Day 109 (Thu/Mar 29): Three days – Reflections, clarity, trust, a journey within the journey

Sometimes it's time to sit, watch and listen

I’m so grateful for the space to “sleep on it,” with regard to how I feel and what I might be willing to accept or not accept with regard to the possible temp position that came up. It is now clear to me that I am not willing to betray the trust my employers have placed in me and run after a paycheck. As much as I may need the financial support, I have to think about where my trust lies. Certainly, it does not lie in my bank account.

This realization started unfolding last night and became clear this morning as I read a few verses in my Bible and wrote two surprisingly short reflections in my journal. Such phrases as “blot out my transgressions” and “you desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom” from Psalm 51 jumped out at me. My present challenges with financial debt and my desire to discern God’s will for me in what I am and am not willing to do to expand my income came to mind.

I let things flow this morning, writing a short reflection, then a prayer in response to the verses that caught my attention. Then I opened up last year’s journal. The verse was one of my favorites: “Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily…” (Is. 58:8 NKJV) I have been in need of so much physical and emotional healing in recent years that these words never fail to lift my spirits and remind me that my road to healing is also a road of recovery.

This morning, I pulled out my NKJV Bible and read the rest of the verse. O-M-G! “And your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” Heard by me as, “God will prepare the way for you and keep you safe; God will provide for you.”

Okay, so maybe you don’t happen to be into the Bible/God thing, but God is my Higher Power and somewhere along the line, my life became all about my relationship with God. Not in the sense of not being about relationships with other people, but definitely in the sense of wanting to develop and deepen the trust and the relationship I have with Hir. (Btw, for me, God is beyond gender and it’s our language that limits how we talk about Hir.)

So this morning, I find myself with a lot of serenity, several things on my calendar, and a number of “crackpot” theories. On my calendar for today: running some errands and meeting with my sponsor. On my calendar for Friday: morning appointment with my cousins to see if we might work well together (i.e., do I know Quickbooks well enough that I might work for them part-time), followed by getting together with a dear friend who lives an hour or so away. On my calendar for Saturday: a day-long InterPlay retreat, followed by my Al Anon meeting, followed by dinner with family. On my calendar for Sunday: church followed, I hope, by some actual R&R for the afternoon. (It could happen. Really it could!) On my calendar for next week: God only knows and hasn’t yet sent me the memo!

I am holding all of these plans loosely, knowing a few might change. But some will not. Some things require my commitment and I do not give them up lightly. That includes my part-time job. As this has become clear to me, an interesting thing happened. [So much for the short post. Sigh…]

Release and let go

I mentioned having “crackpot” theories. Well, there’s really only one that comes to mind at the moment: release is a powerful magnet to our good. Catherine Ponder advocates this and I am fast becoming a believer. In the few, short days since I began letting go again (and again and again) when things threatened to derail me from my serenity, I have been blessed with new possibilities.

A couple of days ago I was pretty stressed about my debt situation. Then, in these past 24 hours, as I have gained clarity about how to respond with integrity to possible job opportunities, it has become equally clear to me how to respond with integrity to my financial situation. I had been distressed, I realize now, because I had been letting my credit card company force me to an unwanted choice, when the truth is, I can continue to do what I can, when I can, and they can choose how to respond to my efforts. I do not need to make any hard and fast choices in this moment. I can continue as I had intended and allow things to unfold.

Isn’t that kind of the way life goes most of the time anyway? 😉

Things *do* come together when I let go and let God do the putting together

Big and Small Steps:

  • Made payments this morning on my three credit cards. (Yay for Thursday paychecks from the temp agency!)
  • Decided not to try to “get” my creditors to do anything. I’ll just keep doing my best and it will either work or it won’t.
  • Let go my fears about the possible 5-week position and, along with it, my fears about my finances.

Noticings:

  • How good it feels to gain clarity around a particular situation.
  • How much I miss my son. (We missed each other on the phone the other night.)
  • How much I’m learning about myself in this 18-day “journey within a journey.”
  • How happy I am to be at the office this morning, having time to write this! (And how nice it is to be able to ignore the phone until I’m “at work.”)

