Thursday, January 18, 2007

tired, new eyes

I’ve worked two days at the Inn since I decided to go back and have quickly realized the two weeks away lessened my capacity to work ten and eleven hour shifts. In short, I’ve come home tired, which is one of the reasons I didn’t write last night. My fortnight of forced freedom also brought some changes to my schedule I’m determined to keep even as I go back to work -- namely ,I’ve been going to the gym four days a week. Both Monday and yesterday I left the house early enough to work out before I started cooking. The other, more significant activity was having time to sit with Ginger in coffee shops and read (or write). We are continuing to do that on my days off.

I’ve found a new confidence as I’ve returned to work, both in my job there and my ability to see possibilities beyond the Inn. The break helped me see some less-than-helpful patterns I had allowed myself to fall into and also gave me some time to rethink how I want to live. I was welcomed back warmly by the staff – particularly the Brazilian dishwashers. One of them saw me and said, “Good for the Red Lion Inn!”

One of the ongoing lessons (for lack of a better word) bouncing around in my head this week has to do with choices. It was far too easy to think my options could be summed up in this song.



You’re right: I just wanted a chance to post The Clash video with that wonderful opening shot of Ron Howard and his caterpillar mustache. And I have learned, once again, not only that life rarely plays out as a dichotomy, but also to remember I have choices; not always easy or even comfortable choices, but choices nonetheless. Last night, Chef asked me what my plan was, if the owner had held fast to not giving me the raise. The answer that came out was, “To do something else.”

I wasn’t being flippant. Even a two-week wage break caused anxiety at our house. And I had choices. It was up to me how I came to terms with them. It was also up to me to realize few of the choices fell into the Either/Or category. Life is complicated and nuanced and requires of us to think and feel and learn and, ultimately, choose. What we must live with are the consequences.

For instance, I’m choosing, apparently, to state the obvious in this post so far. The consequence may be that you, Dear Reader, have long since clicked away.

What I’m trying to get to is how easily we allow ourselves to feel trapped and without options. Again, I know my use of “we” should have several qualifiers. I can put it in context by saying 71% of Nigerians live on less than a dollar a day, according to Harpers’ Index. I understand I’m not speaking in universals here. And the options available to us are often wider than the field of vision we allow ourselves. Our national discourse over what to do in Iraq mirrors The Clash lyric: should we stay or should we go? Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said today our troop levels could drop significantly in three to six months if we would provide the Iraqis with more weapons. Most all of our considered options have to do with violence, or the control of violence. Our government has more choices than they appear willing to engage because they are intent on focusing on our national self-interest, which means they never move out of a posture of fear and self-protection.

January and February are budget approval days in most UCC churches, which means at least some discussion of vision and intent as congregations. It also means, in many cases, that the possibilities are tempered, even hampered, by the churches’ choice to begin the discussion with how much money they think will come in during the year ahead. The field of vision is diminished automatically. When our opening question is, “How are we going to pay the bills?” we will see little beyond our own anxiety and the institution’s need for self-preservation. The question is a good one, it just shouldn’t be the first one.

The path, for me, is not so different. Ginger and I have worked hard to talk about more than our fear of how to pay the bills if I was out of work too long. Though finances have been a necessary part of the discussion, we did our best to remember what KQ pointed out a few days ago: danger and opportunity are twins in times like these. I’m grateful I was not out of work for too long and I don’t consider my return to the Inn to be the end of this particular chapter of life.

About a year and a half ago, I started seeing a spiritual director because I wanted to enter into some sort of counseling relationship, but I wanted to do more than talk about my depression, which most of my experience in therapy over the last few years had been. Those sessions were helpful, but I needed a more holistic view: I wanted to look at all of me, not just the ailing part. In the same way, I’m trying to find a view of these days that lets me see more than just my job at the Inn, or even just my job. As I make choices, I’m praying for new eyes that can see my marriage, my faith, my cooking, my writing, those poor Nigerians, and the rest of the world around me such that I’m called to consider things that don’t easily fall into view driving back and forth to Cohasset four days a week. I, too, need a call to choose beyond fear and self-preservation.

Peace,
Milton

5 comments:

beth said...

Milton, glad that you are finding a new rhythm to life from a fresh perspective. A second chance, even one that is orchestrated by another director, is such a great gift.

Learning to "move out of a posture of fear and self-protection" runs the gamut from the personal challenges to our political entanglements. Perfect love drives out fear.

Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Milton,
Thanks for peeling back a few more layers of your life. I'm especially glad that the time of mourning and anger over the job thing quickly gave way to thoughtful introspection, the kind that places everything on the scales to determine what is important and what is not, a painful exercise for sure, but a necessary one that few people undertake apart from one crisis or another. I especially like that you got off your toosh and embraced life, that you saw yourself and your relationship with Ginger as grade A prime real estate. You have discovered that the healing and the health is in the doing, doing those things that made it through the sifter. Good for you. Good for you.
Bill

SpookyRach said...

"long sense clicked away"? Not a chance, man.

Africakid said...

I like the idea of a spiritual director. But I grew up in a tradition that didn't really have them (at least in a formal sense). Does your church make it public knowledge--ie, here's our spiritual director, please contact them if you need someone? Just curious.

don't eat alone said...

Growing up Baptist I didn't know much about them either. You might check at a pastoral counseling center. Some pastoral counselors are also spiritual directors. They are not necessarily limited by denomination.

Peace,
Milton