It’s really felt like fall this week. A coolness is seeping in, and though I’m sure we’ll have some more warm days, I find myself reaching for the blankets and long sleeves much more. It’s welcome to me–after a while my body longs for something it hasn’t felt in a while. It wants to know the feeling of being warmed on a cold day by warm clothes, fire, even heat from an air duct. I know in about 3 or 4 months, I’ll be longing for that feeling of heat all around, the exposure of skin to the air, the feeling of submerging in cool water, but for now, I want to walk into a small restaurant on a cool, gray day and order a warm drink. I’m ready to bundle up and draw near to something warm and relax.
This week, I had two big deadlines, and spent a lot of time getting work ready to turn in. I’m much better at deadlines than I used to be. I rarely find myself staying up later than normal. I pace myself and sometimes work until the last minute, but don’t do myself bodily harm in the process like I would have in college or even 5 years ago working at camp. I’m glad I got out of that. I still see people who are far removed from college put off work in this way, especially in the church work I’ve been around. I’ll see youth directors and camp planners putting all their work off and staying up until the morning hours planning some kind of activity or talk to give, like you would do your freshman year before a final exam. I think I could still pull that off, but that sort of attitude becomes a life style if you aren’t careful, and I see that really hurting a lot of our church workers, draining them.
I laugh to myself when someone says they work better when they are up against a deadline. My answer is, “no, you don’t work better, you just work.” I can think of very little I’ve produced at the 11th hour that was better than something I started long before and had time to add layers too, time to sit with and think about. The problem here is motivation. It’s hard to get motivated when you don’t fee like you have to do it. I think the issue is how we look at our tasks. If we look at it as something we have to do, the task is crappy from the beginning. Of course you put that off. I think the key is to look at the task in a more positive light–not as a task. Here’s a chance to do something great, to change a life, to have your voice heard.
I had a lot of trouble looking at my assignments this way this week. I don’t know why. I was writing poetry, and planning camp lessons–two things I love to do, two things I think I’m pretty good at. And yet they felt like these monumental tasks. Why did this happen? I began to think I wasn’t good at these things, that I would leave this up to the last minute and ultimately I would produce some crap. I totally forgot that I look at what’s put out regularly and know it can be better. I forget that I’ve made things before that were powerful. How easy to forget when a deadline becomes a challenge, and when a challenge becomes intimidating. I managed to trust myself enough to just do the work, to trust my abilities, that I’ve been there before.
And, I did not stay up super late any nights. I think we should be able to do everything that’s important in a normal day under most circumstances, otherwise, we’re doing to much and need to lose some stuff. At this point in my life, there are only a few things that should warrant staying up past normal bed time:
-A good conversation with an old friend who’s come to visit.
-Being there for someone in need.
-Setting out on an epic trip.
-Celebrating something that rarely happens.
-Witnessing an astronomical event.
This week, there was an astronomical event, but I didn’t have to say up for it, because it happened in my first hour of work at the radio station. A lunar eclipse happened between 4:30am and about 6am, which falls perfectly into when I leave to walk to work and when I’m in my first hour pulling stories for the morning news cast. It started out just looking like the moon was changing phases. It went from full to half to new in the course of about an hour, but this was a weird new moon. As it closed in on full eclipse, it turned sort of red and the darkness swirled around like water in a jar in front of dim light. It was eerie, and very cool to watch.
I’ve thought about the planets since I was a young kid, obsessed with science, and I wonder what it’s like to see what you would see on these places. What it would look like if we could stand on Venus and see the sulfuric acid rains and clouds that nearly black out the sun. What would it be like to float in the middle of Jupiter’s giant red storm, big enough to swallow the entire Earth? While I was looking at the moon changing, anyone standing on the lunar surface would see the Earth moving in front of the Sun, completely blocking it out. If you could stand on the moon without a space suit, you would probably feel it get much colder. It would go dark, and you’d only see a sheen of light going to other places in the solar system. Light traveling everywhere, but to you.
I traveled to Lakeshore this week for a meeting about curriculum I had helped write for confirmation retreats. This is a time when kids are learning about what it means to be a church with the hopes they will decide they want to be a part of it. More and more, people are deciding they don’t want to be part of the church, and in many ways, I understand that. Too often, I think, the church tries to be something it isn’t that good at: a concert, a social club, a YMCA. When membership declines, the answer for many have been to add more programs, have better music, more activities–just do more. Trouble with all that is that people already have too much to do (which I think is part of the problem). I think it’s becoming more clear to people that these answers aren’t working for everyone, especially the ones the church hopes will join or return. When we wrote this curriculum, we hoped we’d help kids fall in love with the things that the church has been so good at–offering a connection to something bigger than yourself, creating a community of acceptance and safety. Coming together to make changes that give the poor and neglected the love they’ve been missing, not just a place that’s decent enough at entertaining and eases our guilty conscience or gives us a feeling of moral high ground.
I was reminded of my passion for that, in this time of transition for me, when I’m trying to chart my path for this part of my journey. I have such a beautiful vision of what life and the art I make could be, that sometimes I get frustrated when it isn’t that way, when I take too long, when I doubt whether I can do it or not. After the curriculum meeting ended, I went out to my land to walk the trail I’ve begun, and to spend time in this space I love so much. The fall prairie grass was tall and this reddish color. There were black-eyed-susans everywhere and these cottony stalks. I pulled them to make a bouquet to bring home to Allyson and keep on our dining table. If I walked out into that grass, I could find myself lost in it, it could completely cover me. I wanted to spend days there watching it bob in the wind. In the midst of that, there is a much bigger world, even greater, and even more, surrounding that big world. It gets so big that it might never end.