Category Archives: Healings

Loaves and fishes

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest round of unemployment numbers today. The current unemployment rate is sitting at 14.7%.

If you are not among that 14.7%, I see three ways to look at this problem:

  1. Erect a Somebody Else’s Problem field around it and keep going. Anyone who considers this a reasonable option probably isn’t reading this blog in the first place. (I hope not, anyway; I’d hate to think my writing appealed to that sort of person.)
  2. Drown in guilt and frustration over the unfairness of it all. I did that for a while this week. You may be shocked to learn that it benefited exactly no one.
  3. Let the math motivate you. When the world seems to be spinning out of control, I tend to close my eyes and trust-fall into the arms of Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, better known as the Father of Algebra. In the >30 years since I learned to solve for x, ol’ boy has never failed me.

With that in mind, let’s look at the numbers:

If 14.7% of us who normally have jobs are now unemployed, that means 85.3% of us are still working. (Note: The unemployment rate is different from the labor-force participation rate.)

If my scratch-paper scribbling is right, if every working person had the same income, the 85.3% of us who are still working could take care of the rest by sharing just 17.2% of our income.

We don’t all have the same income, and we can’t all afford to share that much. But honestly, I think 17.2% represents a worst-case scenario, because a lot of currently employed people are white-collar workers who can telecommute, and a lot of currently unemployed people are service-industry workers.

Because white-collar jobs tend to pay better than service jobs, we probably don’t need every currently employed person to give away $1.72 of every $10 s/he earns in order to pick up the slack; we just need all the current haves to take an honest look at our available resources and figure out how to leverage them to help as many of the current have-nots as possible.

If you identify as Christian, you already know a guy who did that at least twice and ensured that his initial investors got a pretty impressive ROI out of the deal.


Birds of the air

“…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
Matt. 6:8

Sometime around 1989, my internal clock calibrated itself for Rawaki Island. This would be fine if I lived on Rawaki Island, but I don’t. Nobody else does, either, except for a few seagulls and feral rabbits, and I don’t think any of them are hiring.

I’m healthiest, happiest and most productive when I can go to bed about 3 a.m. and get up around 11. When I try to move that schedule up more than an hour or two, I end up with all kinds of obnoxious little symptoms that make life unpleasant and hamper my productivity.

I’ve tried every imaginable technique to reset my internal clock. I finally exhausted all my own ideas and sought help from a doctor, who recommended meditating; shutting off my electronic devices a couple of hours before bedtime; and taking melatonin.

The melatonin made me sick; the other recommendations, while pleasant, did nothing to alter my natural sleep cycle.

Frustrated, I Googled “circadian rhythm” last night and discovered there’s a name for the way I’ve slept for the last quarter-century. It’s called delayed sleep phase syndrome, and it affects about 3 out of every 2,000 people.

DSPS can be very difficult to treat, and since most people have never heard of it and regard “my body runs on Kiribati Standard Time” as a bullshit excuse for sleeping in, the easiest solution for most people with DSPS is to find a job with a schedule that matches their internal clock and move on.

I’d never heard of DSPS when I sat down to meditate the other night, but as I settled into the Fortress of Solitude and tried to concentrate on my breathing, my mind started to wander (as usual), and I got to thinking about the Sermon on the Mount, which I decided was an acceptable thing to think about while meditating, since it’s practically a Zen text anyway and thus conducive to relaxation.

Less than 24 hours after I’d considered the lilies of the field and beheld the birds of the air, my boss called me into his office — apropos of nothing — to tell me he was switching me from reporting to copy editing.

This means I won’t have to be at work until 3 p.m., and I’ll be able to stay up until 3 a.m. every night without running late or making myself sick. I might even have time to squeeze in a jog before work.

Behold the birds of the air.

Especially the seagulls fishing on Rawaki Island.


On Big Yellow Taxis and pink running socks

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
— Joni Mitchell

It’s been a Joni Mitchell kind of day.

