Thanksgiving Break

Ahhhhhh. My first official day of Thanksgiving break. I’d originally planned to have this be my “yuck” day – errands, cleaning, and  homework – but it instead shaped up to have a lot of knitting, time relaxing with Alex, and going in to work a little early to snag a few extra hours. On the whole, not too bad. I’ve lucked out; not too much homework over break, only one bigger and slightly unpleasant project. I always say I’m going to get all of that done early on, but for once I’m not going to stress about homework and chores and I’m just going to do it. Seems simple, huh? We’ll see.

I’ve had a bit of time since my last post to work through some of my stuff about that Abbey – I had the nagging feeling that I was “next” in terms of who would be leaving, and I’m generally feeling comfortable and at home again. Funny how I can get mixed up and upset so quickly, but it had been building for awhile so I’m glad it finally bubbled up to the surface and got out.

Most of this week I’m dedicating to the joint causes of hanging out with my family and Alex, and making my Christmas presents. I’m attempting to make – knit, bake, paint, etc – all of my presents this year, but while it’s cheaper monetarily it means I spend a lot of time on them. I can live with that, I have lots of seasons of shows to put on in the background while I knit 🙂 So, while it looks like I’m just lazing around watching TV all day, I’m actually doing something decently productive. I’ve put in about 12 hours since Friday, and I’m feeling pretty good about making everything this year.

Saturday we had a little coffee and theology with a decently sized and diverse group of people.  (I feel like an emergent snob saying “cohort”) Interestingly, we actually had a few women – usually the group is men and sometimes me or Robin. I must say, I enjoyed the moment when all of the women looked at each other and, at the same time, realized that all of us felt a bit out of place and like we didn’t completely understand everything that was being said. Something about safety in numbers, I think. Tuesday we’ll be heading down to Jason and Julissa’s for prayers, which I’m looking forward to as well. I like getting out of our routines, our boxes we (or at least I) pack our lives into.

That’s part of why I go to the cohort; I don’t really like coffee that much, and even when I understand what’s being said I usually feel like anything I would have to say has already been said or I can’t think of a response. But everyone there has a different perspective and we’re scattered across the spectrum in terms of theological and political beliefs (albeit we’re more left-leaning than right), and I enjoy getting little pieces of those ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of myself.

Other than that, not too much is going on. I’m prepping Alex for Thanksgiving with my family and generally snuggling in for the chilly weather with lots of books and chai. Though for now, I must venture out into the brisk winter air and head to work. Okay, fine, it’s really not that cold. I just despise winter.

Reflections

A few things have been on my mind the last couple days. I’ve had trouble articulating them, even in my own thoughts, and even now the thoughts probably won’t be very coherent written out. But writing always seems to help me think through things, so I’ll give it a shot.

The first part is thinking about what aspects of my life here I’ll take with me when I leave the Abbey. If nothing else, watching people leave over the last year is a reminder that even if I don’t plan to go, my time of usefulness and growth here may come to an end before I mean for it to.

That being said, this felt like a pretty straightforward answer; while I don’t know if I’ll ever live in a situation like this again, there are some of the common themes that I think I’ll take with me, and that would actually be hard for me to try to press out of my life.

If anything, being at the Abbey has made my view of “radical” much less intense. I’m living it right now, and it doesn’t mean going to Africa for 5 years or spending 8 hours a day in prayer. Whether or not I’m ever in an intentional community again, I can take a healthy chunk of what I’ve learned (and am learning) and translate into my context.

So then came the harder part. Talking about some recent events around here, I started thinking about my faith. I wondered about how different my life would be if there was no religion in it – especially with the congregational support portion of our regula gone, it’s not hard to imagine not stepping into a church for a significant amount of time.

Depressingly, it seemed like my life wouldn’t change all that much; there’s no logical reason why I couldn’t do exactly what I’m doing right now without any spiritual backing. I guess you could say this is what my parents would call a “crisis of faith”.

I was feeling pretty emotional since Christianity has always been a facet of my life, and it felt completely strange to contemplate life without it. I let it stew in the back of my head a bit while I scooped ice cream and cleaned – it’s amazing how much my brain can work while my hands are kept busy by simple tasks.

When I came back to the idea later, I felt a lot more clear headed about it. And I realized that, for whatever reason – if I was feeling cynical I would say because I’m comfortable and used to it – my life without God just wouldn’t feel right. There might be different ways to have that in my life, but once I started thinking about how I would feel, not just act, without it, I recognized that I would not be content without some form of spirituality/religion.

