Friday, July 3, 2009

Many Blogs - Many Roads Not Taken


(Click picture to enlarge.)

I stayed up too late last night roaming through Blogistan, especially checking out quakerblogs (and more quakerblogs listed on quakerblogs). This morning, after dreams that touched on a couple of times / people long past, I made a connection: I seem to be looking for examples of lives lived along the roads not taken (by me), or only partially taken. What would my life look like if . . .

. . . I had gone into ministry-related work (hospice chaplain? spiritual direction? retreat organizing?) after theological study?

. . . I had been more single-minded and finished my academic work in a timely way, allowing for a full-time college-teaching job?

. . . I had stuck with the writing thing, made all the sacrifices necessary to turn it into my career (as one character in my last-night's dream did - going every day to write in a small rented room, living on next to nothing for those early years)?

. . . I had moved from personal dreamwork to train as a Jungian therapist, maybe doing sand-tray and dream therapy?

Throughout all the choices, and indeed through the choices I have lived, there has been the choice offered to turn toward The-Divine-However-It-Manifests (and it/Thou/they manifest[s] differently through time) in a more disciplined way, or to continue my pattern of off-and-on attention to that dimension.

The quakerblogs are a reminder of this constant option of a more disciplined spiritual path, as these blogs represent many various public statements of putting the religious / spiritual life at the center of attention. My first attempt at a blog was along these lines, but it didn't end up seeming - well - completely honest. This blog, with its quip of a title (grabbed out of the air when I sat down one day to start writing without over-thinking things), suits me better, I think. I can't sustain the tone needed for a true quakerblog, though I reserve the option of doing serious reflection whenever I want to.

Now, I need to say, that most of the possible paths I mentioned have had at least some realization in my adult life.

I managed to do some serious writing and even published a bit of it - and there's still an opportunity to reconnect with old writer friends with the ongoing Women Poets and Writers of the Twin Cities (described here);

I was a part of a planning group for several years organizing retreats for the (now dormant) Spiritual Nurture program of Northern Yearly Meeting (the picture at the head of this blog came from one of our retreats) -and I'm part of two ongoing small spiritual nurture groups which meet at least monthly for mutual support and shared worship;

I have been teaching as an adjunct instructor in Religious Studies (in a different system from my "day job"), one or two classes per year, eclectic classes that keep me reading and thinking about emerging forms of spiritual expression and the varieties of spiritual development in real lives (my students astonish and humble me with their accounts of challenge and growth and miracles). These courses allow me to create temporary nurturing communities where students, most in mid-life, can explore ways of thinking about religion and spirituality, and areas to explore for their own practice. I am incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity, and as a very part-time instructor, I'm free from most of the academic politics of the institution.

It's not that I hate the "day job" working in student services at the University, but it takes most of my availabable energy, leaving me pretty tired a lot of the time, and unable to do justice to the other dimensions of my life. That's also partly my own fault for not being a good enough steward of my own time and physical condition, but I have gotten much better at that, too, over the years. It's also, frankly, because much of the work I do every day - which I believe I do well - is not work that draws on my core strengths. But then, much of it is.

Part of the fatigue comes from being an introvert surrounded by people every day; part of it comes from many hours facing a computer moniter; part of it is (oh heck) the fruits of not being in my 30s or 40s any more. Part of it is related to some health conditions which don't bother me unless I overdo it (which I've been doing recently).

Fortunately, reading many blogs also reveals to me this secret about life: even those lives lived along the paths I've not fully walked look pretty much like mine, in the main: daily decisions, challenges related to family and friends, the tug between the outward demands of the world and the inward motion of the spirit. It's always a rebalancing act. AND - I can do somewhat better, perhaps by dedicating at least a bit of each day to meditation and exercise.

Enjoy your holiday, folks! I'm going to experiment with my "fireworks" setting on my little camera.

13 comments:

Minka said...

You cannot take every path. For every path taken there will be others missed out. That's life. Choices. I'm sure you would have missed something good if you had tried to do all the things mentioned above.

Mel said...

What a perfect post -- thank you -- I've been looking back on my many 'roads' this last while too and wondering.....

