Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Today’s list

Yesterday evening I was feeling tired, lethargic, vaguely sad. I knew I needed sleep but didn’t want to go to bed. This morning so far feels about the same. I had an idea of what I needed to do today, but I’m editing the list. Now it looks like this:

  • Sleep. (Already done. I got up today at 11:30am.)
  • Drink tea.
  • Eat food.
  • Drink water.
  • Drink more water.
  • Work on easy house chores.
  • Go to a scheduled appointment with my counselor.
  • Go to taiji class.
  • Rest.
  • Sleep.
  • I’ve been fighting hard. I’ve been of many minds about my life and my employment situation and my prospects, I’ve had to keep changing what I expect based on new information, and that’s never easy for me. It takes a lot of internal processing, and most of it accompanied by fear. I’m tired. Right now I just want to give up. So, for today, I am.

    I’m not good at taking care of myself. My body-needs and heart-needs don’t speak as loudly as my ideas and visions for what could be and my daydreams and the insidious internal-other that needles me with “ought” and “should.” I treat myself like a calculating-machine, like an android.

    I’m weary. I’m dehydrated. I’m hungry. I’m stiff from lack of exercise. My surroundings are dirty and cluttered from neglect. This is my list today. I’m also confused and scared and depressed and worried, but I can’t even start to work on those until I remember my humanity and nurture what’s needs tending there.


    Meditation on Psalm 62:8

    Today I’m pondering Psalm 62:8, which reads:

    Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

    To me, this verse really needs some pondering.  The verses before this are full of imagery and metaphor about solid things, rocks and fortresses, and then we get this sudden switch to saying “trust in God and pour out your hearts to him.”  You don’t (usually) talk to a rock, and wouldn’t (rationally) pour out your heart to a castle; those things may be trusted in for physical security, but you’re not gonna expect emotional reassurance from them.  So what kind of refuge are we talking about here?  Why do we have this apparent right-angle turn from physical metaphor to emotional urging?

    Partly I think it’s a reminder that ultimate security is not physical, at least not yet.  In the most stark terms, everyone dies, even the faithful, and all the tragedy that can befall humankind strikes everyone impartially.  God does give us physical protection, he is always perfectly able to do so, but he also chooses sometimes to let hardships and hard blows fall into our lives.  He doesn’t give us a literal, physical fortress.

    There are other kinds of security than physical security, though.  This verse talks explicitly about emotional security, for one; “pour out your hearts to him.”  Not to a stone in a fortress, but to a person, to one who cares infinitely and promises to listen and provide help.  A divine sounding-board and counselor and shoulder to cry on.  This verse reminds us that our refuge is not impersonal, not stone.  It comes by knowing a personal, living God who listens and guides and always, always stands with us, no matter what.

    And further, the psalm says over and over that God is our salvation, along with being our rock, refuge, and fortress.  Read from a Christian frame of understanding, this has to remind us of our source of salvation, the Son of God who took our place to be punished for our rebellion.  The refuge given us is that of shelter from condemnation, permanent removal of our guilty record.  Complete healing and security is not promised to happen in this world, but it is promised.  Not by huddling inside strong walls or on top of sheer rock.  By trusting the Person whose promises are never broken and whose power to create and restore is endless.

    Meditation on Psalm 62:3

    Another section of Psalm 62 today, verse 3:

    How long will you assault a man?
    Would all of you throw him down–
    this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

    Not too inspirational on the face of it, huh? Actually, not really inspirational under the face of it either. Not the whole way down to the bottom, as far as I’m concerned. This is a verse that makes me think about the hard realities of life rather than the inspirations that help us overcome hard reality. Not pleasant, but necessary to come to grips with.

    The literal words of the psalm sound like they are referring to a specific situation, a real moment in time — someone is in a tricky position, and others are waiting to take advantage by underhanded means. The next verse reads “they fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.” So dangerous times are at hand, and the speaker of the psalm is facing enemies who want to ruin him in some way, and do it when he is already weakened. The writer knows his situation is precarious, he feels it sharply, and his words toward those who leap to take advantage are scathing.

    On the surface, probably not something a lot of people reading my words here can directly relate to, in the moment when they are reading it — and if anyone can, then all blessings and strength to you, my friend! And for the rest of us, where’s the relevance?

