Thursday, April 29, 2010

Churchopedia #2 (Church #24): Conversation v. Conversion

Usually people either believe or they don’t. The person that believes in fate, God’s plan, soul-mates, signs and superstitions clashes severely with one who enjoys coincidence, choice and the basic fact that “s**t happens.” I’ve always believed in dichotomies, a combination of the supernatural and the rational. I am mostly in control of my experiences, thoughts and emotions, but God has a funny way of throwing that in my face sometimes. When I am most comfortable, when the obvious happens, when the right choice is made, here comes the other side pushing the logical out of the way and screaming for attention. Perhaps it is pure luck that my life always fits so well into the 10 Churches journey of this blog. Maybe it is the way I manipulate words and situations to make a point or come to a revelation. I think, though, that at some point God intervenes and forces me to consider other aspects of the equation: the additional answers and explanations, or, the possibility that the equation is unsolvable.

On Sunday, Rainbow Mennonite fulfilled all of my expectations. I did not write an immediate blog entry because I really could not think of anything to ponder. It was interesting, but non-descript, nice, but plain, and if someone were to ask me about the Mennonites now, I would say the same thing I have always said about them: “They are good people.” That phrase is a common Midwestern term…a politically correct way of defining a culture, a religion or a people by the generalization of their ideals.

When Tuesday rolled around, I was granted the opportunity to see the other side. An experience that accentuated the positive points about the Mennonites while also putting everything into perspective. An experience that made it difficult to only say, “They are good people.” Tuesday night, I attended the “Singles” group at Church of the Resurrection (Mega-church #1, Church #12). This was a community that proved, at least partially, that the Mennonites are more than just good people and the opposite is too multifaceted to be labeled only as “bad.” Philosophy and theology are just more complicated than that.

I visited Resurrection Singles because (let’s be honest here) I am desperately searching for love. It took a lot of convincing from my mother, who has been attending church there regularly and quite a dramatic pep talk in my car prior, but I knew I would regret not at least trying it. I assumed I might feel slightly uncomfortable or a little weird. I thought I might be out of place or slightly more liberal than everyone else. I hoped just as much that I would be surprised by a positive experience, gaining a few friends or possibilities along the way.

I was wrong. About everything.

I’m skipping the first part of the evening when more than 100 singles gathered for snacks and icebreakers. I wanted that to be the most uncomfortable time. It was, after all, the part of the night when an older man in an orange shirt kept moving his chair closer to mine as I inched further away. But that was just the beginning. When we broke into age groups, I entered the 32-and-under room expecting conversation, prayer and worship. What I got was a full-fledged bible study on Acts 13.

First, I forgot my bible. I didn’t really forget it. I don’t carry a bible with me…ever. It stays by my bed, I read it often and I know it well, but the Internet is less heavy than the leather bound, annotated (plus apocrypha) book I own. I was overwhelmed with the loneliness I often felt in high school. When your 16, though, you can build up an overconfident reputation as the “weird girl” and eventually get by. Where is that argumentative, opinionated, crazy liberal now that I’m in my late 20s? Why do I suddenly feel ashamed to be who I am in a room of what I am not?

If you’ve met me, you will find this next part unbelievable. We discussed Acts 13 for over an hour. I did not say one word for 45 minutes. Whenever I had the opportunity, I viciously scribbled notes on my verse-by-verse worksheet, underlining and finishing with explanation points. I tried to be inconspicuous, but if my constant writing didn’t give it away, I’m sure my red face and watering eyes were a sign of discomfort.

In case you do not want to read Acts 13, here is my completely biased summary:

Paul and his friends are on a journey to destroy the Jewish faith. They go to a bunch of places and meet a bunch of people, and those people are a little hesitant. After all, Paul is asking them to completely disregard all the rules they’ve been following since Moses and follow this guy called Jesus. AND he claims they don’t have to atone for their sins, which just seems wrong. Shouldn’t we all have to atone in some way? Anyway, Paul loses his temper and tells the Jewish people that they had their chance to be the chosen people but they questioned it too much so they might as well just go to hell. He’s pretty mean about it, too. He’s all, “Fine! You don’t want Christ! We’ll just give him to the Gentiles!” Of course, Acts is written from the “winner’s” perspective. Paul is made out to be a poor, harassed, selfless follower; really, I think he was a very rude, presumptuous and hateful guest.

