a mind slip into a spiritual awakening

alain de botton SOM

For now, I don’t have to pay attention to these sounds.

The sounds from the street outside. The squealing of brake dust. The release of air brakes. Engines revving and zooming away. Cars, SUVs, school buses, vans, delivery trucks, tow trucks–all a part of the noise that can inhabit my street.

It was all in fear of having my car taken back by the lender. Months of straining my ears to hear what was going on, along with sometimes obsessively looking in the driveway to see if my car was still there. I had started to not do this so much anymore.

But then when it happened last Thursday morning, I was dead asleep for once. It was the best sleep I had had in weeks, especially since one chronically coughing old man had moved out and another chronically coughing old man moved in earlier this month.

I thought I was on top of things, but it feels like my car, again, slipped through my fingers. I thought I had paid this month and I hadn’t. I never forget paying bills, so why, on such a precarious precipice, would I forget this month?

I found out about the repo because I was going to go get some breakfast and was bounding outside the door to see my worst fear had happened. It was startling. I’m glad I didn’t see it because it may have broken me. It’s like my car vanished into thin air.

I instantly slammed the door (nosy neighbor across the street) and took off my sunglasses and started walking back to my room. I knew what to do, since my life has seemingly bounced from one crisis to the next. Get in touch with the harassing lender and find out what I needed to do.

Unlike last time, they are not asking for the whole loan. They just want the past due payments plus what I think it some towing and storage fees. It’s about $1600. If I can’t get it by this Saturday, then it’s $2000 until the 10th. I have time, but time is slippery.

Whether I get to keep my car (fundraiser here) or not doesn’t even seem to be the point. It’s been an odd spiritual awakening–but then aren’t they all odd? Even if you go seeking out a spiritual awakening, how it’s triggered is never in the way you’d expect or arrange for yourself. So here are a few things that I’ve learned in the past few days.

My online community may not be as strong as I thought it was. I was just telling a friend online today that Twitter isn’t the same anymore. I’ve tweeted out this fundraiser hundreds of times since November and it just hasn’t gotten far. There could be a number of reasons why, but I realize that these connections, although some of them are great, are a bit tenuous. It’s the largest one I have, but it’s not the same as an offline community. I’ve come to peace that my financial instability makes it hard to have an offline community, but the online one not being so hot either? It’s sobering, and slowly devastating. But online life is changing, so it’s hard to

I am really not my circumstances, and I really believe it now. For some reason, having and owning a car seemed to be some point of pride for me, but connected to #1, no one really cares either way, so why should I? I had been listening to Paula Cole last week and I love her song, “Me,” and here is the first verse:

I am not the person who is singing,
I am the silent one inside.
I am not the one who laughs at people’s jokes,
I just pacify their egos.
I am not my house, my car or my songs,
They are only stops along my way.
I am like the winter, I’m a dark cold female,
With a golden ring of wisdom in my cave.

I’m not any of my possessions or my bank account–I can get Fight Club about it, too, but really–I’m none of these things. I’m not even any community. I’m me. So it’s not about the car, especially since this happened in a sort of surprising, out-of-character way. I’m not seeking a lesson to soothe myself. I’m seeking the lesson to evolve–or the lesson is seeking me. Or both.

Another great quote on this topic, by poet Nayyirah Waheed: “Where you are is not who you are.”

I am not alone. And this has to do with the spiritual realm. There are angels, spirit guides, and ancestors all with me, cheering me on, providing comfort and guidance. Maybe starting last Friday or Saturday, it really became apparent that this car that I had been so tightly holding onto–and for good reason because there is no real reliable public transit–is gone for now, but it’s not the end of the world. I have faced the end of the world before and overcame it.

I have many people praying for me, people I don’t even know (I asked a lot of contemplative nuns to pray for me–it’s their job!). The mystery of prayer is one I want to delve back into. It helps me not to sit in a stressed out state, thinking that worry is some sort of work (it is and it isn’t). I gave this up to the Universe to handle and then it made me realize…

Although I ask for help often now, I don’t ask for spiritual assistance enough. And I really should. Sure, I consult my astrological transits and tarot cards, but I don’t do enough of, “Universe, I’m struggling with this. Can you help me?” I kind of threw the prayer bathwater out with the evangelical baby, but I have since reclaimed it

Even though I’m not sure how this will turn out, I keep getting messages about not losing faith, not giving up, about believing, about asking for what I want. I’m swimming in some deep, spiritually synchronistic waters, and I have been changed. Last time when I lost my car, it was just anguish. This time, I can see how much I’ve spiritually grown to where I know that although my social life is non-existent, I still have everything I need to get out of this jam.

