These haven’t been an easy couple of weeks. Part of my work includes walking with people when they get the most devastating news imaginable. And holding hands with a daughter as she walks into a “chapel” at a funeral home to positively identify her mother’s remains, laid out on a “serving table” (that’s what the funeral director called it). What was worse was sitting through the meeting with the funeral director. We were finalizing the details for a pre-paid cremation for her mom; a process that should have taken no more than 30-40 minutes took almost 2 hours because the funeral home was attempting to get a grieving woman to spend more money as the means to truly honor her mama. Sitting there, late in the afternoon on Sunday, I was ready to jump out of my skin. Monday, a day off, I spent time working on the service for the baby boy with no name we buried in the Pauper’s Annex at Oakwood early on Tuesday.
My dad has had some minor health issues that made my days longer and more complicated and I am facing into the truth that I have not done the things I need to do to take good care of my own health. I’ve already started to take the steps back to health but those little voices about worthlessness—boy, they get loud.
Last Thursday, those voices, sharp as needles tore deeper when I heard back from Collegeville. I have not been accepted into this year’s workshop. I got the news when I had eked out a couple of hours off to make up for lots of time at work. I was able to carry my disappointment with me, out to the garden and started preparing my flowerbeds for some spring planting and sowing. It is only natural to want to know why I was not selected and of course, there is no way I can get that feedback. Nonetheless, I was able to step back enough to understand this about my writing: I think the focus of the workshop requires the participants to be further along in the process of writing a manuscript than I am in mine. I am certain Collegeville made a good decision.
For me, though, the next challenge is dealing, not with itty bitty mean little voices, but with a deep current of awareness about my age and circumstances. I am in a demanding, a really demanding, job. The kind of pastoral care and ‘capacity building’ work I am doing these days is draining, unpredictable, and relentless. I struggle to find the energy and focus for the kind of writing I want to do. As I worked around the plants in my flower bed after I heard from Collegeville, trying to pull out the root structures of the weeds, discovering a fire-ant nest, realizing my favorite daisy plant did not make it through the winter, I wondered about the life I have built for myself. What might I be able to change, how I could open more space for the writing? I am no longer at the place where ‘do overs’ and ‘resets’ are reasonable and realistic. Even what’s in place right now is not particularly amenable to any significant change—small adjustments and tweaks is about it. I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I could change my life enough to sit and write for 3-4 hours a day until I finish my book. A lot of wishes and far more practical and immediate needs and responsibilities.
My flower bed was instructive. Wishing won’t take the weeds away—there is simply persistence. I can pour highly toxic poison on the ant nest and leave an awful legacy to those who will follow behind Sherod and me in tending to this corner of heaven. What I choose to do instead is work around that nest, be careful, share a space I wish were mine alone with some rather unsavory small creatures. The branches on the rose bushes in the bed are weighed down with more buds than I’ve ever seen on any of them. Amaryllis spikes with buds closed tight are pushing out and up at amazing speed. New seeds for ‘forget me nots,’ and ‘painted daisies,’ and ‘blanket flowers’ are already here, ready to be sown. And all of this requires one thing above all from me: I have to show up.
So today, I’m showing up for my garden and my life.