Thursday, August 18, 2005

The body is the temple of the Spirit

...and mine needs to hold services elsewhere for awhile. My back is out making picket signs.

I fell on the stairs at home in May. I knew I hadn't fully healed yet. I was feeling close to normal before I came down here, but knew I needed to be careful. I forgot that caveat, and forgot how un-used to this intensity of exercise I am. I was slow and draggy yesterday. Today, I'm just hurting.

I was lying on the couch this morning, trying not to whimper and failing brilliantly. My friend got me ice, tissues, water... everything I needed, plus a shoulder rub. I could be forgiven for having a very human body. Then she asked why I was crying. Frustration or pain? Both. "I want to do everything, and I can't." Her answer surprised me. "Maybe that's what God wants you to learn. To have understanding for people who can't do everything."

I've been thinking about that. It sounds awfully close to the idea of being punished for not understanding. I don't think she believes God does that, and I know that I don't. My God is a god of gentleness and love. Hers is too; we weave that love into every conversation. I was so frustrated with myself, feeling the pressure of having a lot to do in very little time--and also afraid of the primal intensity of my anger. It wasn't just about this project. I was feeling all the other times that, in my or my parents' or teachers' eyes, I had not been good enough. I was doing to myself what had been done to me, and I knew it, and was too frustrated in the moment to stop. She told me it was okay to slow down. "I want you to paint, but I don't want you in traction." I knew she was making sense and I wasn't--but I was angry enough to fight it, until I moved and felt the stab again.

She left for work, and I lay on the couch and tried to relax, tried to listen. I realized that if I really couldn't do anything, beating myself up to try to get me to paint the house was illogical. I said, "Okay. What are you saying, really?" Literally as soon as I let go, I felt it: as if a cool liquid were flowing into and through and around all the hurting places in my body and my heart. Gentleness and healing. I didn't experience it in words. It was a lightness, a release, a freeing from what I'd been doing to me. It filled me with an awareness of love, patience, understanding. It gave me the grace to stop, and to breathe, and to focus my mind on what God was showing me.

My friend was right, though it took me awhile to understand. Where I'm going, I will need to be able to touch and be touched by everyone. You can't have empathy for others before you have it for yourself. You get there by love, not by anger. By embracing, not by tearing apart.

It's a nice day and I'd love it if I felt good enough just to take a walk. We'll be doing that this weekend. My back still physically hurts. I'm in need of rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories. And to be patient with myself, and let them work their healing in me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wanton destruction

We ripped out a parquet floor yesterday. We hadn't meant to. It started innocently: we needed a flat space for a ladder, to caulk around her fireplace. (Some of the tiles were loose, and the floor was going to come up anyway.) Two hours later, everything but the kitchen was in paper bags. My stomach hurt from exertion and laughing. Then we took the flooring to the Habitat drop-off site and went out for lunch. (The Olympia city ordinance against good Chinese restaurants is not in effect here.)

We've been working, driving around to hardware stores, and talking about God and our lives and service. I thought I was going to be homesick; I'm busy and happy and fine. I'll be ready in December to see everyone, but right now I wouldn't be anywhere else, nor can I imagine a better preparation for what I'm about to do. Everything is unfolding as it should, and I am where I belong. I'm groggy today because I woke up early feeling so cosmically loved I couldn't go back to sleep.

We never did get the caulking done; that's one of my jobs today.

Have to go back to work now. Peace and love to everyone.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

From embrace to embrace

I'm writing this from my friend's house in Stockton, CA, where I arrived safely late Friday night. I'll be here about another ten days, then I'll head to Berkeley. Forgive me for not updating before now. My last week in Oly was a whirlwind, and I've been on the verge of exhaustion since before I got here.

There's a trust game we used to play in Girl Scout camp, where you fall onto a double line of people, hoping they'll catch you, and they pass you along to the end, laughing. That's the space I've been in. I feel held up and loved and supported by everyone. I was driving down the freeway Friday, mind wandering. Suddenly I found myself yelling, "Thank you!" You don't need to yell for God to hear you, but that's beside the point. I really get to do this.

