Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday morning moment of panic

Fact: If I've worked hard on Saturday, I enjoy Sunday immensely.
Fact: If I haven't worked hard on Saturday, Sunday makes me a little anxious.

I should have worked on revising my article more, yesterday. Then I'd feel better about coming back to school from Spring Break, not with everything done that I need to/want do, but just with at least one project completed. Especially because next week is a half week and I go to a conference. So much time slipping through the cracks. I need to meet with my adviser and revise my prospectus outline (perhaps drastically) and finish revising my article and transcribing my research and all the stuff that I kind of thought I'd be able to do with an entire week cleared of work and classes. Really, though, I think a lot of my anxiety right now comes from not doing much Saturday work from Monday to Saturday. Even if I were to go full force, I wouldn't finish everything I'd like to. Things just take more time than you anticipate; that's life and that's especially taking work home with you.


But it does depress Sunday a little bit. The commandment, the full one, reads "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work but on the seventh..." see? Not "Six days thou shalt dink around and maybe put in a couple hours here and there, but mostly watch Dr. Who and make cookies and take long road trips." I'd like to feel totally fulfilled about the work I've done, but here's a partial list of what non-work I've done that I'm proud of:

-helped a friend without a place to stay to sleep on my couch 2 nights in a row.
-took another friend errand shopping to help her stay on task
-kayaking with one of those people you keep telling you'll hang out with and then don't
-drove down (2 hours) to A&M to pick up an (electronic) book I need for my research.
-went to Gretchen's cousin's band at SXSW
-went to 2 free big concerts and 2 free smaller ones
-got to spend time with my sister's family here in Austin--the first time they've been here for any amount of time, and they're shortly to leave
-got to do a good reading and comments on a friend's memoirs

I don't think these are bad things to have done. In fact, many of them are pretty noble. But it doesn't help me now.

I love the Sabbath. Part of this comes from trail-and-error of what makes me feel most holy. Having a day set apart to work on reflection (long walks, making goals, writing in journals) and revelation (reading scriptures, talking about ideas in Church and before) and relationships (calling home, visiting teaching, writing letters)--why, it just makes the same sense as having a time devoted to getting all my work done at school.

I know not everyone keeps the Sabbath in the same way, and, frankly, that's one of my favorite things about it. My own trial and error with the Spirit has helped me to see what works best for me, and it might not work for everyone else. 10 years I didn't care about working on the Sabbath--I did a lot of AP Art History work on Sunday, I remember, because it was the "wonders of man" and doing chemistry on Sunday was "the wonders of the universe." But overtime I discovered that for me, doing school work on Sunday made me feel worried, and decreased me energy and zest for my work on Monday--I wasn't truly "rested." Over time, though, I've become stricter, cutting back on the secular work I do on Sunday while also stepping up my efforts to actively do good for my family, friends, community and self. And over all, I've been very pleased with the results

Which is what is difficult about moments like this. Will working for a half hour on my schoolwork make me more anxious and worldly, unable to get it all done still and unable to get into the things which matter right now? Or is it like doing the dishes, something that must be done to give me a little more peace and order?

I kind of expected that at this point I'd have a clear sense of clever, wise answer, because that's what typically happens when I blog, but I don't have one. I might just have to make this one of those trial and error sort of things. I mean, obviously I wasn't this anxious about my work yesterday. Whatever I decide, I'll figure out something about my work habits, the way that I feel the Spirit, my standard grad-student anxieties, and the boundaries I set in my life.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Visiting the Coptic Church Day

Yesterday I went to the Coptic Christian Church more or less blind because the internet had failed to prepare me adaquately. There was a humorous exchange of clergymen talking about what to wear, but nothing for women, so here's a guide for you, should you choose to visit:

1- bring a headscarf. Like Eastern Orthodoxy, you'll need to over your hair during the service. A small scarf will do.

