Saturday, May 31, 2014

Love What Is

Greetings, Dear Ones,

Another couple of turbulent weeks have gone by.  Back at the beginning of May I finished a chapter of my dissertation, or so I thought.  Then I met via Skype with my faculty supervisors, and got a real kick in the gut.  Short version is, I am attempting a theological interpretation of the stories of saints of long ago, but my original supervisors are no longer with the university, and my new ones aren't theologians.  They are wonderful, accomplished, and caring historians, but each time I submit my work with an interpretation of the meaning of the text as the conclusion, they freeze.  They tell me quite honestly, "It's not what we do."  And they're right, but it is what I do, or hope to do.

It has taken a couple of weeks for me to recover from their criticism, in part because it feels nearly unresolvable (although that's an open question still), but even more because it strikes so deeply at what I feel I'm really good at.  And it's really important to me to be acknowledged for being good at things that I think I'm good at.  See where I'm going here?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Still Becoming

Hello, Dear Ones,

I've been pondering what to blog about lately, which may be why this one's a little late.  There was the weekend I spent at a conference, where I learned quite a bit, mostly about how well I do (or not) when away from home and my usual comforts and disciplines.  There is the dissertation chapter I sent to my supervisors recently, and the resulting shift of focus, from Cuthbert of Lindisfarne to Brigit of Kildare.  And there's the online course in World Religions that I'm teaching this summer -- a course that I've taught many times now, but in a whole new format.  It took a lot of work to get the course built, and we didn't know whether it would actually run or not.  Today is the first day.

And then I saw the illustration at the top of this column,  "still becoming," with that gorgeous embroidered butterfly.  (Thank you, Louise Hay.) And I thought, that's it.  Taken individually, none of these topics is all that compelling, but all together I think they say something important about a life of faith.  At root, it's all about the process of becoming.  How many grandmas do you know who are working on doctorates? How many adjuncts in the humanities are pushing their administrators to allow them to teach their first online course?  How many academics in their late fifties are attending a range of conferences, not to present, but just to find out which ones address their research interests?  Sure, there are some out there, but not many.  Or at least, I haven't met many.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What a Difference Two Weeks Makes

Greetings, Dear Ones,

What a difference two weeks can make, especially in New England in the spring.  I took a walk again today, and now there are daffodils along the road, and the bushes and trees are showing signs of leaves ready to come out soon.  The little lake at the end of my road has shed the last of its ice, and the muddy road is passable, finally!

But the best part of the change was my reason for going out walking. Two weeks ago I went out after admitting defeat.  I wasn't going to get my dissertation chapter done as quickly as I'd hoped, so I walked away from it to clear my head and resign myself to the delay.  This time it was very different.  I've been revising my writing, and checking my footnotes, and lo and behold, the chapter got sent out at 1:41 this afternoon.  My walk up the road to the lake was a treat, not a defeat.

I found myself thinking about Tolkein again, as I'd done last time.  I was asking myself, was the chapter late?  I'd promised to send it in sometime in March, but that didn't happen.  Then I thought surely by Easter, but no, not even Easter.  And then I'd wanted to send it in by the end of April, and I couldn't even manage that.  But was the chapter actually late?