Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Insomnia and Other Fun Things

Here's something I don't appreciate about aging:

(Yes, there are actually things I DO appreciate about aging, like the fact that I seem to become less stupid with time, and church people stop calling me "kiddo" as I develop wrinkles.)

Caffeine sensitivity.  Caffeine is a staple in my diet.  Until about a month or two ago, I could (and did) drink it all day long, with no adverse effects at night.  I always heard people talking about how drinking caffeine in the afternoon or evening kept them up all night, but I didn't entirely believe them, or if I did, I thought it was weird and foreign.  Last night, I had a Diet Coke at 7pm.  At 4am, I was wide awake and my heart was racing.  Apparently I can no longer consume caffeine after some as of yet undisclosed time in the day.  Sweet.

Now, excuse me while I slug down my fourth cup of coffee for the morning.

On a completely unrelated note, I have finished my NaNo, and now have no idea what to do with myself.  It's kind of alarming how much that project consumed the last month of my life.  Those of you who have been subjected to my Facebook status updates and incessant posting about it here are now thinking, "Thank you, Captain Obvious."  Also, I can't seem to stop writing.  Writing is good, but obsession is not.  I need to do things like answer email and write wedding sermons and go to meetings.  Speaking of which, I am about to be late for one of those now, so off I go.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Win! I Win!

50,227 words.  13 chapters and a prologue.  93 single-spaced pages.  Done...except for massive editing.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving, Haggis, Etc.

Becoming a minister kind of shot holidays for me.  My own family is far away, and I've come to terms with the fact that I'm probably never going to spend an actual holiday with them again (even if they haven't).  On religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, I'm generally so exhausted by the time we're done with all the services that I don't even want to think about having dinner with a bunch of people.  And then there are holidays like Thanksgiving.  We don't have an extra worship service, but... it's right between Fall Craziness and Advent Insanity.  And I can squeeze out of it - whoa - two whole days off in a row.  These are not days that I wish to spend with people from church, or with anyone who has the potential to stress me out.  In this, I become the Thanksgiving Scrooge, hoarding my time and ruthlessly turning down well-intentioned invitations to gorge myself on turkey that someone else has prepared.

What I did for Thanksgiving this year:  Slept.  Slept more.  Made mashed potatoes.  Ate said potatoes.  Ate stuffing made by roommate.  Slept.  Watched movies.  Ate pie.  Sang karaoke.

Yes, it's true, I wasn't a total slug all day.  I dragged myself out of the house at about 10pm to sing karaoke.

Yesterday, I once again did a lot of sleeping, and eating of the mashed potatoes, since in grand Thanksgiving tradition I made about ten times what I actually needed.  And then I my roommate and I trekked to Syracuse to see Enter the Haggis.  In the Haggis world, we're experiencing cosmic shift.  They have a new drummer, after about ten years in the former configuration.  Many of the fans have a lot of "feelings" about this.  I like James (old drummer), but I'm not distraught about or personally offended by his decision to pursue another life path.  And I like this Bruce (new drummer) guy.  The old songs have taken on some new life since he came on board, and I think his style is consistent with where they seem to have been headed musically in the last couple of years.  He sets a heavier beat, less fancy, more driven.  I'm not sure what the Celtic traditionalists will think of it.  They already have strong opinions about the band moving away from rocked-up covers of trad tunes - a shift which means that I actually care about listening to this band, unlike the bazillion or so boring Celtic groups that play rocked-up trad tunes.  But since I lean toward the rock side of things, I'm a fan.

Anyway, that was my holiday.  Today I'm back to sort of working, as I have a bunch of stuff to get ready for tomorrow.  Tonight I have a solo gig, so I also need to figure out music to play for a bar full of people who will mostly want to hear country music.  Good times.      

