2010 was horrible, stressful, painful, and almost broke me; but it ended in unexpected gifts of grace, both concrete and intangible.
For the first time in years, I am full of hope. And it's not desperate, anymore, no longer a matter of simply holding on the belief that even the bad things have to wind down sometime. It's real.
In my New Year's post last year, I wrote: I keep having a sense that I can't shake but also can't figure out where it's coming from: that this coming year holds things so good I haven't dared to imagine them, and all I need to do is find my courage and walk forward into them, all I need to do is stop hiding from hurt, keep reaching out for hope, and it's waiting right around the corner. It feels ridiculous, but I believe it.
Re-reading that rocked me back on my heels. I didn't recall that I had gone into the year with such expectations, and I certainly hadn't lived expecting them to be fulfilled.
I called 2008 the Year of Waiting, and hoped that 2009 would be the Year of Change. When it turned out to be anything but, I took a deep breath and mustered up my faith, called 2009 another year of waiting, and crossed my fingers that 2010 would somehow managed to break through and give me something real and vibrant to rejoice in, not just the scraps I'd been dredging from life.
2010 was, in fact, the Year of Change.
And 2011? It's going to be the Year of New Things.
I'm totally confident of this. Which in itself makes me want to second-guess, but you know what? No. I'm not going to. I'm going to expect the good things to grow and continue and fling brightness into all the areas of my life that need it. Because even if I go back to old situations, I'm strong (stronger) and have new understanding and new abilities to live and to be who God made me to be. I don't have to wait. I don't have to be stranded and lost and desolate anymore.
This was the arc of 2010: girl needs work, girl looks for work over and over and fails to find it, girl almost manages to get awesome job but is passed over and falls into despair, girl gets bad job and deals with it, girl suddenly gets amazing job and is awesome at it!
I spent the first few months tutoring, which was something new that I enjoyed and that brought in some money. But it was also stressful, took up a lot of time, and was a heavy responsibility that rested solely on my shoulders.
Also during those months, I worked through a Christian/spiritual version of The Artist’s Way. I liked this version, because it addressed a lot of misunderstandings and burdens that those of us who grew up in the church may face in the exploration of our creativity. Much that the chapters and journal writing were designed to encourage was old hat to me (I've been writing consistently for 16 years, now). But as I looked at it from the perspective of my situation, new things emerged.
First, I was finally ready to accept that my artistic gifts are really important, to God and to others. That I should not be putting them last, as I so often have: first God, then others, then me and my art. No. If I put the effort and time into my gifts, I will be more who I was made to be. More able to love, to be present, to fill my place in the world properly.
Art may seem irresponsible, but cultivating it is really one of the greatest responsibilities I can fulfill.
Also during this study: I clued into the fact that most of my self-image has been built around responding to the needs of others. I honestly did judge my worth based on how efficiently, quickly, and carefully I could respond to others' needs. That has been my baseline for decades.
I can't live like that. People don't acknowledge my efforts enough (nor, damn it, should they have to), and I can never be perfect enough in my graciousness and caregiving to make myself believe that I'm not a failure, that God and other people could possibly consider me anything but a short-comer.
I'm still trying to work out what this looks like in action, this shift in perspective.
spring & summer, failure
The spring was spent in a crush of fear as my unemployment finally came to an end, and my tutoring petered out with the end of the current school year. I desperately continued job-hunting, and found nothing. During this time, I did enjoy taking a TV writing workshop, which encouraged me in my writing, and ended with a solid first-draft Supernatural spec script. I also traveled with my boyfriend to his hometown (for his brother's graduation from law school), and then, still with him, to my hometown for my second brother's wedding.
the heart of summer, despair
The first half of the year crashed down into the depths of despair at the end of July. I'd had a fantastic set of interviews for a floater/receptionist position at a small production company: good enough that I was almost sure I would get the job. I was so happy--work at an entry level in the industry that I came here for, with people I clicked with, in a moderately creative environment with connections in development? Let me at it!
While at Comi-Con San Diego, I got the news that they were going with another candidate. Because they thought I was too bright, and would get quickly bored. Of all the fucking reasons to be turned down.... I honestly, briefly, wasn't sure how I would survive that.
