An Uncloistered Life

I’m now about three months into bouncing merrily through this new phase of my life that started roughly about the same time I started my current job.  Have you changed jobs recently?  If not, let me remind you what it’s like.  

It’s basically as if someone walked into your office, pulled out all the drawers, flipped them upside down, rifled through the contents and randomly removed about half of it or more.  Then they trashed your computer, meaning you have to start new on a totally different machine, which may or may not have all the programs you’re used to using.  Then they changed all the numbers and email addresses in your address book.  Then they kidnapped your entire office and replaced them with totally different people with completely different roles and personalities.  Then they called up all your existing clients and told them to “bugger off” (I’m not really that familiar with British slang–if that’s dirtier than I think it is, somebody let me know.  To me, it sounds less dirty than it’s American equivalent.)  Meanwhile, they went out and sold your services to a half-dozen entirely new and different clients.  

So in short, yeah, it’s been a little disorienting, to say the least.  

All that said, I’ve been having a tremendously good and exciting time.  But, there have been some unanticipated effects in my personal, outside-of-work life as well.  

For one thing, the posts here both diminished in volume and became very “marketing-y” as the rigors of adjusting to a new, challenging job ate whatever remains of my brain.  

I found myself editing certain aspects of my personal life out of what I write here, because I suddenly became quite a bit more visible online because of the new job.  I’ll be frank.  My faith is a big part of who I am, and I almost completely eliminated talking about it here in the last three months.  That’s not only just plain silly, it’s dishonest and inauthentic.  

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that my faith is not like a slice of apple pie that can be pulled aside and laid on another plate separate from the rest of my life.  It’s like the cinnamon that flavors and permeates the whole thing.  I’m not going to turn this into a theology blog (for a WIDE variety of reasons).  But the self-editing is over.  My spiritual thoughts and experiences are as valid as my other thoughts and experiences, so when they’re part of the stories I’m sharing, they’ll be in there.

On a related note, my daily prayer time evaporated, and for a really stupid reason: because my daily routine changed.  I had been spending about half of my one-hour commute praying (with eyes open, obviously.)  Once I moved to a closer job with a half hour commute, I stopped praying.  How dumb is that?  At any rate, I’ve reinstituted the “prayer drive” in the last week, and it’s predictably helped me get more clarity and groundedness at the beginning of my day.

I live fairly near Gethsemane Abbey, which was home to contemplative scholar Thomas Merton.  I’ve always found the monastic tradition to be strangely fascinating.  There’s something uniquely appealing about living outside the bounds of ordinary society–living apart from the rush and chaos of postmodern life.  I find the local Amish interesting for much the same reason.  It seems especially appealing at times to someone who is, by necessity, “plugged in” so much of the time.  

In an earlier post, I remarked that the term “cellular,” which we typically associate with mobile phones and connection, at its root means a small, self-contained part–or a room in a prison.  The cloistered life, whether it’s living formally in a community outside of mainstream society, or informally by just withdrawing from life and community into one’s suburban dwelling, is not without it’s benefits.  But they come at a high cost.  You lose much that is good about living in the messy world of imperfect, aggravating humanity.  

Trying to cloister the different elements of your life–work, family, friendship, faith–may seem to keep things neater and easier.   But things have a wild tendency to slip their bounds.  The peanut butter invariably ends up in the chocolate, and vice versa.  It gets messy.  

But in the mess, I often find the energy, enthusiasm and above all things, humor, to deal with life that escapes me when I’m focused on keeping things neat, tidy, and separate.

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