Posts Tagged ‘Road Traveled

31
Jan
12

moving on

There are times in life when our wheels stop turning and we seem to be parked in neutral. This is one of those times for me. When I started this blog I had a mission, something to say personally about human rights, the church, social justice and a host of other timely issues. I’m not sure what happened, but I seem to be in some sort of transition state and that is why I have written so little for the past many months.

In our society, we over 65 are not expected to be transitioning to anything beyond retirement, traveling and grandparent-hood. This is a popular misconception that isolates and insulates this strata of society. It brings to mind the baby-boom mistrust of anyone over 30, popularized (I think) by that  iconic figure of the 60s and early 70s, Bob Dylan. Of course we all crossed that line of demarcation (including Bobby Dylan)  and are living to tell the tale. The slogan, popularized by John Lennon was: Make Love Not War. It was not an original concept, but certainly a controversial one, just as it was long ago in the messianic teachings of the preacher from Galilee. He (probably) wasn’t talking about sex  as we were, but the concept is still significantly similar. We had a dream of a just society. Some retain the  dream and work toward that goal—others internalized it in private ways and seek personal wholeness in a cracked and broken world.

I am both of those, but having shed about as much blood over  issues concerning LGBTQ inclusion in our churches as I can manage to lose, I feel like I need a transfusion. The past several months, since achieving my own legalized civil union, have been a time of painful waiting, watching and listening. I find myself walking the bridge that leads to what used to be termed, the golden years. I do not find them all that golden, except for the wisdom that experience brings. Dylan Thomas, in his poem, Do not go gentle into that good night, urges us to “…rage against the dying of the light.” I am raging about something, yet it eludes me. It is not about getting old or dying. It is about wisdom having its voice; it’s about aging as evolution, not devolution. The longer we live, the more we know—the more we can share. The more we share—the healthier, inter-generationally, our society can be…but this is not the world I live in.

There are many things that separate me from others. I am not building my life. I am bringing it to a close. I didn’t say end…I said close, as in the final act of a play, which can go on for quite a while depending on the play-write. I am transitioning from survival mode to sacred. And I know this because when I dance I am all at once whole in body and soul. My spirit rejoices and God is alive within me…there are no barriers of creed or doctrine to stumble over. It is all elation. I am a bird flying the current, just knowing and being. I waited all my life for this. It is a gift from the great giver of life. I have no idea how to put this together with the artist and writer hats I wear and don’t know what comes next. I am waiting…in the best of times floating in the current…in the worst of times doing battle with the fear and anxiety of failure and loss.

This Richard Rohr meditation—Living a Whole Life—came today from the Center for Action and Contemplation, January 31, 2012:

Bill Plotkin speaks of the first half of life as doing our “survival dance.” The second half of life can then become our “sacred dance.” Most of us never get beyond our survival dance to ask the deep concerns of the soul (we are too busy “saving” our souls, whatever that means!) to do our sacred dance. Money, status symbols, group identity, and security are of limited value, but to the soul they are a distraction, and finally they become the very problem itself.

However, don’t misunderstand me—and I say this as strongly as I can—you’ve got to go through this first half of life and its concerns. Every level of growth builds on the previous ones. The principle is this: transcendence means including the previous stages. Then you can see the limited—but real—value of the early stages. But you will no longer put too much energy into just looking good, making money, feeling secure at all costs, and making sure you are right and others are wrong. That’s what it means to grow up, and Christians need to grow up just like everybody else.

Richard Rohr

Adapted from Loving the Two Halves of Life: The Further Journey

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26
Oct
11

what’s age got to do with it?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written…haven’t had anything audience-worthy to say. Our civil union in August was a culmination of several years of personal struggle. What could possibly follow it? Write about what you know, is a famous creative writing 101 admonition. But everything I come up with seems trivial and of little interest to the general reader. Among the themes considered and discarded is one—apparently shaped like a boomerang because it keeps coming back, sometimes hitting me in the backside when I least expect it. I’m talking about aging…not aging in America…I leave that to journalists and documentarians. I want to write about aging as I am experiencing it in this world, here and now.

