“The Breaking Point”

It’s hell week.  The nine weeks are ending.  The semester is ending.  We are a full month into our winter season and everyone is worn out.

I had the flu last week.  For about 36 hours, I ran a fever off and on with it breaking on Saturday night/Sunday morning.  I girded  whatever strength I could find around myself and went to work on Monday morning.

And I sat in my chair for the entire day so I could teach.

I hate chair-teaching.  With my energy, I need to be up and moving.  I need to stroll around my classroom and work with my students.  But I was so weak, so weary that even my balance was precarious.

Everyone is hitting their breaking points.

Even the people in the book I’m teaching….Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers.  I just wrapped up teaching the chapter titled “The Breaking Point,” a more aptly named chapter has never been written.  And I never meant to read this chapter at this more perfect time.

This is the week of endless tests, quizzes, and projects.  My seniors are receiving their college decisions.  Everyone is exhausted.  We had snow days constantly for the first two weeks of January and then the flu hit our school and everyone is worn.

This is when we feel like Bilbo’s line of feeling like too little butter being spread over too much bread.  Or something like that.

I worry about my students during these types of weeks.  They keep on pushing themselves, supplementing their dying energy and fatigue with caffeine and false happiness.  They strive to clasp any fleeting threads that will pull them to Friday night and their hands are constantly empty.

This is when the grief hits, the sense of futility.  For my seniors, they stare at assignments and wonder, What is the point?  They have their college acceptances, rejections, deferments, and struggle with the high school shaped prison cells.  They are ready to run away but still have four months of time to wait.

I hate being their warden.

Yesterday, two students during play rehearsal broke.  They wept, surrendering themselves into my arms so I could hold them and let their sacred tears be swallowed up by time and the weave of my cheap cotton shirt.  I tried to be their solace, their quiet comfort.

Last night, Loki, my old dog, was drooling.  I thought he was in pain.  Fortunately for me, it was nothing more than he was hungry.  But as Loki bent his head over his bowl of food, my daughter’s face whitened as she confessed to thinking maybe we should consider letting go of Loki, that it was his time.

She talked about his pain, his struggles to go up and down stairs, his inability to climb up on the sofa so he can snuggle with us.  Her eyes grew distant and her voice hollowed as she stared at Loki, at the perpetually open sore on his leg from where his body rejected the knee-replacement implant placed there years ago.  He is too old to undergo another surgery to fix what is broken.  So we keep it clean, apply antibiotic ointment, and just love him.

He struggles to keep his balance, she noticed.  She talked about how one of his back legs will slip out from under him and twist up against the other, something the doctor talked about.

My daughter is weary.

I tried to hold her and she stood firm in my arms, resting her head against my clavicle before relaxing a little, wrapping an arm around me as well before the moment became awkward and we stepped away from one another.

As I write this blog entry, I am listening to (on repeat) the Avett Brothers’ “No Hard Feelings,” an appropriate anthem to this week.  This is has been a week where student after student has just capitulated to stress, to weariness, to sickness, to the seemingly un-ending cycle of assessments and stressors.

I am with them.  I walk with them on this long path and know that it will end.  Spring will arrive and we will surge outside the doors and back into warm sunshine.  The play will end and we will return to having the after school hours to be the time of homework, studying, or just running around and being silly.

But for now, I hunker against the trench wall’s sides and wait, hold myself still against this time.

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