To say that 2019 is off to an incredible start would be an understatement. More on that later. To say that the close of 2018 was a dizzying swing between fear and faith would also be an understatement.
As I shared, I lost my job in the beginning of November. And that month, or the majority of it in retrospect, just truly sucked. So many old stories of shame and guilt and feeling like I deserved this “punishment” just completely overwhelmed me. I spent half of November just shut down, engulfed by fear. This wasn’t my initial response, though. Immediately following the job loss, while I was feeling so liberated, I had this idea that I would use this time of transition to get a lot of shit done, and I created detailed lists of things to do, and for the first few days I followed them. I was trying to convince myself that this new period of life, this “transition” or “break” (as I would laughingly refer to it) could be a period of transformation, a chance to explore and recover and decompress–do the readings I kept putting off, invigorate my fitness routine, do more writing, thoroughly clean house, and on and on. I was going to become so enlightened, so healthy, finally lose that weight… (Looking back, I realize that actually, I was setting myself up for disappointment in this regard). I wasn’t honoring that this loss was actually quite a traumatic thing for me, and so I was not prepared when I inevitably did crash that Thanksgiving weekend. And (naturally) I berated myself for what was/is–it’s a work in progress!– my response to traumatic events: isolate. So maybe I can ease up a bit on myself for not perfectly following those damn to-do lists.)
Well, the cold, hard reality of unemployment and a rapidly shrinking cash flow just took a hammer to those lofty goals and beat them to hell. (I mean, really, what was I thinking?) And I realized soon enough that I could not afford (literally) to wallow or isolate. So maybe I wasn’t going to lose 10 pounds after all, or reach a new level of enlightenment, and maybe I’d have to “settle” for a new job that I didn’t feel really passionate about, but that did not mean I couldn’t grow stronger and more resilient. Because as I reflected in my post on fear, I certainly did not want to stay stuck in this negative space.
So I kept just one of those lofty goals– to use this period to recover. And not just in terms of sobriety, but to recover, as in, to find or regain possession of something lost. What was/is that something? I’m not able to put it to words just yet (but I think it’s about faith, more below). And I was going to do this by simplifying. So instead of long lists of tasks that I may or may not check off, I had four non-negotiables each day:
- Get Up. Get up when the alarm goes off, and it was set before 8:00 AM. Whether I had anywhere to be in the morning or not.
- Get Moving. OK, so maybe I wasn’t able to find the motivation to make it to the gym twice a week, even though I theoretically had much more time available. Or rapidly lose all this weight (I still need to get “straight” on this “goal”. Which is proving really hard because my sister who had the twins has lost, like, 30 pounds in the mean time… while I’ve hovered at 8. What the hell.). But every day, I had to do some movement. Even if just getting my steps in for the day.
- Get Connected. This originally was related to sobriety work. For example, as I shared, I started attending the online meetings again. I continued with my podcasts, readings, Y12SR, etc. But I noticed that I also connected more with my family. With actual phone calls (not just texts!). I visited home more often, and during the week, to spend time with my baby nieces. I had more sibling “dates” with my brother. And professionally, while I considered applying for jobs as a form of connecting, I also had coffees with peers in the field that I consider friends, not just to stay in touch in terms of keeping my professional network in tact, but to really share that “yes, this is a vulnerable time for me, it’s been harder than I allowed myself to acknowledge, and thank you for your encouragement.” And I sent cards in the mail.
- Get Grateful. Every recovery book and program talks about gratitude. Every health and life coach talks about it. And I do know that it can be a powerful antidote to fear. So I got serious about practicing it. Every night, then and now, I repeat this simple prayer, courtesy of Tommy Rosen: “Universe, put me in the places you want me to be, with the people you want me to be with, doing the things you want me to do. Thank you for the joys and the challenges of my life.” I do not just recite these words, but I fee lthem.
And damn if it all didn’t start to work. The fear eased, the faith and assuredness grew. That first week after losing my job, I made the comment to my mom that this moment was either going to lead to something incredible, or to devastation. At the end of November, I had been terrified it was going to tip towards devastation. By the third week of December, I had a quiet certainty it was going to lead to something great.
I began hearing back from organizations I had applied to, going on interviews. I got my food stamps, alleviating a small part of the financial stress. I finally felt on firmer footing with the new routine at my part time retail job and enjoyed the work and companionship with my new coworkers. I attended recovery meetings more frequently and really devoted myself to believing in the steps and vision work I’ve been doing as part of the 30 Days readings. Scattered throughout my home are note cards of vision statements and goals. And in so many moments through those days when I could feel that fear begin to rise up, the fear that this unemployment could stretch to an intolerable length of time, and what that would mean for me and how I value myself and what I believe about myself and my potential, or what that could mean for how I live, and what sacrifices I may need to make, that cloying fear of uncertainty….I’d pick up whatever note card was closest, read it, breathe, and remember. (One of my favorite is the “new belief” statement that I have everything I need, right now, to be successful. That one got me through many moments.)
Recovery is about faith, trusting that the path will unfold– day by day, step by step– as it is supposed to. But that only really works as long as you stay in the present, and let God take care of tomorrow. And how many different ways, by how many different teachers– those who are in faith traditions and otherwise– have we been told this? Have we actually been shown this? (Two of my favorite verses, Matthew 6:25-34 and Jeremiah 29:11).
In the rooms, people will say “God hasn’t brought me this far, to only take me this far.” As my December unfolded and 2018 came to a close, and with 2019 now upon me, I know this truth intimately. This is, I think, what I am recovering: the deeper faith that fundamentally, all is well.