Thursday, August 25, 2005

Happy blogiversary to me!

Today is the one-year anniversary of What Now? in the blogosphere. Yay!

So let me take this opportunity to say thanks to all of you who have made my year of blogging a real blessing. You’ve made my life better in some concrete ways:
  • I appreciate my job a lot more than I did, now that I have a lot more sense of what happens in other schools (one from a whole slew of examples: now I understand that our salary compression isn’t as bad as the salary inversion that some folks have)—perspective is everything! And now that I know how rough things can get at research universities, I no longer spend so much energy fretting that I’ve been left behind in the academic world, that everyone else is having a more fabulous life than I am. I haven’t exactly solved my grass-is-greener problem, but I’m doing better in this regard.

  • You all have given me endless help with syllabi, class assignments, and a whole range of teaching activities, for which I am most grateful.

  • You’ve even helped with housekeeping and homeowner problems! (starting way back when Mel helped with our moth problem by telling me about pheromone traps, which did a real whammy on our moth population; they didn’t solve the problem altogether but have made it all very manageable—only the occasional moth to kill).

More importantly, you’ve given me the sense that the world is full of friends, some of whom I know in real life and some of whom I don’t, and of potential friends. I think that I’m a calmer, more optimistic, happier, and more confident person than I was a year ago, and that this change is a result both of the self-exploration that comes from writing my blog entries and of the community and support that come from you all in your comments, your emails, and your own blogs. In conversation with other people, I regularly refer to you all as “friends” and “colleagues,” which means that my world is a lot fuller of friends and colleagues than it was a year ago!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Monday, August 22, 2005

A romantic story

Last week New Kid included me in the five-question meme by sending me a set of questions, at my request, but I’m only now answering them because things were a little hectic last week. But after two days of hard syllabus work, not to mention knocking off a couple of administrative tasks for school, I called a halt to work for the day at 3:00 this afternoon. I went out and did some yard work for a couple of hours, because my brain felt too full of details and I needed to do a little physical labor to balance out the brain tiredness. Now I’m showered and sipping white wine, and D. has dinner on the grill, and I’ve got “Iron Chef” (my new TV interest) on TiVO, and I’m ready for a little downtime hangin’ out with the blogosphere. So I’m going to turn my attention to New Kid’s first question, which is a blog entry in and of itself:
"How did you and D. meet/get together?"

Ah yes, a good story. D. and I met in … (wait for it) … a monastery!

Well, where would you go to pick up chicks? What better spot than an Episcopal monastery?

In all seriousness, we were both there for a one-day workshop on “discernment,” which is shorthand for figuring out what the hell God is leading you to do. I have serious issues around discernment—did then, still do—and I was trying very hard to figure out whether I should take an academic job I’d been offered that just seemed completely wrong for me, whether I should keep going in academia at all, whether I should pursue the priesthood, and what I should do about the person I’d been kind of interested in romantically for a year who kept sending me mixed signals but seemed obviously never going to return my interest in any healthy way. Yeah, I had kind of a lot on my plate, and a one-day workshop was certainly not going to change any of that, but I thought that finding out what Christian tradition had to say about discernment was a place to start. Plus a priest had asked a friend and me to teach a four-week class on discernment to the 20s/30s group at our parish, so we thought we should probably figure out what we were going to say; so when we saw this one-day workshop advertised, he and I signed up and then drove up to this monastery together and had a lovely day together.

D., it turns out, was at the workshop because she also had a lot on her plate. She also was trying to decide between academia and the priesthood (and ultimately made the opposite choice from mine, obviously), and she also had some relationship sorting out to do, since she was dating someone but it clearly wasn’t going anywhere.

Not that I learned this at the time. She and I had a moment at the end of the workshop when someone in the hallway said, “Oh, you two are both grad students at LPU. Do you know each other?” Well, no, we didn’t know each other, so we chatted for a few minutes. During which time, I’ll confess, she totally annoyed me! She was way too confident, way too sure of herself, and I was quite irritated by the time we parted ways a few minutes later.

All in all, we made little impression on one another, and we both promptly forgot the other for several months.

Flash forward six months or so. We’re at a cocktail party that’s being hosted by a mutual acquaintance; it’s a diocesan LGB gathering, a bunch of gay Episcopalians getting together for drinks and appetizers. I normally didn’t go to these things, mostly because I had such a bad experience the first time I went, to a pool party that consisted almost entirely of men in their fifties with pierced nipples running around in micro-speedos. I felt completely out of my element and had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to any more of these events, but then a priest at church publically referred to me as “stra…uh…straight” and afterward explained that I’d been single so long that he’d temporarily forgotten that I was bi. I immediately had a crisis of conscience and decided that I needed to make a statement to my parish that I really wasn’t straight just because I was single, dadgumit. So I went to this LGB diocesan cocktail party (which was pretty much just a statement to myself), and, as usual, there were maybe four women at the event.

