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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wednesday Festival: Melancholy

Jan says at SimplyJan

I’m feeling a bit melancholy these days. Nothing serious, just the convergence of a few factors. 
 First, a difficult anniversary is coming up. There hasn’t been an Easter in over a decade that this underlying feeling of loss has failed to make an appearance. I don’t look for it, but when it arrives I just nod my head in recognition: a not-so-welcome friend that is in town for the annual visit. The visit won’t last forever.

Second, I’m learning the meaning of “sandwich generation.” My father was very ill last week, hospitalized for eight days. During that time, my mother came down with a nasty respiratory virus. They were both sick, sick pups. I live four hours (on a good traffic day) away from my parents. I have young children in school. I’ve never been so miserable, having to be in one place, but needing to be in another. My brother (my hero!) was able to get away for a few days to take care of them. I found a substitute preacher for Palm Sunday and spent the weekend with them, trying to help out. Thank God we were able to bring Dad home from the hospital on Saturday. Trying to take care of my dad (in the hospital), my mom (at home), and making sure my kids were taken care of (Aunts? Cousins? Help, please?) was a major stress factory. My parents are getting better, but I learned that being caught between the needs of two generations is no fun. I’m suddenly not such a fan of sandwiches.

Third, It’s Holy Week. I remember, in my pre-pastorate days, when this was a deeply meaningful, spiritually renewing time for me. Back then I was a teacher. Our spring break often coincided with Holy Week. I was able to take the whole week to read, to write, to think, and to connect with the enormity of what this week means. Please don’t think I’m awful, but becoming a pastor has ruined Holy Week for me. It is now pressure-cooker week. It is manic week. It is exhausting week. I remember the conversations that Susan and I had in the week before her death. (See melancholy reason #1 above.) I felt so sacrilegious as we commiserated together over how ready we were to get Jesus back out of that tomb again so we could get back to normal. (Okay, add to this reason the immense guilt I feel at even making such a confession. I feel like such a bad pastor!)

Finally – and I’m almost as ashamed of this reason as I am the previous one – I’m just a wee bit envious. Well, maybe more than a wee bit. It seems that the publishing/scholarship/workshop gods are smiling fondly on a LOT of my blogging friends and acquaintances. I am so excited for them. Every one of them receiving these great breaks deserves it. Still, it feels kind of like being the last one who hasn’t been invited to the prom. What makes matter worse, even if I was invited to the prom (um, given the opportunity to go bigger with my writing) I’m not sure I know how to do my hair, my make-up, or my nails. And I know I can’t dance worth a darn. (In other words, I don’t know how to do anything beyond plugging away at my blog and writing weekly sermons, and I’m not sure I have what it takes to go beyond that, especially when I find myself awkwardly mixing odd metaphors.) The frustration is uncomfortable. The envy is unattractive. Then just when I needed it most, I ran across this blog post, which gave me words I needed to hear today.

I know my uninvited “friend” will go away in another week or two. I believe my parents are getting better every day. I know that when time for worship on Maundy Thursday rolls around, I will feel the sacred heaviness of that night. My spirits will be lifted as the sun rises over the Cooper River during our Easter Sunrise Service. The worship – especially the music – of Easter Sunday will breathe life back into my tired soul. I’ll keep plugging away at my blog, enjoying the play with words, all while trying to trust God’s timing. The melancholy isn’t here to stay.

~ Embracing what is. Trusting what will be. (Or at least trying!) ~

Leave your thoughts on Jan's words in the comments here, or at her blog.  Blessings to all.  


  1. It's a pressure's exhausting.

    My sentiments exactly. It is hard to find the holy in the chaotic days. Pastoral care, worship planning, sermon writing, liturgical arts, multiple worship services....

  2. oops...hit publish a bit too quickly.

    Add to that the layers of caring for aging parents and loss in our personal lives.

  3. I wrote a bit today over at my place about the Triduum this year after three horrendous ones -- some of what I tried to post on Jan's after she linked to it in FB. I don't see any reason for us to expect that anyone, pastor or anyone else, fit into the Easter mold. It's a much less culturally obvious time of dislocation than Christmas for those who aren't "with it," but it's perhaps an even deeper one.

  4. I'm struggling with writing a short reflection to kick off my parish's celebration of the Triduum. It's a rare moment for me, as it's one of the very few liturgical venues in the Roman Catholic tradition where women may preach (or an unordained man). But I'm a bit melancholy as well. On a Holy Thursday morning 25 years ago, I walked out of a hospital a widow at 29. Twelve hours previously, I'd had no idea that I would spend Easter afternoon at my husband's wake. A deep dislocation that I still stumble into each year....

    I'm praying with how to move us into torrents of the passion that we know so well which while they ultimately lead to the Resurrection, leave us momentarily dislocated, out of our usual patterns of liturgy and prayer.


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