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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

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

Day 53 – Thursday, Feb. 2nd (53/313): Gratitude and patience

This morning I awoke with a desire to write about gratitude. One of the best antidotes for me when I’m feeling down or having a particularly rough time is to make a gratitude list. It reminds me of the blessings I have and the things that are going well or at least better in my life.

Here are ten things for which I’m thankful in this moment:

  1. I’m grateful to have awakened at 5:55 this morning. The days seem to go so quickly that I appreciate it whenever I awaken between five and six without my alarm clock.
  2. I’m grateful for giving myself a day off from work. I will easily get in more than my allotted/paid fourteen hours this week.
  3. I’m grateful for my job. Work provides a social environment, a distraction from other concerns, and an opportunity to feel and be useful, as well as a steady paycheck to help me through the month.
  4. I’m thankful for the increasingly present comfort in my neck and eye. (I have thyroid eye disease. Stress leads to neck pain, and neck pain often leads to eye pain.)
  5. I’m grateful to remain so consistent in doing core exercises and a bit of stretching virtually every morning. I vary it a bit, taking advantage of the extra time on mornings where I don’t need to be out the door quite so early. I know my body is appreciating it.
  6. I’m grateful to have made small steps toward finding work yesterday. No matter how small the step, every step, for me, is healthy progress in a journey that feels too slow at times.
  7. I am truly thankful for what I call my “scripture reflection” time. This journaling process continues to yield insights into thoughts and behaviors that help me to change and grow. I am frequently blessed by responses from God. And I appreciate the value in taking time to hold still and to consider how I want to be in this world.
  8. I’m grateful for increased flexibility in my upper back, which I’m noticing more often. For decades (perhaps since childhood), there was one spot that refused to budge under chiropractic care, except on rare occasions. Could increasing willingness and flexibility in other matters be making space for increasing flexibility in my upper back?
  9. I am grateful for my paycheck and for the opportunities it provides to pay what I can and let go the rest.
  10. I’m thankful even for the depression that sneaks in from time to time. For it allows the tears to flow and the difficulty of this journey to again be released. What follows more often than not is relief from the struggle and an openness to resume the journey with a little more hope and a little more courage.

This morning, I sought out one of my favorite verses to remind me of the gift of patience: Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4 NKJV) These words never fail to remind me that this is a journey. It takes time for me to learn new practices, develop new behaviors and discover that I can do more than I thought I could.

There are moments when it feels like I’ve been on this journey forever, instead of barely two months. In some ways I have. In some ways, we all have. Yet each stretch of the journey has its own rhythm, its own purpose. I remember one person I heard years ago, or perhaps I read it in a book. This man took a journey for one year, during which time he examined what he had done each day that he wanted to have done better, differently. He recorded his insights in his journal each night. It became a year of transformation for him.

I hope this journey will be one of transformation for me. Finding more gainful employment and beginning my own consulting work would be outward manifestations of “success.” Letting patience have its perfect work would be a much greater reward.

p.s. A few more for the gratitude list:

11. I’m grateful that I wrote all of the above this morning, before the day got bumpy with fear around financial matters.

12. I’m grateful to have met with my sponsor this evening. She always gives me some helpful perspectives when I’m feeling too overwhelmed to think clearly.

13. I’m grateful to my son, for having pointed out a great article on moving past the blocks that come from fear. I’m going to start rereading it in just a few minutes.

Action step(s):

  • Ate a different combination of grains for breakfast. (Too often I eat the exact same thing every day; a varied diet is much healthier.)
  • Balanced my checkbook.
  • Took out cash from the ATM to better monitor my spending (I hope).

Day 52 – Wednesday, Feb. 1st (52/314): Super-admin? No wonder it’s exhausting just looking!

I went to bed last night, anticipating a productive day of submitting an online job application and perhaps finding new job opportunities. I figured I could either use my uncle’s computer (if my aunt played tennis and he headed to the club for his usual walk) or go to the library and use the computer there. As it turned out, his computer was available for me.

