Monday, February 10, 2014

Waiting Game


It's been a week now since I taught my last class.

Just around the corner from 38 weeks and fully aware that Bebe could arrive any day. Doc seems to think he'll wait til his due date, though, so only time will tell.

In the meantime: holy stillness.

And I mean that in a lot of different ways.

After a winter of abject drought, on Friday, things shifted. In a big way. We trudged into Greenbrae for an OB check-up that morning, and the rain had started. It kept flowing as we stopped off in Sausalito for whooping cough shots and then powered south through SF to San Mateo to meet with our tax lady. Got home just in time to avert the mess of the wet evening commute, and hardly left the house all weekend.

The rain and wind intensified late Friday afternoon, and still haven't stopped. A few different unofficial local accounts estimate that we got anywhere from 12-14 inches around here.

Whoa mama. Just what (Mother Nature's) doctor ordered.

I've never been so glad to be trapped in my house, unable to go for a walk or get outside. I've never sat on my butt so much and not gotten irritable or antsy. (Surely some of that is the major-prego factor, I know). But the rain kept coming and the wind kept howling and the lights kept flickering and we just stayed, and stoked the fireplace, and listened to old-school jazz, and crossed things off baby to-do lists.

And it felt really good.

Yesterday I made pancakes for breakfast. Then brownies, mid-afternoon. I guess some people might call that "nesting," but it felt more like "what the hell else do you do on a wet Sunday afternoon when you can't do the Primary Series in front of the fire because you're hauling around a small living person and you don't have cable and the car seat's finally installed and football season is over and there's no good reason to venture out in the rain?"

The gratuitous baked goods were delicious, all. (Gluten-free and vegan, too, no less.) And my body is officially maple-syrup-shocked.

I've been watching the mist all morning here out the windows from our little treehouse cottage, and it's been slowing, gradually, until just now, finally, the sun's making a wan attempt to come out. This bodes well for the potential of actually moving my body for the first time since Thursday. A soggy, slow, waddling hike might be in order.

This last week marks the first time since I was, oh, 18 or so, that I haven't been working like a dog. It's weird. I'm kind of a hustler, you see. I like to work. A lot. It feeds me. Fuels me. Inspires me. Even when we were away last year on our honeymoon, I was fully aware that once we got home I'd have to jump back in and catch up on 2 weeks'  of emails and admin and, you know, planning ahead and whatnot. Here, now, well, there's only One Big Thing we're planning for, and everything else is reasonably on hold.

And it feels, um, amazing.

To not have anxiety watching the urgent "must-reply-ASAP" emails piling up.

To actually read a book and not feel guilty about that other thing I "should" be doing. Usually for someone else.

To sleep enough, and eat enough, and rest enough, and stop hustling.

It's the literal and figurative lack of hustling that feels most strange, and new. No more hustling from Point Reyes to San Francisco to Oakland and back in the course of 12 hours. No more hustling to crank out those imperative email replies before hitting the road til midnight. No more hustling to throw up a quick blog post before rolling out the door.

Just staying, being slow and still and present. Sitting for 3 hours to write thank-you notes and feeling amazingly rewarded at finally getting them done. Making pancakes yesterday and not feeling like I should be practicing instead. Watching Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl" and loving the learning and the sense of connection to my prairie-bred, German-immigrant, Nebraska farmer great-grandparents who somehow managed to struggle through those years without feeling like I had another, "more important" project to be completing.

Whoa. Feels kind of wonderful to exhale.

I realize this will all change in a matter of days, or weeks. Oh yes. People have been quick to remind me that the quiet solo hours I've always savored reading and writing at coffee shops will soon be a romantic thing of the past. And while the indubitable truth of that reality makes me want to drink heavily and cry, I also know that there'll be a lot of sweet hours to come full of "doing nothing" whilst rocking my milk-drunk baby to sleep.

I know I'm lucky to get this little window of time. I know not everyone is so privileged, that a lot of full-term pregnant women are stuck flipping burgers and shuffling around on painfully swollen feet in front of the grills at McDonalds until the moment they go into labor. I feel grateful to have these few still hours to prepare, to anticipate, to settle, to ground, before we launch into a wholly unknown realm. And I've gotta say: mothers-to-be, if you're able to sneak in a week or two of leave before the whole world changes, it's a dream. A relief. A necessary pause. A sacred moment of time in which no one expects you to do or perform or show up or wear a bra. In which you can tuck in and disappear and breathe deeply and just be.

And it is really lovely.

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If you have any down-time to read today, check out these couple of pieces:

Nathan Schneider on 12 Ways Catholicism Is More Radical Than Pope Francis. Yes! Progressives are loving on Pope Frank a lot lately, which makes me happy, but most of them don't realize that he's actually just living by Christian doctrines, as opposed to most of the right-wing fundamentalist "Christians" who've distorted the actual teachings to serve their own reactionary socio-political and economic ideologies. Back in the day, I used to tell people I was a "radical Christian, but that's redundant." I don't know how "Christian" you can officially consider me anymore, but I still hold fast to the understanding that Christianity is at its heart wild-and-crazy-revolutionary. Check it.
The SF Chronicle wrote an article about Zeke and family in the wake of Ron Powell's tragic death last week. I was so heartened to see such a widespread outpouring of compassion and support. You can read more and see Paige Green's poignant, bittersweet family photos here.
Susan Piver on Buddhism and heartbreak. She is so good. There's a lot of trite, crappy writing about love going around this week. This isn't that. Read it.

Kate Geiselman on the challenges of teaching community college. I so appreciate this perspective. In the vein of Matthew B. Crawford's fantastic look at shop work as soul craft, here's yet another scholar who says: hey people, maybe there's a problem with this cultural myth that a 4-year college degree is a ticket to financial success and personal (and career) fulfillment. Especially when private (and, sadly, even public) universities are charging increasingly obscene prices to crank out what are often useless college degrees.
(On that note: read this book.)
Joe Fassler on Ingmar Bergman, his muse, his art, and what all great artists (writers, musicians) need: solitude. On whether pain is necessary for real creativity, and what it means to live in service to one's art, to sit with the overwhelming humanity that (said Bergman), "oozes out of me like a broken tube of toothpaste; it doesn’t want to stay within the confines of my body." And then there's this, sounding suspiciously more and more like meditation: "You can't run away from your emotions and your memory and the material you're working on. Artistic solitude is a decision to turn and face these feelings, to sit with them for long periods of time. It takes the courage to be there. You run into your own pettiness. Your own cowardice. You run into all kinds of ugly sides of yourself. But the things that you've experienced in your life become the writing that you do. And there's no easy way to get to it. And that's what Bergman and other Swedish writers have taught me—to stay in that painful zone, discipline myself through it to get where I want."
Michael Sam on coming out as gay just as he approaches the NFL draft. Love this story. Love his bravery. Love the overall celebratory and supportive reactions emerging from all corners. Hope, hope, hope he gets drafted and goes big.
Oh, and if you really, really have time, like prego-lady-waiting-to-birth-a-baby time, or are riding out a snowstorm somewhere on the colder coast, watch the aforementioned Dust Bowl mini-series. And then check out the new Netflix documentary about Mitt Romney, simply titled "Mitt." It's a fascinating inside look at Romney's two failed Presidential runs, heavy on family home videos and hotel room prayer sessions, although short on actual policy and strategy insights.
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Be fierce in paying attention to what's already working. What's already fine. 
Because in every single moment, many things are already fine. 

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