simplyjan

A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

Archive for the tag “sandwich generation”

Melancholy

I’m feeling a bit melancholy these days. Nothing serious, just the convergence of a few factors.

First, a difficult anniversary is coming up. There hasn’t been an Easter in over a decade that this underlying feeling of loss has failed to make an appearance. I don’t look for it, but when it arrives I just nod my head in recognition: a not-so-welcome friend that is in town for the annual visit. The visit won’t last forever.

Second, I’m learning the meaning of “sandwich generation.” My father was very ill last week, hospitalized for eight days. During that time, my mother came down with a nasty respiratory virus. They were both sick, sick pups. I live four hours (on a good traffic day) away from my parents. I have young children in school. I’ve never been so miserable, having to be in one place, but needing to be in another. My brother (my hero!) was able to get away for a few days to take care of them. I found a substitute preacher for Palm Sunday and spent the weekend with them, trying to help out. Thank God we were able to bring Dad home from the hospital on Saturday. Trying to take care of my dad (in the hospital), my mom (at home), and making sure my kids were taken care of (Aunts? Cousins? Help, please?) was a major stress factory. My parents are getting better, but I learned that being caught between the needs of two generations is no fun. I’m suddenly not such a fan of sandwiches.

Third, It’s Holy Week. I remember, in my pre-pastorate days, when this was a deeply meaningful, spiritually renewing time for me. Back then I was a teacher. Our spring break often coincided with Holy Week. I was able to take the whole week to read, to write, to think, and to connect with the enormity of what this week means. Please don’t think I’m awful, but becoming a pastor has ruined Holy Week for me. It is now pressure-cooker week. It is manic week. It is exhausting week. I remember the conversations that Susan and I had in the week before her death. (See melancholy reason #1 above.) I felt so sacrilegious as we commiserated together over how ready we were to get Jesus back out of that tomb again so we could get back to normal. (Okay, add to this reason the immense guilt I feel at even making such a confession. I feel like such a bad pastor!)

Finally – and I’m almost as ashamed of this reason as I am the previous one – I’m just a wee bit envious. Well, maybe more than a wee bit. It seems that the publishing/scholarship/workshop gods are smiling fondly on a LOT of my blogging friends and acquaintances. I am so excited for them. Every one of them receiving these great breaks deserves it. Still, it feels kind of like being the last one who hasn’t been invited to the prom. What makes matter worse, even if I was invited to the prom (um, given the opportunity to go bigger with my writing) I’m not sure I know how to do my hair, my make-up, or my nails. And I know I can’t dance worth a darn. (In other words, I don’t know how to do anything beyond plugging away at my blog and writing weekly sermons, and I’m not sure I have what it takes to go beyond that, especially when I find myself awkwardly mixing odd metaphors.) The frustration is uncomfortable. The envy is unattractive. Then just when I needed it most, I ran across this blog post, which gave me words I needed to hear today.

I know my uninvited “friend” will go away in another week or two. I believe my parents are getting better every day. I know that when time for worship on Maundy Thursday rolls around, I will feel the sacred heaviness of that night. My spirits will be lifted as the sun rises over the Cooper River during our Easter Sunrise Service. The worship – especially the music – of Easter Sunday will breathe life back into my tired soul. I’ll keep plugging away at my blog, enjoying the play with words, all while trying to trust God’s timing. The melancholy isn’t here to stay.

~ Embracing what is. Trusting what will be. (Or at least trying!) ~

Pray for a Soft Landing

storm

I’m driving on I-526 from West Ashley back toward home. Ahead of me is one of my favorite spots, the bridge across the Ashley River. It is one of those rare surprises along an interstate highway where the beauty makes you wish you could just slow down or pull over to enjoy the view. The scene changes according to sunlight and weather. Today the water is a choppy gray, reflecting the menacing storm clouds rolling in. It a strange day indeed. There are no cars in sight. I have the road to myself.

The first splatters of rain hit the windshield as I enter the outer edge of the storm. I see the white sheets of hard rain bearing down on me. In Charleston, drivers hit the brakes at the first drop of rain. With no one around to slow down for, I ignore my brake pedal – accelerate a little, even. I turn the windshield wipers on high and notice the storm’s increasing fierceness. The rain bands ahead look black, not white. The gusts of wind blow my little Nissan around like a toy car. I know I should be more cautious, but I feel exhilaration, not fear.

Suddenly I understand what I’m seeing. It isn’t a heavy band of black rain. It’s a rain-wrapped tornado. It lifts me up and spins me wildly around. My stomach drops and my equilibrium shifts like I’m on a carnival ride. Still, I feel no fear. My first thought is, “I can’t believe this is happening.” My second thought is a prayer, “Dear God, whenever I land, please let me land softly.”

Then I woke up.

Another storm dream. I’ve written about my storm dreams before. It was 4 a.m. I shifted positions in the bed and replayed the dream over and over in my mind for the next hour. It is so unlike me to dream about a storm and feel no fear. The feeling of spinning out of control up in the air seemed so real. I wondered if maybe I’d experienced a vertigo spell in my sleep. Yet I wasn’t dizzy now. Finally I fell back asleep.

It has been one of those weeks. Both of my parents are sick – very sick. I feel so helpless and so far away. My brother has been with them and has been so good about keeping me informed, but the reality of entering the sandwich generation slapped me in the face this week – hard. Holy Week is quickly approaching. There are extra services to plan, accompanied by the extra pressure to make sure they are extra good since it may well be the only time some people attending will be in church all year. My outdoor kitty, Levi, has gone missing. My heart hurts and I find myself looking for him and calling him constantly. Everything seems topsy-turvy.

Then today I had an experience – for the most part unbloggable – that felt a lot like my dream last night. I saw it coming, but never touched the brakes. In fact, I may have accelerated a little. I maybe should have felt fear, but instead I felt exhilarated.  I may have momentarily lost my equilibrium, but I never lost my head.

My first thought was, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

And my second? “Dear God, whenever I land, please let me land softly.”

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