My eyes still burn even though I left your office four hours ago. We’ve been working on the anger, you and I. I was resistant last week, so this week my dreams took over. While my conscience crossed her arms, my subconscious grabbed the steering wheel and drove through my dreams. Even days later, I remember the dreams well. All of them involved former church communities.
In the first dream, I tackled the senior pastor. While pinning him down, I yelled and yelled and yelled at him. I don’t remember the content, but I was filled with insistence that he would LISTEN to me. Then I wept trying to receive the community’s forgiveness. I pleaded my regret to them. Nope. It was irreversible. I did too much damage. The door was closed to me being accepted back.
In the second dream I returned to her. She was healthier. I knew me leaving was part of the reason. Her family’s home in the dream was so lavish. Again, just like I often feel in my conscious life, I was amidst the abundance, but not really a part of it. Her lifetime friends were also there and she was so much more at home with them. I knew I would never be a part of that community again either. I knew there was no real returning possible, even though they seemed so much better off. Did me not returning mean I would never have a spring in my step, too? No lightness or lavishness?
In the third dream, I snuck into a service of the last church I attended. I sat on the stairs so I could just catch a glimpse of what was happening down front. I asked myself, “Can I return? I’ll just eavesdrop here and see if it would be possible to bring even half of myself back here.” The congregants were singing hymns I knew word for word. Somewhere in there, my former pastor of that community wanted to help me move because I was sitting in a fire zone. He and I tried to gather all my things. I have so much I’m trying to stuff into my little purse, including my mail, my bills. It all keeps falling out. I eventually move to the back. I hear, “Welcome Back!” I turn towards the greeting and realize it is not meant for me but for the woman in front of me. She gives a speech and then presents the church with a check. The check has multiple zeros in the amount and here’s the kicker. The check is like one of those large ones prizewinners and charities receive. My presence is insignificant and I am dwarfed by the check.
I went into therapy this morning thinking my dreams were all about church and the question, “What now?” And in the immediate, I am desperate for relief from the tightness I feel around my work, my purpose. It’s a tightness that lives at my throat and is there 24/7. But as is so often the case in therapy, in good therapy, we learn the issues we thought we needed to address hold a deeper meaning.
Because here’s what’s interesting. Yes, my dreams all included Christian communities. But they also included a lot of themes around money. Maybe that was clear as day to you reading the above. But it wasn’t clear for me. Money represents a place and power in my life where I am so, so angry. Hurt. Confused.
Side note: I don’t feel raw enough in this writing. I might have used up the rawness already today. But I want to try. I need to try and work this out, because as my therapist pointed out, anger is a great catalyst AND it can point to hurt feelings. “How have your feelings been hurt?” she asked. And then I cried.
“Do you know how often I tried to get hired by the church?” I replied. “It’s ridiculous.” Sometimes I got hired, but never for spiritual roles. So not only did I get paid peanuts as, most often, a receptionist, I also gave countless…countless…resources in time, heart, and tithes. Straight out of college, i moved into working for ministries. Making money wasn’t my goal. Healing was my goal. Healing for myself and others. I was open to the healing my religion tried to provide and I felt like a conduit of that healing. It was my life work. But the money just was not there. Nor the esteem.
It’s only in the last five years when I began wondering what I can do for a job that could actually pay me. But five years later, I am still making no money.
It’s hard to encapsulate all this and connect the dots in one post. But I’ll try to be succinct and say, here’s what my current story is. I cannot get paid for what I’m good at. Ministry, motherhood, and selling used books doesn’t pay. Knowing a little about a lot of things doesn’t pay. I cannot find something to do that pays.
This week I surrendered and started selling books on Amazon. I hustled, listed, and then sold…about 12. I know, I know…nothing happens overnight and me doubling my daily sales will take some time. But selling books online means sorting through a lot of crap first. I have always hated thrift store shopping. I’m not very good at it! I don’t find treasures among trash. I rarely turn a profit. But I know books. I know what sells once I can finally find them. And I need to double my sales. So I finally surrendered.
Dear Therapist, When I hand you my bank card, I know I am paying you for an hour what I might make in sales all day. It stings. As you know, my feelings are hurting. I can’t find any way to be valued. I have served others so much and now I’m pawing through thrift stores. I feel so lonely.
I’m moving into a time of my life where peers are making or inheriting a lot of money. It’s hard to watch. I don’t even have a paying job yet and they’re taking their kids to Europe. i get jealous. I get really, really jealous. It’s anger. It’s hurt feelings. “What does it feel like?” my therapist asked. “Defeat, “ i answered. “It feels like defeat.”
I don’t know how to easily wrap this post up. What open-ended question to ask. I just know that I need a different story. I’ll let you know when I can tell it.
P.S. A journalist came in today to fact check and follow-up about an article she’s writing about me and midlife transition. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said. “I called you a Paper and Ink Book Apostle. You’re a missionary for the written word!”
Head to desk