07 June, 2019

White Knuckling it Through Life

No this is not my bike and there's no way I'm riding on the beach--but it's ORANGE!

I rode my bike for the first time yesterday morning. I know that doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but I haven’t ridden a moving bike in over a year and definitely not since my knee surgery. Chris encouraged me to try it—the breakfast burrito at the marina ½ mile away was also a good incentive. 

Here’s the truth. I was scared to death. I suspect Chris knew it. As we went into the garage and I led the bike (yes it sounds like I'm talking about leading a bucking bronco, but that's what that bike looked like to me, and I was pretty sure it could do as much danger) I didn't say a word. Actually I didn't say a word the whole way except once when I thought he was going to swerve into me and I shrieked, "What are you doing?" He was a good 8 feet away...back to that fear thing.

I got on the bike and gripped the handlebars. I stared straight ahead and used all my energy to concentrate on keeping the bike steady and upright. Immediately after turning off our street I saw 2 bikes coming towards me. In my head I was panicking. I didn’t want to move over into the grass and ride on unsteady ground. They did it for me passing me on the grass, smiling, waving (who lets go of their handlebars--they were clearly senior citizen stunt people. She even had a bag of groceries in her basket!) and saying, "Good morning." I was as grateful to them as I was for the spinal block after 36 hours of hard labor.

Just as they passed I realized I wasn't smiling, I didn't wave,  and I didn't say thank you. I was too scared; I was concentrating too hard. “I’m sure they think I’m rude.” I thought to myself and kept thinking to myself deciding over and over and over completely convinced the rude, crazy lady on the bike was going to be the topic of their conversation all morning.

A short while later I crossed the street. I knew this perilous act was coming; I'd been dreading it from the beginning. I knew the cars had the right away and I'd have to brake without falling and then restart again without falling. But instead a car stopped to let me pass. I was white knuckling those handlebars and didn’t wave thanks. More Miss Manners shame washed over me. 

Seriously y'all I couldn't stop thinking about all this. (My therapist already knows I need to see her when I get back...) But you've got to keep in mind we are in South Carolina, in the SOUTH—everyone waves and smiles and says hey to EVERYONE!!! It's so ingrained in us we don't even realize we're doing it. I had a boyfriend in college from Baltimore that just couldn't understand how I knew so many people when we walked on the inner harbor. When I told him I didn't know them he was completely befuddled. "Why would you speak to them then?" "Well duh", I thought, "because that's just what you do...obviously not the man for me to marry."

Returning home I tried to be better. I thought I was smiling even though I knew there was now way in tarnation I was going to wave to anyone.  I suspect, however, my strained smile looked more like I had some Carolina gnats stuck in my teeth and nary a toothpick in sight.

But here's the thing I can think about now that I'm safely back with not a scratch on me. I wonder how many times we judge someone based on their facial expressions or the way they respond or don't respond? I wonder how many times we place our expectations for relationship on others? I wonder how many times we don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt? And really, let's just put this out there, how many times do we think we're so important that we are the subject of other's conversations?

People are complicated and living complicated lives. Some lives are full of pain and fear. Sometimes people are doing everything they can to just stay upright, to just keep moving, to just stay on track. Sometimes people are white knuckling it through life holding onto what they can. 

So, what if instead of judging when someone didn’t respond the way we wanted we sent up a prayer, “God be with that person in whatever place that person is?” What if we gave people the benefit of the doubt--assumed good intentions? What if we noticed, acknowledged, and gave thanks for the people that move over to give us the space we need, gave thanks for the people who let us have the right away even if it's not what the world says is the "right" way?

What if we extended a little more grace?

Oh by the way, I made it there and back—and breakfast was awesome! Might even try another ride today....

06 June, 2019

Dogs, Shells, and People--My Balm in Gilead

If you're sick of me droning on and on about loss and grief, join the
club. I am the President of the "get over yourself and move on" Club. The problem is I'm doing a really lousy job--the impeachment process has probably already started...

I haven't felt like writing because I don't like to write when I can't tie it all up--you know in a pretty package with a great big, cost more than the present, bow. And like other writers (sometimes I pretend I'm one of those) I know it's not really a good idea to write until you're through the experience--learned that in EFM too. But this morning two things happened....

