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Posts Tagged ‘melancholy’

is my favourite time of year.  It’s more work than Christmas…a LOT more work, and yet I feel a great sense of awe during this time.

My tradition has been to preside 10 services over 8 days.  Many think I’m nuts.  Some colleagues think I’m showing off or flaunting my piety, but it isn’t any of those things.  My Holy Week journey is intensely personal.  I suspect I would follow these services whether or not I was in a congregation.  It is something that I feel I ‘must’ do during Holy Week.

Last year was bittersweet as I knew I was in my last year with the congregation.  I had no idea where I was going, but I knew it would not be there.  It made the readings about death that much more poignant and made the Alleluia’s of Easter Day that much more bittersweet.

Now I have moved across the country.  I’m in a new province, in a new town, in a new house, in a new congregation.  They have not experienced anything like this before, and it’s been eye opening in many ways, for both of us.

Palm Sunday traditionally involves the Good Friday gospel.  In fact it’s referred to as the Sunday of the Passion with the Liturgy of the Palms.  I don’t like that.  So I separate them.  In my opinion, when you’re covering that much theological ground in an hour long service, you’re going to get whiplash.

Palm Sunday is about the “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem.  It’s about waving weeds in the air and shouting “Hosanna” to the one the poor knew was King…an act of defiance to the one (Herod) who was self-proclaimed King.  It’s about Jesus saying “here I am!  You want me, come and get me!” to the authorities.    It’s a nose-thumbing at the establishment of the day.

Holy Monday is the Stations of the Cross – 14 stations that are hung around the Church and we gather to retrace Jesus last footsteps from his trial before Pilate, to the three falls, seeing the women of Jerusalem, facing his devastated mother, being nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb…it’s emotional, it’s turbulent and it prepares us by helping put things in perspective.

Holy Tuesday is Tenebrae – service of shadows in which we light seven candles and place them on the altar.  No other altar lights are used.  The lighting in the Church is subdued and we have time for prayer, reflection and dialogue.  The question is asked “What if Jesus had said no” and we allow time to sit in the realisation that Jesus sacrifice was a gift.  When in the garden at Gethsemane Jesus pleads to be released and the answer he receives is deafening silence.  Like the rest of us, he had free will…he could have said no, in fact he tried to!  But in the end he stood up and did what he had to do; freely, willingly and lovingly.

Holy Wednesday is the night of Healing, Eucharist and Anointing – we gather to pray for those we know, those we don’t know, and for ourselves.  We ask forgiveness for the things we should have done but didn’t, and for the things we have done but shouldn’t.  We bring this darkness before the Lord and we are forgiven.  We can ask for prayers, laying on of hands and anointing, to remind us, as at our baptism, that we are God’s children…the beloved.

Maundy Thursday begins the Three Sacred Days, or Paschal Triduum.  The service opens as any other service does with a Processional Hymn.  Quickly though, it changes as we move through a reminder of Jesus command to service – we are called to serve, not to be served.  We them move into Eucharist, and I like to use one from Iona that is only used once a year.  After we have shared communion for the last time, the tone of the service changes as the Altar is stripped, the Lamentations are chanted and we are left with our thoughts.

The last thing that happens is for a bare cross to be carried up and left, without ceremony, against the chancel steps.  There is an overnight vigil at the Church so ensure the tomb is protected.

Good Friday we gather in silence and subdued lighting with a sense of loss and longing.  Although we live 2,000 years beyond the story, it is important to be reminded of why we do what we do, and for whom we do it.  The Gospel is read – it is long and onerous – and it tells a story of injustice and hatred.  We hear a homily about just what is so “good” about Good Friday and then we adorn the cross  with a sign, crown of thorns, three nails, royal purple, a towel and a stalk.  Black stones are distributed before service begins and there is a time for us to hold the stones and put all of that which we no longer wish to carry with us.  When the time is right, we come forward and place our black stone at the foot of the cross.  Then we pick up a white stone to remind us that through Christ we receive new life.

When the time is right we leave the tomb in silence and confusion.

Holy Saturday evening we gather where the new fire is kindled outside and light the paschal candle which will burn for the next 50 days.  We hear the Exultet chanted – an ancient story of this sacred night when heaven is wedded to earth and we are reconciled to God.  We go into the parish hall and share stories, songs and prayers from our ancestors, then we head upstairs and renew our baptism vows.  A traditional Holy Saturday bursts open the doors of the tomb and shows the resurrected space – life reborn in Christ.  My tradition is to stop at the door for two reasons – one is to prolong the suspense of the resurrected Christ and the other is to make sure there is the proper emphasis on the Day of Resurrection.  When I have celebrated the entire Holy Saturday service it is a long service, and somehow takes away from the celebration of the Day of Resurrection – Easter Day.

