Day 192 (Wed Jun 20): Between peace and panic

Why do I feel at times like I’m still a beginner?

Today has been an odd day, where I have flowed (and sometimes bounced) between peace and panic.

My car still sounds and feels like it needs some attention. The challenge is, its symptoms are not clear enough to readily describe to a technician. I decided to drop by the dealership and see if they might have time to check it out today. They didn’t. But it was helpful to talk with the person in charge of my car’s maintenance. She helped me consider other possibilities to the nature of the problem. (And no, it isn’t the driver.)

We have an appointment for Tuesday morning.

Because my finances are not quite steady, I was nervous about going there this morning. So I said some prayers, then turned on the CD I’ve been enjoying a lot lately. My favorite song is called “Strength for the Journey” (I think). For once, I let myself become enveloped in the words. I surrendered to them and the message I needed to hear: that I need to let go and let God handle this because I can’t do this alone.

When I turned to my little devotional book while I was waiting for the garage to open, I was amazed to find that today’s reading reflects what I had been hearing and “getting” from the song: that we must rely on God and others to help us on our way. These are the words I especially appreciated reading this morning:

Self-sufficiency is impossible. As much as we hate to admit it, no one can get through life on his or her own strength. At some point, we all need help…God knows we can’t get by alone. That’s why…[God] reaches down to help us up. (June 20 in Every Day With Jesus ©2011 Worthy Publishing)

After feeling myself surrender to the song lyrics on the way to the garage, reminding me that I want my Higher Power to be my strength for this journey, these words were a welcome affirmation. They expanded the peace I had been feeling on the way.

Perhaps that’s why it felt so decidedly ridiculous to experience such an opposite state a short time later. At 8:30 this morning, less than an hour later, I wrote this in what I thought might become a blog draft: Okay, this is just plain annoying! Just thinking about preparing a posting [e.g., in Craigslist] to find a new place to live is raising my anxiety level. I can feel the butterflies in my tummy going berserk and I feel anxious all over. Augh! This feels so dumb and silly!

Now wouldn’t you think that a healthy dose of peace might have washed away the tendency toward panic? I would have! Even though I’ve experienced swings between peace and panic countless times, I still expect to remain in that place of peace when the scary thoughts arise.

I know we’ve all been there, in one way or another. Maybe you get as frustrated as I do when you lose that serenity, and fear, anxiety or outright panic starts to set in. The only thing I’ve found that helps me – and perhaps you’ve discovered this, too – is to keep returning to the things that nurture me and return me to serenity. For me that often comes in the form of uplifting music, inspirational reading, practices like InterPlay and prayer, and remembering that we are not alone on this journey. At any given moment, I may feel alone because I don’t have another earthling walking along beside me (and probably not an extra-terrestrial either, for that matter ;-)).

Helpers

The truth is, we are all loved and helped every moment of every day by our Higher Power whether we know it or not. My Higher Power is God, the God of my understanding who loves me and is patient with me, who puts up with my repeated whining and complaining and the humiliating number of blunders I make, and who loves me anyway! I don’t recall off the top of my head who said this, but I like to remember that there is nothing – NOTHING! – I can do to make God love me any more – or any less.

Thank God!

Day 166 (Fri/May 25): The unexpected grace of small steps and 12-Steps

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1). Time. Timing. Time…

Last Friday I learned that I need to reduce my thyroid medication a bit, which explains the poor sleep and the too-frequent feelings of anxiety. It takes time for the shift in dosage to have an impact, so I’ll have to be patient.

On the heels of this helpful news, I began letting go and attending to the needs for my body to have adequate rest – which includes not pushing myself every minute of every day. With my schedule, it’s been hard to get to many tasks, from balancing my checkbook to writing my blog posts. Still, I realized I could actually create more ease in my schedule. I wonder, now, if that’s what actually opened the door to some unexpected grace.

It had finally dawned on me that I had some available vacation time. So I shortened my work days on Friday and Saturday. It seemed like such a small thing, to realize I could actually use my vacation time, yet I had been clinging to those vacation hours out of fear of not having them. Once I decided to avail myself of these hours, I immediately began experiencing more ease in body and spirit.

