I have been thinking 'out loud' on my facebook page, in response to an article a friend posted this morning. Then I thought perhaps I would try to collate my thoughts into some more coherent shape.
So, the article is here, and it talks about some research just published, which explored the cognitive effects of poverty on a random sample of people in New Jersey. There's a book coming out, too, apparently. The gist of the findings is that our brains have a finite amount of energy, and poverty, the strain of living with limited resources, saps that energy, leaving less for decision making, learning, creative problem solving to find a path out of poverty. This isn't for people in abject poverty, the people in the survey had enough resources to go to the mall, had some income.
As I read this article, and the findings of the research, I was reading an articulation of what I have been feeling these past months. Actually, off and on for the 18 years I have been an adult.
The choices I have made have always been in pursuit of the mysterious calling towards the fulfilment of my humanity and my place in the community. I am rich (note: not necessarily money rich) enough to have never doubted that I could do that.
With each step and each turn I took, that calling clarified, so that I now claim with confidence and joy my identity as a storyteller, poet and minister.
That identity, that calling, and the vocation still unfolding in all its fulness, brings with it a cost, or at least it has so far. I have worked full time - and I mean a single, full time job - for one year out of that 18 (and technically it was two roles in the one office). Other than that, if I have earned a full time wage (and that has not been for very long at a time), it has been through two or more income opportunities, student support and editing, or retail, ministerial stipend and workshops or teaching. Some of the secondary income streams were sporadic and unreliable, bringing with them tensions of their own. The juggling of two or three occupations is exhausting without the financial worries. Fragile health compounded these stresses.
I do not regret any of my choices. I would make them all again.
The reality is, however, that I am tired. Very tired.
My health is stronger than it was, though still fragile. I enjoy the gift of time I receive by working part time, so that I can pursue long term goals through study. But I worry that those long term goals may be thwarted if still fragile health, though stronger, means I am unable to continue living with the strain of very limited financial resources.
Because, as the article I read this morning notes, this strain saps energy from the brain, so that there is less left for decision making - so I make poor decisions about money, compounding the problem. The exhaustion is physical, too, so I have less energy for getting out and about and being with people, compounding the problem. It is also emotional, leaving me less available for those who need me to tell and hear stories well.
My vocation carries a cost with it, a cost I am - to a certain extent - willing to pay. But paying that price may cost me more than I can afford.
For if my energy levels stay low, I cannot fulfil my roles as storyteller, poet and minister effectively.
And if my health is compromised, I cannot live into my identity as a storyteller, poet and minister. I may be able to do little more than exist. That is a darkness I will not risk entering again.
I am left wondering, then, what choices I now have available to me. Can I learn new ways to live within my limited resources that are life-giving and sustainable? Must I choose an occupation that takes me away from a calling that has this year been so profoundly affirmed, in order to extend my financial resources and remove the strain? Are there avenues for support I have not yet explored?
And will my community, the church, be brave and explore these questions with me? For the reality I face, of a limited income and / or multiple occupations, will face more and more ordained and lay ministers called to serve a church with fewer and fewer full time placements available.