I spent several minutes reformatting my resume, in case I needed to copy and paste it into an online form. Then I felt myself feeling hesitant by the time I got online. I went to the website where I had found the position I was considering – not a lot perhaps, but I figured the application online process itself would be good practice.

The position was already two weeks old (which, sadly, is rather old in this fast-paced market). So I decided to look at the recent job postings. As I read some of the position announcements, I felt a mix of frustration, fear and deflation. So many job descriptions look like a potentially good fit (i.e., I’m qualified), until I get to one or two things I don’t have specific experience in doing (i.e., maybe I’m not qualified). For example, I’ve never done international travel arranging or even planning, per se. Even though I know I could learn to do these, might enjoy the learning, and even do them well, part of me feels intimidated at the prospect.

I’m no longer young and might not be seen as someone ready to eagerly learn new skills and looking for a career. (I’m always willing to learn new things and actually prefer to stretch my horizons, but I’m not looking for a “career” in office work.) I’ve felt so overwhelmed by this whole job-hunting process that I’m often tired and feeling “highly motivated” (a popular requirement in job descriptions) is rarely how I feel.

Then there’s the list of other requirements emphasizing superior skills that feel all the more intimidating when I’m tired and reading descriptions that are clearly not my dream job: highly organized, strong attention to detail, excellent multi-tasking ability, highly punctual, strong written and verbal skills, enthusiastic admin to support a dynamic investigator, demanding and fast-paced environment, highly responsible…  That’s not even counting further requirements, such as the writing sample and three letters of recommendation to be submitted with the usual cover letter and resume in one description.

In short, best intentions aside, I soon felt overwhelmed and exhausted after reading only a few position announcements. That, in itself, was deflating.

I try to tell myself that I’m doing the best I can, given the circumstances and my experience. It doesn’t always help. So I cast about, thinking of what I was willing to do today and took a few small steps. I posted my updated resume on a job-search website and made it more searchable. I discovered that 33 employers had read my old resume, even though I didn’t know it (which tells me I needed a more impressive resume and/or profile). I later spent some time developing content for my consulting website. It’s a small start, but a start nonetheless. I even helped my aunt break up branches and scoop up leaves into containers for the compost recycling.

I’d like to put more energy into my job-hunting efforts, so I think I’m going to have to cut myself some slack when I don’t have the energy to tackle it like gang-busters and accept the fact that small steps, hopefully coming more often, do lead me in a helpful direction.

Action step(s):

  • Posted my updated resume on a job-search website.
  • Did more work developing my business website and plan.

Day 51 – Tuesday, Jan. 31st (51/315): A small(?) revelation

This morning I awoke with a dream about a rattlesnake. (I happen to love snakes, btw.) I knew Snake was bringing me a message of transmutation (at least according to Sams and Carson), which means that something that might be experienced as a poison can actually be transmuted into something harmless with the proper frame of mind.

Since one of my creditors told me just a few days ago that my account may go to collection if I don’t make a significant payment this month, financial matters and my need to be willing to go down this unhappy road sprang to mind. My anxiety level rose several notches as I started thinking about potential financial disasters – like bankruptcy. I’ve been there, many years ago, and do not want to repeat the experience. I wondered if the dream was telling me to get ready to experience something I absolutely do not want to experience.

As I showered, dressed and prepared breakfast, I thought about the feelings of shame and failure that accompanied that experience and of how much I didn’t want to go there again. Then I noticed my body-spirit reacting as if I were on that disastrous financial path already. It helped a little to recognize this, especially since it’s something that might not happen. It didn’t fully relieve the stress, but I let it go as best I could.

When I sat down to eat breakfast and do my morning reflections, I read more of Snake’s message from my book. It speaks of being willing to experience anything without resistance. Then it describes all the positive things we can experience through accepting all aspects of our lives. By the time I got to the sentence about this symbol coming to me because I need to transmute some thought, I had a revelation!

