Thursday, June 18, 2020

Words at Work

Yesterday at 2 p.m., I made this Facebook post:  "I am trying not to think about the fact that if there had been no pandemic, I would have been starting the 2nd of 4 onground intensives in my work towards a certificate in spiritual direction today. The work continues, but I miss gathering together at Southern Seminary."

I followed up with this comment:  "It's a small sadness in a world of much larger sorrows, but I wanted to record it."

Some days I do a good job of staying focused on the tasks before me, the next 4 hours, not the next 4 months or years.  Yesterday was not one of those days.

In these COVID-19 days, I am seeing lots of people writing about the whole family being in self-isolation or people writing about being out and about.  I am not seeing people writing about what happens when one family member has to work more hours in the office, while the other stays isolated.

I will not be writing about that idea this morning, because I need to get to work, even though I just left work 11 hours ago.

I used to think of my job as having many shades of impossibilities in terms of what we're expected to accomplish.  In these pandemic days, I feel like there's a whole new palette of impossible shades that I'm now expected to master.

My state reported 2600 new COVID-19 cases yesterday.  That was a record.  The day before we also had a record number of new cases.  The tri-county area where I live is the epicenter of the state's caseload.  Joy.

I cannot fix this situation.  I find myself turning to words that have given me consolation in the past, the words of John the Baptist:  "I am not the messiah."

This morning, I thought of a chunk of a poem I wrote years ago (in 2013), one of the best I've ever written, "The Hollow Women" (thanks, T. S. Eliot!).  Here's how it ends:

"I am not the Messiah, not the Messiah, not the Messiah. I cannot save you. The chosen one is coming, but I cannot lace his sandals. I am not the Messiah, not the Messiah, not the Messiah. I eat what you would never choose, locusts and wild honey and bean husks and loneliness. I am not the Messiah, not the Messiah, not the Messiah. Do not look to me. I am not the star shining in the east. I am not the Shadow. But neither the Messiah, which I am not, I am not, I am not."

But let me also remember that I'm doing good work, at least according to those at work who are most important to me.  Yesterday was the last day for one of them.  As he left, I thanked him, and he said, "I couldn't have asked for a better boss."

Let me remember those words, instead of any of the other words crowding into my brain.

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