Maybe it’ll look like a different car, or no car for some time, or I’ll get the money in time. I know what I’ve asked for and I believe the best will happen for me. Even when I waver with doubts, I can ask, “Universe, help me with the doubt!” And it works!

As I have gone after my dream of becoming a writer, I have it not “together” for years. But, I’m so grateful that I’m finally able to draw the line between me and my circumstances. I’m even loved and supported through my circumstances, loved and supported through the shame of my circumstances, and loved and supported despite my circumstances.

I am not my smoker’s cough roommate or my small bedroom or the increasingly dirty kitchen stained with coffee or my empty driveway or the rebel flag I have to drive past every time I leave this neighborhood.

I am not the paranoid listener of the streets outside.

I’m me, and I deserve love, compassion, and help.

 

 

The Wonders of Worry

This post started off in about May 2015, so I want to come back to it.

I want to posit that, within reason, worry does some effective work. This isn’t necessarily woo-woo, but I do hear in woo-woo circles about letting go, not being afraid, etc. etc. etc. Much more easier said than done.

I won’t go into the reptilian brain, fight-flight-or-freeze, our ancestry, or any of the cool science we already know about stress, cortisol, and fear.

Last night, I had been fretting about the end of the semester, but also my career path. I was pretty sure I wanted to be done with teaching. I have a very volatile love/hate relationship with teaching. I currently teach English composition at a community college, but it’s been fraught with mistakes and worries (how many times can I revise a syllabus? why can’t I seem to get to the details sooner? why is my tongue tied? why do I still have stage fright anytime I lecture? why doesn’t Blackboard ever seem to work?!) Sometimes, I love how I can get through to a student, when I can see them learn. I had a couple of students tell me last night that they enjoyed my class. But sometimes, I’m dealing with freakouts from them as well as just sheer disrespect (why aren’t they reading my emails? why don’t they just do what I say?).

Part of me wants to give it another shot–although with so many students who withdrew, I don’t know if I’ll be given that shot. The pay is abysmal–it comes with no benefits, but there’s something about transferring knowledge, wisdom, and experience that as a nerd, I really like. I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, so I want to try again. At least today, I do.

And today, I’m at peace. Well, the thing I was worried about was whether I was doing the final right (it seems like I was, but if not, then I’m sure I’ll hear about it). But it was also the worry of whether I’d be making the right or wrong decision–do I stick it out, knowing that I deserve to be paid better? But why am I so miserable? Is it because of a lack of confidence? Even though these questions have haunted me all semester, today they aren’t as bothersome.

Worry, in my eyes, is something that you do because you feel like you can’t do anything. It’s like the being on the treadmill of your mind, working off fear.

Almost two years later after I first began this post, I still think this is true, that worry can be useful. A recent study showed that worry is linked to a high IQ. Additionally, people who are happy and cheerful, of course, aren’t the ones who brood over problems. But that very brooding can be used for problem-solving–and guess what? Happy people are worse at problem solving.

Earlier this month, I had a freakout moment about money, one of many I’ve had over the past six months being underemployed. But this one almost crippled me. I couldn’t go hang out with my friend as planned because I had erroneously thought that I’d have enough for an outing. So I had to cancel.  I really started to brood–how could I get myself out of this situation?

A friend gave me a quick writing job that I did in a couple of hours, which he was impressed by. Another friend gave me some writing work and many ideas to help me find work. All that worry actually created some money.

Would I say I’m neurotic? Definitely not. I’m definitely hyperaware of my environment, of people around me, and how people perceive me. I’m sure I had to learn how to do that living with my father who increasingly became mentally ill. It’s a survival tactic.

Whenever I think everything will work out and just leave things alone–I’m always caught off guard by my optimism. It’s like the Universe gives me a #WellActually and wakes me up.