I was struck by the powerful realization that even if my worst nightmare strikes and I have to go down that path again, I do not have to experience it as failure or as shame. Those are judgments I have laid upon myself. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I have done my very best to manage my financial affairs and I will continue to do my best. My best is the best I can do with what I know and where I am right now, even when it’s a far cry from where I want to be. If creditors “force my hand,” so to speak, I may need to make different, unplanned choices. But whatever choices I make, I do not need to carry guilt and shame and a sense of failure along with the challenge of financial recovery.

I am still integrating this reality into my consciousness. There are so many cultural values that lead us to feel badly about ourselves that it was astonishing, really, to discover that I don’t have to accept someone else’s judgment, nor do I need to judge myself that way either. It is even freeing me of residual guilt and shame from my experience twenty-some years ago. It’s amazing how much that shifted things for me and how much freer I feel to keep doing what I can to get back on my feet.

Since this was the beginning of my scripture reflection time, I then opened my Bible – or rather let it open to whatever page it might. The verse I found was encouraging indeed:

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9  NRSV)

To which I say, Amen!

p.s. Does anyone else get stupid and/or irrelevant suggestions for tags for their posts?

Action step(s):

  • Spoke to my other creditor (who was much more supportive) and committed to making a small payment this week.
  • Took a small amount of money out at the ATM so I could use cash for the grocery store to help me attend to how much I’m spending.
  • Chose my grocery items carefully, adding the total up in my head as I went.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

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

Day 47 – Friday, Jan. 27th (47/319): From defeat to action!

Last night I fell into the pit. I continue to be baffled at how I can feel hopeful, encouraged or even confident one minute or one day, then feel so utterly defeated the next when seemingly nothing has happened. After literally sobbing through a release of deep emotions, I was reminded of one of the things that helps me through such times. In fact, in this time of deep challenges, I have been pausing more often to think about what has helped me before and what assets I have available to me.

One of the things that helps me when I feel knocked over by circumstances or difficult emotions is the Bach flower remedies. Last night, I listened to my body-spirit’s inclination. Rather than Elm (one of my favorites – elm for feeling overwhelmed) or Rock Rose (for fear), I picked up the Sweet Chestnut and read the label to remind myself of its attributes. (Some remedies I know well; others not so much.) The label says that Sweet Chestnut is to bring peace of mind and optimism “when anguish overwhelms you” and it seems like there’s no way out. Sometimes I don’t even realize how I’m feeling until someone else articulates it for me and that was exactly what I was feeling in that moment. I went to bed soon after taking a dose and was so wiped out, my light was out less than ten minutes later.

This morning I awoke feeling a bit uncertain as to what I was feeling, which was unexpected. Often when deep emotions come up at night and I acknowledge and release them, I wake up feeling energized, more confident. That didn’t really happen this time. Instead, I woke up and continued to listen and consider what I have been noticing lately.

At the job-search workshops I’ve attended, I’ve heard over and over that we need to “sell” ourselves to potential employers because there’s so much competition. We have to impress them with why we are not just a great candidate, but really the best candidate and the right candidate for them.

To be honest, I despise having to “sell” myself to anyone. In part, because I feel tend to feel inadequate (classic ACA syndrome), but also because I am not one of those people who’s good at putting on a bright smile and pretending to be eager and confident unless that’s how I actually feel. The notion of “pretending” in order to impress a potential employer (in the sense of pretending you’re confident and capable even if you’re terribly nervous vs. lying-pretending) seems phony to me. If I can’t be honest about my skills, abilities and interest in your company, and if you aren’t impressed with the real me, then I’m clearly not the right person for you and you’re not the right employer for me. So, I’ve resisted this idea and I’ve realized just how much I thought that’s how I have to approach job hunting. Today, I decided I don’t have to pretend I’m something I’m not – on paper or in an interview. (May there soon be interviews!)

