Log jam: I’m one of those people who sometimes need to start writing to find out what’s going on inside.
How come it has been so hard to write since Easter, when I got back to Manhattan from the UK? I have wondered if it was because, having written so passionately about feeling good about being here again, about “coming home”, my perspective on reporting my observations changed: from being an outsider looking in to feeling kind of local in this place. A very different standpoint. Sometimes a candid (and public) report on the nitty-gritty of day to day life is too revealing for comfort, whether for me as writer or for the people in the situation I might want to describe. I certainly lost touch with what I was trying to achieve with the blog.
The months since the Easter visits to the UK and Italy that I described were far less settled than I had been expecting. I kept assuming that my schedule would become filled with substantial and absorbing activities, but the reality, although often busy, has felt bitty and inconsistent; being often alone, I have often felt lonely. Perhaps the cultural differences in how relationships are made and maintained here have caught me out. Not a complaint! Just an observation, and a wondering, and a challenge to myself as I try to live and love the best way I can in this American adventure.
As I write I am coming to realise that I have underestimated the effect on my overall perspective of the pain I have had almost daily and often intensely, since I had another herniated disc in April. Going to physical therapy/chiropractic 2-3 times a week has been a superb (if time-consuming) help, but it is not exactly normal to have so much medical treatment. Or I find it difficult to accept it so. The pain necessitates the remedy, but over these five months the whole business has definitely added a discouraged shade to my life.
Not that I have been sitting around doing nothing! These are the regular responsibilities and activities which I could say constitute my ‘day job’: I launched The Song Project, which is now an energetic little choir supported by a bunch of happy singers every Thursday night. As well as visiting two hospice patients on a Monday afternoon I have joined the Threshold Choir which rehearses fortnightly. (This is a choir that takes small groups to sing at the bedside of sick and dying patients, although I do not yet know enough repertoire to participate in the outreach). I am part of the leadership team of a church restructuring and renewal project. As Sidewalk Talk city leader I organise a monthly ‘listening event’ for our volunteers, and am involved in some organisational development at national and local level. For fun, among other things I swim, pray/meditate, meet a couple of friends for a lunchtime bookclub. This and that, here and there, now and then.
All sounds great, yeah? Quite a few different sorts of activities, all recognisably ‘me’, all full of potential. But they have not yet become a full life.
I am just returning from another visit to the UK, this time organised around a family reunion in Oxford for Jem’s graduation. Each UK trip seems to demarcate a new phase for my US experience, and as I get ‘home’ again things are going to get much busier. This is the halfway point of our stay, and I am about to hit the ground running! The biggest change will be that for the sake of my back health I have decided to join an Alexander Technique training school, initially for four mornings a week (which constitutes ‘full-time’); having such a large chunk of my timetable taken with this class will liven up the pressure on the rest of my activities no end!
In addition I have been asked to get the new team of spiritual directors at Epiphany church off the ground, which will require some careful and wise leadership.
When this whole US adventure started I was full of happy expectancy. I would love to rekindle some of that simple positivity, to keep returning to my intentions to be open to the invitation of every encounter and experience. Only time will tell how the writing will continue: I started this reflection expressing some frustration about my struggle to continue with the blog, but I finish with some relief that I have at least communicated some of my story, and have aired some of the issues that were circling muddily inside for months.
Any thoughts from anyone out there?