As a new month rolls over on the calendar, it feels like it’s time for a restart.
In the Episcopal church, we participate in the Holy Eucharist (communion, the Lord’s Supper) every Sunday. We kneel at the altar and open our hands to receive the body and blood. The “spiritual food and drink of new and unending life in Him”.
If your hands aren’t open, you won’t be able to receive it. And if you don’t open your heart, you won’t be able to receive it as it’s meant to be digested.
Closed hands, hands clasped and clinging to other things cannot receive the blessings that they otherwise could hold.
I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am in this season of my life. The past few months have been fraught with activity and days that have passed so quickly that I’ve met myself coming back, several times. Sometimes in one day.
The summer days are longer now. The sun doesn’t set until past 8 o’clock. The temptation to squeeze even more activity into an already hectic schedule is ever-present.
At the beginning of the year, I promised myself that I would take more “me time”. Unfortunately, lately, I’ve not kept that promise.
This week, an old friend showed up. Stress. I stay in a somewhat stressed out mode a lot of the time, but this was dangerous stress. The kind that makes me physically sick.
I know my body. I’m very much in tune to it’s warning signals. This week, all of the alarms and red flags were going off. By mid-week, I knew something was going to have to give.
So I made a couple of decisions.
First, I developed a new organization to some of my most recently added work responsibilities. I’ve been trying to follow a pre-set mold of how this job had been done prior to my appointment to it. And I don’t do very well trying to squeeze into someone else’s mold.
So that’s changing. I feel better about the way I’m going forward now, just by making the changes necessary to make it work for me. To give my best efforts.
Secondly, the realization of just how fast my daughter is growing up has hit me hard lately. Her 13th year has been full of ups and downs. She’s approaching an age where she’ll have her own big decisions to make. And I want to be a lot of things for her. But mostly, I just want to be available.
When I made the decision to start freelancing, I was in a completely different place than I am now. A multitude of changes have occurred since February. And I am an extremely stubborn person when it comes to what I want. But when that stubbornness and pride start to affect my health, and the availability I am able to offer the most important people in my life, it’s time to let go.
Blue Inkwell is my baby. It’s a company, an idea, that was birthed from my love for writing. And the desire to have it make a difference in the lives of both myself and others.
My tendency has been to monetize it as much as possible. That makes sense, right? To use the talents one has and capitalize on them?
And then, unexpectedly, I was promoted at my day job. Given a whole new set of responsibilities. And despite the stress, the aggravations, I know, like I’ve never known before, that I’m right where I’m supposed to be professionally.
In my 20 years in the workforce, I’ve never felt that way. Everything I’ve ever done was simply a stepping stone to what I hoped would be something better. I still hope that’s the case. But for the first time, I’m content in my job. It’s a hard job. It’s frazzling. But it’s never boring. And I have wonderful people around me. The chance to prove that I’m capable of more. But mostly, I have enough. The struggle for me, professionally, in the 9-5 world, has been to get to a place where I felt like I wasn’t going in a dead end direction. And finally, finally, after 20 years of busting my ass, I feel like I’ve made it out of the maze of dead ends.
But this opportunity comes at a price. And that price is letting go of something else. At least for now. At least in the way I’m currently operating my freelance business.
I have a lot of thoughts about where I’d like Blue Inkwell to go, because I’m not closing up shop. But I am “reorganizing”. In short, I’m giving up my steady blogging side gig. Because I am no longer able to do it all and retain the small bit of sanity I still possess.
I’ve learned, these past few months, about what kind of writer I want to be. And don’t want to be. Quitting some part of this thing feels, as quitting always has to me, like failure. But nothing could be further from the truth, though it’s taken me some time to realize it.
The projects that I’ve taken on in a truly freelance capacity have been wildly successful. People I’ve written resumes for have gotten the interviews they want. Grants I’ve written have succeeded and been awarded and the results will make a lasting impact on my community. I’ve come to know other writers. Comrades in this crazy art world that recognize me as a real writer. Not just someone who dabbles in it on their personal blog. I’ve got the chops. I’ve proved it. I’m still proving it. With every piece I publish.
And that, I finally concluded, that is enough for me.
I don’t want to ever be phony. And I don’t ever want to be greedy.
There is a spiritual element to all of this that I don’t mention much, but here’s the truth: I believe, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there is a Divine Presence guiding me.
Not a magic Genie. Not a big, gray-bearded man in the sky that I must appease to be blessed.
No. A living, loving, Spirit. One that I commune with, often, about who I am and what I do.
I’ve noticed that, whenever I’ve been faced with decisions like this one about quitting this side job, the turmoil about it can eat me alive.
The extra money is helpful. I’ll be paying for my college degree until I die. My new job responsibilities pretty much insure that I’ll have a car note until I retire. The extra money from writing, and have it be steady, however meager, helps.
But every time, every time, I’ve made the choice I knew in my gut was right, no matter how painful, I’ve been taken care of materially.
I don’t think that’s coincidence. It’s happened too many times. And that is how I live my faith very much in my day-to-day life.
Because I’m a control freak. But when I let go of my need for control, that’s when somehow, some way, often in unexpected and miraculous ways, things just……work out.
No Nigerian Prince is putting thousands of dollars in my bank account. I don’t get a windfall of unexpected cash flow. But my needs, my family’s needs get met.
We have enough.
While I’d like to say that we are set for whatever storms life throws at us, I can’t. We are in that season of life of tuition, mortgages, old debt that had accrued over the years. But we work hard. We dont live outside our means. And all I have to do is look at the customer base I deal with on a daily basis and see just how blessed I am. How fortunate. How just enough isn’t something that everyone has. And we’ve never met an obstacle that we weren’t able to overcome. And my faith holds me. Because I’ve been in some rough waters. But they haven’t drowned me. And they won’t. Not because I’m better than anyone else. But because I trust in something more than myself. Though lately, I haven’t. And God seems to have this funny way of keeping me dependent on Him, in one way or another.
I don’t think that’s a coincidence either.
I come back to this place often. When I had to decide to have my hysterectomy, I was incredibly grieved over the decision. Despite the chronic pain I was in, it hurt my soul to know I would never bear another child. I had to decide, though, that what I had, what was already present, could be enough.
It’s the same process here, in my writing. I’m still going to be available to write, monetarily, but only now, on a truly freelance basis. The artists that have longevity in a career are the ones that “reinvent” themselves. That’s what I’m doing now. I may never make another dime writing. But I have proven to myself that I can. And I’ve discovered this whole other part of myself that had been buried under distraction and fear and insecurity and uncertainty and given her room to breathe. To grow. To become something beautiful.
Just as I open my hands every Sunday for the Eucharist, I once again, in this season of life, open my hands, my heart, to whatever the Divine has for me.
I don’t know yet what it will be. But I know it will be enough. And enough is enough.