    Part of human experience that is hard to face, that we don’t want to recognize, is that all of us are leaning walls, all of us are tottering fences. We don’t like it and we don’t want to be, so we find ways to prop ourselves up and feel secure. Which is understandable, and I think admirable — we need to feel secure in order to live and to be any use in the world. That’s how we’re made, and so we find ways to do it. But none of our props go far enough to make us really stable and strong. Not in a world that’s too unstable, not in bodies that sicken and break and fail, not in relationships that none of us get right all the time. We can prop ourselves up, for a while. But then time moves on and the props kick out from under us, and we stagger.

    Anyone who has watched a newscast over the past month has seen conflict and dramatic change sweep across the Middle East; anyone who’s watched the news in the last couple of days has seen the horrible effects of an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. They are the most recent entries in the long ledger of human conflicts and natural disasters that have wrecked lives and destroyed homes and livelihoods across the world. Who feels really stable in the face of such things? Can they absolutely never, ever happen in the place where you live, my kind reader? Are you sure?

    We don’t even need large-scale, dramatic disasters to feel our totteriness. Conflict rages in the midst of familes, fierce and bitter wars are fought there. Disease and weakness attack our bodies. People live alone and afraid. Much of the world we’ve constructed is impersonal and faceless, made out of screens and clicks and press-1-to-send-us-your-firstborn phone menus. We prop ourselves up as well as we can, and then reality rumbles through and knocks us down regardless. This is a reality of human existence, and it’s hard. I would say it’s a big part of what’s wrong with the world.

    So why am I going on about it? I’m making it all sound pretty hopeless, which is not true and which is not my point. The rest of Psalm 62, much of the rest of the Bible, and a lot of other great human writings and work attest to the fact that it’s not all hopeless. But without coming to grips with the reality of my leaning-wall nature, I can’t deeply understand the hope and grace of the rest of Psalm 62. Without feeling how shaky I am when I stand on my own, I can’t totally appreciate God’s promise that I will never be shaken. If I don’t accept that sometimes I get knocked down, it makes it harder to get back up, and to let God and others help me up. Knowing how tottery we all are, it makes me want to work harder at helping other people find the security they need. The best possible props are leaning on other people. And the absolute best, the source of real and complete security, is to lean on God.

    Meditation on Psalm 63:2

    I was thinking the other day about what Psalm 63 says, “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” I don’t always make a point of thinking about God’s power; mostly I’m drawn to his goodness and kindness. I tend to see his influence most often in subtle things, so I most often tend to think of him as a quiet, careful adjuster of events, nudging and suggesting and moving everything gently into place, toward the ends he has in mind. I think a great deal of the time, he does work that way — in the in-betweens and routine actions of our lives, working in partnership with the will and intention and intelligence he put into humankind. God works with us. But that doesn’t look like power to me. I forget that God is immensely powerful and perfectly in control, so that he does what is needful and never and inch too far does he go.

    But God does have immense power, however we perceive him day-to-day — his power made the world and sustains it, his power created reality as we know it. God is bigger than our reality, he is both inside and outside of it and it obeys him. He is the God who moves seas and raises mountains and halts armies. His power and nature are sometimes described as riding on the storm, with lightning as his arrows. Jesus, Son of God, once stood up in a boat in the middle of a storm and effectively said “knock it off.” And the storm stopped. Not died down, not faded away. Stopped. Turned off, like a switch, like the lights going out. Power? Indeed. Unbelievable power.

    I’m trying to remember this. I’m thinking about it because I’ve been praying for change and guidance, and I catch myself hoping for small things. Expecting that God will move in and be an influencer, a benign manipulator, a gentle guide and guru. He may choose to do so. But then again, he may not. He may want to move in power, to do something astonishing and leave me in jaw-dropped wordless amazement and awe. Would I want to miss out on that? Do I not want to have faith that “impossible” doesn’t apply when God is involved? The world badly needs power, power that changes things, that creates and sustains good. I don’t want my own small faith to get in the way of that. Not when the world needs as much good as it can get; not when my own life often needs as much help as it can get, to keep coming together for good too.

