30 July 2015

A little overwhelmed in a lot of areas

     I have long put off updating my blog, but today am needing to take some serious time to try to process many different things. As I write, it is still swelteringly warm here in the Seattle area, though we did get some much-needed rain last week. I certainly didn't anticipate this being the situation here when I was thinking about being pregnant at the end of the summer; normally 80's are pretty exceptional! It would be the summer where we broke record after heat record that my firstborn would be cooking...pun intended, though somewhat in bad taste. Needless to say, it has been the most challenging part of my pregnancy. I was so fortunate to have little to no nausea and few aversions early on, as several of my friends have recently had particularly trying pregnancies. I suppose it is some comfort that most of those around me feel the same way about the heat, but the past few days I have really struggled to keep any good attitude going, though I know I have little to complain about in the big scheme of things!
     The heat is certainly overwhelming, but lately there have been many other things that have been getting under my skin, often in a sort of exponential way. While our house feels more and more like home each day, the street corner we live on seems to see people driving less and less cautiously by the hour, and I find myself physically stressed by it. It's really a general feeling as I go from place to place in the Seattle area. I just don't understand when getting somewhere ASAP became more important than one's own safety and the safety of others. It physically irritates me, much of the time. Having said this, we chose this house and knew it was a busy corner! So I am just trying to name the things that are currently stress factors in my daily life in order to work towards letting them go, at least a little bit. Of course, we didn't know we would have two cats spending their days outdoors when we bought this place, which is largely why I get so stressed as I hear the drivers hardly slow down as they turn, few of whom seem to think looking before you cross traffic/into a different street are necessary anymore (It's all about "me", right? OTHERS are supposed to look out for "me"!). However, this, too, is a choice Michael and I have made.
     The other two things that have been a bit stifling at times are pretty broad, so I've decided to separate them using headers to make the formatting easier to read.

Being round, growing a human
     While we planned this pregnancy and it happened at basically the perfect time given my degree trajectory in the PhD program, I really haven't had much time to really process it until quite recently. Of course, this has also been the time I'm really showing and dealing with all of the changes a woman's body undergoes whilst growing a whole other person in what wasn't a very large space to begin with. Due to the fact that I had lots of reading prep to do before my exams, and then my exams, and then summer teaching, I had to kind of "put off" getting too into the processing side that I think many women need to go through before babies arrive. Now, it feels like it might be too little too late, and I'm feeling super protective of myself and Michael. I've been fortunate to have few awkward moments (i.e. strangers touching the bump, etc.), but even family doing so feels very strange and not great. However, I know that a baby should be shared and enjoyed by all those who will surround him for a long time, and that this should start during pregnancy. Not that I think I should auction off conversation time with my bump, but I feel a bit guilty of how I sometimes react in some of these moments.
     Along with the physical side of the deal, the idea (pressure?) of getting a place ready for baby is extremely overwhelming if one lets it be what much of Western society has made it out to be. While we had originally planned to reinsulate and paint the room that will be the baby's (while remaining my office), Michael and I are now back to square one, which really entails little to no change to the room itself. Unfortunately, new humans do require at least a piece or two of furniture, though it isn't hard to get creative and avoid going overboard. The puzzle that is the relatively small space we have has become something that I daily reflect upon, and usually with at least a small amount of angst. Having said this, I must also point out how incredibly blessed we have already been by so many friends and family, as we have nearly every piece of furniture that we need, along with much clothing and accessories. So this should really be a "good problem"! Ironically, the small felines and their litter boxes are the biggest issue in there, so we are in the process of planning a different spot for those to minimize stink and mess!
     Coming back to my initial point about not starting to process being pregnant much until now, the whole idea of how much our life is about to change is constantly in the back of my mind. In January, I will go back to work and will [hopefully] start working on my dissertation. It's hard to keep in my mind that from October on, there will be another person depending on me nearly 24/7, and that establishing new routines might not even be in my control anymore. However, I know that God has brought this all about in His time, and that He is preparing Michael and I to deal with those transitions to the best of our humble abilities. It's the trusting that and not forgetting it that's the challenge!