The second--I was reading a blog by someone I'd never read before, but I was hooked. She is a real writer, funny, honest, sincere, and deep. I highly recommend you follow her Justifying Jane. (an aside--I was trying to click on one of her blogs a smart wise friend had posted on facebook. The link wouldn't work so if it doesn't work for you try typing it into your browser. I have no idea why I worked so hard to read that post that I spent 15 minutes trying to figure it out, hmmmm.....maybe that's a third thing) Anyway she wrote this in one of her posts, "And that’s where I’m at right now. I’m in the midst of a very specific and painful storm. The worst part about this storm, is that it didn’t just happen to me. I wasn’t minding my own business when all of a sudden the clouds rolled in and started screwing with my life. There’s no fundraisers or meals or Hallmark cards for this kind of storm."

So that's where the first part came in....

Even though I can't run or even walk down the beach, I get up every morning and head down there so the dogs can run and I can pray or cry or scroll through facebook or read leadership books--basically so the dogs won't drive me crazy all day.  Just like when I used to run, some of the same people pass every day, many with dogs. Winnie and Bobby LOVE their new friends.

Two days ago one woman with her 8 month tri-colored springer was passing one way and a couple with their mutt and 8 week springer puppy were passing the other. This was the first day they passed at the same time. Everyone stopped in front of me. I didn't get up--y'all it's not pretty trying to get up off the sand at 51 years of age with a knee that won't bend or straighten, and if truth be told, I was hoping they'd just say hello and chop
chop walk on.  They didn't.

Not only did they not quickly leave, the gentleman came over to me. At this point my raised in the south to always be polite and overly explain took over, "I'm sorry I'm not getting up. I just had total knee replacement 6 weeks ago and it's hard to get up and down." I'm not really sure how the conversation continued. What I do remember is his wife joining us as the other woman continued on (why couldn't they do that too?). Somehow running came up, and God help me I don't want to be a broken record pity party, but I said something to the effect of how sad I was about not being able to run on the beach--as though they'd care.

They did.

The man said, "We totally understand. We were marathon runners. I had to have both hips replaced and she had breast cancer and broke her femur. Now we just walk." Tears sprang to my eyes (you saw that coming didn't you?), I literally started spewing forth all my sadness, pointing to the pier, and moving my feet back and forth in the sand like I was running. They both just kept nodding. Finally I said, "What did you find to take the place of running?" She said, "Beer" while he said, "Nothing." Then they laughed. He continued, "No here's the honest truth, we have found nothing that replaces it. We still wish we could run marathons or even a 5K. We still get sad and angry. But for now we just walk and meet people like you." WOW! And I've been wanting to write about that for two days, but here's the thing. I wanted it to be life changing and to get me out of my funk. I wanted it to be my balm in Gilead--no that's not true, I wanted it to miraculously cure me.

A balm in Gilead is medicine that heals, but we all know it doesn't cure after one dose...

This morning I saw my friends walking towards me. About 10 yards from me the man bent down and picked something up. As they got closer he said, "Do you ever collect shells? We do. We like to find beautiful ones. I found this one just down there near you. I'd like you to have it." Tears again...."Thank you," I responded. "I'm going to put it on my desk at work to remind me of this time."

So three not two things:
1. God works through dogs and people and shells--
2. God works through technology
3. God works through writers like Justifying Jane

God works--God is never finished. I may never be completely over being sad about not running, but I believe it will get better (sooner rather than later would be good). God is working on it....

03 June, 2019

Community, Liturgy and Slapping the Pier

For thirty two years.....

For 32 years I have run down the beach...

For 32 years I have run down the beach and slapped the pier...

For at least 21 years I have run down the beach, used it as a time of prayer, and slapped the pier....

For 10 years I have run down the beach, used it as a time of prayer, listened to Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World, and slapped the pier.....

Not this year.... and it sucks (sorry I'm using the word I probably hate most in the world), and I've been thinking about it ever since that day in March when I was told I had to have a total knee replacement immediately and he recommends I never run again.