Okay, I know that’s a little…dramatic. But sometimes my opinion exaggerates as I hear more of the opposition. In my bible study group of about ten, the words of Acts were taken as pure truth. No questions asked. No consideration of context or different opinions. The worksheet asked: why was Paul a good teacher? The group answered: He lives by example, he is knowledgeable and he shares his teachings with everyone. My answer? Paul wasn’t that great of a teacher. Good teachers are open-minded, always learning and not afraid to admit they are wrong. Good teachers apologize when they lose their tempers. Finally, I spoke, “I feel that,” I started. “I feel that if I were only to read Acts 13, I wouldn’t want to be a Christian.” Blank stares=epic fail. Someone at the table tried to explain Paul’s perspective to me, but I didn’t need to hear it. After all, his perspective is written right in front of me. What I wanted was to consider the perspective of the Jewish people. What I wanted was to consider that this might just be a politically motivated story, based on real events but ultimately fiction. I had forgotten how it felt to feel silenced.

From that point forward, one girl spoke to me. She made small talk as we walked to the parking lot and meekly said, “Hope to see you next week.” I’m sure they all were as nice as her, I just don’t get a chance to experience that because I don’t believe exactly what they believe.

This put the Mennonites in a really, really good light. The Mennonites I know always listen first. They are thoughtful and kind, and they will give you food and shelter regardless of your religion. They work hard and they value the community as much as the individual. Their worship service was a little challenging, very comforting and left room for fellowship and discussion. I didn’t feel silenced in their congregation. In fact, I felt comfortable enough to introduce myself during the service. They wanted my blog address and offered me donuts. Their music was beautiful and inviting.

I’m reminded, now, of why I began this journey. It was to find the good in churches, not the bad. It was to be eternally open-minded and carefully critical. I could have written a blog entry on Monday about the Mennonites. Sometimes, it’s okay when there is no revelation or argument. But God knows that sometimes I need a little bit of drama to stir my spirit and I need the opposite in order to write the obvious. I don’t want to be as harsh on the singles group as Paul was on the Jewish people. I really do want to see the love in all religious situations. After all, I’m sure they are good people.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Interlude: Defeat

I climbed onto the bus after Wednesday night’s rehearsal, absolutely exhausted. Maybe Tchaikovsky drained me, or perhaps it was just the long day that started with me leaving my house at 7:00 a.m. and not returning until close to midnight. My body and mind are accustomed to this schedule. The day’s culmination with a rehearsal or concert often invigorates me. Chatting and laughter are more common on the bus ride back to Kansas City after rehearsal than to St. Joseph at 5:30 in the evening. Musicians appreciate post-music frivolity, that’s for sure.

This time, however, as the rest of the bus riders loudly rejoiced in the night, I slumped down in my seat and pulled out my iPod. I was silently whining to myself, yearning for just a moment of that silence from that Quaker Meeting. My face and arms were warm, like sunburn, and several people had already commented that I looked “flushed.” If I looked in a mirror, I know I would have seen my neck and chest turning red. Allergic reactions and stress reactions are one in the same for me. I considered using my EpiPen, but thought better of it. Stabbing myself in the leg with adrenaline seemed unlikely to make me feel better.

I waited until the lights turned off and the bus started moving before I allowed a few tears to fall. At that point, I started noticing the numbness in my legs and arms, the tremor in my hands and a nausea that was spreading from my stomach throughout the rest of my body. The feeling of defeat has always scared me, especially when it happens at obscure times. There was no life-changing event or epic fail; no loss of competition, life or love. I just know that if someone had asked me, “Megan, how are you feeling?” I would have had a fabulous word bank of adjectives with which to reply: sad, lonely, hurt, angry, fat, tired, sick, crazy, defeated, etc…a list so long, I should have made a word search entitled “Adjectives to Describe Megan when she is Cranky.” Oh, cranky. That’s another good one.

This would have been a convenient time for Jesus to arrive. The door was wide open. If a missionary had approached me, I probably would have converted instantly. But missionaries usually come at when you’re eating dinner or watching a movie, so I just scrolled through my iPod for signs of Christ. God? The Holy Spirit, for goodness sake? I landed on Kristin Chenoweth’s rendition of “Just as I Am.” Not her best work, but even then, still better than everyone else.