I was tempted to run

Sunday, I attended a Debtors Anonymous (DA) meeting. I arrived feeling a lot of anxiety and fear. My work at the temp place had been extended through July, for two days a week. That means regular weekly income that might come close to a normal, if not particularly large monthly income when combined with my regular part-time job. It’s been so long since I’ve had an adequate monthly income I hardly know what to do. So I didn’t speak at the meeting for quite some time. I just listened.

What I heard were words of encouragement and hope. One man shared that he had already paid down all but $400 of a $10,000 line of credit in only two years and that his income had increased 50%. Such financial blessing is beyond my ability to conceive right now, but it inspired me nonetheless. It’s the second time in recent weeks that I’ve heard someone share about making so much progress in reducing their debt. I’ve come to realize there are more possibilities than I thought around my financial situation.

I also kept hearing references to DA being a primarily spiritual program. While I can’t articulate what that means for me, on a body-spirit level I know what it means and I could feel a shift in the corners of my thinking.

The next day, Monday, I knew I would have a window of privacy during the my workday and planned to take advantage of it. I called the three creditors whose calls I have been ignoring for the past couple of weeks. I first spoke to the one for the credit card that had not yet charged off and affirmed my intention to pay the $105 to keep the charge off this month. (Although, after making that payment last night, I’ve decided it’s probably in better to let it charge off, so the late fees and interest can cease and I can begin actually paying down the balance.) The call was surprisingly gracious and the representative expressed appreciation for my having initiated the call.

Next I spoke to the agency handling the largest of my three debts. To my amazement (and incredible relief) they are willing to accept $20 payments each month for now because it shows my intention to pay the debt. The rep gave me a website for making online payments when I asked about doing that. What an unexpected blessing!

I cannot rush this process…

The third call was to the company who had been pressuring me for a $500 up-front payment. I had sent them $50 in April and $50 earlier this month. I was again amazed and relieved that they had concluded this was a monthly commitment and that they were okay with that!

After that third call, I simply sat there, practically stunned by the grace and ease of the conversations and the results. I know that in God’s time the rest of this will sort itself out in a way that will be best for me. The results of these calls were an affirmation of God’s grace.

The next day, Tuesday, while I was happily back at my part-time job for the whole day during the week (yay!), I was given the incredible gift of being able to participate in an InterPlay event happening this coming week. My work schedule will only allow me to be there for the opening day and most of the next day, but some loving friends have enabled me to attend for free. I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself! I also attended an InterPlay class that evening.

I left there feeling overwhelmed by the grace and unexpected blessings of the past few days. Is this really all about letting go and letting God move in my life? I believe it is – and I’m doing my best to keep getting better at getting out of God’s way!

InterPlaying…

Noticings:

  • How much easier it’s becoming to let go worry about the details.
  • How good it feels to post again!
  • How much easier it’s becoming to accept God’s grace when it arrives…

Action steps:

  • Calling my creditors.
  • Deciding to stay home tomorrow to let myself simply have the space to rest and catch up on a few things.
  • Picking up a notebook to help me track and get a handle on just how much I spend on what.

Day 155 (Mon/May 14): On releasing guilt

I’m fast concluding that releasing guilt, like so many other aspects of life, is a process, a journey that has ebbs and flows, times of ease, times of struggle. (Who knew?)

This morning, I turned to page 217 in my Bible simply because that number was what popped into my mind when I considered what to read for my reflection. I started reading about people dying and being afflicted with tumors and thought, “Bleck! This is not what I want to use for my reflection!” But I persisted, especially as I had begun in the middle of a chapter. It didn’t necessarily get “better,” but I found myself intrigued by a couple of lines in the chapter that started on that page. The people were told to return the ark to God with a “guilt offering” and they would be healed (1 Sam 6:1-3).

It took a few minutes for it to register that guilt is one of the character weaknesses I identified for myself in Step 6. I decided to see what I might find in Courage to Change on guilt. But before I looked in the book, I decided to prepare my own “guilt offering” to be placed in my “God box” – a written prayer asking God to take my feelings of guilt and remove them from me.

