After 9 months in this job, some of the things that seemed new and different are becoming easier to do, and in that sense it's rather like learning to driving a car. There is a time when we move from conscious incompetence into some form of competence, and that is when we start to make mistakes.
Some of the 'new things' are less new now, and I know what is expected. It doesn't always make it easy to achieve, as I do feel as if I'm squashing into a narrower mould, both of worship and churchmanship than is naturally mine. Having said that, part of the diaconate year is about learning to adapt, and if it were comfortable all the time I might wonder what I'd be learning.
This last couple of weeks has been hard though, and little of that is to do with the church or the job. Several events came together. One example has been about reviewing memories.
Last Thursday I was driving to the church to take morning prayer and a funeral, when I heard the news that Natasha Richardson had died of a head injury after a skiing accident. They said on the news that her mother was Vanessa Redgrave, and I was thinking about VR and how terrible it is to lose a child, and how awful it is to watch the change in a previously fit and healthy person who suffers a traumatic brain injury, and how her husband and children must be bereft, and how random accidents can change lives in an instant, and whether we can ever say that it is better to live or die, and a lot of other stuff, and found myself feeling very emotional and shaky.
I thought about the sacrifice of God the trinity on that cross, the interplay of love and pain in that decision and sacrifice, and what Mary might have thought as she watched her broken, flayed son being slowly murdered, knowing he had chosen to follow that path. I felt broken too.
Half an hour before the funeral some news came through that added to and tied into all of the above, as we heard of a 21year old girl killed in a car crash. Their neighbours and friends were in tears, and yet the jobs still had to be done. The grieving funeral family were due to arrive and they needed to be cared for and loved through their goodbyes, which were no less painful than anyone else's.
It was harder than usual to put my 'stuff' on one side and take the funeral, and I slept for two hours afterwards.
These events are stretching, and tiredness is my natural response to being emotionally drained, with sleep being my greatest healer. One of the ongoing challenges in this job is to find a way to replenish those reserves, to be able to give to people when they are in need.
For me the opportunity came on Saturday afternoon when I had a holiday, and was able to spend some time with one of my own children, doing something I love, running; in this case the Chicks Chase. Running has been off the menu since last October, due to injury, and so I haven't been able to 'burn off' the stresses in my usual fashion. This was a rare treat, and more pleasant for being with people I love on a sunny spring day, taking meaningful exercise in beautiful surroundings. We had a pub lunch afterwards in the sunshine, which was also relaxing. A different way of achieving healing.
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