Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pools of Water in Salt Deserts (or, a Really Hard Way to Obtain a Preface for Your Book)

image found on Pinterest

So, hey guys.  I'm not dead.

This is probably a strange way to start a blog post, but the truth is, I know I've dropped off the planet here.

For most of last year, things were...ok. 

I had a job that I didn't really like (leasing consultant at a sketchy apartment complex), but had to have because I was struggling making a living as a private music lessons instructor.  I was really bummed about that whole thing, because I really, really thought God had called to open my own music studio and I was really depressed that things weren't going as well as I had hoped.  I didn't have a dependable monthly salary, and I was feeling desperate. When this apartment job became available, I (very reluctantly) took it, thinking, "It's only for a little while."

To say that this job was a nightmare is really an understatement.  The salary wasn't that great.  My boss was quite possibly literally insane (For real, guys.  Like, crazy doesn't even begin to cut it.).  I had to work weekends, so church was a struggle.  I was still trying to balance as many music students as possible after work hours, so I was always crabby and exhausted.  There was actually a shooting just outside the office and a guy died.  So, yeah.  The work environment was the pits.

Almost every relationship I had was struggling.  For one thing, I was never off work enough to see anyone, and when I was, I found myself spending most of my time with friends and family complaining about the fact that I had to work all the time and trying to explain what a nut-job my boss was.

One morning in November, I showed up for work in a terrible mood.  You know how you sometimes can feel that you're just about to explode?  Like, one wrong word from someone, or even one wonky look, and you are going to completely lose your mind?  That was me.

It all came to a head at around 10 AM when my boss took a personal item of mine and claimed it was hers.  In the course of trying to reason with her and retrieve my belongings from her purse (such a long, weird and ridiculous story that I'm not even going to attempt to go into it here), I lost my temper.

Big time.

I even scared myself. 

Unfortunately, losing your cool in front of a mentally unstable person who also happens to control your paycheck is probably not going to turn out well for you, and she promptly fired me.

That's right.  I was fired.

Just typing those words gives me a chill down my spine.  Nothing like that had ever happened to me before.  I'm a preacher's kid, and part of our schtick is that we really want everyone (everyone!) to like us, so this was like a double punch in the gut.  At that moment, it didn't matter to me that I hated the job or that this lady was possibly related to Satan.  I felt sick.

I drove away from work after turning in my keys in shock.  I called my sister and said, "I was just fired.  Can you please call Dad and tell him so I don't have to?"

And then I stayed in bed for like two weeks.  Literally. 

I pretended to be ok when I was on the phone with my family and concerned friends.  I would roll over, answer the phone, and perkily tell them all how I was applying for jobs (which I was, but really only half-heartedly), and how yes, it really was probably all for the best and how I know God has a plan for me and how I just knew things were going to turn around any minute. Then I'd hang up, crawl back under the covers, and sleep.

I felt like a failure.

"You're 33.  You're 33 and unmarried.  You're 33, unmarried, and childless.  You're 33, unmarried, childless, and unemployed.  You're 33, unmarried, childless, unemployed, and you have a cat.

My family and many other people were super generous and helped me out a ton, but things were grim, folks.

The week before the Big Firing Moment, which is how I mentally refer to it, I had decided to write a book.  I had been pumped.  It was a book about fear.  And now, confronted with a truly scary and depressing moment, the last thing I wanted to do was write about it.

Now.  I've read all those stories where people are in the depths of pity-partying and suddenly, wham! Out of nowhere, there is this huge epiphany.  Life makes sense.  Everything is tied up in a neat little bow, and the end credits roll.

This is not how it happened for me.

The only times I would drag myself out of the house was to go to church.  Church of the Highlands had decided to open a campus about five minutes from my house.  Every time I'd visited the church in Birmingham, I'd loved it.  So I started going to the planning sessions they were having on Sunday nights. 

I found that I really enjoyed just the planning for the new church.  People were really excited to be there. There was a lot of talk about finding your purpose and becoming useful in your life and in other's lives. 

I felt about as useful as Crystal Pepsi.  No one wants that, and no one wanted me.

But the more we met as a community of believers, the more I started to feel small pieces of myself waking back up.  I started waking up before noon.  I started writing in my journal again.  I started playing music for the pure enjoyment of it.

The day our campus held its first official service, I cried through about 3/4 of it, and for once, not because I was sad.  It was like this gaping wound in my chest, which I'd never really even noticed, had suddenly been bandaged.  I started feeling whole again.  I looked around at the other worshipers beside me, and many of them were crying, too. 

I usually cringe when people say things like this, but it's the truth: It was beautiful.

Two weeks later, my friend Ashleigh, who was the office manager at a dentist's office in town, called me and said that after her baby was born (which actually happened yesterday!), she had decided to stay at home with him.  Would I maybe be interested in taking her job?

I met with Dr. Kimbrough for an interview, and he explained that if I chose to accept the job, he wouldn't be there my first week, because he'd be on a mission trip to Cuba.  When he asked what salary I needed, I told him the bare minimum.  He smiled and said, "Oh, we can do better than that, Amanda."

I got back in my car after accepting the job, and just sat there.  All the "cliche" phrases I'd said to my friends and family -- It really had been all for the best. God had a plan for me.  Things had turned around.

One of my favorite books is The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.  A passage that I'd underlined says,

What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.

My pools were and are full of water. 

Things aren't totally awesome and amazing all the time right now.  I'm still crawling out from underneath months of living on tax refunds and credit cards, and that's going to take some time.  I'm working hard on re-disciplining myself on maintaining a more proactive schedule (writing, eating better, exercising again, etc.), and I'm getting there.  It's a slow process. 

But I'm getting there.

One of my big disciplines is going to be blogging more and working on the book, which I haven't abandoned. 

If anything, I have a better preface now.


Maiken said...