I wrote a post and over five years since my idealistic launch into creating this blog. I had visions of clearing the clutter out of my room and my life, hopefully within a year. I just had no idea how much of the clutter was in my own mind and thoughts.

This evening, after the most recent kerfluffle with an unhappy housemate, I thought of the often quoted image of taking two steps forward and one step back. I noticed that this is the natural rhythm one finds in a dance and wondered, does my recovery and growth need to follow a similar rhythm? Do I always needs to take one or more steps “back” after a number of steps “forward”? Is it a requirement of growth and becoming the person God invites me to be to stumble along the way when striving to become a more gracious person?

Sometimes it feels that way.

I have often experienced a sort of upheaval after making a lot of progress in my journey and wondered if it is a necessary part of the recovery process. A necessary part of growing into the person I want to become. Tonight this image of dancing suddenly seems like a very helpful and appropriate one for this journey. I have experienced what feels like more than one step back after making great strides toward better attitudes, more loving perceptions of those around me and other shifts in my thinking. What is clearer to me, in this moment, is that those seemingly backward steps are actually opportunities to recognize my progress and to see where I no longer wish to be.

In what was a surprising discovery to me recently, I realized that something that has bothered me – a lot – in the two and a half years I’ve lived in this house, with these housemates, may actually be a great gift. Namely, their seemingly complete inability to properly clean up after themselves in the kitchen. (By properly, I mean actually cleaning up, as opposed to ignoring the mess or simply smearing around the spills and leaving dishes and pans with bits of dried food and grease on them. I know. I know. I’m asking a lot…) So this has been an issue for me for some time – and still bothers me – but now I see in it the gift it holds, if I’m willing to receive it.

When I was married to my son’s father, he wouldn’t roll out of bed until mid to late morning, when I was onto other tasks. What could have been a beautiful bed in our room looked perpetually messy, thus making the entire bedroom look messy. (Especially since the bed practically filled the small room.) Ever since we parted ways, I have truly enjoyed being able to make my bed first thing, every morning, and delighted in the way the whole room looks instantly neater, no matter now not-so-neat it is. I’ve finally come to realize that whenever I may be fortunate enough to move into my own place, or even simply to a place with more conscientious housemates, I will likely take joy in being able to have a clean kitchen on a daily basis and become much better at cleaning up after myself because of the ongoing challenges in my present situation.

My intention for this year has been to become more loving, and I have made progress. Now, when I stumble and find myself inwardly raging at my housemates, I hope I can remind myself that it’s merely a step back, as in a dance, that each time I change direction, I’m also given the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. That new perspective, as was the case this evening, can help me to again move forward on the dance floor appreciating that “backward” step, buoyed by the knowledge that it’s part of the dance, part of the process, part of the ever-expanding journey of recovery.

I hope you’re learning to dance as well.

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Little by little – A nice place to be (Sat, Jun 15)

While dressing after my shower, I pondered what I might like to read for my morning reflection time. The number “473” came to mind. Thinking of the various daily readers from my Al Anon and OA programs, I knew there would be no page 473. I considered the possibility of reading only pages with those numbers in them – 3, 4, 7, 33, 34, 37, and so on. A possibility.

When I pulled out my copy of Courage to Change, it was more than an hour later. Although my usual morning routine is to shower, then fix breakfast and do my reflection and journaling time, before doing anything else, this morning I felt led to go through the two small (but expanding) stacks of mail and papers on my desk. Surprisingly unsurprisingly, I found myself opening up virtually every piece of mail and putting it in the appropriate pile, “shredding” it, or simply tossing it in my recycle wastebasket. I have avoided opening mail from creditors because it’s depressing to be reminded of how much I owe. There’s also the vague fear that one of the letters might finally be demanding something I can’t do. Yet none of those fears were with me today. I opened these envelopes without fear, curious to see if they held any surprises. The one that might have didn’t, since I had taken a call from them the week before and didn’t need to respond to the letter. It felt good. And it felt good to take this small – yet big – step in lightening my burden of paper piles.

