Day 70 – Sunday, Feb. 19th (70/296): Unexpected grace

I’m noticing how quickly I start to feel depressed at any given moment these past couple of days. It’s a subtle depression; not the clinical kind. Still… Sometimes it manifests simply as a desire to be quiet. Sometimes it manifests as a lack of interest in doing anything in particular. Yet even when it’s the latter, it seems to have a purpose. Perhaps I’m meant to use this time to listen to my body and see what it has to tell me about this journey…

InterPlay Graduation

Timidly approaching the "hooplah" at an InterPlay graduation - green feathers everywhere!

  

After publishing my blog post Friday, about my aunt’s passing, and adding the picture of the two of us, I felt uplifted. It shifted the experience from sorrow to an appreciation of the time and relationship we had over the decades. I have had two photos of her as part of my changing desktop backgrounds. I have enjoyed seeing her face on a daily basis for the past few years. In a way, since I’ve known she was gradually making her way toward her Maker, I’ve been saying good-bye to her for some time. Soon I will celebrate my aunt and our relationship with my InterPlay friends. Wonderful things, fun things, any-things can happen at InterPlay!

Today I hurried to church to be on time for the next installment of the Islam class. I had finally sent an email to both the presenter and the pastor, expressing my concern about the tone being set. (My post last Sunday – Day 63 – expresses how disturbed I was over some of what was said. The reply, which I opened today, disturbs me even more…) As it happened, the presenter was ill and we had no adult ed class this Sunday. So, I found myself with an unexpected hour before the service.

Serendipitously, I had not brought anything to read or do. (I suffer from a touch of boredomphobia, so usually have something to read/do with me at all times.) I had fleetingly considered bringing my Courage to Change with me, in case I had some time between the adult class and the service. Instead I had “fearlessly” decided to go to church with only a notebook for taking notes during the class. (Technically, I did have a sudoku book in my bag, but it doesn’t count because it lives there all the time.)

Faced with “too much time and too little to do,” I actually connected with a few people who were enjoying the extended fellowship time. I’m typically shy about engaging in conversation with people I don’t know and hesitant to join a group already engaged in conversation. It felt good to have taken even these small “social steps” this morning. It was an unexpected blessing.

Sadly, I learned that a much-loved, elderly member had taken a fall Thursday, slipped into a coma and died the next day. Between that sad news on top of my aunt’s passing and wonderful music that often moves me anyway, I was grateful to have my handkerchief and a few tissues with me. Hanky for the eyes; tissues for the nose. By the end of the service, the hanky was damp and the tissues soggy. It felt good to let out more tears. I knew I had been holding them back, even if I couldn’t feel them being held back. My aunt was too special to me not to have had more tears than I had shed on Friday.

This morning’s tears were likely also the result of a clash of several emotional situations. Sadness at the death of my aunt. Sadness at the loss of my fellow parishioner. And the stress of my financial situation. In a kind of “double-whammy” Friday, shortly after I posted on my blog, I decided to print out my recent checking account activity, just to be sure how much I had to work with for the week. I was stunned to discover that most of my meager savings account balance had transferred into my checking account to cover my gas and grocery purchases this past week! I truly thought I had been paying better attention to my spending. Quite obviously not! Sigh… Sometimes the learning curve feels awfully steep…

Then, in a moment of grace – or rather, an hour of grace – I ended up in a fascinating conversation with a gentleman who was visiting our congregation. We talked at length about things related to interfaith dialogue and how to create greater harmony among people of different traditions and experiences, among other things. He belongs to the same faith tradition as one of my cousins and asked what her name was, in case they’ve met. I asked if he knew a good friend, who’s active in the United Religions Initiative (http://www.uri.org/about_uri/), which promotes interfaith dialogue. I’ll be curious to see if my friend and my cousin ever become a mutual connection for us.

I suspect we could have talked much longer, but my body was talking to me, suggesting such things as lunch and a chair. (We were standing out in the parking lot.) We exchanged email addresses and will likely stay in touch. While it didn’t occur to me to mention my interest in administrative office work, this felt like a networking connection that might bless me in my ministry pursuits as they begin to develop. It was a delightful and wholly unexpected gift, one that left me smiling and feeling quite blessed by the entirety of my church experience today.