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Pep Talk from Lemony Snicket

This is what I received in my inbox from the folks at NaNoWriMo this morning:

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it's nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies - what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one's entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient - the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours - not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they'd never understand it. Perhaps it's not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you'll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor's waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

--Lemony Snicket

I have something like 11,500 words to go.  Since I had originally planned to be in Canada today, I didn't schedule anything, and therefore it's going to be a big writing day.  I hope.  With any luck, I can hit my "green bar" by Friday.  Which I hear starts to be a "purple bar" after tomorrow, when the novels can be officially verified.  At some point, I'm also going to rip myself away from this computer and spend Thanksgiving Eve with some friends, so we'll see how far I can get by then.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Have I Mentioned Fidelia's Sisters?

I think there are about three or maybe four people reading this blog.  Blogs have gone out of fashion, and I haven't really advertised the fact that I've moved to a new blog.  I know of only one person who reads this blog who is not already a member of this organization, but I'm just going to put in a little plug for one of the things I do between Sundays.  I'm on the editorial board for an online journal called Fidelia's Sisters, which is a part of the Young Clergy Women Project.  I edit a column called "Christ and Creativity," which features the artistic pursuits of young clergywomen.

If you are a clergy woman under 40 years of age who engages in creative activity, please consider submitting poetry, pictures of your work, recordings, essays on creative process, etc.  We want to hear from you.  Submissions can be emailed to creativity.ycw@gmail.com.  End of plea.

Anyway, I had some confusion about the deadline for my article this month, even though our managing editor sends out very helpful emails with all the dates on them every month.  For some reason I thought I had another week before the fourth Tuesday of November.  Not so!  At about 2:00am, I realized that my deadline was today.  Did I have an article in the hopper and ready to go?  Not so much.

Hence, what you will find today is a submission from yours truly, about - what else? - my NaNo experience.  Because I'm obsessed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Look, it's a Widget!

The lovely folks over at NaNoWriMo have provided this handy dandy widget so that I (and you, you lucky people) can monitor my progress.  I am almost up to pace now, and I'm taking a big church of this holiday week to do some marathon writing.  This really is one of the strangest, most intense things I've ever done, and it's making me a bit of a lunatic.  But lunatics create great art!  Or so I've heard.  I'm wondering if I should try to do something along these lines with songwriting at some point, but I'm not sure I would survive or have any friends left at the end if I did.

Yesterday I went to NYC for a board meeting.  I got to hang out with a bunch of friends that I don't see very often, and we went out in Williamsburg and had a grand time over Gluhwein and assorted other tasty beverages. We stayed up too late talking, and I was excessively cranky today, and managed to tick off almost everyone else at the meeting.  Sweet.  But do you know what the most notable thing about this trip was?

I wrote something like 8,000 words between the train rides and my time in coffee shops before and after the meetings.

See?  I'm obnoxious.  I promise that after November, I'll write about something else, because hopefully then I'll return to my regularly scheduled life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And then I missed a day of NaNo writing...

...which leaves me, yet again, behind.  Tomorrow I'm off to a meeting in NYC, so hopefully I'll be able to get some writing done on the train.  In the meantime, I am going to record the choir singing for our new Living Nativity CD, since the old tape is scratchy and soon to disintegrate.  That is, if I can figure out how to make my recording equipment work with the church's peculiar microphones.  Yay, fun for me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

About this NaNoWriMo Thing...

It is giving me a serious case of insomnia.  Actually, it's giving me a serious case of falling into my natural sleep time, which is about 3 or 4 am when left to its own devices.  Or, in the case of last night, 5 am.  And that would be just peachy, except that the rest of the world seems to expect things to happen before noon.  Crummy, I say.

So, I'm crazy sleep deprived and in seven minutes I will start a nine-hour series of meetings.  On the upside, I passed the NaNo halfway mark at about 4:30 am.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Weekend, plus a little

Thinking back at last week, I realize that it was kind of weird - not just because I was doing things like making soup and cleaning my apartment, but because I actually had time to think about these things, let alone do them.  My work schedule goes in waves.  I had forgotten that, because the last wave of utterly chaotic busyness lasted about seven months.  The payoff of working ridiculous hours for months at a time is that you occasionally get a week or two in which you have time to sleep, clean, and make soup.  What a relief; now I'll have something to eat during the Advent and Christmas season when boiling water takes too much time.

