A couple of blog posts ago I wrote a post that made it sound like my life was one long lazy walk along the beach. What happened pretty much immediately after posting that was that the waves on the beach rose up and crashed over me, one after the other, leaving me a little bruised and battered and definitely humbled.
The first wave was an assignment that I had given my summer students. I thought (and still think) it was a good idea that each student gets some individual feedback from their lecturer on their work. It took hours to mark those assignments because, as a Facebook friend helpfully pointed out, five minutes on each assignment adds up to 8 hours when you have 100 students.
After that wave of extra work, the students completed their laboratory sessions. This involved me being present for two days of experimental work with all the students which, for an introvert, is exhausting, but so worthwhile. I love the lab days because I get to know the students I’ve been talking to online, and I get to see the lightbulbs go on as the work actually makes sense now that it’s put into a practical environment. After the two days on board with the students I had the marking to do for that – not the entire class, thank goodness, but I still had to mark for my little group.
And the final wave that is now crashing over me is the collation of the marks. The collection of lab marks from all the demonstrators, the downloading of the online marks, the making sure I haven’t sorted things wrongly and given the wrong marks to the wrong person (I’ve done that before – they should all have different surnames, that’s all I’m saying!) There’s still some students who haven’t finished stuff that should have been done by Monday. They have good reasons (an accident and hospitalisation is something I will allow an extension for) but it just means I haven’t got it all together yet, and that I will be working a third weekend in a row.
None of this is unusual, but I was frustrated that I had spent so much effort in reducing my responsibilities and yet it still feels like I am working around the clock, seven days a week. It turns out that you can’t control every part of your life. Funny, that!
I am hopeful that after this weekend, after the students complete their exam and I get all the marks collated and handed over, then I will be able to catch up on the other work that has been pushed to the side and then, finally, I might be back to having that breathing space I was talking about. I am holding onto that hope with every breath right now.
However, despite the breakers crashing over me I have tried through these busy weeks to practice being present. Mindful, if you will. Living each day as it comes, not worrying about tomorrow. All those peaceful things. When I sit at tea with DH and DS I make sure I am there with them, listening to them, chatting with them. When we had the family day at the beach I was determined to enjoy the day as if I didn’t have all that marking hanging over me. I marked furiously before hand, and marked again afterwards, but at the Shack, I was at the Shack. When I’ve had coffee with friends or family I have focussed on them, and tried very hard to control my thoughts and not let my eyes stray to my watch overly much.
I’m not saying I’ve been perfect at it, not by any means. And finding the balance between work and play when work is hammering at your door all the time is a little difficult. But just remembering, at times, that I want to be quieter, more peaceful, more present, to be Dr Do Less, that has helped me enjoy the little moments in between the crashing waves.
I look back at this time last year when as well as the work I’m doing right now, I also had the family emergency of Dad’s accident, and the family joy of a sister and brother visiting, and a lot more work of different kinds, and I wonder how I even stood upright! But the grace of God got me through last year and his grace is getting me through this year as well.
So here are some verses from the Good Book that are helping me out right now:
‘Be still and know that I am God’ Psalm 46:10a
‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’ Exodus 14:14
‘In quietness and confidence is your strength’ Isaiah 30:15
I hope that you can keep holding on to hope, no matter where you are at on the beach of life.