Monday, March 13, 2006

The Virus Speaks (Incoherently)

I suppose the people in my church would describe me as being standoffish, aloof. The more uncharitable would say I'm stuck-up. Or maybe this is only my own projection upon the unsuspecting and dear parishioners to whom my husband devotes his days and often nights and inevitably, his weekends. No one is ever unkind to my face and only the occasional anonymous soul offers up "constructive" criticism.

Most of it is imagined on my part, if truth be told. I hear their silent words when I dress on Sunday mornings: "Why does she wear the same three outfits over and over?" and "Does she look a little bloated to you?" and "What is with that curly permed look?" [Note: The curl is real.] The real conversations I have following the services are so shallow as to be puddles as opposed to ponds: "Oh, fine. Staying busy!" (said brightly with fake smile.)

I haven't always been this guarded. Not until I learned by trial and error. As we'd arrive at a new church, one or two women would appear on my doorstep or telephone me frequently, extending a hand of friendship or the use of their washing machine before mine was functional. I'd share bits of myself, innocuous secrets about my life, candid moments freely offered. And I learned to regret it. I learned that those who approach the new pastor's wife first are those who will end up being trouble.

Given the logistics of my life at the moment--the isolation that comes with schooling at home while tending to younger children--my connections with the outside world are limited. I am unable to leave my house between 7:15 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., so there are no gym workouts, no lunches with friends, no errands run during daylight hours, no playgroups, no park outings, no manicures, nothing. I depend on a local friend (or two) who calls periodically, the dearer friends who email regularly, my husband's intermittent phone calls throughout the day and the connections I've made through the internet. As you can imagine, each of these arteries bring a bit of life to me, a necessary adult connection and reminder that I am a person, not just a maid who insists children do math problems and keeps the laundry to a manageable mound.

You know how a person can live with a blocked artery? Or two? I guess that's kind of how I live now, during this season of life. I used to think that if I were simply more outgoing, I would draw more people to myself, but this is less about personality and more about necessary circumstances. But that doesn't really make it easier. I simply have to endure and find a way to thrive during this demanding time of life.

When I think about how women lived in prior generations, I feel like a whiny baby. Think of how easy it is, how machines and technology and electricity have made life so much easier. Only, I wonder if life isn't any easier. Chores, perhaps. Life? Not so much. The more connected I am to modern conveniences, the less connected I feel on a human level.

Or maybe that's just the mucus crazy-talking.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow I will feel better. I hope. Because a virus must end sometime, right?

p.s. I'm not aloof. I'm just shy. Just so you know.


Blogger Amie said...

Sometimes I wish I didn't have electricity then at least I would be so busy I wouldn't worry about the fact that I don't have anyone to talk to??? ........ well then again, i think I would rather have the electricity.

Hope your feeling better soon!

1:22 AM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

My earlier years when my kids were younger were very lonely. There was not much to the day that I looked forward to because it never changed. I did daycare, so naptime was a highlight, but usually within 20 minutes someone was up. Being a member of a woman's club (philanthropic group) helped - but then just the kids growing up helped the most. Hang in there, you are not alone! I feel your pain, Mel.

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Stacy said...

I agree, Mel. You've just got to hang in there. I stayed home when my kids were younger so I've done the lonely thing. I've also done the church thing, not as a pastor's wife but as wife of the head elder and as the youth director. People tend to be critical of anyone in a leadership position. Most of the time our family felt like we were in just as much of a fishbowl as the pastor's family. We kept most relationships in the church shallow, too, for self-defense. I'm not involved in the church anymore. As the pastor's wife, I know you're kind of "stuck" with that, but the kids will grow up. That's been a good (no, wonderful) thing in my life because for the first time in my adult life I have time to live my life for myself. It'll happen for you, too.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I get you. Lots probably think me aloof (at best) too. But basically I'm just a shy/introverted/listener type of person. I also have the additional handicap of tending to look sour when I feel quite neutral.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Darling said...

I don 't see how you manage the daycare. My kids are so all time consuming that I have no time or energies left for daycare kids. Homeschooling is very selfcontained isnt it? I didnt realize quite how much until this past week. Now that we've taken Tink out of school I have not had one coffee or lunch with an adult! I miss it.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Eyes said...

I think it is just an isolating world today. I see this trend everywhere, and even childless, I find it very lonely because I don't have children. All the women my age have young children, many responsibilities and no time.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I am always amazed by the like-minded people I have met through the internet.

And, I'll have to remember the shy thing... I'm the type to think you just think I'm a bit bloated myself and can't be bothered!

Hope you feel better soon, Mel.

8:28 AM  
Blogger yorkist rose said...

I'm not stuck up either, I promise!

8:39 AM  
Blogger Hope said...

I gotcha. Live in a rural area to boot.
I find that all of the modern gadgets have caused more work.
My cell phone and cordless mean I available at all times. When i grew up, you only used the phone for distances over 10 blocks and a busy signal meant they were busy. No messages to leave so you just had to catch then when they weren't busy. We used to have a set of playclothes that we wore until they deemed of need of washing. My mom had a wringer washer and one wash day. I do 2-3 loads a day with my high efficiency
and let my kid change as often as he wants. Cause laundry's not as hard. But there's more work Seems when when gadets can do work for us, we take on more work and more gadgets.

