At the end of this month I will somehow have five years of sobriety! What a whirlwind it has been! I feel like I have been and still am on a tour through all of the things Jessica needs to improve about herself. What can I say? When you spend the most important years of your life in a bottle you just don’t learn to do life, much less respond to it.
At this stage of the game, I know I have to find some financial security for myself. I am making financial security priority number one. I have been focusing my job search on higher education in Memphis and in the not too far away cities though there is a part of me that would like to be back on a coast. I know that staying in Memphis would be the best decision financially, but I also know one should never put all of their eggs in one basket. I am also looking at a few other career options outside of higher education…both in Memphis and outside of Memphis.
I guess it is just time to do some adulting. I have five years of sobriety, but I still have trouble handling stress and it has changed the type of jobs I go after. I often find myself comparing myself to a hurricane…. I definitely feel as though I am one. I roar into the office in the morning, wreak havoc all day, then roar out in the evening to the gym. To be frank, I pretty much do this everywhere I go. I expend a lot of energy that could be used elsewhere. Someone said I should try flipping my schedule – working out in the morning and doing yoga in the evening. I don’t know… I have very unstable blood sugar so I am not sure how that would affect things, but I might try it once I land a new job.
One of the bigger elephants in the room is the fact that I cannot seem to find a way to be happy. Every city I have lived in had something I hated about it. Every church I have attended had something I hated about it. Every job I have held had something I hated about it. One could argue and possibly win the notion that everything I have ever been a part of had something wrong with it. It has always been after I have left a place or an institution that I could really appreciate it for what it was and continues to be. And so after five years of sobriety, I have to ask the question, is it me? The answer is most likely yes. So then what? I guess I must get to the adulting. Find a career I don’t mind doing that will pay me a living wage and afford me the time off I need to do the traveling I want to do and start enjoying life for what it is instead of what it could be.
For some strange reason “Happy” always seems to be in the future with me, but the problem is if “Happy” is always in the future, then it is never in my present and I cannot experience it. That whole life on life’s terms thing in AA is my lesson right now. I have to do life on life’s terms, be grateful for what I do have and find a way to enjoy the blessings I have been given. How this works out in my day-to-day hurricane lifestyle… I do not know, but this is to be my lesson for year five of sobriety! I guess, in part, I just realize my age and realize that I am far more emotionally stable than I have ever been (I know it doesn’t sound like it) and I want to capitalize on the gratitude I do have and enjoy every experience I can. To do this, I have to find a way to calm down and stop complaining!
I don’t know if I will be staying in Memphis or moving somewhere else, but I do know that I have my work cut out for me in the year ahead. I am looking forward to getting back on my feet financially and I am looking forward to enjoying all of the new experiences this year will bring.
"If you want to find happiness, find gratitude." - Steve Maraboli
Backside of the Desert
This past month has been one roller coaster after another. I have been swinging from feeling good and happy to feeling miserable, alone and confused. One day I am happy and feeling planted, the next day I am ready to bolt. All of this emotional ping-pong is really starting to take a toll. I am naturally a lower energy individual (don’t even ask me how I played year round competitive soccer for all those years) and now I am a no energy individual. Something just has to give and I am pretty sure it is me.
The highlight of May was going to visit my South Carolina family – my Tennessee family made the trip east so I actually got to see everyone and it was great. I only wish I could have stayed longer. My current employer doesn’t really believe in vacation and the vacation package is pitiful compared to other companies I interviewed with, but those other companies did not hire me so there’s that. Anywho, I got to see my mom and brother and my great aunt and uncle and a host of other people I don’t get to see often and hopefully will be seeing much more often since I am back on the east coast.
Upon my return from my super-mini-vacay I was given the opportunity to interview for a different position in my company. Might I also add that it was my birthday. Had it not been my birthday, I might not have been into the whole ordeal, but I figured since this opportunity came out of nowhere on my birthday – I should go for it. It reminded me of that day long ago at Germantown Baptist Church where my family went up front to join the church and my mom yanked my arm and said “Don’t you dare say you don’t won’t Jesus.” Now don’t get me wrong – I was not against Jesus at that time, but I also had not officially made the decision to follow Him either. That decision would come a couple years later, after falling in the baptismal pool and dunking myself and the choir for good measure as well as some other events not being mentioned at this time. It also reminded me of that lovely day in Nashville when I had the opportunity to coordinate record release parties and artists showcases for some of my now favorite Christian bands and I, having other plans, said no. I also thought about the fact that I have actually had quite a few doors open for me in Jacksonville, but I have been unwilling to walk through them because they did not match what I am looking for – that and they all dealt with numbers, which brings me back to my birthday. I said yes for once and by the end of the workday I was in a 30-day trial with the Marketing department in a job that revolves around numbers, which brings me back to the ping-pong emotional roller coaster I have been on lately.
