Yes, me, Ms. Together, loses it from time to time to time. What? You’ve never considered me Ms. Together? Okay, then, read or not, you already guessed all this about me.
My “togetherness” has been hard-won. Years of counselling, years of fighting with a series of long-term partners who inevitably tell you the truth about yourself. Even if they don’t see it with much clarity, you get the feedback. So, mostly, I don’t lose it, anymore.
When I do, losing it comes in the usual packaging: sobbing, raging, losing my mind/memory. Recently, I have been in a fog. It’s pretty much lifted over the past two weeks – now that my regular school year of teaching is over – but I’m teaching Summer School and being a single dog and niece mom this week. I ate licorice, helpfully provided by my sister, rather than sobbing but I have wanted to cry several times today. Seems the fog may be lifting but the losing it is still in progress.
Before we jump to the conclusion that it’s all too much – which may very well be true – I want to make a case for losing it. Part of a healthy cycle.
Some of you, like me, are familiar with the pattern of finishing exams at University and immediately getting sick? I think for many teachers theirs is a pattern of finishing the school year and needing to sleep for a week. Or some version of “sleep”. Certainly, that is a pattern that is healthy and restorative for me. But for the past 4 years I have gone directly from one of the most intense times of the school year: report cards (it’s not just about the long hours, it’s the careful consideration of each child’s progress, the knowledge that one’s comments must be crafted to support self-esteem while providing accurate, clear feedback), the creation of a memento (yearbook), and the heart-wrenching decisions that must be made in June when working with students who have not met their goals for the year – support them in an impossible quest to catch up/ help them deal with the disappointment of failure/ both? And, the good-byes. So many good-byes. The forever kind. The see-you-in-September kind. The kind where staff with whom you have worked, sweated, cried, raged… (see above) move on.
Gosh, I need a nap just thinking about it.
So, on the last Friday, I finish emptying a classroom, or two, cleaning a mess of a closet, dumping years worth of teacher-hoarding, look at the piles of sincerely-proudly-vulnerably-hopefully offered essays and unable to put them in recycling pile them inconveniently on a table, and then I come in on the weekend and paint a wall. Fortunately, Monday is a statutory holiday so I have one day to stay home and clean my house and stow some of the junk I’ve brought home from school. It’s not enough time given the month+ of neglect but, at least, I can confirm that the kitchen chairs do have legs, this fact having been obscured for some time by dog hair which is now in my vacuum.
But, on Tuesday, instead of sleeping in and napping at “recess” I meet 30 new students. And, they are lovely and needy and real and interesting and I have some stuff I know how to do that just might make their lives completely different and better. Forever. So I pour my heart and soul into doing what I can and learning what I need to learn about them and about the different difficulties they present and I am happy.
My life is full of meaning at a level most people create Oprah-type vision boards about, hoping to attract that perfect career. I love what I do, I have energy for it.
However, when I get home, there is little energy for the push mower, or cleaning the filthy windows, or washing the car, or keeping those kitchen chair legs visible.
Instead of pushing myself to clean and catch up with friends and organize going away for a holiday, I need to take time to lose it. To feel the existential burden that comes with my profession, with my calling. Preferably, in an afternoon or two, I can cry the complicated joy-relief-hurt-outraged-anger tears that might have melted away in a week of napping after June was done.
So, if I haven’t written much, called you much, updated my Facebook status much, it is because I keep seeking little moments of nap-time and losing it time so that my mind will be back on line, my creativity rejuvenated (although I had an amazingly creative lesson planning experience as I drove through the traffic today), and no dogs, nieces, husbands, or best friends get hurt in the swirl of my recovery!