Guilt is a wholly appropriate topic for me today. I awoke with dreams of worrying about my credit card debt and what I should do about it. In an effort to take better care of myself and to maintain a sense of serenity, I have chosen to ignore most of the incoming calls from the credit card agents. I have even left the messages on my voicemail to pick up when I’m ready to deal with them (or not). It dawned on me recently that they are the ones who feel the need to keep pushing for different answers from me when I have none to offer. Repeating the same, unhappy responses to their questions – affirming repeatedly that I do not, at this time, have the income to send them as much money as they want – upsets me and renews the guilt and the worry. Since they have not been willing to honor my request for less frequent calls (one company calls me five days after we last talked – every time!), I have chosen not to take the calls just now.

As I was writing my reflection this morning, I felt guilty that I have not picked up my voice messages. Now I’m at work (on my lunch break) and it’s not the time. There are five messages – all, I suspect, from these collection agents. I have more practicing to do in order to let go my guilty feelings. I have more things to figure out with regard to how and when to respond to the messages.

I read two of the pages on guilt listed in the index in Courage to Change. They reminded me that I am imperfect because I am human (can’t escape it…), that I can “be free to look at my mistakes without blowing them out of proportion” (CtC, p 120), that I can learn to stop repeating the mistakes I’ve made and learn to make wiser choices. I already am making wiser choices and the tendency to fall back into old patterns is lessening every day.

I especially appreciate the “Today’s Reminder” with the April 29th reading:

I will not chain myself to the past with self-defeating guilt, or by inflating the importance of my errors. Instead, I want to face my past and heal old wounds so that I may move forward into a richer, fuller, and more joyous life today (Courage to Change, p 120).

The reading on page 144 in CtC also reminds me that it is easier to love myself when I accept myself as I am, imperfect choices and all. I notice I need to be reminded of this often – the idea of loving myself, that is. Sometimes I get caught up in the doing of xyz and forget that the reason I am doing recovery and other work is to be able to see and love myself more the way I know God does. Once in a while it occurs to me to ask God to give me eyes that see others and myself through the eyes of love. I even get there and stay there for a while now and then. Then I slip and fall back into old patterns of thinking and behavior. I am so grateful for 12-Step programs, wonderful little books like Courage to Change and a God whose love is big enough to overcome those times when I forget to love myself.

Day 149 (Wed/May 8): An unexpected journey, unexpected blessings

I find myself floundering, wondering how to regain the semblance of balance I had only a couple of weeks ago… At least it felt like balance compared to the last few weeks.

Last week was a quiet week, especially in comparison to the preceding weeks, which were all about frantically getting ready for a summit (that, I’m told, turned out to be a great success). I would get home, fix dinner, plan my next day’s lunch, then “recover” for an hour or so before heading for bed. I worked six, sometimes seven days a week. It seemed like there was no time for anything but work. Last week felt like the calm after a storm – at least until I committed to a whirlwind trip out of town for the weekend.

A dear friend of mine was being ordained and installed at his new parish. Not only that, he was being installed at a church where one of my best friends attends. It made for a joyful opportunity to be there for him and to visit with a friend I haven’t seen in a few years. The challenge was the distance – about 8 hours each way, but my long-time friend was thrilled at the prospect of my coming there and more than happy to offer a place to stay. Other things opened the way to my being able to make the trip, both time-wise and expense-wise, from having the money and opportunity for some car repairs to the willingness of both my employers for me to take the day off on Friday. I was grateful.

Yet amidst my eagerness to be there were the stirrings of other intense feelings. I began my own journey through seminary with the expectation that I would become a pastor. That changed my last year there – for good reasons and in ways that I celebrate as well. But the change in my expectations still required adjustment and the emotional pot of those changes gets stirred up when I witness my classmates being ordained.

