Tag Archives: stress

Miscellaneous 1 (Delay; Classes; Pets)

Yes, yes, I know.  More England posts.  They’re coming. There’s a long way to go yet: Warwick Castle, Somerton, Oxford, Bath, Lyme Regis, Stonehenge, Bramley. I took a bit of a break, then I got preoccupied with a bunch of stuff going on (including a sermon yesterday).  And then our internet has been off since Thursday (I’m writing from a school building and I don’t have my pictures with me).

Some random stuff in the meantime:

* * *

I registered for this semester with great confidence: Homiletics I (preaching); intermediate Hebrew; intermediate Greek; Clinical Pastoral Experience (essentially visitation).  Then I noticed that there was an unusually large amount of required courses being offered this year.  So I spent a week stressing and hunting down professors and getting advice.  Turns out that there are several core courses offered this year but not next year, meaning that if I want to graduate next year, I had to switch my schedule around.

So now I’m registered for 5 courses and face an incredible amount of reading for the next 3 months (about 12 books, plus supplementary reading, papers, translation and two sermons).  I still have mixed feelings about the schedule–I’m not sure why I was so hung up about taking two languages this semester.  Greek will be a little more difficult with a full year between classes, but I’ll survive.  And all the classes I’m registered for look interesting (as do the books I have to read).

* * *

The kids want a pet.  I’d gladly get a 5-gallon fish tank and a school of neon tetras, but fish are, apparently, “boring” and “don’t do anything.”

This is what the kids have suggested:

  1. Kittens (possibly one for each of them)
  2. Puppies
  3. A hamster (which I ruled out immediately because–and I quote–“We don’t need any more rodents in this house.”)

I’m not sure what to say and Dixie and I can’t seem to come to any sort of resolution.  Part of me thinks we should wait until we have a more permanent residence, but I’m not sure why that is.  The previous owner of this mobile home had two large dogs and a cat (and a child).  One pet isn’t going to be a big deal in terms of space.

But then a pet is that much more financial and time responsibility.  And I think I’m a dog person, not a cat person.  Getting a puppy would be like having another child; getting a trained dog that’s a year old or so would be good, but wouldn’t “grow up” with the kids, which is something I’ve always thought would be nice.  Dogs have personality and you can wrestle with them (we’d get a bigger dog, like a labrador), but they’re high maintenance.

But, quite frankly, I’m not sure if I’m really not a cat person, or if it’s just left-over sentiment from when I was a boy, when it was easy to categorically dismiss things like cats and country music.

Dogs may have a more lovable personality, but cats are lower maintenance and would help with any future mice problems.

I don’t know.

Balance. Focus. Two things I need.

Today I asked one of the seminary professors about some of the classes that will be offered in the 2010/2011 school year.  In the course of our conversation, he said that he encourages his students to be more concerned about getting an education than getting a degree.  This is good advice.  A person can get a degree without really getting educated.

An education (*and* a degree) has been precisely what I’m after–I want to immerse myself in the subject matter, absorb it, make it my own.  I don’t want to just put out a product and be compensated for it.  I got my university degree mostly by putting out a product: the professors were the consumers, and I put out a product that met their demand.  Quite often, very little thought went into those papers–they are created for someone else’s benefit, not mine.  That is precisely not what I want to do here and now.  But I’m finding it difficult, when faced with a heavy workload, to not simply put out a product.

This semester is already overwhelming me in many ways, even though looking at my syllabi, the assignment demands aren’t all that high.  It’s the day-to-day work, the stuff that needs to be done between classes in order to understand and participate in class.  It’s the reading I have to do each week, it’s the translating and vocabulary I need to memorize (I’m way behind on my vocab–in fact, I should be doing vocab instead of writing this), it’s the daily journaling, etc.  I enjoy all of these things; all of my classes are interesting and engaging. But when I combine all the class preparation with the assignments that are due, I’m overwhelmed.  I’m trying to schedule a certain amount of time each day for the things that need doing, but I still seem to plod along and never get as much done as I had hoped and planned.