By the time I sat down to do my reflections, I was truly hungry (for my breakfast, that is) and truly ready to appreciate what I read. I began with page 3 in Courage to Change (CtC) – and didn’t go any further. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Some of the lines that jumped out at me (sometimes loosely quoted here):

I can do nothing to change the past except to stop repeating it.

I am already breaking out of unhealthy and unsatisfying patterns of the past and making wiser choices.

My life is built upon layers of little everyday accomplishments.

When I think this way, setting goals and taking small risks becomes nothing more than a daily striving to make my life better.

Taking some tiny action each day can be much more effective than a frenzied attempt to make radical changes overnight.

When I face a new challenge, I can take my beginning wherever it may be and start from there.

It takes only a slight shift in direction to begin to change my life.

With my Step 9 work, I am really getting, on deep levels, the meaning (and perhaps even the gift) of not being able to change the past. I’m noticing the fears that arise are fears around repeating past behaviors. The reading from CtC reminds me of the progress I’ve already made. I’m learning to respond in different ways.

As for the part about “frenzied attempts to make radical changes overnight” – that was the story of my life for decades. And it was a lesson slowly learned to discover that small daily actions, even tiny steps were far more effective. At some point in my life, quite some time before Al Anon even, I realized that small shifts in direction can make huge changes down the road. It’s like changing the trajectory of an arrow: the tiniest shift and it lands in a wholly different place.

It’s taking time for me to become the person I glimpse in my mind’s eye every now and then. She’s bold and confident, unafraid to be fully herself, yet approaching the world with a serenity and wisdom that allows that boldness to be a blessing and a help rather than a threat. Little by little I’m coming to know her and little by little she’s freeing herself of the burdens and snares that have held her captive for far too long.

May you be blessed this day with small steps of progress and moments of serenity and joy. 🙂

Seeking Balance – What *does* it look like?

It’s been over a month since I’ve written a post, even though dozens of times I’ve had ideas and experiences I wanted to share. It seems as though my life has been about rediscovering balance…and it still feels elusive.

At the beginning of March, I moved into a house with three other roommates. I never thought I’d want to move in with so many strangers, yet it has been a pleasant and delightful adjustment. The gay couple who own the house have been so easy to get along with, always wanting to make sure I’m comfortable and happy here. And I am! Just the other night, one of them told me I was the best roommate they’ve had. It was a lovely affirmation of what I already knew – that this is exactly the right place for me to be right now.

Last night, I was surveying the corner of my room that I reorganized a week or so ago. It’s still rather chaotic, not particularly helpful in terms of making things accessible, and not at all what I want it to be. It’s the corner where I’d like to put my tall bookshelf – the one that’s in storage. It’s filled with boxes and buried behind a layer of boxes and will need considerable effort to bring here. A challenge for another day…

It occurred to me last night that one of the reasons this place still doesn’t feel like home is because I’m still not close to being settled. I have truly been honoring the slogan “Easy does it!” I have been settling in slowly, letting things find their proper places in my bedroom, in the bathroom, and in the kitchen. The bathroom is happily in order. We haven’t yet expanded my space in the kitchen because I haven’t been inclined to rush and organize anything – I’ve wanted to take my time. And now I’m ready to begin transforming my room.

That’s the funny thing about transforming living spaces – it takes time and it usually begins by transforming ourselves first.

Most of March I was tired – unaccountably tired and sleepy virtually every day. My days were literally about getting up, getting ready for work, going to work, coming home, eating dinner right away, and heading to bed an hour later. I felt really good if I got something as simple as adding up my checkbook done. I wondered how I could ever do anything else I wanted to do in life. It turned out that at least part of the problem was that we needed to further adjust my thyroid medication. (Too much hormone and you sleep poorly. Oy…)

The last couple of weeks I’ve finally begun to feel a bit better. My schedule hasn’t changed a lot, but I now have the energy to begin asking myself what I can do differently. And on my mind now are two particular questions: What can I do differently to be able to enjoy more of life during the week, so there’s more to my life than sleeping, eating and working? And what can I do to make my room feel more like home?

The first question will require my inventorying what I’m doing now, considering “How Important Is It?” (the slogan from last week’s meeting) around each part, and discovering what I might do differently. My journey in Al Anon has taught me to listen and notice what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve discovered that small changes have the biggest and most lasting impact, which is exactly why I’ve been disinclined to rush to rearrange my room.

