November 3, 2015

Feeling Overwhelmed Today

Today, my phone bill arrived. I normally have my AT&T bill set to autopay simply to make it easier on me. This way, I don't have to worry about missing the payment. The notice comes in via email and usually I give it a quick once over -- just to make sure nothing out of the ordinary shows up. Most months I don't even think about it, but this month, the bill notice came in and WHAM! I saw the results of my son's recent trip to Mexico. Yes, his data and text charges added over $300 to my bill. I about lost steering control thinking about it. I am panicked now because my finances are so carefully managed. I know exactly how much I can spend each month, how much I need, and any extras are considered before I authorize a purchase. Of course, he will pay it, but the problem is that AT&T already took that money out of my account, so now I am running to cover the other incoming expenses that would normally pass by unnoticed. Now, I have to make sure that my "apple cart" doesn't get upturned due to this unexpected charge. Sigh!

My blog the past couple months has been fixed on the subject of career choices and whether I stay or I go. I have been asking questions to try to determine what next step I will take regarding my career. I am struggling right now with so many things. I have a doctoral workload that is heavy and pressing down hard on me. I have a lack of steady income due to my role as an adjunct instructor, and with my current physical condition, the lack of benefits means that I cannot even go to the doctor to get my health evaluated. I am sinking under the weight, the worry, the work -- and I am feeling the hard burn of panic as I begin to think about everything on my to-do list this semester. And, then there are my exams in the Spring, and the time I need to devote to them. I don't know what to do, where to go, or how to do it.

In truth, I cannot do it all, and my body, my mind, and my spirit are in this heightened state of anxiety over what will be my next steps because I have run out of gas, hit the wall, so to speak. I am torn between staying and going, between changing careers NOW, right before I take exams or waiting to make a change until after they are completed. As I look at my life, as I evaluate it for value and for meaning, all I see are empty hands and empty opportunities. Yes, I see closed doors and dashed hopes. What is more, is the fact that as I am coming to the end of my program, and as I look ahead, all  I see is a blocked road, a locked door, and a large DO NOT ENTER sign. I am struggling. I am feeling the burn. I am overloaded, and I am done, I am exhausted, and I am finished. I don't think I can go on, take one more step, or manage one more day without some opportunity, some possibility to encourage me to "keep on keeping on." My faith is waning today, mostly because I feel so poorly, and mostly because I see the truth of myself, and what I see, I simply do not like.

I was thinking about this yesterday, how I am finishing my program now, and how I don't see anything up ahead. Let me explain.

You see, for the past five years I have worked toward this goal. In 2009, when my life was falling to pieces, and my marriage was crumbling right before my eyes, I was lost and feeling that there was no hope. I had come to see the truth of my marriage, to see the infidelity and the unfaithfulness, and to see, to really see, all the hardship and sacrifice for what they were worth -- nothing. You see, I had spent almost 25 years in a marriage that was hard, was difficult, and that offered very little in return. There was little love in it. We had companionship and friendship, but there was no real love. There was ultimate sacrifice, and a working together to make ends meet -- so a united goal of survival -- but there was no real purpose, nothing that said "this is why we are doing this hard work, giving up everything, and working together." In the end, my ex-husband simply said to me "I've had enough. I don't want to live like this anymore." Those words should have been a joy to my ears because I had been praying for him to come to terms with his choice in career and I had longed for him to finally throw in the towel and do something different, something better, something -- really anything -- that would provide a decent living for our family. But, my ex-husband didn't say he was quitting his business, no, in fact, he felt renewed and reinvigorated to leave the little bit of success we had and start a personal coaching business. No, what he wanted was out of the marriage, out of the "thing" he felt had castrated him and left him impotent to be successful in life. Yes, he blamed me and the marriage for all his failure, and in the end, he chose to walk away after all that we had sacrificed, worked for, and made into a life for our family.

I heard his words, and I shudder now at the way I behaved toward him. I was angry. I yelled and screamed. I cried. I wailed, really. I mean, I had given up everything to do what he wanted in life. I sacrificed all my dreams, all my desires, all my potential so that he could work in his own business, so he could be the kind of person he wanted to be, and when it was all said and done, he simply said "not good enough," and he walked away. He left our family to fend for ourselves. He gave us up in favor of a love affair and a desire to do whatever he wanted to do -- no strings attached. I was left reeling, I was left holding onto empty dreams, his dreams, and a shattered future.