Action step(s):

  • Sent an email to the presenter of the class that disturbed me so much last Sunday.
  • Checked my bank balance (which turned out to be a darn good thing!).
  • Gave myself a quiet, self-care day on Saturday.
  • Let go the temptation to pull from the small balance left in my “retirement” account. I’d still rather learn how to do more with what I do have than wipe out everything I have.
  • Did some judicious grocery shopping with the $21 I had in my purse, grateful to have had some cash to tide me over till my temp-work paycheck lands in my account sometime this week.
  • Had more worthy social interactions at church – stretching me just a bit more out of my safety/comfort zone. 🙂

Day 68 – Friday, Feb. 17th (68/298): Time passes and so do loved ones

My spirits are low this afternoon. A much-loved aunt passed away last night. I learned about it went I went to check my email this morning. She represents – or perhaps I now need to say “represented” – a lot of joyous times from my childhood. She was my mother’s sister. (My mother’s been gone several years.)

Me and my wonderful aunt, Thanksgiving 2006 (I think)

My cousins are people of strong faith and their emails went in the direction of “She’s now with Jesus! Hallelujah!” I find I can’t really get excited about this, even though I know she’s with her Creator. I miss her. And I’m sad that I will never be able to see her again in this earthly life. But she was ready to go; she had lived a good and full life (she turned 99 just last month); she still had her wits about her; yet her body was done with its work.

May we all be blessed with such a long and well-lived life and such a peaceful passing!

This post is short, as I don’t have the energy to throw myself into the world of introspection and noticing to see what I have or haven’t done this day towards my goals.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn and a time to dance… (Eccl. 3:1, 2, 4 NKJV)

The dancing will come later, when I will celebrate her life with movement and joy…

Action step(s):

  • Honoring my need for quiet in this time of sorrow, I left work a bit earlier than I might have and skipped the errands I didn’t feel like running this afternoon anyway.

Day 67 – Thursday, Feb. 16th (67/299): Leaving the rest to God

This week has been a time of changes, blessings, disappointments, gifts… I’ve noticed some things as I continue to reflect on this journey.

A year ago, shortly before Christmas, I found myself wanting to focus on the twelve Days of Christmas. It wasn’t so much what I planned to do as the fact that I had a place to direct my focus. What I noticed, as I turned my attention toward attending to those twelve days – which is something I’d never done before (I don’t think singing the song counts ;-)) – was that my Christmas suddenly didn’t feel quite so empty or lonely even though I was just as alone as I had been before. In fact, in some ways, I was more alone than in previous years.

I recognized in this something I’ve been experiencing recently. As my attention has become consumed with financial issues, I have seemingly lost interest in other concerns, such as the desire for love and romance that used to be on my mind virtually all the time. I’m increasingly interested in attending to my own self-care and, with that, being able to let go the things I’ve never been able to control but have nonetheless clung to as though I could control them.

Yet even this awareness doesn’t stop the tears when they well up, triggered by something I’ve read, something I’ve watched on TV or a DVD, something that reminds me that the road is still rough, hard, a long way from where I want to be. This afternoon I learned that the longer-term temp job didn’t come through. Disappointment seeps in amidst the gratitude for the extra twenty hours of income this week and I didn’t realized how much so until something on TV raised tears when it wasn’t especially sad.

Yet there have been blessings this week as well. The possibility of additional paychecks coming at regular weekly intervals got me to thinking about how to more wisely use the income. In recent years, I’ve often quickly spent any monies that came to me, as if to spend it quickly was the only way to enjoy it. This week, I came to realize that each paycheck would and could only be a small piece of the resources I would need to be able to get back on my feet and move forward.

I began planning – loosely, lightly, carefully. Tithe first. Pay a little on my credit cards. Put aside a little toward rent or a rent deposit. See if I might buy a piece of clothing here or there to expand my “professional” wardrobe. (Most of what I have is in the jeans and T-tops arena.) Remembering my plan from a little over a year ago when I got my new cell phone, to purchase one ringtone a month (which I’ve actually not done), helped me to realize that all these things can happen in small steps.

