Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Solitary Sunday

During the college's spring break, I was able to attend MfW twice. It had been months since I was able to spend time with Friends in worship. I even had the truly wonderful treat of having a f/Friend visit me in my home where we talked and laughed and cried together. She told me that I in a necessary Dark Night of the Soul and encouraged me to continue forward with Friends' guidance. I long for that although I am yet too shy to ask for help. Sadly, I'm back in my regular academic schedule in which I teach every Sunday and am unable to attend worship. It will take some greater effort on my part to push myself toward Friendly assistance.

My current schedule has a three hour morning class followed by a three hour break followed by a three hour evening class. Typically, my parents have taken me out to eat during the break but since the entire family schedule has changed to accommodate my husband's new work schedule, I was on my own for the day. So this is what I did:

After my first class was over I walked down into the basement of the building where I share an office with my father (another history prof) and our office mate, a criminal justice professor. Of course on a Sunday neither of them are there and the office is all mine. And when I say "all mine" I mean that their stuff dominates the room, but I can sit at my little desk in the corner with the computer that doesn't work on it. Sometimes I use Dad's computer to watch Britcoms or Star Trek online. There's a fridge, t.v./VCR and a microwave in the office so it is quite comfortable. Dad keeps oatmeal in the bottom drawer of his desk so I made myself a bowl and went to the vending machine down the hall and bought some chips and peanuts (which I mixed with a little box of raisins I've been carrying in my pocketbook) and had my breakfast/lunch/dinner for the day. While I ate I read Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Estes. Then I read Paul Tillich's Courage to Be. I read the Bible I carry in my pocketbook with my raisins. I also sat in silent waiting worship for several minutes but found that it is just not the same without other Friends nearby. I lay my head on my desk and tried to think of nothing for a few more minutes in the hopes that seeking nothing would lead me somewhere. I think I may have dozed off for a little while. I stood up and did some Qi Gong and then did some yoga. I read some more. Then I walked back upstairs to teach my next class.

And that was all except that it felt significant. I'm not sure what it accomplished but it felt like an important afternoon for me wedged as it was between The Great Depression in the morning and The Battle for Suffrage in the afternoon. It felt lovely to be so quiet and lonesome for so long. But what did it mean? I don't think I know yet although I sense that something is changing in me very slowly and much against my will. Part of it is the slowly evolving decision to not have any more children. (The rational part of that decision was really made years ago but my emotions have been very slow to acceptance). Part of it is a diminishing sense of my own youthfulness as my students seem to get younger and younger. Part of it is the sense that many doors are closed to me and that I am losing my curiosity about what is beyond them. Part of it is a sense that there is still a gateway ahead of me that I have feared to approach. Even so, and against my conscious will, my feet carry me in that direction although I am grumbling and crying in fear with every step. Soon, perhaps, I will see who beckons me beyond that gate and I will run forward eagerly. I think I may have caught a glimpse this solitary Sunday but I cannot recognize the face yet. I'm still scared and not ready to give up my fear. Not yet. But soon. Yes. I think it will be soon.


Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

Thanks for sharing with us of your struggles and courage.

Do you think your struggles help make you a better teacher or not?

(As a former teacher of American literature myself, I look back on my own career and wonder about that.)

And I see you are reading Paul Tillich. While I disagree with some of his theology, I almost always am encouraged when I take up one of his books and re-read passages. I especially am helped by his book Dynamics of Faith.

In the Light,


Hystery said...

Inasmuch as struggles make for good stories and the principle form I use for teaching history is story, I think my struggles must help. It is helpful when teaching people who stand outside of privilege to have some experience with difficulties. In some ways, I am able to be more sympathetic to them. On the other hand, because I have had my own difficulties, I am also more certain that they have the capacity to achieve success in spite of their challenges. When they mess up, I don't accept their failure. I make them redo the work until we are both satisfied with the results. I have one assignment in which I instruct them to incorporate the expression of their challenges and failures into the text outlining their research process. I'm always much more interested in process than with product. I don't know if that makes me a "better" teacher, but it certainly influences the way I teach.

Tillich was a name familiar to me in childhood. He must have been one of my father's favorites. When I was an undergrad, The Courage to Be was a required text. I'm rereading it now because it seemed appropriate. I'm taking my time with it. I tuck it in my pocketbook and read it in spare moments away from the house. I know I really liked it when I was in my early 20s. I can't remember why. Maybe I haven't reached that part yet.

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