Because our church was built in the early 1800s and is full of windows that open, we have had some kind of in person worship for about a year. We have limited the number attending, kept all the windows open (regardless of temperature), done contact tracing, made sure everyone was masked and distanced, and done without congregational singing, but we have met. Still, today felt different. We had in-person Sunday School for the kids on the picnic tables next to the Communal Garden and we were able to have a choir and some amazing cello music. The highlight of the service for me, however, was hearing from our church staff. Instead of one person preaching, Ginger asked each of them to take a few minutes to to talk about how they have thrived during the pandemic. The scripture verse they read before they spoke was Isaiah 43:19:
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
I smiled at myself when I realized that the scripture brought to mind was Stephen Bishop’s “Same Old Tears on a New Background.”
it’s the same old tears on a new background
seeing you as a fading photograph
st hurts too much to laugh these days
I’m all right, yes, I’m all right, all right
Actually, I’m not all right.
One of those who spoke this morning was Clara, our new intern from Yale Divinity School, and she quoted part of the David Whyte poem, “Everything Is Waiting for You.”
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
As she finished, I realized I am not thriving. I love that poem. I have shared that poem. I think David Whyte is telling the truth. And I don’t feel it.
I have two books that offer me hope in their pages and I haven’t been able to finish them for a month. I have a list of people that I love and that I know love me–and I made the list with the intention of sending a note or a text or something–and I haven’t reached out. I have spent a fair number of evenings sitting at this desk thinking about what to write and then choosing, instead, to watch a ball game or a movie. If I hadn’t had sermons to post, I would not have put anything on this site in a long time. I have able to change my dietary habits and choices so at least I am losing weight, which is good because this summer I set the world record for the amount of Milty on the planet, but I have left undone the things that feed me well.
I know what I need to do to thrive, but I am not doing it.
Twenty years ago, my depression, which has been a persistent, mostly unidentified visitor for most of my life, moved in like it owned the place, and Septembers are never easy anniversaries. My good knee has gone bad over the past couple of years and I have am a couple of weeks away from knee replacement surgery, which means no pain killers because they are blood thinners and they want everything out of my system. Because of personnel changes at work, my confidence in myself and the job I do has faded, which pokes at the sense of unworthiness that has dogged me since childhood. And I miss being able to really be with people. The surgery means my knee will get better, but the other stuff is here for a while.
The word thrive comes from a Scandinavian word that means “to grasp oneself”–to get a hold of myself. To have a true sense of who I am. And I don’t have that right now. I still feel somewhat recognizable to myself, but I don’t feel fully present. I don’t have a good grasp of me.
And I am not alone. Though the specifics of our lists may differ, many of us are failing to thrive.
That’s what made me write tonight: both to ask for help and to say we are not alone. We need to get a hold of ourselves. Together. I don’t know another way to thrive.
it’s the same old song with a new melody
but this old candle’s lingering flame is almost gone
to see you again is all that keeps me hangin’ on . . .
As much as I want to say I’m all right, I know I’m not. I’m telling you because that’s the best I can do.