I had an entirely different post lined up for this week, but given the events of the last few days, I’ve decided to hold onto it and talk about this instead…
The highs and lows of the past few weeks have been so extreme that I never know how I’ll feel from one moment to the next.
On the whole, I‘ve been sustained by an inexplicable sense of joy. These past three months home with my daughter and our pets have been so life-giving. I never thought I’d want to be a stay-at-home mom simply because I love working. But I see what a gift it is to be able to be so fully present in your children’s lives. Mostly, I’m grateful for the time and space to get myself grounded each day. It changes everything about the way I parent and the way I am able to shape my own internal growth. Sometimes, I walk around the apartment tingling with joy at how much I love my daughter, what a remarkable young lady she’s turning into, how grateful I am that we have this time together.
And then there are moments when I walk around as though under water. Hazy, weary, aimless, and with little left to give. I keep the freezer stocked for the days when I just don’t have it in me to cook dinner. Energy is such a funny thing, an unpredictable commodity relying on a multitude of mysterious factors, and there is so much that threatens to leech it away. I’ve been working with my doctor, my therapist, and occasionally, Sam the acupuncturist, to tackle sleep. (Fun fact- Sam’s last name is Pierceall. I probably spend more time than I should thinking about it, but what are the chances of someone choosing the same vocation as their last name? Am I the only one that finds that amazing?!)
Insomnia is an old, old friend. With my therapist, I’ve been working to explore the roots of the beliefs I hold about sleep. With my doctor, I’ve been working to understand what the heck is going on with my body. My sleeping heart rate is often higher than my day time rate, indicating that my sympathetic nervous system is heightened at night. I’m staying in a hyper state of arousal- or fight/flight mode- during sleep.
It’s an interesting conundrum. That habit has been well-honed through years of stress and trauma. Trying to break it during a time of high-stress seems like a bit of madness. My body often feels like it’s been hijacked, buzzing with anxiety at the uncertainty that looms ahead. But it’s essential that I figure this out. The physical toll of sleeplessness impacts every area of my life. Some days I’m banking little more than 2-3 hours a night, and it absolutely wrecks me.
It becomes twice as difficult to be productive during the day. My ability to write and be creative is almost entirely shot when I’m exhausted, as is my perspective on hope and perseverance.
That same conundrum plays out in other areas. I’m working with my therapist to examine and change my beliefs around scarcity. I’ve lived so carefully for so long, but in doing so, I’ve trained my mind to expect that there will never be enough, that things will always be hard. I’m learning that the narrative we tell ourselves on a daily basis impacts every facet of our lives. It’s kind of funny, though, to rewrite that dialogue in a time that feels immensely uncertain… and a little… um… scarce. Each day, I recite to myself the things I DO have, which truly does feel like a lot. Our situation is couched in unknowns but it could be SO much worse. I know I’ve said this before, but there are more people than any of us realize living in cars and sleeping in shelters right now. I can’t even fathom those challenges and feel deeply grateful to be where we are.
The slightly bad… or at least the frustrating… is that school funding for my PhD program is simply nonexistent. I spent the last few weeks on the phone and exchanging emails with the various powers that be in an attempt to understand what is available. My inquiries yielded few results, except the determination that the school offers zero… read it… zero scholarships or grants to new students, reserving them for returning students only. It took about 15 emails and phone calls to find this out. While there are some solid external scholarships out there in the world, the application process is massively time consuming and completely uncertain. It’s like walking into a well-educated casino and deciding which table to bet your time on.
And time is a commodity right now. Our housing fund ends in 7 weeks, which seems unbelievable! It seems unthinkable that we should, somehow, a year later, be right back where we started… packing our things into storage and departing for somewhere unknown. If I look that beast in the eye, I will be completely overwhelmed. As it will be April before the school assigns the assistantship, I more or less put the option out of my head and decided instead to continue focusing on looking for work.
The (very) Ugly…
After 7 months of waiting for my unemployment case to be reviewed, I found out on Wednesday that it had been denied. My personal circumstances didn’t warrant good enough cause for leaving my job. The fact that a global pandemic made it exceedingly difficult to find a new one wasn’t a consideration when the system was designed.
It felt as though the last bit of air had been completely sucked out of the balloon keeping me afloat. It was the last shred of hope I was holding onto. We’d been living off credit cards the last few months with the anticipation of paying them off when the benefits arrived, and now, I simply didn’t see a what forward.
