Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Old Year, Old New Year

IT'S still January for a few hours yet. I can still write a cliche stock-taking New Year post, right? Right. I'm glad you agree.

2012 held some triumphs and some sucker-punches, some joyous discoveries and some hard lessons. It was a year of buckling down and taking it easy, of taking risks and clinging to comforts. It was a year I felt was not wasted in the spending: a year fully lived.

It was not a year in which I blogged as much as I'd hoped to, yet I know I did what I felt I could do at the time. 2012 was a year with plenty of opportunities to practice giving myself grace for the disparity between my intentions and my actions.

I didn't make any resolutions for 2013; resolutions aren't my thing, have never really made sense to me. I have aspirations for this year, big goals and overarching plans, but altering my habits with Willpower!™ is not among them.

My plan for 2013 is pretty much what I hoped it'd be before starting this trip, which surprises me a little: I expected things not to go as expected. I still intend to continue my exploratory tour of intentional communities through late summer or fall 2013, and then, about two years after first leaving my home, to hunker into a remote location (as yet undisclosed) to forge my journal, notes, interviews, and recollections into something roughly book-shaped.

I don't mind admitting this is by far the scariest part of this whole wacky plan. Going new places, making new friends, learning new things and doing new kinds of work have their own stresses, but they are nothing to the trepidation I feel when I contemplate locking myself up with two years' worth of notes and my own dreams and insecurities, in the hope of emerging with something tied up neatly in a package I'd be proud to share with the world.

Which is exactly why I want to do it.

Lake Michigan, right before a January thunderstorm

I'VE been in Chicago for the past six weeks, at Jesus People USA, the last US commune remaining from the Jesus movement of the early 1970s. I think it's fair to say that, despite a shortage of funds, JPUSA is currently thriving. It's a pretty remarkable community in a number of ways, not least in how it has evolved over time. Many veterans from the '70s have stuck around, so history is easily accessible. But as with any community, every member has their own interpretation of that history.

You'd think I'd have compiled several volumes' worth of JPUSA stories by now, but I spent most of my first month here being sick: first struck down by a nationwide outbreak of stomach flu, then a bad cold, followed by a sinus infection. I'd never had a sinus infection before; all I knew was that my face hurt, my ears were clogged, and no matter how much sleep I got, it was never enough. I thought it was mono. When someone matched the symptoms up to the ailment for me, I was so relieved. Who knew I'd be so pleased to learn I had a sinus infection?

Anyway, The Sick not only sapped my motivation to write, but also made it really hard to concentrate and remember things, which means that my notes were sparser than I wanted. Because of this, and because I wasn't about to start over with another community while feeling this way, I postponed my departure by a couple of weeks. I'm really glad I did.

Engraved sheet metal on the windows at JPUSA

THE first minutes of 2013 found me gathered with a handful of new friends in a tiny studio apartment in JPUSA's ten-story residential building. We toasted one another with homebrewed kombucha while the fireworks over Lake Michigan sparkled and faded on the TV screen. We prayed for peace and safety and health, for blessings on loved ones, for opportunities for growth, for a gentler year.

Despite the rough beginning, I think it's gonna be a good one.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! You are one of the reasons I'm glad I did. :)

  2. a gentler year
    already relieved to breathe easier
    resolved (in your aspirations)
    to write these rough recollections smooth
    and emerge from hiding with your package in hand...
    yes: I think it's gonna be a good one and
    I look forward to reading it (and its public unveiling).

    1. Sally Forth with a Tally Ho!
      to push the envelope!

  3. Lindsey, I love reading what you write. My experience of the Jesus movement goes like this: When I was barely 10, my parents hosted a Monday night bible study in the early 70's made up of high school and college students, and a few young couples with kids. In my very young mind and Baptist baptized body and soul, church and bible study were distinctly different. The latter was in a home and sometimes in our home, which meant in the summer it involved a pool party. It was the early 1970s, and we were smack dab in the thick of the Jesus Movement, which meant that sometimes there was a Christian rock band that would set up at the edge of our fence-to-fence paved backyard. (What I mean by that is, if you understand wall to wall carpeting, just go outside, replace the walls with fences and the carpet with concrete.) All of the above just did not happen at church. At bible study, I liked the feel of an extended family. I liked meeting in homes. I liked singing new songs led by a guitar player. I liked not just bible study, the noun, but bible study, the verb. And I liked hearing the message of love each and every time we met.