    Two observations

    What a difference a day makes.

    Yesterday was nothing too spectacular on the outside. Nothing very unusual to report. I worked on writing, I did some basic household tasks and some personal-business tasks, I worked more on writing. I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I walked on my treadmill and practiced taiji, I spent some time spinning and knitting and watching TV. Eventually I fell asleep on my recliner. Nothing especially interesting in the details.

    The thing that is really interesting to me is all internal, because yesterday felt so very different than any day I’ve spent for a long time. For nearly the first time since I lost my job I set my alarm at my old wake-up time, as for a day of work. I got out of bed and on the treadmill right away (well, almost right away, it still takes me some time to actually wake up in the morning). I actually took some time to work on taiji, that’s been slipping lately. And then I sat down to work, and stayed at my computer for pretty much a full work-day, if not on the computer then making phone calls or writing notes or doing specific non-computer tasks. I took a couple of brief spinning breaks and stopped to eat lunch and watch a little TV to distract my mind, but I was pretty successful at working on things all day. I can do better, I did spend some time on social sites rather than in my WordPress account or in my text editor, but still. I got stuff done.

    As a result of this, at the end of the day I really felt like I had lived a full day — that I got up and used the time and enjoyed it, that I really lived it instead of marking time and watching the clock. Too many days at my old job went that way, and it made me feel blank, dull, unhappy. A little bit transparent around the edges. Not worthy of the space I occupy in the world. That was a really terrible feeling, and in contrast, yesterday felt really, really good.

    Who wants to pace out the minutes of their life in dullness, in transparent futility and fecklessness? Terrible, tragic thing, to so waste life and time and talent. I’ve wasted so much time. I want to feel like I’m alive now and working on things that matter, to me and to someone else. I want there to be joy and life in the work I do and the time I’m given. The world is so grim sometimes; there can never be too much joy to set against the grayness of it. I want to create my share of joy. Joy to live out of, and to share as widely as I can.


    When I reported this morning that I was voluntarily awake at 5:30, my older brother reported back that I’m crazy. He has reason to be skeptical about my sanity; he knows better than most my natural inclination to sleep in. But this night owl has delusions of early-bird-ism; I actually like to be awake and active early, when I manage to do it. I’ve just never been very successful at actually doing it. I also really enjoy sleeping in.

    The extra-crazy part about getting up early is that I didn’t actually sleep well. I dozed off while watching TV and so I didn’t actually go to bed until after midnight. And then my brain just didn’t want to be quiet, too busy with thinking about all of the work issues and life issues that I’m wrestling with, trying to find answers that weren’t going to come at that hour, while I was tucked under flannel sheets and crocheted afghans. It took a long while to get my thoughts to sit still enough to fall asleep.

    Regardless, my alarm went off at 5:30, and I got out of bed. I didn’t even hit the snooze button once. I still sat up in bed for a while, letting my body get used to the idea of being upright, but then it was off to the treadmill and into my day. Tiredness and all.

    This is so uncharacteristic of me, my brother will probably think I’m past crazy and on to whatever comes after crazy when he reads it. I hate being tired, having to deal with the world when I’m sleep-deprived. It makes me crabby and makes me feel like I’m stupid and slow and can’t do anything right. That’s part of the reason I like sleeping in, because that’s the best way for me to catch up on my sleep. Trying to go to bed early never actually works out well for me, no matter how good my intentions are.

    So I’m sitting at my laptop again today, writing again, posting to this blog, sending messages and comments to my friends around the internet. Starting to look for “real” writing work, meaning the kind that someone will pay me for. The feeling of tiredness is present, but it feels like it’s sitting off to the side today, not needling me like it usually does. Not dragging quite as many distractions around in my vicinity, trying to pull me off task. I’m bemused. That’s an enormous change for me, and I don’t entirely know what to make of it. Except I’m counting it as another tiny spark of hope that maybe I can make writing my livelihood and lifestyle after all — even though I’m tired, when this is my work, I’m still working.

    Pushed to produce

    Here’s a thing I thought about the other week, and I know I discussed it with my counselor, and now I’m pondering it again today. It feels like a tiny spark of hope in the face of the Big Hairy Life Stuff that I’m wrangling.