The reality is here--I'm at the beach barely able to walk (just got rid of the cane Friday), and yes it does that word I've already said once and don't want to say again. I'm really really sad and frustrated and angry--all the things my therapist tell me equals situational depression.

Last week a dear and wise friend (who I don't have to pay--but trust me B is worth every penny), Bob Valvano wrote these words.

Let me offer some tips on interacting with people who battle depression.
Even if it's not "clinical" depression...just someone who is obviously burdened by something in his or her life.
Don't say, "Smile! C'mon it's not so bad..."
When you do that it's actually an insult of sorts.
The listener thinks "Not only do I feel badly, but evidently I'm stupid too, since I can't see what appears so obvious to you."
When you say. "Hey you shouldn't be so sad. Look at all the great things in your life."
That often doesn't help, because INTELLECTUALLY, the listener probably knows they have a lot of good things. They may openly feel and often express how blessed they are.
It STILL doesn't stop them from feeling down...overwhelmed...helpless...
In fact, that too is hurtful because it implies the listener isn't grateful. In fact, they could probably tell you ALL the things they know they are blessed with.
It doesn't matter at that moment.
If you remind the person fighting this feeling, "Hey you've got it a lot better than many other people " you'd probably be reminded it's not a competition.

As I've been sitting on the beach each morning watching the dogs, who by the way are very confused about us not running--more on that later, I keep thinking about these words and all the things people have told me.

And yes I get it. It could be worse. At least I can still walk. There are other forms of exercise. This too shall pass. There are other people who are grieving far worse things than not being able to run again. I have a beautiful beach house (thank you Daddy and Marguerite) where I can go to recover. Yes, I get it and I remind myself of all these things every day. Bob's right--it doesn't matter at this moment. (And I'm sorry to anyone that offends)

There is something though....

Last week I was having dinner with a friend who has been to our home many times. She looked at me lovingly and said, "I know it's going to be hard not being able to slap the pier this summer." Nothing else--just acknowledgement, just understanding, just love. 

The next day I received a text from another very good and wise friend again about the sadness I must feel getting ready to go to the beach and not being able to slap the pier. She went even further--"maybe you can come up with some sort of ritual or something to say good bye."

I sat on the beach this morning watching people I've passed for years passing me. One stopped and said, "Not running this year?" I told her about what happened. I told her I'd just have to sit this year. She responded, "Sitting is good. Sitting is good for the soul. Sitting is simple and powerful. See you tomorrow."

I'm still sad, but I know I'm not alone. There is a community who sees me and loves me. Community--that's important.

I also know I have to find a ritual to say goodbye (other than just buying a new towel and new tervis although those help)to what was and embrace what is to come. That's liturgy. THAT feeds my soul. 

I just need to know--can I still title the book I plan to write one day Running with Pearls?

I named Bob because he made his words public. The other friends didn't, but everyone needs to hear their wise and loving words. Thank you Jamie and Jennifer.

28 May, 2019

Playground Friendships in the Adult World

Several years ago my Godchild and I were at the playground. She
had just turned 2 and was becoming very independent. 

As we were playing another child, close to the same age, and her father arrived. The two girls were instantaneous friends and ran and giggled as only carefree 2 year olds can do. The father and I watched and smiled. For several minutes we took turns catching the girls as they came down the slide with shrieks of joy and delight repeating, "Don't let me fall." Before long they lost interest and ran to another area. We sat down and watched.

All of a sudden both girls were again at the top of the slide--we were a good 25 yards away. We hollered (he hollered, I screeched) for them to hold on as we raced across the playground. They didn't wait and they didn't yell, 'Don't let me fall." Instead they slid down one right after the other their giggles echoing off the playground equipment. The sound was clearly shrieks of joy tinged with slight fear. The joy won--and the girls repeated their independence over and over and over eventually clasping hands and running to the swings beaming with their newly independent pride.

While walking home my sweet girl said, "Tant Kafrine (I so miss how she said that) that was my bestus friend. What's her name again?" I knew good and well she had never met this child and because I'm the old Godmother I couldn't remember the child's name. I laughed to myself and laughed again as I told her mother later--her bestus friend. HA HA--how could it be her bestus friend when she had seen her a total of one time for a mere 45 minutes? Isn't it cute to be a 2 year old? How simple and naive....

