Friday, March 18, 2011

Takeoffs and Touchdowns: The New Normal

I have given up waiting for a "normal" time in my life, because it seems that everyday is filled with activities that are extraordinary. My wait for "normal" has been about my hope for a time when I am fully in control of my days and can do some of the things I've been stacking up till then. I have a neglected sewing machine, an unused table loom, and beads I have yet to sort and string. I have books overflowing all my bookshelves and horizontal surfaces in every room. There are myriad unfinished poems, essays and stories tucked into folders on my computer.

I love the activities I have chosen and volunteered for. I don't regret any of the choices, and I get great satisfaction out of doing them all. I love being married and having a family. The people in my daily life enrich my sense of self and help me not to take myself too seriously. I love the work I've undertaken for The Episcopal Church. I feel very much called, at this place, in this time, to engage the leadership roles to which I've been elected. I love the causes which I support. There are people who need the passion and gifts that I bring to peace and justice work, and I need to be reminded that there but for the grace of God go I. I love the people in my life whom I listen to, counsel and support, who become surer of themselves and do meaningful things for others.

Occasionally friends will advise me to just say, "No," so that I'm not quite so busy all the time. I find that advice difficult to embrace. As I have grown in peace and justice work, from my teen years marching with the American Friends to my feminist years organizing women's groups to my ongoing work for racial and ethnic justice, I have tried to say, "Yes," whenever possible. My motivation for saying "Yes" arises out of my understanding of my privilege as a middle class American who has enough to eat, a desirable home, and distance from the privation of my sisters and brothers in lesser circumstances here at home in the U.S. and overseas in third world countries. As I have said in different ways over the years, I believe that those who can, should.

I am very much shaped by my mother's family's experience of the Communist take-over in China, their loss of everything, and their refugee status in Hong Kong . . . by the fact that my maternal great-grandfather was known as the "Jesus man" in his village and how his Christianity informed the way he treated the females and servants in his family . . . by my mother's answer to my childhood questions about the Communist take-over that "at least everyone is eating now" . . . by my father's duty and sacrifice of his own opportunities to support his parents, siblings, wife, children and wife's refugee family . . . by my father's constant efforts as an interpreter and translator for his fellow Chinese restaurant workers . . . . I don't have to look far afield to find role models who have shaped my sense of community and duty to care for others.

I suppose it was important for me to have been born with a proclivity for the kind of family training that I received. I think of it as a cultural meme that pervades the very essence of who I was created to be. In the terms of my chosen religion, Christianity, I have been called by God to be this person with these charisms, and living into these charisms is irresistible.

I'm looking ahead to April and thinking strategically of how I can keep some of the days clear of appointments and drives down to Denver, an hour away. The cost of gas will give me an extra incentive to be more deliberate in my driving trips. I am glad for Web conferences, but also find myself in a series of takeoffs and touchdowns like a plane on many short flights, seemingly always getting ready for meetings and recovering from them. I am sometimes tempted to forgo meeting preparation, but I am mindful of honoring other people's commitments by honoring my own commitments. In many ways, I suspect that I am firmly entrenched as a member of my generation, a boomer who will never fully retire and disengage, appealing as that prospect is. I generally don't think that's a bad thing. It is who we are.

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