Monthly Archives: June 2014

Money

I have the grant assessment from the Diocese now.

I would not be able to train full-time if I didn’t get a grant and I am grateful for this life-line. Rent is paid, I’m fed by college 5 days a week in term time, and there’s money to spend on top. Except it’s quite a small amount. From the budget sheet I think it’s a bit less than £400 a month for everything else. Seems fine till you chip away at it with the regular outgoings… Having been over my head in debt in the past I am very keen not to have to resort to credit cards and overdraft for everyday things.

It has been suggested I set up a stewardship account and allow friends to contribute towards books, gin, and fun. I feel terribly guilty about this.

I have had two years to prepare. If I had handled my finances better years ago, I could have saved more. If I had not met friends in the pub or gone away for weekends I could have saved more. If I had not given money away to charities I could have saved more. If I had not moved jobs & taken a pay cut I could have saved more. Instead I was paying off credit cards (down to about £975 now, which is quietly sitting on a 30-month 0% card), happily drinking beer and generally having a social life. I have, in the last year, created a Running Away Fund For Dire Emergencies – but it is sacrosanct. And there is cash stashed for a new pair of glasses, contact lenses, running shoes, some new clothes before I go, plus Greenbelt, living costs when I stop working, etc. But still – two and a bit pay cheques left – yikes. My ability to buy a new laptop depends on how much deposit I get back when I leave the flat, for example.

So essentially a stewardship account feels like me saying ‘I squandered the last two years salary, and mishandled finances before that, now please bail me out.’ When we all have demands on our finances why should it be me that benefits? I honestly don’t feel worthy of that. I am grateful for what I will receive, and although I’m frustrated at some of the Diocesan rules, I don’t have a great sense of entitlement. I do have a fierce sense of independence. Ask my Mum how long it took to persuade me to accept her offer of a significant percentage towards a possible holiday. And the vicar will tell you that I originally turned down the pilgrimage last year.

What I’m hearing from friends though is that they want to help.That it’s OK to say ‘this is going to be hard, will you help with the things that will help?’ because friends want to be part of the journey. And despite my fierce independence and dislike of being the sponger I was prepared to accept the odd bottle of gin or a loan of books – I’d joked about getting £3 a month sponsorship for gin purposes. Just had never thought about more.

It’s just hard, OK? What is it OK to spend other people’s money on? I hate wearing glasses, so is it OK to spend your money on my vanity? Is it OK to spend your money on my books? I’m tired and need to see a friend, is it OK to spend your money on train fare to London?

I may not appear gracious about the offer of financial support, and I hope this blog explains why. I am genuinely overwhelmed by the friends lining up to start this journey with me. The fastest way to make me cry is to remind me that I am loved. So, thank you.

Invisible barriers

I wrote a separate post about the idea of intentionally letting go. Currently, I am at a conference. I am not a delegate, as I have been in the past, but an exhibitor (a job I have also done in the past in a different context). This is remarkably odd for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, people that don’t know me, are wary of talking to me as I am by virtue of my different badge colour, an alien species. No matter that this time last year I was a practitioner, or that this time two years ago I was a speaker. Blue badge = sales pitch = avoid, even avoiding eye contact. (People who do know me are nice, and a couple of people I talk to on Twitter have come to say hello. But, no-one’s responding here to my tweets).

Secondly, it’s odd being at something but not part of it. Following tweets about sessions I’m not in – but would, had life been different, been interested in feels oddly remote.

Thirdly, I am actively hating having to lie to people! There are some who are interested in the fact I’m now working for a vendor, and they’re asking me why I moved, how I find it, what I am going to do next. I cannot give an honest answer to any of those questions this week. I was knackered yesterday from the sheer stress of trying to remember what the cover story is. Truthfulness is so much easier. I was pondering resigning even earlier, but I cannot risk losing another week’s pay.

Finally – it’s strange to be back in this world in any capacity because I know it is only for a short period of time (ten weeks yesterday). In a way, then, this conference acts as a point of letting go. Of being able to see people that have helped teach me the trade I am leaving and mentally say goodbye to them. To be thankful for the community for which I have worked in various volunteer capacities and which will go on supporting new entrants in future years. There was stealth prayer in the venue yesterday.

There is also a learning point here. The blue badge is a divide. I am in the same venue as the community of which I have been part, but by taking a different job, I am now not one of them. Eye contact is to be avoided. My cheery hellos go unheeded. People are surprised to see me in this capacity, and not as a delegate. So there are invisible barriers, changes in behaviour towards me (and my lovely, longsuffering colleague). I suspect there’s a parallel here. For if I am collared up in a couple of years, as much as that may gain me entry to places I’d never go otherwise, it also acts as a barrier, a suggestion that I am not a normal person with all my normal foibles.

So, there will be friends made in this life who will come with me to the next version – who will send me emergency gin, listen to me swear, or rant about life in college (actually that might not be an OR connector there). But there will be others who won’t be able to see past the change in circumstances, who see the religious nature of my life to come as a barrier. And I think I understand a bit more about that particular shift than I did 24 hours ago.

Creating a Good Letting Go

A wise friend asked me recently if I had the space to create a good letting go. That was a really interesting turn of phrase. I know – see blog posts passim – that there is a process of letting go to be got on with. I had not thought about creating it as a Thing, a ritual that I would have some control over. But I realise I can. And this links to a conversation I had with my spiritual director about the physical handing over of stuff. She had recently downsized and had given lots away, but said she’d taken time to say thank you for the thing, and the use it had been to her.

I tweeted about this, and it was pointed out to me that the rituals of life – the liminal – are what a lot of my future will be about, and that there is creativity in this. That made a lot of sense. I am happier now, thinking that although there is going to be some stirring of emotions as I go through every last thing I own, I perhaps have the opportunity to be deliberate about the process. And when I am written out of an activity in church, I can be thankful for what has been in the past, not hurt that the present isn’t important to others. (I hope).

Let’s face it, in the next five years I am going to move on three times, so I might as well have a Way Of Dealing That Works. This may be the sharpest and hardest – leaving profession, church, family and community – but others will hurt all the same. So I will be creating a good letting go. I will be intentionally grateful for the people I am not going to work with or see again; for the things I pass on or recycle. I wrote a prayer for this…I may write more. The whole transition is basically one long ‘Oh God I have to trust you’ kind of prayer (not the calm floaty kind of prayerfulness that others might be achieving) so some structure to this will help, I think. I will be alive to the fact that I can influence how I see this process; that it isn’t going to all be just being buffeted by my unpredictable emotions.

And for the rest of the time, there is gin.