I have been reflecting a lot recently. It’s not because I don’t bathe and have incredibly oily skin. It’s not because I am a vampire either. Although my students would certainly say that I am heartless….
Writing has made me stop and pause. I constantly think about what I am going to write about, how I would craft my blog or poem or short story or novel or whatever. I think about reactions and whether or not I am capable of weathering the responses I might receive (hee hee hee…do you like the repetition?).
Moreover, living has made me stop and pause. I told everyone that last summer was the best summer of my life. It was the first summer for a decade in which I didn’t teach either summer school or at a local university. I needed to stop and walk away from my extra-professional life and see what it is to live the texture of no commitments, or at least as much of that as I can.
This summer, I stopped even more. I generally plan over the summer, a delirious and frenetic hive of reading and planning and lesson writing. And I have done a lot of reading and a lot of planning, but not nearly as much as I would normally. I have a calendar of events, a syllabus (sort of…I have some gaps to finish filling). But I have not spent hours at the computer writing up assignments and quizzes and lesson plans (oh my!).
I took a break from my novel. I have barely touched it when my plan was to be sending it out to literary agents at this point. I have not walked down a pear tree lined avenue and stood on the front porch of a bed and breakfast to watch a twelve-year old girl understand and deal with the contours of her life and the consequences of hers and other people’s actions. It’s not that I didn’t want to. But I didn’t have the energy to walk that path once more. I will. I am not done and I need to give myself the ability to say “done” before I start walking in Anna’s shoes.
I took a break from my diet.
I took a break from reading only the most literary of writing.
I took a break from the annual Florida vacation.
I took a break from the annual purchase of passes to a local amusement park.
I took a break from the annual book-reading-competition.
I haven’t gone to my website once to update material for my future students. I’ll likely regret this when the new school year begins. But, at this point, I don’t care. And it’s not an apathy or an indifference or a malevolent ambivalence.
It’s about stopping the outside world and all the chaos that felt like it was stealing minutes until those minutes added up and became hours which subsequently turned into days…..you see the pattern…
I let go of everything that I could let go of and let go some more. I stopped pinning myself into my academic life and started exploring the world around me with a greater sense of courage than I thought I had.
My fear of failure kept me sitting in my blue recliner for many summers.
This summer hasn’t finished. I still have one more lovely week of sleep-in before I go back to school and start going through the rigamarole of teacher-work-week. But I have already planned out this week: Monday=set up classroom; Tuesday=the Boy gets braces and I finish setting up classroom; Wednesday=Pat and I work on house; Thursday=Pat and I work on house; Friday=go hiking with Hiking Partner; Saturday=come home from hike with Hiking Partner; Sunday=avoid stressing about going back to work when I haven’t fully prepped.
I know that my anxiety about this upcoming school year has been mounting. Two nights in a row, I have dreamt about major and unpredicted changes. I dreamt on Thursday night about being transferred to teaching fifth graders. Last night, I dreamt that one of my classes had been switched, my classroom had been changed, and something else that was major. This doesn’t include the two (minimal) other dreams I had which deal with school anxiety and change. Apparently, I haven’t finished exorcising the change-demons yet.
But I have exorcised others. I am choosing not to allow the stupid pettiness of others to get under my skin. I am going to be diplomatic about speaking up for myself, but I will not allow others to make catty remarks and then act as though nothing was said and no harm was created. And this doesn’t have to do with me only. This is not about me. People will make catty, petty, cruel remarks about others in my presence and I have swallowed my retorts, fearing I was being over-sensitive.
I am exorcising my shyness and the anxiety that clutches its shadows which drives up the anxiety within my shyness. I don’t mind hiding in corners as opposed to attaining un-needed attention. Done. I am not a victim and will not allow these sentences to cast me into the perception of being a victim. But I have been so nervous about talking to people that I do not speak when I know the answer because…I’m afraid that I’m wrong? Because I don’t want to be the center of attention?
I have a voice. And when I sing in my range it is quite nice (in my opinion and the opinion of others, thank you very much). I have a literary voice that some people have complimented and others have criticized. Not a problem.
I’m not saying that I will be able to stand up for myself all the time. My shield is rather rubbery right now. I don’t know that I will always be the person I want to be.
But as I have walked miles and miles of paths or cycles on a treadmill, as I have scooped out pounds of weeds from gardens, or as I hiked a quiet mile on the Appalachian Trail, I felt my spine straighten just a bit more out of the question mark that I have been wearing for all these years.
I stopped some of the questions. I have started writing the sentences.
But my story isn’t over yet…not by a longshot.
That’s why I have a semi-colon on my back.