In a short time I will be 73 years of age. For the first time in my life I find I am clinging to my current age for as long as I can. What’s up with that, I wonder from time to time? Of the many possible answers that cross my mind, loneliness seems to be the most enduring. I am a survivor, but surviving for what? I have lived a reasonably long time and have an impressive list of experiences, both lovely and painful, but except for my spouse, there is no tribe…no community…no familia to hear my stories. Worse, I know precious few persons of comparable age with whom I can share my interests, experiences and outlook. I am approximately 10-12 years older in body than I am in mind and spirit.  I will not be boarding a tour bus of 20 senior citizens out for a day in the city. I will not be moving to a senior citizens’ condominium paradise any time soon. I will frequently be in conversation with people 10, 20 or even 30 years younger than I (not surprisingly, my spouse is 9 years younger). Conversation can be interesting, fun, rewarding, but when it gets to the nitty-gritty, they do not understand the thoughts and concerns of those growing closer to the end of life than the middle. They do not—cannot—resonate with what they yet do not know. Eventually the space between reappears by default. I am the late blooming elder in the crowd.

The brain ages and produces annoying senior moments of forgetfulness—even momentary confusion—but that same brain is packed with layers of experience and knowledge that cannot be obtained by reading or study. It is learned through doing and being. The result can be, and often is, a dimensional deepening into an authenticity of character.  I have never been one to sentimentalize the lines and grooves of the aged countenance. I rarely look at my own, but because of my current cataract surgery I am in a position to heartily consider how things look, including myself. I shall be doing that in the next several postings.

08
Feb
11

longing for home – part 2

I have been longing for home since I first experienced what the mystics call the thin place, during my *cancer treatment and recovery (2006/7). I cannot describe this experience in words. I would need to sing it, chant it, dance it. It was life-changing. Since then I long for home from time to time—the place from which I came and to which I will return. I long for it the way a tired child longs for comfort and rest.

Two years ago I walked with my sister Florence, to her last breath. A year ago I walked, talked and sheltered my adopted daughter Bettina, to her last breath. The first and the last breaths of life are the most sacred moments of life—God given at birth and God received at death.

I was privileged to do this, yet it all leaves me feeling stranded sometimes—alone with unnameable yearnings. Since my cancer experience I have become highly aware of the transience of life on this planet, and have sought to live respectfully of the time I have remaining. Since losing Bettina, I am also becoming sensitized to the losses that pile up around us as we age. People die and leave us one person short of a full deck! As my mother aged, I remember her saying so wistfully a number of times: “Everyone is gone now…I feel so lonely.” She lived to be 91 and truly was the last survivor of her clan. We were not close. I did not understand her sadness then, but I do now.

My respect for time, which has taken the form of a desire to participate meaningfully in the life of the church, waxes and wanes as I realize how much more urgency I feel for change than does my Mennonite Church denomination. The disparity can be stultifying and sometimes quite painful, especially regarding the hot-button issue of inclusion, an intrinsic extension of our peace and justice values.

I am a catalyst by nature…one of those annoying people on the side-lines who are always urging the assembled majority toward more. I do not yet know how to carry this attribute without it becoming cataclysmic! I live and breathe in an ethnocentrically based denomination with cultural leanings toward cautious introversion. This profile contrasts dramatically with my own background and personality and I feel like an outsider for a number of reasons. I don’t really know where I would fit, or if there is a fit out there for me. Probably not, given my idealism. Certainly not in either the Armenian Apostolic or Armenian Evangelical churches. I am an anomaly.

*****

It has been a difficult couple of years for living without dying. Now, as I face into the anniversary of Bettina’s last weeks, I hold memories in one hand and the present day in the other. There are days when I could really use an extra pair of hands to stir all of this into a drinkable soup.

(Curiously…just a few minutes ago, an extra pair turned up via email. You’ve just got to love this electronic age every now and again.)

Yes, I am a cracked jar and a ringing bell. I have walked through many storms, received and lost many oars and paddles. The ancient river bed is indeed muddy. I want to dance when my denomination, with all its goodness, prefers to stand, pensively waiting. Why would I not long for home?

(*For an account of this see Dying to Live on my website.)

20
Dec
10

christmas letter from me to you

This year we wrote and sent the catch-up, Christmas Letter. There was so much to say and so little blood left in our veins to say it all, that we decided to create a picture-book letter. Between email and the post office we got them all sent out. Then I thought of all of you who read this blog and decided to separate text from art so I could include all of you by posting it here.:

Greetings to one and all,

Time feels completely different at the end of the year. Different than in… say…February. At this time of the year, we think a lot about past; people we’ve met, people we’ve lost, pivotal events, past Christmases….February is more of a future think. Will it snow? When will it be warm again? Just how long will it take to loose my “winter insulation” (you know…the holiday feasts that have taken up residence on our bodies)?

