To periodically remind myself that I'm not wasting my life, or my furlough, I want to keep a list of things that I've done that are worthwhile! Since leaving home in June: eleven days in Japan with countless adventures on the Helen-Ben-Gene-Donna Team of Chaos and Fun, a very restorative spiritual retreat in Colorado with other Ms, time to re-connect with my Vanuatu cousins and be cared for at the lovely Chez Gordon, two months of triumph and despair in Fairbanks (about which I could write much), five days that make me smile with the Tucson Posse, and a transition into my grad school life that certainly could have been worse. While I'm at it, am I mad to add another writing task to my writing-heavy life? But yesterday at the half-day retreat the idea of blogging kept swimming around in my mind as it has been for a while, so here I am, taking a chance on something new, without any firm commitment to keep this up and without even checking the social media policy for the org I work for (which means I will be avoiding discussing my life with them until I figure out what I can get away with saying and what to safely avoid).
Also yesterday (apparently a day for mad inspiration) I almost-promised myself that season opera tickets were in my near future, as an almost-mandate to care for my spiritual side. Church services are one thing, but opera is spiritually transcendent on a whole 'nother level! Bring on the art, baby! Thursday night's open-air concert and drama showcase also brought me outside myself and stirred up that old longing for heaven, for beauty, for communion with God our Creator and Jesus my fellow artist. Gah--for how many activities and groups should I sign up? How many paths of adventure should I gallop madly down? I confess, the dizzying variety here in this country is, well, dizzying. I can't give my heart to every activity that moves me. I observe myself, and diagnose start-of-school optimism! Lord, let me pick wisely and not burden myself with unreachable goals as the term gets busier.
Also yesterday at the retreat I thought I should describe what it feels like to be in transition. The retreat topic was "Self Care While at Seminary" and lots of the lessons I've learned overseas are applicable! "Say No To Burnout"--which I have yet to get on a t-shirt--can continue to be a motto here. I need to remember that while in transition (and boy, am I), a large chunk of my mental processing ability, including my attention span, my creativity, my energy and productivity, are sucked away by just managing to live through the transition and aren't available to me to be applied to living normal life. (And I'm starting seminary classes in this troubled state?!) What this means is that I have a harder time talking to new people, I cook less often and when I do it doesn't turn out as well as I expect (and I'm more upset about that than I would otherwise me), I have a harder time picking out things to wear, I get irritated more often, I get tireder oftener, I am less articulate, I am less efficient at running errands, I am less efficient at saving money, less in control of what I eat, and I have more unexpected expenses that stress me out more than they otherwise would. I am more prone to frustration when things like Internet or shopping or paperwork don't go take care of themselves smoothly, and more debilitated by the frustration than usual--I am less resilient mentally and physically. It takes me more time than I expect to do everything. I feel more despair and existential angst and dwell on issues of the "am I wasting my life?" ilk. I need more time, not less, to think, to rest, to pray, to laugh, to eat well, to dream, to think, to practice hope and stand firm against despair. Because I'm out on a limb I am more at the mercy of helpful people to solve the little and big problems that usually I can take care of myself. I am and must be more open to experiencing Providence as He cares for me and keeps me from drowning in the sea of change.
Notice that I'm describing things that are not peripheral but rather are at the core of my identity! I can't be the person I usually am when I'm in transition! I'm not competent, funny, creative, efficient, effective, employed... I'm draining the community's and my own reserves to make it from being integrated in one place through leaving, moving, and gradually re-integrating in a new one. It takes courage to keep going when all is chaos! I don't even have a place all my own to retreat to--I'm still carving my own habitat. I don't like the me-in-transition that cries all the time. Gosh, can I just go to church for two weeks in a row without leaving in tears? For cryin' out loud! I'm hopeless!
But consider, which is a more true way to see myself: the helpless, hopeless and absurd creature who can't get her act together until the transition wears off, or the the Donna who can dazzle a middle school class, put on fabulous dinner parties, throw together thrift store outfits of surpassing eccentricity, and accept accolades for same with detached equanimity? I must remember to rejoice, and to laugh at my utterly hopeless state because, really, I am utterly hopeless, and in utter, absolute need of rescue all the time; learning that truth redeems the madness of transition.