Well, we celebrated our little one’s first birthday yesterday. I dreaded this event like the looming deadline of a term paper in college. Just like a young, procrastinating, scholar– I was capable and competent to plan the party little by little in advance. Yet, I chose to wait until the end. To be fair, I had made my mind up early that we were just having cake, ice cream and a small gathering. Then at the last minute, I realized this was selfish. It is not my husband’s fault that he was born into a large family. So that little idea turned into 50 relatives, a taco/nacho bar and so much joy.
Honestly, I told myself “You are going straight home from work today and resting.” I woke up feeling 70+ years old. Kind of like when I was in chronic pain but different. And yes, I felt 70+ years old on the regular, before my surgery. But…like a typical Mom I got home, started putting clothes away and setting mental goals for what I needed to accomplish for the evening to feel like a validated human for the day. Instead, I ended up at urgent care (just not feeling well).
Last week was my first week back to work. I ended up flying to a conference with the President of our college, the new campus pastor, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and my mentor (the chair of the religion department). This was all VERY good, and warrants a blog post of it’s own. BUT, I really have overdone it now for several weeks. Earlier I remarked to Gary, “You know how when I first got my job I said ‘I could never do my job hungover’? Well with this promotion, I have added a degree– I can’t do this job tired.” And today I was very tired.
Once I arrived home last Thursday, I worked on Friday and then started prepping for Rhett’s first birthday. I did not sleep much. I did, however, blow up a lot of balloons. I even joked on social media that my new maladaptive coping mechanism was blowing up balloons to keep my son from turning one.
Ever since the birth of my son, and my surgery, I have had serious issues in the way of memory and recall. Add sleep deprivation, pain, and recovery to the list and it is quite a concoction. Although, I’m supposed to be sleeping in bed right now– husband’s orders– I’m at our tiny desk that is littered with balloons, typing this post.
You see, I know that my blog is far from perfect. I had a livejournal in high school and would even type in html code for THAT blog. Those days are gone. I’m in a hurry to get things done. My biggest flaw is that I don’t edit anything. I constantly feel like I have a dragon breathing down my back (especially since my near death experience). And that dragon is pushing me to accomplish as much as possible (aside for my wasted time on social media) with as little as possible. I guess I assumed after my NDE, that people could figure out my message whether or not it had a typo in it. I kind of live in this space of today might be my last day…again. And if it is my last day, I sure as hell would hope that I wasn’t wasting time proofreading messages (or scrolling social media) that were already clear.
Well no matter how many balloons I blew up, how many times I told myself our party wouldn’t be a big deal, or how many times I thought my summer vacation would last forever…Rhett still turned one. And I still had to return to work. And returning to work this week felt like that time I was concussed. I was able to juggle multiple thoughts in the air, but I couldn’t make any progress on those thoughts. Today a colleague of mine sharing this feeling described it as mental purgatory. To which I told him an anecdotal story, that my superior told me, regarding the virtues of a leader.
I arrived at work this AM with full intentions of moving linearly down my to-do list. As I began chipping away, an admissions counselor approached me about a student. The student’s parents had some questions about reasonable academic accommodations for their student with a disability. So, I walked over to admissions to meet the family. I firmly shook both Mom and Dad’s hands and introduced myself (prior to this I memorized their names and their student’s concerns that they sent me via my online self-disclosure tool). To my dismay, their child/new student was not happy to be discussing the sensitive topic of being a person with a disability. Mom and Dad talked over the student and on his/her behalf. And like any good counselor, I acknowledged the silence and asked the student how this experience felt for him/her? I was getting nothing.
This reminded me of a time at Yale– in my pastoral care class. At that time in my life, my goal was to work in a VA hospital doing clinical pastoral care. In a role playing exercise, I was playing the role of chaplain. Our scenario was that two parents were at the hospital with their child who was comatose. Now, if you did not study psychology nor counseling, you may not understand just how intense role plays can get. In my role as quasi-chaplain I addressed everyone in the room, although the person role playing the patient was not going to acknowledge me. Yes, this is truly where my mind went as I sat with the non-verbal student. Who by the way, can speak. Sometimes though, when we try to speak for others we actually silence them. Mom and Dad were unintentionally doing this.
I kept reminding these incredibly sweet parents that our college is a small place and I will see to it that their son/daughter never gets lost. Little did the parents know, that I was the most lost little college freshman ever. I sometimes could go a full day without speaking to anyone. It’s in these moments that I hope Mom and Dad can feel my authenticity when I say your student will not get lost here because I do mean that.
Following my impromptu parent meeting, I had an impromptu meeting with a board of trustee member who just happened to be on campus. It was nice to catch the trustee with his wife and family, and in casual wear. Last time I saw him, I was hosting a networking event for our students to practice their skills– with one caveat– they had to network with our board of trustees. I especially appreciated this trustee’s skill of careful listening as young students told him about their hopes and dreams via rehearsed elevator pitches.
I then went on to start planning our Alumni Professions Panels for Homecoming 2019. This resulted in a spontaneous lunch with colleagues whilst taking notes on my yellow, legal pad. Strangely, I realized that despite my memory issues, my fatigue, and feeling out of it I was sensing that I was handling all of these things much better than I had in the past. A very toxic person is no longer involved in these planning processes. Now I’m the one calling the meetings. Now I’m the one pulling in cabinet level officials and thinking through, not just programs, but processes. And although I’m a bit off right now (also experiencing vertigo from flying) I’m still making some progress. And I no longer have someone speaking for me or over me (picking up a theme here?).
The rest of the day I spent thinking about what I MUST absolutely accomplish by August 14 (the day our first students move on campus). So suddenly I went from wanting to avoid everything at home, to planning everything a semester in advance for my job. That kind of duality is striking. I think about this everyday as I put on my business clothes. Who is this professionally dressed Clarissa? This feeling was once quite unsettling. I found something to be very inauthentic about it. But then I realized the pompous males around me were only going to get richer if I didn’t learn to play their game. Now I find that I’m dancing the dance of personal/professional sacred/profane a bit better.
I have no idea where I want to go with this post. This is the first time I set a time limit for myself, because truthfully I could spend all night writing. But– self-care is important and I need to rest to do my job, be a better wife and a Mom. But maybe, trying to get things done faster is not always better. When I let myself freely write I think I tend to produce better content, although it be laced with typos…thus diminishing it’s quality. My husband also just came upstairs to lecture me that I should be in bed. Awkward.
I am going to bed wrestling this notion of duality.
How can one person be in a hurry to get some things done, and yet, committed to the step-by-step slow process for other things?
How can one person pride themselves on being an authentic soul, yet, put on a costume and memorize a script before talking to parents?
This perception of two time-zones in one body is exactly what this year has been for me. Everyone remarked, as I mentioned in my previous post, that “I bet this year flew for you!” And while it did, it was also painfully slow at times. There were days at work that my pain was unbearable and the minutes were crawling by. Yet, there were nights that I held my son until my back hurt thinking, God, can I please just have 5 more minutes of his heartbeat next to mine.
I guess it’s kinda like that old jingle–
“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life!”