Thus the weekend became a jumble of emotions: joy and celebration, as well as grief and an inescapable feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty each time well-meaning colleagues asked me what I’m doing these days. “Looking for work” (when I’m not actively doing so) or “doing temp work” (even though it is blessing me) are not the answers I cared to give. So I floundered with what to say and each person heard something a little different, depending on how well I knew them. To strangers who asked where I was “serving,” I usually replied simply, “I’m not a pastor.” Each repetition reminded me that I’m also not doing the work I long to do. Each answer left me wondering how and when I will begin to do the work that calls me, the work that inspires and excites me…

Saturday evening, I headed to my room early, exhausted from the day’s events. I wrote in my journal. I let the pain and grief rise to the surface and wept quietly, when what I wanted to do was to sob loudly. I wondered how I would make it through Sunday morning and hoped my face would not reflect the grief that I knew would still be there.

I always feel better after a night’s sleep, no matter how rough the evening before. I process things physically and something about simply resting and “forgetting” about whatever has been on my mind, as only happens in sleep, allows me to wake up refreshed. It doesn’t mean the grief was gone, but the intensity of the emotions, the pain especially, was significantly less. (I hoped no one would notice the telltale bags and dark circles under my eyes.)

I’m so glad I was able to muster a bit of cheerfulness at hearing my friend preach his first sermon as an ordained pastor. What a joy it was to be able to be there. After his sermon, I turned to my other friend and simply said, “Wow!” She obviously had the same response.

Despite my mixed feelings from the day before, something happened in the hours that followed that morning. I left for home feeling inspired and changed in ways I’m still sorting out. But I’ll have to save an exploration of that for a later post. It is time for me to head for bed and get some rest. As I was getting ready this morning and beginning to feel rushed, I asked myself if I was truly attending to what my body and spirit needed at the beginning of the day. From that moment on, I began to move at a pace that was peaceful, as well as productive. Tonight, I’m going to do the same.

Thanks for still being here. 🙂

(For whatever reason, the computer I’m using is not happy with my attempts to add photos. Maybe I’ll try again in the morning…)

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 128 (Tue/Apr 17): Visiting places on the emotional map

So much yet to come together...

Now I remember why it was almost an entire week between my last two postings. This temp job is exhausting! When I see how stressed my supervisor is, I find myself especially grateful for my recovery journey. Of course, it’s easier to notice things when you’re not the one in the middle of them. I’ve been wondering what I might do to help her let go the fear that everything won’t get done. There’s this huge summit we’re preparing for and, since it’s the first one like this they’ve done, she’s a little freaked out about it. There are about fifty million little pieces needed to pull it all together and time is fast approaching. So I’m doing what I can to help – which is, of course, why I’m working there in the first place.

I must say, it’s interesting to be able to observe the way other people are handling the stress of this situation while also observing my own responses and reactions. Yesterday, for instance, I had a healthcare appointment. It was at a clinic I’ve never been to, to see someone I’ve never met. I tend to be skittish around medical doctors to begin with (I much prefer the chiropractic/naturopathic routes for my healthcare) and throwing in the whole “everything new” piece had me on edge.

Anytime I meet a new doctor, we have to do a kind of dance that reveals, for me, whether or not this person actually respects the fact that I know something about my own body. Too often I have met doctors full of their own arrogance, who are convinced I couldn’t possibly know anything. So, knowing this about myself and my history, I prayed and did my best to let go of all my fears before going there and while I was there.

I put it all in my inner "God box"

I was hoping for an on-the-spot blood draw to check my thyroid, but such was not the case. They don’t have that facility and the doctor wanted to check my cholesterol as well. With this, my anxiety rose. While I would actually appreciate knowing where my levels are these days, I dislike having to do the fasting bit. It isn’t required for thyroid testing, but it is for the other. The doctor also wanted to have me do another kind of test and I felt things spinning out of control. I didn’t want all that! I just wanted to know what my current TSH level is so I know if I need to adjust my thyroid meds!

Then grace stepped in. The doctor renewed my prescription on the spot, for the same dose I’m on now (which is easy to tweak as needed). It turns out the lab is not only open at 7:00 (earlier than some of the labs I’ve gone to), it is a short distance down the street from my “regular” job. In other words, God is making it very easy for me to have the lab work done as conveniently as possible. Once done, I can go to the office, feed myself, and spend a few hours in an environment that is fully supportive.

