Breaking Through

I sing most Sundays at the Washington National Cathedral. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to sing in such a beautiful space, and participate in their thoughtful, joyous, and welcoming worship. I access my faith through singing, and participating in the choir allows me to celebrate both my love of choral performance and my devotion to God.

But if I’m honest my devotion has been troubled lately. It’s not a crisis of faith, per se. My faith as it is remains steadfast. But my biggest sin has always been worry, and I have had plenty to worry about lately. My health, my future, death, what I want out of my life, big existential questions, all worry, worry, worry. But in my faith tradition there is an alternative to worry: prayer. And it’s been said that if you’re going to pray and give your worries to God, then it makes no sense to continue to worry about it yourself.

You can imagine that I’m not exactly comfortable with this arrangement. I mean, I trust the Big Guy, and all, but, you know…..I like to have control.

Except I don’t have control, and I obviously don’t trust the Big Guy. If I did, this wouldn’t be a thing.

So in service today, when I was singing “ponder anew what the almighty can do,” I thought, well, maybe I should. Because this worrying isn’t working out, and with a possible new diagnosis of shingles because my immune system is so compromised, I’ve about reached my fucking breaking point. I thought I was there before, but it turns out there are new limits.

But that’s also a message of my faith, in the breaking of the bread, the body of Christ: what happens after the breaking point. What happens after your body is broken, after your blood is spilt. What happens after you’ve tried everything a human being can try.

There’s a reason you pray on your knees. I’ve been down here for a while, I might as well do something productive with the time. Radical trust is my new prescription.


Board of Directors

Today has been a busy day. The last two days, in fact, have been super productive for me at both of my jobs, and it’s been a real relief, because frankly, I felt like I was phoning it in. It’s easy to feel that way over the holidays, when no one is around and emails go unanswered, but I have a tendency to think if I’m not getting responses or moving things forward, it’s because I’m not pushing hard enough, or I’m not working hard enough. Somehow it’s always my fault.

I think it’s because I have a hard time being a novice. At anything. I’m in a new job, and while I’m familiar with the work and the subject matter, it’s not something I’ve really done before. I hate that. I want to be immediately good at everything I do, because being good is awesome and not being good is the worst. Add to that the complete and total 180 change in management styles from bone-crushing micromanagement to head-spinning freedom (I was literally told today to not be so diplomatic about running with things. Me. Diplomatic. This is how much freedom they’re giving me), and I’m fighting the feeling I’m in over my head.

I’m not. I’ve been to law school, I know the feeling of being in over your head. And I eventually made it out of there alive (albeit, having seen the business end of my kitchen floor from the fetal position a few times).

But being a woman in a male dominated field, I also struggle with asking for help, with coming at anything from a perceived position of weakness. Let me be clear, asking for help takes a lot of strength. It takes knowing when you’re in over your depth, and articulating clearly what you need, and figuring out from whom you need it. But like, that’s when other people do it. When I do it I immediately feel like the ugly 6th grader with no friends and no social life who didn’t know where her locker was.

…And why does my mind go to that dark weird place?! Because competence as a woman feels tied up in everything from looks to life choices. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, so I sure as fuck better rock my career because what the hell else do I have going on? This is the unasked question I feel when I don’t stay until 7pm every night, when I don’t answer my blackberry at midnight (except I do).

But when I take a step back, I can ask at what point do I begin to forgive myself for not knowing what I don’t already know?

All I can do is learn, and get better. I’m a doer, despite all my striving to be more be-y than do-y (see, I even do at being), so instead of just sitting in the place of not knowing, I ask everyone around me for advice. Luckily, over the years, I’ve learned to ask the right people. My close friends, a couple work colleagues, my parents, and depending on the issue, a mentor. I ask people wiser than me, or at least differently or laterally wise, about how they would approach a problem. A friend of mine refers to this as the “Board of Directors” approach, and it works pretty well. It’s not about just blindly doing what one of them suggests, but taking the aggregate information, rolling it around in my gut, heart, and mind for a while, and reaching a conclusion.  I’m trusting myself, but doing my research.

At least if I’m making mistakes, I have an army behind me.

New Years…Thingies

Well, the first lesson of the new year is obviously: “Friends” holds up. Good work, Netflix.

It’s about four days into 2015, and I have resisted the urge to make sweeping pronouncements or resolutions. I have made a few plans, to work out a couple times a week with bff Kelly from (it’s on the internet so now we’re locked in, Kel!), to make breakfasts to take on the go, to save towards future trips, and to revamp a few housewares. But all in all, I have no overarching desire to regulate or curtail. In fact, the thing that I most feel in this new year is a desire to just experience things as they come, rather than try and control.

This is new for me.

I have the feeling of taking little snapshots over the past few days, taking stock almost from afar. Observing I guess. “Here’s Hala going to work.” “Here’s Hala out with friends.” “Here’s Hala just sitting in the quiet with her Christmas tree.” And in each moment, the question comes: “does this make you happy? Does it make the people around you happy?” And if the answer is no-then I stop it. Immediately. Without question. I had this very lucid moment just today, when I was asked to review a document on a Sunday by early Monday morning, and I realized that the only urgency here was someone else’s sense of self importance. The Republic will not fall if I don’t review this document, and the fact that this person believes it will makes me sad for them, and their family.

I’m not saying I’m never going to do things I don’t want to, or I’m going to flit from selfish whim to selfish whim, living life in introspective vignettes. I’m not a dick. But in 2015 I’m going to try and enjoy each moment as much as I can, by actually experiencing them as they happen, and not trying to justify why or why not it’s what I want to be doing. So I guess you could say that my New Years Resolution is to be…less resolute. Cute.

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