I need a test to take. A research paper to write would be even better.
I can take tests. I can write papers. I can write papers REALLY well. I’ll come up with a topic, spend hours in the library gathering resources, and spend weeks reading resources to collect notes. Then, I’ll synthesize and analyze my notes to create a thesis. It will be something new, original, that hasn’t been written before. I’ll create a new argument and support it with perfectly cited sources—many of them, from credible, recent, and varied sources. Then, I’ll get an A. I’ll relish my A and bask in the satisfaction of accomplishment.
I miss being in school. This is how my school years or semesters went: Sign-up for hard classes and too many of them. Go to the first round of classes, see the syllabi, and freak out at what I must accomplish in the coming months. Tackle the workload with determination. Periodically break down emotionally. Push through. Sacrifice. Complete the term. Get a 4.0. Get additional awards. Relax for a few months or weeks at least. Put those courses behind me, and start something new.
I’m finding that life is much harder when there aren’t syllabi and FINAL exams. There’s nothing FINAL anymore, except life itself. There’s no more completing, finishing, and accomplishing. It’s mark two items of the list to do at work, and add four more. And then there’s home…with two small kids…“never-ending” seems too weak to describe the reality.
The real issue is that I’m good at getting things done. I’m not so good at being good. I don’t mean following the rules; I’m great at that. I mean being good in my core. I’m an anxious, uptight, impatient person. I try to practice self-control, not to hide these character flaws, but truly to work on them. Twice recently people have expressed shock when I commented how uptight I am. I guess the self-control is working some, which hopefully means I’m doing less damage to others than I have in times past.
But that’s not entirely true either. Right now my husband is out with my two kids so that I can unwind. This makes a nice Facebook status. The truth is that they’re gone, because I’m so tightly wound I’m hurtful to my family. I want to get things done—dishes, cleaning, picking up toys, laundry. I’m not so good at BEING a mom. I’m okay at DOING mom.
Since I became a mom, “Not being able to use any of the skills that had proved so practical in the past was a real source of anxiety. I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmations and rejections, hugs and punches, smiles and tears, all dependent simply on how I was perceived at the moment.” (Nouwen , In the Name of Jesus, 28) I’m not pleased at all with how I’m perceived at this moment, neither with my self-perception nor my family’s perception. This is hard work. This is not writing a paper. This will require pushing through and sacrificing, and there will be no “A” and no award and no time when I can stop working on who I am.