Before we depart we shout Alleluia and depart in hopeful expectation for the risen Lord whom we will see the following day.

Wherever you are on your Lenten and Holy Week journey, if you have never partaken in the Paschal Triduum, I invite you to do so.  It is an amazing time of reconciliation, of acknowledging our brokenness and truly understanding who we are and whose we are.  It is a lot of work to preside these services, and yet it is moreso very life giving.

We live in a time when there are more people than every who have never heard the gospel – the good news.  And it is our responsibility as people of faith, to share that story with them.  To show them that even in this broken world, we are loved; truly, unconditionally and that without fail, love always wins.

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All my life I have struggled with naming my emotions. As a child I was not allowed to be angry. Raised voices were a “no-no” in my house. We were to be bright, happy yet silent as children, an interesting combination.

As a child I learned to be a pleaser, and if my Mam or Dad were angry/upset, I would do everything I could to make them happy; overachiever, overworking, entertaining, being the clown, etc.

Growing up, if I was presented with an angry or upset person my first instinct was to make it better for them. Recently, I’ve found myself feeling a heightened sense of outrage at the injustice I see around me. I am experiencing emotions, without really understanding what they are.

For example, this morning I was driving in the village and as I approached one of the two intersections with traffic lights, I had the green light, so continued through the intersection. At that exact moment an elderly man was making a right hand turn against the red light. He did not see me. Thankfully I was able to stop before we collided.

As I sat in the intersection he gave me a disgusted look, yelled “bloody women drivers” and waved me through. I had stalled my car on an incline, so it took me a few seconds to get the car running again. Instead of waiting for me, he continued on his way, making a sharp right turn at the next street.

I was fuming, and felt that I had every right to be angry. But it wasn’t until several hours later that I could actually name the emotion of anger. I had every right to be angry. But I also had every right to be grateful that we did not collide and nobody was injured…other than egos and pride.

Lately I am realising that the predominant emotion I am feeling is anger…almost to the point of rage. By nature I am a caring person. I take satisfaction in doing for other people. It is in my vocation to give emotionally, spiritually, etc.

I believe part of the reason I am now on a medical leave is because I am feeling such great anger and frustration. I feel that many of the people in my life, especially in my immediate family, are taking much more than they are giving. Instead of seeing that I am doing for them because I want to, I am feeling anger that they are not reciprocating and/or they are not appreciative.

I am not supposed to do things to receive thanks. And yet, right now, it is something I need.

Why is that?

I am, by nature, an optimistic, balanced, happy person. But not lately. I’ve been surly, miserable and downright snarly. I raise my voice much more often, I feel an emptiness inside and I’m looking for something to fill it. Most often, it’s chocolate. But the thing is, the chocolate isn’t filling the void. It’s expanding my waistline.

Slowly it is dawning on me that I am looking for everyone else to make me happy, instead of seeking to make myself happy. I want everyone to behave the way I feel they should; instead of accepting them for who they are.

One of the most destructive enabling behaviours is the phrase “It’s just the way s/he is”. There is a parishioner who is a bully. He shouts, insults, bangs his fist on the table, in order to be heard and to get what he wants. It is hard work to deal with him. And when I challenge him on his bullying behaviour I am taken aside and told “It’s the just the way he is”, or “he’s much better than he used to be”. Neither of which are acceptable.

I believe that everyone should be held accountable for their behaviour and that everyone should do their best to understand how the other person is feeling. Seldom is this behaviour extended to me and, I have to admit, it upsets me.

Slowly but surely I am realising that there are very few things I can control. The only emotions I control are my own, especially once I name them and own them.

The Canadian Mental Health Association came out with this great chart meant for children, to identify what it is they are feeling. I think I need one for my office, so I can identify what I am feeling. It’s strange to be 46 years old and unable to identify basic emotions.

Life is a learning curve and lately the curve has been steep.

If I were to make a list of the things that make me happy they would include taking a bike ride through the village; walking the dogs; doing yoga outside; yoga inside; dancing around the house like a fool; writing letters to friends; reading a novel; writing in my journal; taking a warm, soothing bath with epsom salts and baking soda; blogging.

As I look at this list, I realise I don’t do any of these things as often as I should.

