On the Merits of Joy

I’m exhausted.  Last night, I tried to fall asleep starting around 8:30.  I think I did fall asleep…I’m not certain.  I was so tired that I’m not certain if I turned off the lights in my room or if my daughter did.  Which begs the question if she actually was in my room last night…I think she was.  I think she was watching television while I finished reading A Walk In the Woods which I bought ten years ago and well before I ever thought about hiking the AT or seeing the movie.

But, then, this morning, I woke up around 4.  Four in the morning is a seriously sucky hour to awaken.  It is characterized by horrible infomericals; thankfully, Girls Gone Wild is not among those.  It is the hour which is very close to when my alarm goes off (5:25) so I feel like I should just get up and start the day. But it’s far enough away that I just want to stay in my bed.

Which I wanted to do.  But then the dog wanted to go out. So he came over to my side of the bed and laid his head on my body (yes, he is that tall that he doesn’t need to get on the bed to rest his head on me).  Fortunately, he didn’t start licking me on the face which is usually how he signals that he’s ready to go outside.

I tried to ignore him, pretend that I wasn’t going to go downstairs to possible puddles and piles (oh my!).  My dog is house-broken, but he’s also geriatric and has had a lot of problems this week with pain.  So I’ve had to relax my standards a little.  But the idea of possibly finding (by stepping in) different puddles and piles (oh my!) was enough to motivate me to get out of bed even if it was that sucky hour of four in the morning to let out the geriatric dog who was in horrible pain this week.

Loki (the dog) happy bounded down the steps and I was immediately greeted by the next round of Oh, you’re awake!  Let me keep you awake animal….the cat.  Yup, Ugly decided that this was the perfect time to sneak into the house so she could be fed which meant that, within an hour (now much closer to alarm clock time), she would be coming into my room, meowing to be let out.

In comes the cat.  In comes the dog.  I slide the cat’s food under a table where the dog can’t reach it and decide screw it, I’m going back to bed.  Even if I don’t sleep, being under the blankets next to my snoring husband would be far better for my mental health than any mental health informercial.

I think I dozed.  I’m not certain.  I know that I gave up the sleep-fight around 5:22 this morning, right when the cat decided that I needed to be told that she needed to go out (I predicted that one!).  Grab Ugly so Pat can sleep.  Let her out; start the coffee; begin drooling on myself.

Thank God today is Friday.  Because I haven’t slept well this week which means that Friday truly is drool-day.

Sleep-deprivation is horrible.  I have written so much about it and, yet, I really don’t consider myself an insomniac because I really do sleep well in comparison to my father who does suffer from insomnia.  But when I run through several days of questionable sleep or not being able to get at least seven (preferably eight) good hours of sleep, I can feel my body and emotions become frayed.

But the morning isn’t even done.  The kids’ alarms didn’t go off.  Wake up the kids which meant I had to leave the comfort of my favorite chair and the warm coffee cup sitting next to my favorite chair and the soft blanket I was sitting under while I was in my favorite chair.

And then came the drive to school which was a bit crazy because more people than usual were driving their kids to school which meant that everything was blocked up and every two cars, someone needed to drive aggressively.  Those drivers make me nervous which exasperate the fatigue and frayed-dom emotions of being weary.

It took me forever to get to my classroom.  Meetings with colleagues, checking in with students, realizing I had forgotten to make photocopies of today’s vocabulary quiz word list.  More distractions.  More nibbling at the fatigue and the sense of being worn out.

And then, I noticed a student walking down the hall wearing bright yellow rain boots.  Bright yellow like rubber ducky yellow.

And for no good reason, I felt that warm rush of joy because the color is so happy and I was immediately transported to that childhood nostalgia of Ernie singing “Rubber Ducky, you’re the one.”  I loved that song.  I always wanted a rubber ducky because of that song.

Bright yellow rain boots on a dreary, gray Friday that has taken forever to arrive.  And a smiling young woman whose name I didn’t know but was willing to stop and listen and accept the compliment I gave her about her bright yellow rain boots.

She grinned at me, told me the story about how she got them (they were in a window display at a store that does not sell rain boots).  And then she just smiled and went about her merry way.  But before she left, she asked me about my position and noted, almost with relief, that I was happy.

It was interesting to see how her face changed when she asked me if I was happy.  Her curiosity outweighed her sense of diplomacy.  She was invading my privacy and I didn’t care because I didn’t feel like she was intruding.  Instead, we were sharing a smile and a chuckle over a pair of bright yellow rain boots that reminded me of rubber duckies.

What I found truly interesting was this girl’s relief.  The teacher was happy.  The teacher liked being in the school and working with students.

Discontentment is so toxic.  And it never stays within one’s personal boundaries, no matter how many barbed wire fences and cinder block walls one might erect.  And sometimes, I feel like my personal joy is tantamount to stupidity, to boorish immaturity.

But as I walked into my classroom and surveyed my Jenga sets and my basket full of children’s toys, I realized that joy is very much my most essential personality trait.  I find it fatiguing frequently.  It’s hard to be happy all the time because I don’t want people to think that I am being fake or superficial.  I also don’t want to give pain to someone because my happiness might intrude on a person’s personal sorrow.

A bunch of years ago, I gave away the majority of my “toy collection.”  I felt like it was time to grow up and start being more of an adult.

But I couldn’t stop being happy.  Because I love what I do.  I love working with the students and seeing their faces illuminate with exuberance when they master skills or are learning without the process being painful.

And so I stopped worrying about everything else that was outside my control and decided just to be happy.

And love bright yellow rain boots on a rainy Friday morning.  Even though I’m tired.

Because being tired doesn’t take away from my joy.  And I won’t let it.

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