Hold your head up. Moving on.

Let me purge my essays from my system with one mention, and then that’s it. Promise.

I am not (or, at least, I never used to be) a last-minute person, but one of my essays went so wrong that I pretty much started again with two days to go. In it went at 11.35pm, 25 minutes before the midnight deadline.  Friday night: really living it up.

The other day, this came up in conversation and we got talking about how we’re motivated. For one person it was an internal drive to do well, for another it was about external incentives to achieve. For me, I realise, it’s both.

Internal because I want to really get my head around the stuff I’m learning about so that it can serve me, and others, well in real life. I don’t want to turn in something that is half thought-through and not representative of my thinking on the matter. And internal because I take satisfaction in a piece of writing that is well crafted, honed to perfection, and about which I can sit back and say ‘it is good’.

External, on the other hand, because I want to do well. And this is where it gets tricky. It’s easy to justify that desire: get a good mark, prove that I know my stuff, get a job off the back of it and be better placed to make a difference in the lives of people I care about. And that’s true. But, if I put my heart under a (not overly strong) microscope, alongside that motivation is the truth that I also want to be seen to do well. It’s about proving myself, being in control, validating the choices I’ve made, sidelining grace and acting as if the future hangs on my achievements.

Bother. You’d think I’d have learnt by now.

Sleep-deprived and essayed-out, I head to Ian and Ruths’ and arrive just in time for the children’s bedtime. My goddaughter beams at me and says ‘Emily, it’s so good that you’ve come to talk to Mummy about what we’re going to do for my birthday treat.’ I smile back at her, kiss her goodnight, and go downstairs for a chat with Mummy. Hannah’s birthday treat is just one of our agenda items as we animatedly put the world to rights then veg lazily on the sofa in comfortable silence. Sunday morning and the three girls bundle into my bed at early-o-clock, competing for cuddles and telling me all about everything,

‘Mummy, I want to have the same as Emily for breakfast,’ says Abbie. ‘Emily’s having the same as me,’ says Hannah. ‘But I don’t want to have what you’re having,’ retorts Abbie. This is not going to end well. ‘Is Emily coming to church with us?’ asks Rebekah. When she hears that I am she punches the air victoriously and says ‘yesssss!’ There’s something incredibly restorative and de-complicating about spending time with children who love you.

Ian was preaching about fuelling yourself up and emptying yourself out, which is kind of how I’ve felt this week in terms of my essays, even though that wasn’t really the fuel and emptying that he was referring to. I found my recent misalignment exposed under the spotlight of words that I’d neglected to read, and kicked myself for having sidelined the securing grace relationship that underpins everything and makes it all make sense. No wonder I am wilting and feeling a bit all over the place.

After a couple of weeks of sprinting, and the much needed pit-stop over the weekend, I am back at my laptop, preparing a research proposal and revising for a bunch of exams. Daunted, I can already feel the internal and external pressures start crowding in. It’s a marathon, I remind myself as I think back to Sunday, I’m in this for the long run, the course is marked out for me, and completing it is going to be the best thing ever.

Please help me remember that.

 

So I turn my eyes upon you
Look full in your wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of your glory and grace

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