liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
[personal profile] liv
In summary, I had a really excellent weekend followed by quite a major come-down when I had to come back to campus and leave my people behind. This is becoming a bit more of a pattern than I'd really like. Also, Passover starts on Friday and I'm involved in three seders and three households worth of cleaning and I'm a bit snowed under.

So I got a bit of proper time with [personal profile] jack, which was incredibly restorative and good. And [livejournal.com profile] illusive_shelle and her partner and two of his kids came to visit; [livejournal.com profile] illusive_shelle is one of the people I most enjoy talking to, she's both really interesting and a great listener. We're busy, and she's in a category beyond the scope of mere busy, being a vet and a stepmother of three, so talking to her doesn't happen nearly as often as I'd like.

I had to leave a bit early but for a good reason, which was to spend the evening with my OSOs. We had just a really lovely time, a reasonable chance to chat, and the littles being really affectionate while still giving the grown-ups a bit of space for conversation. We played Colt Express, a really lovely little game I should try to review at some point.

Sunday we went on a mass expedition to Duxford, to celebrate Benedict's 17th. So the four of us and partners' three kids and Benedict's father and his partner and [livejournal.com profile] fivemack. Lovely weather, and really Duxford is relatively quiet when there's not an airshow going on, or at least, there's an awful lot of museum in a big physical space compared to the number of visitors. [livejournal.com profile] ghoti brought a picnic, and [personal profile] jack learned how to install car seats in order to be able to transport small children safely in his car. And Benedict got to ride in a tank and be generally grown-up – he was doing a really impressive job of explaining late 20th century history to his little sister. I think [personal profile] jack found it a bit stressful how faffy large parties are, especially mixed age parties, but basically that was most of my childhood, being dragged more or less reluctantly to museums with a bunch of my parents' friends.

Annoyingly I had to travel back across country for a meeting first thing Monday morning, so missed the birthday dinner. And I was just ridiculously sad sad sad about it; I've been finding it really hard to settle to work, or any kind of preparation for Passover. It's partly hormones, and partly that work is in a stage where I have really a lot of medium-term things I need to get done, making it hard to prioritize, especially when I'm out of term-time routine. And partly, well, I was talking to a Christian friend and she suggested I need to go on a retreat, to have some time away from all the various responsibilities and demands on me, and I said, we don't really do that, we have Shabbat for that purpose.

Only, I'm not really getting to unplug over Shabbat at the moment. Not because I work, I have been pretty strict about not doing or even thinking about actual paid work on Shabbat since I was a teenager. But I don't really rest either, let alone make the day a proper spiritual space. Because I have commitments to both my community in Stoke, and my people in Cambridge, I spend from 8 to midnight Friday evening travelling just about every week. And I don't in principle eschew travelling on Shabbat, but that journey is completely the opposite of peaceful. It's been such a very long time since I was regularly lighting Friday night candles and sitting down with loved ones for a meal. And since I was anything like regularly attending Saturday morning services; given how much it's the norm at the moment I should stop being surprised to find myself sleeping in until about midday on Saturday. And Saturday afternoon I spend doing things that are definitely fun and restorative and good for me, but generally involve socializing of some kind, rather than just chilling at home.

I think being short of a proper Shabbat is part of a larger problem, which is that time with my husband and partners, let alone any other friends, is so scarce with so much geography, that I am inclined to overschedule and not allow myself enough down time. The thing is, I'm an extrovert so on any given occasion I'd rather be socializing than at home on my own reading quietly. But if I choose that all the time, I end up being exhausted.

Pesach: I have basically run out of time to do any serious cleaning of the flat here, and anyway it's complicated because my oven is broken, and my phone broke (probably another subject for another post) at just the wrong time for for getting it fixed in time. I kind of need to go back to Cambridge, most likely tomorrow, so that I can help my parents organize our family seder; things are extremely stressful at home this year and we're going to do a relatively low-key seder, but, well, immediate family is a dozen people, and it's very, very hard to cut corners when it comes to Passover prep. I have to turn round and come straight back to Stoke so I can run the communal seder second night, which is more aggravating travelling on Shabbat, but again I'm balancing obligations to my living, breathing community with those to the Sabbath Queen. My community have a very helpful tradition that I do the liturgy and people who are not me do all the practical stuff, the cleaning before and after the meal and all the cooking. But I do still need to plan that seder during some completely non-existent time between now and Saturday night. And I'm hoping to do a last night seder at the end of the week for my family of choice; it will be a seder where I'm the only Jewish person. I'm really quite excited about it, and [livejournal.com profile] ghoti is going to help with the cooking, and I do have the week of Passover to sort it out, but right now, with so much else on my plate and generally a bit low mood, it feels slightly daunting.

