Friday, October 1, 2010

Faith and Preservation

Faith: An enormous, encompassing and varied concept is captured in a word of so few letters. For me it means saying out loud and with particular conviction, “I have no idea what is going on, but I know it’s purposeful!”  Yes, the exclamation point is required.

Three months ago opportunity came knocking on my door.  This was an unsought opportunity and so it seemed a bit more like a ninja creeping through the window in the night luring me with a car salesman smile “Hey, wanna go for a spin?“  In my family we didn’t turn opportunity away.  To do so would have brought about drought, famine and certain death; the Universe doesn’t smile kindly upon those ungrateful wretches who eschew her gifts.  I am programmed to invite it in, open the door and see where it takes me.  My natural response is excitement at the prospects complete with dreaming, wishing and hoping.

Dreaming, in and of itself, is a very good thing.  I adore dreaming.  It’s the mystical cocktail party at which my subconscious and conscious states mingle over mixed nuts and fancy drinks.  What’s not to love about that?  But this ‘other dreaming’, where one conjures up desires which are wholly dependent upon others?  Well, that kind of dreaming is the kind that can get you in trouble.

Opportunity showed up in the form of a new job prospect.  Not just any job mind you, this was the Audi R8 version of my dream job and the salesman-ninja knew there was no way I would let this chance roll by.  I hate it when the ninjas are right.

I pursued the new opportunity with frightening precision.  The compiled arsenal of validation to prove my worthiness was ready for submittal and the dreams escalated in to full-blown “nearly-real” scenarios.  I walked in and around them, creating as I went.  I could see myself working in town in a nice office for a real salary.  I imagined trendy professional lunches on the downtown mall, meeting my husband for a slice of New York style pizza.  I could even taste the cheese on the pizza accented with the faint petrol waft of the trolley car going by. My bank account was fat.  We had enough money to build on to the house and buy a better vehicle.  My debt was paid off and not only would the worry of buying food be a thing of the past, but I could afford to get my hair done when it needed.  We were putting in the pool and landscaping the yard.  I would be working for a real salary and it would be nothing but good.

My interview went really well, I was armed with a killer resume and letters of recommendation that could land me a job at the White House.  After the interview, I received several bits of insider information that led me to feel I was a top candidate.  My husband and I began to think this might really happen; dreams really can come true.

I was coasting along on a wave of inevitability amped up with desire and a huge perpetual pep talk.  “You can do this.  The job description was written for you.  It’s like they plucked it out of your “dream job diary” while you weren’t looking.  The kids are old enough now. Twelve hour days for both parents, we can handle it.  We’ll all pull together for the common good and it will be swell.”

I psychically held my breath, and occasionally, I physically held my breath, as well.  I paced and chewed my nails.  I pictured the way it would be, crafting my reality with a carefully written script.  I willed God to make things happen in just the right way to have it all come together – just so.

While all this was going on inside, I maintained the appearance of a perfectly sane working mother.  I did everything I was supposed to do including the usual back to school purchases, doctors’ appointments and open houses.  Three sons, three sets of “getting ready for school” was on my to-do list. 

My middle school aged son, Chaz, was slated to start sixth-grade. There had been some question about this as the fifth-grade attempt to move into the public school system from his one-room private school was a miserable failure.  Chaz is the most unique child with a brilliant mind, wicked sense of humor, kind heart and a huge social phobia. Some have said that he is a lot like Einstein in this combination of personality traits.  I wonder how they know.

As the start of the school year drew near, Chaz was insistent; he would go to Middle School.  He would do it just as good as his older brother and I needn’t worry (his words).  I set aside my maternal misgivings and dedicated myself to setting up the best chance for his success.  If it’s middle school he wants then, middle school it is.

The first day of school dawned on a Monday and we cheerily got up and greeted the new year with anticipation.  Off they went, bright-faced and excited with new backpacks and pencils, armed with peanut butter sandwiches and Capri-Sun drink pouches.  I left for work and felt good that the school year had begun and the hectic summer would wind down into the fast but regular pace of fall. 

I got to my office an opened my email.  There was a short note from someone from the company in whose employ I expected to be within weeks.  It was good news!  Another tidbit of insider information; I was the favorite of the team.

I went through my day with my stomach in knots but a secret happiness propelled my step.  I found myself responding to new projects with vague, non-committal language, “Yeah that could be a good idea.  Let me think a little more about it and I’ll get back to you.” or “I’m pretty sure I can’t take that on right now, maybe you should run it by so-and-so.”  I thought about who could do my job and how quickly could they get up to speed.  I planned packing my office.

