Monday, 3 February 2014

A sort of plan.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.  Heheh – possibly nothing new.

I read this article by John Michael Greer, basically about life as we know it dying.   As always, I watch the criminalization of ordinary people trying to protect by protest the Earth, home of all of us, against the aggressive aggrandizement of big business and the unscrupulous self-interest of what Edward Snowdon calls “the political class”.  And I watch the present government in the UK turn its back on people who struggle with poverty and disability, and on the heritage of the English countryside that is essential for wellbeing – the trees that protect against drought, flood and wind; the wilderness that cleans the air.

I have participated in little public protest throughout my life – some against fox-hunting, against animal testing and against the promotion of formula milk in poor parts of the world by Nestlé, but not much.  The paths I have chosen have been, in a quiet way, alternative – seeking (on and off) the homegrown, the organic, the vegan, the free and the wild.  I raised my children to think where the things they bought and the food they ate came from – who made it, who suffered for it, who benefited from the purchase.   I’ve tried to support small family businesses and keep my footprint on Earth small.   And in my writing I’ve tried to do the verbal equivalent of serving up good food on the plates of my family: I’ve offered the fare of goodness, the fruit of the Spirit, for the ingestion of my readers imaginations and the nourishment of their souls.  But I have to admit, I’ve done little that makes any difference.

Towards the second half of last year, I began to feel a new season in my soul.  My inclination for the quiet, the peaceful and the beautiful – the wild, the gentle, the kind, the happy and the left-to-be – developed into a raging hunger.    Last year, as in so many years, I took on more work than I felt comfortable with to earn money that went out as fast as it came in, and summer days by the sea, beautiful winter sunsets, came and went unheeded while I sat holed up with a computer.

Desperate for the company of trees and birds and wood smoke and quietness, I made a horrible hole in our finances to instigate Komorebi.

At the same time I began to feel really sick and tired of religion.  The company of Jesus is my mainstay, and the Spirit of God is my life and breath – but the rules and exclusions, the dogmas and doctrines, the organisations, institutions, tribalism and antagonism just don’t do it for me anymore.  At all.   

Then as this year began, came something new.   I have a mole on my lower leg which could potentially be a melanoma, that I decided I must have removed – I’ve an appointment for this for a few days time.   That’s generally straightforward, but as I’ve worked in a hospice and gotten old enough to have a number of acquaintances die by now, I’m well aware that melanoma can be something of a runaway horse.  It just depends.   And that concentrates the mind.   It makes me ask myself, what if this takes off and I end up dead in six months?  It makes me ask myself, at fifty-six, with my future (like everyone’s) uncertain – what do I want?  Not to get or to have, but what do I want to be and to do?

I realized that straight away I need to sort my health out: stop living in denial with all the destructive self-indulgences that perpetuate my agonizing acid reflux, fibromyalgia, depression, tiredness, stiffness, insomnia and obesity, and will one day end in vascular disease, diabetes and cancer.   So I blew the dust off Charlotte Gerson’s book and made a start, and I feel unrecognizably better.  I’ve lost more than a stone, I sleep well and all the comprehensive pain has melted away.  Next I made that appointment to get this mole sorted out.

Yesterday, sitting in church, listening to the beautiful music, looking up at the incense smoke rising up through the sunbeams against pale stone, what I wanted arose into clarity in the same way as the smoke rising into the light.

For now (and maybe there is only ever now), I want to be happy.  I don’t want to run anything, organize anything or argue about anything.  I don’t want to be on any committees or administer anything.  I just want to be happy.  For the rest of my life.  I want to take each day quietly and peacefully – loving, helping, chatting, eating, sweeping, walking, washing, cooking, being.  There’s nowhere I want to go, nothing I want to accomplish.  There’s another book I may write some day, but that will hatch in time.

I have no desire to die and no desire to live either.  I would be happy to die in six days or six weeks or six months or six years or thirty years.  Whatever.  That’s fine and I feel comfortable with any option.  What is important to me is to live a beautiful life.   

My Badger is a remarkable man.  When we came out of church I said to him, is it okay if I just do that?  Just pootle along earning what I need to get by, and other than that do, basically nothing; just be, just be happy?  And he said yes, that’s entirely fine with him.

So that’s my plan.   As of yesterday, I resigned from trying and struggling and took up my new occupation of just living.   I think I was always too small and too insignificant to change the world, but I’m hoping that my happiness will add to the sum of its future wellbeing.  

