Of Worldly Career and Spiritual Vocation

So it reaches an end. The trajectory that began with volunteering on local nature reserves, took me into paid work restoring the Manchester Mosslands, and eventually led to me working for a local ecological consultancy on developments across the North West. 

Whereas my choice to work in conservation was guided my Gods, when my traineeship reached its end, and no conservation positions came up, I chose my ecology job because it was local, permanent, well paid, and offered financial security, and because I had a good interview and liked the people.

I knew next to nothing about ecology, the high pressure environment, how distant some of the sites would be, or how badly working nights would affect my mental health. I hadn’t thought through how I’d feel about working for developers, some just people who needed a bat survey for an extension on their home, but others who wanted to build on green spaces and nature reserves.

Working just one night a week, the dread beforehand and the tiredness afterwards, had a massive impact on my mental health due to my need for a regular routine and sleep pattern as an autistic person who suffers from anxiety. 

This, combined with travelling to sites over an hour’s drive away, and learning to write technical reports and mastering an unneccessarily complex and counterintuitive mapping system called QGIS whilst, at the same time, organising surveys, preparing quotes, and replying to clients, swiftly led to stress and burnt out.

Within a matter of weeks I went from being a happy, fit, and confident person with hopes of excelling in botany, pursuing an MSc in ecology, and running an official half marathon to being unable to read academic articles or comprehend the logistics of getting to a run or navigating the crowds.

I started waking early in the morning in tears and crying until I went to the gym or on a run and somehow cried all the way through a run on a very bad day.

I turned up in tears, managed to get on with my work, in spite of the crushing feeling in head, which increased as the day went on and throughout the week. I drove the wrong way up to M62 and through a red traffic light. I got hopelesssly muddled on a survey and drew the map the wrong way up. One day my brain melted to the point I couldn’t recall what a PDF was.

My manager took me off nights and I stayed because I liked the team, who were kind and supportive, because I didn’t want to let them down, because it was my mistake for rushing into what was the wrong job but right location and people.

I didn’t speak much to my Gods at first. But when drinking ceased to cure my troubles and I realised it was doing me more harm than good, both in my work life, and strength training and running performance, I began to pray. 

I began to seek a place of retreat and healing as respite from an overwhelming world. “Remember who you are,” said Gwyn, recalling me to my vocation as an awenydd, as Sister Patience, as a nun of Annwn.

Somewhat laughably, as is often the case of Gwyn, at a time when I was craving financial security due to fear of losing my job, He told me do the thing least likely to make money in the world – “build the Monastery of Annwn”.

Yet His imperative, my vocation, could not be ignored. I have set up the Monastery of Annwn as a virtual space; started laying the foundations in terms of daily devotions, a ritual year, and practices such as journeying to Annwn and tending Creiddylad’s Garden; and begun dialogue with others.

Desiring to partake in lectio divina and lacking an Annuvian creation myth I have been inspired to return to writing one – a pursuit I began a couple of years back with a book called The Dragon’s Tongue, which didn’t work out. 

This attempt to weave a new creation story, from the perspective of the Annuvian Gods, from the existing Welsh and Irish myths and also drawing on the Mesopotamian epic ‘Enuma Elish’ and the Bible has been renewed as ‘In the Deep’ (the antithesis of ‘When On High’ – the translation of ‘Enuma Elish’). 

In returning to devotional writing I have found deep joy, which has dissipated as soon as the stresses of work and worldly career have got in the way. 

This positive discovery/recovery combined with the knowledge that, as an autistic person, I am not suited to full time high pressure work, has led to the decision to hand in my notice at my ecology job and seek less stressful, part time work in conservation or horticulture that will allow me to fulfil my vocation.

It has been a relief and a release. Although I have two months’ notice to work I have a myth to tend, a monastery to build, and can find solace at my altar and in Creiddylad’s garden, where the bees are loving the blue geraniums and the foxgloves I grew from seed last year are looking magnificent.

14 thoughts on “Of Worldly Career and Spiritual Vocation

  1. tandderwen123 says:

    It sounds like you have been through quite a lot with the last job in ecology. Thanks for your honesty. It is so important to recognize our strengths and limitations.I also found I could not get a decent work/life balance in my life and suffered with stress for many many years until I finally got to do 4 days per week which was bette ,if not perfect. I am retired now but regret the years that I sacrificed and was just not really fulfilled .You did do useful work nevertheless and you do seem to have greater self knowledge and you are on a spiritual journey that is hugely important ..so look forward to reading more about it. I think many millions of people have stunted and unbalanced lives due to work. Hope you find a better balance moving forward and look forward to hearing more on the blog. .Hopefully you will be able to take some positive things away from your experiences and move on in your spiritual journey and find greater happiness

  2. Michael Graeme says:

    Hi Lorna, this sounds very much like the modern workplace malaise of not enough people for the workload, and burning out those dedicated hands still willing to show up. It’s very sad, as your kind of work is very much a calling. Above all, you should not be hard on yourself or blame yourself in any way. There is something deeply wrong in the world of work at the moment in the way it takes work that could and should so easily be rewarding, and manages to make it sterile and stressful. I think you’re doing the right thing, taking refuge in your spirituality, and I wish you well.

  3. Victoria says:

    My search for information about Gwyn led me to you. I am grateful for your writings and study.
    As Michael Graeme said above the current world of work is deeply flawed.
    Part time work brought me mental rest and mental health and time to rejoice in spirit.
    May it provide you the same!

  4. Nimue Brown says:

    That sounds horrendous, I’m glad you’re not going to have to deal with it for much longer. It sounds like you’ve picked up a lot of skills and knowledge that could serve you in the future, and I hope that there will turn out to have been enough worthwhile stuff in all of this to offset what it has cost you.

  5. Rachel says:

    No blame for trying something out of your comfort zone-and knowing when it’s too much. now you can devote more time to your spiritual life and hopefully work again in conservation, in a capacity that suits.

  6. Steve Ormerod says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your job being so demanding and stressful, but I am glad that you have returned to your calling and your vocation.
    I wish you nothing but the best, and please keep in touch.

    Best wishes,

  7. Edward P. Butler says:

    Your work on behalf of your Gods is a continuing inspiration to me, and I have every confidence that through all the struggles, you are finding the path that is best for you and that best serves Them.

  8. Aurora J Stone says:

    I had intended to respond earlier to this thread, but an doing so now. I found your honesty regarding your struggle to ‘fit in’ to the modern way of working refreshing and challenging. You know your path. You have struggled not to be on it and to do what is ‘expected’ and you gave the worldly way a good and fair try. Now it’s time to return to your path as an awenydd. You have been called and challenged to build the Monastery of Annwn and are answering the call. It is one that obviously resonates with others and that should be heartening. Go forth with boldness and humility. I follow the progress of this project with great interest.

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