Last year, our circumstances didn’t allow the “time” needed to send greetings to you, so this year, we will try to make up for that with an especially “condensed” greeting.

The benefit to us in writing this may have already eclipsed the goal of this letter. As we started the outline, it was soon clear that the “Gratefulness” list was impressively longer than the “losses” and “challenges” lists. (Granted, some of the line items could have gone either way.) So we start the “gratefulness” list acknowledging that it is God’s grace that allowed us to see the bigger picture of our lives.

We lost some very significant people in the past two years; Naomi’s sister Florence, our dear friend and Naomi’s adopted daughter Bettina, our builder/handyman, neighbor, scrabble playing friend and sage Ken, Judy’s dear special cousin Sam…and her faithful old cat Frank.

Gained: New friends, deepening relationships, reconnecting with friends from the past,*new family, Naomi in remission, Judy still has a job, our 33rd anniversary, Naomi’s art integrated into the worship experience in two churches, Judy’s re-entry into music, the books of Marcus Borg & Richard Rohr…and the list goes on.  Naomi & Judy

*The new family seen here with Big Dawg and me…Darling Daughter, the Captain, Miss Green and Miss Pink…the fabulous grandchildren…just add water and stir. See June 6, 2010 /  Family Plan.

28
Sep
10

journeying through

I am philosophical tonight. I didn’t have a mid-life crisis at 40 or 50 or even 60. I think I am having it now—a late-bloomer’s mid-life / late-life crisis. I thought I knew a lot of things about a lot of things. Turns out I know very little about a lot of things. And there is a symmetry in that…a sense of freedom.

I am standing at a breezy corner in downtown Anywhere—a place I’ve never been before—watching and waiting for the light to turn from yellow to green. I am free-falling through time and space. Maybe I am standing still and the world is speeding past? Perhaps I am looking out through a fog of white snow…breathing in…breathing out..waiting for the next chapter or two of my book of life to write itself.

The hairs of my head are counted, the Gospels tell me; Isaiah, that shaggy old sage of a prophet, says I am called by name and need not fear. I know this is true, but I have many names. Which one will my Creator use this time around…and will I recognize it when it is spoken? Watching and waiting is not my accustomed stance, so I step outside myself to do it. And standing here, I see many selves, all eager to tell me their stories. I try to listen: many stories, some fine, some not so fine, some joyful, some sorrowful to painful…some barely remembered. I have had many lives. I am ready for September into October, the late Autumn edition. Not yet the Winter.

Tomorrow I will journey once again to my quarterly oncology appointment. It’s a throw-back to personal histories I’d rather not have to revisit. I don’t expect anything but good news, but as all cancer survivors know…everything is or could be cancer until the doc says not. This time I’ll get a flu shot for good measure and that will be that. Afterward…after creative revisitation…on my way to reclamation, perhaps there will be a rainbow and a pot of gold! At least I will have a cup of coffee and a sweet treat on my journey back to home.

28
Aug
10

spiritual direction…loving not leading

Faith journeys are about transformation from one manifestation of self to the next, and the next, and the next. The movement is not immediately forward and  outward. First it is downward and inward to the temple each of us has within–the center space fashioned slowly during the time we were incubating in our mother’s womb—or incarnating, if you will. This is my belief, no one has to agree with me. But if you do, or if you are even curious as to where I am going with this, read on.

None of us were born into a perfect world. All of us were birthed from as perfect a place as we humans can provide. It was good inside and we were happy, growing like Topsy. Then…boom! We outgrew our little homes and had to leave. The passage was tough—arduous, exhausting, shocking, but we couldn’t retreat—couldn’t go home again. And so we grew and learned how to manage our growing selves in this new world with its hungers, hazards, and unknowns. Some of us grew simply and  well, while others of us learned to put on many coats—many layers to protect our natural selves so that we could survive and keep on growing. Twenty, thirty, forty years later, we layered ones are pretty well protected…so well protected that we don’t naturally remember who we divinely were at the start.