Today I read this quote from Roger Ebert:
“Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

That sort of thing.


Bean said...

Wow! Awesome stuff Pen. Just being and fully appreciating life is good stuff. We actually need so little to live a good life.
We have had a tight six months since my husband had a hospitalization, unpaid time off work, then a.very cold and snowy winter that has prevented him from working. During this time we have lived primarily on my part time earnings and we have managed. I have learned how little we actually need and it is nice to spend time together and have time to enjoy each day God sends us.
Praying that all goes well at the doctor and that healing is speedy.


Alice Y. said...

Yeah! Go Pen. This accords with what I understand of the leading of God, too. I think we need to follow what we understand of the Holy, and dwell in it. Then when we are seasoned in it, we may be led out of it again in future to minister to others. Attempting to minister out of our own will and strength is not necessarily to the benefit of others. People need Word fresh from the Holy source, not the tired mumblings of people worn out from not following their own guide. When we are seasoned in the Holy, I think the quality of everything in us becomes different.

I hope I am not astray in this understanding. At the moment this is the path I am on: turn to God, and make each suffering I encounter into another prompt to lean into that relationship. Trust that whatever response God wishes to make through my little life will come to fruit in God's time. It seems to me the times are too urgent to trust in our inadequate human ideas and wills. I am choosing to put my trust in God's grace, knowing that the power of the Holy source of all equips people to serve in a mysterious way. This is what I understand of Quaker 'testimony' -- that as our relationship with God grows and deepens in us, fruits of the spirit will ripen in our lives. We can't hasten the development of that tree that bears the fruits. It may be rooted deeply in solitude and wild nature. We can only follow the guidance we get, tend the tree's development daily and trust in the Holy power.

Anonymous said...

I get a daily devotional email from Andrew Wommack ministries and the other day it was about Andrew. He shared his faith with his brother who went on to change the world. In comparison to Peter, Andrew didn't seem to do much, yet without Andrew's small contribution all that Peter did (and is still doing through the stories of him in the Bible) wouldn't have been possible.

Never underestimate the impact of the things you do on other people. To be honest we don't know...and won't know until we get to heaven what we have achieved. The things we think are small and insignificant could just jurn out to be life changers for someone the way Andrew sharing his faith changed Peter, who changed the world.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever see a movie online called The Four Horsemen? It was about how we're at the stage of our civilisation that's about to crash and burn. It followed the rise and fall of other empires (like the Roman's) and showed where and how we folllowed the same route. Interestingly enough in all collapsed empires, towards the end, they appeared to 'worship' their chefs/cooks...made me think about all the cookery shows on TV! :-)

Anonymous said...

I have signed up to that sort of life as well.

Anonymous said...

'That sort of thing' is exactly as it should be.

Prayers for your health.


AbiSomeone said...

Amen! Blessings to you on your new clarity. I desire much of the same thing....

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Hello friends.

May your home and domestic circumstances be blessed and prospered, Bean. May the cruse of oil and the bowl of meal never fail for you and yours xx

Alice - ooh, thank you! You have no idea how I prize a Quaker leading! And the idea of being seasoned in the Holy sounds like what I am GREEDY for! There's a NT Greek word - "zeloo" - that means something like "desire / be ambitious for". Paul encourages the Corinthians to "zeloo" after prophecy. I zeloo after being seasoned in the Holy. That's what I want.

Debs - so interesting about the chefs - yes, there is a kind of desperation in the culture that frets over how well the coulis is trailed onto the plate.

Stella, Sherry, Abi - amen! We're in!


Robyn said...

Lovely :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Robyn - waving! x

kat said...

Good luck with your appointment Pen, I'm sure it will be fine and your destressing will help the healing.
I love the Roger Ebert quote, kindness is a much underrated quality xxx

Julie Faraway said...

I had an obvious melanoma too, and when it was checked it was not a melanoma. That's my first prayer for you. My second prayer is an offering of thanks to God, for He has used your Hawk and Dove (and Simplicity, and, and....) books to completely change my way of thinking about Him, which was a needed thing. You have and are making a difference.

And that last paragraph in your post -- crushed me. In an I-need-crushing sort of way. Blessings heading out now and should reach you in a few hours -- be watching for the sky to bring them to you. xoxo

Anne Booth said...

