This blog might not be what you’re expecting it to be! Yes, as promised in my blog Trash Talk, I am now a fully fledged member of Slimming World. I am also part of a Facebook support group as I need to be held accountable for the amount of Terry’s Chocolate Orange I would like in my life. The aim is not to be size 0, it is just to be healthy and feel comfortable in my own skin. The trash talk about my appearance has pretty much stopped, (thanks to the lent experiment) and things have been fairly steady recently…until last week!
I’ve never really done busy well! When I was a teacher I would work every hour possible, often marking children’s books and planning lessons into the early hours. I would grab 5 minute lunch breaks (no I would NEVER skip lunch, don’t be ridiculous) and spent most of the day in a frenzy rushing from the classroom, to the playground, to the staffroom, chasing the different jobs on my to-do list. I would then come home and feel guilty about the amount of work I had to do and desperately try and cram in “quality time” with my son. I kept this up for ten years gradually working my way up the career ladder to the illustrious position of Deputy Head. I was a Sheffield Lead Teacher for the Creative Curriculum, my teaching was consistently graded outstanding and there was often talk about the day when I would run my own school.
And then one Friday lunchtime it all came to a grinding halt!
I was sent home sick and never went back!
You can call it what you want: burnout, nervous breakdown, fatigue, nervous exhaustion but basically life….just….stopped!
Everything shut down. Those of you who have experienced it will be able to understand how something as simple as getting dressed took such a huge effort. I remember my husband coming home from work one day to find me beaming with pride because I had managed to tidy the coffee table. The woman who used to whirl around school multi-tasking with the best of them had been reduced to seeing a tidy coffee table as an achievement.
After a couple of months it became clear that recovery was going to take a while and the thought of standing at the front of a classroom again sent me into a complete panic. So, with a lot of prayer, and a ridiculously supportive husband, I decided to say goodbye to my teaching career.
What I didn’t realise is just how much of my identity and worth was rooted in what I did for a living. I remember filling in a form where it asked my occupation and sitting in tears as I realised I didn't have anything to write.
If I wasn’t a teacher then what, or more scarily, who was I?
Since then God has blessed me with new opportunities and a new purpose but recently the feelings I associated with my teaching career have begun to rear their ugly head. You see, and I’m quite ashamed to admit it, I’m still far too bothered about how well you think I’m doing!
I even did it earlier in this blog. I couldn’t just tell you I used to be a teacher. I need to prove to you that I was good at what I did, that I could be counted on and that I did the absolute best I could do. I need to let you know that if you’d have worked at the school with me, then you’d have been able to rely on me, trust and depend on me. I need to let you know all of that because it would appear that your opinion is still very important to me. I need you to know that I’m not the weakest link, the one who’s always sick and the one that can’t hack it.
And you can sugar-coat it all you want but when it comes down to it, those feelings are rooted in pride. It’s no different to my 3 years old’s refusal to accept help and her constant refrain, no matter the task, that “I can do it.”
Feeling like I’m not being a good enough wife, mum, daughter, sister, Auntie, friend, church leader, small group leader and having the expectation that I can single-handedly meet the needs of those around me is becoming tiring. I have realised that although my occupation may have changed, my approach to life hasn’t.
So, what happened last week?
A book that I ordered way back in September and whose delivery had been repeatedly delayed, arrived and within a couple of chapters I read these words:
“Richard Rohr says the skills that take you through the first half of your life are entirely unhelpful for the second half. To press the point a little bit: those skills I developed that supposedly served me well for the first half, as I inspect them a little more closely, didn’t actually serve me at all. They made me responsible and capable and really, really tired. They made me productive and practical, and inch by inch, year by year, they moved me further and further from the warm whimsical person I used to be…and I missed her.”
Perfect Over Present - Shauna Niequist (2016)
Since leaving teaching I have been trying to get my life back up and running using exactly the same techniques that I used before. It’s just not working.
In my very first blog I talked about the many Bible verses that we cling to. The ones that we have as bookmarks and screen savers and yet rarely live out on a day-to-day basis. Matthew 11:28-30 fits into this category.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)
And so, this year, I’m trying to lose weight. Not the weight that still prevents me from wearing my pre-pregnancy jeans, but the weight that stops me from living “freely and lightly.” I want to learn to work with God rather than battling to do things on my own or to show Him how well I’m coping. I want to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace”. I want God to show me "how to take a real rest."
I want to lose weight!