Day 136 (Wed/Apr 25): Taking a moment to appreciate the little things

My "kitchen" - at least it's indoors

I live in an area where there are a lot of people living on the streets. There are few places I walk where I don’t encounter someone asking for help. Sometimes I offer a dollar or two; sometimes I don’t. It depends on what feels right at the moment. At the very least, I try to offer a smile and perhaps a caring remark.

Yesterday, when I was walking on a main street after leaving my car for some repairs, a young man barely out of (or not yet out of) his teens asked for 50 cents. I was in a rush and taken by surprise, and apologetically said no. His face stayed with me and I prayed for him as I rode public transportation to work. I dubbed him “Michael.”

I have options

The encounter got me to remembering a woman I used to see when I was a kid. At some point I learned her name was Mary. Mary wore a voluminous, light brown, tent-shaped coat, winter or summer, which I now suspect may have covered her entire wardrobe. I knew she had no place to live and that was a mystery to me back then. Now that I live in an area with so many homeless people, the image of Mary has often come to mind. I can still see her standing on the street near the liquor store, across from the gas station and an auto parts store. I have wondered what may have happened to her.

The strain of constantly peering at the computer for days on end has left my eyes strained and irritated. I

It's not much, but so much more than some

decided to take a few minutes this morning to soothe them with a warm, wet washcloth. That simple act of running hot tap water over the washcloth led me to think about Mary and Michael and so many others, and the countless little things we take for granted. I have learned to appreciate many things I take for granted in recent years, as I have needed to move from place to place, sometimes house-sitting, sometimes staying with family or friends as an act of grace, sometimes being able to actually pay for my own place. But this morning, I thought of even the most basic things with renewed appreciation:

Access to hot tap water, for everything from washing dishes and showering to the simple things, like creating a warm compress for my eyes. Microwave ovens, toaster ovens and regular ovens, too. A bed to sleep in. Fresh water to drink. A refrigerator in which to put food that would otherwise spoil.

It does the job

Lights in the rooms to enable me to see, to work, to feel safe. A roof over my head. A bank account – no matter how low or high the balance at any given moment, right now I’m appreciating the ability to have one.

Shoes for my feet – in fact, having choices about what to put on my feet, knowing they are all in good condition. The choice to let go of my favorite ones when they have worn out. Clothes and the spaces to store the ones I’m not wearing, the ones I don’t need to wear.

Food. Music. Transportation. Family. Friends. Places to feel safe. Moments of quiet…

I'm safe and warm at night

There is so much in life to be grateful for, even when the going is hard. Today I’m grateful for the little things, as well as the bigger ones.

Big and Small Steps:

  • Allowing myself to ignore certain phone calls, knowing they would derail my serenity and disrupt my work.
  • Making a (small for them, good-sized for me) payment toward that “debt” – they can accept it or not.
  • Attended a Debtors Anonymous meeting Sunday.

Noticings:

  • That the step/stair exercises I was doing were actually triggering the discomfort in my low back. (Whoops!…Rats! Gotta find something else to do for exercise.)
  • How much easier it is to keep my serenity when I choose the time and place for difficult phone conversations.
  • How much more important my own self-care is becoming to me, and…
  • How much I’m beginning to consider the “big picture,” if you will, of my life by seeing beyond my immediate circumstances, especially in terms of finances.
  • How much better I felt this morning after I rolled back over and let myself return to sleep, even though my alarm awakened me only an hour later. 🙂

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!

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!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step(s):

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

Day 2 – Tuesday: Unexpected bump…

I am appreciating the responsibility of attending to this blog and to doing something that “counts” toward my goal. Yesterday, clearing out some things, then writing my post energized me. In fact, I was too energized to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. Today, I was yawning all day. I’m thinking that clearing stuff out and writing these posts should happen a bit earlier in the evenings.

Today, I feel as though I did far less, yet I notice that fear is starting to creep in… I noticed some mail I had recently picked up and went through that. It was easy to throw most of it away. The student loan notice was disconcerting, reminding me that I will soon need to do some paperwork around that. I actually can’t do it before a certain date, so it looms there rather ominously, an intimidating deadline.

I have a couple of meetings tomorrow, one for which I want to dress a bit nicer than I normally need to do. I spent some time trying on different clothes, realizing how little I have that’s suitable for interviews and similar situations. It was deflating. I also decided to switch to my new, more-professional-looking purse. You’d think that would be simple. But I started feeling nervous doing that simple, but not-so-easy task.

Moving out of my comfortable, casual, back-pack-style purse, in which I’ve been able to carry all sorts of things, was surprisingly disconcerting. You see, my comfy purse provides a kind of security blanket for me. I can carry a bottle of water, snacks, my planner, a small book to read, and all sorts of “in case I need them” things. Which is also why the silly thing ends up being so heavy – and decidedly unprofessional looking. So this one small task of moving into a more professional, conspicuously smaller purse started triggering the fears that accompany looking for work and doing interviews and all the steps in between.

Sometime between the trying on the clothes and putting together my new purse, I got a call from one of my credit card companies – the company that seems less willing to be patient with me as I make tiny payments on my overdue balances. It’s as if there was a convergence – a conspiracy even – of several nervous-making things come to shatter what serenity I might have had.

In fact, this is exactly the reason I started this blog, for it is these kinds of little things of combinations of things that derail me from forging ahead with so many bigger things.

Tomorrow, the meeting that actually has me nervous is a networking event sponsored by a vocational services organization. I am partly looking forward to it and partly (make that mostly) wanting to chicken out. But I’m not willing to avoid doing this. I am reminding myself that it doesn’t really matter what I look like (although I kind of think it does – just not as much as it feels like it does) and that my career and future do not depend on this one semi-social, semi-business event. The thing is, I have little experience “networking” and even less confidence in my ability to do it gracefully. Sometimes I can picture myself acting confidently, but inside I’m quaking a bit. And it isn’t even time to go there yet!

Alas! I know I want to keep moving ahead, even if it gets bumpy. Perhaps especially if it gets bumpy. So now, with wardrobe planned and purses exchanged, I will spend some time doing some journaling, reading and talking to God to wind down for bed and dispel this growing apprehension about tomorrow.

Thanks for listening. 🙂

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