May 2, 2016

When the Chips are Down

I am not sure what happened yesterday, but after my early morning experience with the tow truck and getting my son's car hauled to the service center, I pretty much just shut myself down. I mean, I crawled back into bed around 9 a.m. and slept until noon. Later in the afternoon, I ended up asleep again, this time for a couple hours. Then finally, I turned in around 11 p.m. last evening, and I slept rock-solid until 8 a.m. this morning. I know that they say, "your body must have needed the sleep," but I am not so sure. I normally sleep 8-9 hours each night, Lord willing, and I try very hard to go to bed at the same time each night so that I have a regular sleep routine. I am also sleeping with my ceiling fan on in order to help with my night sweats (hot flashes). The fan does help, but I do think the recurring flashes disrupt my sleep to the point where I am not getting a solid amount of deep REM sleep. This could be why I feel so groggy and awful the next day or why it takes me a couple hours each morning to really get into gear. I've thought about hormone replacement therapy since my symptoms are moderate but do seem to interfere with my daily activities. However, due to the fact that my Mom has had breast cancer (as have others in the family), I am unwilling to use HRT unless I have no other choice. Hopefully, these night sweats, hot flashes and cold flashes (they are the worst) will pass soon. Until then, I will continue with my exercise, diet, and supplement routine and pray the Lord gives me the grace to endure this "rite of passage" like all the other women before me.

Tired and Weary

I am tired today, but more to the point, I am weary. I am really worn out and feeling useless this good, good day. I cannot really explain how I went from feeling so up, so good, and so refreshed to where I am today. It seemed like in a moment, my life's hopes and dreams were dashed, and I was left picking up the pieces again. I am tired. I want to go home. I want to rest. Yes, I am bone weary, and I simply want all of this to end today.

As I sit here blogging, drinking my coffee, and enjoying my "boys" sleepy repose, I cannot help but think that my life is stalled for a reason. I get it, I mean the whole "you've got to finish your dissertation" and all, but sometimes I think that this feeling of being stuck is so much larger than my PhD program. I think, and I may be wrong here, but it is more that I have come to the end of a very long, long road, and now I don't know what to do next. Perhaps it is because I have completed such a difficult task, getting a PhD, and learning how to be a professor, etc. that I feel this overwhelming "it's all over" feeling. I never really thought that I might be depressed when my program ends, but that is sort of how I feel. I have loved every moment of my program, every class, every paper, every project. I have loved learning at this level, and yes, I am sad to see it end. So many of my colleagues are excited to be at the end. They will say to me, "I can't wait to get this over" or "I am so over this program now." But, I am like sad, really sad, depressed and disappointed that I have made it to the end. Part of me wants to say "Is this it?"

I know the reason why I feel this way. I feel this way because this journey to the PhD has been in process for over 24 years. I first broached the thought, the idea really, of getting my PhD back in December of 1992. I was about to graduate from San Jose State University, and my professor wanted to nominate me for a fellowship award so I could study without the worry of paying for my education. After speaking with my then husband, who in no uncertain terms said I couldn't continue on and had to get a job, I told her no and I walked away from graduate school. In the intervening years, I never lost the desire for it, and I held onto this little dream of getting my PhD and teaching college (though I buried it down deep). After my marriage ended, I felt the Lord lead me to consider studying again, and with faith in His insistence, I applied for a Masters program. In time, I started to teach college classes while going on to complete my PhD (I am ABD). I will be officially sanctioned as a PhD in fall (Lord willing). I will have accomplished this wonderful dream, this goal, that took so long and so much effort to achieve.

I should be happy. I should be overjoyed. I should be satisfied beyond measure, yet I am depressed, anxious, and worried. I am stressed, and as the days roll by, I feel more and more stressed over my next steps. In truth, I have had moments of angst these past couple years, worry about summers with no income, lack of jobs come fall or spring, etc. But, they were temporary flights of fancy, where I would buck up, and simply forge on. Now, though, I don't know what lays ahead of me. I don't know what to do and that scares me. It really scares me. Do I just say "No worries" and march on? Part of me says, "Yes, march on, Carol" and part of me says "what for?" I mean, what is next? What will I do next? If I cannot find a full-time teaching role, has all of this effort been for naught? Has my sacrifice been for nothing at all?

