Day 27 – Start a New Job

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Ok, the new job was in the works before I started the 30 day challenge. But this gig has aspects that are pretty new for me. The organization has only five employees. Everyone works virtually. Weekly staff meetings take place at Open City Diner.

After today’s meeting, I asked my boss, “So, what would you like me to do?” His response: “I’ll send you some emails, and you’ll figure it out as you go.”

Usually I am uncomfortable with up-in-the-airness. At age 22 I took Hebrew, a language that is translated pretty fluidly. Words and phrases can mean several different things, and there are several possible answers. Some of my classmates loved the flexibility. I did not. I wanted to learn the rules, apply them, and then spit out a tidy English sentence.

Fifteen years later, I am trying to take a different approach. I’m waiting and seeing. I’m diving in and feeling the water as I go. I’m looking for peace in the midst of uncertainty and not rushing to judgment.

One step at a time. Easy does it. Such basic life lessons and an invitation to trust.

Of course, I will come to a point that I lose my zen and hate the flux. I will exhaust my expertise and still need to give more. Yet, I think there will still be the invitation to trust and to learn, to fail and to start again.

I wonder if this could be a spiritual experience, depending on how I go through it. What might it look like, to be open to a deeper current stirring in everyday events? I guess there is only one way to find out.

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Marilyn welcomed me to the corner
of 
Connecticut and Calvert this morning,
next to Open City Diner.

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Day 17 – Struggle

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The novelty has warn off. The the 30 day challenge has turned challenging.

The search for new things is work. Some days are routine, some events average, and some feelings not worth reporting. Can’t I let this flower be a flower and not a gateway to enlightenment?

What’s more, the act of writing can create, even fabricate, a structure to the experience. Just knowing I will write about my day, changes the way I act or think. I look more intently. I stretch to find new angles. I sift every moment for a nugget of grace worth sharing. But what if I turn up nothing but dirt?

Christianity has this idea called sacrament. Basically, ordinary things like dirt or flowers are both themselves and ways to experience something deeper, truer, or more beautiful and profound. There’s a trick though. The beauty is hidden within the ordinariness, like a secret whisper you have to lean closely to hear. For those who are willing and open, you may encounter something real in the flower, which can change you in lasting, imperceptible ways.

Several years ago I hiked across the Pyrenees mountains. The first day was magical. I saw wild horses roaming the ridge, I stared down plunging views to valleys below, and I was awed by endless sky full of massive clouds. But what changed me was a clump of grass. I was sitting on my backpack taking a break, when out of the corner of my eye a tiny patch of earth seemed to radiate light. I leaned closer to see a single drop of dew nested in the center reflecting the sun, like a hidden diadem. I was captured by this tiny bead of fire just waiting to be discovered.

For me, that drop of water was a sacrament. Of course, not every moment of the trip was as weighty or momentous. But I did start looking differently in order to see more.

I suppose that is what I’m doing on this 30 day challenge, trying to see more, letting different experiences throw me off kilter so I can catch sight of the beauty hidden in the dirt. Not every moment deserves a blog post. But every moment is worthy of the disciplined work it takes to see, to reflect, and to be open to what might be God hidden in plain sight.

 

 

Day 8 – Pass a Bill

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Tonight the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4366, an education research bill that I wrote. The discussion on the House Floor lasted 17 minutes, including some kind words for me. My boss ended his statement on the bill by thanking me for my work and wishing me well as I start a new job in June. His Republican counterpart followed by also complimenting me. The Members of Congress then passed the bill unanimously. In less than 20 minutes, months of work came to a very satisfying and public conclusion.

It was a red letter day. Especially for a Texas boy from farm country.

Washington, for good or for worse, is full of people who measure ourselves by proximity to power and influence. I don’t blame us. It’s our stock and trade. If we lived in New York it would be money or the arts. If we lived in L.A. it would be fame and beauty. But, we easily become overbearing when we take our jobs and ourselves too seriously. And sometimes we aren’t even aware of it.

That’s why, the really “different” thing that happened today wasn’t rubbing shoulders with politicians or passing a bill. It was my boss. When he  realized his written remarks about me didn’t get submitted, he dashed down to the Clerk’s desk to do so, meaning now I could look in the official Congressional Record to find my name in print.

Not that I take myself so seriously as to need that. But I was struck that he thought of it and made the effort on behalf of a junior staffer he’s known for a year. This may seem minor, but it’s major for a Member of Congress to be so thoughtful and proactive toward a staffer. By design, it works the other way around.

Years from now, I hope that I remember this bill, the work it required, and what it accomplished. I also hope I remember not to take myself so seriously. And to take others seriously enough that I would do for them what my boss did for me.