The main reason I have always shied away from numbers is because they are simply not my strong suit. I am thoroughly capable, but not naturally gifted if you get my drift. And so each day has brought on new challenges as I learn my potentially new position. Some days I leave work feeling like I am getting the hang of everything and other days I leave feeling like there is no way I am going to make it through the 30 day trial. I should pause here and say that being “Upstairs” in this company is a million times better than being “downstairs”. The whole vibe is different. People are nicer, there is more freedom and frankly it runs more like a corporate office, which is the environment I am familiar with. I feel much more comfortable in my new department and generally like all of my co-workers, which is a big plus as well. I have just had to trust God to sustain me. Every morning I tell Him that I am not in my comfort zone and that I need His help to wrap my head around some of these concepts at work. I ask Him to fill in the blanks and help me to be accurate and He has done just that and more.
It hit me the other day that God might be trying to teach me to really rely on Him for situations that are outside my comfort zone and not in my realm of expertise. Just because something does not come natural – does not mean that you cannot ace it. I don’t know what is in store for me down the line, but I am learning to trust God with whatever He brings my way. I am also stepping up at my Celebrate Recovery home group by leading the women’s small group and possibly stepping onto the leadership team. I say possibly because there has been a lot of talk and a whole lot of hesitation, which is fine by me because I have learned the hard way that “when it fits you don’t have to force it.” (Amazing line from the novel “What Doesn’t Kill You” by Virginia DeBerry & Donna Grant) So if this leadership team isn’t in God’s plans – that’s fine – I don’t need the drama and I am just as happy leading the ladies small group.
I am also strangely starting to feel settled here. I cannot explain it, but I was sitting on the front porch last weekend sipping some sparkling grape juice (one of my guilty pleasures) and I just thought “I’m home”. I have no idea where that thought came from. It certainly does not make since. I don’t have friends, my professional life is anything but anchored and I have yet to find a church, but for some reason I feel more content than I ever did in LA where I had it all. I guess time will tell. I am smart enough to know that all it takes is one second to change everything. I don’t know what is in store for me, but the one thing I do know is that I am where I am supposed to be. God led me here to prepare me for something He plans on bestowing upon me so I guess I will have to stick around to find out what.
I am also back on the church hunt. I have about 7 churches left on my list that I need to visit. While I do need to find a church that I like, God nudged me last week and said “Instead of looking for the perfect church for you, why don’t you find a church that you agree with it’s pastor and his vision and help it grow. Leaders don’t belong, they create the belonging.” And that, my friends, has changed my view on all the churches I have visited. While I am still hoping to find a church with a pastor I like and worship that moves me, if it comes down to it – I will go with the one whose vision I want to help make a reality. As of right now there is only one church on my Round 2 list and three on a wildcard list so here’s hoping the last 7 leave no question in my mind as to what church needs to become my next church home.
In The Middle
As I approach the end of this year, I am hopeful for many changes in the year to come. Namely, my job, my place of residence (I want my own pad!) and I really need to show some people currently in my life, the door. Just because someone has a good heart, does not mean you have to keep that person around. Good heart or not, if they drive you insane to the point that you want to set them on fire – perhaps you need to let their good heart be good to someone else.
They say the only way to change where you are at, is to change the actions that got you there in the first place. A lot of people like to use this line, but they never stop to think what it actually means. It means going against your own grain, it means doing the exact opposite of whatever your instinct might be, it means not being you – at least that’s how it feels. This uncomfortable existence of going against my own grain has been the bulk of my reality for 2013. I am beginning to think that getting sober was the easy part in that all of things I was evading with the alcohol are coming to light in a succession similar to that of a hundred clowns exiting a Beetle. It’s fast, it’s quick and it’s confusing. Walking through this new circus, I feel like I am doing more damage in sobriety than I did while drinking. The good news is that I am starting to have fleeting moments of feeling like myself again – albeit a different version of myself and I am hopeful for a complete resurrection in the year to come. They say that as long as you stay in the program, things will get better and I am counting on this testimony from those who have already been here and done this and have moved on to a life they couldn’t even dream of having, yet they do.