The arrangement was simple, quiet and comforting. Often used as an altar call in conservative churches, I had heard many dechurched lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered speakers refer to this song thoughtlessly as a representation of discomfort and unwelcome as non-LGBTs walked down the aisles. When I first read the lyrics, sometime in college, I thought just the opposite. “This should be the LGBT Christian Anthem,” I said to my pastor. “I mean, seriously, ‘Just as I Am’? It practically screams, ‘God made me this way!’” It isn’t always the words, though, but the intention that becomes the common belief. Whereas the words suggested an environment of complete and utter acceptance, they were utilized to separate and judge. How did a perfectly good hymn get twisted up in that mess?

Closing my eyes and listening to Kristin’s every word was really an effort to let Jesus back into my heart. I thought if I could believe the words at my lowest moment, I could believe in Him again. “If you really want me Just as I Am,” I prayed in my head, “then here I am.”

It wasn’t that life had dealt me a bad hand. My life was and still is full of opportunity, positive relationships and many achievements. I just didn’t think I deserved that life at that time. Someone else could step into my place and make the most of my credentials to create more change, a better future and a great life. The only saving grace, the only hope, was that I could give my life back to Jesus. I could love God with all my heart and soul and mind. And then maybe my good luck could be put to good use. I know it’s not possible to just give all of my ‘awesome’ to someone else and shrivel up into despair. I needed a chance to use my awesome for, well, awesomeness. Who better to do that than an Awesome God (now there’s a song I don’t like)?

Most of the time, my rants end in a sensible solution or a provocative conclusion; sometimes, a rhetorical question or a caddy summation. This time, no. This time, I can only write that after internalizing “Just as I Am,” I felt a little bit better. Not get-down-on-my-knees-and-praise-the-Lord better, but there was a slight improvement in my attitude the next day. By Friday, I had regained at least my musical confidence and was back playing Tchaikovsky without fear or anxiety. I laughed more, concentrated harder and whined less. There were a few ups and downs every hour or two and I’m not saved, nor healed nor convinced. But we’re getting somewhere. It’s about freaking time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Churchopedia #1 (Church #23): Silent Hysteria

Teachers rarely experience silence. There might be a moment of quiet, followed by a “Ssh!” or “Be quiet!” or “She’s pushing me!” During tests, there are papers shuffling or keys clicking. The cell phone in the backpack is a more recent classroom sound, closely affiliated with the tick of buttons texting under a desk. The movement, voices and general clamor of a school become ingrained in our heads like a high-pitched dog whistle that only we can hear.

Musicians seldom come across silence, either. If we aren’t actually listening to or playing music, it is roaring through our head at full speed, providing a constant soundtrack, even when we sleep. Teachers and musicians know what it’s like to hear things from the inside out. Silence is non-existent.

Quakers are known for their preference towards silent, reflective settings. The Penn Valley Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends allowed my mother and I to dive into this place without testing the water first. They were welcoming, full of small talk and introductions and then it stopped. The Meeting began and the sound disappeared. For only that split second, when the quiet began, I heard nothing.

Then, I snapped out of it.

I closed my eyes in prayer and drifted immediately to my students. I heard their laughter and gave thanks, felt their pain and asked for help, but then I started to think about lesson plans. I hummed songs with my breath and recited them on sol-feg to reason their difficulty with the appropriate grade-level.

Someone shifted and I opened my eyes for a moment, hoping the Spirit had moved a Friend to speak. The man beside me simply crossed his legs and settled back into the nothingness. Silent sigh. I closed my eyes again, trying hard to concentrate on the silence.

Then, of course, Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” started running through my head. I had no sense of time, but figured that in the first ten minutes, I had lost any hope of undergoing a divine transformation. I also knew that unless someone spoke-up soon and gave me something to ponder, I was going to lose myself inside my crazy head.

This would have been the perfect moment to hear Kate Oberg’s voice. My Quaker friend from Oberlin is an active member of the Religious Society of Friends. She helped me research from afar and picked out the Penn Valley Meeting for me to attend. But whereas I felt the focus on silence in this Meeting, Kate was more of a passionate listener. During ecumenical discussions, she would sit forward, looking directly at the speaker. Occasionally, she would take weeks before responding during discussion. When the moment finally came, she would sit back and say, thoughtfully, simply, but prophetically something like, “I think…there is a difference between righteousness and self-righteousness.” If Kate had been there, my thoughts would have transformed into a faithful theological discussion in my head.