For my Theology and Practice of Christian Spirituality and Formation class I’m reading a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.  The next chapter in the book is about letting go of things.  I imagine this will be “things that hinder”.  And I recognize that there are some things I could cut back on.  I rarely watch TV anymore, but the internet–Oh! The wasted hours!  I need to give up being current and up-to-date on blogs and Facebook statuses.

Dixie would never think of me as a person in a hurry, but it has become apparent to me that my mind is always on the go (although I do have the knack for shutting it off when my head hits the pillow).  It’s always on something: something I want to say here, the assignments I have due, the reading I need to do, the reading I want to do, this thing, that thing.  My mind is a cluttered mess preventing me from focusing on anything, whether it’s school or prayer (or any other spiritual discipline). And I’m wondering if underneath that mess there are some things I may need to deal with, things that I am blocking out or ignoring precisely by fillin my mind with time-wasters and distractions.  These things, I suspect, can tell me things about my personality, my work ethic, how I interact with people, who I think I am, etc. etc.  How do I get through that clutter and find that…thing?

That professor I was talking to this morning said that he tells students to do whatever it takes to get an education (as opposed to just getting a degree.  We didn’t finish our conversation, but I think he meant, Take this class not that class, simply audit this class, take less classes each semester, take your time completing your degree, worry less about your grades and more about what you’re learning, etc.

In connection with this Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book , I think one thing I may have to give up is achieving.  I may have to give up (or severely restrict) my internet usage (it’s more of an addiction than an interest these days anyway).  I may have to give up some socializing, just when I actually am getting to know people with whom to socialize.

But I have a wife and children to consider.  I have a life other than me and school.  And I’m at a stage in my life where losing sleep is no longer worth handing a paper in on time.

Balance. Focus. Two things I need.

And, perhaps ironically, I think I need to start practicing Sabbath in some way or other.  I need to take time to stop and give up control and just be, whether that’s by stopping for an hour in the middle of the day just to be silent (a separate discipline, I suppose, but still a way of stopping) or actually taking a day (Saturdays, probably) to not work.

Living in tension

I was thinking today about the tension Dixie and I live in these days.  We are planning a move to Manitoba and everything on that end is going swimmingly, without a hitch: we were accepted into the school; we found suitable housing right on campus; we already know people out there, so we won’t be completely alone; we’ve found a church to attend; and today we even got our mailing address for out there.  Everything is falling into place nicely in Manitoba and we feel good about it.  The other day I told someone that there isn’t a bone in my body that is second-guessing this move.

And yet…and yet at the Saskatchewan end of things, it doesn’t seem to be going so smoothly.  Our lives are filled with commitments to work, the church, family, school, and we have a house to prepare to sell and then sell.  We have stuff to get rid of and decisions to make: what to keep, what to sell, what to give away; whether to sell privately or through a realtor; how to divide our time between various commitments and obligations.  We have the general stress of everyday life with young children.  We have fatigue and frustration.

There is such a contrast between what’s going on in Manitoba and what’s going on here.  It’s tempting to spiritualize it–I have done so myself from time to time.  “Things are going so smoothly in Manitoba,” we might say, “It must be God putting things in place for us.  We must be heading in the right direction.”  Or we might say, “Judging by the stress and frustration we are experiencing now, God seems to be telling us to hold off for a while, get things ironed out first, step back a bit.  It appears that his will is not that we move to Manitoba just yet.”

So under this way of thinking, we have God pulling us in two different directions.  How do we decide which is which?  We can’t and we don’t.  This may well simply be life.  There would be stress if we moved a year later or a year after that.  The stress would be different, to be sure–I’d make sure not to be in the middle of a seminary course and avoid being bivocational at the time–but there would still be stress.

It’s a strange dichotomy in our lives right now.  The future looks bright and we are hopeful, but the present seems almost oppressive at times.  I’m not sure what to make of it.

