Suddenly

In a flash,

without fanfare

it crept upon me

tentacles grasping

into the depths

living today

part a lost past

part a living now

reaching out

caught

in webs I created

from seeds sown

along the rocky pathway.

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I’m Back Blogging, I think.

It has been too long since I sat down to write. It has been a combination of things, both great and small that has kept me from my writing. For the last few months I have been struggling with a bit of depression that has worn me down. I really have tried to climb out of the valley, to see that bit of sunshine on the horizon, but the darkness is still there. Like a hungry wolf it lingers waiting to pounce when I am at my weakest and once it has sunk its teeth in, I can’t seem to thrust it off. Of course there are several factors and the big one for me is trying to find my way in this strange new world of being retired. I know that some folks can’t wait to retire, the fantasize about laying on some warm beach all day, or being able to play golf or just lay around without any expectations. No more punching the clock, no more having to work in a place that sucks the marrow from one’s soul. It sounds great and I thought I had a plan, then like all good plans, life gets in the way. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a difficult transition if we stayed up in Massachusetts. There I had my colleagues who would have helped me to find a new way. I had Grub Street, that would have kept me on track with my writing, taking courses that would have greased the mental wheels as I continued to put on paper my thoughts and feelings. In other words, I had stuff, I had the necessary social and intellectual connections, where now, there are none. Moving to Delaware, into a new state, a new diocese has been difficult. I’m not a big extrovert and I don’t get out making friends all that easily, so I have struggled finding my way. As I have watched my former parish continue to move into a new direction from afar, I sometimes feel wistful and sad, wondering what it would have been like had I not retired. Honestly, I miss the liturgy, the weekly celebration and the daily work of being with the people in the ordinariness of life. In this new diocese, I feel like an intruder of sorts, a virus that should be shunned so that nothing changes the lives of those here. Going from Diomass to Delaware, is like going from a corporate size parish to a family parish, there is a different mindset in the smaller diocese. Like a family parish, there are the matriarchs and patriarchs who one must engage with. Not only that but one needs to deal with the bishop and here, in Delaware, the bishop is new and he has his vision, which may or may not work as well as he hopes. It is just another layer in this labyrinthine world of the church and I have not felt, nor have I desired, to be a traveler along these roads. Yet, here I am, stuck in the middle not knowing what to do or where to go. Sure, I’ve done some supply, preached a couple of times, even helped with a book study, but that is like giving a drop of water to a thirsty soul, it doesn’t help. So the big question for me, is what do I do with what I have been given? That’s great because at this point I have no idea. This week I will attend my final writing class at Osher, well let’s be honest, it really isn’t a class in the real sense, it’s just a group of older people who write and hope what they write makes sense. This class has not helped to motivate me at all even though I have tried to get something down. So for the next few weeks, months maybe even year, I will endeavor to sit my butt down and just write. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or even make sense, all I need to do is write. I have plenty of books on writing to read, I have books on poetry, memoir and all of that to help motivate and guide me. Another way to help me out of this funk is getting back to my blog that has laid dormant for the last few months. Just lay it out there for all to see, lay out the struggle and the pain, the deep insecurities as well as the darkness that lingers.

Random Thoughts

I haven’t been doing much writing lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking but that’s nothing more than just internalizing all of my thoughts and not giving them space to breath. Today, as I was out cycling, I began thinking, once again internalizing, about what it is that is keeping me from actually writing. I think it’s because I have yet to come to terms with being retired. I just don’t feel retired, I don’t yet have any grasp on the intricacies of retirement. I have been actively engaged, either as a student or a worker, for the better part of my life and now here I sit trying to sort out what this all means. So much has happened in the last few months, leaving Trinity, then selling our home in Melrose, moving to Delaware and finding a new home here in Smyrna, which I still haven’t gotten used to, yet. Now, the season of Advent is almost upon us and I have nothing to prepare for, no services, no annual Christmas fair, no visits to be made, no Christmas pageant to prepare, I just sit here while “Church” happens. To be honest, I miss Trinity, I miss the people, the activities the whole community and yet, I needed to leave, it was time. It doesn’t mean I have to like leaving, but it does mean that I now need to refocus my energies. The good news is that in a couple of weeks I will be taking a retreat up at Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York. This retreat is actually a poets retreat, a time to get away and in the silence and solitude of the monastery to help me to get some perspective, not only my poetry but all of my writing efforts. Stories are everywhere and I do have stories to tell, I have poetry to write and so much stuff rolling around in my head that if I don’t write it will burst out anyway. One thing I need to do is get back into the GrubStreet mode, write everyday, don’t worry about being perfect, just write. That poem lurking back there among other thoughts that litter my mind, go ahead and write that also, stop worrying, no one is perfect. Take that chance, write that story, set down those internal thoughts on paper or in this case, the iPad, and allow it the space to grow in the light instead of festering in the backwash of the mind. Maybe, if I write down these thoughts, it I take some time to explore them as they take shape on the pages, then I might just discover something about myself that has lain in the dark for so long.

The Wait

I come to this place

to find myself imagining

where is my God

in the wildness of the wind,

where do I go to listen

for that voice so dear,

to once again hear that call

and feel the spirit within,

the wilderness is cold

the heart is broken

and now I stand here

in supplication and prayer

seeking the divine Logos

to speak to my darkened self

calling me from my tomb

into the light of the living One.

What is the Story?

