Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Buddhist musings

I was having a conversation with someone earlier this morning when it occurred to me that we often use the phrase "all good things must come to an end" but we don't really say the same thing about bad things. Instead we might say, "this too shall pass." Hmmm. While they pretty much convey the same thing, we say them in very different ways. We long for the good things to last forever but can't wait to get past the negative - in the end, nothing lasts. In Buddhism there is this underlying understanding of impermanence, but I'd never noticed it in Western Christianity until this morning. I don't think it's the same at all - I think we remember this impermanence when it's thrust in our faces or when we feel like it helps us. For the most part, though, we go about our lives as though we're going to live forever - or at least for a good while longer. What would it mean if we really had an understanding that nothing lasts? Would we hold grudges as long? Would we go out and find that dream job? Would we stay in a relationship that wasn't really working? Would we go to church each week or meditate each day? I wonder...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Identity Crisis

I've been off the blog for a while - and I'm sorry to anyone who's been checking and even noticed. I've recently been given a new job title and have been trying to figure out how to make that transition, and it's got me doing a lot of thinking this week about who I see myself to be. I'm still at Habitat KC, and I'm glad I'm still working there, but I'm questioning whether there's more out there for me. My new position is that of Outreach Coordinator. I'm still in the volunteer department but specifically focusing on programs that will involve volunteers on more levels - the speakers' bureau, recycling programs, social networking and the website - and I'm taking on the AmeriCorps program as site coordinator (which mostly means massive amounts of paperwork to stay in line with the govt program). As a former AmeriCorps myself, I'm excited about this new role, but this last week was a bit crazy as our new members started their terms and I tried to sort out what had been done by my predecessor and what I still needed to handle.

Aside from Habitat, there have been developments in other areas of my life - areas that I once thought were important pieces of my identity and that I know struggle to maintain. First is my role as a Deaconess candidate in the United Methodist Church. I wasn't commissioned in April which led me to question if that was something that I felt I still wanted or needed. This fall they'll be having their biannual convocation and I signed up to attend, even applying for and receiving a scholarship to go. I feel like I need to be there to maintain some connection to the program, even as I continue to wonder whether commissioning will really mean anything significant to my life. This year they're also adding something new, a theological symposium to discuss the ways that our program is relevant to the UMC and the modern world. They're looking for a variety of people to represent and present perspectives on what the program could and should be as we move further into the 21st century and I had personally been asked to apply for a spot to go. I found myself getting excited at the propect of forming the future of this program and the UMC as a whole and turned in my application to go (if chosen, everything would be paid for and I'd just have to make sure that I could tack another 2 days on after the convocation). I never heard if i was chosen or not - I had to pull my name out of consideration so that I could make a required trip for AmeriCorps training that takes place the same week. I'm definitely disappointed but can't quite tell if it something more than that...

Finally this last week, I was going through some emails that had been backed up in my personal email account and I found an invitation to be a part of a retreat for another church program which is near and dear to my heart - the Reconciling Ministries network. Once again, if i was interested in attending, my way would be paid for at least partially. I was being asked because of my previous training in reconciling work within the church, and because of my involvement with ecumenical work along those lines here in the KC area. What the person who invited me didn't know is that I've recently chosen to leave my leadership position within the KC Coalition of Welcoming Ministries because so much energy is going into my paying job that I'm either not able or willing to be at the once a month meetings anymore. As much as I was interested in attending this particular retreat, I feel like I can't take off more time from work (I'm already taking 3 days off to attend the Deaconess convocation) and I'm not really the person they think I am. There are other people in the UMC and KC area who would be just as well as suited as I to be there, and I hope that one of them gets to go in my stead.

So where does all of this put me right now? Well, I'm wondering who I am and what I'm supposed to be doing. This isn't really anything new for me, but putting it into context with pay considerations, time and a full time job is. I really like working for Habitat KC, but I'm not happy that I have to keep saying no to things in my spiritual life that have been important to me in the past. I'm not sure if those things aren't as important to me anymore, or if they just CAN'T be as important anymore. I don't know if I'm choosing to put Habitat first as much as I feel like I have to since that's where my money comes from and where most of my time is spent. I wonder if another full time job would be any different, or if I'm looking for a full time job doing church work that would somehow allow me to do things with these other groups without as much fallout. Is there such a thing as the perfect life? Do any of us get to be all the things that we want to be?