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Posts Tagged ‘time off’

Happy Easter!  What an incredible rush to celebrate the risen Lord.  This Holy Week was as busy as other years, but I think having two parishioners die within hours of each other on the Saturday before Palm Sunday added a bit to the tension of the week.  Having remembered to breathe deeply, put one foot in front of the other, and remember just who is in charge (not me) made things seem a little bit easier…having perspective really makes things manageable.

Palm Sunday was the usual outdoor start, in the cold temperatures of late March.  But we braved the chill and the wind and waved our palms and chanted “Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest!” waking the neighbours and startling the drivers that passed the Church.  Some waved back, which was a lovely added bonus.

Holy Monday we gathered to walk the fourteen Stations of the Cross, as we travelled the journey which Jesus took, pausing to give thanks for the choices he made.  Discussion afterwards with the small, yet dedicated crowd made me feel how incredibly powerful this service is for many.

Holy Tuesday we gathered for a special service originally written for the Youth Group.  It was tweaked somewhat but included the main question, “What if Jesus had said no?”  It focussed on the readings from the gospel which tell the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He asks God to take away this cup.  The response is silence.  Why doesn’t God speak?  What if Jesus had refused to go any further?  These questions elicited some incredible discussion.  We joined together in prayer, sang a couple of songs and departed.  Tuesday afternoon was spent at a visitation for one parishioner and a prayer service/private family viewing for another.

Holy Wednesday’s service was cancelled in order to accommodate the Celebration of Life for one of the parishioners, and it was an opportunity to see how a small town supports those who are struggling.  The congregation was not huge, but the man we gathered to celebrate would have been very proud at who came out.  The weather was perfect for the day, sunny and warm, a perfect spring day.

Holy Thursday saw us at the Cathedral Church to celebrate the Blessing of the Oils and then back home to celebrate Maundy Thursday, the first of the Three Sacred Days or Paschal Triduum.  We sang, we washed feet, we cried, we hugged.  We celebrated communion for the last time before the crucifixion and then stripped the altar and left the worship space in silence and darkness.  The tomb was readied.

Friday morning we gathered for the middle service of the Triduum, Good Friday.  We sang, was prayed, we cried.  The cross was decorated with towel, sign, stalk, nails, crown and royal purple.  I preached on what is “good” about Good Friday; that a symbol of hatred and control was changed to a symbol of love and new life.  A reminder that we worship the empty cross, and the empty tomb.  Again we left in stunned silence…and in hopeful anticipation.

Saturday morning a small but dedicated crew gathered at the Church to clean up the palms from Palm Sunday, to polish the brass and silver, and ready the worship space for Easter Day.  I dragged the font into the Gathering Space and set up chairs in the Parish Hall for the last of the Triduum, The Easter Vigil.  That night we lit the new fire, illumined the darkness, sang the Exultet, shared the stories, psalms and prayers, sang, laughed, cried, shared the peace and renewed our baptism vows.  We got to the entrance of the tomb, but were not allowed in…it was not yet time.

This morning the font was returned to it’s rightful place.  The papier mache stone was rolled away and adorned with lilies to show new life.  The tomb has burst open and we see signs of new life.  A larger than usual crowd came to the early service and we celebrated the resurrection and our first Alleluia’s of the season.  At 10:30 we were comfortably full, welcoming 6 strangers to our midst as well as a half dozen baby bunnies…two weeks old.  We sang, we laughed, we learned of the vessels we are and how we receive strength through the fires of trial and temptation.  We shared communion for the first time since Christ was risen and sang Hallelujah until our voices were hoarse.

Tomorrow will be tidying up a few things at the office, putting robes away, sorting service books…working on bulletins.  Then my own three sacred days…of rest.

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  The Lord is risen indeed.  ALLELUIA!

I’ll be over here napping, if you need me…

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This is my second week back to work after a four-week medical leave. I actually was back a few days before my official return, simply because there were things that needed my attention, such as the death of a parishioner.

Last Wednesday we had her Celebration of Life at the Church and it was incredible. The parish family, her friends and family gathered to say farewell. Four years prior we had gathered to say farewell to her husband. There were many references to G’s celebration of life as we honoured S. Her three grandchildren took part; the eldest wrote a eulogy and the younger two assisted with communion.

