Last Sunday was the anniversary of our rector’s first Sunday at our church, and the anniversary of our first Sunday as well. It’s been a year of transitions, and we’ve had lots of hard days. I’m surprised that we’re still here, at a church, at this church. It feels odd and good that I’m getting more involved here, rather than feeling overwhelmed and wanting to flee. Things haven’t gone as planned, and this is just one surprise of many.
I need to think on this, this year and this anniversary.
I keep a list on yellow notebook paper, of short term, big goals, and I keep it on the wall above my desk. It’s a sort of bucket list–if I die in 6 months, I’d like to have most of these things crossed off. My best friend and I started doing this about two years ago and it has been a private touchstone. This is who I want to be, this is how I want to be. Sometimes I look at it when I’m feeling restless, disliking who I am and where we are.
My best friend and I updated our lists recently, and I crossed a lot of things off. Some, I laughed at and hadn’t gotten around to–and didn’t want to get around to anymore. Some of the items I had followed through with, and following through with them had created a sea-change in how I see the world. I huffed at others, knowing I should do them, but resenting them anyway.
But writing out the new list and looking over the old one provoked some gratitude. Since this time last year, I went through [a continuation of] a shattering of my old, comfortable worldview, and stared down old things I had been in denial about for years. Things my sister remembers vividly, but I blocked out. Breaking the safety glass to that part of my life left me tired, with my hands all cut up, and some relationships tattered. Long emails with hard words were exchanged. Late night crying jags because I didn’t know how to process it all. My husband listening to me talk, talk, talk myself dry.
Last September saw that struggle beginning to ease up, becoming less viscerally overwhelming. I was able to express myself with better articulation and less emotion. The long emails dwindled, and we began rebuilding relationships and I started to fight my disillusionment.
Kevin found himself without a job, and we were strapped for cash but free to visit churches and try to find a home for ourselves. I had spent the summer skipping sermons to read Harry Potter in a plastic deck chair outside the back entrance of the church. I needed to soak in language that wasn’t steaming with moralism and appropriateness. I read things that were previously wild and unwelcome, I tasted sharp words on my tongue, and I avoided telling anyone I was thankful, blessed, convicted, burdened, grieved, or overjoyed. The minister there meant well and loved his congregation through his teaching, but I was full of dry ashes inside after the damage of my previous church had burned itself out, and I needed to spread myself out in the sun and let the wind blow over my soul for as long as it took to uncover the good soil under the charred grime from before. And so I would slip out after the last song during the announcements, and I would lay my shoes under the chair and read in the sunlight until I heard the piano start up again inside. I would sometimes help with the babies in the nursery, finding their arguments about sharing sippy cups and delight over going down the slide far more palatable than the astronomy sermon analogies demonstrating how we are to be lights in the world and have our polar axes directed by the gravitational pull of the sun, that is, to reflect God’s light and move in his Spirit’s leading.
But that job ended, and so we were free. He and I had been attracted to the Anglican tradition in college, and wanted to find a sanctuary that was similar. And I, I was finally ready to listen to a sermon, to actually hear his words and not tune out the weathered catchphrases with my bone-dry weariness.
Fall was hard, last year. We did find our church, and we did find a pastor who could preach a sermon with meat and genuine language, who welcomed us on our first Sunday with a sort of buoyant giddiness. Where communion wasn’t crackers and juice masquerading as a “memorial service” for a dead-sounding Jesus once a month or so, but a sacred act where you ate his body and blood every week, lining up with all the other hungry people, claimed for Christ and confessing his potent resurrection in unison before lifting up hearts and blessing each other.
Kevin was out of a job in September, and then got mislead by his temp agency when he was told that he had been given a permanent position, while the real hiring process went on behind his back. He was out of work again in November, and in December he took a job waiting tables at a nice DC restaurant. Some people shook their heads and said he could do better. But he ironed his long white aprons and threw on his starched blue shirts with diligence, and we slowly adjusted to the late nights and aching, tired mornings. I was so proud of him for keeping us afloat financially, and yet so hungry for more of his time when he would come home around midnight and fall asleep before finishing the third bite of his late dinner.
And I took charge of my own work situation, stewarding as best I could in a job I felt ill-equipped to thrive in, in a work environment I was fitting into less and less as time went on and I kept re-evaluating my beliefs and priorities. After months of anxious uncertainty, I did find a better fitting position with another company, at the same time Kevin was solicited to apply for a job he would enjoy more and would treat him better than waiting tables.
We began to make friends, too. Moving to this unfamiliar area was a difficult transition, and it felt like I didn’t know anyone until about nine months after we moved. But slowly we gathered to ourselves a group of people who would come play games and watch stupid movies with us, who I’d feed when Kevin wasn’t home to eat my dinners, who helped us out when we needed this or that, and eventually were our generous and hearty moving crew when we moved into DC.
Since last fall, my best friend has gotten married, my sister has found a good man she loves and agreed to marry him, my little brothers have gotten baptized, and my parents and I continue to grow in understanding each other better. My grandma passed away, and in doing so brought her children and grandchildren together in new and better ways. My in-laws have truly become my second family and second home, and Kevin and I have begun to feel like we’re on the other side of the awkward transitions newlyweds have to make and work through together.
We thought we’d be living in Virginia now, with Kevin in graduate school, and perhaps with me working for a newspaper or bartending or styling hair, while writing on the side. We thought we might be in an Anglican church, but instead we find ourselves in an Episcopal church, and we’re starting to reevaluated the party lines that dictated that preference. Kevin didn’t plan to start acting lessons, and I didn’t plan to teach Sunday School. But here we are.
And it’s not bad at all. I’m no longer feeling so overwhelmed that I just want to go hide in a closet and sleep until the seasons change. We’re getting somewhere. I can notice the light again.
I had to write about it. So I wouldn’t forget.
What do you need to remember about where you were last year?