Have you ever had the experience of quickly moving and settling in, even if only for a visit with a relative, only to discover you can’t remember where xyz is because you so quickly put things away and it isn’t where it used to be or usually is? Well, I have – dozens and dozens of times! And I’m tired of it and no longer willing to do that. But I do want to create some order and begin to make this place feel like home.

The balance I’m seeking right now may not be earth-shatteringly important. But it is important to my serenity. It is to pay attention to what I’m doing, to see what I might be able to do differently, and to enjoy the incremental improvements in my energy by considering how I can make this house my home.

Baby steps, Bob. Baby steps. 😉

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

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

Shifting...

Shifting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

One step at a time

One step at a time

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

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

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

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

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

Growth happens in even the tiniest of spaces

Growth happens in even the tiniest of spaces

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

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…

Day 136 (Wed/Apr 25): Taking a moment to appreciate the little things

My "kitchen" - at least it's indoors

I live in an area where there are a lot of people living on the streets. There are few places I walk where I don’t encounter someone asking for help. Sometimes I offer a dollar or two; sometimes I don’t. It depends on what feels right at the moment. At the very least, I try to offer a smile and perhaps a caring remark.

Yesterday, when I was walking on a main street after leaving my car for some repairs, a young man barely out of (or not yet out of) his teens asked for 50 cents. I was in a rush and taken by surprise, and apologetically said no. His face stayed with me and I prayed for him as I rode public transportation to work. I dubbed him “Michael.”

I have options

The encounter got me to remembering a woman I used to see when I was a kid. At some point I learned her name was Mary. Mary wore a voluminous, light brown, tent-shaped coat, winter or summer, which I now suspect may have covered her entire wardrobe. I knew she had no place to live and that was a mystery to me back then. Now that I live in an area with so many homeless people, the image of Mary has often come to mind. I can still see her standing on the street near the liquor store, across from the gas station and an auto parts store. I have wondered what may have happened to her.

The strain of constantly peering at the computer for days on end has left my eyes strained and irritated. I

It's not much, but so much more than some

decided to take a few minutes this morning to soothe them with a warm, wet washcloth. That simple act of running hot tap water over the washcloth led me to think about Mary and Michael and so many others, and the countless little things we take for granted. I have learned to appreciate many things I take for granted in recent years, as I have needed to move from place to place, sometimes house-sitting, sometimes staying with family or friends as an act of grace, sometimes being able to actually pay for my own place. But this morning, I thought of even the most basic things with renewed appreciation:

Access to hot tap water, for everything from washing dishes and showering to the simple things, like creating a warm compress for my eyes. Microwave ovens, toaster ovens and regular ovens, too. A bed to sleep in. Fresh water to drink. A refrigerator in which to put food that would otherwise spoil.

It does the job

Lights in the rooms to enable me to see, to work, to feel safe. A roof over my head. A bank account – no matter how low or high the balance at any given moment, right now I’m appreciating the ability to have one.

Shoes for my feet – in fact, having choices about what to put on my feet, knowing they are all in good condition. The choice to let go of my favorite ones when they have worn out. Clothes and the spaces to store the ones I’m not wearing, the ones I don’t need to wear.

Food. Music. Transportation. Family. Friends. Places to feel safe. Moments of quiet…

I'm safe and warm at night

There is so much in life to be grateful for, even when the going is hard. Today I’m grateful for the little things, as well as the bigger ones.

Big and Small Steps:

  • Allowing myself to ignore certain phone calls, knowing they would derail my serenity and disrupt my work.
  • Making a (small for them, good-sized for me) payment toward that “debt” – they can accept it or not.
  • Attended a Debtors Anonymous meeting Sunday.

Noticings:

  • That the step/stair exercises I was doing were actually triggering the discomfort in my low back. (Whoops!…Rats! Gotta find something else to do for exercise.)
  • How much easier it is to keep my serenity when I choose the time and place for difficult phone conversations.
  • How much more important my own self-care is becoming to me, and…
  • How much I’m beginning to consider the “big picture,” if you will, of my life by seeing beyond my immediate circumstances, especially in terms of finances.
  • How much better I felt this morning after I rolled back over and let myself return to sleep, even though my alarm awakened me only an hour later. 🙂

Day 132 (Sat/Apr 21): From persistence to derailed in one short phone call…

I realize I am simply not having enough time lately to write the kind of posts I like to do. So, I am giving myself permission to write some mini-posts. There is just too much happening to not need to talk about it.