I must apologize as this post is not well put together, but neither am I at the moment. I actually thought about not even posting anything at all. The only thing I can say is that whatever changes are flowing into my life – I am ready and I hope to be able to share them with you soon. I am going to try to have a better plan for this blog next year, but I do still want my life and the lessons I learn to drive its direction. Maybe that is the issue I am facing this month. Maybe I am in the middle of a lesson right now and having not yet learned it, I cannot yet share its wisdom.
But I can share this morsel of truth: If there is one thing you do this holiday season, make it this – do something nice for someone else, hell, go a step further and do it anonymously and then do it again! You will be the one with the present in the end. I don’t know much folks, but I do know this to be true: it is only by helping others, that we truly help ourselves.
To you and yours… May you have a wonderfully Happy New Year!
A Fork In the Road
I find myself walking up to a fork in the road. I am not there yet, but I can feel it coming. It has been both a blessed and a cursed year with the curse being extreme financial lacking and it has weakened my resolve. I am exhausted from the strain of not being able to cover my basic needs much less attend outings to which I have been invited. I am also finding that I hate the hectic pace of my current career. I swear I do nothing but bend over and take it in the rear all day long and for absolutely no reason at that. But this is the glory of being in the distribution world…Not.
The fork that I see coming is the decision to stay in the entertainment industry… albeit in a completely different part or jump ship to a stable, slower paced and financially rewarding private sector institution. There are pros and cons to both roads. Road 1 (the industry) has definite advantages for writers: creative environment; networking with agents, actors and producers; and privy to the inside scoop on everything Hollywood. The down side of the industry would be the long hours, high stress and hectic work environments often supporting projects you don’t support or believe in and until you make it past a certain milestone – very not great pay or benefits. Meanwhile, Road 2 (the private institution) has its own pluses and minuses. Pluses would be the slower pace and non-neurotic managers, the better pay, hours and benefits, as well as better job growth and job security and a better possibility of actually supporting that for which you toil. The only minus on this road is the simple fact that I would be out of the creative scope for a majority of my day.
No doubt to many of you it seems like the simplest decision on the planet. Road 2 clearly has more advantages than Road 1, but Road 1 still has my heart or at least some of it.
Considering the fact that I am known for making bad decisions and passing up opportunities like they number the stars in the sky, I have thought about partaking in an experiment of sorts: Do whatever it is that I do not want to do. In other words, if I want to go left – go right. But I struggle with this decision. You see even with all of the hardship I have endured out here in LA, I still feel I am supposed to be here. I still feel that I am right where I am supposed to be; I still feel that it was the right decision – It’s just not making complete sense yet.
And so I continue to make my way towards this fork in the road, hoping with each step, that the decision will somehow be made for me, that perhaps circumstance will force me onto one road versus the other. If not, I will have to decide whether I should go with my gut like I have always done or try something new and do the exact opposite.
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
Getting Rid of the Clutter
“Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
You find me this month in the beginning stages of downsizing. I know you must be thinking how can you be downsizing when you rent a room? Well, I am moving into a much smaller room later this month in a more prime location. I may be giving up a little bit of space and a tad amount of privacy, but I am gaining central air conditioning, a nice large patio and a fully equipped kitchen I share with only one other individual. Not to mention the fact that I will be right down the street from a large park where I like to jog. Looking at the mess that is my room, I have no idea how I even managed to get all of my belongings into my car the first time around, but I will most definitely not be taking all of them with me to my next dwelling.
I guess you can say that I’ve been clearing away the clutter from my life as well. This past month has brought a lot of acceptance on my part. Accepting where I am in life and my part in it all. Accepting that my choosing to stay on a path of destruction might have made me miss out on some of the very things I desperately wish were a part of my life and accepting the cold hard fact that it might be too late for some of those things at this point. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but through this acceptance I have been able to relinquish some of the control I foolishly hold onto. It’s so strange how the things I nonchalantly ask God for are the very things He provides, but when it comes to the things I cannot let go of and continue to pray, beg and plead for… He doesn’t even touch. I guess He is waiting for me to leave them in His hands and by leave He must mean give to Him, relinquish all control and go on about my business… Something I don’t do very well. If you think about it, it is practically impossible to do anything with something someone keeps taking back and messing with. It's like a spreadsheet you spent hours formatting only to find that someone else logged in and managed to delete half of your painstaking work.