    When I was in school, high school and especially college, I was one of the students that always put work off till late, sometimes the last minute. Not daily homework so much, there was never enough time to really put that off for long, but bigger projects. Especially writing research papers. I spent years stressing about this, beating myself up for “not being organized” or “not working harder” or goodness knows what. I was often working close to deadlines at the end, but I always got my assignments done and handed in on time.

    It took until at least my second year in college, maybe my third, to finally get my head around the idea that this is the natural way I work: I need a little bit of a push to get going, that push usually coming in the form of an advancing deadline. I’d get the assignments at the beginning of the semester, and know that they were due “sometime,” and fiddle around and not-work on them for days or weeks, depending how far in the future they were going to be due. But at some point, I’d look at the calendar and a switch would flip in my head — uh-oh, time to get going now. And I’d jump on the project, spend hours in the library, write up notes and get my head around ideas, and write the darn thing. Often, I’ll admit, into the wee hours of the night before it was due. But I got the assignments done, and I always got good grades on them. I’d hand something in, thinking it was worth a middling B-ish at best, and it would come back with a very high A. Eventually I stopped expecting otherwise. I was good at writing papers. And I knew that I needed some push to get the work done, so I relaxed about the slack time I took at the beginning of such projects.

    It’s been a long time since I wrote any research papers, but they were sizeable writing projects that I undertook successfully. I did it under a certain amount of pressure; sometimes self-created, but still pressure. And the feedback I got was all positive. I can write well when I’m pushed.

    I keep reminding myself that I actually like to work; I mostly enjoy doing things, even in my time “off.” My main hobbies involve making yarn and making things out of yarn, which is all different kinds of work. I feel better when I’m getting stuff done. There are tasks I like more and ones I like less, but even if I’m doing something I don’t enjoy a great amount, it still feels good to get into it and make progress, feels satisfying to finish it up and appreciate the results. Even the often neglected house-cleaning makes me feel good, when I actually get around to it. (If I remembered that fact better, maybe I would get around to it more often.)

    One of the things that makes starting up a new venture hard is the amount of work involved to get it going — everything I have ever read and ever been told points me at this. It’s one of the scary things I’m facing. But then I set beside that scary fact two things: first, that I like to work. Second, that when I’m pushed, I produce. When I remember these two things, it helps me to think that making a successful change to a different kind of work may be possible, even though it’s hard.

    Meditation on Psalm 62:5-6

    Lately I’ve been reading Psalm 62 in the mornings and sometimes when I go to bed, as its message is one that I really need right now. Verses 5 and 6 read thus:

    Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
    my hope comes from him.
    He alone is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

    The thing that grabbed my eyes this morning was that word “alone” at the beginning of verse 6. He alone is my rock, my salvation, my fortress. Words having to do with defense, security, stability, being saved, being safe. Do I ever feel like I could use more of those.

    One of my biggest quandaries right now is in trying to figure out what to rely on as I move forward. Choosing the work I want to do means giving up security. It means I’ll need to learn how to work and live by my wits in a much deeper, more vital way than I’ve ever needed to before. I feel like there’s no way to find out if I can hack it and if I want to hack it except by trying, but what happens if I fail? Then what do I do and where do I go?

    But the verse I’m reading says He alone is my security. It says that I will not be shaken. Not that I won’t feel shaken, but that I won’t be shaken. One could stand in the safest place in the universe and still be terrified. Fear doesn’t act rationally. And yet, would the fear mean that the person standing in the safest place wasn’t really safe?

    How much do I believe that I am safe? That I am held, that my foundation is rock, that I am not going to be shaken? How much do I believe that my salvation is already taken care of, and that the rest of my life is going to be taken care of too? Many Christian people have said this and I will repeat it: if the Son of God had enough love and determination to face ultimate, astonishing pain and torment for my sake, why would he drop the ball now? Is sorting out the details of my life harder for him than what he has already done?

    My fortress is secure, and my feet are on rock. It doesn’t make life unscary or the decisions I face less hard, but I don’t want to forget this. Even if I fail, I will not be shaken. Even with no job and no earthly security, I am not abandoned. My fear is less real than this truth.