Even taking an evening to try and make plans with my boyfriend's help didn't come to much. That evening was good for me in other ways: I was able to be myself, all the struggle and despair and desperation, even guilt for not being able to be happy, for being a burden. He just held me and talked to me and kissed me, and held me some more. He didn't... he didn't go anywhere, didn't leave me alone, didn't shy away. My rock. The first time in my life I've really felt that from anyone; someone giving me, somehow, exactly what I needed, at the precise moment I needed it.
The week after that, I applied for government food stamps. I also took up a friend on her previous offer to pay a month of my rent. And tried (and failed, mostly) to deal with the fact that my roommates needed to find another person to share the house with us, as one of them was moving out. And tried to keep looking for work. And tried not to curse God, or run off and become a depraved person in the hopes that maybe if I were behaving badly enough God might pay more attention to me. I even recall a day or two where—unlike anything I had ever experienced before—I toyed with the idea that God might actually not even exist. It was easier to think about that then to think that maybe I was just such a screwup that even my Creator no longer wanted anything to do with me.
Then I got a part-time housekeeping job, in a company employing immigrants who mostly spoke Spanish. I'd done that sort of work before, but it's back-breaking, heart-breaking stuff. I spent a lot of time telling God that if this was his idea of saving me from being homeless, it was a real anti-climax.
The same day that I was hired for the housekeeping job, I sent a resume to a group in LA that does closed captioning for film and for broadcast TV. I'd interviewed with this company for a different position back in the fall of '08, and have since kept an eye on them, waiting for positions to open up. One did, I applied for it... and a few days into the first week of my housekeeping job, I heard back. They wanted me to come in for some skill tests and an interview.
By the end of the month, I'd been hired on a 4-month contract, and set to start the day after Labor Day.
I spent the first few weeks at the new captioning job on a see-saw of emotions: I loved it, getting paid to watch TV and learn the best ways to caption so that our Deaf audience could easily read it and yet it looked elegant with the visuals; and yet I was terrified most of the time that I would screw up and get fired. Seriously, I had no idea how badly my last job messed me up in that regard until I was here, and getting amazingly positive feedback from my trainer, my team leader, and my supervisor. Apparently I am a natural at this stuff. :)
It's been an odd few months. Learning to embrace the idea that I might actually be good at something that would earn my keep and be fun at the same time. Starting to feel that I might be able to trust God again, that He might actually have good things in store for me. (I started meeting with a spiritual director, which I highly recommend to anyone on a spiritual journey, if you can find such in your area.) And, due to both of these things but without effort on my part, I found myself able to be content in who I am, and to trust my own desires and self-knowledge, even where it conflicts with the “wisdom” and ideas of people around me (whether that be fearful religion or hedonistic culture). I'm still embracing that, but mostly? I've never felt so grounded. It's splendid. A gift. A great gift.
There were a few days in early December that were hard. I learned that my contract would not be renewed right away, due to lack of captioning work (it's so dependent on TV production). It's possible they will need me back in a couple of months.
I freaked out for a couple of days; all I could see was that I would be plunged back into the horror of the past two years. I shuddered back into my shell of withdrawal and fear... but then, between my own frustration, not wanting to lose all I had gained these past few months, and encouragement from my boyfriend and my spiritual director, I realized: just because the situation may look similar doesn't mean I have to react the same way. I am more whole now than I was then; I am less emotionally damaged, I have begun to heal, and I don't have to stop just because I may be briefly out of work again.
I have high hopes for this coming year.
Goals for this year include: allowing myself to become more grounded, to trust myself and God and others more; to write more; to be more open and speak my mind more; to be less afraid of taking up the space God has given me in this world, regardless of whether it pisses people off (I am here, you guys, deal with it); to seek to see God more clearly in Himself and in others; and to ease myself out of church ministry work so that I can focus more on close relationships and on my God-given creativity.
In conclusion, let me hand you a quote I was recently introduced to by a nun who writes screenplays (yes, she's totally awesome). This is something I have felt for a long time, and hope to understand better this coming year:
"You might think of the spiritual as intangible reality, and of creativity as the means by which the intangible is made concrete so that you can experience it." --Vinita Hampton Wright