The thing is, I didn’t know all this about the lab till later. When I got done at the clinic and learned they do not validate parking, I tried to have my ticket validated at the offices they’re connected to. Unfortunately the person who had told me she would validate my ticket was not in. The rate is $1.25 for every 15 minutes – something I had not bargained for. I’ve been so broke for so long that even this small expenditure felt like too much and I burst into tears once I got in my car. I knew it was irrational and that I was overreacting. I also knew I was reacting more to the anxiety of seeing a new doctor and feeling out-of-control about how everything went.

It seems so odd and so silly to fly all over the emotional map from day to day. It feels so incongruous to go from bursting into tears to feeling deep gratitude for the little graces, all within a matter of hours. I suppose the moments of tears or anxiety won’t go away; they will just become easier to handle and last for briefer periods. I’ve noticed this already and appreciated it many, many times.

On the way home today, after a frantically busy day, after assuring my supervisor that it would, indeed, all come together, while inching along in the rush hour traffic, I was blessed by the most wonderful song on a CD I had not yet played. I don’t remember all the lyrics, but they said something about the river of peace holding my hand. It was a wonderful song to hear after a busy and hectic day…

Grace...

Noticings:

  • How blank my mind is right now…and how okay I am with that! 😉

Day 120 (Mon/Apr 9): Kipping

Some things take time to bear fruit

Have you ever done gymnastics – particularly on the uneven parallel bars? Well, it’s been a hundred years since I’ve done that and I was never particularly great at it. But I loved it anyway and had a great time trying to do as much as I could…and as much as I was brave enough to try.I remember learning to kip on the unevens. It’s that move you see the Olympic and other televised gymnasts do with such grace. They make it look so easy, as if anyone can do it by just leaping toward the lower bar, hands outstretched to grab it, swinging under it, then doing a sort of abrupt snap back with the arms and hips (the “kip”) and, voila!, you’re on the bar with your hips at hand level, ready for your next move. There’s only one teensy little catch: your untrained body has not a clue as to how to actually make this move!

I remember trying and trying and trying, seemingly countless times, but my hips and legs and everything else couldn’t seem to get the knack of that sudden movement that seemed so effortless when I saw others do it. Since it involves arms and hips and legs and hands all working in one coordinated movement, it seemed like different parts of my body would get their particular part, but trying to get everything working together felt impossible. Then I almost got it. And once I almost got it, I got more of it – until suddenly my body understood what it was supposed to do and I could do it!

Patience has its rewards

The thing is, there were too many little parts to this move to be able to mentally teach myself how to do it. My body had to experience it to get it. Once my body had experienced it, then it got a little easier and easier. (Perhaps more accurately in my case, it got less and less awkward. ;-))

I suppose I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I learned to kip because there are certain things in life that I just don’t seem to “get” how to do yet. They involve lots of steps or pieces or bits of knowledge that need to come together to do them with ease. Thankfully, not too many of them are the kind of thing that don’t work until all the mechanics are in place. What a relief! I don’t have a set of unevens to practice on.

Around financial matters, this morning I had an unexpected piece fall into place. With my usual monthly paycheck having landed at the end of the month, along with a decent-sized check from the temp agency, I had a little breathing room. It didn’t feel like I was spending much, yet when I checked my bank balance this weekend, I was startled at how little I had left. What the heck happened, I asked myself.

This morning I discovered that nothing “happened.”

As I wrote in my journal, reflecting on this seeming insanity, I found myself using the word “able.” I’ve been able to catch up on some of my grocery shopping. I’ve been able to buy a few clothing items. I’ve been able to restock some of my nutritional supplements. And so on. All of a sudden I realized that what I had been experiencing with regard to purchasing some of these (needed) items was what would be normal if I had a regular, full-time income. None of the purchases I was making in the past couple of weeks were unusual, indulgent (if you don’t count a few extra snack foods) or extravagant. They were simply the things I have routinely been buying, plus a few of the things I have not been able to buy in recent months.

Wow! What a difference it made to be able to recognize this. I still put on the brakes and want to move slowly with regard to how I continue to spend, but I gotta tell you – it sure feels good to know I was simply taking care of myself in what shouldbe a normal, healthy fashion.

