Met a seminary friend for coffee and writing—and then lunch—this morning. Seeing each other was a delight; sharing our summer lives felt breezy; swapping fall-term plans felt grounding… without that too-brittle future-grasping that foretells God’s raised eyebrow and flick of a finger. Kindred spirits in dunnamany ways, she’s a year ahead of me in school as we count these things: middler to my soon-to-be junior.
School orientation begins in less than a week. In a week plus four days, I will sign a covenant—we’re like that—sealing my study from my lips to God’s ears by way of all the communities I belong to. This feels right, and solid, and settled.
Except when it feels odd. And alien. And like something happening to a character in another book.
The splitting’s been going on since spring, since I acknowledged the call while still shoving back the momentum. I don’t think they’re related; my refusal to simply tuck my head and roll into a master’s degree seems like an appropriate test rather than avoidance. This call is larger than mere inclination—”leaning in” here was never going to be of itself a struggle, so that the discernment welling up around my inverse stubbornness arrives more as what cannot be ignored rather than the easy way out. (School is always my easy way out; even if you don’t know from Enneagram 5, you know me well enough for that.)
No, the split arrives at orthogonal times. Not inappropriate ones, since I’m not far enough into anything to apply any expectations of appropriateness. Nor incongruous ones, because alignment isn’t part of their arrival. It’s weirder than that. Just unrelated times, splintering off on their own axis.
I’ll be walking through my bathroom/dressing area, and I think: what on earth is this MDiv thing you’re doing? What does a divinity degree have to do with you?
Or sorting laundry: what purpose is this going to serve? No, really. What’s your effort going to accomplish, when it’s all over?
In those blinks, someone else is going to seminary, and I? I am stepping through the existing scaffolds of my days, picking up non-fiction at random to add to my mental mulch and compost as I write posts and poems. I am not a person formally addressing a life of outward identifiably Christian observance; who would that be?
The good news, from my vantage point, is that this split-self is not at all like my previous one. When I was clinically depressed in my teens, my despair and my management of my days operated on fully parallel planes. It’s part of why others were so surprised upon my suicide attempt—homework needed to get done, and be handed in, and how I felt wasn’t germane to that process. If I close myself and listen to my memories, I can re-feel that deeply cold thermocline. It still makes my soul ache and shiver.
Hallelujah, there is no chill here. There is only nothing.
Rejoicing? I rejoice that I remain free from chill. I don’t rejoice for this nothing, because nothing makes me wary. Behind this nothing is likely sterility: the death of generativity, the death of words, the death of my whole-self. If I were to follow this flattened voice, I suspect I would arrive at a flattened version of myself… possibly still recognizable, but only as a shadow.
<shakes her head> It’s all very odd. I check myself all over, and I find only the usual bodily tells of mild uncertainty—a little tension across the chest, a little twist through the gut. Like sitting in a roller-coaster car, with the clicking of the advancing chain amplifying the mounting frisson. I don’t locate regret, or overwhelm, or panic. Or the dreadful dislocation of my exec-ing days.
It’s such a flat sensation that I can’t even get agitated enough to consider whether I’m on a wrong path. Which makes me wonder even more: what is it all about? What’s it for?
Ah well. Regardless of what I come to know, the roller coaster slips into the track next Wednesday.