Fast forward 4 years....

I was having a conversation about friendships. I was asked how it could possibly be I was as close to a particular person when we hadn't been in each other's physical presence more than once or twice. My response went something like this, "Well just because we've only been in each other's physical presence a few times, we have much in common and our relationship has developed through texts, emails, social media posts, phone calls and shared experience." Gotta admit I was also a tad bit defensive--practicing the unfiltered 2 year old talk here.

I sat back, stamped down my defensiveness and thought about the question just asked as I scrolled through the names of people I consider my closest friends--those friends I call my "call in the middle of the night and tell them to meet me in Boise Idaho stating, I can't tell you why, and they go no questions asked." Over and over names appeared of people I have had limited in person time with or people I used to see in person a lot but haven't for years--the common thread? Our shared values, experiences, vulnerabilities, challenges, and repeatedly our faith.

I haven't stopped thinking about that conversation and about my Godchild's time at the playground. I now regret my laughter relaying the story of the bestus friend from the slide. In that moment they were bestus friends. Why? Because they had achieved something together. They had together overcome their fear; they had a shared experience that will never be repeated--they won't have another "first time down the slide alone" experience with anyone else. For that afternoon, they were bestus friends. Who knows, maybe they'll meet again some day.

So I guess the answer to that specific question I was recently asked is because when I needed to be brave, when I needed  someone to make sure I didn't fall, when I needed someone to shriek with joy and to share my fears, when I needed someone to hold my hand even virtually, she was there.

Friendships can develop quickly and intensely and virtually--it doesn't make them any less real. My sweet Godchild taught me that.

(And for the record, I suspect she'll be teaching me many more lessons throughout my life....)

23 May, 2019

Facebook Brought Me Back to Prayer

I am a social media over poster, over sharer, over user--just say it
over the top. 

Except when I'm not.

Then I scroll through memories and post some of those frankly in order to keep my wise friends (one in particular all the way down in Georgia who I neglect often but who always knows how I am because of my facebook habit) from texting me to ask what's going on. They know me well...too well

What's going on? I've been feeling down and useless and unproductive and boring and so I scroll through facebook memories.

Okay being honest here---over the last few weeks I've been scrolling through the memories and laughing and crying and feeling sad (you can read feeling sorry for myself if you want to) and feeling angry--so very angry.

I'm laughing at some of the things that have happened over the years; I'm crying missing those who are no longer with me or for the memories, the times, the fun. And I'm angry EVERY time a post about running pops up in the memories.

Four days ago I had a reality check--a slap my head and call me silly moment--The Rev. Laurie Brock might have been a part of it. I honestly can't remember what the whole theme of her talk was (sorry Laurie--see above--I've been a little self centered and morose), but I "heard" her talking about different ways we connect with God --ways we pray. And I'll admit it--I got angry--really angry.

But I was in public...

So I sat down on the floor pretending I had to do my knee exercises (well I did need to do them, but I also didn't want everyone there to see the red flush creeping up my neck and the tears in my eyes. I didn't want them to see me throw a full blown overly tired toddler hissy fit). Over and over I thought, "I had a GREAT prayer life!  It was running, and now I can't do it--any of it! I can't run and I can't pray!"

The next morning I was still madder than a wet hen. I mean mad enough to chew up nails and spit out a barbed wire fence. (Also really really happy I had finally met Laurie--who totally understands these expressions to know how mad I was.) I sat in the same spot of the sofa where I've been sitting for five weeks; I completed my exercises and started the icing; I scrolled through facebook memories; and for the first time in weeks, I prayed.

I prayed for the posts from others and for the people in my newsfeed.

I prayed for the people in the memories.

I prayed prayers of thanksgivings for the times of joy and fun and laughter.

I prayed prayers of grief over those who no longer are with us, over the memories that reminded me of hard times and struggles and thanksgivings for those hard times that are behind us.

I prayed prayers of thanksgivings for the lessons I learned from people and places and experiences.

And I cried out in anger and grief over the memories that came popped up about running.

Every morning since I settle in for the first icing of the morning, open facebook and begin my prayers....

