Monday, 27 September 2010

of plate-spinning, beaches and reflective practice

I've always loved an open horizon - even more when it is the sea, a river, or lake.  There's something about swathes of water that soothes my soul, helps me relax, gives me a better perspective on life, the universe and everything.  This pic. is what lies at the end of my street - maybe 50metres away.  Every morning when I leave for university I shut my front door and look at this, before readjusting my rucksack and turning the other way to walk to the bus stop.  Every evening, after leaving the bus and the noise of the main street, I follow the salt tang in the air and head back in the direction of the sea and to my home. On still nights, when the tide is high and the evening is warm enough that I can leave my windows open, I hear the sound of the waves rippling to the shore.

You'd think, given where I live, that I'd spend a lot of time down on the beach... but this last year I have become progressively worse at taking time out to 'be'; so many demands crowding in and taking up so many pieces of me.  Juggling.  Lots of it.  Sometimes not quite knowing which spinning plate to catch and put back on the shelf to rest.

Some have said 'Ha! Get used to it if you're going to be a minister!'  But I think that this is a false analogy.  I know - or understand - that while there's a rhythm of days in ministry, that also one should constantly expect the unexpected; life is crazy-busy.  Yup.  And I will be happy enough for that.  Where I think the analogy comes unstuck is more in light of focus: the fact that as a minister I will not also be doing a full-time degree, nor doing the other requisite bits and pieces that 121 requires of its trainee ministers.  As a minister [should I get through the process and a congregation call me] my focus will be on the rhythm and irrhythm of ministry - that is, in the midst of it all, while gazillions of things will crop up, it will at least be contained within the context of being a minister.  Not sure if I'm articulating this well at all.  Never mind!  And here I put in the caveat that for the most part, I do enjoy the process, although sometimes it feels like being pushed and pulled and squished in a frenzy of activity whilst simultaneously being expected to be a reflective practitioner.  A paradox, a paradox... yet life is about paradox and, often times because of that, more challenging but also more enjoyable.  Nevertheless, how do I build in patterns now that will stand me in good stead later on?  Those practices that will help stave off burn out and drop out?

In an attempt to become a little more accountable to myself about those demands that take pieces of me, and the subsequent lack of peace, and in hope of getting my life and balance back, I'm going to spend this semester not doing pulpit supply, get better at saying the word 'no', and go and spend time sitting on 'my' beach.... Time to think, while I can, and perhaps time to build in some way of remembering to take the time to feel the sand between the toes, listen to the waves, watch the sunsets, and formulate a strategy for doing this when demands come crowding in again.  It's odd: I used to be so good at this - training for ministry has seen some unwelcome 'rat-race rot' creep back in.
Let's see how this mini-sabbatical from churchly duties goes this semester...!

1 comment:

JohnO said...

A great goal to set I think.
It has echoes of one of the late-night chats at the probationers' conference (during which I got a little 'heated' I must confess). Someone suggested that probationers ought to be in a placement where there is more than one Sunday service so that, during probation, they will always be preparing for a Sunday as well as everything else. There was a hint of the 'junior doctor' issue behind it all, I felt (maybe wrongly).
I took exception to this. There's more to probation than simply dealing with plate-spinning. I don't feel called to be a professional plate-spinner. What I am being trained for and have spent my years reflecting on is recognising which plates I need to keep spinning. That, I think, is a very different thing to what was being suggested.
Saying 'no', at this stage (and earlier stages), gives an opportunity to evaluate the priority plates. If one feels a yawning gap then maybe that's an important plate - for you.
I don't think ministry is ever meant to be a rat-race and it's in our own hands to ensure it isn't so.