Discovery:

  • We now have irrefutable proof that my (92 1/2-year-old) uncle is hard-headed. When he took a tumble backwards on Sunday and hit his head on the closet door, his skull “fractured” the door rather than the other way around! (What a fun story this will make at family gatherings!) 😉

Day 108 (Wed/Mar 28): Four days – Light is dawning, a journey within the journey

When it rains...things get wet!

This is getting more and more interesting… I kid you not, this is what I wrote in my reflection journal this morning:

“I feel as if I’m in that moment right before taking in and releasing a deep breath. My life feels as if it’s about waiting, when it seems like it should be about “action.” I may know why this odd “waiting for something to happen” feeling lingers. I have made some plans for my time the rest of this week. Not a lot of plans and some are quite open to change. Yet it seems as if anytime I’ve thought I’ve known what I’m doing, something has come along to change things…I find myself again waiting for the call that suddenly changes my plans.” (SJ 45, p30) (Yes, I number my pages and my journals.)

I had barely been to work an hour when I got a phone call from the temp agency.

“Are you available to work today?”

“I’m already working.”

Then, a few hours later, I get another call from the same agency. Am I interested in returning to the place I’ve been temping these past couple of weeks? It’s doing different work with (presumably) different people, for a longer term – five or so weeks, full-time, at $5-7 an hour more, to start Monday.

Crash! Bang! Boing!

 

Wait a sec?!

Okay. So here’s the deal. I work for a small non-profit organization, filling an important niche, working with people I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate. The only reason I don’t work more (paid) hours is that we don’t have the luxury of the kind of income larger for-profit organizations have. This isn’t like a part-time job at some fast-food place where anyone can jump in and learn all they need to know in a couple of hours. It’s not that I’m irreplaceable. Certainly I am. But there’s a big difference between having time to make arrangements and suddenly saying, “See in five weeks!” (Not even counting the withdrawal pains I would experience…)

Fortunately, this last position is still in the “maybe” pile, both in terms of whether the company wants me and whether I would accept the position. I debriefed it with my supervisor, mostly because I was still reeling from the “if this happened it would be a HUGE change in my work (and non-work) schedule and would dramatically impact my ability to do my work at this organization” standpoint. It helped to be able to talk about it to someone right away.

As I’ve continued to process this in the hours since, I have noticed and even learned some things about myself.

Opportunities bloom and go...

1. I need time to process changes, especially big changes. One way or the other, I at least need time to get used to the idea. I don’t shift gears that quickly. I’m not sure I ever have.

2. All of this is up in the air. I mean, ALL of it. I haven’t been offered any positions anywhere as yet and I may not be offered either of the temp positions that have just come up. My reactions are based on possible changes, not actual changes in my life.

3. It is clear to me that I want to act with integrity and make choices that honor me, my part-time job employers and the needs of any position I might accept – in that order. As I have considered this, I recognized something I hadn’t fully “gotten” before…

Slippery when wet...or when approached in fear

4. My initial reaction to this possibility (and the other recent ones, for that matter) – in other words the “Crash! Bang! Boing!” –  is based solely on a wild leap in my imagination as to what the changes might mean. In other words, I’m leaping to conclusions about the way things might change. And most of those conclusions are fear-based. (See? I knew I needed to do this blog…) For instance: fear that working 40 hours a week would be completely exhausting; fear that I might miss a “real” (i.e., “permanent”) job that would come along; fear that I might not like the work or the people in this new department; fear that I would have to give up a job I love for a temporary influx of income; worry about the other potential employers I’ve recently connected with; and so on.

5. The most important thing I realized, however, is this. Whether or not I’m offered this 5-week position, which could bring me more income than I’ve earned in the past several months combined, I don’t want financial fear to be the reason for my choice. In fact, I don’t want any kind of fear to be the reason for any of my choices around work.

I'm listening...Help me to hear

This past week, I have discovered that my confidence in myself and my sense of self-worth have grown a lot. With the positive feedback I’ve received through these recent temp experiences (as in, “We’ll ask for you next time we need help!”), I have begun seeing myself as competent, capable, and worth so much more than I did a few months, possibly even a few weeks ago.

As I discover this about myself, I realize I have choices I didn’t used to think I have. I can negotiate with potential employers to see if we might strike a balance. I could set more specific boundaries with the temp agency. I could even ask the recruiters to lobby for my needs (as in, “She’s really worth it. Can you be flexible?”).