On Saturday I joined a couple together in marriage. D and A met at a bereavement support group and over the next year or so they became friends and then even closer. At the beginning of their service five candles were lit. The outer two candles represented their late spouses and were lit by the children. They then lit the next candles for their parents. The parents took their candles and lit a unity candle. All five candles burned during the service. It was a wonderful way to remember the late spouses, who really were the reason for their meeting.

Yesterday I buried a 34-year-old woman who leaves behind a 13-year-old and a 9-year-old daughter. G and E were baptised at the Church two years ago. Their mum, grandma and aunt were baptised the week after. Both were glorious celebrations. The gathering at the funeral home chapel was very somber and sad. L’s husband R wrote and delivered a eulogy, as did G and E. By the time the eulogies were finished the entire chapel was in tears, sobbing, wailing, it was awful. Open and raw grief.

I wasn’t sure what to do.

So I told the story of how I met L, through her daughters. And people laughed. And laughed some more. The readings chosen were very poignant and during my homily there were more tears, but this time they were tears of acceptance, of love, of understanding.

We know that L is gone from our sight, but she remains in our hearts. She will live on through her family. And with a family of the size it is, her legacy will last for generations.

It was, bar none, the most challenging celebration of life I have ever presided. Seeing the faces of her parents, her husband and her daughters made my heart ache. Then hearing the stories during the reception, people seeking out people they did not know, and sharing stories of L made the grief feel bearable.

It will take a while for the dust to settle. E told me she wants to come back to Church. Her father agreed, and so did her sister. It will be wonderful to welcome them home; that we may bear some of the load for them, as their parish family.

Days like these describe humble me in ways that defy description. Knowing I have had the opportunity to journey with so many families is such an incredible honour.

The phone rang recently with the news of another young person, dying unexpectedly in Halifax. Nine months ago we buried his father, and six months ago we buried his mother. I cannot imagine how his brother is feeling. But once F comes home to be laid to rest, we will do our best to keep his memory alive.

Moments like this remind me of the frailty and fleeing nature of life. We do not know what the future holds and should live each day to the fullest. But we also need to refresh and refill ourselves. That is a lesson I am learning.

During my time off I decided I would honour myself better than I have been. I would take my day off, and would not push myself too hard. I turned the page on negative thinking, and negative self-talk. I decided I would begin after my leave by starting over, loving myself and those I encounter. It will be an ongoing journey, and I am confident I can do it. One step at a time.

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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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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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One of the dangers of being a food addict is the holiday season. Everywhere you go there’s something to try. “Oh, just have one” they say and I break into a sweat. I want to eat the whole plate, but it’s better if I don’t eat any, so I politely refuse. Sometimes that leads to guilt so I’ll agree to have one, then two, then, well, you know how it ends.

Or I will refuse politely, then come home and eat two chocolate bars. Ugh.

This is a tricky time of year, psychologically and emotionally, before we get into any of the “fun” stuff of the holidays. Everywhere you go there’s overlit, too loud, hypercaffeinated places that raise your heart rate to buy me, eat me, love me, take me home. And if you refuse, then you’re a bad person.

So I guess I’m a bad person.

With being so tired as of late, I have no impulse control. I asked my beloved to do the grocery shopping and I know I shouldn’t…because he brings home crap. Which I eat. Yes, it’s my fault that I put that thing in my mouth that I shouldn’t but…well…the truth is, I want it.

I have stopped looking at magazines for Christmas cookie ideas because I know, if I bake them, I’ll eat them…all of them.

I should get outside and walk the dogs. But I’m scared of slipping as it’s quite slick underfoot. I should go to the walking track and spend an hour there. But I don’t. I should pull out my yoga mat, breathe and stretch. But I don’t.

Instead, when I’m having difficulty coping, I go to bed. Most of the time I sleep, so obviously I am overtired. But when am I going to feel well enough to care for myself? Nobody is going to do it for me. I have to do it myself. And I will. Eventually.

*sigh*

What I need is a week in Bermuda. Am I going to get it? Not likely, at least not for awhile. I am, however, committed to taking 5 or 6 days in January and going on retreat. To a place where the food is good and healthy. Where there are no demands. Where I can bring my yoga mat and stretch. And journal. And cry.