I guess it makes sense that I shouldn’t have to keep checking in on my God and making sure He knows what He’s supposed to be doing on my behalf. I guess I should stop rearranging all the prayers in my prayer box each week. Yes, I do that. I guess I need to learn that age-old lesson that says if you truly want to see God work, then you have to truly let go of the situation. So when I say I have been getting rid of the clutter, I mean I have been practicing giving God the control He deserves. He definitely led me to California and He definitely placed me in the right part of LA for my first year. He also led me to a job, that while it is very taxing on me, I am around some very amazing people that treat me extremely well and not many people can say the same. He also lead me to a church with people who have been willing to put up with me while I was scraping through my first stages of sobriety and now He has lead me to a great new dwelling for year two of life in LA. When I say I am getting rid of the clutter, I mean I am letting go of bad habits. I am letting go of fear and letting go of control and taking steps to simplify my life and my time and loving every minute of the person I am slowly becoming. Besides, life is too short to deal with the ramifications of a cluttered soul.
Earlier this month I asked God to help me grasp His love for me. You see, some pretty awesome people that are on some serious Jesus juice surround me and I want to be on it too. They have this passion and peace and joy that is contagious only I can’t seem to catch it. I do know that they all seem to be able to grasp how much God loves them and that is one thing I just cannot seem to accomplish. I will believe it for a few days or on a good week, but then life slaps me in the face again or I make a mistake or something doesn’t go my way and I for some reason assume that God doesn’t approve of me which translates to Him not loving me.
It’s strange that I have always been able to trust God when it comes to keeping me cancer free. (Back-story: I had a melanoma while my father was fighting his losing battle with melanoma. Mine was in the skin which is stage 1; his was everywhere which is stage 4) I recall begging God to just keep it in the skin so I never have to go through what my father went through and I’ve never really worried about it since. I’ve had several moles removed over the past six years with most of them being pre-cancerous. In fact I had another mole removed this month and it was while I was alone in the room waiting for the extraction that a terrifying thought occurred to me. I have a part to play in my having this type of cancer. You see, I’ve always thought the reason it was so easy to trust God with something like cancer was because I had no part in it. It was His deal and therefore He was responsible. The truth is that simply is not the case. While a genetic predisposition to Melanoma does play a huge factor in whether one is susceptible to this disease, so do one’s actions. As a young lady in the south, I did more than my fair share of idiotic sunbathing. Hell, I’d never even use sun block… No, I sir… I had to have the tanning oil that seeped the sunrays into my skin. I was also a heavy tanning bed user and considering that my melanoma was on my foot, I’m pretty sure that what I use to refer to as my “bright, warm coffin” almost actually was just that for me. I mean I even returned to the tanning bed after my father lost his battle with melanoma and after I had a melanoma. I mean my actions were beyond stupid, but God has honored my request nonetheless. I can see His hand in the timing of some of my doctor appointments, in the doctor’s I was lead to who ended up being awesome, proactive caretakers including my brand new California caretaker.
It hit me in that exam room, that God has been keeping me alive and keeping this persistent melanoma from going past my skin for six years. I also thought about my many car accidents, all of which, I am extremely lucky to have walked away from much less walked away unharmed. Those accidents were 100% my doing, God had nothing to do with those and yet He kept me alive through all of them. Then I remembered how I almost died when I was a year old due to a heart valve that wouldn’t close. I just stopped breathing and if my neighbor had not been home to rush me to the hospital, I would have died. I recalled how I endured several high-risk surgeries and practically spent the first few years of my life in a hospital in Nashville. My mother says it got to the point, that if I saw anyone who resembled a doctor or a nurse, I would just start screaming. They were trying to help me, but the only thing I knew was that when they came, it hurt.
Believe it or not, the list actually continues. Some items on the list are all my doing and some are half mine and half God’s and only one is just God’s. The fact is that regardless of whether I was at fault, God still had His hand on me, He was still carrying me through and He has had more than several chances to get rid of me, but He has chosen to keep me around. He must think I am worth something. He must have a plan for me. He must love me.
So I asked Him to help me slowly chew on this as it was going to be a long digestion. God is showing me a lot of love right now through the people He has placed in my life. People that love me right where I am and are patient with me as I continue to learn to navigate this world sober and I can truly say I have never experienced anything like it before. I can actually see His hand in everything that is happening in my life. Why I landed where I landed in LA, the people I have come to know, the jobs and internships I have held, the purpose of my current responsibilities… the dots are starting to connect.
