One of the first questions X asked me when we started dating was, “With all you have going on do you even have time for a relationship?” I squirmed knowing that I really didn’t. “I have time for the right relationship,” I replied. “If the right relationship comes along, I will have time. I will make time. I will re-shift my priorities.”
As a therapist and someone who has experienced grief and loss, I know first hand that it is important to make space when dealing with grief. I also know that it is important to make time for quality relationships. No child ever blossoms when the people in her world are too busy to go to her ball games or school play. What I didn’t anticipate though is that when falling in love, I would need time to simply be with the feelings.
My boyfriend and I are both working professionals. We aren’t spring chickens. We haven’t gotten all dopey nor moved into each other’s houses and yet after spending time together, I find my brain is all mush and I am a bit comatose. I’m discovering that my whole world has tipped off center and is the process of re-organizing. And as a result, I don’t even know who I am anymore on some levels.
I think back to X’s question, “Do you even have time for a relationship?” Well yes. Now I do. For the first time in a long time I have some breathing room in my schedule. And thank God because who would have thought that falling in love would be such an investment in time, energy, heart and soul. And who would have thought that it could be so wonderful.
Nine months after my mom took her own life I found myself applying to seminary and receiving a scholarship for the first year’s tuition. I had not grown up being super involved in a church and I had not even read the bible but I was convinced I was meant to study theology. And indeed I was.
A masters in divinity is a three year degree even when going full time so when pursuing it while working, people inevitably take much longer. Likewise, this is a second masters for me so borrowing lots of money to do the degree more quickly isn’t an option. Thus, I am at the half way point (perhaps more than half-way if I switch over to the masters in theology with a concentration in biblical studies). All of the hard and tedious classes are out of the way. I’m done with Greek and Hebrew and exegetical methods. I could take a NT and OT book in the original language but besides those two courses, the rest will be much more smooth sailing. And so here I pause and take a quarter off because as Maria was told in the “Sound of Music” when asked to leave the convent – right now – God’s work for me is elsewhere and out in the big world.
I like the world of the convent. I like the quiet of a library. I like classes where the teacher opens in prayer and I like studying things of a deep and spiritual nature. I like wrestling with history, literature and philosophy and ethics and spirituality. Seminary has been a safe and organizing place for me post my mother’s suicide. It has been a sanctuary despite the hard work and stress it has put me under.
I just finished my Hebrew class. I received an A. And as relieved as I am to know that I don’t have to study anymore – I can surf and work and write my book and love my boyfriend – I am deeply sad. For the seminarian walks on a special path that can’t really be explained. I don’t know what compels those of us to study the Word even if we eventually decide we have no intention of even working in a church. It just is.
So I stand on the steps not knowing how long I pause or if I’ll make it to the top but what a journey this has been thus far. Thank you Fuller for helping me get through my mother’s death and for helping me walk deeper with God.
It is a general fact that cats don’t like to be removed from their environment. It causes them stress and disorientates them. So when my boyfriend suggested that we try bringing my two twelve year old cats to his house to hang out for the weekend I had my reservations. In fact the first few times he suggested it, I laid down my foot and said no. However, the more I pondered the prospect of Rumi and Hafiz having a little field trip, the more I thought it might help expand their horizons a bit for they are indoor cats in a small house and I constitute the center of their world. Likewise, in many ways Rumi and Hafiz have been the center of my domestic world, making me at risk for slowly turning into the stereotype of the crazy old cat lady.
I decided we had nothing to lose. So on Saturday morning I found myself at “Unleashed” purchasing a new litter box, $12.00 organic, odor-free litter made from wheat, dry food, wet food, a pooper scooper and a dish. I have all these things at my house but of course needed duplicates.
Having survived the car ride over – (Hafiz always pees as he is put into his little carrying cage) – we let them out of their transport crates and showed them where the new litter box had been placed for them. Then they promptly went under one of the beds in the house where they stayed for awhile before mustering the courage to explore a little.
All four of us survived. Hafiz had to confront his frustrated feelings that he is no longer the alpha male but managed to sneak in some time on my lap with my undivided attention. And the four of us had a nice time lounging around, napping and talking (at least the humans engaged in the latter).
Yes, it was kind of a hassle and a bit of a risk. As are relationships at times. We are back at home now and homeostasis has returned. Nonetheless, Rumi and Hafiz are being asked to come to terms with the changes in their lives, as am I. However, it is a bigger, richer world out there when you get out in it and are lucky enough to find kindred spirits in both feline and human form.
The man I’ve hired to coach me through the process of getting a book published distinguishes authors and writers as such: authors write for readers whereas writers write for themselves. This is a very important distinction because many of us write but ultimately if we’re writing for a public audience we need to know who our readers are, what they want and why they are going to invest their time and money on our product. We have to address these concerns or no agent or publisher is going to take us seriously when s/he asks, “How is your book any different than what is already out there and how do you know it is going to sell?”
This blatant business aspect of publishing initially bummed me out and poked a hole in my idealistic notions about becoming an author and about being an “artiste”. And yet the more I am asked to fine tune my material by addressing these concerns I see that they are vital. One can still offer something deeply authentic, original and from the heart while keeping the reader’s perceived needs in mind. In fact, without knowing the book’s key message and target audience, it will be hard to deliver on the goods no matter how “brilliant” one’s prose or “deep” one’s thoughts.
Steve Jobs used to say that Apple would never sell out and cater to the public’s mediocre demands but instead Apple would create unique products that Apple employees were most passionate about developing. Yet Steve Jobs still understood that ultimately he was catering to a market place. He knew exactly what the public wanted. He just knew it before the public did. He thought a tremendous amount about the user and the user’s needs while still maintaining the integrity of his passions and interests. His artistic sensibility and non-conformist visions coupled with a genuine understanding of the market resulted in business and creative genius.
Not only does an author need to know his or her audience, an author needs a certain specificity of focus. One of the biggest mistakes many of us make is that we pick topics way too broad and try to write three different books in one. For instance, I remember that when I wrote my masters thesis my initial proposal was not met with the same enthusiasm I held. “With a topic that broad, you’ll never finish,” my chair told me. To my great disappointment she started pruning my ambitious topic down to a manageable scope. I realize now that she did me a huge favor.
Okay. I’m starting to get it. Sometimes we have to hunker down, concentrate and get ultra specific. And when we do, we get closer to meeting everybody’s needs.