So I continue to remind myself...

Big and Small Steps:

  • Returned the phone message from the person who called in an “attempt to collect a debt.” (Admittedly, I was relieved that I got her voicemail. ;-))
  • Checked on my student loan status and was relieved to discover all but one (which I knew about) are still in deferral for a few months. Whew!
  • Gently informed someone when she (unintentionally) left me feeling dismissed through a poor choice of words.

Noticings:

  • How quickly the sensation of hunger produces mild, but nonetheless obvious feelings of anxiety.
  • How palpable the shift was while journaling this morning, when the fourth “able” helped me see things from an entirely different perspective.
  • How much I long to have more time and internet access to explore other possibilities, like resources for other people’s photos to use. (I’d love to have a pic of a gymnast doing a kip to go with this blog, for example.)

Day 119 (Sun/Apr 8): Ups and downs, and wondering where the Easter eggs are hidden

I noticed the tension (and pain) in the tops of my shoulders yesterday, anxiety that sprang up when a phone call answered yielded nothing but silence, even though I was at work and such “non-calls” have occurred almost regularly in recent weeks. The neurotic part of me shifted from wondering if it was someone trying to scope out when people are in the office to wondering if it was a creditor trying to find me to serve some papers – even though that sort of thing wouldn’t happen until “normal” channels were already exhausted. It’s the kind of paranoia that tempts me to stop automatically identifying myself when I answer the phone at work, and I didn’t like feeling that way.

Maybe if I keep talking about it here, it’ll help me sort things out. Maybe you’ll have bits of wisdom to offer when you read this.

It dawned on me yesterday, that it’s okay if I make an occasional mistake. I caught myself worrying about whether a particular task had been done “correctly” (i.e., perfectly, all the pieces, no mistakes). Then I saw the ridiculousness of worrying about it, since anything that might have been missed could easily be corrected. I’m not sure I’ve realized just how often I do this – worry that I haven’t done a “perfect” job. I think it’s time to start letting go and recognize that I don’t have to be perfect or do things perfectly to be good at my job.

Odd that I never noticed just how much of a “thing” this has been for me. Because it wasn’t to the level of “obsessive” or “compulsive,” I didn’t realize there was this underlying anxiety around doing everything right. (How appropriate that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice suddenly came on the radio as I was experiencing these feelings! It’s how I feel when I’m busily trying to catch up on work and wondering if I’m doing it well.)

The past several days have been a strange mix of the space and freedom to be myself in the house, with my aunt and uncle gone, and anxiety as I face my financial challenges and have no one to divert my attention when I come home from work. Their absence is a mixed blessing.

This morning, I awoke later than usual, grateful for the ease of my Sunday schedule. I was just about finished with my journal reflection, when I realized I had time to make the 9:30 service, rather than the 10:45. (Yay for Easter Sundays, with extra services!) It was a delightful mix of “traditional” and “contemporary” music, with the bell choir opening (love it!) and the traditional (but robeless!) choir singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ (awesome!) during the first part of the service. The remainder had the contemporary group that I enjoy so much. It was nice to have both a wonderful and earlier beginning to my Sunday – especially because it’s “catch-up” day for me with regard to household tasks. (I’ve been pretty lazy about some things with nobody else around.)

This time alone also leaves me a lot of “think time.” As a result, I’m puzzling over something. I’ve worked 40 hours a week most of my adult life until six and a half years ago when I came to grad school. Now, for this past week and this coming week, I’m working 46 hours each week, Monday thru Saturday, and I have felt tired much of the time, with little energy for anything beyond work. The two weeks after this, I may work even longer hours, though I haven’t quite figured out how (or if) that will work. My question is, why is this so exhausting?

