This whole business of my going back to school is like making bread -- without a recipe -- it's like I grew up watching bread being made, and tried my hand at it a bit, a long time ago, and washed up the tools and counters after, and bought ingredients for some other baker way back when -- but now I'm trying to find the recipe for the best bread possible here. And even though I have some scraps of old recipes and a couple of books, there is no recipe for what I am trying to do. It is all experimental for me right now. All of it.
(Click on the pictures for some good baking info.)
The thing that keeps sneaking up on me and surprising me is that I am doing this whole thing in several layers - I have more than one story line going here, and I can only just barely keep track of all of them all at the same time. (This is why we generally get our children added to our families one or sometimes two at a time. Humans aren't really very good at more than that much change that fast.)
First, I want an accredited degree. Pure and simple, just one accredited degree. That's all. Just bread. Staff of life, if you ask me. A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou. That's the plan. That is my one, most simply stated plan. The jug of wine is our marriage and family and religious life. The loaf of bread is my own education. Thou? Thou art the other person. Whoever thou art, wherever I meet you, whatever we do.
What kind of bread? That was the first decision. What degree? What sort of education? What school? What major? After some brief flirtations with fancier recipes and more ambitious plans, I settled on what feels to me like the Basic Loaf. A degree in Human Studies feels to me like a Basic Loaf. One can do nearly anything if one starts with the basic recipe, and that's the one I decided to bake.
I did, along the way, glance at things as complicated and far-fetched as these chocolate shoes ... yes! Chocolate shoes! (Click on the pic to see the source.)
But then I realized that the complicated, gorgeous, elaborate, perfectly suited to the perfect moment things like decorated chocolate shoes ... well ... it's both more wonderful and more limiting. I've got time to learn the techniques and possibilities for the Basic Loaf, and I have the energy for it. But learn to decorate chocolate shoes? I would have needed the zeal of youth for that. That equates to doing something like Art Therapy - one of my first ideas - and then setting up studios and making business plans and finding grant money ... I just don't have the fire for that one. My fire is bread baking fire, even if I wish it were possible to wear those wonderful shoes.
Can you hear laughing? That's me.
I have all this stuff going on in my life - all this activity, and still, during the whole thing, I am writing the story in my head. Analyzing. Finding vocabulary and metaphor, and feeling the slope and flow of the narrative. And it never once occurs to me that "I can't" do whatever I decide to do. It's not that I can't make chocolate shoes, it's that I decide not to devote myself to it, and I know it would take devotion or it would fail. Is this midlife confidence? Is it awareness of my own capabilities at last? Think a lot of myself, don't I? Hahahaha! It's just a matter of choosing something. That is really how I think about it. (Big head!)
When you bake bread, you have to factor in your own house's temperature and humidity and spores and oven and pans and water and flour. Wait. Let me say that another way. When I bake bread, I do it at home. I bake bread in Aunt 'Nita's kitchen. Great-grandma's kitchen. Their wood stove is gone (okay, not gone gone -- it's in the woodshed.) In this place, in my life, all the factors come into the art of it. I have to knead with my own muscles - use my own hands.
For me, going back to school does not mean to earn a degree - that would be like going to the store and buying bread. Or baking from a mix. For me, it's not like that.
To me, going back to school means I am also learning to be a writer. For me, using the PLA option at Marylhurst means learning to set up my day for writing - not just for writing essays, but for writing - and doing it in a house that needs cleaning and cries out for organizing after far too long a time of neglect. Doing it amidst interruptions. Writing and also going someplace else for work, on someone else's changeable schedule. Writing and being ready with dinner when the real worker in the house comes home at night. Writing and paying attention to eating and health and exercise and ... life. Paying attention to life.
This is harder than it looked.
But think of the possibilities!