It is weird to think this way, but again, I think the reason I lean this way is because of my INTJ personality. INTJ's tend to be the most structured and organized of the personality types. We plan. And, when I say we plan, I mean we plan, strategize, and then carry out detailed and crafted orders that lead to a very specific and directed outcome. Typically, INJT's are strategists or they are military leaders so you get the idea here. We look for solutions to problems, we analyze, and then we launch a very sequential and careful attack. We succeed 9 times out of 10, and when we make a mistake (we often do), it is because of an unknown factor that simply could not have been anticipated (even though we carefully considered contingencies). Our plans for our lives can be years in the making, and we analyze the details so thoroughly that at times we get stuck in a rut or in what I call a logic-loop. We spin round and round, retracing our steps, until finally we spot the error or the problem, and then we move on.

I have been analyzing my life now for a good 10 years. This is why I blog every day, why I write down my thoughts as they spill out of my head, and why I often appear to be very deeply connected to my experiences. It is all part of the process of understanding my life, where I have been and where I am going, and as I understand the details, I gain insight into the motivations, the decision-making process (good and bad), all so that I can avoid making the same mistake twice. I avoid casualties by revising, reinventing, and revisiting former plans so that I learn from the past. In this way, I am able to make better plans for the future, for my future. When I cannot make those plans, or when the plans seem impossible, improbable, then I get stuck. I feel this way now, I feel that I am stuck and that I cannot figure out how to get from A to B to C. I know that some of this is simply transition, and that transition is a part of life. But, there still should be a goal in mind, an end-goal, that is motivating and serving as the focal point for all the energy, time, and sacrifice. My end goal is now complete (almost) and I need a new goal to refocus my energies and to repurpose my life.

The Plans

I sit here today and I think to myself, "I need a new goal, Lord." I have had this goal for 24 years, and we are close to completion. I will complete it soon. I will graduate. There is no point in coming to the end and not crossing the finish line -- that would be futile, irresponsible, and frankly, stupid. No, the goal must be completed. The check-list must have every item checked off. I will not give in. I will not relent on this matter. I will see this through to the end, no matter how hard, how high, or how impossible the task seems. I know that the Lord didn't bring me to this point to let me fail. No, I know this is the case. However, I am the problem, not Him. I am the one who wants to chuck it all in right now and stomp off and fret. I want to overcome, I want to excel, I want to achieve -- but I am stuck -- and no matter how I try or envision or even consider possibilities, I find that I am unable to move forward. I feel restrained, completely prohibited from making a step. This bothers me, and I cannot figure it out except to say that the Lord is the One who is holding me back. He has stopped my forward progression for some reason, and until I know why, I have to sit here with my engine in idle. Oh, Lord, why has this happened? Why do I feel the way I do this good, good day?

Psalm 37:7 NLT says, "Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes." This Psalm is my favorite, and verses 4-5 are my life verses. Yes they are the verses I took ten years ago when I made the decision to place my trust, my life, in His hands -- to be wholly devoted to Him. I made Him my delight, and as a result, the Lord gave me the desires of my heart (His heart). My life changed as a result of that decision, and today, I am where I am because I have followed after His desires and plans. I gave up everything so that I could make Him my sufficiency, my Rock and my Refuge. I chose to live a life that was solely and completely in dependency upon Him, and as such, I went where He led, and I listened to His voice and walked in obedience to what I believed were His directives and plans. I was and still am convinced of the plans the Lord has for my life, it is just that over time, especially the past couple years, I feel that I have lost my focus and my desire. I have been confused over details, and I have found myself turned around too many times. My single-minded focus has been replaced at times with an other-minded focus, and as such, I have seen my way muddied. Now, I am trying desperately to get back to where I once was, to reconnect my past to my present so I can make sense of my experiences. I want to move forward, to continue on in His plan for my life, but I am stalled.

Help me, Lord, to see my way clear of this confusion. Help me to navigate through this dark and murky space and enter into your blessed clarity and vision for my life.

I know it may seem weird to some people to fixate on the things I fixate on, but this is just how I am, it is the way I am "wired" so to speak. I wish right now I could let this all go, take that "whatever" approach to life, and be so very Doris Day (as in "Que Sera Sera"). But, I cannot. In fact, I am not able to let go of the little bit of control I have over my life because I believe so strongly in the plans the Lord has for me. I have tried to move forward. I have tried to follow what I believed was the "best" way to go. Now, though I need to know for sure, for certain, and I need to move on in a way that makes good sense. I need to make changes that will influence others and make my life better. Yet, how do I do that? How do I make change in this way?