At some point in time we begin journeying to regain the sonship or daughtership infused in us from the zygotic start. There are many roads, many ways to journey. I’ve done quite a few of them myself. Then, after a profound experience during my cancer treatment, journeying took me back to my Christian beginnings and here I am now at crossroads, stop lights, curves, even detours, but still traveling home where the light shines and the feathered, white bird waits.

Journeying can be arduous and lonely. I have a number of good friends with whom I can share my challenges, but there is something about talking to a professional, specializing in spiritual direction that is different. We commonly think of spiritual direction as guidance or the giving of advice, but it’s not that,  and definitely not psycho therapy…more like a centering experience…a place to gather the frayed edges of one’s road-weary self. We are all on our own unique, kaleidoscopic journeys—all the same and yet so different. It takes a loving heart to hear, but a practiced, dedicated ear to listen deeply.

While participating in the Bridgefolk conference at St. John’s Abbey this summer. I stopped in at the Abbey’s, Liturgical Press bookstore. Among the many titles, a little spiritual memoir by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew caught my eye: Swinging on the Garden Gate. Thumbing through, I found some parallels to my own experience and took the book home with me. What Ms. Andrew says about her own experience of spiritual direction on pages 116 and 117, sums up quite well what I began to say both in my previous post, Spiritual Healing…Art Not Science and continue here in this posting.

…the term spiritual director is misleading. It implies a right and a wrong, or that the director points and the client follows. I desired that model for learning; I wanted to sit at a teacher’s feet to receive words of wisdom, confident that someone more practiced in prayer and discernment would have the answers to my aching questions. But Linda didn’t work that way. Everything you need to know God, she said, you’ve already been given. She trusted completely (far more so than I did) the direction of the spirit’s movement within me. Her role, then, was to provide a container into which I slowly poured the stories of my childhood, adolescence, and my journey in Wales. Together we held them up to the light, looking to see where they were infused with the sacred. Linda’s wisdom, I realized, came not from profound insight so much as her ability to listen deeply. It came from her faith that a story unfolding in a place of love is transformative. As I gradually allowed her to be attentive to my journey, with all its dark, crazy and ecstatic moments, I became more attentive as well. Linda’s integrity and care held me accountable. I had to come forward. Such a safe space demanded it.

A spiritual director learns to listen deeply—not something most of us do on the day-to-day–with either family or friends. This in itself is an artful, spiritual practice of loving self-giving.  In that deep listening the Holy Spirit breathes in and around, weaving a basket that holds our thoughts, feelings, secrets, longings, hopes, dreams…all we have to bring to the table. It’s a safe place—a loving, safety deposit box with a key to wear around your heart.

My journey has become tangled once again. I am in another time of great transition. I look and see fog. One foot in front of the other, step by step toward the light I know will be there once I am there too. I am grateful to have a relationship of spiritual direction that not only blesses me, but blesses the one who deeply listens each time we talk.

28
Jul
09

job’s rocky road

Has anyone out there lived the Book of Job besides me? I never realized that this particular book of the old testament…Hebrew Bible…was about faith until I started living it last spring. Job’s road is definitely not about the American Dream. It is full of rocks and stones and slippery places—like black ice—very treacherous.

Before I found myself living Job’s story, my partner of nearly 33 years and I were invited to come follow Jesus with the church we had happily been attending. Do you know what we did? Of course you don’t, so I’ll tell you: we sold heaps of things and gave away even more, then we put our beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house on the market and moved close to the church that was inviting us in.

No sooner did we move into our downsized little cottage close to the church, than our world began it’s tilt-a-whirl character. The church didn’t seem prepared to accept us after all—two older women in covenanted partnership. That’s when the road less traveled became the rocky road detour to the Job story, starring my partner, Big Dawg and me. We walked, ran, skipped, tripped and tip-toed along that road until it became so very dark, one would think a total eclipse had occurred. Job’s song dogged our feet and caught in our throats.

Fast forward to today and where are we: church refugees wandering and wondering how our story—the one the congregation never even heard—became the Job story sandwiched in with Exodus.  We are wondering where the nearest rest stop might be, or better yet, a bed and breakfast. We are also wondering if this Job story will ever end for us, or if there are Cliff notes somewhere that we can study and shoot on through to a happy and faithful ending.

YHWH 1x3.5




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