On a related note, during those rare weeks when I actually do have a little free time, I tend to get a little irritated at insinuations that my life always has that level of flexibility.  But if you read my comment on the previous post, you probably already realized that.  But enough about that.

So, what have I been doing since Thursday?  Well, on Friday I worked from home.  It's evaluation season, so I have been reviewing the people I supervise, and also revisiting my own job description and my performance over the last year.  The pastoral staff here writes self-evaluations, which we then review together with the personnel committee.  I'm not really sure which I hate more: saying negative things about myself that point out my weaknesses, or saying positive things about myself that make me sound like a self-aggrandizing egomaniac.  So, I do some of both and hope it all evens out.  In the evening I went out to catch up with a friend I haven't seen in a while.  Then, through a variety of odd events that did not turn out in the least bit how they were supposed to, I ended up at a bar that has about a million beers, including my very favorite beer in the whole world, Traquair.  The only question I have about this place is, why didn't I know it existed like six years ago?  I have now joined the World Tour of Beers.

On Saturday I had band practice.  I haven't seen the members of my band in at least two months, as we are going through a bass player transition yet again.  The newest guy seems promising, though.  During the three plus a bit years that I have been in some incarnation of this band, we have had something like four guitar players and four bass players.  This is kind of disruptive to the band mojo.

I know this blog is about what happens between Sundays, but I just have to add a note here.  Sundays are exhausting.  It's like I forget this every week and don't fully expect the run-over-by-a-train feeling that inevitably comes at the end of that 12-14 hour day.  Luckily, I have found a new recovery mechanism: "The Walking Dead" on AMC.  I don't really do the whole zombie/horror thing most of the time, but I started watching because I have a bit of a thing for Norman Reedus (blame it on the Boondock Saints).  It's actually really well done, and I'm kind of hooked.  Be warned: do not watch this show if you can't handle gore.  They are not shy about showing blood and entrails, and there are some pretty disgusting scenes.

Monday is my day off, which this week meant that I used it to finish up my evaluation, work on the newsletter, and catch up on the NaNoWriMo, which I had been neglecting for about three days.  For those who are math-challenged, as I tend to be, when you're supposed to write 1,666 words a day, and you don't write for three days, on the fourth day you have almost 7,000 words to crank out.  On a positive note, my characters seem to be developing.  They have started doing things I don't expect.  For example, the group of friends who went to Mexico together, for what was supposed to be the one occasion of untarnished fun in a fairly depressing story, are now in a big fight.  Who knew?

On the agenda for today: meeting, writing for the newsletter, more meeting, trying to locate animals for our living nativity, another meeting with potential to blow up into great drama.  Fun!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Holy Domesticity, Batman!

Today I lost my mind.

I went to Walmart to buy Drano and a dog bed.  The old dog bed was thrown away last night in a flurry of bedroom cleaning.  Whoa, I have a floor!  Anyway, I went mostly for the dog bed, and figured I would pick up a couple of other necessity things while I was there.  That was a nice plan, except that apparently the greeter secretly misted me with some sort of psychotropic drug as I entered the store.

Stuffing was on sale in a display near the door.  This makes sense; Thanksgiving is coming up.  I am skipping the country to avoid Thanksgiving, but I do like stuffing.  Stuffing made me think of other winter comfort foods, which made me want soup.  First I was thinking of chicken soup, and I was standing in the produce aisle, so I started throwing celery, carrots, and onions into my cart.  Then I decided that what I really wanted was white borscht, which I cannot get unless I go to an Eastern European country or neighborhood in NYC or make it myself, so I bought a giant bag of potatoes - because clearly I need ten pounds of potatoes to make soup for just myself.  And of course I needed garlic, because, well, you always need garlic for something.

