Norwegians have this saying about letting your shoulders down. As in, “I finally finished that article I was writing and now I can let my shoulders down for a few days.” The Norwegian language is very literal, so when they talk about relaxing, it makes sense to call it what it is: letting the tension leave your body. Lately I’ve been waking up in the morning with my shoulders up around my ears, erasing my neck so I look like a worried turtle or something. Not to whine or anything, but it totally sucks to not be able to relax even while sleeping.
Since I’ve been back from Norway, my life has been in constant flux. My summer in a nutshell: Reverse culture shock. Live with grandparents, work in Santa Clarita. Move to Pasadena, work in Pasadena. Lose job, freak out. Plans, plans, plans. Start casually dating a boy. Best friend’s bridal shower. Odd subbing jobs here an there. Occasional meltdowns at the uncertainty of life. Bachelorette party in Vegas. Get two new jobs in one week. Car tire catches on fire and brakes must be replaced. Move apartments; live alone for two weeks for the first time ever. Best friend gets married. Freak out about money. Casually dated boy moves to Oregon. Start new job. Last working car door handle breaks off. Two girls I’ve never met before move in as my roommates.
I’ve been single for (yikes) 4 years now and in that singleness, especially traveling around the world alone, I’ve started to learn the importance of being a spouse to myself. Of being my own caretaker and advocate, the one who says, “No, honey, you’ve done enough for one day. Put your feet up and relax for a little bit” or “Lighten up, babe. Go have a drink and some fun with your friends.” That may sound crazy but it’s better than the self-flagellation I’ve tried in other seasons. But right now, as my own interim spouse, I’m flummoxed. In all this craziness, I’m not even sure what I need. A chunk of solid downtime? A night to let loose with good friends? An intense kickboxing class? Answers A, B, and C?
Also, I’m stressing about my stress. Just like icing on a cake, right? Because I’m about to start a brand new season: I’m going to Fuller Theological Seminary to begin my Master of Arts in Theology. I’m going back to school. Talk about a life change! And if I had my way, I would have a few weeks to be peaceful and quiet and reflect on this new approaching season, slowly working through my to-do list to prepare for classes to start. But instead I’ve been up to my ears in change and busyness and self-inflicted worry. I expected a few small rapids when I first returned to the States, but then I thought I’d have a lull for most of the summer before I hit the big falls coming in a couple weeks. Instead, it’s been constant swirling currents and I’ve had to fall asleep with my oar in my hands.
I read an Anne Lamott essay today where she discussed the idea that “when everything starts going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born.” This summer, it’s been almost impossible for me to focus, to rest, to reflect. Maybe it’s a good thing that I’ve been distracted, unable to ruminate on every possible scenario, so that whatever’s going to be born in this new season will delight me the way only a surprise can.
Orientation doesn’t start for another 11 days, and classes start a week after that. So between then and now, I hope that, distracted or not, I’ll have the chance to lay my paddle across my knees, let my shoulders down and float for a bit.