2: the course of life on earth
In Celtic Daily Prayer, the July Aidan readings are on the subject of pilgrimage. Here's how the concept is introduced:
This month's notes are on the subject of pilgrimage, a journeying to a particular place, in the expectation that such a journey will have deep significance. It may be to a place with personal memories, or to a holy place where for generations people have prayed and sought God. Everyone's starting point and journey is different, inside - and outwardly...
All kinds of people go on pilgrimage of one sort or another, not all of them believers; it is a chance for things to move, to change, perhaps even for God to break into their lives.
I first read these words six days ago and have been pondering them ever since. Where am I going? Am I giving things a chance to move and change? Am I willing to let God break into my neatly ordered life? Or am I saying, "No, thanks, God. That's quite enough change over here. I'll just coast for a while if you don't mind too much." You see, change was my word for 2010. I had kind of hoped that 2011 would see less change, more stability, more growth, less fear. Halfway through the year, I'm wondering whether growth and unfurling can occur with stability and without fear. Would I prefer stability and stasis to freedom and unfurling? Some days I might.
Four months ago, J interviewed for a new job at work. It was a position outside of his department, outside of his direct experience, outside of his comfort zone. As the days, weeks and months went on, he and I began to doubt he'd get the job. I'd had some ambivalence all along. In large part, my ambivalence boiled down to the same question J asked me when we considered homeschooling, "Can you do this job and be nice to the rest of us?" For me, this was linked to my need for a certain amount of physical and mental solitude. For J, the question is whether the emotional drain of managing a bigger team will leave him with the time, attention and emotional capacity to parent three daughters. (Have you tried parenting a pre-teen daughter? It has to be one of the most emotionally taxing jobs on the planet. Yet surpassed by parenting a teenage daughter, I fear.)
You might be able to imagine our surprise - and my slight dismay - to find that J had gotten the job. This is a big deal for him. It's great affirmation of all he's done in his current and previous positions and it's definitely the beginning of a pilgrimage of sorts for him. I fully believe he's ready for the challenges and we're doing all we can from the outset to establish expectations for the girls about the time commitment this will require. There will be fewer Saturday morning trips to Sweet 16th, Bagel Face and The Hermitage Diner. But that's just part of the journey.
As with any marriage, J's pilgrimage directly impacts my own. My reaction to the news of his promotion was shock and a bit of fear. What will this mean for us? What will it mean for me? Can I handle more of the parenting when he's the one who's a better listener? Can I do it? Will this change us? I like who we are right now - both separately and together.
As the news has settled, I've been able to see the silver lining in what seems to be a foreboding cloud. I've also prayed - a lot. And one result of these prayers has been a very clear sense that J is ready for this - and perhaps I am, too. On the face of it, my husband's job change impacts me far less than him. But my feelings are valid, if only because I feel them. I will have to navigate some parenting waters alone. I will have to make on the spot decisions alone. I may be more tired, stretched a bit more thin - which will require that I take better care of myself so that I am ready for the tasks ahead. I don't mean to imply that I will have to do it all alone, but I will be stretched. Unfurled, perhaps.
I'm not going on an actual physical pilgrimage this summer. But I am journeying to a place I've never been - a place with a more physically absent parenting partner, where I homeschool two children and learn to support J in his new role. May I do it in a way that allows God to break into my life and break down the walls I've erected for myself.