I'll chat with you anytime.
People see things with their own eyes. everyone looks for acceptance. People who are shy often make people uncomfortable because they automaticially think it's about them, that the shy one thinks they are too good for them .
Although i am not shy, I get very easily bored with small talk. I can't keep my interest up when someone's going on and on by inconsequential things, nor can i come up reciprocative small talk. People who don't know me would call
me aloof and stuck up. I don't do gossip so the people that gossip get uneasy around me.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Shalee said...

Here's my dilemma... different and yet coherently the same.

I am not shy in the least. I am, however, tired of shallow, phony, worldly goals that most of the young mothers at church or in the community have as their daily priorities.

I don't care to shop at the best stores; I don't watch TV; I could care less about what name is on my clothes, car, or appliances. These things alone set me apart from them. When I attempt to have a real conversation about God, struggles, emotions, difficulties in child-raising, etc., they all look at me as if I have a third eye and quickly change the subject to where they found to be the best place to get nails done.

I am just tired of not finding many people who also want a deep, real friendship. Until then, I keep mostly what I feel to myself. Fortunately, I have found a couple of people besides my husband who are on my same wavelength, so I do feel blessed with their friendships. And I am realizing through blogging that there are others who feel the same way. Perhaps the anonymity makes some people bolder to state what they really feel.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I just think you're the bomb.

When I'm feeling totally couped up, we load up the school work and go get our work done at the library ... or Starbucks ... or the McDonald's playground.

Oh, and I'm tagging you:

1:23 PM  
Blogger Paige said...

People will see you how they want. If you were not as shy..."oh she just wants to be the center of attention". You won't win. You are a real person. Full of good things & kindness with a few brusies, just like everyone else. But you are also special. No one can fold clothes just like you. No one will load the dishwasher right. No one can make a boo boo better like you do. No one will ever kiss your man like you can. You are special!

3:00 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

I understand.

I'm shy too.

And, not at all cool.

But, I hear that I intimidate people. I do not understand that. I have nothing at my disposal with which to intimidate!

3:38 PM  
Anonymous mopsy said...

Mucus is never known for level-headed assessment of anything.

Take care. I hope you feel better, pronto.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Debra said...

Hi Mel...After reading your post and then all these great comments, I'm reminded of why I *love* the Internet. It is here that, for the first time in my life, I've been able to find people who love the same things I do. We don't have to resort to shallow, surface stuff. And I feel much freer to express myself without having people look at me-- because like you, (and others here), I've been misjudged as being standoffish/intimidating/cold... sigh... When, actually, most of that comes from having been really shy the first 35+ years of my life. Thanks for another great post, Mel--I was nodding my head so much out of empathy and understanding that I'm surprised I don't have a giant kink in my neck :).... Get-well blessings and wishes to you.... Debra

4:57 PM  
Blogger ~Jennifer said...

I'll be your friend. :-) I'm also a bit shy, which has been mistaken for aloofness (Is that a word?) or at least that's what I think people think about me. Like you, it's mostly what I tell myself they think. I've been shocked recently to find out what nice things some people actually do think about me. (I have them all fooled. ha!) I'll bet you'd be surprised too. Oh, and I also live in the PNW.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous surcie said...

I can relate to a lot of what you've said. I'm definitely on the shy side, I have weight issues, and I prefer pants to skirts , blah, blah, blah. I'm not the ideal "pastor's wife." But I am a good wife to MY husband. If people are going to judge me, they should get to know me first. Otherwise, I'm determined not to give a rat's butt about what they think. They have no idea what my family and I sacrifice for the church, and they never will. God does, though, and God doesn't call me to be who the church wants me to be. God calls me to be myself--the person God created.

I think that life in a pastor's family is a bit isolating in itself. So, I can only imagine what it must be like to homeschool your kids on top of that. I'm wondering what there might be for you--outside of church and apart from kids--that will make you feel connected to others, stimulate your intellect, and make you feel like you have something of your own to enjoy. Do you have time to read for pleasure? What about joining a book club that meets in the evening? Just an idea. Hope you feel better soon!

7:28 PM  
Blogger g said...

Just so you know, the viruses that are circulating this late winter seem to be quite resilient, and the body does not throw them off as quickly, as other viruses in the past. They linger. And we seem to be passing these viruses around, slowly, so everyone gets a chance to host for three weeks.

Pastor's wife, plus homemaker. There's a double duty. You described the scene so smoothly, so completely, that many people can relate.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Angi said...

I"ve actually had CM's tell me, after getting to know me, "Oh, you aren't stuck up at all!". I've experienced what you described more than once, growing up as a PK, and now as a PW. I mentor of my husband's once told us to keep our close friendships out of the church, it always seems to come back and bite you in the hind quarters. He was so right.

But how to draw the line? That is the question I want the answer to.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Human connection is most definitely missing in our day and age. I feel it too!

11:43 AM  
Blogger Trina said...

What a great post. I am a homeschooling mother of 5 boys. My husband ministers at our church. I thought your take on certain situations was beautifully accurate. I really enjoyed reading.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Sherry said...

Mel, great post. I think all sahm moms feel that isolation at times (I know I sure do) and it just would be that much harder with daycare kids. I don't know how you do it... there are days I can barely stand my own kids.

I was close friends with a pastor's wife and it just blew my mind how...normal she was. Sarcastic, frustrated, smart, opinionated...just like me! It was a real eye-opener to me. It's hard to leave behind those preconceived notions.

Hang in there...viruses don't last forever.

7:25 PM  

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