I spent my first four years in grad school preparing for a job that requires 50, 60 or even more hours per week and I was looking forward to it. Then I switched tracks and prepared for a vocation without a clear structure to it. I presumed I might have a “regular” job and pursue my vocational interests during evenings and weekends. When I talked about those interests with my sponsor the other day, she remarked how “alive” I was when I was talking about them. They are my passion! Which makes me wonder…

Will I have more energy to do the things I’m passionate about, regardless of my schedule? Is the exhaustion I feel now really all (or at least mostly) about the ongoing financial stress with no clear solution yet within sight? Am I deluding myself in believing I will have more energy when I am doing more of what excites and, well, energizes me? Or will even that be exhausting?

As I listen to the sounds and laughter of the Easter egg-hunt party next door, I wonder, where are my Easter eggs and what colors will they be?

Big and Small Steps:

  • Checked out some books at the library to help me figure out some of my financial options.
  • Let my choice of service times this morning be determined by how my morning went.
  • Caught up on lots of laundry (including my sheets and the new things I got the other day).

Noticings:

  • How readily body memories can be triggered around certain experiences, even if the mind is okay with things.
  • What a blessing gentle music can be when I’ve been feeling anxious.
  • How scattered my thoughts can be when I’m distressed and not having time, in that moment, to address my concerns.
  • What a delight energetic music can be when my energy is sagging! (Like Superman or Star Wars themes. :-))
  • How much food ends up in my mouth when I’m stressed…

Day 116 (Thu/Apr 5): There’s dreaming, and then there are dreams

A week ago, I awoke with an interesting dream, followed by two more interesting dreams the following two nights – or mornings actually. (Have you ever noticed how natural it is to talk about dreaming during the “night,” when the reality is that it is often happening in the hour or two just before waking up in the morning? But talking about something happening “this morning” sounds like something happening while you’re awake. English is such a peculiar language…) Anyhow, the short versions…

Last Thursday, I awoke with a dream about a little girl who was just a baby, being held by a woman who was a kind of nanny or nurse or something. We were singing the familiar song about having ten fingers and ten toes. It’s a counting song for little kids. [At least it was in my dream.] Then I noticed that the little girl actually had eleven toes on one foot and twelve on the other. I started saying things like, “How cool is that!” and “How special you are!” in an effort to make sure she knew it was okay to be “different.” Moments later, another woman, the matron, came in with a doctor, both obviously concerned and distressed about this “condition.” I was afraid they would undo my efforts to affirm this little girl. When I awoke, I remember how important it had been for me to make this little girl feel accepted and lovable just the way she was – the way I would have liked to have felt more often in my life, especially as a child.

Last Friday, I awoke with a dream about my son and I traveling somewhere in a kind of wilderness, like in the mountains or something, up near Alaska. [Where I’ve never been.] I was trying to determine if we had what we would need, in terms of clothes and gear and such. I was trying to decide what to take and what would be safe to leave in the car. When I awoke, it wasn’t hard to make the connection between my assignment that began this week and how little I knew about what I would be doing or what would be expected of me. What I “needed” (to wear) was even unclear to me at that point and I was worried that my wardrobe would be inadequate. (It isn’t the least bit inadequate.)

Saturday, I awoke with a dream where I was on a freeway in the area here. I couldn’t really see other cars, but there were somehow there or nearby. I was in the far right lane at a diverging point, when I needed to be way over in the next-to-the-left lane. I felt like I had been and was being swept up in the flow of this invisible traffic. I remember being partly awake and actually feeling in my physical body the force/influence of others trying to move me along. It was like being caught in a current, with no time to think or to pause to choose/discern if I was heading the right way. When I awoke, my thoughts went in two directions. One was noticing how quickly I was spending the money I had and wanting to slow down, to pause and plan. The other was noticing how quickly other people were ready to see me as a permanent employee of the company where I was assigned this temp work.

Wednesday morning, I awoke with a dream of getting ready to go on a (very strange) honeymoon and not feeling at all certain it was what I wanted. That day was my first day of working first at one job, then finishing my day at the other. I wasn’t at all certain this was what I wanted and that uncertainty was noticeable in my dream.

I don’t always have such clear and significant dreams, so it has made for an interesting week. I am thankful for my conversations with God, through prayers and journaling. It has helped me to remember that I don’t have to make any decisions about any of this at this point. I haven’t been offered a job and am not yet sure if I want to apply if there are openings. Just for today, I am appreciating the income I’m earning, the new people I’m meeting, and the expanding of my work experience into slightly different things than I’ve done before.