It’s rather amazing to me to discover that I have choices and that I’m worth it. The light is dawning, helping me to see that I am worth having as an employee and the right employer, whether offering me temp work or a long-term position, will want me to act with integrity with my present employer and will respect my decision to do so.

Stretching, reaching, still staying connected to my Higher Power - God

(This is so much longer than I anticipated. There’s just so much on my mind right now…)

Noticings:

  • That I’m hungry again – which is probably why I can’t think more succinctly! Must be time for a snack before bedtime… 😉
  • That after a bazillion years of eating canned fruit, it just dawned on me a few minutes ago that eating four halves of canned pears is like eating two whole pears. Talk about a sugar bomb! (Whoops! Too late…) Doh!
  • How much fuel my body requires when my mind is racing about.

Day 105 (Sun/Mar 25): Seven days – One day at a time, a journey within the journey

Some decisions are easier than others

This week has been challenging, with seemingly short nights and long days. Today I worked at few hours and enjoyed the quiet of being there on a Sunday afternoon. I’d rather not have this as a regular schedule, but it was nice for today.

I’m in the midst of considering difficult decisions around my finances. As unhappy possibilities came to mind, I started to feel distressed. Then I moved toward depression. Somewhere along the way, I finally recognized that it isn’t time to make any decisions, one way or the other. It helped to remember an experience from a little over a year ago.

Several years ago, I learned I had a condition known as Grave’s disease. It’s a hyperthyroid condition and it wasn’t particularly fun to have my metabolism so out-of-control. The first doctor that diagnosed it wanted to inject me with radioactive iodine, designed to kill off part of the gland and hopefully restore more normal levels. Of course, the entire gland eventually dies and one has to carry documentation around, like, forever, to explain why the dirty bombs are going nuts when you pass through the detectors. But other than that, it sounded just ducky. (Not!!!)

It takes time for the pieces to come together

I worked with a naturopath, then later an endocrinologist and other doctors, until I found a doctor who suggested “turning off” the gland with one (non-radioactive) medication and replacing it with another. My insurance changed midstream, so I switched doctors. My new doctor was willing to go along with this approach. My system settled down a reasonable amount, but when we rechecked the gland again after having it under control for a year, and it was obvious the gland was not improving, the decision to remove it was easy. I knew it was the right thing to do and I experienced no anxiety around the decision. (And it has very much proved to be the wise choice.)

It has occurred to me in the last couple of days that I will know when the time is right to make a decision about my financial situation. Until then, I can keep letting it go whenever the anxiety surfaces. I’m sure it will now and then just because it is stressful to have far more need than resources. I won’t pretend otherwise. It’s hard, and sometimes it’s very hard. (Remember to invest in that Kleenex stock! I’m convinced I’m single-handedly raising the stock value!)

All things take time to become ready

Today I find myself appreciating the reading in Courage to Change that talks about confusion being an indication that either the timing is not right or I am not ready. I think a little bit of both may be the case for me regarding my finances. For now, I am grateful to be learning to be more attentive to my bank balances. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do at least a little more temp work this week. And I’m grateful for the unknown possibilities that lie ahead.

The other thing I’m appreciating this evening is the simple fact that I’m here at my aunt and uncle’s. My uncle was helping my aunt try to make a bed with sheets that are poorly made and too small for the bed (no matter what the label on the package said) earlier this evening. The sheet tore, he tumbled backward, and he hit his head on the edge of the closet door. He didn’t think too much about it until my aunt noticed he had blood on the back of his head. I arrived home post-freak-out time (on my aunt’s part), to find my uncle calmly playing his card game on the computer. (He’s a bit of an addict with Freecell.)

I can only see a little bit of the path at a time...

My son gave me plenty of “nursing” practice while growing up (as many children do for their moms), so I played nurse and tended to the small, but definite gash on the back of my uncle’s head. I warned him to keep it clean and to (gently) shampoo in the morning and reapply the ointment. I think my aunt was much relieved to have me home and doing the nursing. I’m having to practice letting go the temptation to worry about how well he’ll take care of his head.

