Hard Times (or, When Life Starts to Feel a Little Dickensian)

winter-storm

Image credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

I just checked this site today and realized I haven’t posted anything since October. And like, not even late October…early October.  I’ve missed blogging a lot.  Not that I haven’t been writing: my end-of-term papers alone total 80+ pages (well over 100 pages written throughout the semester).  But this blog has been an important hobby for me for over 7 years, and I miss it.

I can’t blame not blogging on general grad school busy-ness.  These past few months have brought hard times–some of the hardest times we’ve had in quite a while.  Tim has experienced serious difficulties in his professional life, and I live vicariously through the pain and distress of his struggles (as one tends to do with a spouse/best friend).

Since my funding for the next few years comes from a research assistantship, this is the first fall in 12 years that I haven’t been a teacher.  I miss it daily.  Not teaching also makes my work feel generally less effective and less meaningful.  I can take a step back, look at the big picture, and realize that my work matters in the long term, but in the trenches of everyday life, it doesn’t feel that way.  I’ve gone from being a very good teacher to a very mediocre research assistant, and I feel like I barely have time to breathe and recover between mistakes.

I was depressed by the election results.  I’m concerned for my Muslim friends and neighbors.  I worry for the extended families of my former students from Mexico.  I feel cynical about a country that chose as its leader an inexperienced, blustering fool who can’t be trusted with a Twitter account, who is seriously concerned with public perception of his hand size, who makes vague promises and troubling threats, who doesn’t have patience for security briefings, and who doesn’t seem to realize when people are playing him.  The court jester is about to become the king.*

When I went in for a physical, the doctor told me I had some health issues–nothing serious, but still, things I need to improve so that they don’t become serious.  Sometimes it’s hard to see how much adverse life circumstances are affecting you until someone from the outside looks at your life and says that you’re not doing okay.  Of course I was unhealthy.  I wasn’t sleeping well, wasn’t eating well, wasn’t exercising.  I was feeling the effects of a sharp U-turn in my professional life.  I was worried for my husband, for our future, and for society generally. Hard times make you feel like not doing the things you usually love to do.  It’s a vicious cycle, because making yourself do those things would actually help you feel better.  But you don’t feel like doing them, and so you feel even worse.

But there are wake-up calls, and there are second chances, and there are ways out.  And in the meantime, there is grace enough to cover all, grace that often covers us with perspective.  Tim has gone through trials, but he has a steady job and is working faithfully and effectively at our church.  I’m not teaching in a classroom, but I am tutoring a smart and  curious 9th grade girl, helping kids in Detroit write college application essays, and teaching children’s church.  I don’t know my way around being a GSRA yet, but every misstep is a lesson learned.  My health isn’t great, but I’m now devoting 150 minutes per week to exercise.  I’m worried for people in my communities, but in January, I’ll start volunteering with a local organization to tutor refugee children and help them adjust to American schools.  The president-elect behaves foolishly, but our nation has checks and balances, and in the end presidents really only form a distant backdrop to life, a way for us to measure our years.  God has blessed me richly and abundantly: I have a safe, warm place to live, all the food I could want to eat, a car that works, nice clothes, a husband and family who love me, friends to spend time with, the ability to read and write and work.  God holds onto me always, even when I’m unanchored, when I’m floundering, and when I’m not doing a great job of holding onto Him.  He saved me, and He is saving me, and He will save me.  The hard times may hang on; there are no promises that things will get better.  However, there are plenty of promises about God’s presence and His mercy and His great, deep, wide, overflowing, redeeming love.

*NOTE: In my opinion, it was going to be a depressing election outcome either way.  I did not like either candidate.  I know that there are many reasons, often complex, why people voted for Trump.  Just a note to say that I’m writing this post to explain how I’ve been feeling over the past few months, not to enter into any kind of political discussion.  

 

 

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