‘The Readiness is All’

“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.

About hilarymead

Taking two young kids, a great husband, and a whole lot of questions to Jerusalem for a year's sabbatical.
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12 Responses to ‘The Readiness is All’

  1. Lindsey sent me here, and I’ll be back! I can’t wait to live vicariously through your adventures!

  2. Launa says:

    I can not express how happy I am that you are going, that you are going to be together, and now that I get to READ your year as it unfolds. I write to you from Aups, two years from the date we arrived for our year ON. (great title by the way) and I am thinking back on how much our lives changed. And now, you’re looking at tabula rasa. We will be with you every step. Love, your huge fan Launa

  3. Hi!
    Lindsey has written of you with such great respect, that I had to check it out. I knew I would stay after reading about your comments during labor, “is this all?” Ha!

  4. Stacey says:

    Friends with Lindsey… So glad she sent me here! Will look forward to reading more. Safe travels.

  5. I am here because of Lindsey.

    “Prepare for loneliness, alienation and exhilaration. Practice acts of flexibility and personal re-invention.” This line grabbed me. This isn’t really possible is it? I didn’t realize that until I saw it written here today. I think I will probably live differently because I read this.

  6. Gale says:

    Lovely to “meet” you, and I look forward to following along in your journey. (Also referred by your sister.)

    As for the “to do” lists, I think you deserve a little slack here. Things like “prepare for loneliness, alienation and exhilaration. Practice acts of flexibility and personal re-invention,” are not activities that can always be planned just so. These things happen in their own time, and often in unexpected ways. My suspicion is that if you sat down to do these things for the purpose of crossing them off a list you would find that they felt just as superficial as picking up your prescriptions. So, allow yourself the peace of mind of knowing that you’re getting all of the logistical details buttoned up, so that when the existential waters rise you’ll be able to focus on them fully, without the distractions of the more trivial “to do” list.

  7. I am a huge fan of your sister’s and thrilled to get to know you a bit through your words. Welcome to the blogosphere!

  8. Christa says:

    Yet another friend of Lindsey’s here. I’ve always dreamt of doing just the sort of thing you will be living into and so appreciate the fact that you are sharing it openly.

    Traveling mercies, blessings and patience to you and yours…

  9. Hi! I’m friend of your sister’s and I can’t wait to read more of your thoughts and perspectives on your journey.

  10. Alana says:

    Hi! I’m another friend/fan of Lindsey’s who is looking forward to living vicariously through you for the next year. Safe travels and enjoy the journey.

  11. Margaret says:

    While I do adore your sister, I am here because I am a friend of YOU. Hilary, this post makes me wish I could sit down with you every day for a hashing out of life’s amazing adventures. While, admittedly, I do not get to travel/move to such exotic places (Kansas to Georgia is not quite as big an adjustment as going to Jerusalem), I DO face the same “prepare yourself” or “prepare the stuff” dilemma rather frequently. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I always default to preparing the “stuff” and that getting a pedicure is always on my list. LOVE YOU!

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