I continue to wonder what lies ahead for me in the coming weeks and months. My “short” stay here has extended beyond my expectations. Yet it feels as if I’m right where I need to be for the moment. I continue to do my inner work and to learn from my aunt and uncle – and to stay out of their way, like when he was making an apple-cherry pie earlier this afternoon, doing everything from cutting up and cooking the fruit to preparing the pie dough.

There’s a lot of wisdom in the saying “One Day at a Time.” For me, it’s the reminder that no matter where I am or where I’m heading, I can only get there one moment, one step, one day at a time.

Big and Small Steps:

  • Checked my bank balance and found I was okay, with a small but nonetheless positive balance.
  • Checked out some job listings on a non-profit website a friend shared with me.

Noticings:

  • How readily I pick up on other people’s intense emotions.
  • That I’m looking forward to going back to four or five posts a week after this “journey within the journey.” (I keep staying up too late writing posts!)
  • How thin the skin is on the back of the head and how soft my uncle’s hair is.

Day 97 (Sat/Mar 17): Fifteen days – Healing cannot be rushed, a journey within the journey

This morning, I worked on my blog first thing – before breakfast, before bathing, before making my bed. I don’t normally do that. Yet every now and then, it feels good to enjoy the freedom to start my morning differently.

Perhaps it was because I began my day with my blog that my first reading and reflection in my journal led me to the inspiration for a new blog. There are times when I want to talk about God and faith and the many things that cross my mind in this realm that aren’t particularly a part of this conversation here. Now I have the beginnings for a new site. I look forward to starting it.

The second reflection I read this morning helped me remember why I’m here, doing this blog – especially with regard to my illusions around what it means to break through my fears. Among my (many) favorite verses in the Bible are these words accompanying my second reading: One thing I do, forgetting these things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal… (Phil. 3:13-14 NRSV)

A year ago January, I experienced in these words the subtle difference between reaching forward from where I am now and trying to leap over the present challenge to something down the road. I’m still learning how to reach forward from where I am in this moment. Yet I’m getting much more patient with myself and appreciating the fact that leaping over obstacles isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes it is. Other times we miss huge and wonderful opportunities to be transformed when we try to avoid the hard stuff. I’ve spent too much of my life already doing that. In recent years (decades actually) I have discovered that unexpected blessings often come only through the struggles.

In discovering that, I have learned that some experiences will not, cannot, be rushed.

I am in just such an experience right now. It seems like every time I try to hurry some part of it along, I end up in a heap on the ground, having tripped over the very thing that actually needed my attention. So I’m reminding myself – often – that I need to move slowly enough to pay attention to my steps and to notice when I need to change direction.

Looking back to where I’ve been, through reading my journals from a year ago, I continue to learn from past experiences. This morning I appreciated traveling through one particular journey of healing. It gives me a perfect example of how journeys of healing cannot be rushed.

The morning after my thyroidectomy (as a result of Grave’s disease, a hyperthyroid condition), I was able to speak (a very good sign), but sounded to my own ears like a bullfrog. In the days that followed, I continued to feel like I was croaking when I spoke. Yet others told me my voice was soft, but otherwise normal sounding. (It was devastating to feel so alone in my experience with my voice!)

When I first attempted to sing, I couldn’t sustain any note for more than a second or two, and there were scarcely any notes I could access at all. Six weeks after the surgery, I was beginning to ‘stretch’ my voice. I could sustain a note for a bit and my range was expanding. My volume, according to others, was getting stronger as well. I discovered I could sing (a bit) in falsetto what my voice could not quite do in full.

 I’m not sure when my voice began to sound “normal” to me again. Perhaps I simply got used to the new way my voice sounded, with less “software” in my neck. In the weeks and months that followed, I gradually regained my voice. I practiced singing to some of my favorite CDs while driving. I remember the day I could actually sing a particular song at a worship service. (I cried in gratitude!) I had to take care of my voice through this journey, moving slowly, expanding gradually, since my throat quickly grew hoarse if I pushed it. Yet little by little, I found my way back to being able to sing (and speak) as vigorously as ever.

The defining moment for me on this journey with my voice was when I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do to rush the healing process. It was going to take as long as it took and I was powerless to change that. Once I grasped that, I was able to relax and let myself move slowly, gently, giving my body and my voice the time they needed to heal.

This journey of finding the courage to change is so much like my experience with my voice. Once in a while I forget that this is a journey not only of recovery, but of healing.

