comfort zone

Help Me To Embrace This Vulnerable Season

*Background info: In the past 8 months, there have been many changes in my life. I became an empty-nester. My husband got a new job. Actually, he got one job, then was promoted to another. I sold our home where we had lived for 13 years. I moved away from the Pacific NW, where I have lived all of my life, to Louisville, Kentucky, 2300 miles away. I quit my job as a hospice nurse. I became unemployed (by choice, but still, unemployed). We moved to a new part of the country, a new city, a new house, a new church. 

I’m so absent-minded lately, my husband is afraid I have early on-set Alzheimer’s. I lose my way when I drive to the health club. I leave for an errand and come back without the item I was supposed to get. I ask my husband repeatedly about the dates he is going out-of-town. I leave eggs boiling on the stove until they almost blow up (it’s not as cool as it sounds). I remember once my kids were convinced that I had early dementia. I was so scattered, I was almost convinced, too. So I made and appointment with a doctor friend of mine who is an expert in the area, and after some testing, she assured me that what I was dealing with was just stress. She told me that if you are stressed or sleep deprived, you can exhibit similar symptoms. However, this was the best test – If you forget where you put your keys, that is normal. If you forget what your keys are used for, that is not normal.

And on top of that, I have become a wishy-washy mass of insecurity. I have little to no sense of self or where I belong, and I have lost my sense of purpose. An acquaintance recently asked me, “What do you do?” I am currently not working, so she asked me “Well, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?” I started blankly at her.

“Well, I like to write.” I seriously couldn’t think of anything else to say. I write, but I have a little blog and it’s probably not what you would be interested. I longed to say something interesting, to have a fabulous answer as to what I am doing with all of my free time. I stammered and stuttered and finally looked at my husband and said, “What do I like to do?”

WHAT? WHO is this person? What made me become this shaky leaf of insecurity?

THIS IS NOT ME.

And I miss the old me. I miss being able to have dinner with my kids. I miss the woman who worked hard as a hospice nurse liaison to make sure her patients were well-informed and well cared for. I miss supporting my colleagues, working shoulder to shoulder to advocate for our patients. I miss being an expert in my field. I miss my tribe of women, whom I purposely gathered over the years – women with whom I could share my heart, who would pray for me, cook with me, or just come sit and talk to me while I did my dishes. I miss feeling like what I was doing on a daily basis was purposeful. I miss the structure. I miss familiarity.

I don’t like feeling so uncertain all of the time. I don’t like having all of this time to fill, but I also don’t want it to be filled. I’m tired and feeling lost and out-of-place all of the time. I’m tired of feeling lonely. I’m tired of having one small incident – like getting looked over for a job, or having someone not return a text – shape my whole day.

And honestly, I tire of hearing myself whine about it. (You are probably tired of hearing about it, too). As a matter of fact, I hate even writing about this, but it was one of those times I just have to vent or go crazy. So I’m not going to post this blog on social media. I am just writing for me. So if you have somehow stumbled upon this, you were meant to be here. This is one of the few times I will leave open the comment section, so if you’re reading this, I’d love for you to leave a comment. 

It’s coming up on one year in just a few months. I thought things would be settled by now, figured out. I thought I would have a sense of community, a structure, a sense of purpose. I just want everything to feel okay. Some days it does, but honestly, most days it just doesn’t.

And to be really honest, not all of this has to do with the changes that have happened in my life. I could just as easily be feeling this way back in the Northwest. I would just have work and friends to distract me. In any setting, I am a seasonal person. And I know this is simply a season.

As always, the thing that helps me get centered is to get back to the basics:

Mindful breathing when I first wake up.

Eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising.

Looking at what I am feeling, discerning what is a lie and what is the truth, and being thankful for what I have.

And I am finding what I am lacking the most, and what I am in deepest need of – time with God and remembering who I am in Him. Being okay with where I am because he has brought me here for a reason.

I find that I am often drifting down the stream and entering into a spinning whirlpool before I remember that I have had a lifeline all along. 

Lord, I need help. I know that as I look back on my life, I’ve learned the most from times of struggle, when I am pushed out of my comfort zone and am learning to rely on you, to love you in a new way, and to let you love me. Those times are what has made me life so much richer. Be with me, give me peace and strength and joy. Help me to reach out and be your loving touch to those around me. Help me to embrace this vulnerable season.

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that  are right with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity, to name a few.”  Brene Brown

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When Your Floors Aren’t Level and Your Walls Aren’t Straight

I’m sitting in Vint Coffee Shop in Louisville, Kentucky, over 2,000 miles from the place that was home to me for the past 50 years – the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been here 3 1/2 weeks, and it still feels surreal. Most days I forget that I am across the country from my friends and family. Except when I remember. Then it hits me in small waves of either nostalgia, melancholy, or uncontrollable eye-leaking.

As chaotic as it is to live inside my head, I like my outside world to have some semblance of order. I find comfort in the routine – such as knowing where to find an item in the grocery store (or even simply knowing where to find the grocery store). I did not appreciate the every day luxuries, or at least comforts, or my life. I even miss the routine of going to work each day. I miss spending time with my precious friends. I miss Vancouver’s Farmer’s Market, and day trips to Cannon Beach, and watching a movie relaxing in a recliner in the over-21 section while being served dinner at our favorite theater, Cinetopia.

Leaning

Leaning

When our furniture arrived a few weeks ago, I set up my aluminum baker’s rack only to find it strangely leaning to the right. I  kept trying to figure out what was wrong with that silly rack. I looked at the bottom of each leg to see if they were uneven or if the cap on the bottom was missing. Instead I found that, living in a house built in 1900, my new home has more ‘character’ than I anticipated. There is not one straight wall or level floor. Even the brick chimney that separates our kitchen and dining room is leaning a bit. Don’t get me wrong – I love my new house. It has such history and amazing details. The thin wood slats on the original crooked flooring have years of stories to tell in every imperfection. But when my world has changed in almost every single aspect, it is just one reminder that things are a little off. Every single part of my life is ‘a little off’. (Those of you that know me are now chuckling because you know that ‘a little off’ is nothing new for me.)

And so I embrace the theme of my life, past and present. Everything is a little off. There are no level floors or straight walls. There is no clear cut path for this new life in Louisville. I don’t know if we will be here for one year or ten years. But here is what I DO know: everything up to this point has led us here. This is where we are supposed to be. I could spend all of my time and effort trying to make everything line up perfectly, but that would be futile. Life isn’t supposed to line up perfectly – and wouldn’t that be boring, anyway? I am learning to step out of my comfort zone and appreciate the unpaved path.

So for now, I will slip some folded cardboard under the wobbly leg of my baker’s rack, and carry on.