Yesterday, I started a post and I probably need to read it to hear the reminders in it for myself. As you can see, it never made it to the site. So, I’m including it here. But first I’ll begin with the derailing part…

My cell phone rang. “Restricted” displayed. Against my better judgment, I answered. After all, my aunt and uncle have their number blocked… It was the creditor I mention below. They’re starting to get pushy. I’m not willing to give them the chunk of money they want. I don’t know what to do right this moment. And my body reacts will all those unpleasant chemicals that scream “AUGH!!!!”

For now, I keep shaking out my arms and jumping up to do some kicking and other “thrusty” movements (as I learned in InterPlay). I’m grateful to be at work at a place where I can do this.

I also cling tightly to my faith and my Al Anon program, reminding myself to simply thing about what the “next right thing” might be. When I slow it down enough, it helps me to manage the unmanageable. I know I’m not the only one who goes through this. It’s just that I feel so alone when it’s happening on that visceral level that shifts me from serene to survival in a split second…

So, I take a deep breath…let it out with a(n audible) sigh…and remind myself that this too shall pass and God is always there for me.

Now, this is what I began writing yesterday/Friday at lunch (and I’m not even going to read it or proof this post – “Uncle!”):

This morning, my reflection time centered around a wonderful passage from Luke (11:5-13). It’s about persistence (“shameless persistence,” according to the New Living Translation). I feel so grateful for this passage and the reflection with it in my Life Recovery Bible (a 12-step edition, with helpful reflections related to the steps, to the Serenity Prayer and to other recovery themes). This particular reflection was on the 7th Step – humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. It talks about the importance of asking for help when we need it – and I realized that’s exactly what I did yesterday.

The last couple of days I’ve been pretty stressed about my credit card debt situation. At a time when I finally am receiving some decent (albeit temporary) income, it seems I am getting resistance to my desire to continue making payments. The person at the collection agency “offered” me the option of giving them $500, then continuing with my small monthly payments (for a period of time not clearly defined) to bring things to a kind of “halt,” where they would cease their more aggressive efforts to collect on the debt. Sounds good, at least from their perspective.

The thing is, I’m wrestling (and starting to get ahead, finally) with the guilt of knowing I actually could pay if I was willing to sacrifice other needs – and am not willing to do that. My car visited the auto-hospital yesterday for a check-up. She received minor servicing and a diagnosis of front brakes in imminent need of replacement, a squeaky belt in need of same, and a leak in the oil pan (which is fortunately still covered by my extended warranty). The brakes and the belt replacement are going to run close to, you guessed it, the exact amount the collector would like me to hand over to them.

I totally reached the frazzled, stressed, can’t-figure-out-which-end-is-up stage yesterday afternoon. I had headed to a Debtors Anonymous (DA) meeting Wednesday, only to find the parking lot filled with both cars and homeless people. (The meeting is at a church that ministers to the homeless.) I was running late anyway and found myself unwilling to leave my car unattended with all my stuff in it. (It’s sadly acting as a storage extension at the moment.) So yesterday, when the fuses in my mind were about to blow, I tried calling a friend from my Al Anon group who also attends DA meetings, but didn’t reach her. Next I texted my sponsor (who also attends DA herself) to see if she might be available for a phone chat.

We connected later and I’m so glad we did. She affirmed my intention to take care of myself and my vehicle first. She reminded me of the progress I’ve made. (Always helpful to hear.) And she applauded the fact that I’m finding out about my options and learning what I need to know if I have to go the worst-case route. (I refuse to use the “B” word on my blog. If you use it, I’ll edit it! ;-)) We talked for almost an hour and it was amazing how helpful it was just to be able to talk to someone about how stressed I was feeling.

