Thursday, November 18, 2004

Electrons and Bonding

I was in eighth grade. In my town, eighth and ninth graders attended junior high and during those first few weeks of school, I was scared to look around for fear that someone might notice me and mock me. I had no basis for this fear, really, other than the typical awkward self-consciousness of being a teenaged girl.

My salvation was not in make-up and cute clothes. My redemption was entirely within textbooks and class lectures because I was a brain. That's why I loved Mr. Ainsworth.

Mr. Ainsworth taught eighth grade physical science. He grinned his lopsided grin and demonstrated scientific principles with vigor and verve. One day, he hopped up on his desk and explained that he was an electron. He hopped up and down, showing us how atoms bonded by sharing electrons, how they sought a stable orbit of electrons. Here is a refresher course. (Trust me, you want to know this . . . and for those of you who won't click, here--important facts:)

"Why do atoms connect to one another?
There are many different types of bond that will exist between atoms. One of the most common types is a covalent bond, the sharing of electrons. The electrons of an atom exist in orbits, with each orbit holding a certain number.
The orbits and the number of electrons that they can hold are:
1st orbit - 2 . . . 2nd orbit - 8. . . 3rd orbit - 8 . . . 4th orbit - 18

When an atom's outer electron shell is completely full, it is stable and will not react with other atoms. All of the Noble Gases (Argon, Helium, Xenon, Krypton, Radon, and Neon) are inert, and will not naturally react with other elements. Due to this, single atoms of these gases can be found in nature. Other elements such as Oxygen (O) and Hydrogen (H) are not stable as single atoms.

In the picture (you'll have to click on the link above--go ahead, I'll wait . . .), the larger Oxygen atom has only 6 electrons in its outer electron shell, needing 2 more to completely fill it. The 2 smaller Hydrogen atoms both need 1 electron to fill their outer electron shell.
In the other picture (click on the link again--I'll still be here) . . . the Hydrogen atoms are "sharing" their one electron with the Oxygen atom and the Oxygen atom is sharing one electron to each of the Hydrogen atoms. Now each of the atoms have complete outer electron shells, making this molecule stable."

I thought about this scientific principle the other night. I pictured Mr. Ainsworth--wavy, groovy, 1979 brown hair--hopping up and down, showing us how atoms needed electron-shells to be filled just so in order to be stable--and I thought that I am just like an atom. Well, a really, really BIG atom.

I have some vacancies in my outer electron shell . . . leading to some instability. Why can't I find someone else with electron-shell vacancies so we can bond together? Every single atom I bump into seems to have a full electron shell. And you know as well as I do that if the electron shell is full, it's impossible to bond, atom-to-atom.

So you see where I'm going with this? I have a basic scientific vacancy in my outer electron shell. I'm oxygen and my electron shell has a couple of vacancies, desperate vacancies, flashing-red-light vacancies.

Well. I've lived here six years and it seems that all the women I know here have full electron shells. They have their quota of friends, full social calendars, demanding jobs, busy husbands, children with activities. Everyone is so busy, so full, so complete.

I'm busy and all, but I still long for a friend who would sit and watch me dump out my purse and eat fuzzy gum and let me unzip my heart, dump it out and then watch me sort through it without judgment. It's probably my old eighth grade paranoia, but I feel like I must guard myself and put on a pretty face, complete with mascara (make-up has become my salvation now that I'm nearly 40). I need to keep my true self quiet and secluded. I can't vent about my life because I am the Pastor's Wife. At least that's how it feels to me.

But I would. If I could find someone who qualified. Which I won't as long as I am home, within these walls, teaching big kids school at home while watching little kids build block towers and dance to Sesame Street. The only women I meet attend my church and even if I could feel free to appear without mascara (and my industrial strength shield which keeps my negativity neutralized and my whiny self strait-jacketed and stuck in a closet) . . . well, I don't think they would see me as anyone other than The Pastor's Wife, complete with stereotypical expectations. I do, after all, play the piano, sing, coordinate the nursery volunteer schedule and direct Vacation Bible School in the summers, just like a dutiful Pastor's Wife.

