Only hours after I wrote last week, the Abbot said, "Can you see me after dinner? It will only take two minutes." It turns out that our Registrar has to have a surgery this week and will be convalescing for several weeks, and it was decided that I could, and thus would, be fast-track trained to take over--as of tomorrow afternoon.
The next day, my first day of training for the registrar's job, was also my first day of training for two service positions more substantial (and visible) than anything I've done here: altar usher and altar attendant. By the end of last Wednesday, I was a bit of a jumped-up mess, feeling no small degree of cognitive overload.
But in subsequent days, aided partly by some exceptionally skillful teaching, I've been settling into all three positions, realizing where my competencies lie and where I feel less comfortable--and realizing that even when I feel less than comfortable, I have competencies that can and should be more important now than any personal preference I might have thought I had. So, perhaps most importantly, after several days on the job, I'm not shying away from the main telephone when it rings (the fact that we have caller ID is also helpful). I've learned that doing a job as swiftly as possible is not always desirable. (Is this something I'd ever learned before?) I've begun learning how to check my speed and register whether it's coming from full presence and following my body or whether it's coming from an unacknowledged desire to stay one step (or more) ahead of everyone around me. Or whether it's coming out of blind panic. I've begun learning all over again how to see variations and mistakes in a job as proof that I'm a learning human, rather than proof that I'm doomed to failure. My body has learned (again) that we're okay here and that we're staying around and that it knows how to do the jobs that I've been asked to do: long sticks of incense no longer wave all over the place in my shaky hands because my hands aren't shaking as much anymore.
Really, I'm learning all over again how to be with people--to be eye to eye not with people the way I think they should be but with people as they are.
Across the dining hall from me, my fellow residents are discussing variations of love, and one has just posed to another a question about why he has claimed that eating another human being cannot be a manifestation of love, despite his earlier declaration that love is culturally defined and variable.
We have four more hours before our Sunday-Monday-Tuesday morning weekend comes to a close--in a ceremony in which I now play a specific, foregrounded role.