I spent so long trying to figure out how to 'do this Orthodox thing' properly, and it's just starting to sink in that maybe I'm not doing as badly as I thought I was. Oh, I've got a loooong way to go - who doesn't? But most of the stuff you associate with Orthodoxy isn't really that big a deal, and it's taken me three and a bit months baptised plus nine months as a catechumen to start to realise that I was being an idiot. Joy. I have been assured that I will do this for the rest of my life, which is such a hopeful prospect, right? The funny thing is that I say that sarcastically but I know people who would seriously agree with it. I want to be them when I grow up! Unfortunately I know that they got to where they are through some pretty hard stuff, and hard work. That bit I don't like, but I'll keep walking, because there's nothing else I can do :)
You see people who can quote the Fathers on any subject, cook brilliant food for the fasts, have glorious icon corners, you get women for whom wearing scarves and long skirts is what they do evvery day, you get monks and nuns (though even I am not so much an idiot to expect myself to measure up to THEM in daily life), you get people that know how all this stuff works while I'm still learning on my feet. And what's got to me recently is that that's ok. In the meantime I am me. I light a fistful of candles every time I go to Church, for other people, because that's just what I do. I talk to people, and I pray that I help them not hinder them. These things are all good, but partly some of them take time, and partly they're different walks. I have my own strengths, and my weaknesses which I am all too aware of. As with my approach to daily life with my illnesses, all I can do is take things day by day and not expect too much of myself. I have my own joys, and I must not be totally useless or people wouldn't want to hang around with me, much less go out of their way to pick me up for something, or take me home, or go for coffee, or ring me up for my name day and have their family yell Χρονια πολλά to me over the phone. Nothing is overnight, just like my stitching. I pick big projects for my stitching, and work a little at a time. This is no different.
Figuring that out, and figuring out that the best way to fix my flaws is to simply live the Orthodox life - to say my prayers, even if all I can manage is the morning and evening ones...to keep the fasts (or NOT, depending on the guidance of my priest - my friend pointed out, laughing, that when I was eating normally during Lent on the orders of my priest, in that way I kept the fast), to go to Church when I can, to sit with my prayer rope in my hands and pray for myself or others, to give as I can, to help as I can, to offer what kindness I am able and bring what beauty I can to the world - that is all that is asked of me, and that is acheiveable. As a convert in a country where Orthodoxy is still largely within certain ethnic groups - people who have grown up with the customs and beliefs of the Church as daily life, I've always felt somewhat behind the 8-ball, trying to catch up. And that's stupid, and I don't know why it's taken me so long to figure it out. I am not Greek. I am not Russian. I am not Lebanese. I am Australian, the descendent of German peasants and Cornish miners, among others. I am small and slight with recessive gene brown eyes, and golden toned skin, a throwback to my great-grandparents from the mining country of Cornwall, who would be horrified at my being Orthodox but I can't help that :) So I'm learning to cook to fit the fasts with Greek and Lebanese food, yes, but also Australian - the mixture of world cuisines that we steal and adapt. Authentic Indian curries, not so authentic British style curries, ANZAC biscuits. Hippie healthy lentil and pumpkin soup, Italian pasta sauces, tomato or vegemite sandwiches. I say my prayers in English, not Greek or Arabic - most of the time! I celebrate my own culture while happily joining the cultures of my parishes. I danced for years in a classical style, and now I am learning on my feet (literally) how to dance a completely different way. And this is all okay. This is just me.
So I'll stay me, wearing old fashioned clothes one day and dresses and skirts over jeans the next. I'll wear a mixture of beautiful, fashionable, or just fun hats everywhere I go, and sometimes to Church. I'll wear my scarves in Church even if I get funny looks from some people - this is me, and its something I was convicted over long before I ever 'turned Orthodox'. I'll have mad fits of baking and make food for everyone at my fellowship group and anyone else that will eat them. I'll talk to strangers on trains, and listen to their life stories and their problems and whatever else they tell me. I'll stay Kyri, having to pronounce Kyriaki sloooowly whenever I encounter non-Greeks (including one ROCOR priest, much to my amusement). I'll listen to a mixture of ABBA, Jars of Clay, Orthodox Chant done by monks and the radio. I'll be satisfied with the icons I have, and lighting candles before them as I say my prayers, because I'm blessed to have what I have, each one a gift. And when I do get more, I'll love them too, because I choose them for reasons, not just because I long to have the beautiful walls of icons that some of my friends have. I'll read recipe magazines for fun and attempt to feed myself and my family with the concoctions found therein. I'll happily stitch on whatever's 'calling' and know that I will finish something, one day.
I'll be myself. I'll just live life as I am now, and know that it is by prayer and the life of the Church that God changes us, not our trying to change ourselves. At least, that is my prayer.
I didn't start out trying to write this. I meant to write a short paragraph then write about all sorts of other things...but I am glad I did. I don't usually write long pieces about my faith, but try as I might it will escape into my blog like this, and I'm glad it does. It's as much my life as anything else - more than most things, really. So there you go - that's me.