52 Days – Am I Afraid to Be Happy? (Sat – Jan 19)

Last night my fears were trying to get the better of me, so I cast about for what to read. I had a Guideposts, a Forum, a DA book – A Currency of Hope, and Ponder’s Open Your Mind to Receive. I was floundering, wondering what would be most helpful to me to read, feeling anxious and worried even about such a small thing.

I briefly considered the Ponder book, but thought I needed something other than “merely” opening my mind to receive. I was unsettled, unable to think clearly. I opened the DA book and found a story that I had already bookmarked to read: “Busting Out of Debtor’s Prison.” I started reading it. I connected with things the author was relating about his experience. He spoke of feeling angry when his Pressure Relief Group told him he needed to earn more money.

I felt angry at the idea of being told that too. Earning more money would just raise my monthly payments on my student loans! Of course, that wouldn’t be until next year when I “re-qualify.” And I keep forgetting that I would still have the other 85-90% of that extra income to use for other things.

I want to surrender my fears to my Higher Power

I want to surrender my fears to my Higher Power

I’d truly like to learn how to stop my mind from racing to that place of fear! It’s especially ridiculous (although it feels fearful, rather than “ridiculous”) because I rarely even have clear thoughts about what that unseen, expected disaster might be! Mostly it’s a vague sense of pending disaster that has no basis in reality. And mostly, when I stop to think about it, when I can calm myself down and think more clearly, I discover that my worst imaginings are, themselves, ridiculous.

I am so grateful for the things I read last night. I am grateful to have read the story from my DA book. And I’m even more grateful for having returned to the Ponder book and to be reminded by the words from the Book of James, that I do not have because I do not ask (James 4:2).

In the passage from James 4, I was struck by the words in verse 4:1 that talk about our cravings or our desires being at war within us. That rings so true for me. I notice that I long both for a place of my own and for a place where I have a roommate with whom I enjoy sharing the space, that I might have the social connection of another person in the home. I long for an independent income that frees me from the need to work at a “regular” job, yet I love being able to be around others and share the experiences that bring laughter and friendship through the workplace. I long for a love in my life, yet I’m afraid to be open to the possibility of this happening with someone I’ve not yet met. I’m afraid of the unknown, for I have no control over it.

I want to rush toward changing my words and changing my experience, yet the idea of being abundantly blessed scares me! Which seems completely crazy, ridiculous! But it does…and I don’t really understand why. Is it really just the unknown that scares me? Is it some unarticulated sense of responsibility that a part of me knows will come with it? Is it the fact that I would have to change how I see myself or how I do things if I suddenly were financially blessed and found myself in a loving committed relationship where my life would no longer be just “my” life but would be a part of “our” life?

Am I truly afraid to be happy and blessed? And if I am, why?

I want the courage to jump into the "hoop."

I want the courage to jump into the “hoop.”

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Room for Fear and the Challenge of Facing It – Day 300 (Sat – Oct 6)

Was it only yesterday morning that the words “Be of good courage” provided the emotional release I must have needed? It seems longer ago than that…

I have been letting go of many things, including expectations around how much time I have in the mornings. For more than ten years, I have spent at least 20-30 minutes every morning doing a little reading, then reflecting on what came to me, filling page after page in my now dozens of journals.

With my recent, self-imposed (though much appreciated) early work schedule, I don’t always have time to write in my journal in the morning. So I’ve been trying new things. One of them is to simply read something that helps me to hear God’s voice. Usually I read from my Al Anon literature, like The Forum magazine or Hope for Today (one of the daily readers), or I read from an inspirational resource, like the Daily Guideposts devotionals or the Guideposts magazines. I like hearing other people’s experiences, how they’ve made it through the difficult times and how they celebrate the rejoicing times.

It was the third devotion I read yesterday that brought on tears as I recognized the depth of my loneliness. I hadn’t actually noticed it while trying to work on the challenges in my life right now. In fact, I would likely have told you that I’m not especially lonely these days. But there it was!

