Note I said: "were very real." I wrote them more than three years ago. I'm not lugging those burdensome feelings around with me any more. I've traveled quite a distance since then.
But they are important markers for me. Milestones along the road I was on, plodding along as best I could, rarely straight-forwardly, not always pleasantly, but moving one way or another (or, rather, one way and another).
I'm sure that those two poems were trying to tell me something I needed to learn about myself, something I needed to see and hear and know more clearly, something that some part of me way down deep already knew (and I hate to admit that it took me a long while to really let that knowledge sink in, or rise up to full consciousness, to the point of acting on it).
Shortly after writing them I read those poems to my friend Patty, a fellow poet, by way of also complaining about the inner turmoil I was experiencing (and no doubt blaming on my job). When she heard them, she said to me: "Well, at least this job is getting you to write poetry!"
I remember thinking that was scant consolation. I wanted relief from the turmoil, not poetry! I wanted to get out of the exhausting inner conflict I felt about what to do with my life, a conflict that the job seemed to perpetuate and even exacerbate.
I can see now that that job was on some level just where I needed to be, because it was doing me the favor of stirring the pot of inner conflict, provoking me toward inner clarity, eventually making my life unbearable enough to get me unstuck. But at the time I didn't want any more unbearable pot-stirring or inflamed conflict. I wanted out; I wanted to escape; I wanted a break.
Reading those poems from my present vantage point, it's so easy to imagine that they were telling me in the clearest possible terms that I was through with being an Episcopal priest, that renouncing my ordination was the obvious thing to do.
But at the time I wasn't that clear, at least my conscious mind wasn't that clear. I was trying to listen to my soul, that is on the days when I wasn't convinced that I had actually lost my soul forever somewhere in the business of being a priest.
But more often than not, I was probably only listening to my mind yammering on, flip-flopping endlessly, unsure of what to do.
Unsure because not really even ready or willing to entertain in any serious kind of way letting go of the the one adult identity I had had for longer than any other--being ordained, an Episcopal priest, a "professional God person".
Unsure also because I was so easily distracted by the more immediate quandary of whether to stay in my current job or not. This was not the first time in my life that I had imagined that my inner conflict was about "being in the wrong job" rather than about being in the wrong profession, even in the wrong calling.
And here it seems time to introduce the confusing, loaded, torturous, and (to me, for the longest time) debilitating idea of "vocation".
(To be continued . . . obviously.)