As unremarkable as it may seem to actually think about and plan financially, it is nonetheless a remarkable experience for me. It is virtually uncharted territory for this long-time instant-gratification addict. I suspect it took a kind of “hitting bottom” for me, where I ran out of available resources to discover and discovered that I can do without this or that, at least for a time.

I was also unexpectedly blessed in the temp job I had when part of the job involved looking at photos of condos and apartments and homes. My work involved uploading photos for “profiles” of places for rent. There was something about seeing so many beautiful homes that opened the door for me to begin dreaming. In fact, it opened the door to dreams bigger than I’ve ever truly had. For the first time that I can remember, I could actually see myself being able to someday afford one of those homes. They weren’t places for the very rich; they were simply nice places that people with good, solid incomes can afford. For too long, I have let my limited resources determine the size of my dreams and the past two-days have expanded those dreams in an unexpected and wonderful way.

Okay, it’s late now (for me), so I’ll close by saying that I’m appreciating all that’s happened this week. The ups, the downs, the changing tides of what I would and wouldn’t be doing for the next few weeks. As I was reminded to do in a reading from Courage to Change, I’ll attend to my responsibilities and leave the rest to God.

Actions step(s):

  • Listened to my body’s needs and got a long, full night’s sleep Tuesday night (9 hours!).
  • Did my best at my temp job (and was affirmed by my boss, who may call me again to work there if I’m available).
  • Called the temp agency to check in, rather than waiting to see if the other job was available. So much better than dangling in the unknown.

Day 63 – Sunday, Feb. 12th (63/303): Pompous Piety Derailed Serenity

I’m struggling with something. My anger and passion have been piqued around something about which I feel strongly, but I’m not sure this is a great time to actually write about the situation. I have experienced a lot of serenity this past week and have reveled in the grace of such a gift. When things have been a little scary or challenging, I have managed to weather them surprisingly well. Until this morning.

So I’ll keep breathing and taking my time with this, in the hopes that I write with more grace and compassion than I witnessed today.

We’re having a four-week adult class on the topic of Islam at my (Christian) congregation this month. The class description sounded interesting, so I had been looking forward to it. I missed last week, but was glad to be there this week…until I noticed a pattern in the lecture that disturbed me – a lot.

Rather than providing us with an education about Islam as a respected, if different from our own, faith tradition, this person kept comparing – in a denigrating way (from my perspective) – various Muslim characteristics, practices or beliefs to “Christian” values – as though all who might identify as Christians are the same, with the same values, moral codes, and interpretations of the Christian Bible. He used words like “sanitized” to refer to what is commonly known about Muhammad and “in stark contrast to Christianity” to emphasize something he apparently sees as particularly contrary to Christian values. I was shocked at the picture he painted.

The thing is, this man has done a lot of research over a long period of time. I don’t doubt that he offered a lot of factual data. But it was the tone and innuendo of his remarks that got my blood to boiling. As it is again now, just writing about it.

Breathe…breathe…breathe…

When he would make an “in contrast to Christianity” remark, I found myself wanting to ask, Which Christians? Grown Where? In What Century? There are so many ways that Christians disagree with each other that it is difficult to ascertain what exactly constitutes being “Christian.” Each denomination has its own understanding, its own interpretation of the texts that unite us.

It was not many decades ago, for example, that many Christians saw Judaism as a wrong path to God (as in, you won’t get there). (Many still do). Now there are many wonderful interfaith dialogues happening among Christians and Jews. Perhaps the growing acknowledgment and appreciation of the fact that Jesus was a Jew helped bring the Jewish and Christian communities into a greater appreciation for each other, but how many centuries was it before this happened? (The answer is, of course, “too many.”)

And how is the arrogant notion for many Christians that “we’re” (I must say “we” because I am Christian) the only ones who have it “right” different from the Muslim’s perception that Islam is the final, true understanding of God’s will?