Of course, though–there needs to be a middle way. I was physically upset from the money stress, and no one wants to have elevated levels of cortisol if they don’t have to. But I don’t want to walk around blindly in a bubble of bliss either.

How I can really believe things will work out without becoming spiritually lazy? I want to put in my effort. When does concern morph into worry which can become a disfiguring anxiety?

I’m still trying to figure that out for myself. I know that anxiety can simply be prolonged worry that you can feel in your body, that you can see shut down your mind. I’ve had my share of that.

Right now, I’m concerned that I will go into a third month of not being able to pay for my car while paying for everything else. And today, I woke up with that dread. How will I get out of this hole this time? I basically need like $200 (although to catch up I’d need about 4 times that)

Last night, an obnoxious but I guess necessary writing job came up and I completed it. There’s $20 dollars. A writing professional organization got me off of their waiting list last night and it’s only $4.50/month (a huge discount!) for me to have access to all these writing gigs and employers. I bid for two jobs today and I also applied for a contract technical writing position after a recruiter asked me to apply. The money is good and it comes with benefits.

And maybe, metaphysically, Spirit has been taking some pity on me, as I worry. So maybe these opportunities are now become visible? This month really seems to have taken a shift, and I’m not sure if it’s me that has changed (probably) or just life as I know it (probably), or a combination of other things that I can’t see or perceive (most definitely).

Not to laud worry too much, there is a dark side: stress can make you so stupid. You can’t think clearly for solutions, if worry’s stranglehold starts to choke you out and make you see stars. No one wants that.

So, I’m not going to push worry to the side and say that it can’t solve problems. Think of the scientists who brood over diseases, searching for the latest cure. That’s just one example of worry in action. Worry has its wonders and its drawbacks, and we have to learn to find the middle way of this important part of the human condition. It textures our world and our perspective, and it can be the spark of imagination and inspiration to solving our problems.

We just can’t let worry rule us.

Identity & finances

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When I was buying my car in August, the financial advisor noticed how antsy I was as we were completing the paperwork in his office. He assured me that my income was fine–it was great at the time. I was concerned getting to this tight spot three months later, with no real job prospects in sight.

Of course, too, all day, I was ruminating about my shitty credit, made shitty thanks to grad school. Even as I type this, moving to Florida has been all about taking risks, for following my dream of writing. The dream is realized–I’ve been a writer for four years. But at times I wonder if it was all worth it, especially financially.

As I joked my way out of my fear of the future, the financial advisor said something sagacious that reminded that I was not my credit score or my finances. It’s something that’s stayed with me and has been more important to me now, after two stressful phone calls with my car loan company and my long-suffering but not that great cell phone service provider.

I’ve come to a point that I’m doing all I can and it’s not enough to pay bills on time. I can understand suicidality from a place of–I can’t live like this anymore, the bleak and unyielding despair that can try to choke you out. There are no options. And it’s something that even last month, I batted around like a cat would with a toy mouse. I’m too lazy to do that, and I’m also curious about what will happen next in my life. But I get the exhaustion, the frustration, and the sense of hopelessness that one can feel when unemployed. I’ve been here a few times and this time feels more like…an object lesson.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from Dune, where Paul is given this test to see if he’s divine (I think, right?). He has to place his hand inside a box and endure inordinate amounts of pain. If he removes it, he’ll die. He holds it in the box until the test is over. It seems like his hand is being seared from the inside. But, when he removes his hand, it’s fine.

Also from the book and the movie, there’s the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear that Paul recites in a stressful situation (can’t remember what it was), but here it is:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

know things will be fine, eventually. There are things I know coming down the pipeline that will help tremendously. And then there are things that I don’t know are coming that will also be helpful. I have to have faith that the latter is very, very true.

I don’t fear that I will be homeless, or even that I will lose my car. My phone may be turned off tomorrow. I fear that I’m letting myself down in terms of how I wanted to live my life–with independence and aplomb. This feels like yet another adulting failure, but so many people are in my position right now, doing the best they can.

Deep down, though–I fear that I am my shitty credit score or my bank account balance or even the number of friends that I have close by.

I am none of these things, and I never have been.