Toward the end of the day, I checked my email again.  There it was. The one I was waiting for.  As I read the seven or eight sentences that extolled my apparent skills and then simply informed me that I was no longer being considered for my dream job I couldn’t have been more shocked.  The shock gradually eased to a dull echo of its initial slap in the face intensity.  Outrage raised its head and was followed closely by a despair chaser.  Somehow, I managed to pen a gracious and professional letter to my would-be, if-they-had-any-friggin-sense employer, thanking them for their consideration and for their keeping my resume in the “active” file.  The consolation prize, I guess.

Not being particularly interested in consolation, I closed up early and drove around for a while.  I cranked the music up very loud venting the emotions that were at war inside me as I yelled into the wind.  Then I picked up my kids, managed to stuff my self-absorbed suffering long enough to ask how the first day of school went, cooked dinner and finally gave up the charade of normalcy.  I wasn’t fit for company.  I wasn’t even fit for Facebook.  I settled for iTunes and surfing loud punk music for my iPod.  It suited my mood.  I was ready to get a new tattoo, mow my head into a Mohawk and find a good mosh-pit to thrash around in for a while.  Broken dreams, dashed hopes, banged-up ego; it’s a potent cocktail served exclusively at pity parties the world over.

I wanted to enjoy the pity-party cocktail buzz didn’t care to worry about the possible massive hangover known as depression.  It was a good sulk and I let myself enjoy it.  I deserved it.  After two months of dreaming, pacing and holding my psychic breath the let down was squashing me like a bug on the windscreen of an Audi R8.  May as well let it run its course.  I languished.  I pined.  I screamed inside at the unfairness of it all.

In the midst of this drama there was a moment of grace that breezed in.  It was then that I heard it.

Somewhere inside there is an undisturbed and changeless part of me that has a voice and holds the reigns of reason.  This sensible, motherly and wise piece of consciousness had compassion for this situation while simultaneously saying, “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know it’s purposeful!”  I would like to say that I only had to hear it once, but it took a good hour of this being my mantra repeated with increasing vigor for it to sink in and for me to turn to the embracing depth of Faith.  Eventually I told myself, and believed with all my heart, that I was being preserved for something different.  That my course would not be where I thought best, but where I was needed most; and I would just wait to see what that was.

I girded myself to tell my parents about the turn of events on Tuesday morning but was derailed by a vomiting Chaz who needed to be picked up from school – the second day of school – due to anxiety on the bus.  I tended to my young and pushed all other concerns away. Admittedly, I did have a small conniption upon first getting the call. My attempt to settle the situation was to inform Chaz that he needed to get his head on straight, breathe deep and try to imagine that everyone was just as naked under their clothes as he was.  This did not elicit enough confidence for Chaz go to class and may have actually made him more nervous.  I thought about it and in retrospect Chaz’ particular brand of social phobia would never be comfortable in a roomful of people in their underwear.  Oh well.  Not all parenting moments are winners.

On Wednesday we tried a new tactic; distraction.  Chaz would get ready for school and then spend the remaining time playing X-box so as not to obsess and therefore not to puke, have heart palpitations or hyperventilate.  This was not to be.  A full on anxiety/panic attack on an eleven year old boy is frightening to behold.  He didn’t even make it to the bus stop.  I looked on with increasing concern.  What were we to do?  Chaz looked at me with one big question in his eyes, “Am I okay?”
I hugged him a lot and smiled reassuringly.  I told him that we would find a way and work it out.  I didn’t know how exactly, but we would.

By Thursday morning Chaz and I both had our answer.

After a long parental summit and multiple consultations with grandparents it was decided.  We would launch ourselves into the world of home-schooling--a plan I had been contemplating months before but had shelved in the face of Chaz’s desire to try school.  We weren’t sure how, or even if, I could restructure my job to allow me to continue working.  I am so grateful that we have found a way that I can meet all my obligations; a possibility that could not have existed had I gotten the job.  I am now a telecommuting professional and concurrent learning coach (that‘s what they call us educators who aren‘t actually ‘teachers‘).  Being a learning coach is a brand new, full-time job integrated into my other jobs, and it is by far the best one I have.  Sixth grade science, math and English are fun.  Spending one on one time with Chaz mapping the volcanoes of the Pacific Rim is delightful as I get to know him better.

Chaz’s expression is open and relaxed, relieved and happy.  He looks at me with hero-worship eyes, and I am humbled.  He has been rescued from the most terrifying experience of his young life because I was preserved for his benefit – and mine.

What are broken dreams and a bruised ego compared to that?  I may not know whats going on most times but it doesn’t matter.  I just need to remember:  it’s always purposeful.  I keep the Faith.

Bright Blessings!

Here is the R8 - in case you are wondering how bad the temptation to distraction was...