Thursday, October 27, 2011

First world problems

 Warning: You might not want to read this one, Dad, because it might come across as a little bit whiny.  I say this because, well, I think it's a little bit whiny.  However, in the interest of full disclosure to achieve the goals of this blog, I figured I'd post it anyway.

Yesterday, I was walking to my car from Whole Foods and wondering why I should keep making the effort to drive all this way if I no longer really cared about fair trade and organic purchasing, or at least, the causes behind them. On my way to return the cart, a giant SUV entered from the Exit and the driver stopped impatiently to let me pass. When I returned to my subcompact economy car, I found the SUV parked next to it, almost blocking me in, it was parked so crookedly.

I had my answer, of course.

I don't want to become that asshole.

But the fleeting thought made me realize I had to go deeper.  What did I mean, I don't really care anymore about fair trade and organic purchasing or the causes behind them?

Lately, when I examine the things that I care about, the list does not much resemble the list that existed before Esther was born.  This is a hard thing to say.

I have been kind of drifting, a little despondent, without motivation or enthusiasm for the tasks at hand.  I have been aware of this for awhile and have chalked it up to the transition from seeing myself as a professional to seeing myself as a homemaker.

But Esther is four months old now and at some point here, I have to get back on that horse named Life and go somewhere.  This means that I have to stop thinking of myself in transition and start figuring out who I have become.  Because once I know who I am, then even the laundry and calling the plumber can have a vibrancy to them that they don't have right now.

Identity can often be determined by learning what motivates a person to act.  What do they want?  So, I have been thinking about what I want.  I'm defining the word, "want," here as a visceral desire.  What does my gut move towards?  There are things I still affirm intellectually, like opportunity for all people, an end to the degredation of our environment, religious access to God in community for folks who are fed up with religion and a broad social network, but what I am willing to put creative energy into each morning is much less lofty.

I want to play with my daughter and watch her smile.
I want to be held by my husband and to watch him care for Esther.
I want to read books.
I want to eat good food.
I want to bake.
I want to spend time with my own parents and with my siblings and nieces.

I no longer want to go swimming.
I no longer want to change unjust systems by working on spreadsheets and intra-office systems.
I no longer want to meet my good friends for coffee.
I no longer want to work on refining and strengthening my marriage.
I no longer want to go to church or be a part of the church leadership.
I no longer want to host parties and make people feel welcome in my home.
I no longer want to quilt.
I no longer want to build community.

Again, I still believe that all of the things on that second list are good things.  I think I would be sad if I had to live with the consequences of not doing them.  But before, I felt passionate about digging in and getting to work.  About challenging the status quo to make things better: for myself, for others and for society.

Jacob and I were talking about this and he helped me see that now I'm tired of dancing to the beat of my own drummer, of swimming upstream, of going against the flow, of coming up with anything other than cliches for constantly rejecting the easy way in order to do the right thing.

I don't know how to rest from this.  I don't know how to let my life take a nap.  I know that people will tell me that I must if I am to go on trying to "be a blessing."  That sustainability is crucial.  But I don't actually know which actions to take so that I end up refreshed.  I don't want it to be like when you get home from a vacation and you feel like you need another one before you can actually be productive again.  So, I worry that simply not doing the things I don't want to do is the wrong tactic.

Of course, I could just suck it up, rub a little mud in it and do the stuff anyway.  Most people have to live that way; what makes me so special that I can naval-gaze like this?

This seems to be one of the central questions of my life and I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with any of the possible answers.  However, recently it occurred to me that although privilege is probably 94% of the reason why I feel entitled to wait until I "want" to do something before I do it, I can take maybe 5% of the credit for consistently making choices in my life that allow me to actually take breaks.  It can't be a coincidence that I took a break from teaching and got the opportunity to go on tour with a theatrical production plus I took a break after my failed marriage and got the opportunity to live on an island in the Pacific Northwest plus I took a break after finishing my degree . . . wait.  Scratch that last one.  Although I did not have a job immediately after graduating, it never felt like a break.  I planned a wedding and did a shit-ton of relationship work to launch a marriage.  Jacob and I both mourn our disaster of a honeymoon since I couldn't wind down enough to enjoy it.  Then, back to the grind and finding a job and the rest of life from then until now.

I'm a little afraid to ask for a break, though.  Jacob doesn't get one.  How could that possibly be fair?  But I would keep Esther with me however I rested.  But I have just thought of something while writing this post. What might happen if, instead of bemoaning the fact that circumstances have taken over agency in my life, I rejoice in it?  If I figure out how to take a break, won't an adventure present itself to me in time?  If the history of my life repeats itself, won't that adventure teach me new lessons and re-set my life course toward a more Godly one?

I have set a pattern for my days.  I have established habits.  That should be enough for maintenance of my basic values until I can get back to directly monitoring them.  I don't think I'll actually become that asshole in the SUV.  Right?  If that's taken care of, I probably should figure out how to make some space to take God up on her offer of a radical change.

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