Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Shadow Self

Somewhere between the days when I was brash, confident, and bright and today (when I am none of those things), I think I must have taken a couple funny turns.  I thought I'd be a scholar and a writer.  I am only an adjunct in a rural community college, and therefore, in the academic world and to borrow one of my father's favorite phrases, lower than whale shit.  Far from being able to finish the book on which I've worked for longer than I care to say, I cannot even submit a blog post on a regular schedule.  I thought I'd have a lovely Victorian home filled with books, plants, and tasteful paintings.  Instead I live in my parents' basement with no windows large enough to support more than a couple sickly plants.  The same art prints I bought as a teenager hang in cheap frames on cement block walls.  To be fair, I'm here because I need to be here to help my parents care for my grandmother, but still, Better Homes and Gardens this ain't.

I also (mostly) hate my job, though there is some good in the work.  I have found that if I focus on each student not as student but as "some mother's child," then I enjoy teaching them, praising them, finding beauty in them.  But otherwise, my job is demoralizing.  My students are there to get a degrees to work in fields for which they have no passion but will increase their wages from 7 and a quarter dollars to ten.  They don't care about theory, or art, or spirit.  Most of them just want a grade and to get the hell out of there.  Worse still is the contempt that other academics and administrators have for the lowly adjunct.  I work without benefits or recognition on a pay scale so far inferior to that of a full time faculty member that it is laughable.  Except I never seem to laugh.

At my worst,  I am the distortion of the person I feel called to be.  I am nervous instead of nurturing.  I'm a hypochondriac instead of a healer.  I am judgmental instead of discerning.  My arrogance is only a parody of a wholesome confidence.  I take too much pride in my neuroses and find comfort in being curmudgeonly, cool, and distant.  I mock others' sentiment and cannot speak even of my own pain without chasing it with derision.

I am a mother and a housewife, but it is my parents' home I keep and it is, increasingly, my grandmother rather than my own children who require my concern and care.  Even my youngest child shows signs of maturing beyond his need for a mommy.  He called me "Mom" recently and nearly broke my heart.  My grandmother, meanwhile, is increasingly frail and increasingly emotionally distant.  She needs my help, but does not ask for love.

So what?  So, this.  This is when a person realizes that there are times in life when the best thing is to ignore one's ambitions and do what must be done.  Sometimes that means setting aside one's self in order to serve where one is needed.  My students need me.  My children need me (for a little while at least).  My parents, husband, and grandmother need me.  I cannot help them if I am writing or playing at being a theorist, thealogian, or even a witchy gardener.  Those things are not called for.  Not now.  Not yet.  Perhaps there will come a time when I will rediscover who I am.  But not today.  Whatever else I am called to be in the fullness of time must be ignored in the here and now when the every-blessed-day stuff must be completed by every set of available hands. ...................................................


Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

Thanks for writing this post, for a number of reasons:
#1 It cures me of my old conjecture--that if only I had gone on to teach college I wouldn't have "the problems a high school teacher has." But since you list some of the very same problems as part of teaching college...

#2 "lower than whale shit" What a hilarious phrase to express frustration at life's unfairness, bad circumstances, tragedies, etc.
I can just see Paul now revising his famous vulgarism..."but count all things as lower than whale shit that I may gain Christ.
And I must add the phrase to my
Herman Melville collection:-)

I identify with a number of your circumstances far more than you know and some days despair.

But isn't the whale shit point exactly that most, if not all, of us humans live in messed up circumstances and need to live for the eternal hope that we don't see now?

I've got more responses, but this is getting way long...

Thanks for getting us to think again through another one of your illimitable posts.

In the Light,
Daniel Wilcox

Hystery said...


Sometimes I find that "embracing the darkness" is what keeps me from skidding headlong into true despair. And by embracing it, I don't mean wallowing in it (which I also do sometimes), but just looking at it squarely and acknowledging that yep, this sure does suck.

I'm glad you like my colorful expression. My father, a former minister, sometimes swears like a dock worker, and I have inherited his tendency toward the robust turn of phrase. Of course, on a blog, I try to limit myself. My mother sometimes reads it! lol

Lone Star Ma said...

As the primary breadwinner for the kids, I have had to say a bit more on the career track than you have, probably, but I know what you mean about feeling like you have not done what you thought you would do. I am currently dipping my toe back into my ambitions after a seven-year stretch of keeping my head down and taking care of business so let me assure you that all kinds of changes come. Peace.

Hystery said...

It is good to reminded that all things change (I think! I'm always nervous about change even when it is good.) But I often wish I had not dipped even one toe in career ambitions. Ah, to go back in time and tear my graduate school entrance application up before I sent the darn thing in the mail. But that's today. Perhaps later I'll have a different opinion.

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