As I begin this eighth week of the semester, I can honestly say that these have been some of the most grueling weeks I have ever known. I began with a great little schedule and even had some free days written in. None of it worked out. I forgot to schedule in sick time; and all my free days have been used up. I've managed to catch snatches of free time here and there; but very little has been done on schedule. I am caught up in my classes, but I feel like it has been by the skin of my teeth (whatever that is). Every so often, I have had moments of worship while studying. I wish that I had been able to capture them properly, somehow hold them in my hands long enough to write something. They have been fleeting moments, though: the kind of moments that make me sit back in my chair for a moment and say, "Oh, I think I may understand," or, "I want to write this down and think about it later." I'm afraid that later, it may have lost the magic; for part of the magic is in the moment or in the context... This is really no way to go about seminary... I started to write "school," but seminary is much more than school. Seminary is a way of life; and that is what is grieving me about this period of time. Because of the illness and the resulting shortage of time available to me, I have found it necessary to treat seminary like school, to simply memorize rather than reflect. It doesn't suit my learning style at all; and I retain very little. Even if I manage to pass the quizzes, I don't take anything away with me that is useful for ministry because I must go back and do it all over again later. I never wanted this from my seminary time.
Most people's answer is to look at my time management. What can I get rid of in my schedule? What mindless thing am I doing that is keeping me from being efficient? These are all things we went over in the fall, and I've kept them before me like a rule book. I don't suppose it makes sense to people that anyone would do this. My parents understand because they have lived a lifetime with me and know that I take things much too seriously. My friends understand because they know that I am not communicating or socializing much. I'm not even giving the "I'm doing homework" excuse this semester. I'm sleeping, trying to breathe, running to the bathroom... A couple of friends have sent me instant messages late at night asking what I'm doing awake. "I was awake, so I got up to study," is always my response.
Teaching is not taking a huge bite out of my time. I am not writing very many reflections. SpamBrave is catching 99 percent of my spam. So what can I stop or get rid of? I really don't know? The only thing I know to be a solution is perseverance. When I pray, that is the word that comes to mind. I am learning perseverance. Last semester I learned attention to detail. Now I learn perseverance.
The little bright spots have helped with the perseverance: the unexpected intersection of material in courses with each other and with current events; little quotes I've found in the texts that are relevant to my thinking about ministry and disability and the healing of community; the opportunity to teach the Sunday school class and the group's enthusiasm; Melanie's friendship; Sable asking for pets and jumping on my bed on rare occasions; unexpected help from vocational rehabilitation; holding the baby at Aunt Judy's party and thinking what an amazing thing it is to see a 100-year-old lady hold a three-month-old baby; playing in the snow with Alexis; the beautiful music at Holy Spirit Parish and the Episcopal church; the all-inclusive prayer at the Presbyterian church; conversation with my dad in the car; making contact with a friend who lives in the neighborhood; natural lotions and soaps for dry skin; singing after healing from respiratory illness; the sound of geese in February; my unexpected interest in feminist theology; a professor calling me "dear friend" on a day when I didn't feel well; Dave B. asking if I was all right when I wasn't; Inca's purrs; wanting chocolate after subsisting on soup and Jell-O for weeks; the potato and the cookie...
Eventually, some of these things may make it into my writing. I hope so... I needed at least to acknowledge them so that I wouldn't forget them.
And as I sit down to study, I need to pray... I need God to help me with yet another cram session... I hope this cramming will slow down in the next week or so; but for today, it can't.