Writer, Anne Lamott, speaks with often hilarious self-deprecation. She says “My mind is like a bad neighbourhood, I try not to go there alone.” It makes me laugh now, but there was a time I would not have found it funny.

Over a decade ago, I found myself in a maelstrom of defeat. The funding for long-term project disappeared and I suddenly found myself unemployed. Being a freelancer is not straightforward, but suddenly I was acutely aware of how ill-suited I was for mainstream employment.

I perused jobseeker websites until the weeks turned into months and I began to unravel. Examining job descriptions and KPIs I winced with shame. The qualifications I’d accrued, and the variety work I’d done didn’t seem to fit anybody’s requirements. I started to berate myself for failing various forms of compliance. How could I’ve been so foolish to take my eye off the long game? 

A friend of mine, very pragmatically said to me “Julie it is just one decision between you and employment. There’ll be a time when someone says ‘Yes.’”

But I still couldn’t cut it, I got ignored, overlooked and pipped at the post. I started to torment myself.

One day I was on my way to the train station. I can’t remember where I was going or why. I was walking with the trudge of the defeated.  I reiterated the roll-call of my mistakes, so many miscalculations and failures to a line up with a real job. I was the victim of my own attacks.

And then, very simply, I heard a sentence.

I can’t tell you any more than this because this is all that happened.

A voice in my head said, “Don’t treat my friend like that.”

For me, on that day, that moment was a gift out of nowhere. The voice felt substantial. In that sentence was everything I needed. I saw that talking to myself with such bitterness was a choice, and I didn’t have to keep making that choice. I was startled into compassion, into kindness – this time, towards myself.

Poet, Cate Kennedy, has said that a story is an offer, not a claim. My purpose is not to persuade others or myself that I heard the voice of God.

When I heard those words, I didn’t need to do anything more than receive them. They have been an enduring gift.  

I felt invited again into the companionship of the Holy One, who walks with us, even when we trudge along defeated. There are too many ways in which we attempt to domesticate the Source of all, but there is also an extraordinary possibility offered to us –to trust that we are indeed beloved.

Julie Perrin is a writer, her latest book A prayer, a plea, a bird, is published by MediaCom Education.

Anne Lamott “My mind is like a bad neighbourhood, I try not to go there alone”

from Bird by Bird 1994 (and still on reading lists for classes I am doing now!)

Australian Poet Cate Kennedy “a story is an offering not a claim”

from The Taste of River Water: New and Selected Poems” 2011

Cate exemplifies what she teaches – she is modest, generous and accomplished.

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