But one of those women was D., and we ended up talking for the entire evening. At the very beginning of the conversation, D. said, apropos of something or other, “I was at a discernment workshop at Such-and-Such Monastery this winter…,” at which point I interrupted her to say, “Wait, I was at that workshop also!” And then we chatted a little more and slowly the memory of our first conversation came back. (Naturally I didn’t tell her how much she had irritated me!) And then we talked for hours. Later, D. told me that her heart leapt a beat when she found out that I was an Episcopalian academic who’d taken a day to head off to a monastery for a discernment workshop and who was trying to decide on academia versus the priesthood; how much more could we have in common? My heart did not leap a beat, mostly because I had succeeded so well in turning off that part of my heart that I really didn’t have a single romantic thought at that point in my life; honestly, I distrusted attraction so much that I was unwilling to think romantically about anyone that I wasn’t already friends with. The next day at church, a couple of friends who had been at the party with me said, “You know, I think that D. was really interested in you; there was a definite sexual tension in the air,” but I replied, “Oh no, we just had a lot in common. But I would like to pursue a friendship with her.”

So when I sent her an email that Monday morning with the message, “Lovely to meet you Saturday night. Let’s get together on campus for lunch sometime and continue our conversation about monastic communities” (and no, I am not making that up), I really meant it; no coyness for me—dadgumit, I wanted to talk about monastic communities some more! But she, sly one that she was, replied to my email, “Sounds great! But my days on campus are hectic; how about dinner instead? Are you free on Friday night? Do you like [swanky expensive French restaurant]?” A friend of mine, reading this email over my shoulder, advised me, “WN, I think you need to accept the fact that this is going to be a date, not just two new friends getting together.” And he was quite right; it was definitely a date.

And the rest is history. D. and I still like to say that it was a very good omen that we first met at a monastery during a discernment workshop, even if that’s not when our relationship actually began.

Isn’t that sweet?!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

House church

Last night, we had a lovely evening at our friends’ house, all of us hanging out on the wide front porch. Another friend had also arrived to hang out with us and spend the night, so there we were, five lefty, overeducated, lesbian Episcopalians, shootin’ the breeze all evening. We had a brief discussion about what time church was the next morning and just how hot the unairconditioned building was going to be (something with which D. and I are very familiar, since our parish building is also hotter than hell). We quickly agreed that it was going to be too much of a pain for all five of us to get up and showered (in the house's single full bathroom) and breakfasted before 10:00 a.m. church, so we decided to do “house church” instead. One of the friends we were staying with this weekend is a priest, so we decided she could celebrate the Eucharist and we would do church ourselves.

So that’s what we did this morning. We sat around the dining room table with our friends’ chalice and paten, port in the former and a carefully cut-out circle of bread on the latter. Three of us lay folk read the Hebrew bible, psalm, and epistle readings (I got the last one), our priest friend read the gospel passage, D. gave us a short reflection to start off the “sermon”—in this case, a conversation about the lectionary passages—and then the priest celebrated the Eucharist and we served one another the bread and wine. We used Eucharistic prayer C, which is lovely and is the one we chose for our blessing (my two favorite lines: “At your command all things came to be: … this fragile earth, our island home” and “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal”). (Unfortunately, the people’s responses are more complicated than in the other Eucharistic prayers; one of my friends pointed this out [since none of us had Books of Common Prayer in front of us], and another friend said, “Well, that’s okay, we all have the responses memorized”; of course, as the least church-y person in the group, I actually did NOT have the responses memorized, although I knew them well enough to fake my way through it, and of course I knew the rest of the service just fine.)

What a lovely way to worship this morning! Clearly such a small community of congenial friends wouldn’t be the way to worship every week, at least as one’s primary service—mostly because it would be too easy and comfortable. Part of being a worshiping community is having to live into Christian charity with one’s brothers and sisters in Christ who are completely annoying, who disagree with one, who are different enough that we all grow and stretch by gathering around the table together (can you tell I’m thinking about tomorrow night’s vestry meeting?); plus there’s that whole radical hospitality thing to the sick and hungry and disenfranchised, and I’m not going to encounter that with my friends, who mostly share the same kinds of privilege that I do. But for one weekend, in a gathering that was essentially a temporary retreat from the world into the bosom of friendship, it was just wonderful.