Dreams are for dreaming

Big and Small Steps:

  • Let go the temptation to see if the credit card company has made any changes to my account online – as in, can I still make payments…
  • Continued to think a lot on forgiveness and release and letting go. I keep thinking about these as a theme I want to follow in my posts for a time. (Another recent dream brought up a situation with someone where forgiveness is needed.)

Noticings:

  • How supportive and affirming the people are at my temp assignment.
  • How good it feels to have one’s work noticed and to be appreciated.
  • How grateful I am to have dreams that teach me what I need to know or lead me to what I need to be considering for now.

Day 115 (Wed/Apr 4): Taking time to breathe…

I didn’t realize how tired I am and how rushed I’ve felt till I had the opportunity to slow down a bit in the last 24 hours. Last night, I didn’t get home until after 7:00, after working all day, then running errands. I wasn’t about to begin a blog post as late as, well, actually as late as I am now. But I don’t want to keep not posting, so I’ll just keep this short.

I’ve been at my new temp position three days now. Today, I worked half a day at my “regular” job in the morning, then the temp assignment in the afternoon. I have to say, my whole body-spirit felt like dancing as I was driving to my regular job. It was delightful to be back in the familiar comfort of working with people I know and appreciate and enjoy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the people at my temp assignment – I just don’t know them very well as yet.

I’ve noticed this week just how much I feel rushed. I catch myself with my shoulders hunched and I don’t even know how long they’ve been that way. Then I realize I’m feeling tense, like I have to hurry, hurry, hurry. I’ve been reading more in On Becoming Fearless (by Arianna Huffington), in the chapter on work. (I’m a book “nibbler,” btw. I’m a slow reader to begin with and some things I like to read slowly to take them in.)

Each moment *is* a gift!

Huffington talks about workaholics often being afraid that they need to prove themselves. They keep pushing themselves out of a (misguided) need to constantly prove themselves. This thought has been coming to mind when I notice myself tensed and pushing. There’s the usual new-at-a-job, hope-they-like-me kind of nervousness that certainly drives my efforts. But I think it’s more than that. I sometimes have that same feeling at my regular job, although that, admittedly, is often driven by the frequent circumstance of too little time to do all that needs doing.

This morning, I realized I just didn’t want to keep rushing. I’m already getting up early and I wanted to get to work extra early this morning, with this first “split shift” work day. So I opted to not fix a full lunch and bought a burrito at a fast food place near work. Even that small choice created some ease to the beginning of the day. This evening, I’ve let go lots of things and might have foregone this, as I did last night, except that so much is happening and it helps me to be able to share it with you here.

With my aunt and uncle out of town for a few days (they left this morning), I’m enjoying the space and freedom to not wash my dishes right away, do my laundry (I’m waiting for the second load to finish drying), leave my lunch and breakfast “bags” (of things I use to make them) out in the kitchen, and generally enjoy the space to breathe a bit. For a few days, I won’t have to drag my bag of breakfast cereals and my bag with my lunch containers back and forth between my bedroom and the kitchen. I’ll have the freedom to cook my dinner whenever I’m ready, without coordinating with my aunt’s time in the kitchen. I’ll even have the freedom to get on my uncle’s computer anytime I need.

To sleep, perchance to dream...

There’s so much more I could say, but you know what? I’d like to wrap this up and start moving toward bed!

Noticings:

  • How good it felt to be able to work at my regular job for a few hours today.
  • How nice it is to be appreciated at my temp assignment.
  • How peaceful I find the sound of rain on the roof.
  • How perfect God’s timing was this past weekend, with an InterPlay retreat on Saturday and an enjoyable Palm Sunday before being thrust into a busy 46-hour work week schedule.
  • How the wind moves the curtains through even the closed louvered windows in my bedroom.
  • How much I look forward to the time when I will again enjoy a morning where I don’t have to get up and go somewhere…
  • How nice it’s going to be to not have to be quiet when I get up in the mornings for the next week or so!

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