Then I passed through the meat aisle to get the chicken for the soup that I had first wanted to make but had given up in favor of the borscht.  But I got the chicken anyway, along with the kielbasa.  Once I made the borscht with ham, so I bought some ham because that just sounded good.  Turkey was on sale, so I stood in front of that for a while until I finally drew the line.  Somehow I ended up with the ingredients for both chicken soup and borscht, and then I remembered this fabulous beer cheese soup I had recently, and since I already had the potatoes and onions, it only made sense to buy four pounds of cheese, right?  And this was all before I even got to the dog beds.

The dog bed reminded me of the old dog bed which had smelled vaguely of skunk, which made me want new candles.  On the way to the candles, I passed the dishes, and remembered that my bowls are too shallow and annoy me when I eat soup, so I bought new bowls.  And a pair of earrings, just because.  No, that is not all, but it's getting embarrassing now.

I hate Walmart, but I spent more time there today than I had in a year, and came home with a ridiculous amount of food and other random stuff.  Most of it I needed, I guess, although not the earrings, and I probably didn't need to have three kinds of soup all at the same time.

However, it all fits with the Week of Domesticity that I seem to be having.  You see, normally I am not such a neat person.  It's not a priority.  Mail piles up on my coffee table, dishes go unwashed for a few days, and my clothes often just move between the suitcase and the hamper with occasional stops on the floor as I fling them around in search of what I want to wear.

This week I have cleaned my living room and bedroom, purged a bunch of crap that I haven't looked at in years but keep moving from place to place with me "just in case," reorganized the kitchen cupboards, and made mass quantities of soup - some of which I actually labeled and froze for later.  Crazy.  Oh, and I baked brownies.  I cannot even tell you the last time I baked something, even from a mix, which these were.  I don't really measure, which works much better with soup than with baked goods.

It occurred to me as I sat on my kitchen floor, surrounded in pots and pans and plastic food containers, that I might actually be losing my mind.  This person with precise stacks of Rubbermaid is so not me.

Except that it kind of is, sometimes.  This is what I do when I'm trying to clean out other areas of my life: I clean my house.  This is what I do when I'm trying to pull back and take care of myself: I cook absurd amounts of my own personal comfort foods.  Dusting and tossing out things I don't need helps me put my thoughts in order.  Cooking big pots of soup makes me feel calm and prepared for what might be coming.  I think that as I write this wacky novel, a lot of things are coming out of me, and I suspect this domestic streak is my weird way of processing it.  I'm so glad soup freezes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today I Feel...

Every week with my youth groups, I do some sort of check-in exercise to get a sense of how they're doing.  This week we had a sheet of paper that had several faces and descriptions on it, and began with the sentence, "I'll tell you how my day was."  You had to choose a description, like "Late Night News," "Fireworks Display," "Boring Lecture," or "Bible Epic."  The whole point of these kinds of things is to get people talking about how they feel when they wouldn't necessarily just pop out the real words to express their emotions.

I do not need to circle a face to know how I feel, however.  Today I feel resentful and unappreciated.  I think it's probably part of the deal that ministers aren't supposed to be irritated about money, but today, I am irritated.  We're also not supposed to get frustrated when people step on our authority, since we're servants and all that, but I am frustrated.  This being the internet, it's wiser if I don't get specific about what I mean by either of these things, but I am annoyed.

I have tentatively titled my NaNoWriMo effort The Incredible Vanishing Man and Other Circus Freaks.  It's a bitter title, and I feel like today might see some progress in the angry writing area.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Long Days

Once again I have made it to a Tuesday barely realizing that I had a Monday.  I did, in all fairness, sleep in quite late yesterday, but then had a big fundraising banquet in the evening.  Part of me wishes that I could see something like that banquet as Not Work.  I realize that most of the people there are not working.  However, this banquet is the sort of event where I see a ton of people from my church and herds of other ministers.  I have to be "on."  This is not time off.  And yet, it walks that fine line on which I feel kind of bad for counting it as work.  Although I'm not really sure where this score sheet is on which I tally my working hours.