What's definitely helping is conversations with my awesome friends. Your thinky comments on my political posts help a lot with making me feel connected. And I've managed to chat to [personal profile] angelofthenorth and [personal profile] hatam_soferet (who has very wise things to say about Passover stress), and [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel, and basically my people are all being very good for me.

I have a big backlog of stuff I want to post about, but I'm scrabbling for time, so let's start with just a bit of babbling about what's going on in my life.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 02:49 am (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
Good luck with all the Passover prep. Even though I have fewer comittments than you I never seem to get as much Seder prep done as I would like. This year I'm hosting a small family Seder on first night for which I still need to finalize the menu and I would like to revise my haggadah but my sleep has been super disrupted the last few nights and I don't know if I will have the energy to do it. I'm also going to a Seder at my secular community but luckily I just have to show up for that.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 06:45 am (UTC)
emperor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperor
Wait, you know [profile] illusive_shelle? Small world...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 07:38 am (UTC)
ridicully: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ridicully
This is exactly what I came here to say. Such a small world.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 08:58 am (UTC)
atreic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] atreic
We spent a lot of their wedding chatting to her, don't you remember? :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 08:22 am (UTC)
bugshaw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bugshaw
How do you feel about cars? I can see a scenario where I do a day trip to Stoke and could give you a lift one way. I want to practice more 2-3 hour drives, visit in UK, and the car battery needs it (mostly I walk/train to places). Your comment "an extrovert so on any given occasion I'd rather be socializing than at home on my own reading quietly" speaks volumes to me, so I would be delighted to have a travelling companion.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-22 08:24 am (UTC)
bugshaw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bugshaw
Yes, will email :-) But I have just started a regular Monday volunteer job 9-5 so the more helpful to you option is not good for me...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 08:59 am (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
I so get the nasty geography comment. Every time I have to pack up and fly away across this ocean seems harder than the last.

It's good that I get 10 whole days at home when I'm there, which is better than it would be if I was travelling to "client site" every Monday. Still hard and getting harder, though.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-21 07:46 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
I guess we both have two separate lives - the one where we're at work away from home and the one at home?

It's different though, like I get such a long time at home when I'm there. There's something nice about always "coming home" and always missing each other. It stops me from forgetting that it's something precious that I've got and just taking it for granted.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 09:03 am (UTC)
atreic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] atreic
*hugs* That does all sound like a lot and it's not surprising you feel stretched a bit thin. Much sympathy. For me, I think it's OK to get to that point occasionally when there are big events like Passover, but then it's worth thinking about the shape of things after the big event is over. Or keeping an eye on how many big events you're running for - with a larger close family the number of birthdays, festivals etc is going to increase.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 10:43 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
*sympathy*
I'm not really an extrovert but there are lots of people I like very much and want to spend time with, including family - plus Quaker meeting stuff, plus paid work equals a similar sort of stretchedness. Having duties so that I rarely get the experience of disappearing (psychologically) into the silence of a Quaker meeting is probably part of it.
So yes, no solutions but lots of sympathy.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-21 08:12 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Thank you, and I'm glad.
There's a Quaker saying about our having abolished the laity rather than the clergy, but really yes, we're all lay.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-21 09:12 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
Oh, what a saying, that's...wow

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-22 09:14 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Good wow or bad wow?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 03:01 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
The kind of wow that means...my community did exactly the same thing, but yours expresses it elegantly!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-26 03:13 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
:-)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 02:39 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
I'm sorry you're feeling so exhausted and overwhelmed. It sounds like longer-term you need to solve at least part of the geography problem, but that isn't telling you anything new; and I can't really offer any practical help with the short-term stuff.

Medium-term, I wonder if a weekend in Stoke say, once a month would be helpful. Maybe [personal profile] jack or someone else could come to you so you aren't travelling but also don't feel too lonely; or maybe you do just need to sit and read. I'm assuming that it would be difficult for your OSOs to travel with children, but I'm not sure it's sensible for you to always or nearly always be the one who does the travel.

Short-term, if you're that far behind on rest and peaceful time, a retreat of sorts might not be a bad idea. If thinking of it as a "restful holiday" rather than a religious/spiritual retreat helps, then do that. I enjoyed visiting Gladstone's Library -- there seemed to be a good balance of social time with shiny new people, and the ability to go away and read a book. There is some Christianity there (not entirely surprisingly) but it is quite ignore-able, or so [personal profile] hairyears found when we were there. I'm sure there are other options available. The hardest thing about this sort of thing is finding the schedule time for it. It isn't really a replacement for Shabbat but it can recharge batteries a bit.

Three lots of Pesach cleaning doesn't bear thinking about, and you have my sympathies. Having a broken oven doesn't help, of course.

