Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How and where to follow next

How come when I bitch and moan on Facebook about a hot, local topic, I get 40 comments, but when I post a blog with some deep soul secrets, I get one?

I really do have a love/hate relationship with Facebook and it stems from my always-egging desire to go deeper. I seem to want to force Facebook to, sometimes, be something it's not: contemplative. I'll continue nevertheless in the hopes that whomever is suppose to read it will. Just like vocal ministry in Quaker worship. Sometimes you're given a message that makes no sense, but, if you've really discerned that it's yours to give, you do so anyway and detach from any reaction.

This romance I have with depth can drive me crazy. I seek it everywhere, not jut on Sundays in worship. It very well may be why I am so perplexed over the closing of this fabulous school building I have inhabited for almost three years. The e-mail came the week before last that we all had to be out June 1 as the district can no longer afford to keep it running. They always said that's would happen if  a solution did not step forward. It hasn't.

One artist was moving his canvases out today and this place feels more abandoned with each loss. And, yet I remain. As my art friend was returning for another load, I was talking to Susan, the custodian who so lovingly cares for the place. Sometimes I feel as if she and I are the only ones who still tend this space. We welcomed the other artist into our conversation,which soon became a tour of Susan showing us the vault, the former gym and pointing out where walls had been opened and closed, the hidden locker room trapped between floors, the high ceilings in some rooms, molding and lone, real slate blackboard.

We crossed over the Maginot Line from the artist's side and into the autistic school, after hours. I can't tell you how many times I have resisted for the sake of protecting the school and observing their boundary. Today, as we all know we will be leaving soon, was different. It seemed a parting rite of some passage.

Today, I could really see the building, its bones and history, the generations who have enlivened its halls, the modernizations and attempts to keep up with the times and demands.

In what I had thought was a dreary cafeteria, pristine sunlight was streaming in. The lower-level bricks were cleanly white-washed and the former gym floor well oiled and heeled. Susan does a very good job over there. She was told months ago not to clean this side ... so I had forgotten how everything can look when polished.

Not many can envision this building polished. They can't look that deep, into its soul. They see the peeling paint, 1970s renovations and the holes left when building icons – such as plaques, murals and the Rookwood fountain –  have been removed.

I still see life, not dollar signs I wonder how far the $900,000 cost of tearing it down could go toward upkeep. Unfortunately, this building was written off years ago with no exit plan. That's been the problem. Is locking the doors and closing it up a good solution? I know, I know the school board continues to say it can't afford to keep it open and what a burden it is on taxpayers.

I still can not understand how the city and school district missed the opportunity to look down the road at this building TOGETHER and create a plan that would put the sturdy bricks and mortar to a new use. Of course, I missed that opportunity as well.

It's been a wonderful three years here breathing creative life into a former math room, bathing it in color, gaining inspiration out its windows, watching young artists bloom and small groups go deep the way I like. I really don't know how I will say goodbye.

• Where do I crave depth in my life?
• How does modern culture and technology thwart that?
• Where can I devise a happy medium?
• How can I challenge our throw-away society?
• Where do I find Spirit in the patina of the past?

I entered this
side alone

just me, a
desk, rug,
some books
and a prayer

here to begin
something new,
something unknown
something of Spirit

soon I'll
be here alone
how and
where to follow

Listen to this post:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Warts and all

This has been a mercurial week, alternating between: rest and activity; being nurtured and tending to others; wrestling with frustration and releasing it; feeling empowered, then humbled; questioning my motives and having my integrity affirmed; savoring time in my studio and wondering where I will land next; valuing my freedom and flexibility, but yearning for routine and partners; experiencing chronic pain and observing it leave.

And, I actually had time pay attention, unlike last week's blaze of constant activity that prevented any blogging or reflection.

Midweek was pivotal. I ventured to yoga for the second time and caught up with a new Quaker friend, whose journey toward creating a new farmer's market I had followed with interest and enthusiasm. Just before class, she confided that she was laying it down, a Quaker term for releasing it. I was stunned and  saddened ... enough so that, after I learned part of the story, I decided to vent on, of all places, Facebook.