Late last summer, I discovered a rather alarming symptom that seemed to be consistent with a type of injury that could end my distance-running days forever. It wasn’t the sort of thing that would interfere with anything I really needed to be doing, but it could have kept me from doing some things I wanted to be doing — chief among them, running.

I’ve been guilty of taking running for granted. I’m good at signing up for marathons and then dropping down to a shorter race at the last minute because I didn’t bother to train. I’m good at running half-marathons on nothing but muscle memory, prayer and sheer force of will. And I’m awesome at deciding it’s too hot to run, or too cold, or too late, or too early, or I’m too busy, or I’m sore, or [insert lame excuse here].

All those times I blew off a run, I assumed I wasn’t missing much. It wasn’t worth the trouble. I could do it later, when I got a hand free. Not now. Maybe tomorrow. Not today.

And then one day, apropos of nothing, I discovered that where running was concerned, tomorrow apparently had ceased to exist.

It’s hard to understand how much you love doing something until you face the possibility that you may never get to do it again.

The story of how an erstwhile Christian Scientist ended up in a doctor’s office on a bright July morning is way too long to go into here, but the upshot is that I walked into the doctor’s office fearing the worst, and I walked out of the doctor’s office an hour later and went to lunch.

A nice, low-fat, high-carb lunch.

A distance runner sort of lunch.

When I finished lunch, Ron took me to a great little mom-and-pop store, where I bought an outrageously expensive pair of socks. Screaming pink, moisture-wicking socks.

Distance runner socks.

And when I got off work this evening, I put on my new socks and went downtown and had maybe the greatest run in the history of ever, with magic light filtering through the trees above me and the river murmuring beside me and the scent of honeysuckle all around me.

Cape has a rose-themed B&B, a boutique, and several swinging hot spots. But if you swap the big yellow taxi for a pair of pink running socks, you can still see quite a bit of Paradise along the way.


Every human want?

Mary Baker Eddy assures us that “Divine Love (God) always has met and always will meet every human need.”

I’ve always loved that statement, but what really impresses me is when divine Love meets my human wants.

My life is not perfect. I fight with depression sometimes. I get frustrated. Sometimes I lose sight of my blessings. A healing is slow to appear, or plans fall through, or some unexpected crisis pops up and throws me for a loop.

But I’ve started to notice a pattern in my life: Conditions will seem unsettled for a while, and then out of nowhere, a completely frivolous gift will land in my lap, and within a few weeks, the bumps will smooth out and I’ll settle into some wonderful new adventure I never could have imagined on my own.

As I mentioned the other day, my life has been feeling rather unsettled in recent months.

I expect that feeling won’t last much longer.

Last week, I told Ron that I really wanted to learn to play acoustic guitar. This is not something I need to do; I’d just like to be able to play a few chords so I can accompany myself while I’m singing old folk songs. Ron said that would be fine, but given the pay cut I took when I left the classroom, I wasn’t sure shelling out money for an instrument and lessons was the most responsible idea I’d ever had, and I was a little hesitant about going through with it.

Yesterday afternoon, a friend I hadn’t talked to in several weeks called my cell phone, apropos of nothing. He said he was just worried about me, as I hadn’t seemed like my usual self the last couple of times we’d talked, and he wanted to make sure I was OK.

During the course of our conversation, we discovered that while I was thinking about buying a guitar and hiring somebody to teach me to play it, he was thinking about hiring somebody to edit his dissertation.

He has a spare guitar and has played for years. I have a degree in English and have edited copy for years. If all goes according to plan, a few months from now, he’ll have a Ph.D., and I’ll have a nice repertoire of Woody Guthrie covers I can bust out for tips at open mic nights.

Every human need … and a few wants, just for good measure.


I’ve gotta be me

I’ve been feeling out of sorts for several months, and for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. It finally clicked for me the other night:

I’ve forgotten how to be me.