I have some guilt issues, you see, when it comes to work.  No matter how many times I hear about pastoral self-care, I still have this annoying voice in my head that tells me that I'm not being an effective minister if I'm not working.  All.  The.  Time.  As a single person, I have only my dog to tell me that's ridiculous and demand my attention, and she's entirely too easy to just take along to the office.  All I know is that I hear other ministers complain all the time about how much they work.  And then I figure out from other things they say how much time they spend not working, and how much flexibility they have, and then I get really annoyed at them - which compels me to work more so that I can be absolutely sure I am not like them.

You see, I could complain that today is going to be a really long day.  In fact, at some point today, I probably will complain.  It's a late meeting night.  I will be tired and irritable, because by the end of today, I will have worked at least twelve hours, and probably more.  But the thing I have to remember is that my congregants who will be at these meetings tonight have been working all day, too.  They went to work earlier than I did.  They might have gotten to go home for dinner, but then they are back, doing the work of the church, and unlike me, not being paid for it.

I fully realize that I have some rather unbalancing workaholic tendencies.  I'm working on it.  But it strikes me as I go into this very long day that, even though it will indeed be long, I just don't have a lot of room to whine about it.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Writing an Ending

So, I'm working on this cathartic novel for NaNoWriMo which, in part, is about the stupid things men do - mostly the stupid things they've done to me, with some composite information added from the stupid things they've done to my friends and the stupid things I can, with very little trouble, imagine them doing.

I feel like I need to add a disclaimer here: I do not hate men.  I like them, and that's how I get myself into situations in which they can do stupid things to me.  I don't think men as a whole are stupid.  I do think they frequently do stupid things that are a different sort of stupid than the stupid things women often do, which are also plentiful.

That said, in my novel, there are a lot of men doing stupid things.  They say art imitates life, so there you go.  My heart has been having the hell steadily beat out of it for the last three years or so, and naturally, that is coming out in my so-called art.  The problem with the novel is that I need to figure out how it is going to end.  I wish for my main character to have a more or less happy ending, because otherwise I will just depress myself.  However, I have not decided what sort of happy this should be.  After enduring all the stupidity, should she finally get the guy who will be less stupid to her?  Should she find happiness within herself and desert the idea of partnership with a male of the species?  Should our heroine ride off into the sunset alone or with company?  I have no idea.

This is the point at which I have to keep telling myself, "The main character is not you.  She is fictional.  You are not writing your own future."  This is the problem with writing a cathartic novel.  I do feel to some degree like I'm writing my own future, or at least saying something about what I hope my future will be.  And I don't really want to write this blow-off-all-men-forever ending, because what does that mean in terms of what is going on inside of me?  Nor do I want to write the happy couple at the altar ending, because, first of all, just ew, and second, that doesn't feel much like reality to me.  I'm not at a place where I can write that with any authenticity at all.  My last trek down Attempted Relationship Road has left me so broken that I can't imagine trusting my own judgment or another person enough to ever try another relationship.

Fortunately, I have about 40,000 words left to figure this out, at least for the main character.  I think it may take a little longer for me.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Have a Short Attention Ooh, Look, Shiny!

Keeping my focus on anything for much longer than fifteen minutes is generally a challenge.  This is one reason why I'm good at working with junior high students.  Fortunately, I have a job that suits my flighty and easily bored tendencies, and that allows me to dabble and try things out and call it work.  Every day is a new adventure around here.

Earlier this week, for example, I spent a day teaching five sections of high school history classes.  That's five hours of lecturing/desperately trying to yank discussion out of them about the political and social implications of the Reformation.  I was introduced as an "expert," which I believe is a vast exaggeration bordering on simple falsehood.  I took a church history course in seminary but remember very little of it.  I became interested in this particular topic when I traveled to Scotland and started thinking of it as actual events that happened to real people, and I've been reading about that time period ever since.  Expert, not so much.  However, I can now repeat that lecture by heart, in case anyone needs a crash course.  It was great fun, although I had no voice by the end.

