It was a dry time in my life. I had recently left or was laid off from my workplace of over a decade. All I ever wanted to do in life was to lift up the disenfranchised in our world. This was being taken away from me if I was going to stay in Savannah. There were few agencies that worked with the poor in a way that I could tolerate and I was growing long in the tooth in Savannah. Everyone thought they knew me and saw me as a wide-eyed impractical social worker and advocate. In other words I had pushed a few too many buttons.
So my dream of working with the poor was disappearing. I could not believe fate was begrudging me this one thing I wanted to do. I had led by anyone’s measure successful programs that could measure up to anyone else’s. I did not need a lot of money to make it happen either. Yet there I was left standing with hat in hand and no one interested in my unique calling.
Or course there were reasons for this. Social work was becoming more and more a profession and therefore social work degrees became more and more necessary. I also had chosen not to be ordained because churches were and many still are not ordaining women and gays. So my Master of Divinity was confusing to many without the minister’s club stamp of approval. I was too far outside the box. Even though my box was not too outside. I probably was not the best applicant because up to this point I had always been recruited for my jobs. And the jobs I was recruited for were always exactly what I wanted at that time. Four times I had been recruited. Another issue was I had never wanted to be top dog. I never wanted to be too removed from the poor. It was the only way to keep myself honest and actually in touch with their needs. So I enjoyed the middle management jobs. I was fine managing staff or boards but not at the expense of serving the poor directly. So on one level I became too qualified for the jobs I wanted and the other hand I had done the lateral move too much.
I also was recently divorced and had watched the church I had been president, chairs of committees, and spoke on Sundays crash and burn over control and power. I was not burned out but nothing was on fire for me at the time. So I did what everyone does in their existential crises I went to Boston. Yes that Boston. I spent ten days alone walking the streets, going to museums, and pondering the ways of the world.
One of the reasons I chose Boston was it was the home of the headquarters of the Unitarian Universalists Church. The denomination I had been in since I left the Southern Baptists. I had recently found them to have too much Baptist in them. They were in no way theologically alike. But they both lacked love when dealing with each other sometimes. But they did ordain women and gays. Maybe I should join the club and some new doors would be open to me. But one day of emailing and talking made me realize I was not a minister’s club person. I had the qualifications educationally and experientially, but I balked at language that sounded too much like the good old boys club I had resisted my whole life. This was not the way for me.
So who was I, where was I, how was I, and when would I come back. These questions all came rushing forward to me. I had never lacked self-confidence, but I wondered what was the purpose of self-confidence or did it matter I had self confidence in who I was? No one else seemed to care. My values were at once too old fashioned and too radical. I was a conundrum to the world. Maybe I should be to myself.
I went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I love arts which for some reason confuses people when I tell them that. But my life has been filled with spending time to myself lost in an art museum looking for answers or new insight. There was an exhibit on Claude Monet’s Haystacks. Now this particular exhibit did not seem to offer much. But I took my zen mode into it and was determined to find the mind of Monet and suddenly I found my own. Monet painted haystacks why? Why not? He could communicate even with haystacks. He did not let the world determine what he painted or ever painted to please the world alone. His haystacks were painted at different times of the day and different seasons of the year. He was showing in plain sight that in each moment there are small often overlooked changes. But even though the haystacks changed they never lost the essence of a haystack. People might not see the differences or even appreciate the nature of haystacks but they still were there for anyone to notice if they were only willing to stop and appreciate them. Haystacks are beautiful and no haystack is exactly like another or the same the next day. Monet was saying there is such beauty we miss because we look in the familiar places which may be all the wrong places. Change your perspectives and you discover something new. Haystacks come and go and yet some stay on walls not only changing from painting to painting but offering change to the person who stands before them.
Even though I had three more days in Boston the spiritual quest I searched for was over. I breathed deeply. I was ready for re-entry to the world even if it did not care. It took awhile to find my footing and I am still never far from the abyss but I am what I am. Even when I am not eating spinach currently.