Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Business as usual

Routines are easy to get into – unlike those jeans from high school, that relationship from last year, and that dream from endless hope. Routines zip up with ease.
It’s been three nights. Kristin and I arrived in Colorado Springs on Saturday, by Monday night the three of us dwelling in Ingrid’s one-bedroom apartment had a rhythm. I noticed it as I dragged the air mattress from off the balcony, Ingrid brushed her teeth in the bathroom, and Kristin began plugging in all her many electronics for the night. We had a pattern, a routine.
It isn’t that far off from life, in the broader since. I was stuck in a routine for three years, a job with a 30-day rotation from conception to deadline and back again. We played that song until I wanted to bash in the surround sound.
And in a moment, the routine shattered. I was unemployed. No more rhythm, off beat or otherwise. It’s been 11-weeks of what I’d call “massive upheaval.” Who knows what I’ll be doing from one day to the next, what job will come my way, what money will exchange hands and land into mine, and what odd task I’ll do to get it.
On and on, from gardener to construction worker, from telemarketing calls to photo assistant, to cleaning a house to pacing my own, I’ve done just about everything you can imagine, except squash grapes. But my clean feet don’t get me far in the professional world.
Instead, I’ve gone from temporary job to temporary job, losing pieces of my identity at every doorstep.
For a person who bemoans routine like I grumble over undercooked artichoke hearts (stringy vegetables are just icky), I’ve felt a bit lost lately. I’ve had no routine. Despite all my complaints to get out, suddenly I found myself wanting in. Where was my security? Where was my foundation? When would I get a solid job, a steady income, and finally get a good night’s sleep?
If you can define torment, do it now. I’ve seen it’s gnarly face and crooked teeth too many times over the last 11-weeks, more frequently as the clock spins past. I’d like to smack it heartily and give it a toothbrush. But it’s ugliness, for me, is unmanageable.
Truthfully, I’ve been overwhelmed.
Oh I’ve had moments of profound revelation. Times of bold faith. Spasms of brazen and busty declarations that this, this trifle loss of a job, this plummeting foothold, was just all in a day’s work. God could and would handle it all.
And I’ve even believed it a time or two. More often than not. But the not is there. And once planted, spreads like milkweeds in moist climate.
So that’s been me. For weeks, that’s been the portrait of me. And perhaps, more than a vacation, I came to Colorado to escape. Pretending is so much easier when you change the scenery. Here I could push reality aside.
Here’s the guts of it: God had a better script.
I don’t have a job, a title, a cluster of words to define my economic status, professional goals, or philosophy. I have me. And in me lives a Savior.
Yesterday I went to two church services in two churches in two towns. And I asked God in each for one thing: comfort. Please just give me peace. My supply dried up and evaporated weeks ago. And the drought was affecting more than my view on a future career, it was spurring on a deep-seeded, overwhelming, all-encompassing, gargantuan node of hot, steamy fear.
I needed peace like I needed air, and both have been too heavy to take in.
Did I find it? Yes, in moments. It didn’t come raining down. There has been just a drop here and there over the last couple of days. But I felt it just the same.
During the final moments of last night’s worship service, the contemporary if not downright edgy band played an old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”
Oh Lord my God. When I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made. I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder. Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
We don’t always get a bolt of lightning to severe the here from the now, to part the tempest from the calm and sit us on dry soil. Sometimes it’s just a mountain on the horizon to remind us how small we are, how big He is. Sometimes it’s meeting new people and finding a common Love for an uncommon God. Sometimes it’s finding that routines can be replaced, within a heartbeat, within a matter of moments, within an unsteady time when nothing is routine. That’s when I knew He was there, just like before, just like every day of my existence and every day forward, just like He said He’d do, like He’s proved to me He’d do, like He promised and has never broken. He’s been there arranging the future while I’ve been busy counting toothbrush strokes.
He’s been simply going about His routine.

Monday, August 13, 2007

the Alice complex

Iris Johanson. Well, that was a new writer. Sounded promising. I pulled her book off the shelf, nestled her into the crook of my arm, went back to searching. Carly Phillips. Great. She'll go home with me too. And Joshua Ferris. What a great cover. You can come too.
I carried them around, scanning the library shelves, making sure no one else should be invited to my home for the weekend, and hurried to checkout. I had three books and less than two days, should tide me over.
I went home, sat in my favorite spot, couch cushions arranged perfectly to support all my extremities, creaked open JoHanson, and shut off the world. That was the entire purpose anyway, to shut everything out. I didn't answer my phone, didn't check my email, I just vegged. I sat in a still almost comatose type state, turned everything off including my ability for complex thought, and sucked on my pacifier.
Life, for the moment, had overloaded my circuits. I needed down time. I needed quiet. But mostly, I just needed nothingness. I wanted to escape to another world, to follow the rabbit down the hole, to ignore everything resembling reality.
And books always take me there.
I often wondered what propelled Alice into Wonderland. She was too young to fret, too pretty for masochism, too innocent for brassy life. She couldn't possibly be dealing with failure issues and family trouble. I don't remember any mention of a broken heart or fractured finances. And blonds really do have more fun, so what could have been the issue?
Maybe it was something less pointed, less purposeful, more benign. Maybe she simply needed to stop. She needed to stop trying to figure things out. She needed to stop fretting over life. She needed to stop all the noise, the doubts, the misgivings, the questions, the frustrations, the impatience, the seeking, the striving, the work of basically living. She just needed to stop.
This isn't my first escape from reality. I take them often, actually. I've learned, with me, it's up there in importance, next to eating and applying chapstick. I just have to stop.
I over think things. I over analyze. I try to "figure out" everything. I'd move to the ocean and study the tides if I thought it'd give me anything other than frizzy hair. Basically, I exhaust myself.
And here's the lesson I keep relearning and relearning. And....relearning.
Life doesn't require answers, only acceptance. God didn't tell us we'd always be in the know. In fact, He basically said the opposite. And because of this, He recommended a spicy little ingredient to add those ambiguous times: Faith.
We don't have to create it, buy it, mix it, make it. We just accept it. Just accept.
And the next time we trip into a rabbit hole to Wonderland, maybe we'll enjoy the ride.