Instead, though, I was left with a radio station on the “scan” function moving from Simon & Garfunkel to Justin Bieber’s latest, “Baby,” last week’s “Song of the Week” in my classroom. By the end of the meeting, I had ran the entire Kindergarten program twice, figured out the first verse of “The Boxer” (also by Simon & Garfunkel) and pondered utilizing boomwhackers or bells on the “Bluebird” game with first grade. When they gave time to joys and concerns, I thought intensely about the next two weeks: a gig with the St. Joseph Symphony, Census Training, Starlight, a kindergarten program, and a voice/violin performance at my Grandpa’s nursing home.

And once again, we’re back to it being all about me. The Quakers represent the opposite of the mega-church. Structure, leadership, blaring sound and constant entertainment versus simple, silent and peaceful. My problem was, I entered this situation with the attitude of the mega-churcher. “What will this church do for me?”

I keep myself busy because I’m not a fan of being left alone with my thoughts. Even in a solitary state, I can distract myself with television, books and writing. Every now and then, I get a glimpse of what is going on in my crazy brain, but overall I try to stay out of there. When I do delve into my thoughts, often right as I’m falling asleep, I get lost in worry and planning. My brain and insomnia are in cahoots to make my life miserable.

So what I learned from the Quakers today, I actually learned from Kate several years ago. Rather than thinking, praying, planning, worrying, learning, etc., I should just listen. I pride myself in keeping an open mind, when really, I’m just stuffing it with pointless thoughts and distractions. If I just stopped and listened, I might feel more comfortable…and a little less self-righteous.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Church #22: Dead Man Walking. Dead Man Walking!

An Easter Poem

Jesus rises from the dead,
To Angels, Mary cried and pled.
She found him later, down the way,
What was she supposed to say?
The story seems weird enough,
But then two disciples have it rough.
They walk in loneliness, but are unaware,
That Jesus is standing right there.
So we have a dead guy, basically walking,
Seemingly living and definitely talking,
And sometime somewhere someone thought it funny,
To add to dead man walking, a colorful, magical bunny,
The bunny has eggs, that he acquired from a hen,
But somehow they’re colored first by the family within,
Then the family goes to church and listens to the story,
While the Easter Bunny is spreading colored-egg glory,
For candy and treats, the children all beg,
For after finding Jesus, they find an Easter Egg,
And somehow it’s all connected, not sure what it’s about.
But one thing I know is, Easter has always freaked me out.


The Virgin Birth, I can handle. The only thing unusual or unbelievable about that is the lack of...you know. A woman being pregnant, having a baby, even in a stable, is plausible. But there is nothing about a dead man walking that is realistic. I’m even open-minded to spirits and ghosts, signs from God and all that supernatural stuff. I have never been able to handle, though, the fact that he just got up, folded up his tomb blankets (what a nice guest), pushed aside a very heavy rock and just walked away.

Of course, I’ve tried to contemporize the story. I’ve studied it academically and come up with a logical answer: it’s all one giant metaphor. After a couple days of mourning, the disciples asked themselves, “What would Jesus do?” and headed out to spread the good news. His ideas were resurrected. His body, however, was not.

But even that explanation isn’t particularly fulfilling. Without the magic, the bible turns into a self-help book rather than a holy experience. Pushing the science aside, I focused on my faith. Though I believe religion and science actually function well together, in this case, maybe I needed to relax into following the doctrine blindly and without question. What if I just decided it was all true?

The barrier then, is, even if I believe, even if I know that it all really happened exactly the way it was written, I’m still not that impressed. Jesus still did his best work before he died. The resurrection was what made him famous, holy, and worshipped. It is, for some, the entire reasoning behind the Christian faith.

Jesus was born under supernatural circumstances, died, and then came back. Easter forces us to act as if there were nothing in between. I always think, what if Jesus had lived another month, another year? What could he have done? How many lives would have been saved? How many injustices would have been addressed? Great, you came back to life after you died and then ascended into heaven. That really isn’t helpful to the millions of children living in poverty or the victims of genocide. That won’t create peace or pass a health care bill. But it does do wonders for your reputation.

After writing the previous paragraphs, and the obnoxious poem, I realized that Easter makes me bitter. Every year, I am moved by Ash Wednesday and relate to the sorrow of the Lenten season. The actual finale, though, seems self-serving. Unlike Advent, which truly focuses on the miracle of life, hope and love, Easter really is all about death. For without death, Jesus couldn’t have risen from anything in the first place.