It’s all still bouncing around in my head a bit, still pondering some of it, but I feel okay with where I’m at now.

Yay for no more CSETs!

Since about 11:00 am on Saturday, I’ve been quite content. The last week has been fairly stressful, with midterms, big projects, and CSETs constantly looming. Interestingly, completely out of my normal form I was possibly even over prepared for everything; I stressed out right up until I actually started taking the test/planning the project/writing the paper, and then I instantly realized that I was totally okay. It was a pleasant reminder that I can actually get things done and be responsible, semi-functional adult.

I had some vague ideas of what I wanted to do after the big tests were over, but I ended up mostly vegging out and doing some minor creative work – like hand-making bows for my niece’s gifts, which I got a lovely thank you call from that made me smile (there’s just something particularly fun about “I love you aunt Rachel!” in an adorable 3 year old’s voice). But I’m okay with it; no big things due this week, and if I do say so myself I deserve some off time. I’ll be back to the grind tomorrow, but this weekend I’ve enjoyed myself.

For youth group this week we did more guerrilla raking – popping up at people’s houses to do yard work. It was more interesting since one of the kids was working through some grieving, and had some physical side effects, probably from lack of food. Grieving stuff is uncomfortable enough for me, because everyone handles it differently and I often don’t know the person well enough to know if they want to be alone or have someone be with them, be distracted or talk about it, etc. Adding in the physical stuff, it was hard for me to balance coddling versus being too harsh and/or cynical. By the end of the time she seemed okay, but it got me thinking about how to handle some of those situations.

Also on my mind is how my friendship is progressing with Heather. I didn’t notice it as much until I had some time away from her, but when she and I are together I tend to get pretty monopolized by her. I don’t mean that to say that it’s her fault or something like that, it’s more like I tend to gravitate and talk almost solely with her than with other people. I love the girl, and I love hanging out with her, especially since I don’t see her as much any more, but I’ve gotta work on that.

Finally, on a more positive note, I’m working on getting better about my follow-through. I think I’ve improved a lot in terms of situations involving other people, but in terms of things I commit myself to that are individual I don’t do a great job of being discerning. Often, it’s in terms of projects. There are so many interesting and creative ideas to try, and I whenever I get bogged down in a longer-term project I’m apt to distract myself with smaller, newer, more “exciting” ones. And then I feel guilty for not finishing what I started. Recently, I started writing down future ideas and limiting myself to 2 to 3 at a time. I’ve even crossed some off without doing them at all, not because they’re bad or I don’t like them. That may be great for someone else to do, but especially if it’s not already in my sphere of common projects (sewing/quilting/knitting/minor amounts of jewelry-making) or something that I would have use for, or want to make for someone else, what would be the point of spending time on it? That in and of itself weeds out a lot of things.

I’m also working on this for my personal productivity. I tend to fall in the trap of expecting too much of myself, like that I’ll go home and study and work on projects from the moment I get home from school until I go to work, or that I’ll get everything done super early. Those are good things to do, but trying to do that all the time just can’t work out. I need some healthier expectations for myself; it’s a bad sign when I feel guilty for sleeping more than six hours or having some down time.

Fall Colors

I should be doing my homework right now. Or sleeping. Or working up the willpower to go to the communal meal tonight. Instead, I’m entranced by the beautiful fall colors out my window. Being in fake light all day, albeit pretty good fake light, is getting to me, and realizing that this is probably one of the last beautiful days before winter gets its icy grip on the world isn’t helping.

I wonder how silly it would look to take a cup of tea, a blanket, and my laptop outside to do homework and sunbathe (probably more of the latter than the former). Probably fairly silly, and I’d be guaranteed a few snarky remarks from Patrick whenever he gets back, but I’m feeling like it’s worth it. Quick! Rationalize it to myself! Ummmm….tea might make me feel better with all those antioxidants and whatnot, I can stay warm with a blanket, and I might get homework done. Maybe. Well, I’m convinced!

All that to say, not too much is going on right now, or at least not too much that I haven’t repeated over and over by now – homework, CSETs this Saturday (blegh) and my poor nutrition and sleeping habits have done a number on my immune system so I don’t feel good…again. I’m currently being humbled by my knitting project, since whenever I start to feel like it’s easy and I’ve totally got it down, either a) I make a silly mistake and wonder why I did (and why I didn’t catch it until it’s too late to turn back) or b) I can’t even figure out what happened.

The sun and the fall leaves are calling. This is when I wish I could paint better, to capture these moments.