Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Packing and Unpacking

I've been getting info emails for my upcoming module.  Working towards a Masters at SSU means hitting the road not just hitting the books.  The emails are giving me details on what to pack and what not to pack for our upcoming trip to Egypt, Israel and Jordan.

Ever since the last module though I've been neck deep in packing and unpacking.

To go to SSU meant digging in to the baggage I already carried.  Fears, expectation, hopes, more fears, prejudices and fears, some rolling around in dark places I didn't want to open.  Then reading a pile of books: some that comforted, some that irritated and some that have left a permanent mark.  Conversations in and out of class that continued the emptying process while day long lectures crammed in more than I could process.

You know that crazy announcement at the airport about not leaving bags unattended and not accepting bags from someone else?  It applies to educating Brian as well.

One afternoon session I had taken note after note and just as I was getting my head around one idea the Prof tossed out another and another and another.  It was all I could do to get them in the suitcase like a barrage of socks and underwear, "I know I'm going to need this later...".  And then, arriving home, I've been surprised over the last several weeks as I've unpacked those bags to discover stuff I didn't know I'd packed.

Good stuff.

Solid stuff.

Stuff pilgrimages are made of.

I'm still unpacking though and I'm supposed to be in serious re-packing mode now.

I've got 10 books and 10 papers due in a couple weeks.  Each book so far, and I've barely scratched the surface, has caused me to start sorting out my baggage yet again.

Hemingway once wrote, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."  Yeah, it's mixing metaphors but a single module at SSU has become a moveable feast for me.  It's an experience of unlearning, unpacking, grasping some things and letting go of others.  I'm not so young but it's a meal I'm glad to finally be getting down to.

So tonight I sit here blogging, sitting on my metaphorical suitcase and hoping to get the zipper closed on this one before I move on to the next.  I don't think it can be done.  Partly that's my fault because I keep pulling out souvenirs and mementos from this first module to share with people I love.  As soon as I get something out I notice something knew about it and off I go again digging through the rest of the suitcase.

Packing and unpacking is work and I usually end up forgetting something important but today I'm grateful that my bags aren't empty and this journey, this pilgrimage, just keeps getting more exciting.

I've got a lot to learn but today I know I'm getting there.

Hey, if you think it's worth your while, please say a pray for Educating Brian.  Peace.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why I Don't Write A Book

With my tendency to rant and my ability to keep going on a topic that the people I'm conversing with have long since moved past on the attention train, I've been wondering why I don't write a book.  Here's why.

I write.  I share what I write here and in person almost every week with a group of people who mean the world to me.  I do write.

But a book.  Deep down I have this certainty that birthing a book would be like publishing a Facebook status update: it would be swallowed up and disappear within the volume already being published.  The people who would read what I write already do.

Like a story about two fishes I heard this week, I'm already doing what I love to do.  And that's pretty good.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Harder Than A Masters

Working on my Masters has been easy compared to standing beside the bed of my good friend and watching her slip away from life into the Life.  I haven't really felt like reading or writing or thinking or doing much of anything for the last 5 days.

She came over to our place on Christmas day and on New Year's day I was crying at her bedside as I whispered into her ear how much she meant to me, my wife and my family.  On Christmas day we laughed, told stories, ate a couple pies that she'd made and enjoyed a few hours together.  She fit into our family quite easily. On Tuesday, I had just arrived back at the hospital room and was sharing a laugh with her children about a story involving their mother, my friend.  There are so many stories we can tell because she was truly an instigator.  She was the spark of dreams, visions, and many adventures.  And then one last instigation: she decided in the midst of our laughter that it was time to make her ascent.

Her children gathered around her, the Elusive and I joined them and we laid gentle hands on her.  And then, as her daughter said later, she seemed to slip right through our fingers.

There's no one who has left a bigger or more permanent mark on my life than she has.  Today I find I'm missing the days we will not have rather than the times we've had.  I have no regrets about our common past but feel broken hearted about the days ahead we'll have to face without her.

In the midst of this I'm learning what a life well lived really looks like.  I'm learning what love does as so many shared in watching over her in these last few days.  I'm learning how important it is to love now and tell stories now even as we make stories together that we can live on in the future.   I'm learning that family and good friends are worth whatever it takes to have them.

From my friend Elinore I've learned what perseverance looks like.  I've learned that you can be passionate about God without being weird.  I've learned that you never give up on people.  I've learned that whatever you put your hand to, do it with all your might.  I've learned that we never stop growing if our hearts are set on pilgrimage.  I've learned that some people tattoo themselves on our hearts by simple words and simple acts.  I've learned that "holy" is a word that can be used to describe people who you really want to hang out with.  I've learned that saying, "see you later." can hurt as much as saying, "good-bye."

I can offer no empirical evidence that Elinore left here to be There but I can tell you that if I was not convinced there is Life beyond this life, that moment beside her bed was compelling enough to make me a believer.  I've been in that scenario before but never has it felt so holy, so tangible and so true.

I've got a lot to learn, but some things I know.

There are some great tributes to our friend here and here.