City on the Go, But Is It Going Too Fast?

I’ve lived in the suburbs my whole life, but I’ve always been close to the city. I love the city. I love the many things it offers and don’t often mind its obvious faults. Unlike the suburbs or the country, the city is honest. It’s bare with its beauty and splendor in the form of manicured parks and streets and with its massive buildings almost breathing at night with their twinkling lights, but it is also raw in the form of crime. It is home to places you wouldn’t dare visit alone and places where one suddenly finds God, if caught on a dark and seedy street, after a wrong turn. And the city has, of course, its homeless. Individuals both young and old, who look at us through dark and hollow eyes. Eyes that tell us that life has beaten them down and that whisper a chilling connection to us. A connection that tells us we have managed to avoid the shipwreck that life can bring…for now. But I still love the city and, in my opinion, the busier, the bigger, the better.

However, I think I may have lost something by living here. I went to a wedding celebration recently. The bride is a long-time friend of mine. This was her second marriage, after a troubled first marriage. The guy she married she had reconnected with on Facebook. It turned out that I knew him from college, so this was quite the event for us both. The wedding was a small, private one and the celebration took place in the rural outskirts of town. The destination included a beautiful, 45-minute drive through open countryside. The houses along the way boasted three and four acres of land along “busy” streets. When we arrived, I waded through the large crowd (about 50 people had already come and gone, I was told) to find and hug the new couple. There was much laughter and tears of joy as the bride re-introduced me to the long-lost friend from college.

After touring her new home, nestled among trees alive with deer, raccoons, and squirrels and whose property rested its edges along a small creek, I found a plate, filled it with chicken wings, crackers and dip, chips and salsa, and found my way to a corner…near the cake table. While standing there, enjoying my food and wondering if I should try two slices from two cakes or merely a small slice of one, I became aware of conversations going on around me. They went something like, “Now, are we still doing lunch on Tuesday?” and “I think we’re going to catch a movie Friday night, can you join us?” and “Are you coming to game night?” It occurred to me later that when one lives in a rural area, the entertainment becomes the company of others, rather than, say, a day alone shopping in the city.

This is not to say that I don’t get together with friends, but it takes real effort on both our parts for it to occur. For example, I had a lunch date this past weekend with a friend of mine that we have been planning since September. On another occasion recently, I offered a get-together which would have included 12 people but only 5 showed. Even my own family, all of us born near the city, of course, prefers busy-ness over a face to face. In stark contrast, my husband’s family–all from the country–is usually eager to gather for a meal and to visit one another, even if it is mostly watching TV.

I still love and enjoy the city and would feel like an alien or, rather, more of an alien, if I had to move too far from its cold yet ample arms. However, I miss the warmness that real friendship can bring–friendships that seem to flourish in the wheat fields and rolling hills of the South’s rural areas.

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Bout with Laryngitis Could Lead to Clearer Voice for Future

October was a difficult month. It started with laryngitis, which led to a sinus infection, which led to a fever, which led to a stomach bug, which limped across the finish line with chest congestion and an overall bad feeling. I remained upright, for the most part, but didn’t want to be. Every chair I passed or every bench I passed—park or otherwise—called to me, like some tortuous siren to come sit or lay down for a spell.

Although long, the sickness was, if I may be trite, a blessing in disguise. I found myself reevaluating my days and doing only what was absolutely necessary. There are many activities in my life that I have volunteered for, but I quickly learned to tell those in expectation, “Not this week.” If it was a daily personal undertaking that I felt an urgency to do for reasons known only to me and not even sure why the reasons were there, I began to ask myself, “why do I feel this thing is so important?” and would, consequently, skip it for that day…and the next…and the next.

Even church and choir attendance fell down on the list of things I felt I must do and I began to give even those activities a second look. I don’t often enjoy church. It’s big and relatively unfriendly. Sure, people talk to me and we are usually glad to see each other on Sundays, but the majority of people I know, know me only as, “Hi” rather than by my real name. This isn’t entirely their fault, of course. I could do more to change this reality, but it would require work. It would require more involvement, joining small groups, getting involved in small ministry projects, and so on. Just writing what I need to be doing makes me sigh with stress much less stepping out and actually doing it.

I haven’t enjoyed choir…well…maybe never. Again, it is large and relatively unfriendly. It has been a good day in choir practice if I strike up a conversation that is longer than 3 seconds. Again, this is not the fault of the choir, but my own. I could do more. I could…well you get the picture. I have a background in music, so music is quite important to me, but our choir director, although an amazing spiritual leader, has led for so many years, I think, that his enthusiasm for music and directing has waned. Over a 2 hour rehearsal, for example, he will talk an hour of it or read something to us or tell us, at length, about a new spiritual book he is reading. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there, as are the rest of us, waiting to either (a) sing or (b) go home, both of which are long in coming.

So now that I am better where does this leave me? I have felt powerful, in a way, telling people no and skipping church, choir rehearsal, and the other “necessary” activities of my life. It’s almost been like storing junk. I have piled and piled these things in my life and turn around one day, during an illness, and realize how much energy I have been spending on things I don’t enjoy. So, do I quit church for awhile or do I ignore the fact that I’m going through the motions mostly for others and keep attending and keep doing?

More than likely I will keep attending, because of commitments I made at the beginning of this year, but next year, say September of 2010, I anticipate change. Those things that I do in my personal time that I have somehow, over time, felt necessary I will scale back and try and not add anything new that is not somewhat enjoyable and heart renewing.

 

What about you? Have you scaled back and if so how? What was the result? I would love to hear about your personal “fall cleaning.”