Dear Pen,

This is so helpful. Thank you. I will pray about the mole, and most of all pray blessings on your life. What you wrote is so lovely about happiness, and I will read it over again. I think I need to meditate on it and accept what I can see is clearly right in your life and apply it to my own. Being seasoned in the Holy, being led to dwell with the Holy, is so lovely.

I must look after my health too, and will look at that book. Thank you for mentioning it.

I hope your life with 'Badger' is full of Peace and contentment and receiving of God's love xx I'd love some prayers to trust more as I find I am rushing around trying to save the world (inc my parents!) and getting crosser and more tired. What you write is something I really need to read - but most of all - to live but I am so far from it I think I need the Holy Spirit to even begin to try!

Thank you for your writing and honesty.

Sylvia said...

I haven't commented here before but I do follow your blog. Today my husband noticed I was having a sad day, so he was delighted to see me smile this evening! I was smiling at this post, you have lifted my spirits! We must remember to give ourselves permission to be happy, trying to "do it all" and "be all things" to everyone really doesn't work. My husband knows me so well.
Thankyou, you make a difference in my life.

Robyn said...

Thanks Pen. I am loving your books. I am a bit sad that I'm onto the last one of the "Hawk & Dove" series! Love to you from New Zealand where it is lovely summer :-)

Sandrajay said...

Amen and Amen. Thank you so much for sharing this as it validates many thoughts I have had but did not have the gift to put to words. Bless you Pen.

Rapunzel said...

This seems to me a fine plan indeed. My Middle Child recently asked what I would do if my life were such that I didn't "Have To" do anything.
Taking the question as seriously as she meant it, I realized I'd like to live away from most people, spend time with select family and friends, and read and study and stitch. That is the sum total of my ambitions, and I can and do do all of these things when I'm not at my job in town. The job that taxes my body like nothing else I've ever done.
So I've realized my next ambition is to figure out how to make the stitching meet my needs for cash in order that I can quit the detested job in town, which will remove the only source of real stress in my life, almost eliminate my exposure to toxins and shrink my carbon footprint at one and the same time.
I think it is a blessing to be able to let go of the feeling we should either be saving the world or conquering it with our own two hands.
I feel a deep trust that your leg will shortly go back to being just a leg, and your life will be primarily joy. It is good to just BE.

gail said...

What can I say but thank you for writing from your heart. I too am seeking the quiet life. Taking time to really listen to God and to care for myself as He would have me care. To earnestly seek to be a gentle woman who's light shines for her Saviour. I want to spend more time with Him. I want to learn to love like He loves. For me it happens most effectively in the quiet times. I'm finding joy in getting rid of the unnecessary, and exploring the beauty of simple. Life goes on but I am learning to step back. I guess it may be what is meant by being in the world but not of the world. This is a new experience for me and I can feel the growth. I'm happier and not as judgemental with the person I am becoming. I will pray for your struggles Pen. Your light shines beautifully through your writings and it's always so nice to see a new post from the Quiet Way.
Blessings Gail.

Pen Wilcock said...

I love the things you all come and write here on my blog. Jesus leans over my shoulder and reads them with me, and what you say makes him smile.

Rapunzel, I am praying for you that something - an Etsy shop maybe? - will cover your financial needs to allow your life to flow as it should.

Thank you for your prayers and kindness friends!

Lynn Shaw of CA who wrote to me here - the contact details you sent were not an emil address and didn't exist as a website. I'll fiddle with them a bit and see if I can get and email that works from them, but could you try again if you don't hear from me?


Anonymous said...

@Rapunzel...if I can rudely butt in and give you some unsolicited advice :-D

If you are going to set up an Etsy shop do it now before you think about quitting work. I wish I'd done it while I still had a job rather than doing when I was made redundant and the steep learning curve would have had a buffer of safety around it.

Also, I don't know how good you are at photography but if you aren't very good you need to be awesome so practicing now is also a good thing.

I'll leave it at that but there's more if you are interested :-D

Suze said...

Oh Pen I will pray for peace for your soul and for your melanoma. It could be one or it may not. They are funny things. I had a birthmark that developed a little wiggle to the edge. It was deemed okay but my gp told me to get rid of it. I was teased by the surgeon saying I was wing too cautious as I had a huge tumour removed six months before. The huge tumour was benign and the little wiggled was melanoma.

