These days have been dark. Not just because of winter and long rains, but because of the struggles of moving home and looking for a job. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved being back in my mountains, closer to family, but it hasn’t been all Zinnia’s and game nights, if you know what I mean.
I have had to let go of the post-graduate school vision I had for myself: Dora Smith-Cook, conflict transformer and community organizer, farmer, writer, wife, friend, sister, neighbor and daughter extraordinaire, hasn’t been seen on Bee Branch as much as I would have hoped. Instead Dora, mediocre housekeeper, anxious and hesitant conflict resolver, lady of the perpetual blahs has been spotted in sweatpants and unwashed hair, leaving the house only to check the mail and send out the occasional batch of hopeful resumes.
My definition of potential jobs has needed to change. I am now up for working for transformative change and strengthening communities in the capacity of animal shelter employee, for example (alas, I wasn’t hired for that one, either, probably a good thing…).
And while the grounds for conflict resolution work have been fertile this winter, my skills have taken a backseat to strong emotions, anxiety and defeatism. Entangled in conflicts in my extended family and in my church (which tend to overlap), I have faced complicated situations and change efforts with trepidation, excitement, and bewilderment. In the midst of the chaos I have tried to apply my training, but have ultimately ended up feeling unsure, confused, and discouraged.
I think an overarching contributing factor to the long-term winter blahs has been how desperate I have felt for community. I cannot believe I so took for granted my Harrisonburg church and school family. I had close relationships with a few people (which I still treasure), and an emergent church that made me feel engaged, safe, and connected with the Spirit. And more, I was surrounded by people, even if I did not have close relationships with all of them, who generally share my worldview, values, and even interests. Now, I return to my home community and congregation where I in turn feel isolated, exposed, and so darn far from the Spirit that I would rather stay home than step into that old sanctuary…..I know that I aught not be surprised to feel completely different at home than when I left, but to feel so bad, I simply did not expect.
With the sudden appearance of another miraculous, budding-and-blooming-of-fragrant-air and show-off petals-vibrating-morning-serenades-magical kind of Spring, I can look back on those dark, couched-in days with a sense of joy that they have passed, and a new appreciation for what has been accomplished.
There have been new relationships. Close friends that loved and supported us through the conflicts, reminding us that when in the midst of working for and experiencing big change, you feel bad, like you are doing something wrong, and you wonder and wish you could stop it (kind of like being pummeled by a wave, in my opinion), and that is normal and even a good sign. They encouraged us to keep going, affirming our efforts and giving us the perspective we needed. Thank you.
There have been moments of learning and joy, of course. New baby goats and sweet afternoons with my boy. Nights of easy conversation and silliness with new friends and dear visits with older ones. Oh yeah, and I have a job (for now)!
There has been positive change in our church, steps taken toward realizing the kind of place of worship where we do feel safe and connected. Where all voices are free to take part in the conversation about worship and priorities. Where the previously silent are now being heard. Where we have been given the opportunity to create a space in which we can connect with one another and with the Spirit in a transcendent, mutually supportive, and Christ-centered way.
And yet. The work is not over. The conflicts still brew and will continue to rise as change happens. I only pray now for the reminder that Spring comes, that peace and joy are not taken permanently by the present situation. Just to wait for the rebirth.
And speaking of growth and perspective, a quick picture to brighten up your otherwise word-filled screen: Farmer D in the amazing Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness.
*Another high point of this winter was reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. OMG. Go read it and you too will be thinking in the voice of narrator Leo Gursky, rambling long-winded sentences describing impossible situations, and following them up so poignantly with a simple “And yet”, capturing in two short words the ever-present beautiful confusion of hope and hopelessness in life. GAH! So. Good.