Breathe…breathe…breathe…

What keeps coming to mind for me is something my World Religions professor said to us on the first day of class. He told us to approach our reading on each faith tradition as if it was the tradition we wanted for ourselves. In other words, he asked us to keep an open mind to the gifts and beauty and truths offered by each of the many traditions we studied. As a result, I saw in each of these faiths the same desire, the same yearning for the divine that I know in my own life and see in the people around me. I saw kindred spirits all over the world who simply approach the God of my understanding differently than I might or than my particular (Anglo, American, Protestant, 20th-now-21st  century, etc.) community/culture might. I felt blessed and uplifted simply learning about each of these traditions, including Islam.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with the overarching topic of this blog? I would answer, Everything and nothing.

The most disturbing aspect of my experience this morning was when one of the people from the class communicated to me afterwards her fear. Instead of providing an edifying introduction to a worthy and significantly global faith tradition, this man was unwittingly (I’d like to think) instilling greater fear of those who are different from us. One of the points he raised around sharia law (aka Islamic law), for example, is that it’s okay for Muslims to lie to non-Muslims in order to protect themselves. There was little context around this statement (or most of the others for that matter) to conclude anything except that Christians can’t believe what a Muslim might tell them.

Breathe…breathe…breathe…

I’ve been thinking on the Holocaust again this past week. I was thinking about how the Nazi slaughter of ten to twenty million Jews, Gypsies, “homosexuals,” people with disabilities, and several other groups of people impacted far more than the millions who died in those horrifying years. I was thinking about the impact it had on the survivors, the families and friends of survivors, the communities where the violence was perpetrated, and the countless other places in the world where such horrific events came to be known.

What was spread through that atrocity – and has continued to be spread through other forms of genocide and mass violence before and since – is fear. How can such events not shape our response to whatever is different in our world? It is too close to home. It is profoundly disturbing. And it seems to come out of nowhere simply because the leap from prejudice to violence can happen with such unexpected swiftness.

I was disturbed this morning because I went to church anticipating a similar education to the one I had received around Islam years ago – one that might lead to an appreciation of all that is good in it. Instead, I found a pompous kind of piety that gives excuse to denigrating a group of people who are no more homogenous than any other group.

It is interesting and perhaps ironic that the current (Feb.13) edition of Newsweek has a cover article titled “The Rise of Christophobia.” I picked it up at the store today after church and look forward to reading it. It is written by a Muslim woman who looks at the persecution and murder of Christians in the Muslim world. I pray that my fellow parishioners do not use it as fuel to contribute further to the denigration of Islam in the remaining classes this month.

This was a bit of a rant and longer than I anticipated. This morning’s experience disturbed me because I believe in a loving God who comes to us in many, many forms – perhaps as many forms as there are people willing to receive that love. This week, I will think a lot about the Serenity Prayer and ask God to give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change in this class at church, courage to speak up and say the things that need saying, and wisdom to know the difference.

Right now, I’m going to turn my DVD of Quincy back on and see if I can regain the serenity that was present when I began my day.

Your comments are welcome. Two resources came to mind as I was finishing this.

 

Day 61 – Friday, Feb. 10th (61/305): We were not given a spirit of fear

How fragile courage can be when it’s new, unpracticed, still developing… I went to work today, looking forward to the brief phone interview for the temp job, already planning how I might accommodate my present work responsibilities for the weeks I would be largely unavailable during normal business hours if I get the job. I wanted to give my colleague a heads up, in case my schedule needs to abruptly change. It caught her off-guard, as it had me, and the timing was poor. My eagerness rapidly shrank back to distress and concern. Would it work? Will I have to choose between a job I’d like to keep and a job I may need to be able to make ends meet in the coming weeks?

I was truly wishing I had my copy of Courage to Change with me. I would have turned to some pages on fear, worry, or some similar topic. (The thought to bring it had been there when I was getting ready for work. Once again, I dismissed the nudge I was getting from you know Who.)

So, I cast about in my memory banks for some 12-Step wisdom and remembered that I can choose what kind of attitude I want to hold. I could let my dismay and renewed fear dislodge the confidence I felt earlier this morning or I could remember that I need to take care of myself and trust God to work it out.

