It is always interesting working for a boss who is silent, pretty much, all of the time. It is frustrating, annoying, breathtakingly awesome and an unbelievable honour. It is also an immense privilege being paid to pray, to visit, to drink tea, eat biscuits and to spend most of my waking day doing what I am passionate about – talking about God.
This role is a long way from my many previous forms of employment. Those, as an administrator, mainly consisted of having my boobs stared at (a lot), making coffee (a lot), moving one bit of paper from one side of the desk to the other, organising my boss’s mistresses and collecting his dry cleaning. I did have an interesting job once as PA to the woman who manages ‘romantic introductions’ for our British and European aristocracy. It seems even bluebloods need a hand when it comes to meeting the one and only…
After my recent ‘holiday’, this week it has been back to work as normal. But, once again, I question what is normal. I have discovered, as I enter the second half of my life – the Boss willing – that I actually work better without timetables, time frames, deadlines and routine. Very far from working only one day a week, (Sundays) that people seem to assume us clergy peeps do, like most who work from home I seem to have fallen in to the trap of working 24/7.
However, for the first part of my working life I was mainly an office bod. 9am to 5pm with a couple of hours commuting either side, Monday to Friday, constituted my working day. I knew where I had to be, when I had to be there, what I had to do whilst there and that, most importantly, when I left at the end of the day, that the job would stay behind in my neatly organised filing trays.
Very rarely did I bring work home. Very rarely was I contacted about work at home (unless I was poorly, having a duvet day or sleeping off a hangover). Very rarely did I work at weekends, bank holidays, Christmas or Easter. And, if I did, the financial benefits for doing so made it very, very worthwhile.
What I am describing here is the normal life that millions of us live every day. The life of a clergy person is so different. When I was first ordained I really didn’t quite ‘get’ the difference. The difference between ‘being’ and ‘doing’. After three years and a lot of heartache, I do now.
As a clergy person, I work for a Boss who has no structured opening hours, no sense of personal boundaries, does not understand the concept of life/work balance and who, frankly, has never heard of Employee health and safety guidelines. Actually, that reminds me of one or two of my previous bosses but the difference is that I didn’t vow to obey them in front of my family, friends and Bishop.
And so my week, ‘being back to normal’ has, as usual, consisted of me running round like a mad person trying to multi task, being in a thousand places at once and trying to keep the world happy. Even now, whilst writing this blog, I am simultaneously finishing my sermon, tending to my sick daughter who is languishing on the couch with an upset tummy, separating my dogs who have decided that they really don’t love each other today, emptying the washing machine AND trying to explain on the phone to the Nigerian chap that he cannot use my church as a meeting point for a Spiritualist Centre. At least I assume the Bishop would say ‘No’. Must ask him next time…
So life returns to normal in all its glorious madness. However, I am beginning to learn ‘boundaries’ after 3 years living within this maelstrom. I am. Truly. I have to, otherwise I will have no husband, no relationship with my daughter and no fingernails left by the time I ditch my collar for my stairlift. So far I have come up with not answering the telephone after 9pm, not answering the door unless it is the Next delivery lady, not checking my emails (or facebook) the moment I unglue my eyes in the morning and NOT to work more than two of the three sections in my day. Oh yes, and to always, always take my day off…even if it means I spend it doing the housework or filing my bank statements.
But do you know something dear reader? Shall I share with you a little secret? I am more alive now than I have ever been. I am more aware of the glory and wonder of my Boss and His created world than I ever was when I was sitting at work at my lovely organised desk wondering what colour post-it-note next to use. I am alive and I have the best job in the world.
So what makes you get up in the morning? What makes you put one foot in front of the other and keep moving? If it isn’t something that makes your heartbeat within your body, that makes your soul sing or simply makes you feel, then maybe it is time to look again at your life. It is never too late to change. It is never too late to become the person my Boss, and yours, made you to be.
I am just sorry it took me 30 years to finally hear the call that my Boss had been trying to connect me to for all of my life. Those were not wasted years, but I do regret all the times I was bored and frustrated. As I have said before, Life is far to short. As that famous prayer goes, if you can change it, The Boss grant you the courage to change it, if not, then ask for the serenity to bear it until you can.
All things really do work together for the good of them who love God…which reminds me I really must get back to that sermon and really must colour coordinate my prayer post-it-notes…