06 May, 2019

Pastoral Needs: Grace and Space and Love and Community

A week ago Sunday I cried. 
Face turned away so you can't see the tears

That may not sound like a big deal; and actually, if you know me you're probably thinking, "you cry ALL the time!' That's true; I cry a lot--but mostly it's because I'm happy or proud (particularly of my children) or sad for someone else. I even cry when I'm mad, but this time it was because I hurt physically, and I was frustrated and tired and overwhelmed and embarrassed--it's a different kind of crying, and I hate it.

Long story short; I was 2 1/2 weeks post knee surgery (a surgery I have since learned was the "most challenging complex" surgery my orthopedic surgeon had ever done--he might even write about me in a medical journal--wish that made me feel better), I had gone to Virginia for the weekend to see my son play his final lacrosse game of the season, gone to a fundraiser, and had dinner with Chris. I couldn't get out of the restaurant fast enough and I was embarrassed. One of my parishioners works there, and I knew she could see it. It made me feel weak. I could see the concern on her face (she really is amazing and loving and kind), and I felt horribly that she was worried about me.

When we got home I curled up (well as much as I could with a knee that couldn't bend all that much) on the couch with my back to Chris and my face buried in a pillow, and I sobbed gut wrenching sobs. Chris came around and tried to put his arms around me; he said all the right things. I just wanted to be left alone and I told him so.

The next morning wasn't any better. I put a notice on my email I wouldn't be able to answer quickly knowing I really just didn't want to interact with anyone. I wanted to isolate.

Throughout the morning I thought about the difference in how I was responding and perhaps how others respond. I thought back to that horrible day years ago when Caroline lost her pinky and how Chris and I reacted--he needed comfort; I needed to be left alone. My response or lack of response to Chris's needs still haunts me, but that's another story--(Caroline lost her pinky and I got a deeper faith)

I struggled through my physical therapy exercises thinking about all the people who have done the same. My mind then went to so many people who have gone through struggles--particularly health ones. I thought about how sometimes I call someone and ask them if I can come visit and I'm told no. When that happens, I reluctantly admit, I sometimes make it about me. Why don't they want me to come? Are they mad at me? Don't they know I just want to help?

And I thought about people who want me to come every day and how I don't understand that and sometimes it feels suffocating and just too much. (I cannot believe I just wrote that....)

Here's the thing. People respond differently. What people need during crisis or times of struggle and pain differ. It's a time we have to acknowledge we are looking at and responding through our personal lens of what we would want, and instead respond to their needs.

But wait there's more....

Left to myself I would have isolated all week. I didn't want anyone to see me the way I was, and I didn't have the energy to pretend. I didn't post all week on social media--for this over the top poster that's kind of a big deal; I didn't feel like writing thank you notes and I LOVE writing thank you notes. I just wanted to watch tv and do my exercises and be frustrated and sad. I didn't want to talk to anyone because I didn't want to put on a cheery positive attitude, and I believed that's what I had to do. I do think my preference needed to be honored, but I also know I would have slipped further and further into a funk if others hadn't stepped in.

I received text, email and phone messages. Some I even responded to. Those messages, whether I responded or not, gave me a life raft--I felt buoyed--held up and together until I could do it myself. No one seemed to get mad or hurt I wasn't responding (if you were please forgive me). A couple of people stopped by for quick visits and to drop off meals. They didn't stay long; I think they knew. I was given grace and space.

Tuesday night I received a text. A friend and I had plans for Wednesday. I told her I wasn't really up for anything. She responded, "If you want to cancel that's fine, but I can also come and just sit. You don't have to say or do anything." Wednesday came, she came, she took me to PT. She sat for an hour with me and then she took me home. A couple of days later she sent me a picture of me during PT with these words, "I was going to snapchat this to your girls with a smart ass comment, but I could tell you were in just too much pain and even I the smart ass of all smart asses couldn't stand to do it."

Yep, I cried. That was a testimony of pure love and friendship. It said, "I see you; I hurt for you and right now your needs are more important than anything I want to do. I can adapt for you."

