Tuesday, November 07, 2006

This blog has moved

The blog formerly known as "One foot in ... " has moved to "Widening Circles."

I'm past wanting to be defined by my denominational deliverations and I'd like to have more control over the blog itself, so I decided it was time to move on. I've packed up everything that was here and taken it with me, though; it's all part of the same story.

The title comes from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. It resonates with me in part because I think I have spent my life circling around God in one way or another, but also because the phrase "widening circles" brings to mind an image of ripples spreading across the surface of a pond. I believe our prayers and actions and attitudes do cause ripples that spread across the world, and I try to be mindful of that.

I haven't decided on a blog name for myself, though, since I'm still not brave enough to go with my real name. Widening doesn't have much appeal for obvious reasons, and w.c. doesn't seem quite right, either. I'm leaning toward Hope, but we'll see ...

Meanwhile, update your links and come on over!

(Click here to be redirected.)

Tempus fugit

I thought four days in the company of the generations immediately above and below me in the family tree would leave me with plenty of blog material, but not so. It only left me exhausted. Here is the bottom line: I'm really glad that I'm not old, and I'm really glad that I'm not young.

I did have a laugh at myself on Saturday. In the afternoon, I found myself in a room permeated by the distinctive, lingering scent of a certain smokable weed while everyone sat around complaining that they should have been doing work but they were goofing off instead. Ah, yes, I thought, this feels very familiar; I could almost believe I'd gone back in time. Then, at 10:30 p.m., they all went to a party and I went to bed. I can only imagine what their hormones were urging them toward; my were telling me to keep the sleeping bag unzipped so I could periodically slip out of it to vent the heat I was feeling. (The room was pretty warm, but ...)

Oh, yeah, make no mistake: It definitely is 30 years later!

Monday, November 06, 2006

I am learning that sadness can be more than a feeling. It's become a place I inhabit.

I'm talking here about sadness for the home I've left. This sadness is both more and less than grief, that shocked, protesting reaction to having things torn away from us. People talk about working their way through grief, or coming to terms with it, both concepts born of their hope that in time, the feeling will lessen.

You learn to inhabit sadness when you've embraced it. I don't want the feeling to go away. I don't seek sympathy; I don't feel regret. Walking away was my own choice; I needed to be someplace else. I think I knew this sadness would be part of it, though I'm not sure I understood just how vast it would be. Now I need to keep this huge empty place inside my heart because I need to remember what was there--because, as paradoxical as it may seem, I am what was there.

Living in sadness can stretch us, I think. I am learning a greater compassion, because we've all lost something, starting with Eden.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More endless cycles

Once upon a time there was a young couple who fell in love and married. They got a mortgage and bought a house, then a car. Soon there were babies and baptisms, first communions and confirmations, and before they knew it there were graduations and weddings and more baptisms.

So far so good, but now comes the hard part. They got old.

Could this frail elderly man with the uncertain gait possibly be the strong Dad who used to carry me in from the car when I fell asleep on the way home from family gatherings? Could this difficult, obviously sick and suffering woman who has a different dumb excuse for not going to the doctor every time I see her possibly be the Mom who nursed me through rheumatic fever and a dozen other childhood illnesses?

Nothing pretty about getting old, so far as I can see.

Now I have taken two days off from work and driven to get them and bring them back to my house for a visit. Give me strength ...

Tonight FavoriteSon will drive out from his place in the city to have dinner with us, and he will be gracious and charming (how come he got to be so nice after he stopped living here?!) and they will comment later on what a good man he's grown up to be (he has). And the evening will be a joy to all of us.

And tomorrow I will drive them home again (whew!) and continue on to Boston, where for the first time I'll be a houseguest in FavoriteDaughter's apartment. And so it goes; I'm feeling a little older already.

I'll drive back Sunday, and by the time Monday morning rolls around, I'm sure I'll be more than ready to go back to work--and relax.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November 1, All Saints Day

A day when I usually spend some time thinking about my godfather, my father's uncle, the humble grocer who is regarded as the family saint. It felt so special to be singled out for his affection when I was little. He was also the family bartender, and he would pick me up and sit me on the counter beside him while he worked. I thought, based on the experience of these family gatherings, that there were only three alcoholic beverages in the world: martinis, Manhattans, and beer. Martinis were served with olives, which were good, but Manhattans came with maraschino cherries, which were even better, and every so often as he worked he would slip me one. Life didn't get any better than that.

My cousin, his daughter, told me a few years ago that she thought he would be proud of the adult I grew up to be, which meant a lot to me. I don't know what he'd think about where things have gone since then, though. It's hard to imagine that the guy who was a quiet, steady presence at the 6:30 a.m. Mass would approve of this Episcopal thing I've got going. Ah, well.

I was trying to explain how all of this feels to a friend who is not religious, and the closest equivalent I could think of was emigration. Among my family and friends there are quite a few people who were born in other countries. They left home for good reasons, and found a place for themselves here. They don't want to go back, but even so, many of them still regard that first country as home. I think I know how that feels.

