“Are you ready?” I remember being asked this question a million times once I started to look obviously pregnant, and like most things in the third trimester, it was utterly perplexing and also annoying. What does it mean to “be ready”? Never a fan of small talk, I tended to respond with something like: “well, I have washed all the newborn clothes and assembled the crib, but I’m not really sure how I’ll cope with losing all my autonomy and being totally responsible for vulnerable new life.” I’m not what you would call the life of any party.
How does one prepare for a transformative life experience? This question is on my mind as we count down to our sabbatical year. (I know, I know, this is different also, much further down the scale of life changing events). I’m facing the same paradox as I did when pregnant. There are logistics to organize, tickets to buy, houses to dismantle, bags to pack, languages to learn….This “to do” list is daunting and also satisfying, and indeed has occupied me for several months now. Yet the more things I cross off my list, the more haunted I am by its superficiality. A more emotionally honest “to do” list would contain items like: educate children and self for major cross-cultural adjustment. Prepare for loneliness, alienation and exhilaration. Practice acts of flexibility and personal re-invention. It’s no wonder we prefer instead to write: Pick up prescriptions. Buy sun hats. Get pedicure.
Faced with impending life transitions, my instinct is always the same: clear the decks. Remove distractions. Quit my job. GET READY (whatever that means). On one level, this is clearly a mistake. Too much time to over analyze and go crazy! And yet, perhaps there is also an up side. When I was in labor with Hannah, at every turn I remember thinking, “is this really all?” The actual experience resembled my plans – and my fears – not at all. And yet, having planned out every contingency, educated myself to a probably insufferable degree, I felt confident to discard the script, abandon the expectations, and just let things happen. (Just like when I was a teacher. I only had the confidence to cross the classroom door if armed with ten pages of notes….which I promptly abandoned to go with the flow of the class).
We leave for Jerusalem in 46 hours and I will report back whether this parallel holds.