My candle burns at both ends
My candle burns at both ends;Edna St. Vincent Millay ("First Fig", A Few Figs From Thistles, 1920)
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light!
A couple of weeks ago, Wess Daniels wrote about a game that he and Emily like to play of imagining what your alternative life would be. I love this kind of game.
In one of my alternative lives, I could have been much like Edna St. Vincent Millay. Of course, in this life, I’m not a brilliantly gifted poet, but in my alternate life, I would be. I read her biography, Savage Beauty, a few years ago, just as I was settling in to my role as a married mother of two and just as I was discovering this new role as a writer. It was a good glimpse of what might have been. Of a life completely dedicated to writing and sensual pleasures. You know, sex, drugs and poetry, in the early years of the 20th century. Both the glories and the sorrows of such a life.
And I was able to affirm that this was not the life I had chosen.
I have had several points of clear decisions in my life. I could have gone back to Mexico; I could have gone to Taiwan; I might have had children earlier or not at all. But I didn’t. In each case, I chose the more conventional, the more respectable path. And that was right for me.
In any case, I’ve come to a point where I feel I can’t let my candle burn at both ends tonight – I have to get up tomorrow and make breakfast and get the kids to school.
I can’t run and write in the same morning, yet.
I can’t go to FGC and PYM and Newberg and Pasadena and Quincy and the Northwest Quaker Women’s Theological Conference and the Christian Friends Conference all in the same summer.
I can’t be at the memorial meeting and the board meeting and the soccer game all in the same day.
I can’t clerk the children’s program committee, run the program and parent (effectively and lovingly) all at the same time.
On the one hand, I can’t let myself get so bogged down in cooking and carpool and laundry that I fail to be the minister I believe God is calling me to be. On the other hand, I have chosen a life that is not all ethereal and mystical. Mary Rose O’Reilly had to become an apprentice shepherd to get that balance back. I want to be a person who cleans her own bathroom, tied to the realities of life in dirty dishes, parent-teacher conferences, and tending to the needs of the bereaved in my Meeting and the people in my neighborhood who have fewer opportunities for self-development and expression than I have.
It is extremely important to me that, as a Quaker, I can be a minister and a mother. Even so, some choices have to be made.
Gregg Koskela wrote last year about wanting to be a first-rate thinker and a hands-on minister, and he held up a couple of examples from the 17th century. My comment at the time pointed out that most of these fellows (and they were all men) were not also first- rate fathers or else they had a wee little problem with alcohol, or other people’s wives, or some other stress-relieving issue, that may have been swept under the rug over time.
When I worked for a large non-profit, the communications department had a little sign about sending things to a professional print shop: “You can get it fast. You can get high quality. You can get it cheaply. Choose two.”
Likewise, I could take on many of the wonderful opportunities for service around me. But not all at the same time, or even in the same year.
Jenell Paris wrote a couple of weeks ago about how women’s giftedness is too extensive to be confined to our own households. Like her, I am proud and happy to use my gifts to benefit my family and my home. But I am also proud and happy that my sons see me using my gifts to benefit our larger community. Right now, that is pretty much limited to our monthly and quarterly meeting and their schools. But they occasionally hear stories about my work with the SF Planning Commission or in East New York. They hear me speak Spanish and French with other people and they know I didn’t learn it all in school. Sometimes, they even hear me speak in meeting for worship.
I want to be someone who is true to her word. That requires that I do not promise too much. Even though I want to help, I have to be more realistic about how much time things take and how much time I have to contribute.
So this brings me around to the question of this blog. Do I have time to write a blog? Is this one of or the best way I can structure the writing ministry I think I’m supposed to be doing? How do I balance writing here, reading and commenting elsewhere in the Quaker blogosphere, and all the other good things I want to or ought to do?
These are some of the questions I’m pondering when you don’t seen anything posted here for a week or more.
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