2- wear comfy shoes and clear your schedule. The entire service is around 3 hours long. Most of that will be standing (although you can sit during the sermon).

3-don't take communion. Only baptized members are welcome to communion, which you'll notice that they do shoeless, like Moses did before divinity.

4-dress nice-ish. There's a wide range of clothes--some folks (guys and girls) are in jeans, while some are dressed in suits. Pants are okay for women to wear, but it's probably better to stray on the side of formal and modest. No one wore shorts or very short skirts.

5-be comfortably with being confused. Some of the service might take place in Coptic or Arabic as many of the older people might not know English. Most Coptics in my visit were Egyptian, or generation 1.5.

6-sit with others of your same sex. Women will be on the side with the picture of Christ, and men on the side with the picture of Mary. In both cases, women sit on the right hand of the men.

7-get ready for a sensory experience. The music, which is only chanting, one cymbol and one triangle, is really layered and complex. The incense was wonderful, too, and I could smell it in my clothes and hair afterwards. Also, I got a big splash of holy water through my veil. (This proves I am not a demon or vampire.)

8-everyone is friendly. The guy who is being ordained a priest next week took time from his preparations to give me the low-down on how the service would progress (readings from the epistles, from Acts, and from the Gospels; lots of standing; the priest chooses which loaf of bread for the communion and the remaining loaves are given to all the people after the service--I love this, incidentally). Another, older woman, introduced me to people before and after the service, including a younger woman whom I could follow throughout the service on when to pray, stand or sit in silent prayer. After wards, we had lunch. Everyone was extremely hospitable.

My one sadness is that I didn't know how to donate to the church. They never passed the plate and I didn't see any prominent boxes for donations. I wish I had asked because it was a wonderful congregation and I want to support them.

But don't take my word for it--go see for yourself!

(LaVar Burton will sue now.)

February/March

Well, February was a wash.

It wasn't all wrenching heart-ache, although there was some of that and it wasn't all nerve-straining stress, although there was a little of that, too.

I've always tried to make the best of the month, but it never quite turns out. It's nice when you get Presidents' Day off (UT doesn't) and I do like my mom and her birthday quite a deal, but still have a difficult time with the month. I'm bored of it being cold, and if there's snow (there isn't any here), it's all slush. If there isn't snow, the days change so rapidly.

But March!

March is always green calendars and kites in my mind, which is probably the result of years of construction-paper die-cuts from childhood. It's little tiny white flowers, and whole sprays of yellow ones. It's "nature's first green" gold and waking up to birdsong and a cool breeze through a warm day. I like March.


I like things beginning, like spring, or the school year, or a new calling, or friendship. I am less good as the Februaries of my life.

If I marry and have a daughter, I'd like to name her Diligence because I need more diligence in my life. I have enthusiasm and creativity out the back door, but to keep at something, even when it's something I like, I need to grit my teeth, set a regimen and look towards completion and the start of something new.

I started a novel last September and cruised through several chapters, but now it's a drag to get a half-dozen pages out. I started a dance class of my dreams, but cut two classes. I'm finally taking Croatian, but I haven't done my homework for Monday yet. Even spring gets old.

But I'm not a flake. I do get things done, given a deadline and enough things that I dread doing even more. I've gotten two degrees. I wrote my Master's thesis. I took my field exam. I trained for and ran a half marathon. I've gotten past the thrill of new friendships and matured them into genuine life-long friends. I wrote that first novel. I can stay out the Februaries through consistent effort, renewed perspective and..what else? Grace, to some degree, in the "ennobling power" sense. And I will be Sabbath enough to point out that "enduring the end" is almost raised to ordinance level in my religion.

I'm not sure how I do it or how'll I do it, but I hope I do. I hope I stick to the things that matter. Of the failed persistence enterprises (reading books aloud for Librivox, actually getting through all 30 days of Jillian Michaels' shred, dozens of aborted writing projects), I do get done some of the better ones.

March, as they say, March 4.