The lesson that I’m learning, with a little more ease this time, is that I had been identifying with my job and with the amount of money I have. Money, my phone, my car–they are all tools. And I am not defined by tools, or even my access to tools. It’s tough to say this, as a double Capricorn, who likes to work, who likes to have money, who likes to pay bills on time. Not having these things does cause some suffering. It’s suffering that I’m learning to be present with, with copious amounts of self-compassion–even if it comes out in dribs and drabs.

Once I let go of this identity tied to money, then I’m just me–an able-bodied, hard-working, fiercely loving, highly intelligent person who deserves love and compassion and is doing all she can. All of this is enough, no matter what circumstantially happens to me. That’s still a hard pill to swallow. But, day by day, internal meltdown after internal meltdown, it is becoming enough. Scorpio season may have ended yesterday, but my own personal transformation is still happening. One can only be stripped down every so often before it starts to become not about the things being stripped away, but about what remains.

I’m so grateful to be housed, for my plucky resilience, for the few people that have helped me during this transition time, and that I’m still alive to see what will happen next. Again, my own personal readings have been so positive. I believe I received one today about golden opportunities. I look forward to not scoffing at these readings and really embracing them as messages from Spirit, that things are about to get better, that things are already getting better.

Anyway, I’m a broken record, but it seems like every time I blog about this, my attitude and my circumstances start to shift. I write because I am compelled to, and I want to document this journey. But the self-encouragement as I go on another hero’s journey is so necessary.

When I’ve done all I can, I have to throw the rest of it up to the Universe/higher power/God to take care of the rest–even when it’s out of exasperation. That may be the best time to do it.

Even in the expansive space of gratitude, it’s been hard to embrace that the Universe pro-me. It’s been yet another lesson that I’m learning. And while I am learning, I’m not giving up.

If you want to help me out during this time, you can donate to cash.me  or paypal.me. Thank you in advance! If you’re interested in how I can help you with your writing needs, let’s talk really soon.

Shadowboxing with my fears

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Back in the same ring again, battling the same opponent: fear.

Specifically, I could say it’s financial upheaval, the foe. I look at my bank account and wince. $86. Rent is half paid. I pushed off paying for my car and my phone. Unemployment payments haven’t been doled out yet. If I were a tarot card, I’d be a 2 of Pentacles juggling act of worry and dread.

To even put all this stress in the context of the recent Presidential election–I don’t even have the headspace or heartspace to process how that can adversely affect me. I know it’s not helping.

I was thinking earlier today how I ended up here, again. While I was washing dishes this morning, I went all the way back to 20 years ago, about where I chose to go college. Maybe I should have gone to University of Alabama (Roll Tide!). But then I wouldn’t haven’t been the me that I am now, for sure. And I love and adore her. So, no regrets. I needed to leave my family’s upheaval, which was financial and legal, that only worsened when I lived in Chicago. What my family went through has been nipping at my heels. As immigrants, we burned the maps, burned the ships, and we don’t really have a safety net. I’ve tried to weave one, and the knots keeps slipping.

Still, even with those challenges, I don’t have to go back too far to figure out how I ended up here. Coming to Florida, to become a writer, has been a sacrifice, especially of pride. Pretty much everything that could go wrong, went wrong. But it was the pursuit of a dream, a dream I had as a kid and temporarily discarded because it was impractical. So no regrets about that either.

But the hits keep coming. Last month, I had a hotel fleece me about $160 when I was fleeing Hurricane Matthew (long story, but do not stay at a Days Inn unless you want to lose extra money and deal with evil people). I’ve had little blips like that while walking on this tightrope above certain doom. They shake the rope, causing me to wobble and fall. I hang on by fingertips and fingernails. I get back on and start to walk again, to the other side, towards stability. It seems so far away, but then I know that this is temporary. I will get through this, like I always do–even if I’m tired of my own resiliency.

I have not had a permanent job in the four years and counting I’ve been here. It’s all been contract-based. Today, I just got turn down for a job where I had the most hostile interview. I am pissed that I went through that experience and I am pissed that I wasn’t chosen for a wage that I haven’t made in over a decade. It was going to be, hopefully, a side job. Looks like the Universe has other plans. I’m kinda grateful for that, but only kinda, because my pride is a little wounded.

