My dreams this week concern me. I've dreamed about killing someone I didn't know; I wasn't convicted in court for lack of evidence, even though I knew I was at fault. I've dreamed about others I did know dying of natural causes, leaving me to pick up the pieces. Last night I dreamed about an elderly friend of mine asking me to help pack up two houses: the one in which he used to live and the one in which he currently lived. He was preparing to move elsewhere, though I didn't know where. Everything I touched in his current house was laden with memory, whereas everything in the other house was strange, rich, and unlike him as far as I knew him. I'm no expert on Jung or Freud, but I do know that dreams can point dreamers to insights about themselves and their lives. What is with all the death, hiding, and transition? I woke in the middle of the night last night to get my baby daughter a bottle. When I returned, I flashed back to a conversation from my last Benedictine Canon chapter meeting. Br. Philip talked about preparing for his final profession as a Canon next month, in particular about the placing of the pall over his prostrated body. Like Br. Chad and Br. Rawleigh, Br. Philip will lay down his body at the service of God, the community, and the world. He'll be covered with a pall, the pale garment of baptism and death. I realized in the chill of the night that if I make my full profession as a Benedictine Canon, I will be committing myself to die. I crawled back into bed and closed my eyes, but words rose up, and I ended up texting myself with the words of a haiku so they wouldn't be swallowed by sleep. A funeral pall veils the diff'rence between old and new. Ego die. My dreams point me to an unexpected revelation: my old self is dying. I am being put to the test. My identity as a religious person has long been plagued with fear, self-absorption, doubt, and horded treasures, all carefully saved so I would have something to cling to in case God ever failed me. Now, step by step, I am moving forward into the intensely uncomfortable unknown: a place of overflowing trust. Father, I put my life in your hands. I'm dying--and it's okay. I'm letting the precious treasure of my life go. And what a relief. Mother, I put my life in your hands. My life will be whatever it is meant to be. The particular outcome of my life is no longer my concern. Living from moment to moment at the service of God and God's magnificent, multi-faceted creation is enough. Being able to turn again and again from my selfish fears toward God, the holy Fire who burns within me, is enough.
I quit my job today. Several days ago, I agreed to take on an editing job. In discussing the job with the client, I asked many questions, and I also made several assumptions. I bid for what I thought would be 30-35 hours of work. It turned out that this job would require at least a hundred hours, and possibly many more. Since I had given a flat-rate bid, my hourly rate for the job went from normal-for-me to piddly--not even a decent fraction of minimum wage. So I quit. And I felt terrible about it. Then the mental onslaught began. You didn't keep your word. You didn't stick it out when things got rough. You took the easy way out. You need the money--you should have just sucked it up. You're a lousy contractor. You're an unreliable editor. (Oh, and the client, when I offered to send along the fruits of my already many hours of work in exchange for pro-rated pay, accused me of scamming. So--) Your client thinks you're a cheat and a scammer. Quitters are losers. Want it spelled out? Foxtrot. Alpha. India. Lima. Uniform. Romeo. Echo. Quitting doesn't sit well with me, not even a little. Quitting produces a magnifying glass that channels rays of truth and burns me. Quitting elicits a shockwave of realization and memory that knocks the breath out of me. Once, when I was twelve years old, I jumped off a swing and landed on my back. I couldn't breathe for at least thirty seconds, maybe more. I was terrified. The pain mounted with every passing second. Worse, I was alone, without help, and without any means to summon help. I wondered if I was going to pass out. I wondered if I was about to die. Quitting is like that. It's an admission of inability to do what I've said I can do. It's self-mutilation of the picture-perfect persona I've worked so hard to build and maintain. It's an unfathomable crack in my impenetrable defenses, a loophole of vulnerability. It's the potential for destruction. Quitting is the seed of weedy humiliation. How can I sink any lower than to go back on my word, to admit that I was wrong in my own self-expectation? Is there anything worthy of redemption in a quitter? I am forced to face my own genuine failings so infrequently that it's world-shifting when it happens. It's one thing to admit failing in a general way, as in Psalm 51, but to name and own particular failings is a much more daunting task. I don't want anyone to know that I'm not as awesome as I present myself to be. I don't want anyone to know that I fail. I don't want anyone to know that I'm not a model feminist. I don't want anyone to know that sometimes I'm a lousy parent or spouse or friend. Because then I might be ordinary, right? Then I might require a reexamination of the awesome person I think I manage to be most of the time. And that might change who I am. And if I change, then who am I? Do you suppose this is why we describe God as immutable, unchanging, and sinless? Because we are so fearful of change and sin in ourselves, and so resentful of it in others? What if God were more like humans? What if God were more like me? What if bearing the divine spark within me meant accepting my failings without idolizing them, so that the awesomeness could shine through the muck? What if quitting and failure are two sides of the same tool, designed to cut facets in us so we can capture light more brilliantly, like jewels? What if failure is the only available path to discovering who I really am, as shone through God's marvelous light?