    Remembering the fun

    After yesterday’s post of doom and direness, several friends and family encouraged me to take today off from facing the hard stuff and make a point of doing the fun stuff instead (including my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl, which tickled my fancy … neither of them is actually named Darryl, but from the way they claimed their comments on that post, they could almost qualify. I laughed a lot over that. My brothers are awesome.)

    So today I’m trying to not worry, and to do the fun stuff, and just to remember the fun stuff. Something I haven’t talked about on this blog before is that once upon a time I wrote some fanfiction, stories based in the greater Star Wars universe. I was involved with a group of friends for a while who did a lot of fanfic writing, caught the bug from them, and wrote some stories too. The only friend I have left from that time is my dear friend Sue, who I consider more of an adoptive sister at this stage than a friend. Once upon a time we had enormous fun making up stories, writing both separately and together. One of us would scratch out a paragraph’s worth of something and email it to the other, the other would add something on and send it back to the originator, and back and forth we’d go, impatiently waiting for the next installment, giggling gleefully over it when it came, and then plotting the next twist to lob back. Huge fun, that was.

    I haven’t given much thought to them for a long time, but some of our work is still posted on My stories are here, and Sue’s are here (sadly I don’t think any of the joint creations are included on either side). I was reminded of them recently when Sue asked me for the file on an incomplete story, one of the last things we worked on together and for some reason never quite finished. She was missing the file with the complete text, and so I dug it up and sent it to her. While I was at it, I read it again myself. There’s a lot of rough edges that could be polished up, but it’s still a fun read, and fun to remember the days and years when we used to throw stories at each other.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve written any sort of fiction, or thought about it much. Right now I’m working on non-fiction, which is a different kind of fun and has a different kind of value. Nonetheless, I think the best things I’ve written in this space are stories, just born out of my own life and experiences rather than my imagination. As my life keeps lobbing new twists at me, I want to keep writing about them here, for myself and for the people who may need to read them, who need to learn something or to be encouraged or to see a new way of thinking about things. That’s the really fun part. Writing is communicating, that’s both the fun of it and the need of it, the responsibility of it, and that’s what I’m thinking about right now. I don’t know yet if I can make money doing this work, but I need to keep communicating, keep honing this art, keep trying to say worthwhile things. By fiction or non-fiction, by stories that happen a long time ago in a galaxy far away, or in my own house, my own family, my own heart and mind.

    Facing the scary

    Today I’ve been working on financial-related things, including sorting out my potential unemployment benefits. I had to re-read the materials I’ve been sent and make sure that I understand everything correctly, and I had to call and ask about some things that I didn’t understand. I have a better idea now of what I’m able to get and what the limitations are. And, I’m more scared today than I’ve been since I left my old job.

    I’m not going to get into the details, those are my business to wrangle and no one else’s. But dealing with all of this brings me face to face with the scariness of what I’ve been feeling all month that I really want to do … strike out on my own and write for a living. Not be beholden to anyone else for the work I do, and not be backed up by anyone else either. Have the freedom to work in my own way and time, and the responsibility to find my own clients and projects and get crap done. Exhilarating and scary, all at once. Mostly so far I’ve been thinking about the exhilarating side; today is rubbing my nose in the scary. Big time.

    I’m kind of not sorry. I have never heard that rose-colored glasses were beneficial to the hard work of getting a new thing started, or making big changes. But it’s not fun, either. Being scared never really is. I don’t even like watching scary movies.

    I spent the morning working on the scary-making stuff, and then broke for lunch, and then spent a good while dragging my feet on getting back to work. I know I was just avoiding actually feeling scared, but in the end I sat down and faced it as honestly as I can. I cried, and I prayed for guidance, and I thought about what I want and what I don’t know yet. I thought too about what I’ve been praying all along (whatever God chooses for me, that’s what I want, no matter what), and reconfirmed my commitment to it. I prayed that even though I’m scared right now, I still want to do the best possible thing for myself and for the world I live in; even though I don’t know yet if I have the courage to walk into uncertainty, I wish I had the courage, I want to have it. I don’t want to retreat toward a safe, dull life. I had that, and it tried its hardest to break me. I still feel like losing my job was actually a form of rescue from that. I don’t want to turn around and go back. It makes my heart sink to think about it.

