After Labor Day, I will add to my already full-time job a part-time schedule of seminary classes. More about that in a later post. I mention it only because this impending change has triggered a whole new Ordering process. You know what I mean—the need to draw up schedules, make lists, buy stuff, and generally prepare for an adjusted structure in life.
Perhaps you’re a person who does not suffer from this impulse. Perhaps a new phase of life merely launches you into conversations/emails/phone calls with fifty new people and elicits fresh pow-wows with the friends you already have so that you can properly process the change that’s about to occur and the way you’re feeling, and so on.
But for me—and, I suspect, many other people--the Ordering thing happens. It is both thrilling and burdensome. Thrilling, because creating new lists and schedules represents a manner of starting over, of trying once more to go about life effectively and efficiently, of keeping multiple balls in the air, of feeling that I’m doing a decent job at life. Burdensome, because, well, creating new lists and schedules represents a manner of starting over, of trying once more to go about life effectively and efficiently, of keeping multiple balls in the air, of feeling that I’m doing a decent job at life. I’ve gone through this many times before, and the thrill bows to the burden every time, before very long.
For now, though, I enjoy the thrill stage. Jim and I have a calendar, corkboard, and dry-erase board on the freezer door, because with the demands on my new schedule, we will have to be better organized. And although we have a perfectly fine office, we decided that the only place to post things where we both would be sure to actually pay attention to them, was in the kitchen and at eye level. This is where I’ll remind him to make a phone call, or we’ll note which night I’m cooking, or what bill must be paid ASAP.
You must understand that I’m that person who gets overly excited in office supply stores. The aroma of ninety varieties of ink pens, the abundance of notebooks and reams of paper, the sheer potential for filing and arranging—all make me giddy. And now that I will be hauling around theology books, plus a laptop, on a regular basis, I have no choice but to buy one of those rolling briefcases—you know, with a compartment for the laptop, built-in file sections, and room for everything including books, phone, and umbrella? Don’t even get me started on how backpacks, purses, and bags of every sort fulfill me—I think it’s a womb thing, this female instinct to contain things. Anyway, the rolling-case purchase is more expensive, so I am prolonging the joy of deciding while I come up with the cash.
My own Ordering coincides with school kids starting classes, and I am attached to a thirteen-year-old through friendship and history. So we will indulge in tandem and go clothes shopping tomorrow. We will walk the mall—something I don’t enjoy under normal circumstances—eat a fatty lunch in the food court, and stock up on what will make each of us feel secure and lovely.
The human relationship with time is closely related to our connection with stuff. Every season has its stuff, and we acquire stuff according to what we’re going through. At age fifty-one, I am beginning a new adventure, learning prophets and Gospels. An adventure needs its props, so I will buy luxurious markers and a case large enough to hold my books along with my questions and ambitions. My teenager is beginning life at a new school, and so, with much drama and deliberation, she will choose just the right shirt or backpack or shoes or jacket. We have to honor the Ordering. A century ago, our rhythm might have been attached to a harvest or to the movement of geese and buffalo. Now the physical seasons hold within them multiple patterns more subtle but no less important.
Here’s to a fresh calendar and the scent of sharpened pencils.