In my twenty years of church work, my favorite time in the week was the Sunday afternoon after I finished services. All the build-up to Sunday morning, the sermon preparation, attending to the bulletin, dealing with whatever special circumstances a service might require, these took a toll on me. After worship, I always attended coffee hour, welcomed visitors, greet regular members, follow-up with past conversations and initiate new ones. If I was the last to leave, the premises, locking-up buildings fell to me. After I said my last goodbye, I climbed into my silver Toyota Tacoma, and began my time off. I was on my own at that moment and not subject to everyone’s expectations, at least for a day or two. Emergencies or diocesan meetings sometimes changed my plans of course, but for the most part, I was temporarily free and made good use of my time off.
I began the twenty-five minute drive home in the late fall. Relaxed and glad to be done with the my worship routine, I took in the beauty around me. In late fall, the tall grass, once verdant and green from the summer monsoon, turns a yellow hue it keeps for the rest of the winter. I drove the with the windows up on the cool day, and enjoyed the scenery.
Out of that calm, the idea visited and remained that it was time to smoke marijuana. I surveyed my life as I scanned the landscape and assured myself that, despite past excesses and troubling experiences, I was in a good place in my life and I could make room for some recreational smoke. Since the last time I smoked, I’d completed two masters degrees, had gotten ordained, lived outside the country, married, become a parent, survived colon cancer and some serious psychiatric trouble, had had enough therapy for two life times. I was due. I could manage. If any danger surfaced, I believed I could stop.
The emptiness I faced in my dorm room those years ago, I had filled with a well-lived life and one that had reached the half-century mark. My assessment was a prayer of sorts. I brought God into the conversation. I was trying to be honest as I knew how. I had no intention of conning God, but my spirituality did not require asking to know God’s will before I made a decision. I figured God was good with the move as long as I took care of myself and didn’t get carried away.
While driving, I phoned Adam, a Bisbee friend, who I knew could get me high.
“Adam, this is Seth.”
I liked that Adam called me vicar. He never darkened the door of my church, but we’d developed a strong enough friendship that I began to turn to him with some of my frustrations with my job. Having an ear that wasn’t part of the church proved valuable. A graphic artist, Adam moved to Bisbee with his former wife. I began to use him for the publicity needs I had in the border work I did as I designed excursions and intensive Spanish weeks in Mexico. Though he had never offered or gotten high with me present, I knew he partook and it felt natural to call.
“I’ve just finished services and decided that I’d like to smoke some marijuana with you. I am wondering,” I knew the answer was yes, “if you are in a position to help me.”
My own intentionality surprised me and it pleased me that I had given my self permission to join the herbalists.
“Yea, I guess so, “ he said.
He did register his concern about my addictive tendencies I assured him that all that was under control and that weed therapy could, in fact, assist me in dealing with some of my mental health issues. You know, kind of like some firefighters, the unorthodox and rarely employed ones, try to contain a fire with rocket fuel.
“Great.” I said (I couldn’t have been happier) “ I’m heading there now. I’ll be right over.”
“No. No. Not now. I have things to do. Later this evening.” (I couldn’t have been sadder).
I was heartbroken. I was like an irritable Pooh who could find no one to help him satisfy his immediate longings.
The interlude gave me the opportunity to talk my decision over with my wife. As with God, I wasn’t asking for permission as much as I was informing her that I had come to a new place in my self-care and that I was about to get back to nature. She didn’t share my enthusiasm for my course of action (I don’t think God was all that gung-ho for the move either). It helped my case that her father, he himself a pastor, died at fifty-nine. It also helped my case that she had a glass of Merlot sitting on the table where we sat. I made the connections to the responsible drinking that she exercised and the responsible smoking I most certainly would. She did offer tacit approval but had her reservations.
My due diligence satisfied, I left my eight year-old daughter and wife of sixteen years at Peter Piper Pizza and, aided by the swiftness of the Pegasus, sped towards Adam and the misadventure of my life.