Monday, August 22, 2011

Trying to be sick.

I'm sick today. Actually I've been waffling between "sorta sick" and "almost sick" for more than a week now, and I finally gave myself permission to just be "sick" with no adjectives in front of it. The problem then becomes: what do I DO?
An example from a recent sorta-sick-day:

Terra: What are you doing today?
me: Resting. Napping. I'm kinda sickish.
Terra: Are you sure? Because it looks a lot like you're fundraising, and I'm pretty sure there's a difference between napping and fundraising.

(Yes, I'm still fundraising. Because it doesn't count as "work" when you care this much about it, and because Ugandan school fees wait for nobody. more.)

I worked hard all weekend, led a very fun group of teens and parents to volunteer on a farm, spent hours digging up potatoes in rocky soil, brought the kids to a water park, got home near midnight, played jazz bass at church, picked up a friend from the airport, went out for coffee, and finally someone asked me "how are you" and I said "I don't know unless I sit down, and I haven't sat down in days." Then I sat down and my body let go of all the forcing, pushing, stressing adrenaline, and relaxed into its true self, and I realized I felt awful.

GUESS WHAT. I can't be a successful fundraiser unless I let myself chill out and heal. I can't be a successful pastoral-care-giver unless I rest enough to not be yawning and sneezing all over the cared-for. I preach this to others: put on your own oxygen mask first. Mom can't feed her babies unless she's feeding herself. Etc. I wrote a WHOLE ARTICLE about it on the more professional blog I write. But right now the preacher needs preached-to.
Today I'm going to sit on the couch and do those mind-numbing things that normal people usually do to relax, like watching TV and reading novels. Fundraising doesn't count as relaxing today. In order to live in the real world (later) I need to spend a day away from it (now). But the temptations to do meaningful activities are huge, so if any of you have advice on how to trick yourself into forcibly resting, I'm all ears.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Can I talk to you?

Yesterday morning I went to the GoodFestival in Fairfax, CA, gave my bike to the valet parking attendant, and found my table under the redwoods. Spreading out african cloth, Children of Uganda brochures, and twenty necklaces made of recycled paper, I took my stand in a position of open-eyed prayer. The festival sparked into life around me as the opening band invoked "all the angels" (especially those angels who during their lifetimes had been members of the Beatles). From what I could tell, the theme of the GoodFestival was "things that are good." Simple painted wood signs were hung from the trees with slogans like "Let Go of Everything" and "Peace is on the Increase." Little gender-fluid children ran around in face paint and wings. There were so many good vibes in the place it could make you cry.

So there I was, one little table among many. Every table was a noble cause, from greening your electric bill to sharing free food... from healing massage to creative self-actualization through hula hooping. Even the coffee table had $1 books (of the meaningful variety) for sale as well. My table was next to a bunch of poets and "spiritual artists" selling their wares and trying to revolutionize the publishing industry. I stood there alone and prayed that my cause would not be overlooked.

Can I tell you about the orphan crisis in Uganda? 3.5 million orphans in a country the size of Oregon?

Can I tell you about transforming lives through music and dance? Our upcoming performance tour?

Can I tell you how to make a difference for the most vulnerable? Right here and now?

I sold lots of necklaces, received donations from a child's $1 on up, signed someone up for our mailing list, and met a fellow Uganda-loving muzungu (white person) who spent three years there making a documentary. Not all the conversations were profound. Many people were unwilling to engage farther than their eyes -- "those are pretty." I let them go on as they wished. But still I stood there, stretching out my prayers if not my arms, looking deeply into the swirl of noble causes and playful families, asking God and the universe and all the good vibes to rain down some blessings on Children of Uganda.

About five in the afternoon my energy flow started to run dry. I'd had some free organic ice cream but it didn't kick me back into gear. What I needed was the energy that comes from talking to people who actually care, but the crowds were thinning. Besides, the stilt dancers were commanding most of the festivalgoers' attention by the stage. So I packed up and got my bike from the valet. Coasted downhill to San Anselmo with that clean feeling that comes from accomplishing a goal. I felt Heard. Somehow I knew my prayers had been answered.