I will do more things on that list on a more regular basis.

Starting now.

Some realisations that have come to me are: My happiness does not depend on anyone other than me.
I have every right to be angry and express that emotion. Further, I can express anger without guilt. I can disagree with someone without being a bad person. And if that person thinks I am a bad person, that is their emotion to own; not mine.

I do not have to be held hostage by a crippling fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. It never stopped Jesus. And aside from the crucifixion, it worked out alright for him (in the end).

I have been mired up in anxiety, angst, frustration, anger and rage. It’s time to do, say and live in a way that makes me happy.

That’s not selfish; it’s self-care, and self-loving.

So that will be what I focus on for the rest of 2014…and perhaps longer than that.

Starting now.

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For the most part I am a fairly laid back individual. One of the realities of my vocation is facing death within the Congregation and with members of the community itself. Something that has bothered me for a very long time is the infuriating necessity people have to use any word, other than death.

Flowers die, plants die; they don’t take a dirt nap. Although that pun is pretty funny.

Pets die, or they are euthanized. It drives me batty when I hear someone say that their beloved pet was “put to sleep”.

A friend of mine spoke of just this thing as she eulogized her father. When my dad died a few years later I heard her words coming out of my mouth. A paraphrase of what I said went something like this…

My father died and it hurts.
He is not “resting in the arms of Jesus”. If you knew my Dad you’d know that he and Jesus weren’t on a first name basis.
We did not “lose him”. He is not wandering around the Wal-Mart parking lot looking for us.
He did not “pass away”. He did not “shuffle off this mortal coil”.
He did not “kick the bucket”. He could not lift his leg that high.
He did not “expire”. He’s not a parking meter.

I think you understand what I am saying.

My dad died. It hurt. And trying to soften what happened did not make it any better.

Why are we so afraid of saying “death” or “died”? A quick internet search turned up over 100 euphemisms for dead, some of which are absolutely hilarious. Some of which are entertaining, and some are just plain weird.

When I meet with a family whose loved one has just died, my first words are “I’m so sorry” and I wait for them to speak next. If they don’t, we sit in silence, or, if appropriate, give them a hug.

So many well-meaning people said completely useless and even insulting things to me, thinking they were being helpful. I am a person of faith. A religious person. My father was not. So attempting to be “helpful” with phrases like “he is now at rest”, or “in the arms of his Saviour” were not helpful.

My dad believed in something greater than himself, and I believe he was at peace with God, but he did not get into specifics. I don’t think he prayed on a regular basis. Because that was my dad. He appreciated being on the parish’s prayers list. “If it doesn’t do any good, it won’t do any harm” was his thinking.

I love my dad and I miss him. We’re having a provincial election on the anniversary of his death. Kind of ironic, given how he felt about politics. He didn’t like euphemisms about things like death and yet he would often cope with the death of his friend by writing down as many euphemisms as he could think. “Taking the great dirt nap”, “shuffled off his mortal coil”, “six feet under”, “croaked”, “snuffed it”, etc.

I think “popped his clogs” was one of his personal favourites, and this exercise helped him come to terms. But when he saw the family he would say “I’m sorry” and nothing more. because truly, there isn’t anything else that is helpful to say.

So on the 12th of June I will cast my vote, as my dad always said “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”. I love my dad. I miss him. One day I hope to see him again.

He didn’t “slip away peacefully’, although he had a peaceful death. He didn’t “pass”, he’s not an exam or an abandoned vehicle. He died. It hurts. But it’s supposed to.

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It seems that since Easter, things are not slowing down, and yet I am.

I am in a state of perpetual exhaustion. I’ve been to the doctor and she has sent me for blood tests. Something is wrong with the blood tests and I have to and get more done. On Monday afternoon I am scheduled to have another mammogram with “bonus” screens, and an ultrasound to follow.

My beloved and I are overdue to see our Marriage Counsellor and I think it will be a good thing for us to do. I am worried about my health and my body is beginning to tell me that I cannot continue at my usual pace.

Tomorrow there is a special vestry meeting at the Church and I was supposed to get some stats together. I have not. And I will deal with the fallout tomorrow. To be honest, I don’t really care what is expected of me tomorrow at the meeting. My Wardens are in charge, I need to be there. And if I get asked about stats, I will tell the truth. They aren’t done…and won’t be for tomorrow.

The month of May is going to be full of engagements. Some will be good, some will be difficult and most I am approaching with dread. What I am is tired. So very tired.