Six months ago today, I surrendered the one thing I thought was my everything. On that day, I thought God was being mean and punishing me and wanting to take away the one thing that always got me through, but it turns out He was intervening on my behalf because He knew that if I stayed on that road, I wouldn’t be alive to write this post. When it comes down to it, we can be some dumb, defiant, stubborn, and greedy people and if we are honest with ourselves, we find that God works in spite of us much more than He works with us. However, He continuously chooses to intervene on our behalf… and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
I did not plan on making this my October post, but as John Lennon put it: life is what happens while you are making other plans. I wish I had known the truth found in this quote three years back or five years back or well, you get the idea. For the past three years, I have been making other plans while life threw me curve ball after curve ball and somehow this year I finally woke up to the dire situation I am in and I have absolutely no one to blame, but myself.
To say I have not had many opportunities to forge a good life for myself would be the truth, but to say that I have not had any opportunities to forge a good life for myself would be absolutely false. I seem to have the same taste in job opportunities that I have in men: if it is good and will treat me with the respect I deserve and offer me great rewards…then I tend to pass.
This past month, opportunity actually rang and it rang loud and clear, now that I have taken my cell phone off of the silence mode. To be clear, this was not just an opportunity; this was an opportunity in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. This opportunity was so good that it would have allowed me to live in my own one-bedroom apartment near the ocean in my preferred west coast city. So you can guess what I did with that opportunity, right? If you guessed played phone and email tag with an executive that I thought was a recruiter then you would be correct. The worse part is that while in a snot slinging moment of desperation, that executive called me back for the last time and I refused to answer the phone.
What can I say, this is not the first time I have had an amazing opportunity laid at my feet. And this is not the first time I have defiantly kicked that opportunity back to God. About a year ago, I had the chance to work for the Christian music arm of Sony in Nashville. At the time, I could not stomach not going to Los Angeles and I had no desire to go back to Nashville as I was looking for new pastures and not old ones. Looking back on that situation, yes I sort of sabotaged my chances, but in all honesty had I given a 100% in that interview, there is a giant chance I still would have walked away empty handed. The company needed someone to start the following week and while I could have told them I could make that happen, chances are they would have gone with someone in town and already available. Even with this knowledge, I still cannot dismiss the fact that I had been very defiant with that opportunity and now, here I am being defiant again.
The morning after I possibly deflated my own Hollywood dream, I thought about how I could have blown my nose, woken myself up and called that executive back. I did call him that day and I left a message knowing full well that it was already too late. That afternoon I decided to count up those “once in a life time” opportunities that I defiantly kicked back at God, which included the following: a major state college to the North, a major Airline to the South, the Nashville fiasco, a hospital here in town and last, but not least, the Hollywood dream.
In all honesty, I am dumbfounded by my audacity to tell God, “ no, not now, not like this”. Who am I to instruct God on how He is going to resurrect me? Who am I other than something God should smash at this point?
To say that I felt like I had crossed a line with God would be an understatement. So I did what many people do who feel they just might have gotten themselves on God’s last nerve and I found someone I was sure God liked a whole bunch, my congregational leader. In my e-request I asked for the elders to intercede for me since God might listen to them whereas I wasn’t so sure He’d listen to me. Two days later, I attended service for the first time in a couple of months. I’m not sure if part of that service was tailored just for me or if God was answering me through the service, but one thing is for sure: God loves us no matter what we do or what we don’t do. He may not be exactly happy with us due to some of our choices, but He never stops loving us.
God’s word says He is unfailing, always faithful and with us until the end, but does God really stick with us and work in spite of all we do to get in His way? Can we really expect Him to keep offering up once in a lifetime opportunities if we keep batting them away?
I actually sometimes wish for a Jonah-like life. Yes, I imagine it was horribly disgusting to be swallowed by a whale, but when he got regurgitated back to dry land and God asked him if he was ready to go to Nineveh, he sure didn’t have any hesitation in his voice, now did he?
Part of me wants to believe that God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that some of us need several opportunities to run across our path before we are ready to run with the right one, but how many opportunities does He lay at our feet before He finally turns His face and leaves us to the messes we have created for ourselves? And, if He does turn His face from us...how long before He turns His face back?
Since God did not leave Jonah in the whale, I am guessing He will not leave me in my predicament either. I don’t know if a viable opportunity will come in time to get me out of the horrible situation I am about to be in, but I do know He will bring another opportunity. To sum up the thirteen attributes of God found in Exodus 34:5-7: He is merciful, He is powerful, He is compassionate, He grants even undeserved blessings, He is slow to anger, He abounds in truth, mercy and loving kindness and He always keeps His word.