What is the story that I want to tell, to write about here on the pages of this blog? Do I have the courage to tell that story and all that comes with the telling? So much is locked up in memory, various pictures, feelings, textures, that engages all of the senses making up that story. I have struggled trying to tell my story and not get bogged down in the telling. There is so much that needs to be sifted and examined for truth, not only truth of the story itself but the truth of how that story has made me who I am and continues to remake me each day. There is that deeper story of love and loss, of success and failure, of being a child and passing into the adult life. Memories hang along the rafters, I look above me and I don’t know which one to choose, which one do I dare to open. I write to find myself in these memories, that child waking up from a nightmare, that teen being bullied, a young soldier in a foreign land, a newly minted husband unsure of himself while trying to be strong, a dad now responsible for another human life, a priest seeking to discover where God is leading, now I sit here retired, picking through those various pieces of my life and trying to put it together. It is a great jig-saw puzzle, thousands of pieces all scattered along the table and I am looking at it all utterly daunted by the undertaking. Like with any jig-saw, it is best to start with the borders, get the edge right before moving on into the interior. Yet, even the border is hard to define, the borders of life are not static but dynamic, they’re ebb and flow through the mind, clear one minute and haze the next. Nothing is solid in memory, and so like some explorer crossing a vast ocean I must make my own way, with little or no navigation aids. What is that story? What makes mine worth the telling? Fear robs me of that courage I need to tell what I know and what I feel, yet, I can’t let that fear hold me back. Maybe, just maybe, it is in those moments of fear that I will find who I truly am and that in and by itself might just be the story I need to tell.

The Retirement Journey, So Far.

I sit here reflecting on what retirement has meant so far as the third month slowly passes. I sit and write, I also read but I’m still on a journey, towards what, I’m not sure. These moments in life where we sit between what was and what might be are good times to take stock of what is important and what is not. Usually, when I’ve transitioned from one life event into another, I would allow the darker aspects to take root and depression would be planted. This time, I’m in a different place and although there is uncertainty, I don’t feel any anxiety or urgency just to do something. There is a certain freedom that comes when you don’t feel rushed into making a decision that may or may not be the best for that moment. Strangely, I’m okay living in this in between time. I don’t need certainty what I need is time to pray, write and reflect. Priesthood, mine in particular, had it’s moments of good and not so good which has shaped who I am. Now I have the opportunity to examine this shape, like a sculptor who examines his work once he’s chiseled away a bit of the granite. Carefully the artist takes their time to ensure that not too much is chiseled away too quickly, they also must follow the granites veins, look for what the stone is saying to them. I can examine my own life thus far in the same way, not going at it with a sledge, but carefully chiseling away at it, following the natural flow that presents itself as I work at the larger piece. There is plenty of rock to work with, it’s just knowing where to start and how much to begin working on. Writing, like any art, takes time as well as talent. Well, time I have, it’s talent that is suspect. It’s easy to read books on writing, it’s easy to get lost in the authors words of wisdom, but the real test is comes in actually writing something. Parker Palmer, author of many books filled with wisdom, said, and I paraphrase here, that writers just need to put out their stuff for all to read and see to get some idea if they have anything of worth.

My Journey in Words

In the past few weeks my life has changed. First, I retired, second, I’ve moved. Now I’m trying to figure out what shape my life will take, so I offer this small piece of reflection. It’s not perfect, nor is it finished but it is where I am at the moment.

July 11, 2018

Thanks, once again to Parker Palmer I have another mystery to unravel in my attempt at the writers life. Here he quotes Henry David Thoreau:

My life has been the poem I would have writ

But I could not both live and utter it

Now what do I do with that? What is the poem I would have writ had I the time to writ what it is that needed to be writ? For me this is the struggle, to find something that grabs at me instead of these various, meteoric thoughts that fly by quickly only too burn up in the atmosphere of my thoughts. I write, to put it mildly, trash even as I long to make sense of where I am in this world. Being deeply troubled by what I read and see, how does my small voice fit in the the greater narrative? Palmer seems to have found his voice, a voice that has been honed and worked on and re-honed to what it is today. Richard Rohr, (another spiritual author I need to read) writing about Palmer and his new book writes that “Our entire culture is in need of true elders, and you can’t be one until you have arrived there — chronologically, spiritually, and intellectually. Here’s a man who has arrived, with another book that’s a generous gift to all of us.” I am far from being anywhere near from being a true elder. I might be there chronologically, but the other two criteria are woefully deficient and need a good boost, a shot of spiritual and intellectual energy. I’m not too old to not have the desire to continue in my quest and even as the days grow shorter, I don’t feel desperate or anxious to get to that mythical somewhere. Maybe, for me, the struggle is the vocation, the purpose of my writing. The honest struggle of not paying enough attention when I was younger and now finding myself in the slow lane trying to catch-up. Now I’m back to the question, what is the poem I would have writ? What are the paradoxes that surround my life and where do they fit in with what I am trying to be as a writer, as a priest, now retired from the dailyness of being out there, yet still craving that need for contact? Now that’s a paradox, a both/and that will keep any shrink in business if one ever dares to try an unravel my inner workings. Today was a day of thoughts, not really journal material, or is it? After all what is a journal other than a place to vomit the crap that is floating on the interior and exposing it all to the light of day. It ain’t pretty and sometimes it smells, but that is the only way to come to understand who I am at this time in my life. I think that the only person that really gets me is Jane, the poor girl has had to deal with my ups and downs for the past 45 years and now she’s stuck with me on a daily basis as we negotiate being retired together.