As I sat in the sanctuary at Grace and Holy Trinity, a beautiful Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Kansas City, I saw the light and the flowers and was not particularly renewed. A life that revolves around the school year doesn’t allow renewal during March and/or April. Maybe a little Spring Break, but otherwise, testing, frustration, stress, and the wildness of the warm weather. It is usually the time of year I start thinking, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I can make it through the last quarter.”

I’m also not a big fan of the sun or warm weather. Oberlin transformed me into an inside girl, and I flourish in the dark, cold, dampness of winter. When I need a break, I often close my blinds, turn off the lights, and blast the air conditioner. The snow and the rain seem to wash away my troubles and that is when I feel most renewed. On December 25th there is potential, great potential for a baby born out of wedlock. On Easter, there is a middle-age dead man walking around tricking people. I’m just not a fan.

So I’m putting Church #22 behind me and starting a new journey. I’m forcing myself to try something new, even though I do not feel that sense of renewal. I’m hoping, during these 50 days of Easter, that I can find that personal connection many people feel to the holiday. Perhaps by the end of this journey, I can reconcile my faith.




Friday, April 2, 2010

The Road to Emmaus

I do not think about religion as often, now. In fact, there are days when it barely crosses my mind. There was a time when Christianity was my physical and mental environment. Posters in my room, a job in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, a congregant in a progressive church; they all pointed to a Christ-centered existence.

I woke up this morning, however, with Jesus barely on the circumference of my comfort zone. Not even the rosary on my mirror reminded me that this was his last day alive. The picture of “Jesus Laughing,” recently relocated to right above the kitchen sink, barely caught my eye. Today, I thought about politics, justice, equality, and love without biblical reference. I danced, sung, rejoiced and cried within the confines of worldly reality. And when I did finally think about God, over Chinese food and Facebook, I felt the sinking of my spirit into the pit of my stomach, with no possibility of Resurrection.

There were two disciples who walked down the Road to Emmaus, a city near Jerusalem with little scientific or geographical evidence. An Oberlin pastor once identified Emmaus as that which allows us to escape and keeps us from Christ. It’s somewhere we go in order to forget, mope and feel sorry for ourselves. Personally, I always assumed it was a bar, like the saloons you see in Westerns: men drinking straight whiskey, pretty girls flirting with a purpose, and a mask of fun over a general habitat of despair.

I can picture myself in this story. I prefer to identify with Esther or Ruth, or quote the beautiful Psalms or the scriptures of Isaiah. But I am no longer in a place where I can pull spiritual guidance out of the intricate woodwork of an altar. I am simply on a road, to Emmaus, which is either the name of a bar, or maybe, a church.

Unlike the story suggests, I am alone on the Road. Sort of. I keep myself company for conversation, judgment and venting. I am my own shoulder to cry on, my own partner in crime, my own mentor and friend. Perhaps this is why one of the disciples remains unnamed in the story. Cleopas the named Disciple was actually crazy over the death of Jesus and he was talking to himself. When the stranger arrived, Cleopas used his depression as a blinder so as not to know the person’s true identity.

The person’s identity is what really sells this story. The tale suddenly becomes not about the disciples’ trip to Emmaus, but about the stranger. By the end, Emmaus is a distant memory, as if they asked themselves, “Where were we going anyway? Oh, what does it matter now? Now that He has returned.”

I agree with the Oberlin pastor to a point. I do think Emmaus represents a means to an end, a coping mechanism of sorts. I do not see it, though, as completely negative. Sometimes coping leads to healing, a road directed to a positive place of change. Jesus finds us on the road, regardless of where it leads. The road might dead-end at paradise or hell, or fork off into multiple directions. When I get there, I might be happy or end up sadder and gloomier than when I left. The point is not to disregard Emmaus completely, though the story seems to say we should. I want to keep walking the road, and figure out what is Emmaus, I would just rather make the journey with Jesus. I want him to find me and accompany me there.

I am preparing another 10-week journey built out of curiosity and Wikipedia searches. Earlier this week, I considered calling the whole thing off. I was frustrated that this had become more focused on the “re” in “research,” rather than the “search.” I thought this journey would bring Christ back into my life, but in reality, I have drifted further away.

