Author Archives: lpyislb

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.

Things that bite

A jolly fine friend gave me a great phrase last year (pre-BAP): things that bite. I’d just been having lessons in being a lay Eucharistic minister, which involved trying not to giggle as I pretended to administer the chalice. So I was taught how to set up the altar. Standing behind it, flapping a veil around in an unpractised manner I had one of those moments, where things bite. I realised (whilst knocking the paten off the top of the chalice for the third time trying to settle the veil) that this was either going to be learning the practical side of one of the most important things I will ever be able to do – something that will become part and parcel of my being. Or, if I had gotten a No from the BAP, then standing behind the altar, setting it up always for someone else – that would be one of the hardest jobs I would have to do as a server. By the time I got home, I was wobbling all over the place – and in a call to the Jolly Fine Friend, she knew exactly what I meant. “Oh,” she said. “Yes. Things bite, usually when you’re not expecting it.”

This past ten days has seen a lot of unexpected gnashers. On Sunday the new PCC was commissioned. I’m no longer on the PCC, so I didn’t know that this was going to happen. It was, therefore, a bit of an odd feeling to be in the pews on the outside of something I had been in the middle of for three years.

For the last year we’ve been building up to a week of events, the last of which was on Sunday evening. I have the washup meeting to go to – and that’s it. I’ve been assured they still want me to attend after that – I don’t think anyone had noticed I have been to what was technically my last session – but I probably won’t. What is there to contribute? Anything being planned will happen after I’ve left. So as well as feeling a little anti-climactic that the fun stuff has been and gone, it’s another thing that bites.

I’m writing myself out of church life, and being written out by other people. Not consciously and not unkindly – just a realisation that I’ve only got one more servers’ rota… no more PCC… three more housegroup meetings… And it doesn’t matter whether they are thing I’m in control of, or not – they bite all the same. I’ve just been asked for my availability for July & August for the servers’ rota: and there are three Sundays left. That’s all. I nearly cried when I worked that out.

I’m reliably informed by my long-suffering vicar friends that I might as well get used to this, because it’ll be part of life in the future. It is the first hint of the taste of the ministry of the 18th camel. It’s my first taste of transition out of a community that I worked damned hard to get into – that I argued with, fought with, grumped at, laughed at…and eventually came to realise that I loved and was loved as part of it. It’s the latter that is the oddest realisation. I mean, I know some people don’t actively dislike me, and others are completely ambivalent towards me, and there are some people that can’t wait for me to go. But the words of kindness and encouragement I’ve encountered in the past few weeks have shown me what I didn’t know. And I’m about to start blubbing into the laptop, which would be expensive, so I shall stop.

Celebrating 20 Years

Yesterday I was very lucky to have a ticket to the service at St Paul’s Cathedral celebrating 20 years of women priests (or as I call them, ‘priests.’) In 1992 when the vote went through I was at university and I don’t really think it registered with me; I certainly don’t remember the 1994 ordinations. I was probably about as far away from the church as I could get at that point, so that isn’t exactly surprising. 

The walk from Westminster to St Paul’s was lovely – laughter and sunshine along the way. We were some of the last into St Pauls (having been drinking fizz in the pub round the corner for a bit) so the 1994 cohort had already started to process in. We stood amid the applause and cheers watching the women walking in. And I realised then that I wanted to say thank you to all of them. 

I’ve worked in places where being me has been a disadvantage. Imagine having a holiday job as a student – as a delivery assistant – where they wouldn’t let you drive the van because you were a woman… or as an AV technician when they didn’t trust you to lift a telly by yourself. So I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered why my skill was ignored just because I happened not to be a bloke. But only moments.

Their fight, their sacrifices, their banging of head against brick walls – all the arguments that were going on when I wasn’t even a Christmas and Easter attending C of E person – meant that 20 years later, I could walk into the DDO’s office with no questions asked. Well, there were lots of questions, but you know what I mean. My actual gender wasn’t part of the criteria. No-one said ‘no, you can’t do this, you’re not a chap.’ Women as priests are, in many places, unremarkable. And that is something to celebrate. 

Congratulations?

People, who have been more kind that I was expecting, have said “Congratulations on your selection.” Of course, I reply politely and take their excitement as a compliment, because it is after all nice to be congratulated, and I have it on the vicar’s authority that people are happy they have produced a training candidate (even if some of them think I am friend of the anti-Christ).

But… my inner pedant is wondering why ‘congratulations’ feels wrong. I suspect this could be filed under ‘over- thinking.’ But. I didn’t do anything, except show up. I didn’t purposely choose this as an idea about what would be next in life. I didn’t have to learn the right words, or read the right books (although understanding how to articulate what ‘vocation’ looks like certainly helped). So ‘congratulations’ just feels wrong – as if I have passed a test or handed in a thesis or done something specific which needed skill or judgement or talent. I don’t know what else folk can say, though – answers on a postcard. I’m not suggesting that this isn’t a significant milestone or that I am not pleased I was accepted: it just doesn’t feel like a moment I want, or ought, to take pride in.

A non-church person described this as a career change – they said “wouldn’t mind a career change as well but haven’t got the courage to do it, so I think it’s great that you are going for it.” It was too complicated to try to explain why it doesn’t feel quite like that. At times I feel completely uncourageous – even quite simple things feel like they will be taxing (‘I have to learn new bus routes’) let alone the Actually Important Big Stuff. I was trying to imagine life without the backdrop of the familiarities here, and it was a bit tricky. I’ve been counting the days left at work (81) – but I won’t get to 50 ParkRuns before I move…I tell myself that everything is all mixed up, that the many uncertainties take their outlet in trivialities…that once there is an approximate shape to what’s happening & I can be completely open about it, I’ll stop worrying about the Amorphous Everything, and importantly, I’ll be well on my way to trusting Him Upstairs.

Letting go of things

It’s six months until I start college. Five months until I (hopefully) finish work and leave my Current Job and Abode behind. But, changes are starting to happen now – tiny shifts in what is normal, needing to let go of things.

This week, two professional membership organisations renewals fell due. And I didn’t renew. Two organisations that had been hugely influential in establishing my professional network, locally and internationally. Places I made friends; learned to write articles; worked with volunteers on committees; planned events; presented at conferences and then, took my turn as leader. I worked on the assumption that the more I put in, the more I would get out – and proved it true. In short, all the colour in my recent CV has come about through these professional, extra-curricular activities.

And now – now that has to be left behind. I had worked hard to get my personal brand recognition in my industry, but even last year I had to turn down a high-profile opportunity because I was concentrating on the discernment process. So I’ve known this part was coming, which perhaps made 1 April a softer landing than it could have been. This is the kind of episode that ‘bites,’ as a friend of mine described it recently.

So as my professional identity begins to shift, I say goodbye to a couple of defining features on the landscape. Thank you, organisations X & Y; you have been fun. I owe you a lot.