10 pages away from starting a dissertation
     The other major thing that has been overwhelming me significantly the past couple of weeks, and days in particular, is a relatively short document that separates me from the beginning of my dissertation -- the prospectus. I keep telling people, "Yeah, it's for late September, early October, so not problem. And it's only 10 pages!" Yes, in theory, it is FAR from an impossible task, especially given that, in my opinion, the hardest work to prepare for this next step was done in May as I wrote my three exams and then discussed them with my committee. Frankly, it isn't the length or the subject matter that I'm having a hard time getting over (as in getting over a hill or mountain...take your pick). It's just STARTING the dang thing. I know that all I need to focus on is just getting some things down on the computer-screen-page (or the real page, depending on how it shakes out). Trying to craft a perfect first sentence on the first day of working on something like this is, in my opinion, just asking for a fight you don't need. Introductions that are written first will always need adjustments, so why would a first sentence be any different??
     I guess in those last couple statements, it seems like I've figured out just how I need to start this thing. But that's just it; it's never that easy and you all know it.
     After the month of May, which was an intense time of immersing myself more than ever in the literature, theory and ideas of the three major fields I will attempt to integrate for my dissertation project, I just didn't have it in me to keep going right away. The committee urged me to take some time off during the oral exam -- as I'm sure they do every candidate they move forward. However, a "couple of weeks" has now morphed into a couple of months, and I'm really on the edge of what is reasonable, if you ask me. So, naturally, it's not just that FIRST sentence that's haunting me, but ALL of them. Returning to a project that will require me to look quite deeply into some of the biggest issues with the modern world as well as within myself, and that I know full well is going to bring me often to my knees with the tragedy of many of the realities of our world...for some reason, this just isn't something that sounds good to me right now! I just want to sit around and feel round and wishing I had more energy than I do and that this damn heat wave would go wave at someone else already!
     Stopping here is not an option, though. I strongly believe that it was no accident that I took the only graduate seminar in the French department last Spring, and that it happened to be on a field that I didn't even know existed. It was also no accident that this field -- Animal Studies -- was not at ALL all about cat videos and "cute animal friends", like I wondered/worried it might be. No, it was about anything but that (though of course, those of us working in this field are not immune to the cuteness that is all of those things!!!). It considered many things, but some of the ones that stuck out most to me: chickens without beaks that can hardly move in cages too small, animals fed the remains of their former fellows, a horrendous "disassembly line" that characterizes most slaughterhouses and where many animals suffer a horrible death after living a horrible life... I often wept as I read the supplemental articles and even some of the fictional novels we read, but could not NOT continue. I was urged to "censor" myself from such readings as much as I needed, but I knew that God had brought me to this subject. We do live in a world that is irreversibly broken until God returns. However, this doesn't mean we shouldn't try to help do GOOD here. I feel that more people need to understand the food/meat industries, and that we are all complicit/responsible. Having said this, God has NOT brought me here to berate or accuse as I share about these industries. So few of the population of the West is even aware of these practices and where their food comes from that it is ridiculous to treat them as if they should know every detail. While this in itself, and the fact that the package of perfectly deboned and defeathered chicken sitting in your grocery case came from a living thing, are questioned much less than they should be, it is still no excuse for some of the ways that animal rights activists choose to try to get their information across to the ignorant. As a Christian, I have come to a place where I feel that, while discussing these issues with people is paramount, often it is simply by example that we can have the biggest impact. If we do not live by our own words, how can we possibly expect others to be interested, let alone emulate, the changes we are proposing?
     So, all of THAT to say why I need to dig deep these next couple of weeks to get some first sentence, even if it isn't THE first sentence. I believe that I have a responsibility to continue to learn and question about these issues, and how my faith interacts and calls me to this study. It is a taxing one, but I believe that we have become too accustomed to not having to see the ugliness that is meant to contrast with beauty, and that is meant to CALL us to be better and to seek the good in the most unexpected places. I hope to continue down this path with as much grace and integrity as possible.
     Just 10 pages away!

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