I immediately appealed the decision and then tried to put it out of my mind. Except it crept into my sleep, a static current of panic jolting me throughout the night. Within 48 hours, I was tanked.
I woke up yesterday morning exhausted and defeated. I got on social media and solicited prayer and encouragement… which is such a strange and vulnerable thing to do. “Hello world… I’m falling apart… please tell me this is going to be ok!” (I didn’t actually say that, though in retrospect, maybe I should have). Here’s an excerpt of what I did say, for those who missed it…
“I battle my internal judgment daily. The fact that I still haven’t found a job seems to imply there is something deeply and inherently wrong with me. I’ve tried to get creative. I’ve reached out to folks who aren’t even remotely hiring and attempted to convince them I have something to offer (and then I have to resist the urge to feel deeply embarrassed when they don’t respond). I’ve bugged friends, acquaintances, and even strangers for connections and recommendations.
In a year of applying to countless jobs, I’ve been invited to be interviewed by only 2 companies. Each time I made it to round 3 or 4 but was never offered the job. That’s disheartening but I have to believe it’s because something better is waiting. I am applying broadly to a multitude of options while also being mindful of the precariousness of my career trajectory at this age and stage of life.
I can’t begin to express how much energy it takes to muster the courage to write ONE MORE cover letter. Is it me? Is it my work history? Am I not projecting enough confidence? Am I not envisioning the path forward with enough clarity? Are my internal insecurities secretly keeping me from thriving? Is it because I am scattered in too many different directions? Do I need to focus my energy with more singularity? Or maybe I need to broaden it?
I’ve made lists. I’ve evaluated what I want out of life and who I want to be. I’ve meditated. Prayed. Paced. Made vision boards. I’ve been clear and specific. I’ve been vague and open. I’ve reminded myself frequently and with absolute certainty that I HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER. “
When I was 19 or so, a counselor told me to envision the worst case scenario, acknowledge the fear, and let go. But now, I couldn’t let it go. I could only envision it. Worst case… I end up in multiple minimum-wage jobs while still paying the loans on a Master’s degree and derailing any career trajectory I had. Worst case, we end up surfing guest bedrooms again, only this time, we’d probably actually have to get rid of the pets. Worst case, someone accuses me of not being a good mother, of not being able to provide for my daughter. Worst case, life continues to involve this much uncertainty, continues to be this hard, continues to foster this level of exhaustion.
On days like yesterday, when all I can feel is self-pity and defeat, I look at the lives of those around me- people my age who are settled, who own homes and have solid careers, or if not, spouses who can support them while they explore new ones- and I feel such deep shame, wholly and grossly inadequate. Where did I go wrong?
I look at the dichotomy of that last sentence in contrast to the last sentence of the first section. The first looks toward those who have less and second looks toward those who have more. I know that, in order to survive this well, I will have to hold onto the belief that my journey, in all its imperfection, has me right where I am meant to be. All things come in their season. My life is no less valid simply because I do not have the material objects that our culture uses to assign success.
My success in the growth I have made throughout the last 15 years. My success is in the healing I have found throughout the last 6 months. My success is in the love I have fostered with my daughter and among my community members. My success is in the courage Elohim has granted for me to write my story, a story I hope will be life-giving and affirming to others who share similar struggles.
Ok, so here’s where things get good.
I posted my social media lament at 10 yesterday morning. Almost immediately, words of encouragement came pouring in. I felt so buoyed by the support. Sometimes, it’s just good to know you aren’t alone inside a thing that feels really, really lonely. And, I received some awesome job-seeking advice.
At noon, I opened my bank account (mostly in distress and to see how dire the situation was) and saw that, miraculously, either my appeal had been accepted or some crazy glitch had taken place, and the funds had been delivered to my account. I hadn’t received any notification. It was just there.
It was amazing.
I can’t even articulate how amazing it was. In the span of two hours, I went from absolute and total despair to absurd levels of joy and elation.
Guys… that’s the work. That’s you… hoping and believing with me. I wholly believe that was the result of collective prayer and hope.
With the incoming stimulus checks, we’ll be able to make rent through the end of our lease, which I was able to extend through June. I don’t yet know what’s going to happen with school or employment. But I know that still, we are held. This time is precious and purposeful. It is a time of growth and healing.
And that…. Healing and growth… is what I’m going to talk a bit about… next week.
Thanks for being here today. There’s so much goodness coming our way, with spring and vaccinations and a slow crawl toward regaining some of the community we have missed this past year. I hope everyone gets a bit of sunshine this next week. I am grateful for your ongoing love and support!