Saturday, December 29, 2012
One of my nicknames is Turtle Girl because I identify with and collect turtles. I am very turtle-like in the sense that I have a tough shell, but I also tend to retreat into that shell even though on the outside people see me as friendly and likeable. When I disappear from Spark People, I'm usually doing my Turtle Girl thing. That's when life is hard and I'm overwhelmed and I withdraw. I withdraw from Facebook, from calling my friends, and from everything that is not absolutely necessary that requires me to expend mental or emotional energy. During these times the things that normally nourish my soul don't do it for me. That's when I decide I just can't do anything more than go to work, come home, do necessary family/housework stuff, then it's time to veg on the couch and watch mindless tv shows until I have to go to bed. Not exactly the life I want or deserve, but it's how I cope until I can emerge from the funk.
This fall has been filled with challenges, both at work and in my marriage. I got hit by a few surprises in my annual staff review and I'm still unhappy that I had no warning about those things. Some of them were a bit unfounded in my opinion. Work is getting better, but it is not without its issues. I was miserable again this fall and questioning whether or not I should continue to work in a church, but I didn't have a clear direction about what I should do if I didn't work in a church. And then there was the pesky little issue of needing a paycheck that would pay as much as the one I get now. Yeah, I was feeling pretty trapped in what felt like a hopeless situation and it felt like nobody understood. During the Thanksgiving trip I'll mention later, I was lamenting to family and friends about how I didn't know what to do.
At the beginning of December I went on a silent spirituality retreat and it was absolutely wonderful! I finally had the chance to just breathe. No electronics, no idle chatter, no distractions. God really spoke to me on this retreat through symbols, colors, sounds, nature, music (they played quiet, contemplative music during the meals and large group gatherings). I was also assigned a spiritual director who understood me, supported me, and basically validated who I am, how I experience God and the world, and my struggles with my life. I came away feeling much more secure in who I am and not willing to let others voices and opinions change who I am and what I feel I should be doing in my job. My experiences on this retreat gave me back the confidence I have been missing all this fall. A few days after I left the retreat, I realized that my true calling is to be a spiritual director. I won't go into all the specifics, but I felt like a 25-year journey of searching for my true calling had finally come to fruition. It's not a quick fix, and I will need to stay in my current job for a few years, but I can work on getting my certificate in spiritual direction over the next 3-5 years and my current degrees and experience will be an asset. I feel very excited about this discovery, and I'm happy that I found a wonderful spiritual director whom I feel can guide me on this journey of exploration over the next few years. One of the wonderfully freeing things I've discovered about the art of spiritual direction is that it's not a judgmental process, it's an exploratory process. In the church, I've always felt like I had to hide a part of who I truly am as a professional for fear of judgment. Some people wouldn't approve of my tattoos. Some wouldn't understand when I say God speaks to me through music and tv shows and symbols and colors and an inner knowing. Some people wouldn't approve of the kind of messy relationship I have with God. But with my spiritual director, I can be me, all of me, and there is no fear of judgment. This is very freeing and gives me hope. I no longer feel trapped in Ohio.
Now for the tale of the Thanksgiving trip. During Thanksgiving break my family packed up the car and did a 12-hour each way drive to Philadelphia to visit hubby's family. 2 kids, 2 dogs, hubby and I in the car for a whirlwind trip, the first time we've been back east since moving to Ohio. We packed in Thanksgiving, Christmas, daughter's birthday, and hubby's high school reunion in a 4-day span. I was so happy to see our friends and family and to be back where I feel comfy. I didn't grow up in Philly, but that area feels like home after living in NJ for 5 1/2 years. I was concerned (more like embarrassed since they are NOT judgmental people) about seeing a few friends and family in whom my hubby confided regarding his computer addiction and other issues in our relationship. I was still reeling over the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and it was good to be back where Sandy was still in the forefront of people's minds and fundraising efforts. Needless to say, that week was incredibly emotionally charged, but it was totally worth it to see everyone and to be back in the area. We had a nice time with everyone, and there was no reason for me to be embarrassed around the family and friends. I don't think they would believe how different I am now due to the spirituality retreat I attended and my self-discovery about becoming a spiritual director. I have done a 180. I feel hope and a direction and I'm working on a plan for how to get my spiritual formation certificate in my denomination and I'll see where that takes me.
In the meantime, it's time to get myself back on track. Not because it is a new year, but because I feel like a new me. The calendar just happens to be coincidental! I'm still figuring out how what specific changes I need and want to make and how I am going to go about them. One of the things I realized on the spirituality retreat is that I need support. I have 5 women in my church whom I am going to ask specifically to pray for me and for the direction of certain programs in the church that are problematic at the moment. I also realized I need to lean on the wonderful wealth of family and friends I have in my life, as well as my Spark Friends. When I fall away from Spark, I usually feel guilty that I am drained and feel I have nothing to give, and when folks cheer me on and support me, I feel bad that I don't even have that in me to return. So I stay away. This is flawed thinking, I know, but it's where my mind and heart go at times when my life is difficult. So I need to remind myself to come here and not feel hollow.
I started seeing a counselor locally to work on the negative feelings surrounding something my hubby did back in August that keep coming up for me. I've seen her twice but I know she's not the right counselor for me, so I need to drive out of town and find someone who is a better fit for me and the issues I need to work on...one of the downsides of being in a small town is you sometimes have to drive a decent distance to have access to the resources you need, but I'm worth it. So in 2013 I'm going to see the spiritual director once a month and hopefully a new therapist twice a month. I'll figure out the food and exercise part along the way, but the mental part is my biggest obstacle at the moment.
Then there's these nagging health issues. I've been having problems with my right shoulder all year. This fall I did a couple months of physical therapy on it but it didn't fix the problem. After an MRI the doc told me I have to have surgery, so I'm having that Jan. 8. I have 2 small kids and a hubby who is a freshman in college, so timing is everything here. I'm having it done during hubby's winter break from school, and hopefully the shoulder will heal enough that I will only miss one week of work. We'll see. I will have to lean much more on volunteers for a community youth and children's fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy relief that I've organized for Jan. 13.
I've also been having pain in my right abdominal area. Went to the ER when I was having chest and back pain. Thankfully my heart is fine. Went to my doc for follow up and 3 tests later there is still no definite answer. 1/2 inch gall bladder polyp MIGHT be the cause of my pain, so I'm having a surgical consult mid-Jan. The CT with contrast found 3 other things going on in my mid-section that I need to watch (it was like opening that junk drawer you have in your kitchen...you know there's questionable stuff in there but as long as the drawer is closed and you can't see those things they aren't really hurting anything). Bottom line is I'm spending my time off after Christmas in pain and queasy. I'm very thankful I can be at home and not have to work right now.
So...there's been LOTS of stuff going on this fall. I think I'm going to start writing a spirituality blog somewhere online. Just my observations and experiences, nothing profound necessarily, but a way for me to put out there the things that are probably experienced by at least a few others in this little old world of ours.
And for those of you keeping track...yes, my ticker has gone up again, no, I didn't gain all 32 lbs. back (just 13 of them), and no, I don't have any new ink yet! That's STILL my reward for getting under 300 lbs. I got down to 302, then bounced back up. But I'm still on the journey, just resetting, restructuring, and renewing my vision for myself and my life. Won't you join me?