This blog post is a good example of my short attention span.  Remember how yesterday I said I was going to focus on NaNoWriMo?  Well, here I am, and that should tell you something about how well it's going.  

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I know, I just started this blog, and I intended to be disciplined about it, but...I have a short attention span.  I also discovered that this is NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge to write an entire 50,000 word (roughly 175 page) novel during the month of November.  So, I have turned some of my energy toward writing a cathartic novel featuring women clergy, the men who do stupid things to them, and a lot of ridiculous wedding stories.  Write what you know, right?  I don't expect that it will be any good, but it's certainly entertaining me.  More importantly, it's a way to force myself into writing something of substantial length, which is something I've always wanted to do but have never managed.  The excuse I usually give for that is time, but the truth is that I'm scared - scared to invest myself into a book and then have it turn out to be really bad.  NaNoWriMo takes away some of my perfectionist anxiety, because it's supposed to be kind of bad.  The point is not to produce the perfect novel. The point is to write - to write a lot of crap, frankly, but to come out at the end with something that produces some usable ideas and tells you that yes, you can actually write an entire novel.

So, in between meetings, continuing education events, and teaching five sections of high school history classes about the political and social implications of the Reformation (which is how I spent yesterday), I am frantically writing a novel.  I think it must be the right decision, because it's been keeping me up at night.  I'll try to keep checking in here, but I have 5,000 words down and 45,000 to go.  There are also a couple of bets riding on this novel.  One of my colleagues bet me $100 that I can't do it, so of course now I must.  A couple of other people who were offended on my behalf said they'd donate $100 to the church if I finished.  There will be a party to check the word count and celebrate my victory.

Look at all these words I've wasted here.  Off to WriMo!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Past Is Always With You

I can live with a really crazy schedule for a good couple of months and be fine, but when I finally stop moving, my body and brain pretty much collapse.  I was in collapse mode yesterday, as I finally had an actual entire day off with no meetings or urgent work demanding my attention.  When I am in collapse mode, I do things like stay in my pajamas all day and barely move from the couch.  I'm not sure it's the most productive or even the most restful way to spend a day, but sometimes it's all I can do.

I counted yesterday a really fruitful day off because I actually turned on my computer, which I sometimes tend to avoid when I am in collapse mode.  Before you get too excited, this is not to give the impression that I actually did work on my computer.  I did sort through my inbox a bit, but mostly I puttered on Facebook.

Now, I have a lot of friends on FB, but I don't actually expect most of those 610 people to communicate with me.  Accepting friend requests is a courtesy, and also the contemporary version of an address book.  I like to know that if I need to get in touch with these people from the various times and places of my life, I can.  But I'm always surprised when people I haven't talked to in years actually use the technology to reconnect.

That said, a friend from college has recently started chatting with me on FB, and it's been good.  Odd, in the way of people who haven't talked in seven years or so, but good.  He and his wife (another college friend) came to my ordination, which seems like forever ago, which was cool, but we haven't been in touch since then.  They now live and go to church with a bunch of our mutual acquaintances, most of whom I haven't had any contact with since I graduated in 1999.

These are people from my short-lived fundagelical phase.  Some of them were very close friends of mine.  They were also some of the most judgmental people I've ever met.  They taught me how to read the Bible and pray, how to value and strive toward community.  They also taught me my first real lessons in rejection and estrangement.  We had some very good times.  By the end, things were not good.  My memories of them are so very mixed that, when they came up in conversation, I felt as shaken as if I were remembering one of those passionate but disastrous romantic relationships that are supposed to forever affect you deeply.

