22 Sep Learning Through Fear, Failure and Uncertainty and Finally Landing a Job
The past several weeks I have been a zombie walking down the street between home and work. Sometimes I’m completely lost in thought, staring at the ground as I walk. Other times I’m lost in fear and failure and my head hanging at the ground. The fear has felt as though it would break my chest open literally. I would just walk down the street and carry this with me. I didn’t really know what to do with it other than just let it be there. I have had breaks from it, but it has been in the moments where I’m alone that it’s been the most painful. The feeling of failure, of impending doom, of having done something wrong have been weighing on me like a death that was just right there, hanging around but never commencing.
I think I still need to just cry and fall apart but it feels like my whole body is going to shatter into a thousand pieces. One thing I will say about this fear I’ve had, is that I would take cold, bone-crushing fear over nebulous anxiety any day. Through this whole process I haven’t really felt much of my anxiety.
I have stayed present for my clients and I’ve sort of hid my daze for my family. With all the stress and fear in my life I have not been a very good father. Easily angered, impatient, distracted. But I still haven’t really been in my fear and trembling when I’m home. I’ve wanted to just freeze my kids until all this is fixed. I just have nothing to give them but I still try anyway. I think I’ve actually been more present for my clients because this whole humbling experience has brought me back into my self, into my body, into the moment and there is nothing better for a therapist (or I should say for clients) than for that therapist’s ego to be really out of the way.
There’s been another important element to my process. I have been on a spiritual journey for some years now. A couple years ago I opened myself back up to a relationship with God, or at least open to the possibility. It’s been a back and forth tension between faith and disbelief, between feeling connected to God and thinking He’s not really necessary, or really ‘there.’ I grew up in a Christian home and left that faith in my early twenties. I have not really considered it for years. I have been more into what existential psychology and Buddhism could offer me. But in the past couple years I’ve been reading more theology and other books about the Christian faith. There’s too much to say about this topic and my journey for this blog post so I’ll just stick with my current experience.
As I have walked down the street in fear, I have been trying to ask God for help. Not just to rescue me but to guide me, or at least to support me. Deep down I just wanted Him or Her or It to just fix everything, so if I’m honest with myself, that’s exactly what I wanted. But I was also aware of this reality that it wasn’t all going to just get fixed that way. But my fear felt so disabling and I felt so lost, I just had no idea how I was going to change my predicament. I was so aware of my inabilities as a human being. I had made decisions that led me into a deep dark forest that I could not find my way out on my own. So I kept trying to just let go. I kept trying to talk to God, asking for direction. Other times I just wanted some company in my pain. I was also honest that I still don’t even know if He exists. Is this just some child like wishful thinking? Maybe, maybe not. In my exploration of God again, what I’ve learned is that God finds us in our lostness and might not always just take us out of there. So I am not sure it’s just a fantasy, but possibly one of the most real truths of human existence – that in our deepest pains, a rawness is exposed that only God can handle.
But I still have so many questions. My faith is weak, very weak. I don’t have certainty about this, nor do I want it. A part of me wants it for sure, but in many ways I kind of like where I am. It feels more grounding to be lost and afraid and be forced to Trust, even if God doesn’t exist. My anxiety is driven greatly by my fears of the unknown, about all the what-ifs, as though I was in full control and all the weight is on me. This always leads me to anxiety and it’s my least favorite feeling in all the world. So to realize that I am not very good at driving my life or that my hands are too tight on the wheel, has been a relief. Even though I’ve felt heavier, I’ve also felt lighter. There’s more of an allowing, an allowing to be driven, to let go and let the wind carry me, to fall backwards and trust, to explore, to be curious and less knowing, to be much less calculating about my future and where I’m going.
Although I cannot say that I have literally felt God’s presence in any way, something about this process feels that God is involved. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, I don’t even know how to explain it really. It’s distant, vague, uncertain, but somehow real. Again, there are more thoughts on God and all I’ve been exploring but that’s for another time.
I’ve been fairly open in previous blog posts about our financial struggles and that I was facing bankruptcy. The past several weeks has seen everything coming to a head. I was soon to be filing for bankruptcy and we were also going to be foreclosing on our home. We needed the mortgage payments we would keep through the foreclosure proceedings to help us transition to a new place and possibly a new job. The job search had not been successful so everything was up in the air. Where were we going to stay once we were asked to leave our house? If I find a job, great, we can move straight there. If I don’t and we move somewhere in town, what happens when I do find a job? We move again. Will I be able to make enough with my practice having no credit to fall back on? This is what brought the most fear and trembling for me. Usually my client load is quite strong in the fall but lately it’s been so low that I’ve feared we would run out of money. Then what? I get a job landscaping? Wal-Mart? I couldn’t even envision that.
All of this brought such a feeling of failure, not even really about me, but about my family, my kids. It was killing me that I was bringing possible struggle onto my kids. I can handle my choices hurting me in painful ways but I cannot handle hurting my wife and kids. That felt unbearable and that is what I was carrying with me back and forth between work like a ton of bricks. It’s the only thing that forced me to face my fear, to feel it, to stay lost until I figured something out. Otherwise, I would have just ran. I wanted to hide under every rock I saw. But I couldn’t, there was no way, my responsibility to my wife and children was too great. It also helped me to learn how to stay in fear and trembling long enough to embrace it. This whole experience has taught me many, many things, but one is taking my responsibility more seriously. Finding the right job is not all about me, but about what I can provide for my family.