The irony, I realized as I was writing this, is that I had been given a classic “fear not” verse just this morning during my reflection time. In fact, I had recorded three such verses in my journal:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy…” (Luke 2:10 NRSV)

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7 NKJV – This is one of my favorites.)

I’m also now remembering the spider that startled me when it dashed across my comforter as I was preparing for bed last night. Oy! Spider reminds me that if I am not decisive enough about changing my lot in life, I may end up being consumed by my fears and limitations. (Sams & Carson’s Medicine Cards, p 209) I wasn’t thrilled to abruptly encounter the speedy little critter, but I appreciated the message. (Services were held for it this morning…)

Ya think Someone’s trying to tell me something about letting go of my fears and moving past them? I can take a hint! (And I’d prefer not to wait till the 2 by 4 is needed!)

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the temp job. I didn’t receive word one way or the other this afternoon, but the gentleman interviewing me said it might be Monday morning before we (candidates) would know. Until then, I’ll plan my work keeping the possibility in mind, but let go the worry about receiving the job. I know that if I am fortunate enough to get this or some other position, God will be able to sort out the details.

Action step(s):

  • Went into work early and caught up on some personal emails.
  • Responded to an email that came because my resumé is posted on a job site. The message undoubtedly goes out to everyone with a resumé on the website (they’re looking for sales people), so I flipped things and asked the inquirer to let me know if he knows anyone who needs a good admin!
  • Asked a friend, who inquired how things were going, to let me know if she hears of any admin positions. She said she’d keep it in mind. “Networking” again! Whoo hoo! 🙂
  • Boldly shopped for some healthy foods, knowing that God will provide if I run short later in the month.

Day 59 – Wednesday, Feb. 8th (59/307): Blessings and Self-care

I’m late in getting this posted. In fact, I’m late in getting it written. It’s amazing how much time can pass in such a short period.

Tuesday turned into a surprisingly good day. Not that I expected a “bad” day, but sometimes things happen in ways that bless and nourish unexpectedly. That’s what happened.

I came in early to work and submitted a job application. It’s for a full-time, temporary position. We’ll see if anything comes of it. Part of my ongoing challenge is being willing to let go this part-time job I love to make space for the support I need. I know that if I am blessed to find fuller-time employment, it will be a blessing for all, including my present employers. Whether or not I receive even a response to this job application (aside from the auto-reply “we got your application” email), it felt good to submit it.

Later in the morning, when I was the only one in the office (which seldom happens), a friend called. Since it was quiet and I had the time, our conversation ranged to the personal. We ended up scheduling a time for the following morning for her to do some energy work with me. Wednesdays have often been my day off from the office, so the timing was perfect.

Tuesday afternoon, I went to a check-in at JVS. When asked how I was doing with my job search, I could feel my body tense up. I had expected a check-in around using the computer lab, not an all around check-in. As the conversation continued, with only three of us in the group, I found myself struggling with fear and resistance, feeling of inadequate for not doing more.

When I asked what the instructor included under the umbrella of “networking,” she said she considered any contact with other people, especially in person or at least by phone, to be “networking.” The way she described it started shifting my perception of networking. Suddenly I saw networking as being available to me anytime I’m talking to someone else and am willing to mention that I’m looking for work. It was rather like what my pastor calls a “BFO” – a Blind Flash of the Obvious. Yet it hadn’t been obvious to me before. As I continued to think about the conversation, I realized that finding opportunities through people I know has actually been true for several of my employment situations over the years. I just hadn’t noticed it till now.

Thus, Tuesday became a day of unexpected gifts – little things that added up to a pretty nice day.

As for Wednesday’s activities… What can I say? After the lovely time connecting with my friend in the morning to receive a most welcome Reconnective Therapy (“RCT”) treatment (see http://www.reconnectivetherapy.com/start.htm for more information), I gave myself an entire day of relaxation. I know little, as yet, about RCT, except that I trust this friend and have had wonderful healing experiences through many forms of energy and healing work. Not surprisingly, the topic of fear came up. Also not surprisingly, the area of my body where she was led to begin treatment was the very place where the fear and trauma of a particular experience when I was a young child had been held in my body’s memory. I had uncovered the trauma some years back; now my friend was bringing healing to this area. What a gift!

