Sunday, April 29, 2007

Crash Test Dummy

Everybody knows the job description of a crash test dummy. It sits in a vehicle being tested while that machine is subjected to impact and collision from whatever direction. The idea is to see how the dummy-- and by inference, a real human being-- will be affected by the forces applied.

The classic test is the head-on into a solid wall. Get the car, van, truck, whatever, up to a good rate of speed, send it on its rails straight to the concrete barrier, and BAM!!! see what's left thereafter. It's a useful test for the researcher. It's also (let's face it) rather satisfying for the random observer. There's something definitely cathartic about watching destruction that hurts nothing but things. And it's very good that the crash test dummy is nothing but a thing, NHTSA's Vince and Larry notwithstanding.

Because if the crash test dummy were a human creature with thoughts and feelings, he'd be about where I have been the past three weeks.

The 2nd was our deadline at the architecture office for getting out the revised bid set for the classroom/museum space I mentioned last August. Never mind now why it had to be rebid; the date was set so perhaps bids could be in in time for construction to begin on the date originally set; i.e., tomorrow, the 30th. My colleagues and I were working hard to meet the deadline. I in particular, as project architect, was going full bore, putting in fifty, sixty hours a week, doing whatever was necessary to get the drawings to the university for review and issue.

On top of this I had a full schedule of services at various churches for the end of Lent and Holy Week to plan and carry out, with two baptisms to do counselling for and a special Tenebrae service to lead. This was a wonderful privilege and blessing, especially since I don't have a regular parish. But you can see how things were going ninety miles an hour for me.

Well. We got the drawings done around midday the 3rd (okay, it happens). Late that afternoon, my boss comes back from a meeting with a new client, about a job for a master plan for a large local church. Now, I knew I was on the project team for that. The church leadership had told me to my face that they were going to recommend our firm to the trustees, because they wanted to work with me on it. So when my boss invited me into the conference room to "talk about the new job," it seemed perfectly natural.

But what he had to say was that now that the classroom/museum drawings were done, this new master plan job wouldn't be enough to keep me employed full time. Nor was there anything else on the immediate horizon to keep a hand-draftsman like me busy and profitable for the firm. So, he announced, they were shifting me to contract work.

Oh. Which has turned out to mean a few hours on the church master plan contract. Maybe some time with construction administration on the classroom/museum job, depending on what the client says and how the second round of bids come in. But goodbye fulltime work, goodbye colleagues, goodbye accustomed routine--Since the 9th what little architecture work I've had to do I've mostly done via a virtual network link in my office at home.

A crash test dummy could tell you how it feels, to accelerate faster and faster and then to hit the wall with pieces and parts flying everywhere and then, when the dust clears-- nothing. Or virtually nothing. No routine, no set schedule-- just lots of useless residual guilt. After weeks and months of putting so much time and physical and mental energy into the work at the architectural firm, the work isn't there anymore.

But the inertia of the shoulds and the oughts remains. Whatever I feel I should or could be doing in this interim time, it's trumped by the feeling that I should be fulltime at my downtown job! Even aside from finding a new job, there's so much I've put off, so much I need to do!

But the car's off the rails. The momentum is gone. So I haven't been real effective these past three weeks. A little of this, a little of that, a lot of catching up on my sleep after weeks of three to five hour nights . . . As the Tinman said to the Scarecrow, "That's you all over!"

But Spring has finally come (she says optimistically) and I must take myself in hand. So how's this: Eight hours for work (including looking for a new post, architectural or ecclesiastical), eight hours for sleep, three hours on the house and/or the garden, and five hours for meals, laundry, and anything else. Starting tonight.

If I don't at least try, I really will be a dummy!


Stushie said...

I've written something about 'acedia' on my Heaven's Highway blogspottoday, which may be what you are experiencing right now.

There's also a good verse I rely upon in times like these:

"May God give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed." (Psalm 20 v 4)

St. Blogwen said...

Hi, Stushie,

When I was writing this evening's entry I was trying to think of that word. It isn't quite the same as physical sloth or laziness; you can be beset by acedia or accidie and be running round 'doing' a lot.

Considering it, my struggle really is against anxiety about the future, which drains away focus and energy. This time has makde me admit that the verse "Cast your cares upon the Lord, for he cares for you" means exactly that. Not, try harder and think positively, but really trust Jesus and walk as He leads.