Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the scoop, part nine

"I want singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out all my obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact -- to borrow from the language of the saints -- to live 'in grace' as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense: by grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking, perhaps, what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, 'May the outward and inward man be one.' I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eyes of God."

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Gift from the Sea

Last Friday, I finally finished writing the book on simplicity. Or at least I finished the first draft and sent it off for editing and suggestions. Several months ago this project was the final straw that broke my back, but today it feels like a generous gift from God. It feels like a friend who has pulled me from a burning building. I am grateful to be keeping company with the many voices I have encountered along the way, voices like the one I've quoted above. They are gentle voices, at least most of them are, and even when they've called on me to loosen my death-grip on things I imagined I needed, they've been friendly and patient.

In fact, I feel as though I am discovering my life, the life that was buried under so much debris and years of accumulated trivialities. I am discovering the delicious joy of reading and writing, not the kind of reading and writing that I've done most of my life, the required texts of a profession. No. I am reading novels and poets and journals of saints. And I am writing things that flow out of the center of me, the way I am when I'm most deeply myself. I'm learning to be at home with my limitations and my talents. To quote God, it is all "very good".

I'm still suspended between places, still losing my home, but I'm not worried. Dave and I will land wherever we land and it will be just fine. And I'm still dealing with THAT, as much as I can tolerate and mostly through writing. It will work its way out in its own good time. Next Tuesday I have to go in to have a follow-up chest CT and I meet with a lung specialist on Thursday, but I'm confident that they'll give me a clean bill of health. And even if they don't, I'll be OK. Finally, I'm just satisfied to be exactly where I am.

So that brings us to today, and we've arrived here in less than ten installments. The scoop is officially told. You see, I've learned to stop when I'm done. Aren't you glad?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

my prayer today (a short break from the never-ending-scoop)

Philippians 4:10-14 (The Message)

I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

The last few days I've kind of lost my mind and my sense of direction. Probably tomorrow I'll get all twisted up in some new way (or very old way). But today, I'm starting again. I'm claiming these words as my own by faith, even in the middle of a lot of confusion and uncertainty, even in the middle of a strange land.

Lord have mercy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

the scoop, part eight

"Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you...Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition." -Florida Scott-Maxwell

True that.

I stumbled on this quote in a book called The Way of Transition. When I quit my job, my therapist suggested that this book might be important for me. It's about those times in life when changes cut you loose from the dock and you find yourself in the middle of indifferent and unfamiliar waters with no oars. A person experiencing this kind of transition is like a trapeze artist suspended between bars, having let go of one thing and hoping like hell the next thing materializes before gravity gets all demanding on you. I could relate to that.

When I told you that I quit my job, it might have sounded more like a choice than it seemed to me at the time. It really was more like an artist who has gone blind: you can keep splashing paint on the canvas, but it's not going to be pretty. I felt completely incapable of doing what my job required. And it wasn't just this particular job. The truth is that I was so out-of-joint that I couldn't even think about getting another job. I knew I would just end up back at square one: depressed and anxious and sick. I knew I would have to take a leap of faith and hope I didn't end up like Rietta Wallenda.

The loss of my job was scary because my husband and I depended on my income. Our finances were stretched to begin with, and losing my income would necessitate other losses. I won't go into all of that in detail, but let's just say that in another time and place we'd be inmates in a debtor's prison. Bill collectors pretty much have me on speed-dial these days. Our home is for sale, which is a funny concept to me because usually when you sell something you get some money. And when it's all said and done, we have no idea where we'll live.

Actually, we're oddly at peace, and I blame this inappropriate peace on the work I did with simplicity. I've become addicted to giving things away. I'm in a race to see how much I can live without. We made a lot of mistakes in our life, and it's kind of a shame that it's taken us so long to figure out what matters, but Dave and I are no longer interested in having a bunch of stuff at the expense of everything else. This is a terrible lesson to learn and it can be downright humiliating, but we're looking forward to something on the other end of all this loss. I'll tell you more about that next time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

the scoop, part seven

Thanks for hanging with me you guys. I didn't realize when I started this that it would take this many installments to unpack everything. My goal is to finish by the time we reach part ten, but we'll have to see.

*Before I launch into this part of my story, there's something I should mention. For those of you who don't know about it, I've been working with an organization called Providence Ministries for the last 13 years. We set up a children's home called Providence House in southern Haiti to care for a few girls who were in desperate situations, and we also provide educational opportunities and work with established ministries in the area.*

Now, let's continue.

At some point in all of this, we made the decision to move Dave's mom to Alaska to be with his brother's family. His brother has extended family who all live near him and can help with his mom's care, and they've dealt with a family member with dementia before so they know what to expect. In fact, this was their suggestion in the first place. I won't lie to you: I was very relieved at this development. We just weren't able to care for her any more, and we knew she wouldn't want to go into a sheltered living situation. So, in January we were very busy making preparations for her departure on the 16th. Dave and his sister were going to accompany her and stay for a few days to get her settled in.

But first came January 12th.

Around suppertime I got a phone call from my dad. "Did you hear about the earthquake in Haiti?" I had no idea how to respond. I was used to hearing about hurricanes and mudslides and riots and kidnapping, but earthquakes? I thought it must be a mistake. "Where in Haiti, Dad?" I asked. He said he thought it was just outside of Port au Prince and it was a big one. I told him that I'd call him back, and as soon as I hung up I called my friend Marcia. She had just heard about it too, but she didn't know anything more than I did. We didn't say it at the time, but we were both very scared.

For the next several days we watched CNN non-stop and tried to get through to our friends. Providence House is located 120 miles from Port au Prince, a fairly safe distance, but we weren't just worried about the direct effects of the earthquake. Haiti is very centralized and extremely poor. Something like this hitting the capital city would have dramatic consequences for the whole country. So we waited and prayed. It was torture. We watched the video footage of decimated homes and trapped children, and we barely spoke a word. We finally got a brief phone call from one of the girls and learned that they were all OK and the house was still standing, but they were terrified. I'm not sure I've ever felt so helpless.

I've lost count of the number of times I've traveled to Haiti in the last thirteen years. I was standing just outside the palace a year ago in April, and now that majestic landmark is just a pile of concrete. I've shopped dozens of times at the Caribbean Market that was the scene of so much death (and a few dramatic rescues, thank God.) As the camera panned the streets, I searched for something I could recognize, but this was a wasteland that was not at all familiar to me. I grieved over and over again for my friends who would never be the same, and the unimaginable suffering of so many. This changed everything. We continued to get Lorraine packed, but our hearts were all over the place. Suddenly everything I had been preoccupied with over the last many months seemed utterly trivial.

The really weird part of all this is that my health started to improve almost immediately after the news of the earthquake hit. I suppose it could have had something to do with the relief of my mother-in-law moving away. As much as we love her it lifted an enormous burden when her care was transferred to others (although we're still sifting through the tangled knot of her finances and her belongings). Nevertheless, I think the earthquake somehow reset my body and my mind. I remembered that there are more important concerns than the ones I had been immersed in for so long. I remembered that I am incredibly fortunate. I remembered (and maybe even discovered to some degree) my values.

I had an opportunity to get on the Comfort hospital ship, but that ended up falling through. I was really disappointed about that, but it got me moving in a particular direction. My leave of absence was running out, and I knew I wasn't ready to go back. Even more important though, was the growing suspicion that i wasn't supposed to go back. Ever. That part of my life was over. Something new was emerging from the wreckage of my life.

So I quit my job.

*big gulping breath*