Friday, October 14, 2011

I hate being weak

I am at the CCDA conference with Esther this week. I have to tell you that it is a lot of work to be attuned to her needs every minute while also paying attention to speakers and trying to be open to the Holy Spirit and networking with folks who are passionate about the same things that I am passionate about.

For instance, today, Esther is wearing her third outfit of the day after soiling two and I am on my second after she managed to hit both top and bottom of my first outfit with her, well, crap.

But it's worth it. It's worth it to expose her to the cadences of African American pastors, communicating their wisdom. It's worth it to include her in the corporate prayer of these development practitioners. It's worth it to let her experience the rhythms of Richard Twiss's Lakota prayers and sense of humor. I think these early experiences are helping to lay a map in her brain that her growing sense of how the world works will be laid upon.

It is the same reason that I took her to high holiday services this year. I could have begged off and asked to stay home since that is much much easier at this stage, since it's hard for me personally to get spiritual nourishment from so much Hebrew and since I wasn't fasting this year. But it's important that she rest against her father's chest as he sings the prayers and that while she is nursing, she hears the rhythms of the cantor. It's important that all of that Hebrrew begins settling itself in her consciousness. It sets the pattern of the seasons in her nascent cycles.

But I am having some doubts about the amount of money this non-professional is spending on this experience. I am trying to acknowledge the presence of these doubts and worries gently, though, while looking past their urgent flailing for my attention so I do not let those doubts interfere with what I'm trying to do. The monkey mind can be calmed.

And, as usual, God is revealing that I am here to accomplish much more than I thought I was. This week seems to have a recurring theme of forcing me to get comfortable with not being able to claim my professional identity. No one is interested in what I used to do. These folks are engaged in current work. And my current work is raising Esther and creating a nurturing space for Jacob and for our marriage. Wow. That's hard. So much of my self-identity has been dependent upon being a "worker."

Part of this lesson of comfort that I am learning happened this afternoon. My cohort was supposed to meet at the pub around the corner from the hotel. I walked in and the waitress looked at me in distress. "Oh honey, you can bring a baby in here. It's a bar!" She then said something about an Indiana law. Seriously, Hoosiers? That's how you defy your rural personality?

So, I waved to my new friends and turned away regretfully but with dignity, I hoped.

As I walked away, though, I was freaking out a little. I mean, the relationships that I'm building as a part of this cohort is the number one reason why I'm spending all of this money this week. To miss our main meeting was definitely disturbing my calm. So, I raced back to the conference hotel to see if childcare was still open. It wasn't. So, my mind whirled.

Earlier in the morning, as I was swabbing Esther down with what would turn out to be a total of seven wipes, a good acquaintance swooped down from heaven and asked if I needed help. Did I? I took her up on her offer to hold Esther once she was in a fresh set of pajamas while I went up to my room to change my own clothes. We sat together after that and caught up at lunch. She assured me then that if I needed any more help, she was happy to do it.

I thanked her but didn't actually think anything would come of it because, hey, if I can't be a professional, I can be independently competent at being a mom, right?

Yeah, I know. I never learn. Seriously. No wisdom teaches that kind of goal. Villages, Rebecca, villages.

And yet.

So, as my mind whirled to find a way to go back to the bar, I realized that I could call my acquaintance.

But could I?

If I did, I would owe her.

I know, I know. Favors should not be transactional in the Christian community. We should give generously, knowing God will take care of our own needs. And I don't mind giving. I mind receiving.

Because accepting her generosity might change my relationship with her. I might need to consider her kindness the next time she invites me to coffee during a week when I just want to hide in my cave. I might need to attend one of her neighborhood meetings for her educational organization. I might lay awake in the middle of the night and realize that I really should set up a play date with her son and Esther. All of these opportunities already exist in our relationship, but I have previously felt comfortable engaging or not engaging based on what my needs are. Now, would I need to consider her needs since she would be so other-focused today?

Trust me, as I was thinking it, I was looking at myself incredulously. But I persisted in my whiny protest. I am nothing if not tenacious in my sin.

I hate relationships that change toward more intimacy. Anything could happen.

But. I'm at a conference that emphasizes that we must live in community to be close to God. It's why I love this organization. Community demands the giving and receiving of favors, especially when we are vulnerable, even when we don't want to admit that in addition to not making money anymore, I can't take care of my daughter without help.

So, I called her. And she was happy to do it. And I had a beer.

Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?

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