Praying with the Psalms

The Psalms of David and Solomon and others have been the prayers of the Church for 2,000 years.  In the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to read the Psalms as prayers as well, to varying degrees of success.  Most of my Bibles have the morning and evening prayers from the Book of Common Prayer Psalter indicated in the Psalms.

As I pray, I sometimes substitute my own problems and stresses for those of the Psalmists.  This isn’t entirely crazy–as I say, the Church has made those Psalms its own prayers since the beginning.  On the other hand, I often find myself feeling a bit whiny, crying out to God through a Psalm about the stresses of life–this paper that’s due, that job that’s getting busy, etc.–as if they are the same thing as David’s enemies surrounding him on all sides and the other oppressions and persecutions against the Psalmists.

It feels particularly lame when I consider that there are plenty of people in this world who face real persecution and oppression and attacks from all sides on a daily basis.  People who would see peaceful deadlines and a steady paycheque as an answer to these prayers.

I wonder if when the Psalmists spoke of oppression and troubles he sometimes meant something more mundane or innocuous or every-day, like a nagging concubine, or an poorly chosen palace cook, or maybe a deadline of some kind.

Maybe over the years our image of the Psalmists has become more heroic than they really were.  I know David did face a lot of hardship and some of his Psalms correspond to those events.  But surely they were still human with daily human problems–did those make their way into the Psalms?  We all know those dramatic types who, by their descriptions of their everyday, really do sound like they are oppressed.  Maybe some of the Psalmists were dramatic in this way, too?

Somehow I doubt it.  I imagine I entertain those thoughts in order to justify my own minor problems.

But how else can we make these sometimes agonizing, desperate, pleading Psalms our own?

Stress Level: Midnight

My ongoing responsibilities:

  1. Family/Home
  2. Legal assistanting
  3. Church work
  4. Seminary course

I’m not a multi-tasker, so these have been interesting times.  The seminary work has been the biggest stress.  I just can’t seem to find the time or discipline to read when I’m awake enough to be fully aware of the text I’m reading.  I have quite a bit of time left, but with December mostly a write-off I’m feeling a bit of pressure.

Last Sunday I planned the worship.  It’s not one of my strengths.  Believe it or not, I find putting an order of service together much more stressful than writing a sermon.  So I came down from a fairly high-stress week after last Sunday’s service.  I preach this coming Sunday, but that’s not stressing me out so much.  Not yet, anyway.

I got a call at work this afternoon advising me that I’ll probably be heading to Chicago the first week of February for a conference.  This was all fine and dandy, until I told Dixie about it and she reminded me that I need a passport to get into the U.S.  That’s when my stress level shot up.  If I get my application in before Christmas, I should get my passport juuuuuuuuust in time to fly to the Windy City.

So I sat at the computer for an hour and a half trying to complete a 3-page online application form.  The site kept timing out on me, so I’d lose some information and have to sign in again.  (And it would have been nice to be able to renew the passport that expired in ’87.)  But I finally got that done.  Then off I went to Shopper’s Drug Mart to get my passport photo taken.  I sat there for 20 minutes while the poor guy there tried to get the flash behind me to sync with the camera-mounted flash.  He finally got it working and took the most dreadful picture of bewhiskered me.  Dixie says the picture is cute.  I think I look about 15 years older than I am.  You should see the bags under my eyes!  It doesn’t help that you’re not allowed to smile in passport pictures.  (Dixie says I never smile in pictures anyway, but my face looks particularly long in this picture.  The beard doesn’t help.)

Hopefully the application will be dealt with tomorrow.

Now I’ve finished everything I planned to do today.  Except study, work on my sermon, fill out the conference registration form and seal the air leaks around the door frame, but tomorrow is another day.

I don’t begrudge this stress.  It’s thrilling in some respects and “good” stress, as far as that is possible.  But it’s tiring.