“This is an example of what we call ‘just-in-time’ inventory.”
Maybe these are not the words you think of a new grandmother saying to her first newborn granddaughter, but if you know that both of my parents are CPAs and that there’s only so much a new mom can chit-chat, it makes more sense. I’d had my newborn home for just a couple of days, and I spent almost all time nursing and nursing that hungry baby, and was a sick combination of exhausted and restless, weeping daily by 6:30 pm an dgenerally no fun at all to be with. So an uncomprehending newborn baby was basically all Grandmamma had in terms of people to talk to. And my mom thinks about stuff like inventory strategies a lot more than theh grandmothers in books and movies do. And I have to admit, I laughed, so it was a good relief from the tension of sleeplessness and adjustment. And I also did not know what just-in-time inventory was*, so hey, it was informative. If you’re wondering, it means a way of managing such that you don’t have piles of materials sitting around but instead have the materials arriving just as you’re about to need them.
*The reason I did not know this term is because having two accountant parents and having a stronger-than-average drive to individuate, I refused to listen to any financial-related info ever if I could help it. And it was hard to help it: two and sometimes three televisions were on with different financial channels and shows on each one for what felt like 24-hour financial education opportunities. Opportunities I rejected, to my later disadvantage most likely, though feel free to look me up when I’m retired and see. So defensive I was of my creative spirit that when Mom suggested I take typing in high school, I adamantly replied, “Why? I’m not going to work Sitting in Some Office!” Apparently I thought all the creative jobs were done standing up and/or outdoors. And that computers, which at that point were original Mac and some early PC clones, were not really going to catch on. Annnnnd now I am a writer for a living, literally typing in an office NOW, and I’m ergonomically horrid.
I’ll never forget my mom speaking these words to my newborn daughter 15 years ago, watching me on the sofa, again, under a baby again, nursing again. I was always on the sofa it seemed and never fixing dinner even though I was so hungry, never cleaning up the mess someone had left just a few feet away, never getting any item from one room to another or getting that glass of water I needed or shower I needed or book I forgot in the other room or or or or or.
Then, your mileage may vary if you’re normal like other moms seemed to be (ok, seem to be, present tense, even now when said newborn is 15 with a ten year-old sibling), but for me it went on feeling just about the same for most of both my children’s early years. I felt behind, always failing in some area, be it cleaning or work or wife-ing or just general being. I was trapped under a baby, and later just trapped, trapped in a body in one place at a time and on one relentlessly advancing timeline in which I could never, ever do enough, catch up, do things right. Never have enough or know enough or be efficient enough or strong enough to do all these many important things. Never organized enough or disciplined enough, or relaxed enough or healthy enough. Never enough.
My head was pretty much always working through how I would get my act together. It went a little something like this:
ME: I feel like there's just not enough time for everything I'm supposed to do.
ALSO ME: Your colleague seems to make time. Why can't you?
M: It's not the same. Their kids are way older, and their spouse stays home with the kids anyway, and doing things like laundry and having dinner ready.
AM: Well, the rest of the department won't know that. They'll just think it's you.
M: Shit. I'm getting up at 5 daily already! I can only do so much. I'll have to try again to divide up the work more fairly at home. Even if I had one more hour a couple times a week...
AM: He can barely do what you're asking of him now. Cut him some slack; some husbands do less! Manage your time better. You wasted a whole hour last night watching TV on the couch.
M: I meant to be packing lunches then, but I was so tired...
AM: And then you conked out early, and you know you need to be having more sex or you're going to end up alone.
M: Being alone wouldn't...
AM: Shut up; you'd be a basket case. No way you can keep all this up on your own.
M: You're right. I know. I can't even keep it all up now. I'm fucked.
And then because minds can be real assholes, as in even worse than it was already being alI day long in conversations like that one, I also felt (feel!) bad that I felt bad about this. Now, I’m a grown-ass woman with a Ph.D.! And I know for a FACT that this isn’t just me. I have read articles! Peer reviewed articles! I actually offended myself as a feminist for feeling like I was supposed to breadwin AND do all the mom stuff AND clean AND oh yeah put out more… but none of that stopped me from feeling it. And then judging the feeling as a dumb feeling to have. Like, I could just feel like I was failing, and that would be bad, but my head prefers the layered, deeply grooved bad of reflexive-looping self-judgment bad. It’s a bit like having that same exact argument with someone you love for the millionth time, and knowing that nothing will change AND you may actually be doing damage…but to yourself.
So a newborn gets just-in-time inventory from a boob, but my mind goes either for excess or extreme scarcity. Excess: My mind appears to have excess stock of poison. Scarcity: I know I am supposed to know that it’s not me, and that I have enough and am enough, and that a lot of my feelings of inadequacy are really just what it feels like to like and work in America in 2022. Yet often my heart rejects the knowledge, seeing just empty shelves where intentionality and self-compassion and acceptance should be. (I think they’re somewhere near the empty shelves for grading, baking, getting grants, raking, and putting away laundry.)
And then, just in time, this text floated near me!
Somehow, I was able to pick it from the air and feel myself set right– or at least right enough to keep going. Nadia Bolz-Weber’s take on the parable of the mustard seed is that it’s not that the mustard seed WILL grow to be enough, it’s more like just a seed IS enough. Now. (Seriously, she even uses Greek grammar to do this, so you know my nerdy heart was extra open to her point.) The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, and in answering that, she writes:
Jesus isn’t actually scolding them for not having even the tiniest amount of faith – instead when they ask him to increase their faith he’s basically rejecting the premise of their request.
In essence, he seems to imply that what they need isn’t more faith,
What they need to realize is that the thing they already have IS faith.
It’s like Jesus is saying how much faith do you have? and I’m like I don’t know Jesus, it’s not very much it’s like barely any and Jesus is saying “perfect!”
That’s a different message entirely isn’t it?
I think this message is for the humanist lacking faith in one’s own sufficiency to circumstances as much as the Christian’s. I don’t have enough, I can’t do enough, my faith is not enough– these are the earworm-y jingles that fear plays on the pianos of our heads. And we let those fill our ears, let them distract us from what we know deep down to be true, and end up seeing ourselves as empty cupboards, tiny seeds, when the truth is: here we are, human and all, already having just what it takes to be human. Not great reassuring piles of what we need, and not all stocked in ahead of time so that we feel ready. But already, always, we are who we need to be to live the moments we live through. Just in time.