working on the weekends

August 19, 2010

well, it has been about 2 weeks since i have spent any significant amount of time at home (besides sleeping and the occassional meal) and i must say, i do not love this displaced feeling. i guess i wouldn’t make a great hobo after all. i found myself washing my lunch dishes today with unusual joy and gusto and realized i am quite ready to return to the mundane world of scrubbing and sweeping and laundering. i miss being bored, in some capacity.

that is not to say that this busy lifestyle has been awful. far from that, in fact. we’ve been flitting around in the world of bbqs, going away parties, regular parties, golf outings, race tracks, seeing foreign films, missing foreign films, hair cuts, sailing, gardening, dining, drinking, all sorts of glorious things. i have had a keen sense of the generous blessing that has been bestowed upon my life.

there is this spirit of urgency upon me during the summer months to just squander every minute of sunlight and ounce of warmth as i ready myself for the deadness of winter. while i’m beginning to happily anticipate the days of sweaters and scarves and the reintroduction of various ‘seasonal spices’ into my diet, i’m by no means glad that the hours of daylight are retreating. i’ve got lots more sailing to do, more bug- and sunscreen to wear, more sweat to shed. mark is trying to get me to commit to a non-active september but i’m not sure i can quite agree, despite my fatigue. we’ll see though. maybe non-activity can take the form of more time in the garden and on the beach…

tonight i leave for my first ‘business’ sort of trip. weird, indeed (i mean come on, i’m a receptionist). i’ve spent the afternoon day dreaming about various illnesses or fainting spells i could possibly contract before then which would not only excuse me from my travels for the weekend but also ensure that i get to spend the next few days in bed. is that bad? figuring that none of these lovely things will befall me, i’m already resigned to going, expecting that the most i have to look forward to is the possibility of eating my blackberries in a nice bed tonight while i watch trashy reality shows.

i’ll be sure to come back from my non-weekend prepared to write more substantially and eloquently. until then, think of me, pray for me, as i endure corporate brainwashing in the next few days.

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i’ve had a series of miniature break-downs during the last week, all of which were ignited by simple mishaps like lost keys, an unruly sewing machine, or (for the biggest blowout) a bag of rotten strawberries. poor mark does his best to pick up the suddenly-broken pieces of me as i toss about in my sea of despair, well beyond the reach of reason. the lesson we’re learning from this is to pray more, meditate on the saints, and bring an icon to work – all measures which, in their 2 day stint, have pacified my angst-y heart quite a bit.

an additional gift from the Lord monday was the celebration of the feast day of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, perhaps more widely known as one Edith Stein. the admiration and affection i have for this woman really is… indescribable. her dissertation (on the problem of empathy) was the center of my philosophy ‘thesis’ in undergraduate and the story of her life is about as profound and moving as they come. i feel this inherent closeness to her, like a dear friend that history accidentally pulled me away from.

to give a very abbreviated version of her life (a better version can be found via the Vatican website here), i’ll tell you that she was born into a big ‘ol Jewish family in 1891 and later studied history, psychology, and philosophy in Breslau and eventually Gottingen, where she came under the mentorship of mr. Edmund Husserl, founder of phenomenology. she received her doctorate in philosophy but was unable to do much teaching since she was, you know, a woman and a Jew in increasingly anti-Semitic Germany. no matter – she tutored and taught where she could, giving seminars on the education of women and phenomenology. eventually she converted to Catholicism, much to the chagrin of her very-Jewish family and, after many years of delaying the onset of her vocation, became a Carmelite nun in 1934 (thereby taking the name Sister Benedicta of the Cross), a life she wholeheartedly enjoyed. just four years later, anti-Semitism began to churn with greater force in Germany and she was smuggled into the Netherlands where she continued to live with the sisters and re-commence the academic work that she had left behind when she took her vows. tragically, even the convent in Echt was not safe from the Nazis and in 1942, she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz where she died in the gas chambers.

on the problem of empathy is really a quite remarkable work, both philosophically, and when you consider the life of the writer herself – a beautiful mind caught in the throes of a sexist and racist society that did its best to stifle her. she concentrates on the foundational importance of empathy as a means of constituting the world around us, of (literally) getting us outside of ourselves. and she lived that way – constantly pouring herself out to her family, friends, students, sisters, and even her Jewish people whom she dutifully joined and served in the days leading up to their collective demise.

i guess i’m probably just gushing now.

anyways, the gospel reading for monday’s mass (her feast day) was matthew 17:22-27 in which Jesus reveals to the disciples that, you know, He is going to die on the cross and be raised again, but first He has to die on the cross. and, as one can imagine, the disciples are “overwhelmed with grief” at the prospect. the priest at St. Peter’s contrasted this sentiment with that of Saint Edith Stein who was deeply in love with the cross, with all that it represented about God’s love, with all that it meant for humanity. the work she was doing at the end of her life was focused around the meaning of the cross (she in fact wrote a book about St. John of the Cross entitled Science of the Cross) which was infused with her own personal desire to suffer with Christ and to know and love Him more through it. undoubtably she did just that.

needless to say, meditating on such a woman as this makes the condition of my own ‘cross’ seem infinitely meagre and simple. it seems altogether silly, really that i complain anytime ever. but more than submersing me in guilt or embarrassment, St. Edith, Sister Benedicta reminds me of the depth of God’s love and the great need we have to really bury ourselves in it. despair, depression are not experiences of separation from God but rather it is in that darkness that we find ourselves closest to Christ, where we feel the wood of the cross and the love that bears it.

so i need to take heart in present circumstances, to be sure. i need to stop throwing fits over rotten strawberries and instead be grateful that there is an architect of infinite wisdom directing this path of mine (and he doesn’t work for WJE). and i need to remember that despite the seeming success or failure of our professional or educational stories, there is more to life than the jobs we have, the schools we get in to, where our lives start or how they come to an end. not that these details are negligible but that they are enriched and informed by the content of our heart and the quality of our love.

and as added layer of salve to my heart, i’ll end with Saint Edith’s sweet words:

“Things were in God’s plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that – from God’s point of view – there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God’s divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God’s all-seeing eyes.”

God bless terry gross.

August 4, 2010

and the good people of national public radio for making today more bearable.

the miracle of NPR burst upon my radio yesterday after months of fruitless tinkering and i am grateful.

on pause

August 3, 2010

i realize that my posts tend to oscillate between despair in my current employment situation and intentional thanksgiving of all things non-work related. unfortunately, this post is heading in the former direction.

i have been feeling rather stuck lately. work has now churned from general mediocrity to mind-numbing redundancy and all efforts to find alternative employment have come to naught. some executive level pettiness/awfulness has trickled down to me in the form of new rules that ban most socializing between myself and the other admins so i’m pretty much stuck in my head all day, a situation that both mark and i agree is unhealthy.

i’m not feeling desperately unhappy so much as a little isolated and intermittently depressed. at least all this solitude gives me the space to balance my curmudgeonly malaise with some doses of prayer and positive rationality. and lots of space to daydream about what the future might look like.

i suppose stagnancy is as good a place as any to start skill-building for the days ahead and i’m working on that, indeed. of course the inherent laziness that a life in front of a computer induces also makes me want to become a stay-at-home-trophy wife, which may or may not be linked to me having recently watched ‘desperate housewives of new jersey’.

mark assures me all this is temporary and i do know that. i’m sure someday i’ll look back and long for the easiness of this boring office life. but for now, i’m itching to get out and do something.

and i guess i should be grateful for that itch.