It’s all how you look at it, right?
So this writing exercise is about shifting perspective: in this case, from gloomy to glad.
I’m so tired that all I want to do is go to bed, but I haven’t been sleeping well lately, so I don’t know what the point would be. My daily list still has several items that must be done before I go to bed. My alarm goes off every weekday morning at 5:10 am, and once I throw back the covers, I don’t stop moving from one list item to the next until 9 pm at least. There’s always something or someone else calling me. There’s never enough time or enough energy. Work is disheartening; it seems like all the teachers around me have taken repeated sick days already, so why do I keep showing up? Some have legitimate reasons for being away, and others don’t, but either way, I shouldn’t care. I should focus on myself, get my work done, keep my head down. The trouble is, I can’t seem to concentrate or prioritize when there’s so much to be done. The first big wave is in, and it has brought stacks of grading and administrative bullshit I have to attend to. My days are full of meetings, prep, copies, student support, email, reading, teaching, wading through all of the things that keep getting fired at me, like bright tennis balls coming at me too fast and too hard. I’m at home tonight, not out with Newman who is at a play with friends. I should be there with him, but I couldn’t summon the energy. I could barely pull myself through a four mile run, almost stopping at the midpoint because the slight incline threatened to defeat me. My tank is so empty. I’m sensitive and droopy, so ready to give it all up. I don’t know how I can do any of it: grade those papers or those projects, teach, have the patience not to take any of it out on Free or Newman. Tomorrow is Back to School night, and I don’t know how I am going to be able to stay there until 9 pm, smiling and facing all those parents. At the end of the day, what does it all add up to? I am finding no joy in running, teaching, or attending to any of these tasks. They are items on a list, leading nowhere, driving me underground.
The day’s tasks are almost over, and I’m sinking into the couch. I’m alone, thankfully, and no-one needs me for anything. I’m not answering my phone or tuning into anyone but myself. I’ve followed my instincts and said “no” to a date with Newman, who sent me home with an understanding kiss. He’s having a good night out, and I’ll be glad to welcome him home. I love that I always get to see him at the end of the day, no matter what. Although I sometimes miss the energy of our early dating life, nothing beats coming home to him at night. Lately, I need his hugs more frequently in the morning and at night to remind me why we do it all. The days are so busy and filled, but as Newman says, it does make the time pass quickly at work. Things pile up, but it’s easy to check some things off the list. I’ve made it through September without needing to take a day off, and there’s something to be said for that. Newman and I and Free are healthy despite sickness all around us, and I’ve been staying on top of my work during work hours. True, I just collected those projects while the papers are still mostly ungraded, but each of those big fat neat piles represents a student-led presentation–15 minutes of class-time each, prepped and ready to go. They worked hard on them. They were proud of them, and they all came in on time. That’s no small thing. Classes are going well so far, I have to admit, and I don’t dread going into any class. Today, when I asked my students to pose for a class photo to show their parents, they did it easily and with good humor, smiling for my camera. They’re good bunches of students, all of them. I know I’ll get through tomorrow, and then there’ll be our ritual beer to celebrate the year being underway. I’ll gather with colleagues and toast another year “over” as we like to joke, the hardest part being advertising our wares to parents. We’ll compare sweat-stains and share stories and wonder aloud who won’t show up to work the next day. I’m tired right now, but it’s because of the numbers. 2 classes, 3 meetings, 4 graded papers, 4 miles. All done, marked, noted. Step by tiny step. And halfway through that slow, plodding run, when that song came on, the one that always makes me go faster, I remembered, for a mile, why I do it. Because once in a while, I forget the list, and I remember what it’s like to find myself–smack in the middle of something that feels good. Another step taken along a bumpy road, a hand raised in class with an interested face behind it, a perfect sentence in the middle of an average paper. I keep moving, slowly at times, but onward still.