Waiting to escape part one.

In a way, I feel like the Israelites at the first Passover. Waiting, eagerly, to run at a moment’s notice to escape Egypt. “Egypt” means slavery and oppression. “Egypt” means not living live as we are meant to – as I’m meant to.

I’ve been shoehorning my life for a while now. My job no longer fits with my ideals. Buddha talked about “right livelihood” – where your jobs needs to line up with your values. It isn’t that the library is bad. It is just that it isn’t enough.

I am adverse to starting a “small business” and striking out on my own. Too often this means simply striking out. I don’t want to feel like I have to spend more time selling my “product” more than I spend creating it. My art isn’t my job. Maybe that is the problem though. Maybe the fact that I create and then go to a “real” job is proof I have time to do both.

I’m averse to doing all the taxes and paperwork required to run a small business. I want to get paid t create, to host Circles, to heal in many ways. I want to write, paint, collage, bead, and drum. I want to show others how to do the same. I want to facilitate weddings, funerals, and other religious ceremonies for those who have been turned out of or off of church. I want to have a place to do all of this that isn’t my home.

The biggest point is that I’m afraid to go out on my own because I need health insurance.

I need to remember that just because the Israelites became free, their lives didn’t become easy. 40 years of wandering in the desert isn’t ideal. Many people died. But they also always had enough to eat and drink, and their shoes never wore out. So maybe freedom isn’t what I think it should be.

I used to love working at the library, but that love has faded. I feel that my talents are being wasted. More importantly, I feel that my life is being wasted. I can’t stand thinking about 13 more years of 40 hour weeks until I can retire. I’ll be 59. My Mom died at 53. My Dad died at 60. Neither were able to retire. I’d hate to think that I’d spent my most healthy years at a place only half alive, biding my time. I resent the time my job takes from me. 40 hours a week is too much time away from my husband and friends. Too much time not creating and sharing and teaching.

My job is rather predictable and boring. In a way, the familiarity is comforting. In a way, it is smothering. I’m grateful to have a job that is regular and simple at times. I’m grateful to have a regular paycheck too. But right now, the only thing that keeps me going is days off, because then I get to do what I want to do.

I’d love to work in such a way that I don’t have to have a “second” job of living my “real” life. I’d love if my “first” job was more in line with my dreams and creative life. I’d love if I got paid to have circles where people could learn how to communicate better, or I could facilitate new ways of communication, where people could connect with art or music.

Stuck again. Maybe I never left.

I’m tired of being thankful. I’m tired of feeling like I’m stuck in the belly of the whale. I’m tired, and angry, and frustrated, and I want to quit. I want to quit it all. I want to retreat to a safe warm hole and curl up and wait until the winter of my own personal discontent passes or at least thaws. I envy bears.

I’m tired of the fact that I’ve taken all these classes to learn how to be compassionate to other people and they don’t seem to have taken the same time or effort to learn how to be compassionate towards me. Pastoral care, two series of Dialogues in Diversity, The Circle Process, and then Remo Health Rhythms drum circle facilitator – all of these are about peacemaking. All of them are about learning how to help people communicate in different ways. Even my tutoring that I do feeds into this. Yet nobody seems to take the time to learn how to communicate with me.

I feel betrayed by my job, which then leads me to remembering that I was betrayed by my church and my social group I was in, and my friends from high school. There have been too many changes in the past few years. Too many new things. Too many new rules that don’t make sense. Too many people trained and gone. Too much to keep up with. And now there is a new manager that has a communication and leadership style that I don’t know how to deal with. I can’t make sense of it. I feel lost.

My last performance review said that I was the reason the department held together for the year that we didn’t have a manager. A year, without a manager, and we were better organized than branches that had a manager. I’ve been there for 14 years, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what we need to have done day by day to keep the place going well. I care about my job. I care, in part, because I’m there all the time it seems. This is my home in a way. I’m awake there more often than I am at my real home. I spend more time with these people than I do with the person I chose.

And that is part of the problem. I didn’t choose these people, and they didn’t choose me. We are a misfit family. We didn’t decide to be together. We learned how to work together. We learned how to adapt. And then it all changed. People moved, got transferred, died. People left, and I’m the only person in my department who was there from the very beginning. Even the upper administration is new. Everything that I knew to be true is up in the air now. Even basic rules – rules that formed the backbone of how we do our jobs – even those are up for grabs now.

I feel lost. I feel alone. I feel powerless. I feel unappreciated. I’m angry and sad and tired.

Perhaps I’ve been there too long. Perhaps I’ve grown out of it. Perhaps it is time to quit. But part of being at a place for a long time is that I’ve built up a lot of vacation time and sick time. If I start over at another place I start over at the bottom. I’ve built up a pension here. But the idea of staying another 13 years until I can retire makes me feel ill.

And after all that happened yesterday, I came home and that was the day that my hoarder husband decided to start cleaning out his room. Piles of stuff were all over the house. The mess that is my house got even worse. It was like a tornado had come to town and destroyed my job and my home.

