Forgetting Myself in Order to Remember Others

Tis the season to be grumpy…

Fa la la la la…la la la la….

I’m feeling worn and rather frumpy

Fa la la la la….la la la la…..

Days have been stretching out recently, pushing themselves against me, into me.  I move from bell to bell, from deadline to deadline and do my best to just keep up my smile, perhaps find the edge of my happiness.

I’m not depressed.  I’m just worn out.  Like I have been every year around this time.  All the energy I have expelled, all the work I have done, have caught up with me.  I find myself leaning against the wall and waiting for the day to elapse.

My Loki-dog is truly the old man.  He lives up to his name, living in sunbeams and quiet moments.  He is aging.  Truly aging.  His body rejected the surgical implant from his knee surgery years ago.  He has open wounds that the vet hoped anti-biotics would heal.  But they didn’t.  After nearly two weeks, the wounds are still open.  Loki’s leg is still swollen.  And his front legs gave out yesterday, twice.  And, on top of that, he’s loosing his ability to hold solid waste.

Other stressors are happening, stressors that are not mine to share but are part of my burden.  I feel them yoked over my shoulders and thrusting up against my happiness.  Summer is almost here, but my head is down as I stare at my feet as I take one step after another.

Just one more step.

Today, I went to school after caring for my dog, caring for my beloveds who are stressing and hurting right now.  I went to school feeling exhausted although I had enjoyed eight hours of sleep.  I went to school just wishing that I had more time to rest and less time to worry.

Today, we had a different version of a walkout.  Earlier this week, a small group of students had organized a memorial walk in honor of the students who died in Florida two months ago.  They organized a memorial walk that memorialized children, adults, and students who have died in school shootings dating back to Columbine.  By their own efforts, the students created posters and memorial pictures that were hung up around the school’s track.  They wrote speeches, chose music, bought cups, brought water.

They set up a sign-up sheet for the rest of the school.  Students were invited to walk a mile, four laps around the track, four laps past smiling faces, innocent faces, images of people who no longer smile, who no longer feel stress or grief or sadness or happiness.  They live in memories and existential silence.

Today, at 9:05, our principal got on the intercom and invited the students who had signed up to come to the track and walk.  Given I was on planning, I was at the track, waiting, deliberately standing on the road leading behind the bleachers (and the track) to make sure students didn’t sneak away or cause mischief.  My principal’s voice faded into the quiet morning, a minute passed…and the first of the students came out of the building.

Behind me, James Taylor crooned “You’ve Got a Friend” over the loudspeakers.  The line of students lengthened, widened.  More students continued to come outside, the song ended, the world fell into a quiet hum as another song came on and the students’ voices filtered across the parking lot and to me.

And the stressors, the silly worries, the anxieties that are based on first-world problems bled away.  As roughly five hundred students came out to the football field to walk a symbolic mile, I saw how little my “problems” are and how much more important it was that I was standing by the bleachers to watch the procession continuing to approach me.

I wept.

I will not lie.  I won’t deny it.

I wept.

Too often at this point in the year, I am focused on one thing.  Getting to summer vacation, getting under the covers and emotionally hibernating.

But today, I came out of myself and outside myself and focused completely on the students who passed me, on the happy waves, on the quiet smiles on their faces.  I focused on my son who walked past me and went to stand with his peers under an intensely beautiful sun.

A young woman read an impassioned speech.  Her voice quivered with such powerful emotion that it felt like the world trembled.

And then, as one, we turned.  Started to walk.  I was going to stand by, let the waves of people pass me, but a colleague invited me to walk with him.  I fell into step beside him, two students joined us, and we walked past the quiet, still pictures memorializing those who had died in school shootings.

As we walked, one of the students talked about a new club she is bringing to the school, a club I am helping sponsor in which young women are encouraged to raise money that will be donated to a non-profit organization.  This is a club that will encourage young women to be selfless, strong, intelligent leaders.

As we walked, the pictures of the victims fluttered.  The voices of the students rose and fell.  I stopped staring at my feet.  I stared at the horizon I really couldn’t see.  I stared at the pictures of those we remembered.  I stared at a world so saturated with meaning that I stood next to myself, I stood outside myself.  I stood within the saturation of goodness.

And I felt healed.


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