Recently, I mentioned to a church friend that I'd like to start a book club. She was agreeable, but then she made a little comment that made me suddenly realize: I can't recommend a book to her that is less than "Christian" and edifying and encouraging, because I'm not just a woman she knows. I'm The Pastor's Wife. I can't start a book club with church women--I'd constantly edit myself, censor myself, keep my opinions to myself. I don't want that.

I can't figure out how other pastor's wives do it. Maybe they have full electron shells already and they don't feel like flinging themselves against other electrons until they bond and form a neat, tidy molecule of water. But my shell has an open space and like a string of Christmas tree lights with a burned out bulb, I'm not lighting up the way I should. Maybe I'm not Christian enough or spiritual enough because I feel this empty little spot.

Or maybe I just need more sleep.

10 Comments:

Blogger Marykay said...

I'll join your book club! And I don't care if the book is full of the F-bombs so long as it is good. I love Anne Lamott simply because she swears when she needs to. I have such a hard time with that idea of secular/sacred and that we classify so much that way. I find good and truth and beauty in things even when the originator didn't realize they were being used for that. Do you think that maybe man, in the image of God, sometimes creates in His image in spite of sin? Ok, done venting. I love ya!

4:35 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

My mom was a pastor's wife, too, and she often felt the same way. I think it's one of the job hazards. Actually, both my parents were sort of in that boat. They had to be the "spiritual leaders" so it was hard to find a close friend who would allow them to be themselves, human and all. I hope you find that missing electron soon, Mel. If not, I just may have to move out to the Pacific Northwest. I need a good reason to move there, anyway!!

6:13 AM  
Blogger Demented M said...

Mel:

Have you thought about contacting the pastor's wife of another church or starting a pastor's wife/spouse support group in your area? I bet you might find some good friends there. And you are not the only pastor's spouse who feels this way.

Or sign up for a class? I meet several new people when I took a pathophysiology course. Although, none of them 'stuck'.

Or join a book club where no one knows you?

Otherwise I think it's just that you're not getting out of the house which limits your contact with people. You're a mom, a homeschooling mom, and you probably just don't get a lot of opportunities to meet new people. So you have the double whammy, isolation due to parenting and due to the pastor wife thing.

Hang in there!

Michelle

10:12 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

I have some friends, but no kindred spirit. I seem to be the one they call when things aren't going well. When things are going well, they have people with money that they can go places with. I'm the poor cousin. Often times I feel like I was put on this earth so that other people could feel good about themselves. I'm fat, poor and diabetic. I'm also quite happy in my own little world, and struggle a bit with social anxiety disorder. So, I invite people over. I can handle that. My inner world is rich. My outer world sucks.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

I have some friends, but no kindred spirit. I seem to be the one they call when things aren't going well. When things are going well, they have people with money that they can go places with. I'm the poor cousin. Often times I feel like I was put on this earth so that other people could feel good about themselves. I'm fat, poor and diabetic. I'm also quite happy in my own little world, and struggle a bit with social anxiety disorder. So, I invite people over. I can handle that. My inner world is rich. My outer world sucks.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Ociferswife said...

To bad we will never be in close enough vicinity to bond, I just gave up one of my electrons. She is moving to Texas. Bouncing along now...

1:42 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

(ps - i have pms)

8:04 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Michelle, you always have great ideas. The problem with starting a group or finding a club is time. I know this is a temporary problem (because of the schooling at home and age of my toddler), so I just vent and wait for time to pass.

Everyone else, thank you for the support. I appreciate it. And JudyH, I had PMS, too. I'm better now!

1:10 PM  
Blogger QQ said...

I wonder if there are Pastor's Wife support groups....hmmm.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

I am sure that people look at you, and assume a "full shell." Much in the same way as you look at others and assume theirs...
Although I am not a pastor's wife, I have some similar issues. I guess my goal is to try not to think about my own "vacancies"...that are SO THERE...and try to help others with theirs. So far, I haven't had fabulous success, but I am working on it...

8:33 AM  

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