Clearly, these people are still with me.  When he asked what he should report back to them, about how and what I'm doing these days, my snarky side came out.  "You can tell them I'm exactly the horror they expected I would become.  I'm a liberal female pastor who borders on universalist and hangs out with the gays."  And then I thought, wow, I'm still a little bitter.  He answered me equally sarcastically.

"So, you're a nominal believer, still fighting against God's will for women to be submissive because of your crazy feminist tendencies, endorsing sin and heresy."  Pretty much.  This is the kind of language they threw at me back in college, except there would have been some mention of hell involved.  My bitterness is not without cause.

We got to talking about churches, comparing his small, independent house church to my large-ish, denominational church.  I have traveled pretty far from my evangelical days.  But then I saw something I had just typed: the phrase, "really get into the Word together."  Not exactly language that I use every day now.  Apparently, no matter how far I think I've gone, that part of my life is still with me.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Whiplash Weekends

My last couple of weekends have been kind of frenetic.  This Saturday, I had a funeral, a swanky fundraising dinner for a center for Muslim-Christian relations, and the Halloween show of a band that I try to see as often as possible.  This involved a rapid clothing change in the bathroom after the dinner, followed by my attempt to slip out the door without being seen by the visiting dignitaries in my sparkling red fringed flapper dress.  Then I got to my car...and realized that I had forgotten one part of the costume.  As I didn't really want to sneak through the lobby again, I decided to make the addition in the car.  Note to self: do not attempt to put on fishnet stockings in a confined space.

I cannot overestimate the value of a single pair of shoes that can go with three outfits in one day, especially when one of the outfits is a flapper costume.  My go-to shoes are black double-strap Mary Janes with a sturdy, but not clunky, heel.  Not exciting, but cute enough, comfortable, and above all, versatile.  I've become very good at dressing for a variety of occasions, and bringing along a couple of extra pieces that I can change so that I can go from board meeting to food pantry to hospital to youth group, but really, it's all about the shoes - shoes that can start with a funeral and, thirteen hours later, still be going strong.

Four of those hours were spent dancing and jumping around at the concert, and after that I found myself standing on the sidewalk outside, catching up with one of the guys in the band.  I vaguely remember seeing them for the first time, not knowing any of them, and certainly not being known by them.  At the second show,  I accidentally got acquainted with the bassist.  The story of how I really got to know the rest of the band will have to wait for another post.  But I digress.

I was telling the aforementioned member of the band about my day, when he observed that I have a very strange life - one where I have to turn it on and off as quickly as I can make a costume change.  It's true; I shift not only clothing but personae several times a day.  I'm always me (probably more so than some people would like), but Funeral Me, Professional Networking Me, and Party Me are distinctly different.  I know this is true for almost everyone, that no one has a single face that applies to every situation, that we all vary ourselves according to the occasion and the people involved.  But it seems to me that ministers do it even more frequently than most, especially those of us who have parts of our lives that are completely unrelated to church.

Authenticity is one of my core values, and I would never advocate "faking it."  But...sometimes you just have to pull out the piece of yourself that fits the needs of the situation, whether you feel it in that moment or not.  The longer I'm in ministry, the more I realize that in order to serve others, I have to be able to access various parts of myself on cue.  I carry extra clothing and accessories as a sort of professional tool kit, but they're only the outer accompaniment to the inner tools that make the real shifts.

When I was newly ordained, I probably would have thought that this kind of approach was horribly fake and fragmented.  I spent a long time rejecting any way of doing ministry that seemed less than purely authentic.  Of course, that got me in trouble at times, as Cranky Me had (has) a tendency to come out when Compassionate Me was needed.  Seven years in, I realize that being able to put on different aspects of myself is a crucial skill in this vocation.  And the funny thing is, the more I put on the pieces of myself that are needed, the more they become integrated into who I am as a whole.  The more I wear the good parts of myself, the more they begin to function across all of the events and situations in my life - the more they feel authentically me.

A year ago, I bought those shoes for a particular outfit, for a particular night.  Now they go almost everywhere.  It is my hope that the best parts of me come to be worn as often.