09 January 2012

A new year and a renewing mind

My cats' new peacock feather (a gift from doting, though spatially distant, grandmom Burgess) is shredded to pieces, so it must be the start of the second week of 2012! I never got around to writing in December, as I was away for the better part of the month in Washington. It was really fun to help out on the last leg of my dad's Christmas tour, which, though ticket and CD sales can be a bit of a thrash, always provides many a welcome reunion of old friends. I was particularly blessed to get to spend a couple evenings/afternoons with my dear, dear friend Jes while we were in Oregon. It's amazing how some of the people God puts in our lives push through the limitations that time and space have tried to impose; there may indeed be times where we feel a bit more out of touch than others, but the important thing is to focus on the times we can come together again.
Michael joined me about a week and a half after I left and we had a great two weeks celebrating Christmas and several birthdays with our families. My grandfather celebrated his 85th birthday on December 15th, and the day after, my brother-in-law his 23rd. There was a big party at the retirement community my grandpa lives to honor him, and it was a blast - pink champagne, jingle bells, and all, put on by his dear friend, Lynn. Christmas Eve has become a joint event, which is always nice: my parents come down for dinner and then head off to the Christmas Eve service at their church while we stay and open presents with Michael's family, after which we head up to Camano late to rest up for Christmas morning. This year, a big wind storm blew up Christmas Day and we lost power around 9am. But that didn't stop us! We were all set to have a power-less, candlelit dinner with Grandpa and Lynn when the power came back on just as they were coming up the driveway! Mom and I decided that, while we certainly could have pulled it off without, having the power was quite nice.
We caught a red-eye back to Georgia on the 30th, arriving mid-morning on New Year's Eve. It was a long trip, but we experienced an eventless, relatively on-schedule progression from our first leg all the way to catching the shuttle as we walked up! By the way, we were very impressed by Continental Airlines' service, despite the baby plane we spent the last hour or so of flight on. The are one of the few who still exempt military and family traveling with them of bag fees, and they do it with a big smile. Michael has had to pay over $100 before due to a heavy bag, which just puts a bad taste in your mouth about the airline having any regard for military! So this was a welcome change. It helped that their boarding process is actually quite functional - rows, imagine that! - and therefore, time effective. We certainly hope to choose them over other airlines in the future, if the fares don't differ drastically!

The past week and a half, like so many others in the wake of the new year, I have been contemplating my resolutions for 2012. I did write several down, and hope to stick to them, but the past few days have raised a greater resolution that isn't really one you can sum up in a line or two on a piece of paper. I'll try to explain. (Bear with me!)
As we prepared to return home during the last few days in Washington, I mentally started "organizing" a new routine for myself during the week. I have put some of it into practice, but a significant piece of it has been seemingly altered. (God, I'm onto you! Ha.) I had very much hoped and planned to lay into my transcription work, but this requires that there be files actually available to transcribe! As I sat down to my computer the first morning that I wasn't restoring our apartment to a normal state of order (read = Wednesday), I thought for sure 9am would be early enough to snag some audio minutes. Imagine my dismay when nearly all the time stamps on the files taken (which was literally all of them) were at or immediately following 8:30am! "Well," I thought, "I guess today I'll be proofing transcription." What do you know, but every time I attempted to put my name on a file, someone put theirs in just seconds before I finalized it. At that point, I knew had a choice: I could sit there for the next two to three hours and be continually frustrated by the situation (the file-snatching happened several times in a row) or I could leave it be and do something else with my time.
For the rest of that day (scattered between other tasks and chores, like stopping my cats from prematurely destroying their latest toy) I resolved to look for work. I did so mainly on the site where I was originally hired from for this transcription position, oDesk.com. While there were many positions that I know are not for me, such as the "Seeking French-Speaking Mathematical Marvel", there were a few that I felt I had a shot at, so I applied. (On a side-note, my college roommate, now a math teacher and always a mathematical marvel, and I decided we could have gotten the job cooperatively, but not separately. What a shame.) I also updated my profile on the site, which I felt was a good idea, since the more you can say for yourself and that people/potential employers can see without digging too far, the better. Well, assuming you have good things to tout...
It felt like I'd made good use of time that otherwise might have been wasted in frustration, and planned to nab some files the next morning. Only, the same thing happened, both following days. And, again, this morning. Even this morning, at 8am, I still managed to miss getting any files.
Where is all of this leading? Well, I have the sneaking suspicion that perhaps I am working too hard to try to do and be. Don't get me wrong, I by no means intend to sit back and let jobs find me, for that is clearly not the solution. No, I rather mean to say that I am still holding myself almost 100% to my recent situations and expectations, where I was constantly under stress and on a tight schedule. In those situations, those were healthy things, because I was completing coursework and other tasks related to teaching my own classes. Here, in Georgia, where my husband and I are still trying to figure out how domestic life together works, the pressure that I have continued to put on myself is an impediment not only to my peace of mind and contentment, but his as well! It seems we are constantly having messy, emotional conversations about money, time, tidiness, etc., and nothing ever seems to get resolved. Until recently, this has been a bit of a mystery to me; I feel sometimes like I am in Groundhog Day. Incidentally, this is one of my least favorite movies of all time!
I have found that I am still trying to be who I've been. This gets a little wonky when what you've been is so many things: an only child, and only grandchild, a high powered student, a runner, a highly social person, a teacher... The list might go on. It isn't that I should try to stop being those things, because many of them are a part of my personality, of my person, who I am. But I do need to open myself up to the other things that God has made me and wants to make me. Since I moved from Chicago, I've spent loads of time trying to get back to where I was, when really I need to just move forward. I've listened to what others have suggested would be best, but don't even know what I think would be best! Or by that same token, I haven't always been listening to what my husband thinks would be best along with those pieces of advice. Neither he or I pretend to believe that he should make my decisions for me or dictate any part of my life. That being said, we are truly a team in marriage, and that team doesn't always include our families when it comes to decision-making.
This has been an extremely trying realization for me, but I think that God is asking me to stop trying to "do life" by my own strength, and to change the way I form expectations and make decisions. During college and my master's program, I was able to rely mainly on myself, and didn't really need to reach out to Him to achieve. (Of course, during Michael's and my time apart, I did reach out, but it was pretty cursory when I look back at the big picture.) My hope now is to stop working so hard to prove that I still am who I was, that I am still achieving in the same way; I'm not, but that isn't the point. When Michael asks me, over and over, "What do you want?", the answer has yet to hit me over the head. Other people's thoughts as to what would be best for me and Michael, for our future, etc. come to mind. And maybe some or all of that advice is accurate. But I don't want it to only come from outside of me, and I want it to originate within me.
Maybe this made sense, or maybe not. But to me, this process finally feels that it is moving forward and not backward. I don't know where it's leading yet, but looking backward certainly didn't lead anywhere, and seemed to bring much strife to a home that should be overjoyed just to be in one place! I know the road is not easy, but I also know that His burden is light, and that He has great things for me.

If you've read all of this, I hope you will pray for me during this time, and also don't hesitate to share any thoughts with me through email. Blessings to you as this new year begins!

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