Day 42 – Sunday, Jan. 22nd (42/324): Doggone Fearmobile…

Well, I was doing pretty well most of the day. I had planned to organize my papers for tomorrow’s visit to seek assistance and I had picked up some file folders from my storage unit to help organize the box of paper-chaos I have in my room. I grabbed empty folders, near-empty ones and ones that looked easy to purge. Earlier today, I found and printed various documents I figure I’ll need for tomorrow. Then I spent time this evening purging old papers from the folders I brought out of storage while I watched Murder She Wrote episodes on my computer. It was pleasantly diverting and rather satisfying to toss, tear up and carefully “shred” old medical bills and other miscellaneous things from five or six years ago. I even ran across an email from a friend that’s worth keeping.

Once I was done clearing out the papers and realized it was time to get things picked up and ready for bed, though, I started feeling nervous – a lot nervous. I keep wondering if some of that could be residual effects from the caffeine I had this morning. It was only about half a cup of not-too-strong, green chai spice tea (Stash – my favorite when I want a wee bit of caffeine). But it was probably a mistake because within a couple of hours I was very nervous. (I’m a fly weight when it comes to caffeine.) I think some of the anxiety is simply around getting ready to bare finances and having them placed under scrutiny by an agency that could help me, but might decide I just need to wipe out my tiny IRA balance…

I know this is all quite irrational and I hope I’ll be able to calm down and sleep well. I’m also hoping it’s not too rainy in the morning because I want no excuses to chicken out. I need the help right now and I need to step up and ask for it. (Dang! Where’s that fairy godmother when I need her!) So, I’m using this as an opportunity to verbalize that THIS KIND OF THING SCARES THE PEEWADDLIN’ OUT OF ME! Okay, I’ve shouted it loudly without freaking out my aunt and uncle. Now I can go into my room and add the gestures and body movement to go with the shouting.

Still, I feel pretty good about my attitude around all this and about the small bit of paper clearing I got done today. As I prepared for tomorrow, I continued to let go of expectations around outcome. I also appreciated how I’ve resisted the urge to grab more files from storage to purge because that could become a safe and easy distraction from the scarier work of looking for work and seeking help where I need it. Maybe the paper purging, too, can happen in tiny steps like this unplanned mini-purge today. It was kind of fun to tear things up and use my scissors as a “paper shredder.” 🙂

Time to head for bed, breathe deeply for a while, and see if sleep might bring the rest I need. The truth is, I know where my help comes from – and it’s not the office I’ll be visiting tomorrow.

 Thanks for listening.

Action step(s):

  • Did some journaling about my progress (And you thought I wrote it all here, didn’t you? 😉
  • Prepared for tomorrow’s application for assistance
  • Purged a few files of old papers (Yay!)

Day 40 – Friday Jan. 20th (40/326): Foiling the Fearmobile

Yesterday, a friend helped me see that my expectations for myself are, in fact, unreasonable. She wisely pointed out that having instability in housing or finances is stressful; having both at the same time, especially for an extended period, as I have, is more stress than most of us can handle and remain sane. Sane? Am I supposed to be sane? Her point was well taken – and much appreciated.

She asked me if I’d considered government assistance. Right now, I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the rest of the month. Seeking assistance has been on my mind off and on for more than a week. Today, I took a few minutes to find out where the office is, download an application form, and fill it out. (Yay, fill-outable pdf forms!) Then I stuck it in my bag to consider when I might actually go there.

There is something about baring your financial soul to a government agency that makes me more than a little nervous. If I zeroed out my checking and savings accounts, I might squeeze by this month. I worry that the agency would expect me to do just that. I wish I had a “prudent reserve” but my savings accounts have been nothing more than temporary holding cells for my checking account. I’d like to change that. Truly I would. I just haven’t learned how – yet. Adequate income would help.

When I left work this afternoon, I drove by the agency, to see where it is. I discovered there’s nearby two-hour parking, but nothing else free and long enough for the often lengthy process. It was raining. I didn’t feel like getting wet, so I drove home. But I kept thinking about the form in my bag and the fact that the office would be open for another hour and a half.

I paced a bit in my room and debated whether to drive back over there. I decided to do it. On the way, I realized something important: the only reason for me to avoid going there was fear.

Oy! Got me! The very reason I started this blog – to practice breaking through the fear.

I let go any expectations about the outcome of going there late on a Friday afternoon. I knew that (a) I might discover they only let people out, not in, by that time of day; (b) I might not get anywhere even if I got in; or (c) I might be able to get started. In only a few minutes, I learned that it was to be “b” – late in the day, too many people already there. I was encouraged to come by Monday morning, the earlier the better.

I resist doing this sort of thing because it scares me. I’m paranoid that I’ll leave out some detail or do something wrong (like earning a few extra bucks cleaning) and lose my eligibility for assistance. It’s crazy, I know, but my reaction is visceral. I can’t help it. I’m still feeling a bit shaky and I haven’t even begun the process. This weekend, I’ll see if I can lay my hands on the information I will need to be armed and ready come Monday morning. I may not need it yet, but it will help me to answer their questions.

Now it’s time to breathe, shake out the nervousness, and relax for a bit. Maybe I can even take a moment to appreciate my willingness to face this particular fear.

p.s. Is it weird that it even feels scary to post this?

Action step(s):

  • Took a first step toward getting much needed help despite the fear!

