Counting the Good Moments

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It’s February again.  A year ago, my blog was about the constant fatigue and exhaustion that characterized my life at the time.

And now it’s the last third of February and I have lack circles under my eyes and am living from one moment to the next.  I know what I am doing and know what I am trying to teach.  But I’m absolutely exhausted which cuts into my sense of how I feel and how I perceive the world.  And then, I’m just kind of strolling through my life with these gray-rosy-colored glasses on.

I’m sitting at the school on my door duty.  Walking through the hallways, the students are moving from area to area, learning about African American celebrities, artists, historians, mathematicians, scientists, writers, history makers.  My world is good.

But I’m so tired that I feel like I’m just kind of dragging an emotional/mental ball and chain behind me.  And no matter how much I sleep, I’m still bone-tired and wishing that God would pour out his breath on me and reanimate me.

This is when I need those good moments, those happy moments which kind of push me forward and remind me that life really is good.

Because my life really is good.

My colleague, Emily, is sitting with me.  Although we are supposed to share the door duty and only sit at the desk for half the period, we have chosen to share the station and sit at the desk for the entire block.  But this means that if one person needs to photocopy or go to the bathroom, the station is covered.

What I love about Emily is that she is brilliant amazingness.  Her warmth, her compassion, her kindness and thoughtfulness continually lift my spirits.  She is (probably) the Boy’s favorite teacher because of her powerfully encouraging personality.  He’s told me that he feels like he can truly be himself with her, that he can trust the most vulnerable parts of his soul and know that she will hold it carefully and respect the fragility of his existence.

And while we are sitting here at the duty station, I shared with her the story of my father’s heart “attack” (it was actually described as an idiosyncratic event by the doctors).  And as I described the sound of my mother praising God while she performed heart compressions on my father, I quietly wept.

And the tears just continued to stream out of my eyes as I described the knowledge that someday I will no longer be able to call my parents because they will no longer be with me.

A moment later, as I wiped away the last of my tears, one of the office assistants came out to Emily’s and my duty station.  The assistant greeted us, but I noticed a waver in her voice, a sobriety in her eyes.

I’m good at poking at people and forgetting the vulnerable softness of emotions on the other side of my finger.

For a few, brief moments, we talked about aging parents, about watching our loved ones changing from people we knew and loved to people with whom we are becoming reaquainted and still loving.

And the assistant talked about counting the good moments.

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It’s easy to succumb to the numbness of debilitating fatigue and exhaustion, to let my eyes kind of glaze over and stop seeing all the rich and incredible beauty that surrounds me.

Down the hall, a group of six girls are standing in a circle, counting in a melodic, harmonious round of sound and numbers.  I have no idea why they are doing it other than it must be for a music class.

But they are counting out notes and sounds and rhythmic patterns while I am remembering to count the good moments that do occur every day.

I woke up this morning.  one

I had a HUGE cup of coffee.  two

My children are well and the cat jumped in my lap several times and my geriatric dog rested his head in my hands so he could be pet. three

I work with an incredible, supportive group of people who care for and care about one another.  As individual crises unfold, they continue to band together and support one another so that the ailing person isn’t abandoned or lost or forgotten.  four

I gave my students a poem written by a man from Mali today (“When Black Men’s Teeth Speak Out”) and the students combed through the piece, analyzing every word, every syllable.  And they shared their thoughts and analysis with respect for the piece, with respect for one another.  five

I have a tendency to beat myself up, see only how I keep on making mistakes, how I hurt people, how I don’t teach literature with as much insight or intelligence as I want to.  No matter how much I slow down or take out extra work, I still don’t hit all the themes or the incredible writing patterns that are in the literature I teach.

I accidentally prod into a person’s emotional privacy, unknowingly stir up bad memories or experiences that will swirl around the person’s head with the abstract ferocity of angry hornets, stinging the person over and over while I blindly and naively sit and stare in shock as the person brushes back tears and hides behind books or thick swaths of hair or the hard wall suddenly erected to keep me at bay.  And when I see the pain I have caused, I am contrite and apologetic and pull out my boxing gloves and jab at myself.

Why did I do that?  

What is wrong with me?

I have a long measuring stick holding the timeline of my mistakes that I count and examine on a daily basis.

Until someone walks by and shares with me a reminder to count the happy moments.

I don’t think that I should give myself general absolution, run away from my life and exult in the cart blanc that I have just given myself and start the maelstrom of destruction once more.

But when I sit next to Emily and watch her hug a student, listen to her talk about how much she loves teaching or how much she loves her students I start counting again.

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Thankfully, numbers never end.  So it looks like I’ll be counting for the rest of my life, tallying up all the good moments that I have experienced, been witness to…

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