After doing so, the responses began pouring in, including from a brave council member who said I didn't have all of the facts. I felt that I'd had enough, besides I was smarting from the community stopping redevelopment of the school where my studio is housed, only to get word that it will close anyway June 1. No one has enough money to save it. And no one had funds for the farmer's market.

Money seemed the root of it all.

It's also the impetus for my exploring full-time job opportunities vs. limping along with little of it for Artsy Fartsy and any salary. Last week I had an interview and two grants due the next day and more waiting to see what pans out. Waiting, uugh.

So, I bellowed with all of that in the mix, not really recognizing the amalgamation.

And the post began to be shared and circulate and I heard from all kinds of circles outside my typical one. I received an e-mail and message to call someone I trust and respect to get the full story. I did and realized that I had gone off half-cocked, just like some of those desperately trying to be the school's savior that had driven me crazy. What else was there to do, but cop to it.

I acknowledged that I had made a mistake and was sorry for spewing without knowing the full story. The reporter in me was ashamed. The community activist was grateful that a wonderful conversation had begun. And the good twin knew she had to 'fess up and clean up the evil twin's mess.

What was remarkable was the kindnesses that came as a result of the apology. Only tenderness and very affirming messages. I had no idea I was important enough for people to care what I think. My husband playfully gasps when I say that because he doesn't get why I don't get it.

The afternoon of the original post, I met with my shaman/pastoral counselor/massage therapist. I hadn't seen him in eight weeks, much too long. He always asks what my intention is and areas that need specific work. My neck and back, I said (shoulders, hips, hip flexors, sinuses are always givens). Your neck, he repeated, suggesting that its misalignment was connected to my not being able to fully be myself in the world. That is your struggle, he repeated.

Why don't I trust being myself?

Oddly enough a Facebook post this morning helps me understand. The author writes about
"the challenge of always seeing beyond, or outside of, what is currently accepted as 'the way'" yet wanting to belong. "... your preferences for unusual ideas or ways of doing things, your passion and intensity, your sensitivity and your unusual level of perception are all qualities that have made it difficult for you to fit in or to be like others." YES, I think.

Until you can live with your true self, the blog post continues, you experience a highly critical inner voice, disappointment with the lack of high standards in others, inordinately high standards of yourself and despair from feeling like an outsider.

Does this writer know me personally?

She continues: 

"Growing up in a world that did not have a way to understand or support all the unusual qualities ... you most likely lived with your gifts in one of two ways. You may have responded to your otherness by unconsciously creating a false self that blended in. You used your gifts to fit into the world. ... Otherwise, you may have felt like a failure, or that you had missed the boat somehow, because your gifts prevented you from adapting or feeling that you belonged. Your gifts may have overwhelmed you and left you unable to cope with the world’s expectations, unable to find “your groove”.
" ... you are compelled by an inner creative imperative to explore the unexplored and to give form to the previously formless."
" ... you may interpret your complex inner life and thoughts as signs of craziness. In a culture that does not value the abstract or complex, you may have grown up thinking nobody else was like you.
"As you step into your gifts, you learn to trust your unique ways of relating to the world ... You come to understand how you differ from those around you, without placing value judgments on these differences. You understand your uniqueness to be part of what you offer to the world."

Wow, this explains so much, including the intensity of the week, my reactions and others' generous responses.

You can read the post in The Architecture of Meaning at http://architectureofmeaning.com/gifted-soul/gifted/#

• When have competing issues and feelings twisted your psyche?
• Did you act out? How?
• On reflecting, what would you do differently?
• What wouldn't you change?
• What did you learn about yourself?

swirling with

good, bad
and ugly

I had to

had to

knowing it
wasn't how I
typically behave

when I want
to fit in
instead of

just being

this once,
I gave in

and the world
didin't come
crashing down

it accepted me

warts and all

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What must perish

Last week was ONE of the rare weeks I had no time to blog and I am saying no to shoulds! It was one of the most intense, active weeks I have experienced and something had to go. Not the three-hour second interview or its prep and not the two grants due the day after the exhausting, but good, interview. So, it was the blog.