 

Big and Small Steps:

  • Leaving my phone turned off at times to give me the space to think, to create, to nourish my body-spirit. It also gives me the space to choose when I want to talk to creditors who hope for more than I can give at this moment.
  • Changing the title of this section. “Action step(s)” never felt quite right, since some of these things aren’t all that “actiony.” 😉
  • Taking the time to recognize that I needed to write and post this now unless I wanted to be up late this evening.
  • Looking for some books at the library about women and courage. (Delighted with the first part of one book and finding another interesting. One more on request.)
  • Realizing that plans for how I approach this blog are flexible and it’s okay to experiment and try new things.

Noticings:

  • How much I’m continuing to enjoy taking digital photos. My library is growing and I’m seeing so many little things I might otherwise have missed.
  • How shifting the language from “Action step(s)” to “Big and Small Steps” changes the language I’m inclined to use from past tense to ongoing. Interesting…
  • How helpful tears of release can be. (It’s not too late to invest in Kleenex stock – I’m sure I’m raising the value! ;-))
  • How glad I am that I’m out of grade school where some children insist on pinching each other if they aren’t wearing green on St. Patty’s Day! (I don’t wear green. Perhaps I could try some leaves in my hair??)
  • How good it feels to be able to tithe more than once a month, even when the checks are small. 🙂
  • How glad I am to be here, with you now.

 

Day 89 – Fri, Mar. 9th (89/277): Oh, what a relief it is!

This post really will be short. I’m back at my regular job (whoo hoo!) after three rather fun, but incredibly mind-and-body-numbing days of intense data entry. I say “intense” because it was entirely repetitive. I archived some 1500 files and my neck, shoulders and wrist are barely speaking to me at the moment. Actually, perhaps they’re speaking a lot: they’re saying, Don’t even think about it!

The funny thing is that yesterday, because of the monotony of the task, what I did a lot of (besides hundreds of mouse clicks) was noticing. So that’s what this post is about.

I noticed how it felt oddly, vaguely demeaning when a male employee went by and greeted us cheerily, “Morning, guys!” The fact that we were all females and he was male left me pondering why it’s okay for me to say, “Morning, guys” to my female companions, but his doing so felt like invading my turf. It’s rather like, I can call my brother a jerk but you can’t. (I don’t consider my brother a jerk, btw.) I wondered if I would have had the same reaction to another woman calling us “guys.” (Btw, in case you haven’t checked your dictionary lately, “guys” can refer either to a group of males or a mixed-gender group – the classic linguistic tradition that defaults to male references as “neutral,” while female references can only refer to exclusively females.)

I noticed that sitting up straight and holding my posture gently, to relieve the stress of constantly gazing down at a laptop, was more helpful than trying to force a more rigid and deliberately anti-slouching posture.

I noticed the new-job, settling-in patterns of the small group with whom I was working. Even though it was only our third day there (and the last for most of us, as it turns out), there was a growing comfort in our surroundings and a growing confidence in our freedom to go down to the café to get a snack or to partake of the cupcakes and goodies by the kitchen area. I didn’t partake of the goodies, but only because they were foods my body no longer enjoys. (Thanks be!)

I noticed that, in response to a particular sound, someone asked of another co-worker, “Is that a cough or a sneeze?” When the co-worker said it was a cough, the first person did not offer the usual “Bless you” she had been saying in response to (perceived) sneezes. (She’d said that to me a few times when I coughed, apparently thinking I was sneezing.) The history of saying “bless you” has to do with the perception of keeping evil away in order to stay healthy. Why do you suppose it is that we do not say “bless you” when someone coughs?

I noticed that it’s easier to remember to move and shift around more when my body complains of discomfort or pain. This, of course, is just plain silly, since moving and shifting around more in the first place would likely avoid the pain.

Finally, I notice that I’d like to be “on the clock” at work in just a few minutes. So I’m going to post this, sans pics this time, and get to work doing lots of wonderfully non-repetitive tasks that require thinking and evaluating and making choices. Whoo hoo!!!

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.

Day 44 – Tuesday, Jan. 24th (44/322): Fledgling networking effort

I confess, I’m feeling rather pleased with myself tonight. Not in an arrogant way, but in a way that appreciates my stepping out and doing something I have been afraid to do for, well, forever really. Or so it seems.

