There are a million things that I want to write on here about, and not only do I not have the time, but with some of them I wouldn’t even know where to start.
I got back recently from Israel, which was surreal and amazing and I haven’t yet processed all of what it meant to me to be there. Since getting back, every time I open the newspaper I see the rhetoric of hate which is depressing enough on its own. On top of that I’ve had a bit of a rough and busy week. Nothing was significantly rough on its own but when it all added up I ended up just feeling like an utter failure, even though I had felt pretty good about myself at points earlier in the week.
It all started on Tuesday with my CPE interview. It actually went pretty well and I got offered a place in the program but I was definitely nervous while being interviewed, I would wonder with anxiousness when I saw a number be circled or when the director of the program wrote a note. Then on Wednesday with my mid term oral evaluation; nothing about it was particularly shocking, but it did hit on a point of developing a pastoral identity a few times. Naturally I understand what the word “pastoral” means and I understand what the word “identity” means… but it baffles me as to what a “pastoral identity” could possibly be. On Thursday I got a friendly reminder of all the things that I still need to do, boxes I need to check, before my formal process is finished. It all seems like it is coming so quickly and still so far away at the same time. Friday and Saturday went by without any major stressing factors, I wrote my sermon and practiced it.
On Sunday I woke up early, refused to let the loss of an hour (DST) sway me, and arrived at the church to start the day. I gave my sermon and it went… ok at 8 a.m., choked a bit at 10 a.m., and I gave an edited version at 5 p.m. I felt great about the content as many people had expressed that they really liked the story I included. I knew it was a bit on the short side, and that my delivery- while improving- could still use quite a bit of work. Most of the problem lies in the stage fright that comes over me. I am able to appear calm but a lump in my throat develops and it affects my voice and how much emphasis comes out. In a recording I can hear the lump, I can hear myself trying to put emphasis on words and it coming out only as a fraction of what I intend.
On Monday I took my sabbath, though it was less restful than I had hoped for. I was very tired and didn’t feel well for a portion of the evening.
Tuesday morning life started back up again. My supervisor and I went on some pastoral visits and that took up most of the day but I spent a little time trying to theologically reflect on the experience of doing pastoral visits. I took a few hours out of the evening to prep for my Thursday morning prayer service and discussion group because I had the feeling that I wouldn’t likely have much time the next day. My hunch was right, I had my supervisory time in the morning and it was definitely a hard session. I became slightly emotional over the experiences my supervisor was sharing with me, simply because of their nature. It was all in relation to her trying to show me that while every priest prays they will never encounter these extreme situations, they have to do the hard work of examining a whole host of questions including their own mortality in order to serve those to whom they are pastoring, who are often facing those questions themselves. I understood all this and was fine with the fact that I needed to delve deeper into this area of self- exploration.
Then, since we finished that discussion early, my supervisor suggested we talk about my sermon, as well as few other aspects of the Eucharistic service. I said “sure” and opened up my summary notes of the evaluations I had received back. We talked a lot and over the course of the discussion suddenly all the good feelings I had had about my sermon despite its shortcomings went away- and I was left feeling like I had done nothing right. On Sunday I felt I had made a few mistakes but that it had gone well overall, by the end of that supervisory session I was hurt and a bit angry. I know that my supervisor only means well, but it felt like she only pointed at and focused on what I did wrong and said nothing as to anything I did right… or maybe I was mistaken… maybe I didn’t do anything right after all. If confidence is one of the major things I’m lacking then it becomes extremely difficult to build it in this setting.
As the morning progressed we moved into the Lenten study group. It went well, I think, though it would be nice to find a way to encourage certain members of the group to speak up and for others to allow that space for them to do so. After the Lenten group my supervisor and I met with the children of a parishioner who had passed away the day before. I had visited this parishioner and so was saddened to learn of his passing. His family was grieving but were able to plan the service and have some continuity with their mother’s service who had passed away a few months previous. I could tell it was hard for them but they got through it. This meeting confirmed the date of the funeral- which collided with a family event I had been planning on attending. It is part of being in ministry but I was still sad to know I wouldn’t be able to be with my family this weekend. I had really been looking forward to it. It is hard being on my own in a big city, it can feel quite isolating and lonely at times, hopefully I will get to see them soon. Even seeing an old friend would be nice right about now.
While I kept it together for the most part throughout the day, I ended up in the evening, waiting for my vegetarian lasagna to cook, sitting on my bed and crying for a short while. All of what I had been feeling just came in a sudden wave and it overwhelmed me. Then, so I could process it, I wrote this blog… like the title of this post indicates… it has been one hell of a week.