I spent a lot of time in thought that year. I made a will that was very clear and frankly horrified the solicitor with my frankness. Now, daily, I journey with dad through the end of a 16 year long battle with Alzheimer's. Riches may be wonderful but inner peace, love and the sureness that says this is my path and I am living it is far more important.

God bless you and keep you dear one.

Pilgrim said...

Thank you for the laugh, Deborah. Now I can add chefs and cookbooks to my worries. :-)

As the mother of a child with a disability and the daughter of elderly parents, I feel overwhelmed when I go to church and hear expectations and requests to give time, energy, and resources to "ministries." Being consistently kind where and when you're living can be a pretty big job, too, though. Just holding your tongue can take a lot of effort. I was impressed at your recognition of that in Breath of Peace.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thanks for your good thoughts, friends! xxx

Heleng said...

Praying that all goes well for you at the doctor.

Paula said...


Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thanks, friends! xx

Sandra Ann said...

Pen your are not small or insignificant! The Road of Blessing and Simple Living are always within easy reach of the night stand; they offer peace and encouragement.

As you have prayed for me, I will do likewise for you, that all will be well.

San xx

rebecca said...

Once again, a post that leaves me w/o words. So from a distance, I pray for you - body, soul, mind and spirit (or any other way you think of yourself).

Yiayia Ann said...

How strange - we seem to have arrived at much the same place by very different routes and lifestyles!

Yet again you have articulated my thoughts for me.

It is good to know I am not alone.

I pray that your melanoma will be benign.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thank you, my friends! Waving! xxx

Rapunzel said...

Pen-thank you for your prayers, you're a fab pray-er <3

Deborah--thank you for "rudely butting in" : )
My daughters suggested an Etsy shop too, and I've been working on making some things for that purpose. My slightly vague plan is to try opening a shop in the fall, 1- to give me ample time for reaseach and 2- in the spring my custodial job goes from 24 hour to 40 hours for the summer so I earn much better $$$ in summers.
I'm thinking one last summer at the higher pay rate would be a good thing to have before I quit and 'work for myself'.
In the meantime I've got a gallery opening this Friday, and recently encountered my former textiles professor wants to show my work to and introduce me to a couple of gallery owners in Philadelphia and NYC and my daughter and son-in-law have a gallery owner in New Orleans interested, so I've got my fingers crossed about that. I'd truly rather make things than sell them....and if I can get galleries to carry my work and the work itself finds an appereciative audience them the galleeries and I could both make a bit of money which would be absolutely lovely!
We shall see what unfolds.

jane said...

You have made a real difference in the world with every heart you've touched through your books and your blog. You are an inspiration and a wonderful example of how to live for Christ. Praying for you. Love Jane

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thanks, friend x

Anonymous said...

This post resonates with me on many levels.

I just finished reading Spiritual Care of Dying and Bereaved People. What a fantastic book. My beloved father died two weeks ago: reading your book couldn't have been more timely, Pen. I've now reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads.

"I’ve done little that makes any difference."

Most humans think that, I suspect. You raised a family and you've written some wonderful books. That counts for something.

Will be praying about that melanoma.

In Christ,

(who has been in love with Father Peregrine and Brother Tom since 1993)

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thank you, Philippa - lovely to hear from you - glad you found the Spiritual Care book helpful. x

Mary G said...

On my desk at school sits a file folder full of "Dear Penelope" letters. Therein lies testimony of my students, who have read your Hawk and the Dove trilogy, as they know from students before them they will read in its entirety in my class. They write of your characters, your uncanny ability to see into the hearts of people, and how much they have been impacted by your stories. My favorite reflections are always the ones that speak of the way they relate to a specific character. In one of the many assignments I give them as we study these works, they choose a character they most relate to, and explain the reason for their choice. Oh, the beauty of those reflections ... they touch Frances, Tom, Peregrine, and even Father Matthew. They see themselves, their struggles, and eventually their victories, told through these real and touchable characters. I want you to know that you have, and continue to have, a golden, lasting impact on my students, and on me. I am not sure I have ever known anyone who understands and can communicate the battles and wins of the human spirit like you do, Pen. Your books rock my students, every time. I hope we can meet again someday. Much love and warm blessings to you, my friend who lives far away.:) Blessings in the Name of our Savior, Jesus.
Steadfast in Kansas City,

Pen Wilcock said...

:0D That's so kind! Thank you, Mary. Yes, I hope we meet again some day, too xx