One Foot in Front of the Other

I haven’t felt much like blogging or Facebooking lately, mostly because I am trying just to get through each day. I suppose that if you tried to create a recipe for insanity, my life has most of those ingredients.

* One middle-aged woman who’s fairly level-headed most of the time (of course, that’s my perspective) but thrives on order

* Said woman is moved from an editorial job in which she felt comfortable and competent (and even passionate about her work) to marketing, an area about which she knows next to nothing, with an unclear job description

* Enter at beginning of summer one highstrung but greatly loved daughter who moves back home from her first year of college to discover that her older brother has moved into her bedroom and she doesn’t have enough space for all her stuff

* Older brother graduated from college with a B.A. in sociology at end of December, moved back home, and is trying to figure out the next steps of his life while he continues his part-time job delivering pizza

* Husband and dad is suffering from depression and is not his normal jovial self

* Add two car wrecks within five months, totaling both cars, and mix with a family already struggling financially

* Remove middle-aged woman from her support group of work friends and thrust her into an unfamiliar environment in which she has to figure out where she fits in and carve out her own path

Mix and stir…and watch the explosions that result.

Oh, and I should note that John and I have undergone many transitions this past year: our youngest child has left the nest; we have left our church home of more than 20 years (that has been a healthy thing for us; still, we are developing new relationships and don’t want to seem too needy); my 87-year-old dad has been in declining health.

I am just trying to make sense of it all. I find comfort in routine: getting up early in the morning, making my coffee, sitting down  to read my Bible and The Upper Room devotion for the day, reading something spiritual from another book (my definition of “spiritual” is quite loose), and checking Facebook somewhat obsessively to see what my friends have been up to. I find comfort in journaling. I find my spirits lifted by friends’ jokes. I enjoy the community formed by the exercise group I’ve participated in for a long time, especially my Walkabouts team, three other women with whom I’ve shared a two-month fitness challenge. I cope with stress by exercising, talking a lot (I sometimes feel like I dump on my friends), doing yoga, and praying.

I am trying to practice gratitude and kindness each day. I am grateful that God has seen fit to give me another day of life, even the shitty days. I am grateful for relatively good health, especially after a two-month bout of a sinus and ear infection that left me feeling like a car whose tires have been deflated. I am grateful for my sweet family, even though each one of us has issues we are dealing with.  I am grateful for a husband who has been faithful to me for nearly 30 years. I am grateful for girlfriends who listen and laugh and cry and pray for me. Now, about that kindness part…I manage to do a little of that, but mostly I’m just in survival mode right now. I am grateful that God hears my prayers, even if they’re only, “Help, help, help!” or “Please give me a clear and healthy mind, dear God…right  now. I need you!”

I am grateful for a church home where I hear words of grace, comfort, and encouragement each time I go there, even though I can’t remember half of the people’s names! I am enjoying singing in the choir, which does challenging music and has an awesome director of music who has taught me more than she will ever know.

I am grateful for my yoga teacher, who is gentle and encouraging and laughs (not at me but with me) when I do something stupid, like when I fell over while we were doing a seated pose the other day. I am grateful for Shaymus, a guy in my yoga class whom I don’t know well, but who joke s with me about our supermodel training not teaching us certain things.

I am  grateful for a musician neighbor who graciously invites me to play his piano anytime he’s out of town (which is pretty often)…I have a place to escape to when things get nuttier than usual at my house.

Thank you, God for these and all your blessings. Help me to keep one foot in front of the other and to be faithful to you. Amen.

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Listen to Your Life

Frederick Buechner wrote, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

OK, so I am trying to listen to my life lately to make some sense of it. (I’ve already violated Buechner’s advice to see it for the fathomless mystery that it is.)

Here are some things that are going on my life right now:
I’ve just changed jobs…transitioned into being an editor in marketing after 9 years as an editor in Upper Room Books. I am loving getting to write more, but I’m also feeling the pressure to be creative and write “killer copy”…maybe I should just settle for the best I can do and leave it at that.

Both of our children are home for the summer. I love having them home, but this is a tense time in our family’s life because we’re getting used to living together again after having some space from each other. Daniel moved home at the end of December after graduating from college. He’s trying to figure out his next steps while he’s still delivering pizza for Papa John’s. He took the GRE in January and did fairly well for not having prepared for it. John pushed him to go ahead and take it, and Daniel followed through, although he went into the test feeling quite ill prepared. The plan at the time was for him to go to grad school this fall and start a master’s in social work. He has a B.A. in sociology. He took some classes spring semester so he could stay on our insurance. The health care reform act passed, and we thought that would relieve our pressure of his having to be a full-time student to qualify for coverage under our health-care plan. I have since discovered that this is not the case. He will be dropped as of Aug. 31 and there will be a gap from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. After an episode last week when he had to get stitches at the emergency room, I think he has realized that he needs to step up efforts to find an interim medical plan just in case something happens.