I'd been worried about how I'd relate to my community (Olympia) after I'd left. I lived there for so long, and because of my family issues, my friends were my world. Thank you for sending me off with your love. I will feel a part of you no matter where I live, and I am having these adventures freely, knowing that the world is open to me and I can come home to you.

Scenes from that last week:

Doing Dances of Universal Peace barefoot in Priest Point Park, feeling the cool, soft, strong earth under me and the chants flow through my body. I hadn't done this but once or twice in the past two years, and so I didn't know the circle in itself. My own circles (CIC and the food co-op) wove through it, and almost everyone was a friend of mine.

Walking with Jo around Capitol Lake, one last time, and talking about everything. She gave me the last of her Celtic crosses; she doesn't need it anymore, as she's a Sufi.

Having dinner with Dave and Kathleen, and being asked laughingly to help fold six loads of laundry for the Little Red Schoolhouse.

Eating lunch at Traditions, talking with Audrey about tree sits and hugging Jody goodbye.

My goodbye party at Dick and Betty's. They served co-op cheese puffs (Barbara's™) in the nicest bowl in their house, because I'd mentioned I liked them, and made me a birthday cake five weeks early.

Eating sushi with my godmother. When we said goodbye, she blessed me: "Take your God, and go do wonderful things."

The congregation blessing me, my last Sunday at St. John's, and friends offering to send me care packages because they'll miss me and I must be in need of presents.

Helen singing me a silly goodbye song Friday morning, as I finished packing the car and prepared to leave. We hugged and laughed and she told me how right I was to do this. I know that, in my soul, even though I don't know where this call is ultimately taking me. Thank you all for understanding when I went off on an unexpected path, and for recognizing that this is the only authentic thing I can do.

I crawled here at 11 Friday night, having driven for 13 hours. (My car is a reluctant mountaineer.) Called my godmother and my mom, and I think I ate some chocolate zucchini bread. We were to drive to Fresno (two hours if you're lucky) the next day for a Remain Episcopal meeting. (Some of you have heard me talk about "my friends in the struggle in San Joaquin." This is the group they're part of. Their diocese is headed by a right-wing bishop, and there's a struggle over when/whether the diocese will split over issues of sexuality and other things, and what will happen when it does.) Anyway, as we were leaving, I slammed the car door on my thumb. We extricated it and treated me successfully for shock. I'd been halfway hoping to fall asleep in the car, as I'd been an adrenaline-soaked insomniac for at least a week. Alas, I stayed awake. I'd never been that deep in the Central Valley, and wanted to see what it was like. (Answer: flat, agricultural, and smoggy.)

When we got to the meeting, my other friend gave me an enthusiastic greeting hug and got ice for my hand. (We last saw each other in April.) We joked about how I'd driven 1000 miles to get there. It felt good to be there and to be able to contribute, and to hear people witness to their understanding and love of God and of this church. I care about this mainly because I have friends here, and I've watched them struggle. The issue that brought me back to church--for me, justice, love, and inclusion--is spun very differently by the powers that be in this diocese. I asked what I can do; "pray and stay in touch" are givens.

We drove home, had dinner, and baked bread for today's Communion. (I'd asked if we would get to; she said she wasn't scheduled. Within hours of that e-mail, she was.) I don't bake bread on my own, ever, and wouldn't have asked to except I love doing it for this purpose. Preparing holy food is a labor of love, a deep and organic interaction with the God who makes communion possible.

I actually did sleep decently last night. We got up this morning and drove the bread to church in time for the early service, then went to the farmer's market. It's in a strip mall parking lot, but it felt social and friendly just the same. It was fun. We took the food home, ate breakfast (pizza bagels from a bakery in the market), and went back to church, this time for worship.

I went up at birthdays/thanksgivings time. I spoke of being thankful for every place I think of as home. (Thinking, Oly, here, and CDSP.) My priest friend introduced me as "a longtime friend who's starting CDSP." He blessed each of us with oil. After the dismissal, people came up and engaged with me, offered their support. I have two good friends here; no one else knows me. Yet I feel adopted by this congregation as well. Held up yet again by loving hands.

Blessed be God's Kindom, now and forever. Amen.

(I purposely leave out the "g." I like what it does to the meaning.)