I don’t know how much time I will find to write. I think I hear my bed calling me now…

Until soon…

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There is a phrase in the Church “Christ is risen, the clergy are dead” and this sums up most clergy I know, myself included. We labour (with love) to make sure the bulletins are done, homilies are written, congregation is cared for. We fuss and fret over the liturgies, trusting that those who attend will be fed.

By the time Easter Sunday rolls around, we are usually pretty tired. The Alleluia may not have as much verve and pep as it should have, but it’s the best we’ve got.

I spent three hours, the Saturday before Easter, in the stylist’s chair, getting my hair done. This is highly unusual for me. My usual time in the chair, including chatting is 30 minutes. Five to ten minutes more if I get my hair washed first. I was experiencing something I’ve never done before; a hair tattoo. It’s a labour intensive process, but incredibly amazing.

My stylist and I had talked about a resurrection hair tattoo for Easter Sunday. The tattoo itself didn’t take very long, but the colouring and shading took plenty of time. By the time he was done, he was very pleased, and so was I. And so were the customers in the salon. It’s certainly something that stands out, but as I can’t see it, I don’t worry too much about it.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and I was especially pleased at the children’s reaction on Easter Sunday. I have been stopped while out, so people can ask about it. And I explain that there are three crosses, a tomb and a pair of wings. And they “oooh” and “ahhh” and tell me how awesome it is.

The three hours I spent in the chair I should have been relaxing, but I was thinking about all the things I had yet to do to get ready for Saturday night’s service. Everything did get done, but I did not take good care of my sprained ankle. And come Sunday morning it was swollen and paining. By the time the two services were finished, I couldn’t feel my left foot. I took off the brace, iced my foot, rested it and tried to nap.

We went to visit my in-laws for supper, which was awesome, and I elevated my ankle as much as I could. Since then I have slept as much as I can, while returning to the pre-Easter craziness. I took Monday off, but on Tuesday I had three home communions. I was supposed to go to a meeting in the city, but I was too tired and ankle was too sore. So I sent my regrets and stayed home.

Friday is traditionally my day off, but the church is having a bake sale tomorrow, so I spent most of the morning baking cupcakes, scones and cookies. The cookies are staying at home as I scorched the bottoms. The cupcakes and scones are at the Church. My Beloved brought supper in and tonight I am catching up on laundry that should have been done two weeks ago.

What I need to do is take three weeks off and rest. But there’s too much to do for me to make that happen. I am anxious about some upcoming doctor’s appointments and medical tests. Something inside me tells me that I will be taking time off to deal with my medical issues, whether I want to or not, and that will be what it will be.

So for now I struggle through, doing the best I can, taking it as easy as I can and trying not to beat myself up about not getting everything done.

The lesson I really need to learn is to let go and let God. If the bulletins don’t get done, it’s not a big deal. Right?

One step at a time. One day at a time.

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I have not written in a while because I haven’t really had much to say. Well, that’s not exactly true. I almost always have a lot to say, I couldn’t find a way to properly express myself. And that’s not exactly true either. I’ve been in a slump as of late. Eating was way out of control. What I was eating was way out of control. My yoga mat actually collected dust. Yes, it was that bad.

This weekend I decided to regain control of myself. I can’t expect anyone to do it for me. I have to do it myself. The good news is, I have not had a drink of alcohol in nearly six months. The awesome news is I almost never miss it. The bad news is, I’ve been eating processed garbage and wanting more. The horrible news is, I’ve indulged in that unhealthy want.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary film called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. It was an “oh shit” moment watching it. Joe Cross, a wealthy Australian, decided to try a 30 day juice fast. He flew to the US and drank nothing but water and his juices. And lost a phenomenal amount of weight, became healthier and inspired a lot of people. I saw this film and wanted to try juicing. And getting healthier. Instead, I drove to the grocery store and instead of buying fruit and vegetables I bought cookies, ice cream and chocolate. And then I ate them.

Yesterday I want to a discount store and bought a juicer. I’ve been pricing them out online and at various department stores and decided that I didn’t want to spend $100. So I checked the discount store and got exactly what I wanted for $40. I then went to the grocery store next door and bought parsley, spinach, lemons, cucumber, apples, and carrots. I came home, washed the juicer and tried one of the recipes I found online. I won’t lie. It was pretty bad. I drank almost all of it, but was having difficulty getting over the green colour. And the smell. Ick.

