finding my calling

Man, three months ago I was so convinced that I knew my life path.  Hubs would be a PI at a Research I, and I would be an inspiring and beautifully dressed biology professor at a small liberal arts college.  It would be easy to find two such jobs in geographic proximity, and to each put in the amount of time and emotional/intellectual energy necessary to each achieve tenure.  Also, we would lovingly and equally parent one or more adorable progeny, keep our house clean, and eat local veggies as a family every night.

Enter this semester of teaching that really felt like a burden, and the realization that I maybe am not a more-than-40-hour-a-week worker (if that!!).  I was so sure that the life of a professor was the life for me that to realize that I’m not actually that happy grading and mentoring all day long was a bit of a blow.  Couple this blow to the fact that the only way that I imagined myself fitting into the science world was as an educator, and you can see why I’ve been feeling a little drifty.

This unmoored feeling has set me on a path of finding my true calling.  We hear a lot about how awesome our lives will be, if we can only find work that we’re passionate about.  Really though, do we need our work to be what fulfills us?  Maybe our work is something that we do, something that we might really enjoy and take pride in, but it’s not necessarily the thing that defines us.  Maybe our work is something we do to pay the bills, and we find a way to do it that still lets us pursue our passion, our calling.  Maybe we get really lucky and our passion and our work are the same, but that doesn’t mean it goes that way for everyone or that it’s wrong if things don’t go that way for me.

There are so many things that I love, that I feel passionate about, that I feel called to do, but I can’t ever imagine defining myself in only one way.  I am not only ANYTHING.  Not a scientist, a yogi, a therapy dog owner, an artist, a backyard farmer, a duckherd, a writer, a teacher, a wife, a friend, a daughter, or a mother.  I hope I will at some point [or many points] be ALL of these, but, in all that I dream for my life, I don’t know that there’s room to ever be just one.

That lack of room means that I probably won’t be a scientist the way that academic science [as it currently operates] demands I be.  It also means that sometimes it’s hard for me to be immersed in who I am because I am so wrapped up in how to be a “passionate” scientist or wife or artist.  So for now, what do I do?  Keep beating myself up about not being super-passionate about one thing that can make us rich or fulfill someone else’s idea of what my a good life looks like?  Or maybe realize that who I am called to be is ALL these things and trust that the money will come, and the life path may not be what I envisioned (or what anyone envisioned), but that it’s going to be pretty darn great?  I try every day to choose the trust option, but it’s all kinds of hard to do.

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Closet Reorganization

Do you ever feel so bogged down by one thing that you can’t get anything else done?  The closet in our guest bedroom was like that for me.  After I sold all our furniture, I was totally ready for that room to become a crafting mecca, but instead I ended up with a very full closet (see photo, right).  The giant box that says “wrapping” held all my craft supplies for beading, paper crafts, fabric crafts, and absolutely no wrapping.  I couldn’t ever find the supplies I needed and the box was too deep for the shelf it was on, so it fell on me a lot as I was digging through it looking for glue sticks or the corner puncher.  I also had nightmares of it falling and crushing our cats.  When the giant box was full, I just kept piling craft supplies on the floor of the closet in grocery bags, which meant that it was a huge production to try to extricate my fold up work table, which was [in]conveniently stored at the back of the closet.  The huge production meant that I wasn’t doing crafts (sad) or was doing them at the kitchen table or on the living room floor (messy).

After the giant box fell on me or I tripped over the nine bags of craft supplies (I don’t remember which) for the last time, I vowed to do something about it.  But storage stuff is EXPENSIVE and my anxiety about money is at an all time high (more on this later).  Enter this inspiring tutorial, the fact that we work in an academic building where things get delivered in cardboard every single day, and the people who owned our place before us, who left MOUNTAINS of stuff behind, including several volatile chemicals Hubs took to the disposal center (rude) and tons of extra closet shelving (useful).  I now have custom storage boxes for under $15!  It would have been less, but mid-project I had to buy glue for the hot glue gun because I couldn’t find the extra in the giant box, and really that was just an incentive to get done and fast.  Things I found that had been lost in the clutter abyss:  18 glue sticks (3 separate almost new packages), some really cute, forgotten fabric scraps (to be featured in an imminent project), and three different, opened packages of cat treats (?!).

So tidy! Some of the paper I used has roosters!

Coping Mantra

I have what might be politely termed a “low” frustration tolerance.  Ridiculous labmates, pet excretions, cell phones left behind at work when you really need to call your grandmother, all (depending of course upon my current level of hunger/exhaustion) can leave me doing some combination of cursing and crying.  This behavior is neither pleasant to be around nor pleasant to do.  When I act this way, I feel like a child, crazy, or both:  a crazy child.  In discussing my inappropriate reactions with my counselor, she recommended a mantra.

I’ve used mantras before, as a way of redirecting thought patterns, but this is one of the best ones I’ve ever used.  When I say it, I say the first line on an inhale, the second on an exhale, the third on an inhale, the first (again) on the exhale, etc.  The separation of the lines so that I don’t say the same thing on the inhales and exhales really helps me focus on the mantra.  It requires enough thought that I have to focus on it and usually can’t keep focusing on whatever is pissing me off.  The combination of breathing and this mantra have (in a week and a half) gotten me to a much better place with several frustrations in my life.

I know that frustrations come in waves for me (everything comes in waves for me), but at least I know that the next time I’m in a trough that I have a tool that can help get me through.

just this moment, just this breath, this is now

Sabbath

Last time (over a month ago!) I wrote in this space, I was in serious need of a break.  Having breakthroughs at work are good, but I had gotten so wrapped up in working that I didn’t realize that I needed a break until I had a breakdown.  Cue a week and a half of trips, the second half of which was spent sitting on the lanai reading and walking back and forth to the pool.  Just what I needed!

Even better, though, was what I read:  Leaving Church:  A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor.  In addition to being a spiritually moving book (which I am really into right now), Taylor tells how she learned to take a sabbath without going out of town by saying no to commitments and taking time to be with nature.  In recognition of my need to learn to take a sabbath without going out of town, I am implementing some plans for scheduled hours of sabbath, and it is WORKING.

So the second part of this whole thing for me is not only taking the time to not do work/chores and just BE, but not feeling guilty about it.  And in spite of knowing how much better I feel when I do these things, in our culture that extols the “passion” of people who work a bazillion hours a week, it’s hard for someone who needs to learn to rely less on external validation (me) to stay in a good head space with my need for sabbath.  Enter this article.  In it, Sara Robinson gives a historical view of the 40 hour work week, why it seems to have disappeared, and how to bring it back.  The piece helped me to feel extremely validated, both from the science of productivity and emotional standpoints, and you should all read it, but here’s my favorite quote:

There are now whole industries and entire branches of medicine devoted to handling workplace stress, but the bottom line is that people who have enough time to eat, sleep, play a little, exercise, and maintain their relationships don’t have much need of their help. The original short-work movement in 19th-century Britain demanded “eight for work, eight for sleep, and eight for what we will.” It’s still a formula that works.

So from now on, I’m aiming for the 8-8-8 formula.