For the past few years I've felt I was dying of grief. Loss of friends, loss of community, loss of career... Most likely I needed some kind of reentry program a while back, but that didn't happen for whatever reason—including near total lack of real social supports and my hope I could at least start out on my own. My total situation is completely unsustainable (financially, practically, socially, creatively, professionally, etc.), so I've picked up on a recent post on the RevGals blog. It parallels my own situation well: they've talked about hospicing dying congregations into a good death, assuring the stragglers and hangers-on there is real life for them elsewhere. Responding to those who have insisted they were doing a little of this ministry, a modicum of that type of service in the current place, hospicing has helped them imagine more abundant and varied opportunities waiting for them elsewhere. Maybe across town. Maybe in the next county. Maybe at the church across the street. The blog and discussions inspired me with the idea of hospicing this phase of my life into a good death.
Related to ends of lives, and specifically a good end of this phase of my life, I happened upon unorthodox & unhinged:
"Dishes would pile up in my sink and dirty laundry on my bedroom floor. My trashcans had to overflow before I would empty them. ... And the dust that settled all over my house was so thick, I could write my name in it.
"Remember that you are dust. And to dust you shall return.
"And I thought I was okay. I really thought I was okay because I was getting by. But that is all I was doing – just getting by. ... But I really believed I was okay. I was functioning and functional. I did not notice what others noticed. I did not notice that I was ill, really ill. I did not notice but my children did...."
Unlike Joani of Unorthodox & Unhinged, I'm the one who knows I'm not okay, with other people telling me I'm fine. Is it because our conversations have been so casual that other people insist I'm okay? "They" seem really to believe I am, but I know I'm not functioning and functional. It can't be my own competent public self-presentation! Who on earth doesn't present themselves fairly well to almost everyone everywhere? Despite long ago giving up imagining any one of us ever is completely well, I know I'm far from fine, and I also know I'm not clinically depressed. Possibly not even existentially depressed as anyone who dares observe much would be. Probably not even existentially depressed because years ago I lost the ability even to peek outside of my own pain. I know what it's like to participate in life, to have a life, to be in community. And as I insisted in my earlier happiness blog today, this sure ain't it. Not remotely.
Forget about former places! Since I've been back in this geographical area I've made countless overtures and offers in many and varied places, and ideally at least a few people and places would have excitedly taken me up on them, as the North Park church did, and as the interim pastor at North Minster finally did. Another parallel: I've heard 1 in 100 is an average return for many seed-scattering endeavors. You need to, I need to, everyone needs to live with the reality rather than that ideal that didn't happen. Even though most of our reasoning contains a lot of truth, we still need to get over the florid, convoluted, imaginative explanations of why those expected ideals never materialized. I know a lot of people in a lot of places are doing the ministry I prepared to do and still feel called to do, so I need to do what I can to get myself there and where. As my former neighbor J described it, "you need to move out the old furniture to make room for the new." Yes you do. Indeed I do, too.
On a realistic, practical note, an online friend wrote about leaving her place of origin in Eastern Kentucky (very recently documented as one of the ten or twelve most economically, etc. depressed and difficult to survive in places) because she wanted a life Eastern Kentucky simply could not offer her. That's where I am regarding where I've lived for the past dozen plus years.
Starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, I'm going to journal on paper at least once every day. Possibly only one sentence some days. Hopefully a chaotic brain dump other days? Related to ends of lives, and specifically a good end of this phase of my life, "we find grace in these mini-deaths that lead to transformation ... reinvented by God ... from transformative wounds" –Stephen Nuske, recently retired pastor of the Lutheran Church of St Andrew the Apostle, Brisbane.
I love many of Mary Chapin Carpenter's songs; her "Almost Home" is so about to where I need to go when this phase of my life has been hospiced through into death into newness:
I saw my life this morning
Lying at the bottom of a drawer
All this stuff I'm saving
God knows what this junk is for
And whatever I believed in
This is all I have to show
What the hell were all reasons
For holding on for such dear life
Here's where I let go
I'm not running
I'm not hiding
I'm not reaching
I'm just resting in the arms of the great wide open
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home