I was having a touch of digestive unsettledness already, so when she talked about how I would be integrating this experience and would need to hydrate a lot over the next few days, something told me to listen to my body’s need to simply hold still. I’m not sure I remember when I’ve ever let go of “responsibilities” for a whole day before, but I did this day. I spent virtually the entire day enjoying Columbo movies on DVD and enjoying a beautiful jigsaw puzzle I recently received as a birthday gift. It was lovely.

Action step(s):

  • Submitted a job application!
  • Followed-up on monthly billings at work and cleared out the erroneous papers that I’d been afraid to toss too soon (i.e., cleared out the chaos and created order!).
  • Attended a follow-up workshop at JVS.
  • Connected with a friend and availed myself of a wonderful healing session.
  • Gave myself an entire day of self-care.

Day 57 – Monday, Feb. 6th (57/309): Coming out/Breaking Out

Before you leap to the popular understanding of what “coming out” means, let me start by saying that I don’t happen to be gay, bi or trans, though I count my many LGBTQ friends among my “heroes.” They have had to break through many (valid) fears and barriers to claim who they are. Whenever I’m around these friends, I wonder, how long will it take me to claim who I am, to be the person God created me to be?

I’ve carefully avoided talking about queerness in any sense of the word. And just in case you haven’t been hanging around academia in places like Berzerkley and other planets, queer is actually a term used and appreciated in academia around gender studies and the like, to explore the ways we push against the status quo and notions of the way things are or have been (as if they ever were a particular way). But I am not an academician, so I won’t even attempt to go there. I offer this point merely as a way of quieting, hopefully, the discomfort or concern some people feel about using the word “queer” in connection to notions of sexual orientation or gender.

I might as well tell you right now that I enjoy using the word “queer” because I rather like pushing against, well, lots of things that make some people uncomfortable. We are too often told what we “should” or “shouldn’t” do or say by others and that in itself is a good reason to question the way things are. (It’s also the nature of Aquarians to be a bit contrary.)

But my queerness – or lack thereof – is not what this is about for me. What I’m trying to do is to keep pushing at the boundaries I’ve built around myself that keep me from breaking through my fears. When I began considering bringing up LGBTQ topics (like, this morning), I balked. That’s not really what my blog is about, I thought. I don’t want to derail the conversation (even if it has largely been one-sided) that is here to help me break through my fears. Then I noticed that bringing up a subject about which I feel passionate (as in supporting LGBTQ people) brought up fear. Oops! And I thought this journey was merely going to be about organizing and purging the paper piles and finding adequate employment…

“Coming out,” for me, is about breaking through my fears and not being afraid to be who I am. I have so many friends who have had to face far worse fears than I do to be who they are and they are not only fine, they are amazing and often wonderfully successful because of who they are. The fact that I am so drawn to my lesbian and trans-women friends made me wonder about myself. Eventually I realized that the attraction I experience is not what I experience toward (“straight”) men, but rather the admiration for those who have had the courage to become more fully themselves.

For me, as someone who has considered herself to be shy most of her life, part of my “coming out” will be to embrace the closeted extrovert in me. I remember remarking to my pastor once that I was shy. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, “You’re shy?!” The memory of that moment stayed with me. It is only in the past couple of years that I have come to recognize that my shyness has really been about fear and being afraid to be who I am for fear people would dislike or reject me

There’s so much more to say on all this, but I’ll stop for now. Be prepared, though, now that I’ve brought up one of my favorite topics. (See, Aquarians really do like to be contrary and, I suspect, do a bit of trouble-making!)

Have a blessed and wonderful day being yourself!

Action step(s):

  • Writing a birthday card to my birthday “twin,” even though it’s a bit late.
  • Giving myself permission to perhaps regularly get to work early and take some time for my own tasks before “clocking in” – like writing this post.
  • Bringing up the “Q” word in this blog – despite the fact that I feel extremely nervous doing so. (Have I lost you now? ;-))

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 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.

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