I didn’t sleep well the past two nights. I was tormented a bit by old voices of anxiety on Friday night and then, of course, there were the normal (for us) baby interruptions to a night of sleep. In the past anxiety would have kept me up anyhow… so consider it double insomnia, I guess. And then last night we tried taking Caroline to Shakespeare in the Park, hoping she’d nurse peacefully and sleep right through it. But… big crowd… lots of people smiling at her and engaging her… yeah… wired her. We left early. She did fall asleep before we left and again in the car, but she woke frequently in the night and was ready to play at 4 a.m. I had assured Kev that I would handle whatever the night brought as he is playing at congregation number 1 this morning and needed to be well rested. So I got up with her at 4, after frequently waking with her in the several hours prior, and let her play for a bit and then rocked and nursed with her where she (and maybe I) fell asleep eventually. Kev took over at 6:30 and I went back to bed for a bit. By the time I was up (physically anyhow), there just wasn’t time to really get ready. So Caroline and I stayed home from congregation number 1. Kev will pick us up and we’ll worship together with congregation number two over the noon hour and in the early afternoon.
I’ve been saying for the past week that I need to do something to adjust my attitude before this semester begins because I’ve been feeling thoroughly overwhelmed and unable to be excited whenever I contemplate it. This is a shame because it is a semester FILLED with things and people I love. I am taking four seminars- 1)”God and the Other in Relational Theologies”, 2) the Core Seminar for my fellowship program (looking at integrating theory and practice, and particularly at preparing to teach for ministry), 3) an Augustine Seminar (which is continued work with the prof with whom I’ve been working since February on a study of the practices of the early North African church- I already know my paper topic for this seminar and know that I love weekly conversation with him.), and 4) “History and Theology of Sacraments” (which also dovetails nicely with the guided reading I did the past semester). I have been accumulating the many books for these four classes and I actually am interested in all of them. I started the reading for “God and the Other”- Buber’s “I and Thou”, which I’ve been meaning to read forever- yesterday and as I did I remembered how stimulating it can be to read and discuss rich texts. I also remembered how slowly I read.
In addition to these four seminars (it may go without saying, but by their nature seminars are reading intensive and participant driven so one needs to be prepared for every class… often students are asked to take turns leading the class… great formation experiences… LOTS of work.) I am a t.a. for the intro theology class at the div. school for my university. This role requires being present for the lectures twice a week and keeping attendance at those lectures and facilitating a discussion section once a week. It also requires grading papers (15-18 on a weekly basis, and also bigger papers on occasion), meeting with the teaching team at least once a week, and being available to provide assistance to individual students as they have need. We had training events for the t.a. role this past week and while some dimensions of this training triggered anxiety in me, I also came out of the events remembering that I LOVE to teach, and, in particular, that I LOVE to facilitate discussions about theology. How cool that I get to do that this year! But it will be a learning curve, a steep one, to figure out the rhythms of education in this school that is very different from the one in which I completed my M.Div. and to embody this new/dual role in this institution. It was one thing to t.a. the intro theology class in my seminary having taken it and knowing what it was and how it was supposed to work. But here… different animal altogether… and having been basically gone all of the second semester, I feel a bit out of touch with the mores of this institution. I feel like I’m starting all over again.
And then there’s home. While we have been practicing shifting the balance of care from me as primary caregiver to Kevin… starting tomorrow, 5 days a week, we’re on for real. And this is ALWAYS what I imagined. Were I still in the parish the shift would have happened months ago. And we’re really, really blessed that I got so much time at home with Caroline and, even more so, that all three of us had so much good home time together, and even more than that, that she will continue to receive primary care from a parent at home. I’m a big supporter of child care, but it can be great when circumstances are such that a child can receive care, especially through the first year or so, at home. We have some milk in the freezer. She’s eating more and more solid food every week. I’ve figured out some places to pump on campus and typically get enough milk pumped in a day to cover the next day. Practically speaking we’re ready. But emotionally… it is harder.
Friday night I was wrestling with old impostor voices in my head. As I tried to imagine living into the opportunities/demands that this semester presents I felt I was necessarily going to be less of a scholar, less of a teacher, and less of a mother and wife than I want to be. Typing this I realize that that was an inevitable realization at which to arrive eventually. Tending towards perfectionism I will always be less of whatever than I want to be. I’ve worked hard at adjusting my expectations of myself, seeking to hear the wisdom our good family friend Debbie has offered more than once “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.” And I really made good strides with that last year- in my first semester of studies- in my first 9 months of motherhood. It is something about putting these two things together, and not really thinking that I will be able to do so… or not seeing how… that triggered a rough time on Friday. It was something about fearing that not only will I not be perfect (truly, I don’t expect this of myself anymore), but I can’t imagine that I’ll be good at anything. I’ll barely get by as student, teacher, mom. My best goal this semester, as I surveyed it, seemed to be survival. And that feels lousy altogether.
So when Caroline was ready to play at 6 yesterday morning, I encouraged Kev, who had been up with her earlier, to keep sleeping and I took her out to play. And I opened up a blank document and tried to imagine a functional schedule for myself. The schedule I conceived doesn’t leave a lot of room for surprises, or even regular interruptions. And it doesn’t leave a lot of room for working ahead on big projects and papers. And it doesn’t leave much time at all for exercise. And it allows only a bare minimum of housework. And it involves maybe 5-6 hours max of waking time in any given week day with Caroline. And only an hour a weekday for quality time with Kev (well, maybe 2 if you count breakfast, dinner, and daily Bible readings). That said, I am planning on weekly sabbath on Sundays- worshipping at at least one church and spending quality, restful/rejuvenating family time the rest of the day. And I’m hoping Saturday evenings can be the gateway to Sundays. The schedule is far from perfect, but I think it is pretty good. And it is a tool that allows me to imagine how I might be able to hold all these things I love together without feeling completely overwhelmed all the time, though acknowledging that I will feel at least partially overwhelmed much of the time.
I said to Kevin the other night “It feels like this semester, this year, is just going to be so hard, but then I ask myself ‘is it harder than finishing three doctoral seminars early and giving birth?’ And I think, maybe, no… maybe not.” In writing out the birth story last week I remembered the moment when I cried out “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” To which all three midwives, my sister included, said “And it is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.”
And Caroline is draped across me right now, sleeping gently, a witness. She is big, and strong, and healthy. And she is a witness to the fact that I can do hard things… not perfectly… but well, or well enough.
And so… on this last sabbath before the semester bell rings… I am home being peaceful this morning. And I will go and praise God joyfully shortly. And we will find something fun or restful to do for the rest of the day. And I will lay out my clothes, and pack my lunch and my bags and gather everything I need for tomorrow together before going to bed tonight. And day by day, by God’s grace, we’ll work it out. God has called me here- to marriage, to motherhood, and to scholarship- God will see us through.
And maybe, just maybe… I’m starting to feel more excited than scared.