That ends what I wrote yesterday. Today, I’ll simply leave it there. I enjoyed a lot of serenity for about 36 hours. Now I’ll look toward rediscovering it again as I wrestle with how to respond to this morning’s unwanted phone call.

Thank you for being there… Things are kind of hard right now…

Day 126 (Sun/Apr 15): Breathing space and grace amidst the rushing

I hardly knew where to begin

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I last posted. Then again, I’m not surprised.

Have you ever seen the movie Murphy’s Romance with James Garner and Sally Field? It’s from the mid-80s, so maybe you haven’t. There’s this scene in it where Emma (Field), Murphy (Garner) and Emma’s ex are all at a dance. Emma starts out dancing with Murphy, then the ex cuts in. Then Murphy snags her when the ex twirls her out. Then the ex grabs her back. Pretty soon, Emma is bouncing up and down to the music, ricocheting back and forth between them, and has no idea whom she’s dancing with or what she’s supposed to be doing. That’s kind of how I felt this past week.

Despite the delightful freedom of having the house to myself, having the room to spread out actually through me off balance.  For example, taking and leaving my breakfast fixings and snacks in the kitchen vs. schlepping them back and forth between my room and the kitchen was nice, but it was temporary. I couldn’t really settle in and enjoy it. Plus I wasn’t sure which day my aunt and uncle were returning, so I was in a perpetual state of wondering, at least from Tuesday on, just how soon I’d need to clear my stuff off the kitchen counter.

Too much space?

And yet, there was a certain amount of grace that came alongside the fatigue I was experiencing. Something at the temp position led me to wonder if I was actually going to be done at the end of April instead of May 11th. (It’s happened before, where I hear one thing from the staffing agency and end up being surprised at getting done much sooner.) So I asked my supervisor if I’d be done at the end of the month. She assured me I would be working a couple of weeks into May. It felt good to know something concrete. (Aside from the whole life-is-a-mystery piece.)

Friday, when I met with my supervisor at my “regular” job, I was surprised with the ease in which we’re transitioning to my not being there Monday through Friday for the next two weeks. It isn’t just about them being okay with it. It’s about finances being more stable there, so deposits don’t have to happen as quickly as monies come in. (It’s a non-profit organization and we’ve had some ups and downs the past couple of years, like everyone else.) It’s about the surprising degree to which I’m simply caught up on the usual work, so my not being there several days a week doesn’t create an inconvenience.

Time to "hit the books" again

Realizing that I am simply caught up feels so odd to me. I suspect it’s related to my journey of recovery. So much of my life has been about making sure I’m busy all the time, even creating work when there isn’t any. Then it occurred to me that it is also the result of several things, including the timing of things at work and the fact that much of my work has become a rhythm that takes less time now than it used to. In fact, it occurred to me that it is entirely normal to be caught up with work – and that’s what’s unfamiliar to me. It is diametrically opposed to the status of my paper-related tasks at home.

I am still adjusting to the notion of being caught up at work and there being no urgency about my not being there. It happened with such ease and grace that it can only be the work of my Higher Power. And this, again, returns my attention to my recovery journey. In another moment of grace, my sponsor and I had changed our meeting date before I started working at the temp position to what turned out to be an ideal day that was not the least disruptive to my schedule.

When I met with her, I brought up my step work. Since having to move in with my aunt and uncle, my life seems to have been all about finances and the fears around getting my act together. (My act still isn’t together, but I’m learning a few parts here and there.) Now that I have a little breathing room financially, I’ve been reflecting on my step journey and how that has enabled me to respond to what is still a fairly stressful situation with increasing ease and a surprising amount of serenity. Even the “ohmygod!-ohmygod!-ohmygod!” moments pass relatively quickly. I’m now looking forward to the next two weeks, with no need to ricochet between jobs during the week. I’m not sure the temp location is where I’m meant to be for the long haul, but I’m grateful for all the gifts it offers me for now.

They're waiting for me...