There was an event scheduled for this afternoon at one of the seminaries I attended. I had made note of it on my calendar in case I decided to go. When I noticed it again yesterday, I thought, Ooh – maybe there’s free food! So I checked my email for more information. It turns out the dinner options were to pay $9 for the available meal or bring your own. I still had only $3.97 in my purse. Hmm… I let various scenarios roll around in my mind about what I could do for dinner in the BYOD category.

This morning, I decided to dress for the occasion in case I went. (Usually I just wear jeans to work.) I found my plastic bag of quarters (and a few other coins) minted in the past decade or so. I don’t really collect coins; there was just something fun about noticing and trying to collect one of each of the different state designs. Now it served as an emergency stash. I pulled out $2.85, added the weight to my wallet and bought something at the taco shop on my way to the event.

Somewhere in the past 24 hours or so, the idea came to mind of attending this event as an opportunity to network. It’s a location where I feel comfortable and people with whom I share similar ideals and interests. It’s also a place where I regularly meet people who might be able to help me as I move into my new career.

As it turns out, I gained far more from this experience than I expected:

1 – Just mentioning my certificate program (Sexuality and Religion) sparks conversation. Most people react with anything from confusion to amusement to curiosity – all of which are fodder for talking about the work I want to do. I’ll definitely remember this when I want to network around ministry opportunities.

2 – I met a woman (“AC”) who is doing a wonderful arts-based ministry and has three different organizations as a part of her support system. This is a model I have thought about a number of times, since what I want to do doesn’t fit in the typically available job descriptions. We talked a bit and exchanged contact information. I’m very interested in learning more about how she coordinated her ministry and checking out her website as I continue developing my own.

3 – AC gave me the opportunity to see the value of networking in action. During the course of the dinner conversation, someone brought up a concern about their worship space and suggested bringing AC in for a consultation. Voila! A potential client – just from networking!

4 – I discovered that I might have something to offer AC! When we talked about websites, I mentioned my blog, which led to talking about some things she didn’t know that I’ve learned. Another great reason for networking!

5 – I heard lots of information that I’ve mentally catalogued for future reference and made some new acquaintances. One person has an online book being edited and hopes to soon market it on Amazon.com. I learned something about an issue I’ve not had the time to study more closely. Plus there were many other good ideas shared.

6 – Best of all, or perhaps more importantly, I discovered how easily “networking” can happen, how much I can learn simply by listening to others, and how low my confidence is right now.

You may wonder about this last observation – a “best of all”?! I believe it’s vital for me to be aware of what’s going on in my inner world and discovering just how little confidence I have was a helpful noticing. Listening to people speak with such confidence and enthusiasm about their passions is the very thing I want to be able to do. In some ways, it’s a growing edge for me – I can feel quite passionate about this work, but when it comes to articulating it to someone else, I start to trip and stumble. In other ways, it helps me to recognize the difficulty of my present struggle.

This journey isn’t about pretending I’m not struggling or trying to push through by ignoring the painful places. It’s about being willing to notice what’s going on, change what I can, and support myself throughout the process. Like the Serenity Prayer says: I need to accept the things about myself I cannot change – which includes recognizing what’s true and what’s not; I need to change those things I can that no longer serve me well – which takes willingness, practice and patience; and I need the wisdom to know the difference – which means letting go and letting God show me what work I need to do and how to best do it.

I’m going to need more practice at networking before it feels comfortable, but tonight was a great start. Once again, I feel grateful and so blessed!

Useful step(s):

  • Stepped out of my comfort zone and went to an event primarily to practice networking.
  • Let go expectations around this evening.
  • Introduced myself to two more people just before I left expressly to practice networking.

Wednesday, Jan. 18th (38/328): Climbing trees at 92? (or, something’s changing in me)

Something is happening here. Somewhere along the way in the past day or two, pieces fell into place for me and I began to see things in a new way.

Words on a postcard, below an event announcement: “Fear not!” A timely, helpful reminder. Dolphin reminding me to breathe, to let my breath release deep emotions, even to move past them. The gradually unfolding realization that each piece of a job search can and probably should happen incrementally, step by step, without forcing, without a sense of urgency, without a misperceived need to hurry just because my ‘pocketbook’ is slim.

