Warning: this post is all over the place. It’s probably four posts in one. But I wrote it on and off yesterday afternoon – with plans to edit it later – and I decided this morning to just post it as-is. Clearly I’m feeling a little spontaneous and living on the edge. :-)
This is the first year that Alex has played football, and I’ve been a little surprised by what a commitment it is for our family. I don’t say that begrudgingly at all because he has loved it and David and I have loved watching him love it, but most weekdays I feel like I look up and it’s 9:00 at night. We get home from work / school and I check blog email and Alex walks Hazel and I start supper and he eats a snack and David gets home and then one of us takes Alex to practice.
I’d originally thought that practice would be a fun time for D and me to get to eat out or walk around a book store or hang out on the practice field and talk, but as it turns out Hazel’s least favorite thing in the world is going into her crate for the second time in a day. So one of us stays with her, one of us does the practice run, and by the time we’re all home again and we eat supper and try to have a conversation that lasts longer than two minutes, it’s A’s bedtime. On a good night I manage to stay awake until 10:30, but most nights I don’t make it past 10.
5 AM is always early, you know?
At least once a day I think about all of you who have 2, 3, 4, or more kids – all involved in an activity – and in my head I applaud you for getting those young’uns where they need to be every single day. As kids get older, practice schedules are no joke, and even though I am the first person to jump on the STOP OVER-PROGRAMMING KIDS soapbox, I am also mindful that part of our job as parents is to help young’uns figure out what they love to do, to help them realize what they’re good at doing, and to put them in situations where they’re working for something way bigger than themselves.
It’s a fine line. But right now – on this Tuesday night at the tail end of September – I feel pretty good about where we’re standing. Tomorrow may be a different story.
And then there’s this. I’ve spent a big chunk of the last 20 years in a classroom. I’ve taught a bunch of different subjects, but mostly I’ve taught American literature. This year, though, I’ve shifted into a new job. I have an office instead of a classroom, and now I spend most of the school day talking to and praying with and occasionally handing out Kleenexes to high school girls. It’s weird to be in an office after so many years with chalkboards and then white boards and then SmartBoards. I have a phone on my desk now, but I’m not at all used to it and I jump when it rings. Anybody who has been a teacher can relate to the strangeness of a ringing phone during the workday. Ringing bells are one thing, but that phone? That phone is something else.
My new job doesn’t come with any sort of fancy title and doesn’t require special credentials. Thankfully we have a licensed counselor who can deal with the more serious issues, and that is such a comfort to me. I’m really just there to love on our girls and help them navigate day-to-day stuff: problems with friends, questions about faith, frustrations with hair or clothes or boys. I told somebody last week that I’m sort of like a drama coach – only my job has nothing to do with musicals or plays. And I’m not trying to help the girls get better at drama; I’m trying to encourage them to stop it. Walk away from it. Love each other. Honor each other. Honor each other. Honor each other.
(That last thing is a pretty big deal to me.)
I probably visit with an average of 8 or 10 girls every day, and for the first couple of weeks, I talked a lot. Shared my ideas. Told them how I thought they should handle things. And they were super gracious to me in my over-enthusiastic attempts to solve their problems. But somewhere around the end of week two, I felt like the Lord was reminding me over and over again to keep my mouth shut. I mean, He didn’t say, “SHUT UP” or anything like that – thankfully God’s a whole lot more patient than I am and not even a little bit rude – but almost every time I’d open my mouth to “fix” something, I’d get that check in my spirit that sounded a lot like, EASY, GLADYS. NOT SO FAST. DIAL IT BACK A NOTCH. LET HER TALK.
It’s been such a good lesson.
For those first few weeks after school started, I felt consistently overwhelmed by the new work stuff. And at least a small part of that, I think, was that I wanted to do my best to help but couldn’t figure out how to manage my days. People floated in and out of my office. I couldn’t plan what my day would look like. I missed the structure of my junior English class and the element of control that comes with HERE. LET ME TEACH YOU ABOUT JAY GATSBY. I HAVE SOME POINTS. YOU’RE GONNA WANT TO WRITE THEM DOWN.
It’s so much better now, though. I’m still smack dab in the middle of a big ole learning curve, but I’m figuring out how to flex a little more. I’m don’t feel pressure to fix everything because I’m reminded every day that the Lord’s timing is so much better than mine. It is a kick – A KICK – to see the Lord at work and marvel at how intricately He designs the details of people’s lives. And I told David tonight that I’m learning – slowly but surely – that what I’m really getting to do every day is see how Light ripples and bounces when it gets to shine in dark places. Each day preaches a new and different and beautiful sermon.
All that to say (after almost a thousand words of rambling): I feel a little bit like I’m in transition. David and I now have a boy who is finding his way and loving life and starting to figure out who he is and what makes his heart beat a little faster. I’m doing this new thing at work, and in the strangest way it feels as natural to me as writing does. It’s a different side of my personality, but the days are full and they fly by and by and large they are a blast. And then there’s this new book that comes out in about four months, and while I do feel all kinds of vulnerable about the fact that people may read it and decide they don’t like it or the first one was better or whatever, the process of turning it over to my publisher and letting go of it, so to speak, has been such a relief that I can’t even describe it. I held on to it long enough. It’s time for it to move on.
I didn’t mean for this post to turn so reflective, by the way. It was gonna be light and breezy. But I’ve been reminded so much lately that this is such a sweet, rewarding phase of life, which is sort of ironic because ten years ago I would have told you that there was nothing about the mid-40s that sounded even remotely fun to me. I always thought I’d be so sad to not be the mama of a little one anymore. But as it turns out, I’m not sad at all. I’m just grateful. I turn 45 in a couple of days – FORTY-FIVE – but I don’t feel a single bit of the inner freak-out that 40 dumped on the front doorstep of my mind and my heart. Earlier today I was trying to figure out how to put this particular time in my life into words, and here’s what I came up with:
So maybe I should warn you that 45 may not be a particularly eloquent time for me.
Thankfully Mumford & Sons can express themselves way better than I do. I heard the song “Below My Feet” about an hour ago, and this right here? THIS IS IT.