I base my decision to visit ten more churches on the hope that Jesus doesn’t need an Emmaus to find me again. He doesn’t need Maundy Thursday or Easter. He doesn’t need a sanctuary or a choir or a priest. He will find me on the road somewhere, sometime and we can complete the last stretch of the trip together. Because somewhere in my heart and mind, I know that Jesus is not a destination, but a partner. He is not a house, but a family member. I just have to remove my blinders and let him find me again.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Interlude: Uknown problem, Unknown Solution

Insomnia is a brilliant invention. It is quite possibly one of the most irritating symptoms to one or more unknown illnesses. The universe is asking me (rudely) to solve a problem out of definitive reach. “What’s the answer?” asks the universe. “To what?” I inquire. “To the problem,” it bluntly responds. “To what problem?” I prod. “To the problem for which you are to find an answer.” It states. “So you want me to find an answer to a problem that is outside the realm of my current consciousness?” It doesn’t answer this time. The universe is annoying like that.

I have experienced regular insomnia, off and on, for as long as I can remember. My very first vivid memory is standing in a crib, crying, and moving my eyes back and forth between a closed door and green cafĂ© curtains with the eerie glow of streetlights. The feeling right now is surprisingly similar to what I felt as a toddler. A mixture of fear, frustration and anxiety, the wide-awake nighttime ends ultimately in pure confusion. Trial and error is the only method of saving the few hours left. Pick a problem, fix it, and try to sleep. When that doesn’t work, try another. “If symptoms persist,” the metaphorical prescription suggests, “try solving others’ problems, and, if needed, problems which are unsolvable. Do not attempt to place blame or to utilize a quick-fix.”

If the problem is as minor as nervous excitement or moderate aggravation, the quick fix can be effective. A well-timed glass of wine, sleeping pill or self pep talk (not at the same time, mind you) has relaxed me into restless sleep a number of times. Distractions fall into this category, as well. Television, reading, and lesson planning may take my mind off the unspecified long enough to drift away. But it is at my weakest moments when a slew of these strategies conspire with the universe to really see this problem through. “Watch a full season of a television show, go ahead and finish that book, and pop in a Benadryl while your at it,” I am taunted, “but just a warning, insomnia will still be here waiting when you’re done.”

I usually start my pick-a-problem game with the usual. Is my work done? Yes. Is my apartment clean? Mostly. Have I forgotten to do anything? Rarely. Is there a hint of procrastination anywhere on my task list? Hardly ever. After this, I move onto emotions, an activity I find to be highly juvenile. I start asking myself, “Are you excited? Sad? Angry? Lonely? Hurt? Etc.?” A surface-level emotion can be bandaged with a deep breath, meditation, prayer and an actionable solution. It may not end pretty, but at least it ends with sleep.

When I am past the quick fixes, simple questions and grievances of emotions, I am left with a predicament. Do I keep trying to figure out what’s wrong so that I can make it better, or do I count the night as a loss and watch trashy early-morning television? In college, it was routine to pull an all-nighter 1-2 times per week, but anymore, that is an undesirable solution. Eventually my useful but unfortunate talent of falling asleep anywhere, anytime during the day will conquer my lack of sleep with a mid-meeting snooze, my chin resting in my hand.

I have also tried a handful of non-traditional tactics. “Never stay in bed if you can’t sleep,” suggested my friend, Rachael. “Otherwise your body associates insomnia with the bedroom and you’ll never be able to sleep there.” I expect that could be applied either way: “Never fall asleep during a meeting, because then your body will associate meetings with sleep.” A professor once told me to concentrate on the number “1,” visually and audibly for as long as necessary. If other thoughts tried to interfere, she recommended yelling the word, “STOP!” at myself and taking several deep breaths. Herbal tea, warm milk, a small accomplishment…sometimes nothing works.

The only thing that remotely helps is the act of composition. I do not mean this in strictly musical terms. In fact, I am neither a good songwriter nor a poet, so often my compositions are differently artistic. I crochet, color, and recently tried to teach myself to draw. But my most valuable form of artistic expression is writing. With that beginning, middle and end, my soul is set at ease and the universe seems amused and pleased.

I don’t expect publication or fame. I don’t even need to know it is being read (though I do like knowing!). All I need is an uninhibited space to spread, sort and stack my ego, piecing it together over and over again. By the end of the “column,” I am a self-centered, well-expressed and very tired woman. But the unsolvable equation seems to follow me always, in the form of a weird dream, terrible nightmare or broken alarm clock.

The universe exclaims, “Haven’t you figured this out yet?!”