New Year’s – Blogging Like No One’s Reading

The few weeks of using recycled material gave me some time to think about why I want to blog, rather than what I want to blog about.  It was a nice break, and even more useful for me to consider my abysmal statistics.  I certainly can’t fool myself into thinking that I’m blogging in order to share great wisdom with the world.

So, why am I blogging, rather than just keeping an off-line journal?  Do I want to continue writing about Unitarian-Universalism?  If not, where does that leave the estranged relationship I now have with my chosen faith?

The months of writing this blog have cemented a few truths in my mind.  Things that I already knew, but it was good to be reminded of:

  1.  I am a Unitarian-Universalist.  Even if I never again find a congregation I feel at home in.  Even if Peter Morales himself were to write me a personal letter asking me to stop trashing the faith and that I have no claim to it (which of course I’m a 100% certain would never happen.)  Even if the UUA were to rewrite all the principles and ask for anyone who wanted to belong to the faith to sign a credo I would never agree to.  I am a UU. It’s history grounds me and for all it’s ambiguity and flaws of its current practice, I know that the aspirations of this faith are my own aspirations for myself as a person and for the world as a whole.  Nothing would make this fact untrue.
  2. There are some things about belonging to a church that I can’t recreate while sitting in front of a computer with a cup of coffee for an hour or two once a week.  I can’t duplicate the feeling of connection to something larger than myself – I guess because I don’t feel connected online, which is linguistically ironic.  I have no hope of doing good on a scale that a small group of committed people can do together.
  3. Nothing moves or motivates me spiritually like stories – whether that means telling my own or listening to someone else’s.

I’m still deciding what to do about #1 and #2, but the third lends itself to pointing me in a clearer direction for this blog, and perhaps even a broader spiritual practice for the coming year.  Call it a resolution, if you wish.

I will pay greater spiritual attention to the stories I encounter in the week.  It may mean seeking out the stories from writer’s I admire on a religious basis.  It may mean taking greater care to capture the stories of my own life and wrangle them into words.  The blogs I’ve best most proud of so far have been little episodic vignettes from my life.  These have also been the easiest to write.

So, with that resolution in mind, I want to describe how my husband and I spent our New Year’s.  It probably has nothing to do with Unitarianism in the broader sense, but I feel I need to stop looking for the broad and start paying a little more attention to the small and the immediate.

I’m not a fan of crowds or pomp and circumstance, so New Year’s Eve hasn’t ever been a holiday I look forward to.  I’d much rather fall asleep before ten in the quiet and warmth of my own home than be showered with confetti in a great crowd somewhere like Times Square (shudder).  So, it was an act of love for my husband that we planned a trip to another fairly large city to ring in 2012.  I agreed that we could go to First Night in Boston, not entirely but in large part because the great soul singer Mavis Staples was going to be part of the festivities there.

This would of course required planning.  I had been to First Night as a teenager and learned that although it sounds amazing to be have dozens of acts to chose from, if you don’t make those choices ahead of time and pay close attention to where you need to be when, you’ll spend the night wandering around the crowded streets, which is fun in a way, but you don’t need to buy a button for it.

I’m not a good planner.  In fact, plan is the dirtiest of four-letter-words in my vocabulary.  Most often for me, the definition of plan is: (verb) to think things are going to work in a way they will definitely not work, thereby creating a headache.  

Fortunately, however, my husband is very strategically minded, and forced me to narrow down the events I was most interested in from the little booklet we received in mid-December when we ordered our tickets online.  He also made sure that I sent a message to some friends who still live in Boston asking if they would join us.

Many things went “wrong” on this trip:  we initially planned on saving some money by crashing at our friends place, but a few days before ended up getting a hotel room instead.  The restaurant I had chosen and planned our schedule around while drooling over the online menu ended up not being open for dinner on New Year’s.  The subway tickets we purchased after planning our routes, counting the number of rides we would need, mostly went unused, therefore wasting more money.  The midnight fireworks we waited for turned out to have been scheduled for 9:30 pm, when we were in an entirely different part of the city.

But, then, many things went right. Beginning with our decision to just walk away from the House of Blues, which was black, cold, and absolutely lacking the scent of the barbeque we’d been hoping for.  That walk through the unseasonably mild night gave me a chance to point out some of the places I remembered and share stories that wouldn’t have otherwise come to mind.

Though we had no particular dinner destination in mind, and knew that options were probably getting slim as the evening got later, we ended up getting the last table without a wait at a Pizzaria Uno’s.  This particular location turned out to serve the original style of deep-dish with a buttery, pastry like crust that I hadn’t had in years thanks to the homogenization of the chain.  My husband had never had pizza like it, which led to more conversations about our various gastronomical travels.  Food is one of our favorite topics of conversation, yet we haven’t run out of things to say about even the subcategory of pizza.

We got lost on our way to finding the comedy Improv show we wanted, somehow walking through a back door I’m sure we weren’t supposed to.  As we tried to figure out where we were and why there were so many chairs in the warehouse-like room we found ourselves in, we noticed the stage on one side of the hall and about a hundred or so people walking agressively toward those chairs.  “Do you think this is it?” I asked, then pulled my husband into a seat without waiting for his reply.  As we settled in, I overheard those seated around us griping that they had been in line over an hour hoping for a good seat.  But, there were still quite a few empty chairs around us, so we didn’t feel too guilty about “cutting the queue.”

The comedy show was decent, but also showed the risks of working too hard for the pleasure of seeing anything improvised. Many of the grumpy folks remained grumpy, which is somewhat detrimental to a comedy show.

After that we made our way to Symphony Hall, which I had never been inside, to catch the last couple songs of Mavis’ opening act and the soul legend herself.  At first the ticket taker was discouraging about the possibility of getting a seat, even though we had preferred tickets.  So, we contented ourselves with going up to the balcony, where there was ample room, great accoustics, and a fabulous view of the oppulent sculputures and filligree lining the walls of the Hall.

The highlight of the evening was another surprise.  A few songs before her finale (“I’ll Take You There”) Mavis broke out into “our song”: We’re Gonna Make It  It was a song that has defined our relationship since we first started dating, and every time “life seems so hard” we play Taj Mahal’s version to remind ourselves of what’s really important.  Since I didn’t know much about Mavis, aside from her big bullet, I hadn’t realized she recorded this song as well.  It was completely unexpected, and the first time we had ever heard the song performed live.

After that amazing show, we wandered some more, kissed on Boston Common at midnight and managed to get on a surprisingly uncrowded train back to the hotel.  Again, that hotel had been a last-minute arrangement, but it worked out perfectly.  We fell into a wonderfully comfortable bed in the wee hours of morning.

Later, after not quite enough sleep, we were trying to come up with something to do to kill a little more than an hour before heading off to our friend’s for a New Year’s Day lunch.  The little book of amenities mentioned the hotel had a pool table, so we grabbed some cues and balls from the front desk and played five rounds of some of the worst pool any of the amused passerby’s probably ever witnessed.  Again, my husband and I learned more about eachother, as we both shared that it was a game we loved despite being horrible at it.

The perfect little getaway was topped off with several hours of conversation and laughter with my friend and her wife.  Resolution: make greater effort to see or at least talk to people who make you laugh and smile.

As we were driving home, I realized that the vacation was over, not just from our work, which was waiting for us Tuesday, but also from my blogging.  Maybe it doesn’t “fit” to describe this in a blog that is supposed to be about spiritual searching as a Unitarian-Universalist.  But, the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that life and religion have something important with writing.  It’s all about the details.  Even when they don’t seem particularly relevant, they make it richer and more worthwhile.

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