We aren’t lost

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Vive la France

I just slept for 12 hours. All day.

Like so many, I’m trying to cobble together a living by working two jobs … actually three, if you count my freelance writing business, which is getting short shrift these days. At least one of them pays benefits, finally. For a year I was paying out one-third of that meager check for insurances and taxes.

The whole point of this little experiment — working a job that requires physical strength and not mental — was to take a brain break. Writing on command at the newspaper, where the owners cared only about filling the pages and not about the community, took a toll.

Plus I gained 40 pounds.

Disillusioned and stressed out over daily deadlines, I just wanted a paycheck without that kind of responsibility. I wanted physical activity.

I wanted to do more writing. And I wanted flexibility, to still be available to attend meetings of boards I’m a member of and to facilitate my community and prison writing groups.

I wanted to make a life, not just a living.

So now I have that, technically speaking. But I forgot to figure in time for sleep.

The last few weeks I’ve averaged three to four hours a day … in one and a half to two hour stretches. I’ve also begun to look a lot like my grandmother, skin-wise. My friend Amy says it’s because lack of regular sleep doesn’t allow cellular healing.

I believe it. I’m wearing the evidence.

Welcome to America, land of the disappearing middle class. Meaning I know I’m not the only one living like this.

If I want to go all shame and blame, I can say it’s my own fault. I didn’t prepare for retirement.

At my age a generation ago, workers were retired or getting ready to. I’m afraid only death will bring my retirement. And I’ve talked with more and more people who say the same thing.

We should have planned ahead. But if we’re going to “should” all over ourselves, let’s include this: People should be paid a living wage. Wages should keep up with the rising costs of everything else.

Gas prices go up every week. Thirty cents a pop. Workers don’t get raises often enough, and when they do it’s in pennies, for many of us once in three to five years, if at all.

Some say, “Well, go get a real job.” These are real jobs, providing services the public needs, or wants. And that doesn’t solve the problem here.

I am college educated, am halfway to a master’s degree. Unlike some I could “move up,” make more money somewhere else. But where I am right now is teaching me something I only understood theoretically before. We have a problem. All of us.

The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and even people working their butts off aren’t able to make a living. Never mind getting ahead.

Earlier this week I watched, heartbroken, as Notre Dame in Paris burned. In itself that was a tragedy. It reminded me of another tragic event: the French Revolution.

I can see this country moving toward that kind of event. It’s feeling more and more inevitable all the time.

Vive la France.

On desire and the stories we tell ourselves

“Desire is not about fulfillment. It’s about working with the gap between reality and our idealized longing — and not clinging there.” ~ Jennifer Louden

“It’s not safe to desire.”

This is what I wrote in my journal yesterday as I listened to Jennifer Louden‘s Friday Writers Oasis audio. The prompt was to make two lists: Desire is “This” and desire is “Not that.” I came up with a bunch of phrases for each list, but at the end of the positive phrases on the “This” list, the above was my conclusion. It’s not safe to desire.

Why it isn’t safe to desire is the topic for another day. But back to the quote, which provided a(nother) whack upside my head. (I’ve been having quite a few these days.)

Jen gave me insight into a lot of what is keeping me stuck in procrastination and in fear of moving forward … toward anything. When I have a desire, otherwise known as a goal, I continually get stuck in the in-between, where I am now vs. where I “need” to be: the idealized, perfect achievement of my goal. It feels overwhelming. It feels so far away.

In journaling more about this, I discovered the overwhelm comes mostly from not having enough time, or enough money, to allow me to move forward toward what I want. But let’s just summarize that: it’s all “not enoughness,” which has been a thread in my recent writing.

What it takes to move from here — the reality — to out there –not only my goal or desire but an idealized version of it — makes me want to quit, to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. It’s too much. And I don’t have it in me … or, at least, that’s the story I tell myself.

I tell myself I don’t have it in me — enough time, money, energy — so why try. Getting to my goal or desire is daunting. But what I really mean is that I’m afraid I am not enough to get there, to make what I want happen, to achieve what it is that I most desire, to work in the gap between now and the future.

Huh.

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So, I guess, as I cling to an idealized version of my desire, I am also clinging to an idealized version of my own incapability, the story of my “not enoughness.”

And the more I cling to that story, the more I reinforce my belief, because I don’t test it by stepping out on the road toward my goal. I stay stuck.

Well, damn.

On being a priest

Stormy sea at Glengad, Erris, North Mayo. November 8, 2010. [Comhar/Wikimedia Commons] Click on the photo for John O’Donohue reading one of my favorite blessings.

I had an email late last month from the Universal Life Church, reminding me it’s been eight years since I was ordained.

When my daughter and son-in-law were getting ready to be married, I joked that I should get ordained so that I could perform the wedding. A week later, my daughter called me and said, “We would really like that.”

ULC has an online ordination process, which some might discount, particularly those who spend time in seminary and go through a more rigorous process. I get it. But for me it made absolute sense.

I have felt the call to be a priest since I was a child. Literally.

I remember holding worship services with a friend in the basement of our house in Flint. I organized communion, with sips of Tab from champagne glasses and M&Ms for bread. I was elementary school-age.

I also had one of those tiny Cracker Jack-type toys in the shape of a black Bible. When you held it up to the light, you could read a prayer inside. I remember it being at least part of the Lord’s Prayer, but I can’t be sure. I do recall reading it during communion.

We weren’t Roman Catholic so I’m not sure where I got these ideas.

When we attended church as a family, it was at the nondenominational church (which I’ve since learned is a member of the American Baptist Church) down the street. I remember Sunday school, where we received books. I remember one about Telemachus. It was a slender volume with a lime green fabric cover.

When I was older I walked to other churches: an Episcopal Church, a Methodist church and an RC church, all downtown. I was always drawn back to the pomp and circumstance of the RC service, the robes and bells, the sit/stand/kneeling, the prayer book.

The Episcopal service is so similar; why I preferred the Roman Catholic I can’t say. But I wanted to be Catholic.

And yet I always left the service rebellious. I hated the “I’m not worthy” leanings of the prayers and preaching. Even as a young’n, I knew or suspected or hoped I was; that God saw me differently.

As an adult I joined the Episcopal church, was confirmed in one and worked for one. Then I worked for the diocesan office. I went to General Convention, the national triennial gathering. I saw the inner workings of the EC, experienced the deeply flawed leadership at every level — its political and narcissistic nature and damaging fallout.

People excused it by saying, “Well, we can’t expect better. It’s a human institution. Humans are flawed.”

I did expect better. Absolutely I did.

Throughout this time, I felt ordained and yet knew seminary and hoops-jumping to be accepted into a broken institution was not my path. I knew God had something else in mind for me, had already tagged me for ministry.

So ULC ordination made complete sense. As a minister I can legally perform weddings. If the state needs that documentation, then there it is. But God doesn’t need it.

I’ve done a couple of weddings, and performed last rites and the funeral for my father. When radical Episcopal friends and I got together back in the day, I presided at communion, even though officially ordained priests were present. We referred to the institutionally endorsed ordination process as bestowing “magic fingers,” or in our more cynical moods “going to the dark side.”

These days I rarely attend church. I was a victim of that flawed narcissistic leadership and left the church that had been my everything for years. Now I call myself an Episcopagan, a mystic, if anything. I am profoundly spiritual, but my image of God –and my relationship with God — continues to transform.

One thing I am certain of: Humans are indeed too flawed to have that kind of power over our spiritual lives. My ordination makes me a companion on the journey, nothing more. No magic fingers, no dark side.

You’re welcome to come along.