I found a 30 day juice challenge that I signed up for. Each day I get a new recipe to try. The idea is to gradually build up to more exotic juices and to gradually revamp your diet and lifestyle to be healthy. I like it! I don’t know that I could make a 30 day commitment to juice fast and look after this family. A lot of the meetings I have are during a meal.

This way I can make the commitment to have the juice, either for breakfast or for lunch, or perhaps even both and see what happens. I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to commit to juicing every, single day for the 30 days. Then I may try a 5 days juice fast as a Lenten discipline. We’ll see how it goes.

I am in the process of detoxifying. Feeling lousy, headache, no energy, poor skin. Within the next week or two I will feel much better. And within that time I will be making healthier meals at home. Keeping my hands and body busy, when not working, with exercise or stretching. I would love to say I will walk every day and do 30 minutes of yoga every day. But the reality is, I’m not yet there, the key word being “yet”.

I will get there.

This summer I will buy a two piece bathing suit and wear it in public. Knowing I won’t ever have a bikini body, I will still wear it because I will have a healthy body and an awesome attitude. I know I will never be a single digit size and be healthy. But I do know that I will be a healthy double-digit size with a bit of attitude to spare.

I am who God created, and I am treating my body as a thing of beauty and something which must be respected.

Yes, I fell off the wagon and I fell hard. But now I have a shiny stainless steel juicer sitting at the ready on my kitchen counter. That makes me feel good. I made the prescribed juice with carrots, apples and celery (all of which I really enjoy) and it was pretty good. My Beloved even drank some as well.

The 30 day juice challenge is for me. And only for me. Because it is time. And I am ready.

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Yesterday was our Annual Meeting. The meeting lasted nearly three hours. This is an inordinate amount of time, but there were some difficult discussions that needed to be made and the congregation present rose to the occasion. By the end of the meeting I was physically and emotionally spent, but spiritually energised.

The Church as an institution is in trouble. It has been for a while. And there are numerous studies that tell us we should do this, try that, change, adapt or die. It’s easy for me, a relative newcomer to the area, to talk about losing our building and starting new. The reality is something very different.

In my life I try to be environmentally conscious. I try to eat organic, buy local, support local business, lessen my carbon footprint, etc. I buy biodegradable laundry and dish soap and don’t have a dishwasher. And yet, I get my hair professionally highlighted. I wear makeup that is for sensitive skin, but is not vegan or organic.

I stopped drinking alcohol and drink much more water than ever, but still drink coffee, mostly decaf, but occasionally high-test.

I try to encourage fair trade coffee and reusable mugs for our coffee hour. The first is a hard sell, the second is a given.

I’m realizing that while I give a 5% household tithe to the Church, I could do more. I give of myself as much as I can, often more than I can, and still; I’m never sure it’s enough.

So over the past couple of days I’ve began to realise that I can’t do it all.

I cannot be everything to everyone.

I cannot single handedly save the world.

But I can do my part.

I can live my life in a more mindful manner. Being fully aware of my surroundings, of what and how I eat. I can show my daughter what I have learned and learn also from her.

I may not always get it right, but I can and will, keep going.

Today was a snow day for my daughter. The buses were cancelled. The snow was drifted badly and it was really cold. So I stayed in my pjs for the morning and watched Netflix. There was a great deal of stuff that needed doing. But I didn’t do it. And shockingly, the world did not stop turning.

I shut off my cell phone. I did not check email. And at 2:00 pm I turned on my cell phone and I did check my email. I made a list of things to do this week, and then I meditated for 45 minutes. It felt great.

You know that I am not a fan of resolutions. I prefer intentionality. My intentions are to take my medication and supplements properly every single day. My intentions are to exercise my body, heart, mind and soul every single day. My intentions are to be mindful in everything I say, so and buy. I reckon with time it will be easier to be mindful and I won’t have to work so hard at it.

I may be wrong, but that’s a chance I am willing to take.

I am learning to identify my emotions. One that is most difficult for me to identify is anger. It was recently pointed out to me that I am angry. At first I resisted. And then as I began to identify physical posture, general feelings, etc., I realised that I am angry. At many people. For many things. And I’m working through it as best I can. I am also seeking professional help, which I believe will be the most helpful thing I can do for myself.

A year ago I would have been in a state because the package of information from the Annual Meeting wasn’t ready to go immediately following the meeting. This year it’s not ready to go, but will be by the end of the week. I will drop it off in the City next Monday. And the world will not stop turning.

I am not perfect…nowhere near it. I am human. I am flawed. And as a good friend of mine says often…I am keeping it real.

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