In a way, I’ve hit rock bottom. In a way, I’ve killed myself. I asked Jesus into it, as far as I knew how. I said I can’t do this, and I need you to take over. I did this last night, trying to use the information one person has about “walk-ins”. I’m pretty sure she is talking about multiple personality disorder or possession, but I’m thinking that Jesus is a better guide than some random person from the ether like she means. I’d forgotten about this by the morning, and then both of the readings I did were about death and rebirth. So far I’ve remembered to say the prayers for everything I’m supposed to. So far I’m getting back into the groove of all the things that I can control, that make things work well. The worst thing I can do is try to deal with an unstable environment without my routine in the morning. It is the framework for my day, and thus my life.

I don’t know what to do – whether to stay or to go. I don’t know what my duties are at work anymore. So I’m waiting, and I’m open, and I’m listening. Perhaps stay in the system, but doing a different job? Perhaps stay where I am, but do more programs? I need to feel useful, that I’m not wasting my life and my skills. I need to feel that I matter, and I’m helping. I don’t just want to collect a paycheck, but make a living, a life. I’m very mindful of how short life is, and I don’t want to spend most of it doing something mindless and insignificant.

I’m tired of living this double life, where I take classes and create art, music, and writing on my own. It is like I have a second job that I don’t get paid for. It is as if I have to supplement my diet on my own because I’m not getting enough nutrition. If I was “fed” properly at my job, then I could actually enjoy my time away from it, rather than scrambling to make meaning in my off time.

Sobriety sucks sometimes.

The Now of Job

Job is an amazing character in the Bible. He was wealthy beyond imagining.

Job 1:1-3
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. (RSV)

He was righteous, even offering extra sacrifices for his children just in case they made a transgression unintentionally. They would all spend days together having feasts at each other’s houses.

Job 1:5
5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. (RSV)

But then he lost it all.

Job 1:13-22
13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; 14 and there came a messenger to Job, and said, “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; 15 and the Sabe′ans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The Chalde′ans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 20 Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (RSV)

It is amazing that Job doesn’t complain or freak out when he hears all of this bad news. Notice that each messenger hadn’t even quit speaking before the next one came in with even worse news.

Remember how bad news is said to come in threes? He got four. All at once. He didn’t even have time to recover from each blow before he received the next one.

Then he personally is afflicted with sores all over his body.

Job 2:9-10
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die.”10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (RSV)

He praises God and accepts what is given to him. What a model for “being in the now” It reminds me of the story of Jonah. He praised God while in the belly of the whale. While in the middle of a bad situation, he praised God. He didn’t say “If you get me out of this I’ll praise you.” He didn’t know if he was even going to get out of it. In fact, just before, he thought he was going to drown from being thrown overboard during a storm. Things weren’t great, but he was alive, having been rescued in an improbable way.

Job and Jonah teach us a lot about accepting where and how we are, just as we are.

Gift

I’m trying to see every experience as a gift, as something special. I’m trying to trust that God is in charge of everything and that everything is going as planned.

It isn’t easy.

I feel trapped in someone else’s madness right now. Some dumb decisions have been made by others and it is affecting me. It is only going to get worse. I want somebody to take over, take charge. I want somebody to rise to the occasion and be an adult. I’m not seeing it happen yet.

And then I remember how much I love the story of Jonah, praising God in the belly of the whale. While in the middle of the problem, Jonah praises God.

And I remember Jesus saying in Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (RSV)

I’ve come to understand this to be about everything – situations, feelings, ourselves – not just people. We are to act in a loving manner all the time.

And I remember Job saying that if he only loves God when he gives us good things, then he doesn’t really love God. His wife has just told him to curse God for all the afflictions that have happened to him.

Job 2:10
10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (RSV)

OK, so what do I do about all these feelings? How do I handle them? How do I act in a loving way towards my anxiety right now?

I was talking to a friend about all of this and she told me about this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh. “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” (Being Peace)

Sometimes this feels like AA. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

If I believe that God is a loving God, and that God is in charge, I have to trust that everything that happens is part of God’s plan, and that it will all work out for the good.

The problem is trusting that.

I feel like I did when I was in a river rafting trip with a boyfriend many years ago. He was a guide, and we’d taken a raft with some friends down the Ocoee River in the off season. He knew of a spot where we could “surf” – we could ride the river, sort of stuck in this one area for a bit. Some of the water started to come into the raft. I started to get terrified and went to leap out of the boat. My boyfriend knew that would be a terrible idea – I’d get stuck under the raft in that area. Unbeknownst to him, it really would have been a terrible idea – I wasn’t a great swimmer either. All I knew was that something bad was happening and I wanted to get away. He held my shoulders down so I couldn’t leave the boat. He explained it all when we were away from that situation. He didn’t have time to explain it then.

I want to get away from this situation.
God is holding down my shoulders.
It will all make sense later.
Breathe, trust, and give thanks.