So here's what I've learned and I hope I can remember. We need to respect the needs of others--and to do that we might have to actually ASK what they need/want and not put what we would want on them. Even more difficult is we can't make it about us. AND we need to respond as a community of love in ways that continually let others know we care, sometimes that means pushing them a little and sometimes it means backing off, sometimes it means wrapping our arms around them, and sometimes it means resisting even when our arms ache to hold them.

Grace and space and love and community--

18 April, 2019

The Hardest Holy Week

It's Holy Week. I love Holy Week; I haven't been able to participate in Holy Week and that has made me angry and sad--well until this morning....

Facebook and email was clogged this morning with comments, blogs and announcements about Maundy Thursday. Again, I love Maundy Thursday, and I'm going to miss it this year. Or so I thought...

I am 8 days post op total knee replacement surgery. This morning I woke up and settled myself on the couch. Chris brought me a cup of coffee and asked, "Can I get you anything else?" "No," I started but then remembered I needed to ice my knee, "Could you get me some ice?" He left to get it, "Um," I hollered after him, "And the pillows from the living room, oh and my medicine." When he got back I was almost finished with my coffee. "Could I.." I started, "Never mind. I'll get it."

"No you won't." Chris responded, "I've got it." Guilt and shame washed over me--I get it not necessarily the emotions everyone would feel, but there they were all for me bathing me like the bath I haven't taken in a week should be. "I'll try to straighten up later." "No," Chris continued, "you won't. I'll do it when I get home."

At this point I started stammering on about how I wish I could at least unload the dishwasher but I can't let my leg hang down that long (yesterday it was wild during PT--I could literally watch it swell). He assured me it was fine, and left for work--probably feeling relieved. I did not.

I started thinking about how much I hate having people wait on me. I appreciate it, but I hate it. Taking care of people is something I like to do, something I want to do, something I need to do. Need--what does that mean?

I thought back to a blog I had read this morning that quoted Brene Brown's definition of vulnerability, I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability. 

It suddenly became so clear--vulnerability, for me, is not reaching out to help others even if that means I may be rejected. I'm okay with that--there's plenty of people who will accept my help. Vulnerability, for me, is about letting other people help me. Somewhere, at some point in my life, I have learned that having people help you is sign of weakness, but more than that, I have "learned" that people will get tired of helping you, that people assume you're taking advantage of them, that people will see you as weak and needy and they will leave you. Weak and needy people, I learned, are tiresome and not worthy of continued relationship for any reason period, and I have to avoid becoming that person at all costs.

(For the record I would very much like to delete the previous sentence because it just came out, but I'm not going to...)
And that led me back to tonight's Maundy Thursday service which I'm going to miss. The book of occasional services it says the following,

"Fellow servants of our Lord Jesus Christ: On the night before his death, Jesus set an example for his disciples by washing their feet, an act of humble service. He taught that strength and growth in the life of the Kingdom of God come not by power, authority, or even miracle, but by such lowly service. We all need to remember his example, but none stand more in need of this reminder than those whom the Lord has called to the ordained ministry."

"Therefore, I invite you who share in the royal priesthood of Christ, to come forward, that I may recall whose servant I am by following the example of my Master. "

I have been known to wax on about how this is the opportunity for me as clergy to be reminded that I am a servant--I'm pretty sure I say it with a tone that suggests it is hard to be humble in this way and I should be commended for kneeling in front of them, (keep in mind until this week I am kneeling--and then having to get up again--while wearing 3-4 inch heels--that deserves extra humility credit for sure!) lovingly washing their feet (I do try to be gentle and touch all parts of their feet), and then gently patting them dry (that is really hard as I always want to break into the song I used to sing to the children when toweling them off after baths.) But the truth is I LOVE IT! 

Here's another truth--I'm selfish about it. In some parishes I have served there has been a tradition of parishioners washing each other's feet, and I point out the lines in the BOS that I translate to mean it is the ordained who should wash others' feet. I ignore the next lines, or I choose to interpret them as meaning figuratively for others.

But come remembering his admonition that what will be done for you is also to be done by you to others, for “a servant is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

No, this year I won't be standing behind the altar or kneeling in front of a basin of water, but I am definitely not missing Maundy Thursday--and this may be the hardest one yet.