As I reflected on these feelings on my way to work, I noticed that clearing out so much unneeded stuff from my room last weekend had actually created room for more feelings and more fear to emerge. It was as if I had begun disassembling the wall of protection I’d hidden behind for such a long time. Without all the conspicuous clutter and my constant concern about what to do with it, my mind had room to turn to other things. And the next “other things” are the many stashes of paper living in various spaces in my room, from orderly boxes to random piles.

It’s within the paper piles that the scary stuff lives: the stuff that brings up emotions, triggers fear, and generally intimidates me, sometimes even overwhelming me when I think about addressing it. If I open the piece of mail from the credit card company, for instance…here, let me grab one right now and open it…

Okay. This one is a “REMINDER NOTICE.” (They capitalize that to make sure I don’t think it’s some other kind of notice, I suppose, or perhaps to make sure that I am, indeed, “reminded” that I promised to send them $25 a month.) It’s from the “RECOVERY DEPARTMENT.” (More caps.) Of course, “recovery” for them means getting as much money from me as they can before they give up. “Recovery” for me means learning to let God lead me through this maze of challenges as I am restored to sanity.

What happens for me, in the very process of facing the unopened envelope, is that I’m afraid I will open the envelope to discover that something is happening that is the very opposite of what I want to happen. So I procrastinate and let the papers accumulate. Then last weekend, I had to go and do what I realize was a remarkable amount of cleanup in my room. So much so that I really have no more excuses to not begin plowing through the stacks of paper.

The words I read yesterday, especially “Be of good courage,” came on the heels of newly realized feelings of loneliness. They became both the reminder that this work must be done alone (for the most part) and the encouragement for me to hang in there. At an InterPlay retreat last Saturday, I was encouraged to ask someone to simply come be with me while I sort through stuff. Just thinking about that possibility brings up fear and uncertainty, because I know that having someone with me as a supportive witness would intensify the experience.

Rats! Here come the fears and the tears, as I am reminded that there is a reason I’m being led through all of this inner work incrementally, one small step at a time. It is hard work. And it is often intensely emotional…and powerfully cleansing when I have the courage to take even the smallest of steps.

I can only do one piece or take one step at a time…

Day 76 – Saturday, Feb. 25th (76/290): Noticing the depression, the peace, the bursts of energy and more

Yesterday became a surprisingly peaceful day. After getting to the office and taking the time to write my last post, I soon found myself going through the tasks on my desk without any sense of urgency or need to hurry. I simply kept attending to one thing after the other, beginning with being able to post data on my colleague’s computer without having to rush, since she wouldn’t be in for a few hours.

The odd thing was that I ended up working much longer than I had planned, not out of any compulsion to stay or sense of obligation, but because I was simply enjoying the freedom to be here and to work as long as I wanted. I got caught up in catching up on a particular type of correspondence, which helped me to work my way through some incomplete tasks that were filling up my folders. It felt good to clear them out one by one.

Working in a part-time job with far too much to do in far too little time often presents the challenge of picking and choosing which tasks garner my attention at any given moment. Perhaps that’s why yesterday was so nice. There were several people in the office, which doesn’t happen all the time. The atmosphere was quietly productive in a serene, sometimes playful sort of way. And the truth is, I was enjoying being around people, even if we weren’t often in conversation.

These past eight days have been a strange mix of depression and loneliness, peace and connection, small bursts of energy and sudden “who turned off the lights?!” moments of fatigue. I appreciated reading that Lent is a time of slowing down. I can use some slowing down right now, even as I sometimes feel the need to shift gears into more action. It gives me permission to attend to the inner journey even more closely.

