Life: Unmasked

by Anna Blanch on September 14, 2011

Life: UnmaskedThis challenge and invitation from Joy could not have come at a more apropos moment – monday’s post was about “getting real.” This Life: Unmasked challenge offers me a focal point for that “getting real” – It is my privilege to add the badge to my blog and to try to blog to that theme each Wednesday for the rest of 2012. I’m not going to make a never-ending commitment because I naturally reassess every few months and I want to be aware of all my commitments.

Joy has been someone I’ve read for a few years. I’ve been encouraged and challenged by her humility and her vulnerability and her strength. To be involved in this project alongside  Joy and Amy and others brings a smile to my face. I should admit that I’m daunted by this – but I think it’s a challenge I needed – another push towards exploring the gifts we’ve been given and living faithfully as messes in the middle of the beautiful mess of life and to see the hope and faithfulness within.

so here goes…


I’m been forced into a kind of hibernation over the last few weeks. After dealing with a series of – unusual for me – infections since November last year I’m working through a bout of post-viral fatigue following yet another catching of the bugs going around.

The things that i’ve struggled most with in recent weeks are the loneliness  and a sense that I’m risking maybe not getting my PhD finished by the end of the year and submitted by the beginning of Summer next year. I am an extrovert at heart and I love people; but, I have had to both pull limits on myself to allow myself to become well again and have faced the reality of how difficult it can be when you are at home alone. Good thing I feel at home in the ‘cottage-by-the-sea! As for the PhD – It is still totally doable, but when I look at the counter at the bottom of the blog and we’re almost at 40 weeks I get scared. Sometimes these deadlines are self-imposed and there is a little flexibility in mine. But,  there are some limitations that aren’t mine and aren’t negotiable. I never cope well when some other person is controlling elements of my life.

I’ve been thinking about and looking at jobs. I’m daunted by the prospect of the academic job search in the tough – read not that many jobs going – market and I think I’m worried that after so much work I might end up overqualified and unemployed. If i had a dollar for every time someone used the word ‘potential.’ Well, now if the time for the rubber to hit the road. I think i’m fearful of not living up to that undefined potential.

I know intellectually about putting one foot in front of the other. I know about the elements of experience and training that will allow me to craft applications for jobs that would be a good fit. I remind myself that I have a set of skills and gifts and talents and that I’m probably not going to be attractive to many schools as a consequence, but that for a few – gosh, i’ll be happy with just one – I’ll be a great fit. It’s a little like a marriage, this job market thing.

And on that note: Let’s change the topic, shall we?
And then there’s questioning when the last time I took time to “just dream.” It’s been a while. Well, it had been a while. I spent some time on the phone with one my favourite people on my birthday and we dreamed a little about what my life post-PhD could look like and it was good. I don’t need every dream I have to come true – I’ve been fortunate enough to live quite a few – but the freedom to dream and throw ideas out there before editing them is the space reserved for only a very few relationships. It’s an important process for me. More important than I realised I think.

Conversations and writing about the future is as liable to make me smile as to make me tear up at the moment. I’m sensing i’m entering a transitional phase and the uncertainty is a little much, especially as I’m not able to rely on my usual distractions, like exercise and spending time with people.  I’m facing the mirror more often and that kind of introspection is often not helpful, or at least not comfortable. On the upside, it does lend itself to more time of prayer and journalling – and that is something for which I am grateful.

I live in the midst of paradoxes and contradictions: A teacher and a student. A permanent resident but also an interloper, a sojourner. Feeling at home, but not being in place. That last phrase belongs to my friend Jenn, who writes with me at Transpositions.  It’s the kind of dispassionate objectivity about one’s own culture and anxious patriotism and longing for home that T.S. Eliot (himself an ex-pat) once observed.


So there’s that. I recognise in myself the sense that I’m holding back alot. I am. I’m still figuring out how to “be.” I think I struggle with the idea of sharing too much on the emotional front. Unlike face to face relationships this is available to many more people. This isn’t a one-on-one conversation and unlike in person, where it takes place once and the memory of it will fade over time, whatever I post here will stand, as is, as both a marker of a time and a place and an emotional response, but also is open to being taken out of context. I am daunted by that prospect. That in itself is a look behind a mask, i guess. For more about my thought process about this as a scholar-blog and the need to “Get real” see this post from earlier this week.

Image: One of mine, taken at Greenbelt last month.

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  • Marilyn

    Found my way here……hmmm…..maybe from Twitter.
    What you wrote made me jump in and write a Life Unmasked post myself. Thanks. I needed to do that.

    • Goannatree

      And a thought-provoking post it was too!

  • Amy Nabors

    I completely get "Feeling at home, but not being in place." I'm in a transition phase with friendships right now. Some old friendships hurt and while forgiveness and grace have been given they may never return to the closeness they once were. New friendships forming and growing. And although an introvert I find myself lonely at times. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Anna. I hope you are feeling better soon.

    • Goannatree

      thanks, Amy. I hope so too. I only have a couple of hours a day where i feel like i have energy; although that is better than last week where the energy count was even lower! 🙂
      I think friendship transitions are one aspect of this that I hadn't really thought about, but there are ebbs and flows that can make loneliness more often felt than at other times. I don't think loneliness discriminates based on extra/intra-version but I think we probably overlook the impact it can have on us (at least I think i've come to conclusion that it has me)!

  • Joy

    I've been in a transition lately too, but this time I've been able to focus on the sense of anticipation — what is God going to do? How is God going to surprise me here? I'm learning that the waiting doesn't have to be full of dread and angst if I look at it this way instead.

    Thank you for writing and for joining life: unmasked!

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