Last week I had made my appointment to file for bankruptcy this week. Everything was up in the air and I would be filing for bankruptcy and foreclosing on the home. We wouldn’t know when we had to leave the house, if we’d have enough money, or what I’d be doing for work. I would keep doing private practice and hope client numbers went up and also try and find another contract or something to take on. Recently I was open with my mortgage company about our plans and last week they sent someone to verify we were actually living here. Just this small thing brought so much fear. It felt like we were doing something so wrong and getting in huge trouble. It all felt so shameful. I haven’t been sharing this with even my family, my parents. It’s just too shameful. I knew I wanted to share it once things were somewhat settled which is why I’m sharing now, but when in the middle of it, I felt it was some sort of cross I had to bear alone – or alone with God. I had gotten us into this mess and it was as though I had to feel the deepest burden of my mistakes.
Last saturday our cat gave birth to four kittens. This was fun and exciting but also just another stressor, another thing to have to manage in our house. Then Sunday came and someone wanted to see our place. Our house has been up for sale for about three weeks or so and not one person has come to view it. This was the first person. We walked around the block as a famiy while some guy and his parents viewed the place. They actually stayed quite a while so that was a good sign. We were selling it for much less than we bought it for due to the economy and would be claiming the shortfall in the bankruptcy. It still felt better than foreclosing, but if it didn’t sell, we would have to foreclose. Later that day the person put an offer on the house. Our agent came over with their offer and we countered. We went back and forth two more times and settled on a price. Right now we are in the middle of subjects being removed so nothing is final, but it seems to be getting closer. One viewing, one offer, sold – we hope.
Then, this past Wednesday evening I received an email from someone I had spoken to a couple weeks prior about a possible job. I had thought more was going to come from our conversation a couple weeks prior and when it didn’t I thought the opportunity wasn’t going to work out. The email said he wanted to phone me on Thursday. I didn’t know what this meant because we discussed several things I could do for them. It could be a job offer or it could be an explanation that they had nothing. Some things were up in the air so he was planning on getting back to me this week about it all. But i wasn’t holding my breath. So we spoke on Thursday morning and one of their therapists had decided this week not to renew his contract (this is what was uncertain on their end) and they would like for me to come work for them. The owner still needed to phone me and discuss the financial details but I knew that would not be an issue. I walked out of our office and said to Kristi, “we’re moving to Powell River!”
When this whole opportunity started and Kristi and I looked into moving there, the whole thing just felt right. When it didn’t seem to be working out a couple weeks ago, it didn’t make any sense. It just felt right, very right. So when I walked out and told Kristi she was very happy as well. Her UNschooling mentor actually lives an hour away from where we’ll be living and the homeschooling network is strong where we’re going.
There’s more to why this is a good fit. So what will I be doing? I’m actually going to be doing group therapy again in a drug and alcohol treatment facility. But it is a private center with higher functioning clients and more ability to do what is necessary to help bring about change. The drama and stress will be a lot less compared to the last treatment center where I worked. Although I’ve been looking for work other than being a therapist, it feels right to do what I know, to stay grounded for now, and get my family stabilized. I’m also excited to work for this center because they follow an existential/humanistic philosophy which is hard to find. The program director is actually getting his PhD from Saybrook University, an insitituation of humanistic psychology where I receieved my masters degree.
I am going to have a strong stable income and the cost of living is much lower in Powell River. The owners treat their employees very well. It will be a very rich and exciting place to work as they are always wanting to stay cutting edge in their work with addictions, utilizing my theoretical perspective no less (which for those of you who don’t know, is not widely used but growing rapidly). I have learned a great deal about addictions in my work over the past 8 years and I might as well use the knowledge I’ve acquired instead of jumping into a completely new role or career. Maybe I’m afraid of success, I don’t know.
We are able to move up there as soon as our house closes on the sale and if it doesn’t and we have to foreclose, we can go up whenever. The plan right now is to move around November 1st.
I don’t know if God orchestrated all of this. I don’t know how it works. But it seems hard to ignore the timing of everything. I don’t understand why a God would help me out of my middle class troubles and not some starving person in Africa or in the streets of Chicago. That part makes no sense. Maybe it was my efforts in emailing this place for work and taking steps to move forward even if the future was uncertain. Maybe God just hung out with me while me and Kristi made these decisions. I don’t know. It’s just hard to ignore the timing. It’s hard to ignore one viewing and that person putting down an offer. I’m sure it can be explained away somehow, but my whole experience through this has strengthened my faith muscle. I will continue to inquire with God who or what He/She is. I am still unclear on many things, but much more willing to keep asking questions, to at least attempt leaning on Him.
I have come to appreciate this humbling experience. I appreciate learning to live in uncertainty, to know less, to not be in full control, to embrace the mystery. It will all help me be a better therapist where I’m going to work.
This is where we are moving to. It’s beautiful there.