When that happens, I find I’m able to notice things I might otherwise rush past. For instance I noticed I was able to respond differently to a call from the staffing agency. When they called to see if might be interested in another temp position that is farther away than I would like and would require a commute through a particularly congested stretch of freeway, rather than hesitate and send out the signal that I wasn’t interested, I said, “Tell me more.” That simple act gave me a few moments to adjust to the idea that even though this is far from what I would consider an ideal location, I want to be open to what might be there and, certainly, to the much-needed income. I never know when I might encounter unexpected blessings, like those that came through my last temp job.

Perhaps it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, being able to say, “Tell me more.” Yet for me, it was a new and helpful way for me to respond when my kneejerk reaction was to inwardly groan at the prospect of that particular location. It’s moments like these, when I’m able to respond in a different, healthier way that I appreciate this journey of introspection and moving slowly.

Noticings:

  • How nice it was to choose to relax and stay at work yesterday until I felt ready to leave.
  • That it was a good decision to stay home this weekend, as much as I would have liked to have said good-bye to my aunt with my cousins and siblings.
  • How good it feels to be able to dance and move and “babble” today.
  • How much I’ve enjoyed having pictures in my post and wondering where to find more.

A word about “noticings”: Noticing is something we do a lot of in InterPlay. It’s not about making judgments or trying to make meaning or sense of whatever we’re noticing. It’s simply observing what it is and letting that inform our experience in whatever ways it does.

Action step(s):

  • Attending a Day of Deepening at InterPlay, giving my body and my spirit a space to play, to move and to be in community.
  • Saying ‘yes’ to the possible temp job despite the location and schedule because I want to be open to possibilities, rather than closing them off.

Day 17 – Wednesday, Dec. 21: Mixed feelings

This morning I woke up with the freedom to not leap out of bed and get a busy start to my day. I lay there and began to thank God for the things I was noticing and appreciating in that moment: Being able to sleep until I was “done.” The comfort in my right eye, which has been bothersome these past few days. The space over the holidays to attend to such things as student loan paperwork and other financial matters. Even the time to start jotting down the many things that actually do need my attention if I am to take care of myself better.

When I thanked God for my aunt and uncle and having a safe space to stay for the holidays, I ended up in tears as a mixture of pain and appreciation filled me. The ‘pain’ is the loneliness I feel and the longing for family, particularly for my son and for the aunt, uncle and cousins I grew up with from my mother’s side of the family. (I’m staying with my dad’s older brother.) My other uncle has passed on and my other aunt lives in a lovely and personable assisted-living facility several hours away. My cousins, their children, have, of course, grown up and now have families of their own all around the state. My son is living a couple of states away and neither of us have the funds for travel to see each other. I wonder if he knows how much I miss him and how often.

The appreciation I felt is deep gratitude for being with family rather than strangers and for being in a place that feels safe and familiar. It gives me the space to attend to the challenges that are on my plate at the moment. And these are the edges where fear tends to live.

Student loan paperwork to defer repayment, finding housing where rent will not be needed (at least for a time), and addressing healthcare issues with no insurance can be challenging on a well-paid day. They feel intimidating to me right now, when my finances are so tight. I wonder how I will ever be able to take care of these things on my present income.

When I try to muster the energy and courage to search for work, it just isn’t there if I’m in the midst of feeling overwhelmed. The release of tears this morning helped. It is helpful to acknowledge just how difficult this journey is for me right now.

For a little while, I felt energized to begin tackling some of these scary things and resume the tiny steps toward my goals. But I can’t always turn on that tear-release-valve and capture a sudden burst of energy and confidence. Most of the time, I have to keep reading things, reminding myself that I am not alone on this journey, and keep taking those baby steps. (The movie “What About Bob?” comes to mind. Maybe I should look for it at the library.)

How do you face these kinds of challenges in your own life? Or what kinds of challenges are you facing? I’d be interested to hear, if you’re willing to share.

Take care and be blessed.

Today’s action step(s):

  • Threw away a formerly favorite velour sweater that I virtually never wear anymore. 😦
  • Checked bank balance and downloaded statement to balance.
  • Re-posted ad to find housing on Craigslist.

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