From 1984 to 2008, my life pretty much revolved around journalism. Then a pink slip sent me into a tailspin, and I landed at the front of a sophomore English classroom. Teaching wasn’t quite as worn-out-Birkenstock-comfortable as journalism, but it appealed to my sense of social justice and felt important enough to be worth doing, so I dove in and let it permeate my life in ways you can’t imagine if you’ve never been there. Done right, teaching is a 24/7/365 job, and if you are not very careful, you can lose yourself in it.

I wasn’t very careful, and by the time I surfaced four years later, I realized that in becoming Ms. Priddy, I’d misplaced Emily, in all sorts of little ways that didn’t occur to me at the time.

I wasn’t too worried. I landed a new job and figured I’d find myself at work.

I didn’t.

My new job is fine, but I’ve been accustomed to having my identity inextricably tangled up in my profession, and PR just isn’t the sort of thing that absorbs your soul and penetrates your heart, so for the first time in my life, Who I Am and What I Do were not synonymous. It was a little disorienting.

The farther I’ve strayed from myself, the more my health — physical, mental, and especially spiritual — has suffered, and a few weeks ago, tired and adrift, I broke down and called a friend of mine who has the dual advantage of being both a Christian Science practitioner and an incorrigible hippie, which was precisely the combination I needed to talk some sense into me. I don’t remember her exact words, but they made me feel better, and I managed to wake up from a long evening of sobbing without the sinus headache that usually follows such indulgences. That may seem a small victory, but given the number of headaches I’ve endured over the past five years, it gave me reason for hope.

Since then, I’ve begun finding scraps of myself here and there, in little things that seem trivial in and of themselves but collectively are much more important than they appear: a trip to a plant nursery to lift my spirits on a cold, gray afternoon; a jar of alfalfa seeds sprouting on my kitchen counter; a conversation with a colleague about our mutual fondness for Neil Diamond; a stroll through the backyard to daydream about gardening projects I might try this spring.

I’m still missing some pieces. But I don’t think they’re lost; I’ve just mislaid them, and I’m kind of enjoying the process of rummaging through my thought to find them again.


Whatever blesses one

September 2007. I’m driving along, minding my own business, when a question flashes across my thought, in second person, as if it’s coming from somewhere outside my own consciousness: What would you say if I told you I wanted you back in the classroom?

“Let me get back to you on that,” I choke, and for three days, I wrestle with the idea, remembering how rough my first year was and why I swore I’d never teach again.

I finally come up with a less-than-reverent response: “I don’t know how you think you’re going to pull this off, but you’re the omnipotent one. I’m not helping you with this, but if you’re bound and determined to do it, you just knock yourself out.”

Never, ever dare God to do anything.

March 2008. I get pink-slipped from the best job I’ve ever had.

September 2008. After a series of job changes, chance encounters, and offhand conversations, I find myself back in a sophomore English classroom. This time around, I’m ready for it, and I love it more than I ever imagined possible.

November 2011. I still love teaching, and I adore my students, but the constant demands of the job are wearing me down, and I can feel myself starting to burn out.

February 2012. Once again, I’m driving along, minding my own business, when another thought flashes across my consciousness:

You’ve done what I needed you to do. You don’t have to teach next year if you don’t want to.

Lovely thought, but I don’t trust it. I don’t have to teach next year if I don’t want to? What the hell is that supposed to mean? This is not how I understand God to work. People do not just get permission to make completely selfish decisions because they are tired. I shrug it off.

April 2012. We get word that our building will lose four teaching positions due to funding cuts.

I do the math. I’ve got enough seniority to be safe. But the most vulnerable person in my department also happens to be one of the best teachers in the building. He’s gotten through to kids I couldn’t reach, and he’s pushed kids past their own self-imposed limitations and demanded that they reach the potential most of them don’t even realize they have. We can’t lose him to budget cuts! My kids need him!

You don’t have to teach again next year if you don’t want to.

Suddenly it makes sense. I don’t have permission to make a selfish decision. I have permission to make the right decision. I need a break, and my kids need my colleague. It’s a no-brainer. I turn in my resignation, effective at the close of the school year.

Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, “Whatever blesses one blesses all, … Spirit not matter, being the source of supply.”