    I have to face the hard truth right now that I have NO idea how to start or run a business, or how to find clients, or how to market myself, or how much money I will need to live on, when I’m responsible for paying my own taxes and whatnot, or how much time and work it will require, or how many dear things I may need to give up. I’m pretty sure my family won’t let me starve, but that’s the only solid certainty I’ve got. The rest is going to be up to me, and I don’t know if I can do it. Can I learn what I need to? Probably. Can I make it happen? No idea.

    Am I going to try?

    Please God, help me answer yes.

    A post of many things

    I don’t have a big complicated thought to write an essay about today.  I’ve also got limited time, so that sort of essay simply isn’t going to happen. Instead, I will write smaller thoughts about many things.  Here we go.


    I missed writing my post yesterday, I didn’t put anything on the blog at all. It was a fairly busy day, and so I could potentially say “I didn’t have time to do it,” but I’m not going to say that.  I’m going to say I didn’t make time to do it, when I could have.  So it is.


    Technically, this constitutes a failure of my intention to post every day for the rest of February.  February 20 happened without a post happening.  There have been times when I would feel really bad about this and be very hard on myself.  Today, I just feel more determined to pick up and keep going, by absolutely making a point of writing something today, whether or not it looks like what I usually write.  I perceive this determination as a good thing.

    Also Yesterday

    One of the things I did yesterday instead of writing a blog post was volunteer for the first time at my new church, Exponential  I have some past experience with on the backstage/technical end of church services, so I asked if I could help and maybe learn some things about their systems and how they make a Sunday experience happen.  It was fun, I did indeed learn some things, I got to run their slides/projection for the morning (the easiest of the tech jobs available, and the one that I’ve got some practical experience at), and I’m hoping to be able to learn and do more.  They’ve got a stellar team, which makes it even more fun to be a part of.

    Also Also Yesterday

    Before I sound too altruistic and crap, I also spent some time in the early afternoon vegging out and watching TV.  That’s the time I could have used to write.  What can I say, I got up at 5:00am and I’m not used to that; boo-hoo, pity me. Okay, all done? Onward.


    This morning I had a phone conversation with a possible employer about a possible writing job.  So far, so good.  I’m supposed to get back to her about whether I seriously want to pursue this gig further, based on the information I got today; I’m thinking it over, but so far I think I do.


    I need to remind myself not to start counting them, in regards to new possible opportunities that haven’t properly hatched yet.  I also need to remind myself that if I am interested in pursuing a freelance writing career, I need to seriously start working at it — if only working at figuring out what kind of work it would take to really do it.  There’s a lot of open questions that I don’t have answers for yet.


    Mine are awesome, I just wanted to say.  My older brother called me to check how the writing-gig-conversation went, and gave me some good advice about how to think about it, and how to both think about and pursue going forward in a practical way.  I’ve got a lot of people supporting me and I appreciate all of them so much; today I’m calling out Mike, because he’s been one of the best and a huge help to me in navigating these new waters.  Thanks, bro.  It means the world to me.


    Oy.  I spent a good chunk of morning trying to get mine working again.  It hasn’t been hooked up in a good while, and now it doesn’t want to print in black and white (color printing seems to be fine, but I mostly need black and white).  I’m hoping a new black ink cartridge will do the trick.  

    Fighting with hardware is seriously not my forte, I have very little patience for it.  I can go from calm to screaming fury in about 9.7 seconds.  This is an area I know I need to work on; for today, I’m happy that I got the printer hooked up and tested it out and didn’t want to yell or throw things even once. Despite the fact that it’s not properly working yet.


    Is finishing off beef stew that I made last week.  Tasty, tasty stew.


    Uhhh … finish lunch?

    No Really, Next?

    Toss myself at the rest of my day.  I have a counseling appointment late afternoon, then taiji classes following, and need to shop for both an ink cartridge and groceries in the midst of that somewhere.  There’s a possibility of unhelpful weather, which I hope will just shove off. We’ve got the idea already, thanks. No need to send more snow and ice.


    For reading.  It’s so much more fun to write things here when I imagine people reading along, or when I hear from people who do.  It helps me be a better writer, and that’s a real gift.  Thank you!