resting in my own skin...

One of my deepest insights - confirmed and strengthened during last year's sabbatical but
always a part of my core - is that encountering creative music is my soul food. I am moved by good liturgy and silence. I am captivated by the smells and bells of high church ceremonies or monastic retreats. And I am encouraged being with my community for the hymns and prayers of the people. But I am fed - sensually, spiritually, intellectually and emotionally - whenever I am a part of a creative musical experience that cuts deeply. It doesn't matter whether I am a player or an active participant in the audience: like St. Paul  wrote in II Corinthians 12:2 "I know one... who was caught up into the third heaven; I cannot tell whether it was in the body or out, I do not know for only God knows." That is part of the reason why when I go away on retreat I make certain there is a time to experience well performed live music. It is not a traditional retreat, to be sure, but it is essential for my soul.

There are two other things I need for a satisfying retreat:  lots of sleep and lots of walking outdoors. I never used to own this, but because I am always "on" when I am in my working life, I experience a low level anxiety most of the time. It isn't debilitating, of course, and  I have learned to work with it over 35+ years. But it is constant - and cumulatively exhausting. So as soon as I step far enough away from active ministry, I sleep for 10+ hours every night and do so like a baby.  It helps to have lots of walking time, too. Three - five hours of serious schlepping does me a world of good. It also encourages deep rest. 

And there is one other realization that I am slowly finding the words to describe: one of the reasons I find being in Montreal so liberating is that my French is... um. so incomplete. As we were walking around in the freezing rain Thursday night, it began to dawn on me why this is so valuable to me.  First, I have to be very intentional - and well-considered - before I try to communicate. I have to think in advance of speaking (always a good practice, yes?) Second, being a very modest French speaker puts me in the position of listening carefully to another (yet one more valuable spiritual discipline.) Third, for the most part, language and culture renders me anonymous; there is no chance I am going to bump into someone I know and love here accidentally and then quickly shift gears from private into public persona. It never happens  - and knowing this means I can just wander about each day just being me rather than fretting about becoming me-plus...

Extroverts don't get this nor do those in many of our faith communities - but clergy and church
staff comprehend this distinction in spades. Whenever clergy or staff are public, they must be "on" - careful, intentional and connected - whether they feel like it or not. No matter how often I try to explain this, some people fail to grasp how just hanging out at a picnic or church social event is "work" for me. "It is just fun," they tell me. And that is true - it is fun. And it is also work (for me) because I am always being judged and watched and expected to be alert and loving whenever I am in public. Truth be told, like anyone else, I don't always feel alert and loving and that makes it essential to be away and anonymous from time to time. It is what has come to be called "self-care." If we don't love ourselves, Jesus taught, we won't be very good at loving others. Introverts - and all public servants - need down time to be quiet, inward and alone so that we can be alert, compassionate and connected in community.

And so I am starting to feel rested and grounded in my own skin again.


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