God’s [sic] ways are just, right, wise, but neither transparent nor immune to misunderstanding. There is an unfolding and a shrouding, a concealing within a disclosing, consoling as well as confusing.
The Prophets, Ch. 9, Sct. 1, “History”; Abraham Heschel
Happy New Year. Life is rich, and by rich I mean it’s okay and busy on the surface of things, and a huge roiling mass of excitement, fear, resentment, and hope underneath.
As somebody who has a blog called Beginning Middle End (perhaps you’ve heard of it), I got over the randomness of our New Years–“It’s just another day on the calendar”–and it’s cheeziness, the fact that it actually evokes a twitch of hope in a statistically significant segment of the/a population. As the Gregorian calendar rounds itself out, I get the opportunity to do one of the main things that this blog celebrates, to get conscious about the ending of something–what it feels like to come to the end, and then to start something new. For me, December is a kind of dojo where I can really experience what an ending feels like, and then January what a beginning is. All this is writ culturally large enough that even my distracted and inward-facing consciousness can feel into it, get reminded of it all the time. This is the premise of the blogs title, that each section of a story, an event, a discreet period, feels different, and that beginnings feel different from middles feel different from endings.
I find I’m good at beginnings, get lost in the middles of things, and through much of my life have tried to ignore the endings, jump right over them to the next beginning.
And I did little better than par for my course at the end of 2015. I’m into the closing month of my first unit of CPE, and both the classwork and the daily time with patient after patient in their rooms, with their families at some of the most difficult times families face, with people dying who admit they’re dying, and others who probably know they’re dying but don’t want to face it, with hospital workers who are for the most part not quite sure what to do with spiritual care staff and confront me with my own doubts about my role, with teachers and my student cohort demanding I dig in under a professional public armor that I’ve cultivated a lot of years, with the commuting to San Francisco and the trying to keep current with my family through it all, and worrying about what a career is going to look like and how long until I make some money, all of this has had me often going moment to moment rather than embracing the grand arch of its ending-ness.
Ezekiel saw the wheel
Way up in the middle of the air.
Ezekiel saw the wheel
Way in the middle of the air.
And the big wheel runs on faith
And the little wheel runs by the grace of G_D.
Way in the middle of the air.
And now it’s January, beginning. Wheels within wheels. While first unit of CPE is still finishing up and me and my fellow classmates are beginning to feel into goodbyes, I’m gearing up for a second unit, the only one in my cohort to choose to go forward, and I’ll be there with a whole new class starting at the end of the month.
Wheels within wheels. I’m in the middle of something as well. A year and a half from when I first had the exciting vision of making a career shift from nonprofit fundraising to being a hospice chaplain with training in rites of passage and documenting the whole switch. Again, beginnings are sweet, grand and perfect. Now, in the middle I’ve got advisors and mentors, and my own inner voices questioning the original vision as it moves from the imaginary to the real. Birth is hard and it’s not pretty, but my understanding is you don’t get to stop in the middle, so I need to keep going forward even when I worry, This is too hard. How will i make a living? This won’t turn out the way I thought it would. I’m not writing enough. I get so sad faced with all the suffering. I’m a 51-year-old man and what am I doing with my life? I’ve never been particularly good at keeping in touch with friends at a distance, and now with all the distance it’s even more so–Jim, Gary, Amy, Taica, Rita, Ann, Cathy, Rosemary, Linda, Michael, Debbie, John, and so many others–I miss you all. And this, I know, is not just the middle of career change, but the middle of life and ALL of our careers and lacks, and kids and lacks, and cautions and careening.
So Endings. Beginnings. Middles. Wheels within wheels. It’s hard holding on to things sometimes–events, the years, lives–they all spin so fast. I’m full of gratitude and fear, hope and hopelessness, chaos and order. I try to keep meditating on things being just, right and wise, and that it’s okay if I can’t hold all the pieces in my head/heart all the time. I’m trying to hold this beginningmiddleend lightly, let it spin and move like a mantis in my cupped hands, not crush it, let its head poke out to look around, but not yet ready to let this creature go.
So bless me, and hold me in your heart and mind in this new year, and I will bless you and I will hold you too. It’s bigger than all of us, so let’s keep close to each other and onward, further.