Friday, November 27, 2009

Stretching my muscles

I’m just out of the shower, this day after Thanksgiving, excited to write for the first time in ages.

To begin with, I didn’t really get a Thanksgiving on the day itself. (I got one a week ago, at the cathedral, with the homeless people I’ve been getting to know.) Which is, and was, completely okay with me. I’m still living with A., in Stockton. This is her mom’s holiday, and her mom wants that time with her, to herself. I knew I’d be on my own either for doing something or going somewhere. I could have easily wrangled an invitation either to Sac or the Bay Area; I would have only needed to ask. (Friends in those places, don’t feel guilty.) I’ve been to lots of potlucks and orphan Thanksgivings, and they’re always fun. But I didn’t want to drive. And I did want a day and a night to myself. I will get all the festivity of Advent and Christmas. I lack for nothing.

I didn’t do a damn thing, other than bake the bread that we need anyway, and that I customarily keep us in. I stayed in my pajamas. I watched trash TV online. And I guess I must have incubated, because I woke today with my sleeves rolled up.

I haven’t posted anything at all on this blog since my birthday, and that one LOLcat hardly counted. I just haven’t been in this space. I haven’t known really what to write. I finished seminary, and I finished chemo. I have these huge, life-defining events behind me. I’m engaged in the life I have right now, and I love it and am challenged by it—but it doesn’t consume me in the same way. I’m not in the tsunami anymore. I’m not trying just to not drown.

I wrote about the “post-nuclear life” a year ago, or thereabouts; I know it was last fall. I was still in the oh-my-God-I-had-cancer space, sick from chemo with more time ahead than behind me. I was still caught by surprise; I’d been well and now I wasn’t. I knew (and know) that cancer could recur any time. I knew that I’d carry that reality with me. And I knew that my life would be different.

What I’m writing sounds like the economic fears I have now. “Can I get my head above water? What if I can’t?” But it really is different. I have support; I have housing and food and my basic bills taken care of. I’m physically miles and leagues and oceans better; I still get tired, and even still dizzy sometimes—but I have more energy and power than I’ve had for a year and a half. I’m getting myself back.

I feel now like, “Okay, the wave destroyed the island and everything I thought I knew. The riptide’s washed back out again. The ocean looks normal. But I know that I’m not.”

And I don’t know how to relate to this blog right now. This is holy ground. I can’t do memes, or anything else that’s totally inconsequential. That’s what Facebook is for. But I don’t want to give it up completely.

I woke this morning, needing to shore myself up. I need some sort of discipline, and I need writing to be part of it. I have a routine, for three days out of seven—but I’m ready for more. And I’m missing the spiritual practices that come with living in a seminary community.

Advent is the beginning of the new year. It’s time to start over, to focus, to re-commit. I’ve got good work, and the potential for funding it: I asked at the cathedral if I could start a soup kitchen. I got a resounding, “Go for it.” We’re next to River City Food Bank; there’s need in the neighborhood. And throughout my recuperation, I’ve discovered a knack for baking—and an appreciation for food, wholeness, community, and healing. There’s an obvious connection between the sacramental and the physical, and I can’t break and bless the bread yet. But I can do this. I’m not proposing that I myself cook for a hundred—but I know that I can feed people. And I can put together a team that’s willing to help.

I can give this the commitment I want to, if I can fund myself. I can’t simply volunteer full-time indefinitely. So I’m learning about fundraising, and researching grants.

All of that is good—though I definitely feel like I’m out on a limb, I have the cathedral staff’s support. People are really wanting to reach out to the homeless and the food-insecure. (Seriously, that’s a word now.) I walked in wanting to change the world, and they think well of me. They see a feisty survivor who knows what her work is. And I know that I can do this, if I stay with it.

It’s keeping the commitment, that’s my challenge. I’ve got the time. I need to build more structure into my schedule. I need routines, disciplines, specific accountability. I drive up there three times a week, now: once for church at the cathedral; once for a meeting of the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (Safe Ground leadership wing) in the morning and Trinity staff meeting in the afternoon, and once for a Safe Ground meeting and River City volunteer shift. I’m definitely active and engaged. But I have more of myself now, and I need to give more of it. I need to structure the time that I’m not on the road, or with people. When I’m by myself and I could either Facebook or find funding, I need to make the right choices. And I need to stay as connected as I can with God. I need to spend some focused time every day in prayer, and I’m not doing it.

Maybe I’ll start doing daily Morning Prayer in Advent, and keep it up through the church year. I like that idea more, the longer I think about it. And maybe Evening Prayer as well.

The point is just to start, and stay with the connection more than the specific practice. Once I get walking, I can’t help but go somewhere. If I start with ancient words, and end up making rosaries, God is praised.

I don’t know what that means for this blog. I know it would be useful in the public domain, if I tell the story about how some church people in Sacramento start feeding anyone who shows up. For myself, I miss the whole process of thinking things out as I’m writing. And I miss the connection with the part of myself that starves when I don’t do this. So, expect to see more of me.

Blessed be the One who creates, loves, sustains, and feeds us all.