Today I set myself the task of checking out a website that gathers position announcements from other websites. Even as I planned to check it out, I kept letting go and reminding myself that I might find nothing. More importantly, that I did not need to search endlessly trying to find something at this moment. The job for me might not even be there yet. It might not be ready for me; I might not be ready for it. Maybe, for now, it’s about practicing the process of doing the work.

It was an important thing for me to realize that whatever I do, like searching for job postings or checking my Linked In account, I need to begin to do it regularly. Instead of trying to do the occasional, intense session, I will be better served to do my work briefly, more often, incrementally. It will also be more gentle that way, if the fear tries to surface.

How come I didn’t see this before? I think it’s because I was too focused on the fear and couldn’t see anything past it. Fear tends to work that way.

Later, when I was virtually falling asleep at barely 2:00 in the afternoon, I took something out to the kitchen to work on, just to get out of my overly warm room. From there I became sidetracked by watching my uncle pruning the fig tree. I was wrong about his age, by the way. He isn’t 91 at all. He’s 92 1/2! If I can figure out how to put up a photo of him climbing in the fig tree as he was finishing the pruning, I will. I know you won’t believe me otherwise. 🙂

When I loaded the photos I took onto my computer, I started noticing a whole lot of pics I don’t want or need. I started doing some “housecleaning.” I removed a lot of duplicate photos. I released a lot of photos that now seem odd to me to have taken in the first place. Many were of the piles of boxes in whichever apartment as I was moving in or moving out of. A number of photos were taken “in case” I needed proof of something (like the condition of an apartment). I deleted over 200 photos! It feels good to have done this small clean-up task.

When I grow up, I want to be productive like my aunt and uncle. (I captured her on digital “film” today as well, raking up oak leaves. She’s young – only 79.)   I want to practice moderation in many things, the way I see them do. And I want to live each day, if not to the fullest, at least in a way that leaves me feeling good about what I experienced and what I did – or didn’t – do.

Action step(s):

  • Opened the mail I picked up yesterday and the mail I picked up week before last; enjoyed the opportunity to throw things in the recycle container!
  • Searched the job-search website to see what I might find
  • Called the staffing agency to make sure I’m staying on their radar
  • Strived to keep an open mind when a new friend suggested a kind of work from which I tend to flee – I’ll at least learn more before deciding
  •  “Helped” my uncle by pulling the shorn fig branches out of the way so he wouldn’t need to climb up and down the ladder; helped my aunt gather oak leaves
  • Deleted over 200 unneeded pics from my computer
  • Tried my first photo inserts on this blog (although I have to learn how to control their placement a little better)

Thursday, Jan. 12th (32/334): Curses! Foiled again…

Today I was brought up short by just how intimidated I am by the notion of developing my pitch. A “pitch,” in this instance, is a brief ‘audio commercial’ I can offer when someone asks me what I do. Since I’ve done administrative office work most of my life and am now moving toward church work (e.g., education and consulting), I’ve been struggling with the tension between seeking work that can pay the bills now (which I presume would be office work) and wanting to pursue my passion (the work that may take time to become substantially income-producing). When someone asks me what I do or what I want to do, all my insecurities leap to the fore and what comes out of my mouth is anybody’s guess.

Today I attended a workshop on developing a pitch. I think I thought we’d do more talking about how to do it than actually preparing our pitches. I was wrong.

The odd part is that when we began, by introducing ourselves and giving a pitch, I wasn’t particularly intimidated. I just let the truth about where I was and what I want to do pop out of my mouth and it was actually fairly decent. In fact, one person spoke to me during the break and affirmed the importance of the work I want to do. But later, when we were asked to write out our pitch and given a suggested format, I froze! I couldn’t seem to get past the first sentence: “I am a ____ with experience in ____.” And I got equally bogged down in the rest of the suggested sentences. It was ridiculous…and frustrating…and distressing. My response had been better when it was unplanned and spontaneous!

I didn’t realize just how distressed I was till near the end. Shortly before we were to go around the room again, with our hopefully new and improved pitches, I looked at the instructor helplessly. She came over, made a command decision that I should focus on an administrative assistant pitch, asked me a few questions, and quickly sketched out a framework. It was actually quite helpful and I think I’ll now be able to develop one or more pitches I can use.