....but I keep coming back to the faith that it is as it is meant to be -- and not in a defeatist way, but in a calm and accepting way.

It's just in my nature to chafe against perceived restraint or confinement so I find myself struggling sometimes to take those deep, cleansing breaths and releasing the resistance....

thanks again...it seems I am finding great wisdoms in BlogLand these last few days...

xo

Laoch of Chicago said...

I think it is best to focus on the future. There is a Chinese saying, "The past is dead," which I think is apt. The only thing you can control is how you react to the future so you might as well focus on that.

Pop and Ice said...

My hubby is a lot like you - wondering if he had done this or that, how his life would be, and how he wished he did this or that. And I'm all - whatever - I can't remember what I was doing 5 minutes ago much less have angst over it! But I hope to come to a more contemplative point in my life - perhaps when my kids are on their own? - but that's just eternally postponing what needs to started now. I really just know that I'm not introspective and go with it.

Madame DeFarge said...

I found this rather thought provoking. I do wonder about my 'roads not taken' too and wonder if I'd have been happier or more successful if I'd followed them. On reflection, I doubt it, but I should try to be happier with what I have in the here and now.

ellen abbott said...

No matter what path you chose, would choose, probably you would still sit back and reflect on 'what if'. Life is what we make of it, what we see in it. You know that old 'glass half empty or half full'. I chose to live without the day job but that too is full of problems and wishes. And I think having a spiritual base, an awareness is good, but I think we incarnate here to be human, no?

Reya Mellicker said...

What a beautiful, thoughtful post. I'm an extreme introvert, too. I love people but being around them wears me out.

Like you I've come to the conclusion that every life is more or less like every other life. The point is to decide, every day, to be compassionate, light-hearted, open minded.

You know the physicists believe that all alternatives are actual universes that co-exist next to this shared universe. So you're probably following all those paths right now. I would love to do some sand tray work with you. Maybe I'll take one big step to the left and join you in that reality.

Looking forward to fireworks pics!

Mary Ellen said...

Thanks for thoughtful comments! I am (mostly) at peace with my choices, and generally looking forward rather than backward. Some of the fun of blogging is visiting lives that represent some of those other possibilities, and feeling I have something in common with them. Once I had an insight that no talent is ever "wasted" - it just goes back into the compost pile for other lives to draw on. So my kids are doing very creative things, which could be part of that.

Kim said...

This was a fascinating post, and so were the comments. I could easily picture you in all of the scenarios you listed. You've still got a lot of years left--kids are on their way--I wonder how the next decades will take shape?

Eco Yogini said...

hm- I agree, being surrounded by people all day, or having to deal with people all day- although important (as we are social beings!) can be draining.
some days, even though I may have only had two clients and one meeting, if that meeting was extremely emotional, tense or involved I will be zonked for the rest of the day-week...

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

First time here, but I connected so much with a lot of what you wrote. I'm 51, a teacher, and I try to carve out a little time each day for many of the things you mention.

shoreacres said...

When I think back over my life, I'm astonished by the variety of experiences - three careers, two continents, five states, married and no-longer-married, academic and blue collar - and I can't help but ponder how different my life has been from my mothers.

It was expected, in her day, that the path begun would be the path ended. Any deviation was considered a "waste", or "irresponsible". And to turn "back" - to choose less money or less prestige rather than continued forward progress, was simply unthinkable.

In fact, I can divide my 62 years into about seven "lives", and none of them were precisely planned. One thing led to another and soon I was saying (again), "Oh, look! Who would have expected this?"

That's why I look forward to the next 20 or so years I imagine I have left. I simply wouldn't even begin to predict where I'll end - and that's just the way I like it.

Cam said...

I feel like I have lived so many different lives in this lifetime, so many different roads taken. I have some 'wonders' but no regrets at all.

I wanted to mention to you, I once took this long test on my religious beliefs to identify which religion I am suited best for based on their individual criteria. My result was Quaker. Second place went to Buddhism. And, third was Unitarian Universalism. I've always found this so interesting!

I'm at a crossroads in my own life (career wise), and I'm not sure about which path to take. I'm exploring all the options right now. I look forward to seeing what comes next for all of us in this sisterhood of bloggers...