I had to rebuild. I had to make a life for myself. My son was 17 at the time, still at home and in high school, and I had to think about his needs. I had to move out of our home, and I had to have a job, a real steady paying job. Furthermore, I needed a way to cover us with healthcare since we had lived the entire 25 years without any health insurance. I had to pick up the pieces of my life, take what I could, and make something useable out of it. In doing so, I thought, I would dedicate my life to doing the Lord's will. No more dreams and desires, but just hard work. I had worked really hard during the marriage, and I had sacrificed so much (my health, mostly) so hard work didn't scare me. No, the only thing that scared me, had always scared me was not having any money. Yes, my greatest fear wasn't being poor, but it was being homeless and destitute, living without the basic necessities of life.

In 2010, I started back to graduate school to get my Masters degree. In hindsight, I realize that I wanted this degree to prove to myself that I could do it, but also, to offer me a viable means of income as a college instructor. I thought that teaching would provide for me, after all, I saw positions listed that paid between $40-80K per year so I thought this seemed very plausible and realistic for me as well. Of course, I didn't know then what I know now, and that is that to make a good income as an instructor, you need more than the degree. You need time, lots of time, and you need a record of publications, etc. You need more than experience in the classroom, you need years of working in higher education to really find good success.

I believed as I do still that my path through higher education was for one purpose -- and that was not to become a professor -- but rather to bring to pass the Lord's will for my life. I believed that I was supposed to be engaged in work that would support evangelism in the world, and that my contribution, albeit small, would require a Ph.D. in a field closely aligned with my previous education (so Humanities or English). I didn't believe communication would be the path, not until the Lord showed me how interrelated communication study is with English and Humanities. So I approached graduate school with the belief that it was for one purpose, and that was to do the Lord's work. It was not to get a job, in fact, the Lord clearly forbade me from thinking about my degree in this way. He would say, "Your degree is for my work, not to get you a job" and so I would agree, and then remember that the work was for ministry and not for practical skill.

In 2013, I started my doctoral program, and again the Lord clearly reminded me that what I was doing, going to Regent was for His work. I was not to use it for gain, but for His expressed purpose. That purpose, still unknown to me, was clearly to be something having to do with His goal for my life, and His overarching plan to bring me to fullness. I have been convinced of this truth since day one, yet time and time again, I become confused as to how I am to do this work. I mean, I have focused on my studies thus far, and here I am at the end of my program. Now, what do I do? Now, where do I go?

Today, I am at home. I am resting for a time before I start working on my many projects. I know that the Lord has a good plan for my life. I still believe His word to me, and I still believe it is true. What hurts the most, what really, really hurts, is the fact that I am still not convinced which way to go. I have blogged about two paths, to viable paths, and how I am stuck at this crossroads while I try to decide to go the left or to the right. I have blogged about my thinking process, my analysis, and how the practical choice is to go right --> toward business. The good choice, in practical terms, is to follow a position that will pay a decent income and provide benefits for me. I want to choose the path that is best, in overall terms, and the path that I believe the Lord desires for me. I have become convinced that the way to go was to remain in teaching because teaching attaches great importance to the individual, to the work with the individual and to mentoring (and thus ministering) to the individual. It is an honorable profession, a good profession, and even though I do not see a viable path right now, meaning I don't see an open door, I believe that there can be an open door in time (once I am ABD). The second choice, the choice to head back into corporate business is viable in the sense that there are numerous positions available. I have applied for two, one as an analyst locally, and one that is more marketing focused and is remote (telecommuting). Both positions will pay well, both will provide excellent benefits, and both will offer a good path throughout the remaining years of my life. But, neither job seeks the better good, no both are practical in every way, shape and form.

My heart says, "stay with teaching because it is about people, and the Lord loves people." My head says, "take the practical route because it just makes such good sense and you will be provided for well." What do I do? Which way do I go?

The Lord seems silent on this matter. Whenever the Lord is silent that either means that He has no opinion on the matter (the options are equal) or that He has already spoken on the matter and all that is needed is obedience to His word. I sit here today and I wonder if the truth is that He has spoken on the matter and I have failed to obey. I also believe the first case is true as well -- that neither choice is favored. It is simply that I am refusing to obey, and perhaps that is why I feel so awful, so rotten, and so overwhelmed today?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Why do I feel so poorly today? What is it about my life that is causing this pain and suffering? I have confessed to you my sins, and I have sought you repeatedly to know and to understand why this is so, why this is happening to me, and why this is happening to me right now (as in today and this time in my life?) I ask now that you guide me through this difficulty, that you give me clarity of vision and of focus so that I can find the way out, see my way clear, and end up where you want me to be. I ask this now because I feel as if the enemy has camped around me and as though my heart is fainting, and my strength is fleeting. I want to stand strong, to finish strong, but I am being buffeted by strong winds and I am started to fall apart. I ask now that you keep me strong, that you keep me together and that you carry me through to the end. I rest in you, I trust in you, and I believe in you. You are everything to me, and I look up to you for your mercy and your grace this good, good day. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

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