As I watch the story of my life unfold, I still hold my breath. I’m still not sure if this protagonist is actually going to make it. I’m rooting like hell for that person, for me. Over the years, I’ve learned to be my loudest, craziest cheerleader.

And it’s not like the Universe isn’t cheering for me, either. In my own personal tarot and oracle readings, I keep receiving such encouraging messages, about releasing worry, that this season of my life is over (The World in tarot), that love is coming soon. I need to hear this, because my circumstances look like it’s a repeat performance of this time in 2013 (eviction), and 2014 (kinda eviction). This Cancer moon does not want to move unless it’s to a better place!

Well, maybe this is a repeat performance. My landlady is a social worker. So last Friday, I spoke to her as a former social worker, and as someone who has faced hard times before. She’s giving me a break–

but then I’m in the ring, hyperventilating and sweating, boxing against the fears of financial ruin, of homelessness, of existential stress: why the fuck am I here? Why is this happening again? Why am I doing this alone, again?

Almost. Recruiters are calling me almost daily. That’s never happened to me in my life. There’s a job that I really want that I saw and will apply for soon. Through a friend, I talked to one of the employees there. That’s never happened to me, either. I have a phone screen interview next Tuesday for another job.

There. Is. Movement. And. Momentum.

Not quite. I have this tiny little job where I write content for clients. It pays shit, but at least my writing chops are being kept sharp. I’m planting seeds for repeat clients.

 

Things aren’t going the way I want to, in the timing that I want (yesterday), or how the way I want (super duper easy). But for now, I’m still housed, I still have my car, with gas in it, with insurance. My phone is still on. And I’m grateful that this time, someone gave me a break and things are breaking open for me this month.  I know it’s because through these repeated fights in the ring with fear, I’m different, and I’ve learned a little bit about how fear operates. Now I can land a couple of good punches on fear, even when it tag teams with despair. Writing this blog post is a punch landed on my fears.

And while I fight these decades-long fears of poverty and instability, I have to focus on gratitude, so I can stay upright, so I can dodge those punches. I have to tell my double Capricorn self that I am doing enough, that I can rest once in a while. I must have the courage to not worry, the bravery to ask for help– even if resounding silence is the response, and the guts to tell despair to fuck off.

If you want to help me out this month, here are a few ways:

  1. cash.me/$beelicious
  2. paypal.me/deb88
  3. Patreon–I will have that up in a few days. I’ll let you know soon!
  4. I am a writer and I can write all sorts of things. Let me know how I can help you.
  5. If you like my writing, pass my blog along!
  6. Send good vibes and pray.

I need your help / How can I help you?

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The caption of this picture is “help me,” and who can resist a little kitten like this? Unless you hate cats.

Hi folks,

Happy Halloween and Samhain for those who celebrate!

So, I am asking for your financial help while I look for my next job. September 30th was the last day of my last writing gig. During my time down here in Florida (four years and counting), it’s been pretty unstable. I’ve had six addresses and one post office box  in that time. It’s definitely been, and continues to be, a hero’s journey.

The next week with bills is looking a little rough. If you want to donate to my cause of self-preservation, especially if this blog or my tweets have helped you (or entertained you) in any way, you can click here for my cash.me account or here for PayPal.

And, in the future (hopefully this week), I’ll launch my Patreon so you can have the opportunity to support this blog on a more regular. My dream is to put more thoughtful time into this place because through all those unstable times, I’ve learned some thangs! I’ll probably put up a donate button, too.

Finally, let’s talk about how I can serve you. I’ve been a technical writer, science writer, grant writer and editor, an adjunct English professor, and my MFA is in Creative Writing (nonfiction). I’ve been really blessed to have been a working writer, and I look forward to doing that again! If you have any writing needs–from looking over your resume to cover letter to looking over your web copy–I can help! Another dream of mine is to be self-employed; so maybe working together will be one brick in the foundation of that dream. Oh! And if you have any writing job leads, remote or in Florida, hit me up on my Contact page.

If you can’t donate or don’t need my writing skills, I could use your good vibes, prayers, juju, whatever goodness you can send my way.

Thank you, dear readers. I’ll be back later this week with more talk about mud…and flowers.

Peace,

s.o.m.