She was right.

I will miss my kids, but I’ve already lined up an interesting new job, so in the end, I get a graceful exit from the classroom, a friend gets to keep a job he loves, and my kids get the teacher they need next year.

We are all blessed indeed.



As I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before, my first year as a teacher was not stellar, which is why it took me a decade to work up the nerve to try a second year.

I’ve often wondered how much faster I would have found my way back to the classroom if I’d recognized important breakthroughs when they were happening.

One of my favorite examples of this — and it’s one I had forgotten until a friend posted a Facebook link this evening that jogged my memory — was the kid who decided, about three weeks into the school year, that instead of being called “Ms. Priddy,” I should henceforth be known as “Master P.”

Can you imagine? Here I was, a skinny, stuffy, awkward, prim-and-proper, clueless 22-year-old from Southern Illinois, trying to teach proper English grammar to a roomful of hip, urban teenagers in the toughest part of North St. Louis County. I could not have been a bigger dork if I had held a focus group meeting to come up with strategies for maximizing my dorkiness. I had exactly nothing in common with Master P, which of course is exactly why Steve’s friends immediately latched onto the moniker, and within days, half of my students refused to call me by any other name.

At the time, I had just enough presence of mind to realize that while my kids were making fun of me, they were doing it in a good-natured way, and the fact that they’d given me an incongruous but affectionate nickname was probably a positive sign.

What I didn’t realize was how positive it was or how important it was. Had I known, my life might have taken a very different path. I’m not sorry things worked out the way they did — after all, subsequent events led me to Ron, to Route 66, to Tulsa, and ultimately to the wonderful kids I work with now — but I’m sorry I wasted ten years feeling like a failure when, in point of fact, I was anything but.

If I could, I would reach back across the years, put my arms around my 22-year-old self, and whisper, “Swweetheart, don’t you see? Your kids love you. Just listen to them, love them back, and let them teach you what they need you to learn. Trust them, and trust yourself. You’re on the right track.”

Stay tuned. I can’t reach across 15 years to reassure a younger version of myself, but I’m working on a project that just might be the next best thing. When I’m ready to unveil it, you’ll be among the first to know.


Folk Thursday: Walela

I’m not right
You’re not wrong
We both know what this love of ours is built upon…
Each one thinks he
Has the answer
Each one believes
He can see the way, the only one
Truth lies waiting
Was always waiting
Like a love
A peaceful dove
Right there inside your soul
From another
Place and time
Moving into the circle of light

— Walela

I was driving the old alignment of Route 66 between San Jon and Glenrio the other day, praying to see healing in a situation involving a damaged friendship, when this song came floating out of my speakers and brought me to a halt.

I pulled over, turning the lyrics over in my thought, and stood on the terra cotta highway, inhaling the cool, clean breeze that rustled the desert sage along the shoulders of the road and basking in a sense of peace I haven’t felt in ages.

I can’t say that things are 100 percent normal between my friend and me just now. But they will be. The Father’s work is done, and we are cautiously but steadily “moving into the circle of light.”


Kevlar and angora

At all times and in all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.
Mary Baker Eddy

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself drawn into a circumstance that threatened to rip open old wounds, even as it presented an opportunity to heal them permanently.

It wasn’t as excruciating as one might expect, but the situation was a little unsettling, so I handled it the way I handle everything else that presumes to threaten my happiness: I called a practitioner, dropped the problem in his lap, and went out for coffee.

Later that evening, as I checked my text messages from the comfort of a battered old chair in a fashionable late-night coffeehouse, it struck me that if peace could be experienced through the material senses, it would probably taste like a macchiato, sound like a familiar song floating through the espresso-scented air in a shabby-chic cafe, and look like a text message from a confidant whose steadfast support is made of something like Kevlar lined with angora.

That last thought buoyed me as I finished my coffee and my grading and stepped into the chilly autumn night, drawing my friend’s words around my shoulders for warmth and knowing beyond a doubt that I was, indeed, “clad in the panoply of Love.”