Who Am I?
A couple of weeks ago I began wondering who, and what I am. A kind of mild depression I suppose.
A visitor had been looking at my framed pictures — watercolour and ink drawings mostly, with a few oils and pencil crayon — hanging on our walls. My visitors were impressed. I looked at these pictures and wondered if I would ever be able to get back into art work. More recent efforts had come to nothing. No, I could never call myself an artist.
I came to the conclusion that we go through phases during our lifetime. But somehow we can’t go back to what we were unless hit by an irresistible creative force. That is, a time when things seem to flow and come out right, as if by an unseen hand. Nonsense? Maybe, but that is the thought that came to me. Likely an excuse for inertia or lazyness, but…?
Many years ago I was a dress designer and pattern cutter. I had little training but I loved what I was doing and, yes, things seemed to come out right. Ideas flowed. Not all winners but mostly so. Patterns came out right ensuring a good fit, and exactly according to my sketch.
Circumstances changed. We had three young children and we then lived some distance from garment manufacturing. Even freelance work required travel. I saw a poster, which encouraged mothers to take up teaching. We had a training college nearby. I was taken on as a mature student. It was not easy. Some lecturers did not enjoy having mature students in their classes, especially ones with young children. (Two mature students were given the push for being absent when their kids were ill!) Three years later I qualified. So began a teaching career. I was now a teacher. Except when teaching very young children, I never ‘felt’ like a teacher. What are teachers supposed to feel like? Well, it felt good when youngsters began to read and write quite well. Well it would, wouldn’t it?
When I was fifty I took early retirement to train for the Church. That was not easy either. At that time quite a few clergy (all male of course – no other kind then except deaconesses, which I felt called to be), and some parishioners, were opposed to women being allowed to do what had, for many years, been the prerogative of ordained males. I was not ordained. Whether our new anti-women vicar had influenced the decision is neither here nor there. I was however licensed to do many things as a lay reader. The only thing I was not allowed to do, not being a deaconess, was baptise babies. (Although I do believe some lay people had done so.)
For years I no longer knew what, and who, I was. Some clergy treated me almost as ‘one of them’ — reasonable human beings with a sense of calling. I was able to have a real, alive ministry. But it would always be outside the privileged ordained membership. Others treated me as a convenience to fill in when needed, or to avoid when possible — NOT one of them and never shall be. It could be a lonely existence. Things have tended to change over the years. Women have been fully ordained for some time now. They still have some way to go to be equal with men. But Church ministry is not about equality; it is about calling. Clearly, the church gets it wrong many times. A person is deemed to be called by God. But humans decide who has a genuine call. Humans are fallible creatures.
It had been decided that I had a call, yes indeed, but not to ordained ministry. I lost contact with those in training. I was not ‘one of them.’ I felt an embarrassment. At ministerial occasions, I was an outsider looking in. A lady vicar, actually walked away when I told her I was not ordained. She thought I was clergy because of my presence there, and so she was quite embarrassed.
I did a lot of studying and training to improve my skills, especially in Counselling and Pastoral Care. I also took a Diploma Course in my spare time. Then I did an OU degree and gained an upper second. For a while I knew who I was — a student! A Student of Life. No bad thing.
When I was seventy I left Church Ministry never to return. My eyesight prevented me from driving, and there was something else for me to explore — WRITING. I have no doubt that my life’s experiences affect what I write.
I would not call myself a writer but I do a lot of writing on this computer. I have written a number of books but they are not likely to become best sellers! So what?
I approach eighty with no clear picture of what, or who I am. Yes, I am a wife, a mother, a granny. Different parts of my life, and activities I once enjoyed (or agonised over), seem remote — little, or no, part of the ‘me’ I now experience. And yet I am a sum of all these things.
Is this not so for all of us?