Very short term, if you've run a communal Seder before can you save time/effort by using plans from a previous year for the second night one? And can the last night seder be very informal and low-key?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-20 02:48 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
Because I have commitments to both my community in Stoke, and my people in Cambridge, I spend from 8 to midnight Friday evening travelling just about every week

Dearest badger, this is not doing good things to you, like you say: you are not getting any real Shabbat time ever.

The community in Stoke is not paying you. You don't have a contract with them. The nature of your commitment is one of good citizen, pillar of the community. Because you are a lovely person, and you learned it from your parents who are also pillars of the community. But. Communities of lovely people can nevertheless be energy vampires. They will suck out everything you are willing to give. You can kid yourself that the payoff is worth it (keeping the community going! it's such a lovely community!) but no community ever said "Let's do fewer events, because it's taking a terrible toll on our leadership" of its own accord.

What if you cut your programming in half, starting next week? Maybe they'd go down to only having services once a fortnight. Or maybe someone would step up, or maybe they'd get a Chabadnik (ugh). The community would grumble and bitch, but they'd live.

You remember how Moshe tried to hold up the whole community, doing all the ritual work, and Yitro came along and said hey son, this is killing you and you have no time for your family? And they arranged a structure of lesser people to take on some of the work. I bet the Israelites were seriously pissed off: "what do you mean I can't see Moshe? I have to have Yehoshua? But he's ONLY 17! He can't do nearly as good a job as Moshe!" But it meant that Moshe got to have some downtime, and the community adjusted just fine really, even if it was different to what they were used to.

This is me being Yitro and telling you that it is okay to make some radical changes with how much time you give to the Stoke community. Please consider that, this Pesach?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-21 09:38 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
I didn't mean to make you cry, you darling.

I didn't make the point well about unpaid work. I agree with you that unpaid work is in large part what keeps communities running and it's avodah and that's important on a different scale than just financial compensation and figuring out what you're getting out of it. But avodah has costs just like work does and you're silently eating those costs, of time and energy and shalom bayit, week after week. A contract and a salary is a way of negotiating how much of your time and energy and shalom bayit you're giving to the community and how much you get to keep for yourself; in negotiating those, the community has to figure out what its portion is and what your portion is. When you don't have a contract etc, you don't have any particular reason to stop and think about what's reasonable, until you hit burnout and you have to stop.

There's a gemara on Gittin 52a which talks about a guardian and how he's to administer the funds of orphans in his care. He can use the funds to buy them things to do mitzvot, but only certain sorts of mitzvot. He can buy them a lulav or tefillin (all the gemaras I know at the moment are about tefillin), but he can't let them use their funds to redeem captives or give charity, because those are enormous mitzvot beyond the capability of one person to sustain, and the orphans' funds would get used up and there'd be nothing left for when they grow up. That's the gemara saying avodah is limitless and individuals' funds aren't. There's another one along similar lines about limiting the amount of your own funds you may give to tzedakah, but it doesn't have any tefillin in it so I don't know the reference. Spoons are also funds.

And I think that having Shabbos dinner at 9pm instead of at midnight is huge.

Edited Date: 2016-04-21 09:39 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-21 07:49 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
Wise words indeed.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-23 09:51 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
I love this comment, and your other one further down the thread.

An additional point for [personal profile] liv: you've already decided that eventually you will move to Cambridge. You don't do the community in Stoke any longterm favours by allowing them to rely on You And Only You: if they're going to continue they're going to have to figure out how. Scaling back your involvement gives them a chance to think about this, to experiment with other ways of running services, to learn more of their own strengths. And yes, they're tiny and vulnerable, and no, it won't be the same, but it's more likely to be viable in the long term if you don't all avoid the "How can this shul survive as a community without Liv?" question.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-22 10:39 am (UTC)
shreena: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shreena
I kind of agree with the comments above that you doing all of the travelling and also all of the Friday services in Stoke doesn't sound like it's working. I know you made this decision to live in Cambridge and stuff but I think you need to re evaluate that if it isn't working for you and for Jack/OSOs to do a bit more of the travel. I suspect it would have some upsides too in terms of one-on-one time with each of your partners. Or sometimes spending Friday nights on your own in Stoke and travelling down to Cambridge on Saturday to give you a chance to rest/recharge.

The other thought I had is that I wonder if it's worth looking carefully at that Friday night train journey which seems to be one of the big issues and doing some analysis of what exactly about it is making it so stressful and thinking about what you might be able to do to make it a more positive part of your week. Perhaps this is overoptimistic but could you use it as reflection time? Perhaps adding in some rituals to it, even if they aren't traditional shabbat rituals to make you feel as though you're getting something shabbat-like from it? So, an example might be that every Friday you take a thermos of tea on the train, pour yourself a cup and take 5 mins to take stock of what you're thankful about from this week, what your hopes/fears are for next week, that type of thing.

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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