One of the unexpected side effects of Advent this year is that I've started going to Mass again. I realize that 3 weeks doesn't make a trend, but it's probably the most consecutive Sundays I've actually been in a Catholic church of my own free will. I still can't understand the homilies (auditorily, not intellectually). I'm still not sure about the entirety of the Profession of Faith. I have issues with a number of things about Catholicism. But in terms of the quest to Be a Better Mel, the Advent liturgy is really what I need right now.
Because Advent is a time of waiting and quiet and preparation. Of patience and stillness and learning to love the waiting and all these things that are particularly challenging for me. Advent is the 4 -week period before Christmas, and no matter how many women you allocate to the job, a baby takes 9 months -- you can't hurry things, but you can prepare for them. Well, okay. I have heard of people who have hurried and timed things -- scheduled C-sections to work conveniently with the school year and the tenure clock -- but that's... not how I'd like to live, if one uses childbearing as a metaphor for all of life.
You can't hurry things, but you can be better prepared for them.
A few hours from now, I'll be on a plane to Seattle to see my family. As I write this, I anticipate the happy, busy buzz of activity I associate with the Lim clan -- houses full of people, kitchens full of pots and pans and steam and smells of garlic and sounds of tofu and rice and sausage sizzling, cousins tumbling in and out, little kids playing, older kids striking off on adventures across the street or across the city, huge tables with people piled up in various assortments of pajamas and cereal bowls and microwaved leftovers for breakfast, conversations that mix languages and continents and decades. My Guama's smile crinkling at the corner of her eyes as she takes it all in. The laughter at the gift exchange. The catching-up I have to do with all my cousins (they grow up so fast!) All of my aunts, all of their personalities, the questions, the hugs, the stories, the attempts to gather everyone into the same room, the joy, the love extending out from my Guama through her 8 daughters to their husbands and their kids and now even some of the kids' significant others (like I said, we're growing up) -- slowly, the tree is growing. I am so proud of who I am and where I come from -- maybe I don't have a place, but I do have my family, and those are roots I would grow from and stretch out into new directions with -- supported by the past, not burdened by it, and bringing it into the future in our own way.
The marble column at St. Norbert's last night was like a maelstrom last night; I still don't pay attention to the sermon, so I looked at the dark blue stone, veining white, the breaking foam that webs across the deep sea like neurons, threads between the patches. The electric flash of lightning intermittently illuminating the surface web, the pounding depth, synapses in the brain, the grandeur of a storm, majestic, crushing, destroying, full of awe. What it means to be there and actually be there and let the storm fill you and yet still be at peace within it, moving, whipped with wind, soaked with water, filled with life, but calm.
Give your servant an understanding heart, that I may harness this great passion of mine -- not to crush it, but to train it, and to make it sing.
There is a bit of packing left to do, and I would like to get my files in order -- clear out fall semester things into the archives, set up folders for my spring term classes, outline what I need to do for research, funding, and teaching over the winter break; a little discipline to set aside the work so that it's bounded and I have the rest of my time with my family. A side note to myself: the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program has some resources that might be useful in my research on faculty development (as well as my development as a possible future faculty member).
First, breakfast with my mom. And then a little bit of things to do. And then I'll be on a plane, and the rumble of the engines will start, and the pressure of the acceleration will sweep me up into the skies, and this tiny city will drop below. I'll see you.