Julie is working her butt off this summer selling Cutco cutlery. I am really proud of her efforts, and she is turning out to be one of their top salespersons. She went to a conference in NC yesterday after their first big push of the summer. She has been working more than 40 hours a week, I think…getting out at 6:45 a.m. and going to work for a couple of hours in the office (they have training and phone jams), and then setting several appointments for each day. As a result, she hasn’t had a lot of spare time this summer, and she’s been rather grouchy at home.

John is having a hard time this summer. He worked for the U.S. Census Bureau in May and pulled in more money than he has in recent memory. I’m proud of his efforts to get out there at age 62 and make some changes in his everyday routine. I was hoping it would continue, but it appears he is regrouping right now and trying to decide what to do next. Okay, so I can live with the regrouping. We’ve done a lot of that in our marriage. He is also dealing with the fallout caused by a wreck of one of the two cars we had that were working.

My life? I have been chauffeured everywhere since February. While Daniel was going to school, I knew I’d have the car to myself one day a week…John would bring him into town for Wed. night supper at our church, and I would meet them there and Daniel would drive on to his Wed. night class. Well, that ended with his spring semester, and enter Julie into the picture, who was supposed to have a flexible job that she could schedule around my & Daniel’s working hours…but then it started consuming her life. I have asked for more rides than I ever dreamed I would. On the positive side, I’ve gotten to know more people. And maybe it’s been good for me to stretch myself and get used to asking for help, when my natural tendency is to be independent and be the giver of help rather than the recipient.

I’m trying to figure out what in the world to do after my car was totaled about a week and a half ago. We did get some insurance money (well, not yet, but we will). Right now we are renting 2 cars (Daniel is driving one, and John & I are driving the other; Julie is driving the minivan). That has eased our transportation situation considerably…but it’s also expensive.

And I’m also going through one of the most challenging periods ever in my marriage. John has been dealing with depression for several years. It seems like we just pick at each other. I try to be patient, but sometimes I say things out of frustration…and he wants to be the boss, and I don’t take too kindly to that. My mama raised me to be an independent woman, which has sometimes played hell with my marriage. Interesting, she didn’t seem to have trouble with hers, but I think it was because my dad was so agreeable and was used to females telling him what to do, having grown up in a household with a widowed mom. John’s position of youngest child mixed with my position as only child has not been the best combination. We are both used to being adored. I have also had trouble with the position of the Christian denomination in which I was raised in regard to women. They teach that a woman should be submissive to a man, based on what Paul says in Ephesians and elsewhere. (Conveniently they ignore the passage just preceding that where it talks about mutual submission in the marriage relationship.)

I’m also trying to stay sane as I go through the changes of menopause. I was on hormone replacement therapy for five years after a hysterectomy in Feb. 2005. I tapered off my hormones at my doctors’ advice, and now I am dealing with night sweats, insomnia, and then some dark moods the next day when I haven’t had complete rest.

Spiritually, I hope I am okay. I try to set aside time every day to do some scripture and devotional reading. I pray whenever I think about it, which is most of the time. I pray through journaling, I pray as I pass people in need (after I stop and talk to some of them), I pray whenever I hear of a friend or a friend’s family member or friend who’s going through tough times, I pray while I drive (“Lord, help those drivers in front of me and around me…and keep me alert!”), I pray as I walk (“Thank you, God, for this most amazing day…even if it is hot as hell.”). I agree with Anne Lamott that you can pray anywhere…the obvious place being church, but there’s also the shower, while waiting in the grocery line, while stuck in traffic, when you hear a song and think of an old friend…just whenever. God is present all around us, I believe. And I believe that God cares what happens to us. I haven’t quite figured out “God’s plan” for my life, but I believe that God has more than one plan for me, and I’m not anxious about missing the boat and going to hell because I didn’t discover what that “one plan” is that many Christians talk about. I believe that God reveals step by step, even in spite of my mistakes and wrong turns, what I need to do with my life. And I am praying right now as I write this that I will become a more loving person. I am scared to pray that I will become more patient, because I think enough “stuff” has happened in our lives this summer to more than stretch my patience muscles. Mostly I just pray for a sound mind and a loving heart. And to share a little bit of that love along the way.