Sunday, December 09, 2007

I have a lot of feelings.

Here's a dirty little secret about me: I cry in church like all the time. I don't mean full on ugly snotface--more like unbidden streaming eyes and random upwellings of emotion. I try to hold it back, too, but I'm pretty sure I'm not fooling anybody, and I'm certainly not fooling myself. I may present a kind of analytical or well thought out front, but I am an emotional reactor. This is just one reason I would be a terrible therapist, doctor, or politician--or minister, for that matter. Just trying to be a decent human being is hard enough without also having to hold it together for the benefit of those you're trying to serve.

Anyway, I wonder what would happen if I started letting go a little bit more. There's one woman at church whose emotions are very close to the surface and she gets moved by just about everything. It's very endearing, and it just happens to be one of her noticeable characteristics. I'm pretty sure it's one of mine, too--but I've spent most of my life trying to keep people from noticing it, and like I said: I'm not fooling anyone.

The church-weepiness has been pretty ongoing ever since I got this gig 9 years ago. I kept thinking it would pass, that I would get used to being in a place where I could reliably expect to be moved by ideas, but the weepiness never has gone away. Sometimes it's brought on by nothing more than having a moment to sit in silence and think about the people I love who are far away from me or struggling with something. Sometimes it's the little electric shock of self-recognition when a reading or a sermon seems to illuminate the exact thing that's been on my mind.

I've been thinking a lot about service lately, about the things you do as part of your daily life to help the people around you, or to keep the household running, or whatever, and how easy it is for me to devolve into resentment and martyrdom about the stupidest things. I have often taken on tasks that it seems no one else wants to do just so that they get done, but I always take them on with a sense of exasperation and probably a little moral superiority, like for example when I would volunteer to play unglamorous positions in sports as a kid because no one would be goalie or catcher. It wasn't generally because I was so into the team. It was more like I needed to demonstrate that I was more responsible than everyone else.

Anyway, it's occurred to me more than once recently that if I'm going to serve--if I'm going to take on seemingly unrewarding tasks, or just step in and do what needs doing, I should do it with joy. I know this is easier said than done. But I am going to try.

This day has been kind of a rollercoaster. My alarm didn't go off, but I woke up in enough time to get to rehearsal. The service was long, but I still had time to walk to the co-op for coffee. I got to meet up with four friends I haven't seen in months and months for brunch, but I discovered en route that my wallet was missing. I'd only been to the co-op and church and you figure hippies and Unitarians aren't going to pick your pockets, so I didn't panic; still, losing a wallet is mighty inconvenient.

When I got home after the 2.5 hour brunch, I found that a neighbor I've never met had posted a note on the door. "Please call me," it said, in neat, deliberate, old-lady cursive. "I think it's important, about a billfold?" Some folks had found my wallet on the ground and reverse-searched my neighbors after they figured out that my number's unlisted. I got a call from my angelic wallet-finders in the middle of writing this entry, actually, and scooted back over to St Paul to retrieve it. I brought them a poinsettia. Turns out we have friends in common and they're coming to my concert next week. The woman hugged me when I left, and I got in the car and laughed and cried, a little hysterical and a lot relieved about how the world is sometimes exactly the way it is supposed to be.

Is it worth running constant ornament interference with the cat just to have a Christmas tree? He's tipped it over once, extracted no fewer than three baubles just while I've been writing this entry, and keeps carrying his favorite string over to the tree and hiding out with it. It would be a lot cuter if it weren't infuriating.


  1. or sometimes it is when you read your sister's blog.

  2. Aww, Maven. I always cry when people are singing together or playing music together - which is often in a church setting. It's just so rare to see people gathered for a common activity and come together - slays me every time. You are lucky to be part of that on a regular basis!

  3. I feel this on a number of levels: the martyrdom habit and its greater meaning, the wonderfulness of strangers coming together turning bad luck into otherwise-missed warmth, and last but not least, the crying in church. Great post.

  4. Your martyrdom comment was spot on. I came across your blog while searching for other bloggers with The Once and Future King in their profile. Hope you don't mind a total stranger reading.


  5. When I had to sit in on my mother's lessons at her Buddhist center as a kid, the thing that most stuck in my young mind -- it was constantly repeated -- was that the motivation is more important than the act. It is a detriment to ourselves to not do things in love.

    I love and identify highly with the hair-trigger sentimentality. The suffering of anything sends my heart into a free-fall, but it is hope that will bring me tears.

  6. Wow. My mom's a UU and I sang in a UU choir for a year or so, just to be doing something musical. I eventually stopped because I didn't like the services. They didn't move me at all. Is your church UU or just Unitarian? Are there any just-Unitarian churches? Sounds like you go to a fabulous one!

  7. 1. "His favorite string." Excellent.

    2. I also have this church-weepiness thing. It's kind of horrifying to me.

    3. I am enjoying envisioning these dogs in the snow.


  8. that damn cat is so flippin' cute.

    p.s. i usually well-up upon entering a church. mass? forget it! (obvs, not a regular church-goer. brings back lots of childhood memories when i do go, though.)