We grow up, we leave home, and no matter how fondly we may look back on those early days, there's no going back. Ain't nobody gonna pick me up, sit me on the counter, and feed me maraschino cherries again--or at least, they better not try!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Makes perfect sense to me

It's fall break week and even though a lot of students have stayed around, things are noticeably calmer than last week when they had midterms. I felt the difference as soon as I got to campus yesterday, and I realized the stress had been affecting me even though I don't have to jump through those hoops any more. Been there, did that, as they say.

I worry sometimes about the amount of pressure these kids are under, and I try to be sensitive to how the ones I know are doing. I've also been turning my bulletin board (home to plastic Jesus and plastic Freud) into a sort of self-help station.

I put up the seal that says I sat through the school's official depression awareness training, along with some fliers that describe the symptoms of depression and list where you can turn for help. Then I put up my Feminists for Life flier with resources for problem pregnancies. I stuck my "I'm straight but I'm not narrow" button from the LGBT center next to it, to suggest that that being pro-life doesn't mean I'm narrow-minded or judgmental.

One of my colleagues, teasing, said I put the gay-acceptance button next to the pro-life flier so the world would know how truly confused I am. I told him that I myself am not the least confused.

What I can't understand is why the rest of the world doesn't get it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Endless cycles

I spent the afternoon raking leaves and (because I didn't finish the summer jobs when I should have) mowing grass.

(DearQuakerHusband doesn't do these jobs because he is violently allergic to grass and leaf mold, as well as to dust, which pretty much rules out the inside maintenance jobs as well. Because he tends to be more fun when when he's breathing, I do all of them. Mighty convenient on his part, if you ask me. In fairness, though, he does do some other jobs that I hate, including folding laundry and shopping for groceries, so I can't complain too much about this.)

Anyway, as I worked, I found myself wondering how many billion leaves I have raked in my life, and how many billion blades of grass I have mowed.

Not to mention how many socks I have laundered, how many dishes I have washed, how much dog hair I have swept up ...

And how many times I have regretted being short-tempered and snappish with husband and kids, turning away from a situation where I could have helped, saying unkind things about someone ...

Wouldn't it be nice if we could break these circles? I don't mean the raking and mowing, obviously; I figure global warming is about our only hope there. But sometimes I wish my sins were more dramatic, or at least more interesting. ("Sin boldly," Martin Luther said.) What hope is there for building world peace if we can't even stop picking at each other in so many little ways?

(Thought-provoking bumper sticker spotted on a car parked at church this morning: Who would Jesus bomb?)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

No such thing as a coincidence?

In the mystery stories I like to read, the characters will occasionally encounter some incredible coincidence which of course has great significance to the plot, then announce to each other that there is no such thing as a coincidence. In fiction, that's probably true, but in life? I wonder if everything's connected by a Divine hand, or if it's the way we make the associations that creates that patterns that in turn give meaning to our lives. Maybe a bit of both?

I stopped working at my desk to enjoy a few quiet minutes before I had to leave for work yesterday. This is something I keep making resolutions to do, but things always get ahead of me. There is always more I wanted to accomplish each morning, and I so I always seem to be falling behind according to my mental plan for the day before the day's even really started. And it's true that commuting gives me plenty of time for thoughts and prayers, but I find that generally it's not such a good idea to close your eyes and empty your mind while driving--although at times the traffic moves so slowly I don't think it would make much difference if I did. Anyway, I had taken my hands off the keyboard, leaned back in my comfortable desk chair, closed my eyes, and tried to step away from everyday pressures and concerns. I put my usual question to God: Where am I going in all of this, and what am I suppose to do next? This lasted for about two minutes before the phone rang.

What to do? Answer it, or sit listening to it ring and waiting for the answering machine to pick up? After two rings I answered. It was the priest from my church, calling to follow up on my offer to work on the church website. Among other things, he would like to see it grow to be more of a spiritual resource. I'm excited about doing that, and when he thanked me for volunteering I told him I was glad to have an opportunity to make a contribution in an area where I feel modestly competent, since planning teas and such--the other areas where they've been looking for volunteers lately--definitely is not my area of expertise.

So I was glad I picked up the phone, and I think maybe the call did represent an answered prayer, though I must say that I'm not accustomed to receiving such a prompt and direct response, and I'd like it if that trend continued!

I am still waiting, though, for a response to my request for information about the program in spirituality I mentioned in a recent blog. I know it's not an emergency but I am excited about the idea and eager to have more details to consider. If nothing comes by the end of next week I'll call, but I'd rather not have to do that because my thoughts about this are still in a state where I'm not sure what I'd say if asked why I'm interested. Some things are easier (?) to write about than to talk about.

A final comment: Today is my 28th wedding anniversary (28 on the 28th, and to make things even more connected, we will be back this morning in the place where we were married, for a memorial service for a man who attended the wedding and went outside when it was over to paint a glorious picture of the scene--blazing fall foliage and all--that hangs in an honored place in my living room). Love is still a miracle and a mystery, which I continue to explore and understand only a little more with each passing year. Marriage is a relationship that in some ways resembles the relationship we have with God: we love, we trust, we try to live in harmony with the Other, we have confidence that we are loved in return. With God, though, we believe that love will never be withdrawn, that trust will never be violated. In the human relationship we know it could happen, and yet because of a promise exchanged we go on living as if it won't happen, and that is what makes it both scary and miraculous. The adventure continues ...