I know I could do that here. But there’s always something else that’s more pressing. There’s always one more email to send, one more webpage to read, one more article that needs posting. I need to make myself a priority. I am cooking healthier meals and enjoying it. Today I’m going to attempt beef stew in the slow cooker.

Right now I feel muddled up. I know I should take better care of my body. Who takes care of me if I don’t? Nobody. So if nobody takes care of me, why should I bother? Counterintuitive I know, but real nonetheless.

We had a discussion about Christmas a couple of months back. We agreed that we will not go into debt for Christmas. We cut back the list dramatically. And nearly all the shopping is done. That makes me feel really good.

One day next week I am going to sort through the bags in the spare room and start wrapping. That will feel like accomplishment. I may even bring some things out and start decorating for Christmas/Winter. I’m not sure about a Christmas tree with the pup, but we’ll see.

What I need to do is shake off the cobwebs of guilt and shame. I need to stop beating myself up about what I have done and look forward, instead, to what I will do. To be intentional in everything I do, whether it be eating, speaking, washing, dressing, praying, stretching.

And I need a good cry.

And maybe a nap.

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It could be the edge of insanity, or it could be the edge of awesome. I don’t believe I have ever felt this weary and yet this wired at any time before in my life. It’s a strange manic/hyper place, where I am not the slightest bit familiar. I don’t like it here.

The past two weeks have been really rough in many ways and I am so very happy to be getting away from this place. I love what I do, and I love where I live, but right now I’m so empty that I’m worried I’m starting to corrode.

My yoga mat is packed and ready to go. I have a list of things to put in my handbag so I have what I need for the train ride at my fingertips. I have packed some healthy snacks to take with me so all I have to buy is sparkling water or perhaps a cup of tea. a friend is taking me to the train station so my husband and daughter can have an afternoon of awesome together going swimming.

Today we went to an off leash beach in a big city a couple of hours away. The dogs were good, the younger one has never been in the lake before and he loves it. He’s a natural swimmer and even gave our dock diving older dog a run for her money. They slept soundly, snoring most of the way home.

The towels from today’s adventure are in the dryer. I’m going to flip them around and put them on again as the load was really full, and I’m quite sure they’re not dry. And then I think I’ll go to bed.

I have no homily for tomorrow. And I will own it. I’m overtired, I’m beyond exhausted and I’m very pleased that I have two weeks away beginning tomorrow. By this time tomorrow I will be with my friend, driving from the train station to the small town where she lives and I will really and truly be on vacation. I was have two weeks of Sabbath. And I can’t wait.

The lists have been prepared of what I need to bring and many of the smaller things have been packed. I have a book I’m bringing for a course I’m taking in September, that I may or may not get around to reading. I am bringing my yoga mat and my journal. Two dresses for theatre events we are going to, and a small collection of tops and bottoms. A yoga jacket, a heavier cardigan and that’s all I need.

Makeup is packed, jewellery is packed, clothes have been set out but not yet packed. Still have to pack toiletries, which will happen tomorrow after Church and then, I am done.

I need to pick up a pair of sandals I was looking at the other night. My right heel is an absolute mess, and the sandals I currently have aggravate it. My thoughts of extended walking are on hold for a week, I may pick them up on week two of my vacation, if my heel is in better shape. The weather is supposed to be cooler and wet for the first week, then bright and sunny the second week. Awesome.

I will not set an agenda. I will take each day as it comes. I will take better care of myself. Drink lots of water. Eat healthier foods. Laugh uncontrollably. Pour out my heart and soul in words. Pray without ceasing. Stretch my mind and body into better health. Eliminate sugar, refined flour, processed foods and alcohol from my diet, perhaps forever.

Mindfulness is the touch-word for this vacation.

I don’t know when I will blog again. This vacation will also be electronics free. My cell phone is coming with me for emergencies, and for checking on my family. But nothing else. It will not travel with me if we are away for the day. I will not come with me or be near me when I am practicing yoga. And I’m looking forward to that.

Today, I feel like I’m standing on the edge of insanity. I pray that in two weeks I will be standing on the edge of awesomeness. Only time, determination, faith, and openness will tell.

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