Still, I’m wondering why I feel so intimidated by those questions “What do you do?” and “What kind of work are you looking for?” I was practically quaking in my shoes today (even sitting down). I suspect it reflects the extent of my feelings of inadequacy. Even though I recognize (and have been affirmed in) my education, knowledge and gifts for doing this work, I have no track record as yet. So I will continue to examine what lies behind these fears and continue to work on my pitches.

I’m curious about something though… On my way home on the BART, I struck up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. This is something I rarely do. It helped that she was friendly and equally willing to chat. Still, I wondered if it was the way my nervous energy from the workshop found its way out of my body – or at least some of it did. I still felt the anxiousness driving home and even now typing this.

That’s when I need to remember to take all this one step at a time…

Action step(s):

  • Attending two workshops – one on online applications; the other on developing my pitch
  • Learning more about Word and Excel 2007 (If I am going to look for office work, it might help to be up-to-speed on the newer versions of these programs.)
  • Learning more about WordPress (for both this blog and the one I want to set up for my ministry work)

Tuesday, Jan. 10th (30/336): Breaks – a bit of body wisdom (I hope)

Yesterday, I tried something different at work. Most days, I’m scheduled to work four to five hours, so I don’t plan a lunch break. Then I end up working six or seven hours and I’m wiped out by the end of the day. It’s not that I don’t eat, because I do. I just eat at my desk and keep working, thinking I won’t be there much longer. Yesterday, I planned to work a longer day, so I made a point of taking a half-hour lunch break. I relaxed and read a (fiction) book while I ate and discovered it was quite nice, even though I was only about fifteen feet from my desk.

For some reason, I find it hard to take breaks. Some of this is logistics. I don’t have the money to go to a restaurant where I might enjoy time away from the office. The neighborhood where I work is not conducive to taking walks. That leaves staying at the office. However, my co-workers are actually quite respectful of my break time on those rare occasions when I’ve actually taken a break. Thus, it can only be self-imposed nonsense that leads me to feel like I “can’t” take a break. This is especially dopey since we are encouraged to take care of ourselves in body, mind and spirit.

However, it occurs to me that this isn’t the first place where I’ve struggled with this particular boundary. I’m not quite sure what the deal is. At my last job, which was full-time, I eventually started using the conference room when it was empty and once in a while the cafeteria, but I still ended up eating at my desk at times.

One of the things that makes me nervous about the possibility of seeking full-time work right now is the fact that I’m often wiped out after only a five- or six-hour workday. So how well would I do if I was suddenly working eight hours a day?

I tend to pour myself into my work, going at full speed, and that requires adequate sustenance, rest (i.e., at night) and taking breaks. The labor laws recognize the need for breaks and build in requirements for this. So why, then, is it uncomfortable, even disconcerting for me to decide to take a break?

A job I had some years back comes to mind. There literally was nowhere to go outside the small building to take a break, so I tended to just work straight through. My boss, who was a large, intimidating man, got used to me being available the entire time I was there. When I finally started taking breaks, he had a hard time getting used to the idea that I wasn’t available when I was on break or at lunch. I was, after all, only thirty or so feet away from my desk. I was anxious, but I stood my ground and he learned to respect it. Sort of.

My suspicion as to the real reason I feel guilty taking breaks is that I still see myself as being somehow inadequate. That perfectionist mindset hovers near my shoulder and tells me, “You’re not good enough! You should have all of it done by now!” Never mind that I’m trying to do 20-30 hours worth of work in 14 hours. Never mind that my supervisor and bosses are pleased with my work and have never said anything to indicate they expect more. Never mind that any job tends to have an endless flow of work that renews itself every month, every week or even every day.

Maybe it’s time to experiment with taking breaks at work. And maybe, just maybe, I might discover that I actually work more effectively for the time I’m there.

Action step(s):

  • Took a lunch break at work Monday!
  • Went to bed very early last night.
  • Respected the reality that I can’t get it all done and simply did what I could today.
  • Let go and deleted tons of emails from my office email (mostly from 2010). Wheee!
  • Did some cleaning for a friend and earned some extra money!
  • Gave myself permission to post this online Wednesday morning so I could get to sleep at a more reasonable hour Tuesday evening!

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