I can't imagine the type of person it would take to teach Driver's Education. The sheer willpower it must take not to scream, to grab the wheel, to calmly say, "Alright, now we're going to merge onto the Freeway" is astounding.
I remember sitting the vacant parking lot with my Dad, the smell of burning clutch wafting, and the feeling that my feet would never gain the understanding of working in harmony with all those pedals-- let alone the shifter and the steering wheel. Poor Dad.
If you've ever been in the car with someone who is learning to drive, you can relate to the desperate straining as you press your feet harder & harder into the floorboard (hoping against hope to somehow slow the car down), or willing all your mental energy to the left, to avoid sideswiping the parked cars next to you. It's like using The Force to reach out with your feelings... only nothing happens except white knuckles and exhaustion.
Lately, I have arrived at each Friday with that same battle weary feeling of exhaustion, like going on an entire road trip with a Student Driver. Chris & I have joked that we don't recover from our Mondays [which are basically 13 hours of leading meetings] until Saturday morning.
The thing is, we're not working crazy hours (except the aforementioned Mondays), or filling our lives with too many activities, or spending our days in hard manual labor. But by the end of the week, my heart and my mind is just thread bare.
It's an interesting thing being a spiritual leader-- even if it is just a small college ministry. I feel my successes and failures at work so very deeply. They don't come in the form of stocks or shares, but in people's lives, relationships, and souls. Of course, seeing the natural ebb & flow of our humanity (along with the rash choices that college students tend to make!) should not send me into a tailspin of failure, but I admit that my emotions mirror my students' dramatic up's and down's.
I recognized the feeling of trying to drive a car from the passenger seat through the force of my will & emotions, like I was trying to slow everyone down by mashing my feet into the ground. It was exhausting. I recognized that I had no room for other relationships in my life, for creativity, or writing, or even engaging deeply "after hours". Believe it or not, but I actually went a few weeks without cooking much of anything (this is surely a sign that something is very wrong in my life).
Just as you unclench your fist when you look down and realize the tension you were holding through a scary movie, I began to look around and see (and feel) the weight I was carrying to "save" our students. As I did that, I slowly relaxed and started noticing a desire to cook again (a great first step-- except that Chris is still in a cast, so I always had to clean up my messes in the kitchen). Then, I found in me a hunger to engage in relationships again, and other creative ideas started to flow. It was like I was carrying the eternal destiny of our students' souls around with me, and didn't have the energy to simply be who I was supposed to be.
Of course, the question I keep asking myself is: How do I continue to care deeply about the people I work with, without wearing myself out? How do I walk with others through life's up's and down's without constantly living on a Roller Coaster? How do I live life woven together with our students, without becoming entangled in it all?
It is a constant balancing act of centering myself, taking deep breaths and a step back, and focusing on Something bigger than myself. He brought me here... He'll get me where I need to be.
And then, of course, there's making sure that I am being intentional with those things that give me life. Next up: embroidering a sweatshirt, making crepes, and forcing myself to keep writing.
Wish me luck...