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.
Well, what you see is what you get. I'm at a point in life where it's not worth the energy to try to maintain illusions - for others or for myself. It looks like some of the some-day-I-will-accomplish-that sorts of things may not come to fruition, but I'm still busy doing work that seems useful, enjoying colleagues and friends, and learning how to do new things with computers. I love it when you comment and introduce yourselves!