News and Update

So while I was blogging this morning, the car people called to say that my son's car has thrown a rod. In short, the engine is damaged. The car is dead -- seriously and completely -- DEAD! I am not in a position to get him another car, and I don't have the money to repair this one. I am stuck, royally stuck. What is more? My son is not able to replace his car at this time either. He has some money set aside, but not enough to purchase a car or even make a down payment. I have reached out to his Dad for help, but I doubt seriously that he will be of much help. He has no money to speak of, and he has not really helped in this way before. The solution always seems to come from my hand, thus I feel certain that it will be up to me to solve this problem yet again. Sigh!

Afternoon - after discussing our situation with my Dad, we have decided to see if we can sell the car as is (for charity) and then remain a one-car family until summer is over. This should give us time to figure out a solution. Plus, my son has said he is willing to ride his bike to school next year (about 4 miles one way) on days when he doesn't have to carry his music gear. The good news is that I am teaching on MWF only, so chapel and his other music might be schedule on TR, which would mean that he could use my car on those days. It isn't a perfect solution for now, but until the Lord provides A) another car, B) the money for said other car, we will do with what He has already provided.

Fitness and Feeling Better - I blogged about how tired I have felt and how depressed I have been regarding my current situation earlier. I decided to kick my butt in gear so I completed Jillian Michael's "Killer Buns and Thighs" Level 1 today. Okay, yes, I want killer buns and thighs. I admit it. I don't like my ugly thighs and I noticed nice changes with the "30 Day Shred," but I was stalled on Level 2, and frankly, I was kind of bored. The depression didn't help any either, so I switched tapes and tackled this DVD. Yes, I about threw up, and I am dripping wet after 30 minutes of lower body exercise (mostly planks and squats). Still, the depression has lifted (like miraculously), and I am feeling better. I also got my fit bar out (pull up bar) from my storage area, and hung on it (dead man's hang) for about 15 seconds today. My middle back is all "stoved up" as my Mom says, and the only thing that works for me is decompression. I use my body weight to let my spine just unwind. It helped -- I have a reduction in pain -- but it is not 100% better yet. I will continue to work at it, and hopefully, with the new chair I am getting tomorrow, I should be back in business.

In whom do you trust, Carol? In whom have you placed your trust for this situation?

Yes, Lord. I am looking to you and you alone for the solution to this problem. I will not come up with a plan that is of my own making. I will wait. I will patiently wait, and I will endure this trial with your help and your sufficiency. I believe as Paul did that your grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9) for this good, good day.

I ask now, Lord, for permission to seek a solution to this need, but I realize that I can do nothing in my own way or of my own hand. My hand is empty, Lord. I have no resources, no help outside of you, and I need you to solve this problem. My faith rests in your provision, and as Jehovah-Jireh, I trust that you will provide manna for this good, good day. If you desire to provide a new car for my son, so be it. If you desire for him to borrow mine for a time, so be it. If you choose to make us both wait for a time, so be it. If you choose to keep me from working part-time this summer or full-time until my PhD is conferred, then so be it. I cannot worry about what I cannot control.

Today, I am choosing to place my faith in the One who holds all the answers. I know that a broken-down car is not a major life worry when you compare it to a loved one dying of cancer or a spouse deployed in dangerous circumstances. Yet, my little worry is still a worry for me and my family. There are repercussions to not having transportation, and frankly, while minor at times, they are still concerns. I am choosing today, however, to let this go, to stop worrying about what will be, and instead, choosing to focus on what is already in process. I mean, I am okay. I have a job for fall, and although I am not sure how I will make it through this summer -- without any major hiccups -- I still know that You have faithfully kept my ship afloat since I started walking in this way.

Now, though, I have to consider what You may be asking me to do. I need to retreat to my prayer closet and consider myself dependent upon You for every single bread crumb, and every single movement forward. I need You to release me to move, and then I need to accept whatever gift You offer to me as a blessed opportunity and not as a curse. You are good, You are always so good to me. Selah!

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