It occurred to me that I hadn’t begun doing some of the things I had recently committed to doing. In fact, I’ve been so stuck in feeling stuck that I’d forgotten to look past that to what I can do. I realized one simple thing I can do is to start asking people if they know of any jobs for which I’m qualified. I realized I need to find someone I can talk to on a regular basis about this – like a ‘coach’ or support person, someone who’s willing to encourage me on a regular basis (who doesn’t charge a fee for their services). I began affirming my willingness and openness to good things happening that are beyond my control. I began trusting God to bring me what I need. And I remembered to not try to tackle all of my problems at once.

And you know what? Things started to happen today. Small things, maybe, but significant things. A colleague at work asked me how I was and I ended up telling her how much difficulty I was having even looking for possible jobs. We ended up chatting awhile and, even though I could feel a part of me tense up at some of her ideas, there must have been something vital in my speaking of this to another person, because something shifted in me. (I love those healthy shifts!) I did more this afternoon toward opening the door to employment opportunities that I’ve done in the past several weeks. These are small steps, but worthy ones.

I am so grateful for the way this day unfolded. 🙂

Action step(s):

  • Called and left a message at a free healthcare organization to seek support for my thyroid care.
  • Called the staffing agency to get me on their radar at another nearby location.
  • Left messages for three different people to talk about chaplaincy (one of the vocations I feel drawn to consider).
  • Spent some time working on my resume and gathering missing pieces that may be required for online applications.
  • Received a return call from one of these people, enjoyed a lovely conversation, and set up a time to talk the week after next.

Day 45 – Wednesday, Jan. 25th (45/321): Reflecting on the journey

Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant and patient God is with you?  (Romans 2:4 NLT)

The crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places made smooth.  (Isaiah 40:4 NKJV)

To everything there is a season…  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV)

I continue to journey through my reflection journals from a year ago, amazed at how often those events speak to my present experience.

A year ago, I was still recovering from my thyroid surgery. It affected my voice and the recovery from that seemed especially slow. To my own ears, my voice sounded deep, unnatural, odd – I had no volume. To others, it sounded “normal,” if more quiet than usual. I couldn’t sing, which was especially hard through the holidays. It was painful to have others cheerily tell me how much better I looked and sounded; they didn’t understand my suffering.

I feel alone on my journey now, wrapped up in the pain of my private fears that seem like fears no one else would understand (even though I know that’s not true). My fears don’t seem reasonable even to me.

Looking back, I realize it’s been close to two months since I’ve applied for a job. When I think in these terms, of what I haven’t done, I feel fearful, paralyzed, afraid to try because the need feels so urgent. Yet when I look at my journey of recovery from surgery a year ago, I am reminded that even though it felt like it took forever to recover my voice, my ability to speak, then sing normally actually returned in a remarkably short time.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how long I have – and haven’t – been on this ‘blog journey’ and the very reason I gave myself a year. The time window isn’t about a deadline for xyz to happen; it’s a reminder to me that change, especially major change, takes time.

A speaker I once heard remarked that change happens in an instant, and I think that’s true. But the effects of a given change, the integration of that change into new patterns of thinking or behavior, the transformation made possible by that change, all of these responses to change take time. New behaviors take practice to become habits. New ideas take time to develop. New ways of thinking need to break through the clog of old thought patterns before they can overcome them and become the norm.

I have learned that being gentle with myself yields far better results than trying to force myself to do almost anything I am not ready to do. Even the readiness comes more easily with gentleness. And gentleness requires patience with the seeming slowness of my process. I wrote some things in my journal a year ago that I want to reiterate here, as they are worth remembering, worth reclaiming.

I wrote that I was “coming to love” the practice of letting go. I notice that I must again be “loving” it because it has become one of the best and most helpful things I have learned to do. In fact, I believe it may be the key to success for me – in finding employment, in developing my consulting/ministry work, and in making the space to receive God’s abundant blessings for my life. Each time I remember to let go of the outcome of any given action, I feel a sense of release, even relief, and am freed to move forward with greater ease.

