Oh yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell (Buck Ram, “The Great Pretender”)
Those that follow my tweets or Facebook updates will be aware that this week, which is half-term, Mrs Nomad and the wee one are away as they are spending time at Mrs Nomad’s ma’s. I have, in some ways, been looking forward to this week. One of my struggles in adjusting to being a student once again has been an inability to do it like I did last time. When I studied for my first degree I developed a study-style that involved last-minute cribbing, late-night essay writing, and on-the-spot creative reasoning. But, of course, last time I was not married. Last time, I did not have a family. So, I looked forward to this week – it was to be an opportunity to do things the way I used to do them, it would be great! The reality has, of course, proved rather different!
It has probably not helped that I deliberately decided, since I would have time and space this week, to take on two supervision essays in one week. This has certainly left me busier than I would normally have been. Yet, the root of the problem is not the amount of work. No, it is that I have missed, achingly so, Mrs Nomad and the wee one. I have missed listening for the click of the door that indicates Mrs Nomad is home, I have missed waiting for the wee one to appear through the school entrance half-dragging her bag and jacket, I have missed coming home from evening services and meetings to a house full of light and sound, I have missed sitting around the dinner table and listening as the wee one has shared excitement and Mrs Nomad has let off steam, I have missed the knowledge that in moments of frustration and confusion a hug is just a few feet away!
Yet, in the midst of the angst, and the discomfort, and the loneliness, I can see a great positive. Once upon a time, not that long ago, those words at the top of this post would have applied to me. Acknowledging my weakness, my difficulty, my emotions, would have been unthinkable. I was, indeed, the great pretender. As you will note from the fact that I am writing this post, things have changed. I noticed it last night.
A small number of us went for a quick drink before last orders, in order to escape from the increasingly heavy academic burden that everyone carries at this point in the term. Inevitably the conversation involved questions of how I was doing with the family away. Previously I would have given a quick answer of “Yeh, fine” or “Okay”. Last night I admitted that, while there were benefits, the week was proving more challenging than I had anticipated. This all followed a point earlier in the day when, while at a low ebb, some friends’ comments on Facebook had made me chuckle – I thanked them, admitting that I had been in need of their humorous responses.
Formation for ministry does not just happen in class. When I candidated the biggest query at both District and Connexion was that my application, my portfolio, my answers, my attitude all seemed “too perfect”. Where, they asked, was the weakness, the emotion, the humanity that others, both inside and outside the church, could relate to? I will not claim that I have learnt entirely to let others know how I am feeling. Indeed, I know from experience that there are times and places in which it is important that people do not know how you are feeling – because it is their feelings, and not yours, that are important. But I am pleased to be able to acknowledge that I have moved on from where I was before. So, let me say thank you to all those who have seen through my moments of pretense this week, to all those who have been listened to me admit my loneliness, to all those who have offered me company and moments of laughter.
It is important that all of us recognise the strength in showing weakness, that pretending can never replace reality. Such realisation is part of the journey I am travelling, and I am glad to have taken another step along the way!
Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes,
And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on,
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on,
Everybody hurts. You are not alone. (Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe, “Everybody Hurts”)