I missed it and things kept percolating all week. It really is my time to process the deep subjects, questions and concerns floating around my psyche. Then there are times I need to rant, tell a story or express gratitude. I am grateful for the outlet and the dear readers who linger and, often, take time to comment. It acknowledges that what I experience is not isolated ... that we all struggle and amble through life the best we can, attempting to remember there is a greater ONE behind the scenes.

I am currently feeling the need to deal with with Lent, my Quaker Meeting's 200th anniversary and the June 1 closing of the school where my studio has been located for three years. And, I'll take them in that order.

Lent never meant much to me growing up, except that the school cafeteria served up soggy fish on Fridays 'cause the Catholic kids couldn't eat meat, they gave up things like gum and candy, wore ashes on their foreheads and our Methodist Church changed its color scheme to purple. Of course, I understood it as a build-up to Easter.

Last year, the practice became much more personal and meaningful to me mainly because of my new spiritual director, an Episcopal, and because it entranced me, intertwining with the change of season, life-death-life and a very specific rhythm and focus. I haven't been following it so deeply this year, yet it calls to me. I understand it as a time of shedding, reducing, turning inward and seeking Spirit. Meanwhile, my exterior life ha gone haywire with busyness and so much uncertainty.

In the midst, my faith community reached an epic milestone culminating one Sunday week before last. We celebrated with guest speakers, visitors, former members, an old-fashioned carry-in meal and then Quaker author Phil Gulley and Quaker singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer.

I loved how Phil Gully just keeps expanding his circles of understanding and inclusiveness. I was moved in "If the Church were Christian" by the idea of universal salvation; that God's love is available to all. PERIOD. That is what I believe. He advocated that if Christianity, all 39,000 factions, is to survive, we must embrace other faiths and religions with the same idea of universal salvation. Christianity must change to survive. He's right. Life is change and anything stagnant dies.

And Carrie Newcomer's low and folky voice carries her deep wisdom into song. I've heard her described as the Prairie Mystic. She truly is. She sang my favorite, about the brown-gray geodes so common near her home in Bloomington, IND. Dull and dead-looking outside, broken open, beautiful crystals are exposed.

Again, life and death from both author and songwriter/singer.

It was a former minister's words, however, that woke me up. Jim Newby, also an author and now at Church of the Savior in Oklahoma City, talked about the challenge of building redemptive community. I immediately sensed his words were a challenge to my 200-year old church not to rest on our laurels and to take up this way of being. Redemptive community, he said, consists of:
• creating a place where we can expose and deal with our pain;
• nurture deep worship for reaching the living Christ;
• encouraging and supporting one another;
• being sure of ourselves and able to count on each other; and
• practicing unconditional love.

We do one of these well and another half well. The rest are untapped sources.

This week in worship, our minister asked what current truth we speak, as Quakers. It occurred to me that truth is only present when the first motion is love, not when we worship early Friends, social activism, the intellect or the Quaker way of doing things. And that Jim Newby's five points are the perfect road map.

Why must I be the negative Nelly, I wondered after delivering that message. At least four people later said they needed to hear that and it was truth. Wouldn't have mattered; I couldn't NOT have said it. Spirit was pushing me.

A few days later, in my "in" box, this devotional from the Henri Nouwen Society arrived:
"There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty. As long as we relate primarily to each other's wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community. Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts. Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.
Living community in whatever form - family, parish, twelve-step program, or intentional community - challenges us to come together at the place of our poverty, believing that there we can reveal our richness."
And so, when the e-mail came declaring we had to be out of the building by June 1, I was not surprised. While it tears me up to think this place where such beautiful things have happened will, likely, get torn down itself, I understand God may be making way for new things. Better things. Things we can not possibly imagine.

That wisdom would not have surfaced had I attempted to blog last week -- only now, when Spirit prompted.

• What practices help me avoid the shoulds of life?
• What meaning, if any, does Lent have in my life?
• When do I experience times of retreating, waiting, reducing?
• How do I recognize when Spirit is leading toward a death?
• How do I trust during these times?

last week
was not in the

did I really just
hear one of the
autistic kids
next door

clearly, thank you
sweet voice, it
was not

and I rested
any attacks
of the shoulds

because this
is the season
of pulling
away from life

and letting what
must perish die

because we
have the
example of
new life

before us


Listen to this post: