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Vertigo (noun)

[Latin: a whirling around, from vertere]

1. A sensation of dizziness or abnormal motion resulting from a disorder of the sense of balance

2. A whirling around

In one of my undergraduate courses, I was introduced to U2’s song Vertigo through watching the music video. If you’ve ever seen it, you will identify with the sensation in watching the black and white images turning – vertigo. This thrilling, sickening, disorienting, exciting, confusing, fast-paced constant changing that is out of one’s control.

U2 describes best where I’m at right now: I’m at a place called vertigo.

Over the past few weeks so much of my life has shifted or changed. End of August, I completed a pretty awesome and intense summer filled with all sorts of experiences working long hours. People teased me that I practically lived at the church and there were days that I admit I began to call it home. I kept Saturdays sacred most weeks and tried not to think of work. The rest of the week though was spent somewhere in the basement of a church. The fact that I called it home at times speaks to the familiarity I had with it.

That ended and I seek out new experiences. I’ve been able to be at a church that I would infrequently visit. I’m surprised at how quickly it has felt like home – in part because of the overwhelming welcome I’ve received and also because I know a number of people already. This church is a good fit for me and at this time in my life, it is a place of refuge. I haven’t been asked to do anything yet and have refrained from volunteering. I warm a pew (which I’ve learned is actually an important job) and sometimes am able to give a word of encouragement or something. It never feels like much and I haven’t gotten past the idea that I’m not contributing but it is good. Still, it is new. I don’t know my way around the building, the service, the church let alone relationships.

School is good. It is a joy to be in my classes and to study God’s word and those who have gone before me. Grad school is different than undergraduate studies, and seminary is a very unique setting. I get the academic side well – but it is the rest that is new and I do not know always how I fit in or what is happening next. I don’t know many people and for an introvert like me, this is not an easy task. For those who saw me execute the summer program – you might be perplexed. In fact, many have confused me for an extravert. In my role in the summer, I knew my part and knew to be strong and how to be confident. Take me out of that setting and I will choose to be quiet and take my time in figuring out the lay of the land. My start of seminary studies has been more focused on family related stuff than I had hoped. This adds a deeper problem to finding my place in relationships that are new and forming – what do I tell people? I struggle with wondering if people really want to know what’s going on in my life on a good day. But with a funeral that brought to head some of my deepest pain – how do you tell someone how your day is going when they barely remember your name?

Grandpa’s passing brings another layer of disorientation into my life. For both my grandparents, I held on to the hope that reconciliation would happen on this side of earth. Now they are both gone. It cannot happen here. The loss marked at the funeral was deep with it being about Grandpa, but also more complex than that. I’ve lost so much that I’ve held onto. Including hope of reconciling. The rules have changed. I’m not sure yet what they are. I’m not sure what they mean. But things are different now. Very different.

And so… I am at a place called vertigo. Many of the changes are good. But they are all disorienting. Things inside me are swirling around and I find myself clinging to any bit of stability I can. Somedays that is just my cat, other days it is my books or my closest friends. I’m dizzy, disoriented, disordered… you name it. Everything around me and in me is changing. It is hard to find my balance. I’m at a place called vertigo.

Perhaps that is why I deeply enjoyed a moment in a rather formal service at the Cathedral today. I honestly wasn’t looking forward to it, but am learning that if I submit my life to the church through holy orders than obedience is very much part of that submission and my life will not be mine (is it even mine now? a topic for another time…).

We sang the Gloria to the tune by Merbecke – something we sang every week practically for the past year in the church where I served.

And for a moment, the vertigo had stopped.

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