I am also learning to listen more attentively to that still small voice that would guide me whenever I am willing to listen. During my recovery from surgery, I had to do a lot of listening to know how to best care for myself through the changes that followed. It was a season of healing, of growth and of discovering new ways to listen to my body-spirit and to God. Last year, I wrote:

This “season” probably began as one of listening. It is becoming one of still listening, even as I begin the doing. Perhaps that’s the art of life: learning to listen, then do, always continuing to listen as we do.  (SJ #37, 1/21/2010, p 149)

This morning has become a “season” of reflecting. I find myself deep in thought, deep in the peace of recognizing and appreciating that I am making progress. I am continuing to listen, to learn, to let go and do the deep inner work that is required to be able to blossom and become my best self, the person God created me to be.

As I learn to be kind, tolerant and patient with myself, I discover that God is right beside me, smoothing out the rough places little by little as I gain more strength for the journey. What a blessing to know I am never alone!

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.

Day 43 – Monday, Jan. 23rd (43/321): Gratitude

Today I had the opportunity to do something that scared me. I couldn’t believe how shaky I felt before heading over to the government assistance office. Is it possible that the wee bit of caffeine I had almost twenty-four hours previously could still be setting my nerves on edge? It seems so ridiculous, yet I felt powerless to change my body’s reaction. I tried to remind myself that they are there to help me. It helped. But I was still nervous.

I had no idea if I was eligible for assistance or how long it would take. The weather had been windy and rainy through the night and I hoped for at least a small break while I walked the few blocks from work to there. I let go again and again of any expectations around how things might happen or what I might receive. I’m so glad I did that work. It turns out I do qualify, but in my present situation with no rent or utility payments (too bad storage units don’t count), I’m only eligible to receive $17 per month! Needless to say, I cancelled the whole application process.

Amazingly, I wasn’t particularly disappointed. In fact, I ended up feeling more gratitude than anything else and one of my first thoughts was that this didn’t come through because God has something better in mind for me!

The remarkable thing was the number of blessings that seemed to surround this whole experience.  Here’s a gratitude quicklist:

  • I was very grateful there was little to no rain the times I needed to walk between my work office and the other office.
  • I felt truly blessed to be able to get a same-day appointment to find out about my eligibility.
  • When I discovered that I was so close to the edge of eligibility as to not be worth it, I felt even more grateful that I wasn’t kept hanging with an appointment several days away.
  • I felt relieved, even grateful to not have to be part of the whole assistance program system. Since income determines eligibility and an increase in income reduces benefits, I feel freer to receive more income when I can simply receive it and enjoy it!

I realize that adult children of alcoholics often function well in a crisis, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to find myself rather excited to be freed from the burden of someone watching my income, even though it means I have to figure out how to stretch the $3.97 in my purse and $45 in the bank until payday. Weird, huh? I’m certain it has to do with the fact that being broke and financially strapped is familiar to me. My body-spirit tends to go, “Oh! I’ve been here before. No problemo!”

So, even though I began the day with hopes of receiving some financial assistance, a surprisingly big part of me is grateful I make so-o-o much money (yeah, right) that I hardly qualify. There’s a part of me that likes to rise to a challenge… Which is odd in a way because I also tend to put off other scary things I need to do. I’ll keep working on that.

When I got home this evening, I actually practiced self-care and I didn’t really plan it – it just “happened.” I spent the entire evening (till now), hanging out in the kitchen visiting with my aunt while she puttered around and I worked on a crossword puzzle. Then she broke out a jigsaw puzzle and that entertained us both till she and my uncle sat down to watch tennis and begin hors d’oeuvres and dinner, at which point I had fun finishing up the edge before heading to my room to write this and head for bed.

I have to say that for a day that began with such anxiety, after a restless night because of today’s plans, this turned into a pretty remarkable day in many ways. I feel grateful and blessed in so many ways!

Action step(s):

  • Sought financial help
  • Intentionally relaxed this evening!

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