Saturday, April 18, 2009

Happy National Record Store Day!

After my recent excursion in the hospital (see my post from April 16), I've thought a lot about self-care. Frankly, that is an area I have not excelled at in recent years. I love ministry, but I do occasionally need someone to tell me to go home and enjoy the sunshine - which is what happened when I went into work the day after being released from the hospital.

Then, I heard about National Record Store Day - a celebration of independent music retailers. I am a vinyl fan, and saw this as a great opportunity to make a date with myself. There are several record stores in Greenwich Village and the weather forecast was fantastic. So, this morning, I set out for a day of wandering and spending copious amounts of money that I don't have without caring.
My day started with two discoveries I had not expected. One was to finally find a coffee importer that would spare me from drinking grocery store drek, and the other was a marvelous little book store called Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books. The owner was a delightful woman and she had an amazingly good selection of books for even more incredible prices. My son has suggested that I read On the Road for some time, so I decided to buy the new edition that is the original scroll that Kerouac created for his first draft.

Then, it was off to the quest of the day - records! First stop was House of Oldies (Petula Clark's Downtown and the 2-LP Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour). The owner told me that he had been in business for 40 years. I can only imagine the changes he has seen in that neighborhood since the Summer of Love. Next came Bleecker Street Records (Theolonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, Stephen Stills' Just Roll Tape April 26, 1968, and The Young Rascals). I also picked up The Pretenders' special 7" red vinyl disk made for National Record Store Day.

Next, I stumbled across Strider Records. The owner, another long-time retailer, presided over a crowded space packed with 45's and LP's of all types. I relieved him of two original John Coltrane albums (Crescent and Sun Ship). Then lunch at The Slaughtered Lamb Pub. I had been sitting for some time, enjoying the open window and my shepherd's pie before I even noticed the life-sized sculpture of the werewolf and his bride, pictured to the left. In a gaudy, Madame Tussaud's way, it was actually kind of cool. Speaking of food, I forgot to mention the insanely decadent chocolate concoction I ate with my morning coffee. I honestly felt sorry for the other people sitting in the park, watching me caress the delightful dessert.
Last was Generation Records. Although here I was interested in CD's, since these groups (Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Sirenia, and Epica) do not produce vinyl releases. My bundle grew heavy as I strolled through Washington Square Park (which BTW has the cutest little dog park I've ever seen). I figured that I had pushed my body about as far as I could and headed for the subway home.
This week, I looked at my life through a different lens. My goals remain the same. I want to become a minister, a great preacher, someone who inspires and rocks proverbial boats. I want to be a cool grandfather someday. And, whatever form it takes, I want to love greatly. National Record Store Day let me declare that I will not allow money or any other trivial reservations keep me from being happy and from living life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Atheist's Prayer

My life has seen abundant change in recent months - leaving my old job and starting my internship, moving to a new home in an amazing new city, becoming actively single for the first time in over 25 years. The transitions have been smooth and exciting, perhaps a little too exciting.

I entered the emergency room Monday afternoon with short breath, dizziness, sweat, and extreme worry. They quickly connected me to monitors and tested my heart, blood, and lungs. The next day, I was transferred to a larger hospital for an angiogram.

When I wasn't worrying, I tried to read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. Why had I brought that book with me? I picked it up a few days before. While definitely not my normal reading material, I thought that I should get in touch with a book cited by many as inspirational.

Early in the book, the author recounts a conversation with a friend, expressing her desire to petition to God for help with her personal life. However, she believed that asking for specific help from God showed a weakness of faith, or a desire to avoid facing a challenge in life. Her friend politely responded, "Where'd you get that stupid idea?" The friend continued, "You are part of the universe...You're a constituent - you have every entitlement to participate in the actions of the universe, and to let your feelings be known. So put your opinion out there. Make your case. Believe me - it will at least be taken into consideration."

I have led prayer in worship. I have prayed with hospital patients. I have prayed for others in times of struggle. But, I have not prayed for myself since my bedtime prayers of early childhood. It seemed like a good time to try praying for myself. So, I wrote the following.
Power of all. Please help me. I want to come fully in touch with everything that is - all of the forces, fields, energies of existence. I want to help people find meaning in their lives and to encourage them to pursue their goals in life. I have worked hard to get myself into the position to do this for and with as many people as I can. For right now, though, I need help getting through my doubts, loneliness, and fear. I cannot help but worry about whether or not I will accomplish my goals of becoming a minister, a husband again, and a grandfather. I am afraid that my body will prevent me from achieving my goals. Please help me through this crisis so I can do the work I have committed myself to do.
I thought about the people in my life who would join me in this prayer, most of whom did not even know I was in the hospital. I imagined the strength that would come from them to support me in my doubt and fear.

Anyway, I am home again. The diagnosis at this point is great. No apparent physical damage to the heart or lungs; just a slightly under active heart muscle and thyroid, for which the doctors prescribed medication. Reminding oneself periodically of all of the connections in the world is a good practice. Practicing healthy self-care is the best basic prescription to pursuing one's goals in life. And, reaching out and asking for help when we need it taps us into the web of power and energy that flows between us and among us in the universe.