Big and Small Steps:

  • Scheduled an appointment to have my car serviced. (The “Maintenance required” light has been on for months.)
  • Tried again to reach the person who’s calling to “collect a debt.” (It seems we’re playing phone-tag. Not sure who’s “it” right now. I think it’s me again.)
  • Let go the temptation to squeeze in an hour of work before my healthcare appointment in the morning.
  • Gave myself today – one whole day where I didn’t have to get up and rush anywhere, not even to church. It feels good. 🙂

Noticings:

  • That my stress at the temp position comes from having to always wait on someone else to get back to me or tell me what to do. It was nice to have my familiar part-time job to end the week, where I know what I’m doing and can simply do it.
  • How differently I view the world and business, as became clear in a brief conversation with someone visiting the office where I’m temping. I asked about a product being offered and realized the difference in our thinking is the difference between money as the goal and money as the appropriate by-product (and blessing) of offering a service. (No wonder I appreciate my non-profit job so much!)

Day 110 (Fri/Mar 30): Two days – Change happens in a moment, a journey within the journey

It's a bit scary, but oh, the possibilities!

What a powerful affirmation of the willingness to let go and trust! The five-to-six week temp position came through on my terms – to work only 32 hours a week (except a couple of weeks later in April) in order for me to be able to honor my part-time position. And at the higher of the possible pay rates!

I am still taking in what it means to be willing to stand up for myself, to honor my needs and to act with integrity, all in the face of possible rejection if the other party, in this case a potential employer, decides I’m not worth it. The thing is, I am realizing that I am worth it. And it has only taken me…um…well…a long time to get there. (Let’s not count the decades.) 😉

Today I am feeling grateful for my time with my sponsor yesterday. She affirmed and applauded my desire to act with integrity and stand up for my needs. And she helped me to see a bigger picture of my value when we talked about how much money I would need to earn to be able to live the kind of life I’d like to live. What I envision isn’t a life of luxury, but rather a life in which I can take care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually, including having the time and money for fun, for health care and for being able to simply enjoy life – things I have neglected in recent years.

Sometimes even that which nourishes us can overwhelm us at first

For the past…well actually probably for too much of my life, I have allowed myself precious little time for fun. At the present time, InterPlaying has become one of the few resources for fun for me, either when I’m playing with others or because I’m allowing myself to see the playful side of life because of what I’ve learned through InterPlay. Thinking in terms of a spending plan that specifically includes money set aside for “fun” is new to me. In fact, thinking in terms of a spending plan that includes everything, from food/rent/living expenses to clothes to fun to other things that are fulfilling, if not “necessary,” is a new experience for me.

When my sponsor asked me if I had ever figured out how much I need to live the kind of life I want to live, I told her the mere idea of trying to figure that out overwhelms me – whereupon she promptly pulled out a pen, I pulled out a business card (to use the blank side), and she and I quickly developed a spending plan for me. It was so simple with her asking questions and helping me find answers I didn’t know. Left to my own resources, I tend to get tangled in the notion of being accurate and literal. But I’m learning.

One step at a time...

I suspect this post is rambling because, quite frankly, I could crawl into bed right now and sleep for ten hours. This sudden change in my financial state for the next few weeks is almost, but not quite overwhelming. It’s a lot to take in and I find myself surprised at how serene I am under the excitement. I know this temp position is a “windfall,” lasting however many weeks it lasts. So I want to exercise wisdom and discernment around how I use – and conserve – the resources that will bless me in the coming weeks.

Today I was blessed with the gift of some new clothes for work, thanks to the generosity of a friend. I also bought a few things with my most recent paycheck. Little by little, I’m acquiring a more professional-looking wardrobe. As much as I prefer comfortable and casual, I am learning to appreciate the look and feel of a more professional image.

A lot has changed for me in the past couple of days. I know God has a plan and this is another step along that path. Let me walk with wisdom!

So many possibilities on the other side of the gate

 

Big and Small Steps:

Let go worry about the cost as I looked for things that would enable me to dress more professionally for my new temp position – and was blessed with the gift of more than a hundred dollars worth of new and used clothes.

Exercised restraint (admittedly aided by fatigue and growing hunger) in shopping for a few more things that I paid for myself.

Noticings:

The push-pull of emotions around spending money on new clothes when the way I’ve seen myself has not quite caught up to the image I now want to present.

The surprising ease around accepting my friend’s generous gift of clothing. It felt like a little more of God’s plan.

How exhausting such big and sudden changes can be, even before I start living them.

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