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)

Tuesday, Jan. 17th (37/329): Job Talk…Just for today

Monday morning began with reflections on the previous day. It felt like the light had started to shine in the darkness of my recent experiences of feeling so overwhelmed. A little later in the morning, it felt good to go to the women’s InterPlay class and have the opportunity to dance, connect, babble and tell stories. I talked about this blog, about a new blog/website I’m beginning to create, even a little about my dreams. It felt good to finally register the new blog/website and make a start. Good – and a little bit scary.

The shift felt positive, transforming even. Later, I organized my handouts from the various job-search workshops I’ve attended. The rest of the day I relaxed and started thinking about what concrete steps I might take toward seeking employment.

This morning, I awoke and checked to see if there was anything in particular I needed to do to prepare for a meeting with my employment specialist today. Guilt and anxiety started creeping rapidly into my day. The coming meeting reminded me of the work I need to be doing, not just learning about doing. I had precious little to report.

I chose one of my favorite verses to use for my first reflection: Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:14 (NKJV) I needed a sense of courage; anxiety was gaining ground.

I noticed something as I wrote the verse in my journal. It says that God will strengthen my heart – not me. It’s not something I do myself; it’s something only a Power greater than myself can do for me. I took some comfort in that. Which is good, because I felt thoroughly deflated later in the day after my meeting with the employment specialist.

It seemed like I had done virtually nothing since I had last met with her. I hadn’t submitted any resumés or job applications or done any informational interviews. I hadn’t even called the people I know I want to talk to about their experiences in chaplaincy, to see what possibilities it might hold for me.

On the other hand, as I reported what I could, I realized I did do a few things. I did scout out job possibilities on Craigslist a time or two. I did get on the university job listing site and see if there was anything there for me. I did talk briefly to two people about wanting to meet with them to talk about chaplaincy work. I did check out a lead one of them gave me (though it didn’t get me anywhere – yet). And I did receive a call from a staffing agency about a position (I unfortunately wasn’t qualified to fill), which enabled me to let them know I am available for work.

Yet I completely discounted, even dismissed the tiny steps I have taken. The times I looked for employment possibilities were dismissed because I didn’t find anything that led me to submit an application. At the university, there were no positions for which I was qualified that fit. I haven’t followed up with either person to whom I mentioned chaplaincy. And I still need to call the staffing agency regularly or I will fall off their radar again.

In short, I may not have done as much as I’d like, but I’ve done more than I thought.

Earlier this evening, I discovered I have not talked about the one thing I was determined to talk about every week – job hunting. It’s time to begin both talking about it and directing more of my energy into it. I’ve nudged my thyroid medication back up toward what was normal before the stressful move the end of November and that may help with the physical energy. As for the emotional energy…

I rediscovered my “Just For Today” Al-Anon bookmark. I’ve been carrying it around all day, reading and rereading the first statement: Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.* It’s helping me remember that I cannot do everything all at once.

Action step(s):

  • Met with employment specialist
  • Registered a new blog/website to begin developing the consulting work I want to do
  • Did some careful meal planning to stretch the tiny amount of money I have left for the month
  • Mostly, I’ve trusted God a little more by letting go more often in the past two days

*This bookmark and other Al Anon literature are available at http://www.al-anon.alateen.org and at Al Anon meetings in your area.

Sunday, Jan. 15th (35/331): Private journeys

I attended a memorial service today for a dear friend’ husband, who passed away New Year’s morning while she was at church. He died peacefully in his sleep, just hours after they had shared an enjoyable evening, planning more of their future together after more than fifty-five years of marriage.

As I listened to the stories about this unobtrusive, remarkable man (whom I had never met), and especially as my friend shared briefly about what a wonderful support he had been for her, I was struck, by way of contrast, at what a private, sometimes lonely journey recovery can be. A few tears slipped down my cheeks as I felt my friend’s loss and also my own yearning for such a relationship. I wondered if I will ever know the kind of love and connection they had.

Barely three hours later, after listening to shares of a different nature at an ACA meeting, it occurred to me that the difficulty I’ve experienced in these past six or so months might well be a gift. Like it or not, I have been forced to take a hard look at the patterns of thinking and behaving in my life, and the patterns that don’t work have become abundantly clear, as has the amount of fear that drives many of those patterns.

The gift, for me, has been manifesting in the form of healing in my thinking around relationships. I used to think I could not walk this journey alone and I really didn’t want to try. But in the past six months, I have not only discovered I can walk alone (in human terms, for I know I am never alone in the sense that God is always with me), I have come to appreciate the value in finding my own way. I have discovered that I do not need a partner or spouse to encourage me, share the burden with me, or support me. Perhaps this is obvious to you; for me it is a revelation. No, a miracle. Even as I felt the longing for someone to share my life, as I listened to the story of one man’s love for his wife, family and friends, the “need” for such support was gone.

I suspect the main reason I am receiving healing in this area of my life is because I let it go and got out of the way of my own recovery. Interesting how that works. Without conscious effort, I implemented Step 3 in the 12-Step program: I turned my life and my will in this arena over to the care of God. Clearly, God has been working on me!

I’m not sure it’s quite the same thing, but an image that comes to mind is this: one way to get over a headache is to drop a hammer on your toe! It’s called “diversion” and it seems to be working. I think I’m a bit ADD that way – the best way for me to let go of something is to direct my attention elsewhere.

Now, if I can figure out how to apply this in some way to my job hunting goals, maybe I can really make progress!

Action step(s):

  • Putting God first several times today when I could have insisted on my own way
  • Setting out some clear goals and prayer requests
  • Being attentive to the money I was spending, with an awareness of what I actually have available to spend, and making choices accordingly

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)

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