Friday, January 22, 2010

S.O.S. Trapped in a Gray Box

I find myself in a gray box. Outside the box, the world waits for me. It waits for my contributions, my skills, and my gifts but I can't seem to leave the box.

Lately I seem to be just pacing and swaying in place, nearly paralyzed by my inability to move forward with any plans or goals. Ha! What plans and goals? A million years ago I knew what I wanted but today I feel completely uncertain of where I want to go, what I want to accomplish and even who I am. Since completing my doctorate, I've been demoralized and frozen, completely disgusted with my inability to grasp onto any ideas that would propel me forward.

I suppose part of it is that the momentum of my graduate work finally dumped me into a reality that I had not fully anticipated. I have a useless degree, a dead-end teaching job, and no ambition. (What happened to my ambition? I used to have loads of ambition.) About two years have passed since graduation and I just continue teaching despite the fact that it gets me nowhere.

Most troubling of all is my sense that I have wandered away from my calling, that Voice that beckons, chides, and challenges me toward my mission. Did I take a wrong turn somewhere? All the old tools that used to help magnify that Voice seem to have lost their power. I strain to hear but the Voice is all but stilled.

And this writing sucks. Sucks. I can't even do this anymore. I don't know how many times I've tried to write a blog entry only to abandon it partially completed. I'm bored and discouraged, and disappointed and increasingly pointless as a human being. A waste of education. A waste of time. A waste of sentiment. A waste of skin.

But I do have faith- just a very little held in reserve. If I did not have this tiny fragment of faith, I would not write this entry and I would not push the publish button. I know that while this is poorly written, self-pitying, irrelevant crap, someone will read it and will offer some small nudge. Perhaps there is a little tear in a corner of this gray box. Perhaps I will see the light and move toward it. And so now I push the publish button and wait....

Friday, January 15, 2010

Guest Piece by my Daughter: "Kill the War not the Person"

Yesterday on our way to the grocery store, my little girl got out her notebook and wrote a short speech. She asked that I put it on my blog as a message for the soldiers. It is a simple message about personal responsibility for war which reminded me strongly of Universal Soldier, a song my parents used to play when we were kids. My father was an MP during the Vietnam War. He entered the Air Force full of machismo and war lust but soon found himself protesting the war and refusing to fight. His hard-won pacifism led him to the ministry and was a dominant philosophy of my childhood. It meant not only that we do not glorify war or choose to serve in the military but that we work hard to eliminate domestic and international injustice that leads to violence. We don't have a draft anymore but we do have too many young men and women disadvantaged by social, economic and educational inequality who find themselves serving in the military because they feel they have no other good options. My father has worked hard during his life, first as a clergyman and then as a community college professor, to empower young people to become thinkers rather than fighters- to fight injustice with words, and wit, and compassion rather than with weapons. I think he will be proud of his granddaughter's following statement.

"Do you believe in a God or Goddess? Do you think that he or she would want you to kill one another? Would you want to kill your brother or sister? If you don't want to kill, don't. Please stop the war now for the sake of the world."

Universal Soldier

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Miracle of Epiphany Eve

Tonight, I secure the velcro fastening of my red and blue hat under my chin and shrug into on my hooded maroon coat. Sitting on the steps, I pull on my boots and two pairs of gloves and zip up a second coat (a bright orange affair with reflective tape)over the first before clipping the leash to the dog's collar. It's cold outside and I've given up looking cute and feminine. So what if I waddle around like an over-bundled child in a snowsuit? My husband looks indulgently at my multi-colored, toddler-esque form as he pulls on just the normal amount of grown-up outerwear and we head out the door with the dog for her evening walk.

Outside the temperature has warmed to the low twenties but the wind still flicks icy snow against our faces as we walk down the road to Snicker's favorite pit stop down the road and across the bridge near the overgrown burdock plant. The whole world is mantled and muffled in fresh snow. Our familiar landscape is transformed. Even the burdock plant takes on a sacred, otherworldly appearance. It also looks delicious, as though someone coated it thickly with vanilla frosting. I tell my husband this but say little else. Usually, I'm much more chatty on these walks but tonight feels joyfully somber. There is something uncanny in the silence and in the pearlescent glow of the deep snow under the street lamp. When we speak, we keep our voices low. Otherwise, there is only the sound of the dog's snuffling nose as she burrows playfully in the snow and the muffled crunch of our boots on the snow-covered pavement.

As we turn back to the house, I see movement in the woods on the opposite side of the street. The dog tenses and brays just once, long and low, as five deer emerge single-file from the woods. They stop in the street under the street lamp on the opposite side of the bridge and gaze at us for a long enchanted moment before they leap over the guard rail and into our yard, run down our sledding hill by the pig pen and across the lawn to the creek and woods. It was all over in less than a minute but if I ever I have achieved childlike wonder in my adult life, it was in that minute. "Wasn't that cool?!" I keep asking my husband breathlessly, "Wasn't that amazing?!"

We share the dog's curiosity about the slender hoof prints in the snow and even consider following them to the creek but we have responsibilities in the house and the hour is already late. So we continue to the front door past the snow-covered holly bushes. Our children greet us on the front porch, sticking just their heads out the door so that they appear like a rosy-cheeked, smiling-eyed totem pole magically manifested in the streaming golden light from the front hall. Children cast their own spells and I am caught up again in their laughter and warmth. But even in the midst of sending little ones to brush their teeth and fussing with the ordinary task of putting away the clutter of winter garb, part of me is still caught up in the memory of the deers' gaze. Indeed, I am so enraptured and absent-minded that I do not at first notice that my husband had stopped by the car to retrieve the children's Epiphany candy. I am reminded when he looks at me meaningfully, and I notice that he has tucked his armload of sweets awkwardly under his coat to hide the surprise.

Tonight is the last night of Christmas. Before they go to bed, the children set out their shoes for the Wise Men and La Befana to fill with treats. La Befana is dear to children and children are dear to her. Long ago, she intended to join the Wise Men in their quest for the Holy Child, but she was so busy with her housework that she missed her opportunity. Today, she makes up for lost time as she follows the perpetual footsteps of the Magi as they travel from home to home in their quest to honor the Holy Child within the hearts of all children who welcome them. She flies behind them on her broomstick to fill the children's shoes with candy, a sweetness for their journey, a blessing for the divinity within each human child.

I too long to find the Holy Child. I too have allowed my housework and study, my fussing and worry to delay my quest. "Soon," I promise myself. "When these papers are graded. When these bills are paid. When these floors are swept." But there are always more papers to grade, more bills to be paid, more floors to be swept. "Soon," I keep promising even as I look up from my broom to find that the wise men have left me behind.

But not tonight. Tonight is a night of Deepest Magick. It is a night of Epiphany and Revelation. It is the night when Gods and Humanity may rebind the frayed edges that Reason relentlessly teases apart. When those deer stood looking at me in the liquid light of a gathering snow storm, I felt my own soul rebound within me. At my husband's side, in the quiet night, I wondered if I could bear the weight of a joy allowed to flower fully rather than nipped in the bud before it has the chance to bend the tender stalk. "Soon," I say to myself, "this will be over and I'll be more sad than before. As beautiful as this is, as connected and whole as I feel, all of this will pass and there is nothing any of us can do about it."

"Hush," a voice answers me. "You are alive right now. Be alive. Be glad. Eternity lives in a moment."