Saturday, September 22, 2012

Crossroads. Making choices. Time is too short.

When my mother passed away I felt the panic of 'time is too short' set in.

I felt that dreams I had were slipping through my fingers just as quickly as sand through an hour glass.

Now I'm wondering if maybe some dreams are okay to slip through. Is it possible to have TOO many dreams?

Even when my son Chris comes up to visit--and he lives in NYC where they never sleep---he  says, "Wow, you guys pack a lot in one day."

Maybe my effort to 'do it all' is too much?

This summer when I was trying to regain my balance after my mother's passing, while reading all the articles and updates about the new teacher evaluations and the Core Standards for education, I began to wonder if maybe I needed to focus my energies elsewhere, career-wise.

I turned to craniosacrial therapy and massage to help me survive the loss of my mom. I slowly felt myself being able to breathe better. And think better. As I spoke to my massage therapist, Jamie, she said that being a message therapist was her most relaxed job ever.

What an idea and concept ... a relaxing job!!!

So, I started to want THAT life. I wanted to feel like I did in that room for that hour ALL the time.

I drove to the Center for Natural Wellness one afternoon and inquired about their massage therapy classes and started the ball rolling. I applied. I asked my therapists for recommendations. I got my immunizations and tests. I started to try to figure out how I would fit the rest of my world into my going back to school for the next 22 months.

Screeching halt.

Hmm...a full time teaching job, with new rules and regulations this year; a kindergartener with special abilities, who runs cross country, one dance class, and hippotherapy (which would directly conflict with my class schedule--meaning Kath would have to drop it); a 3rd grader who wants to do girls scouts/4H, who is signed up for two dance classes, wants horse riding lessons, runs cross country, wants to do gymnastics and OM (and she wants me to be her GS leader, her OM facilitator, and her official schlepper); older sons who still need me sometimes, one with a TBI; a husband with a TBI, also a teacher; and my own desire to write and read.

Then let's toss in 3 nights of classes a week with a couple of Saturdays a month. 5-8+ hours a week for studying. For 22 months. Driving to (45 mins) and fro (45 mins) each time.

So for months I've been trying to figure it out. Slowly my excitement for massage school has waned. Not because I don't want to be a massage therapist. Not because it seems too hard (though the science classes are scary!) Not because I don't want a Plan B for when education goes even crazier. Not because of money (though that is a thought since we are within striking distance of finally catching up after our mighty fall 4 years ago). Not because I won't have time to write or read.

But because of all of the above AND the realization that sometimes you have to pick and choose. That feels like giving up to me, a self-described overachiever, but really I suppose it's about making sure I'm on the right path. Sometimes I guess, I have to choose which dreams to follow.

The idea of being a healer is intoxicating. To make people feel better when their souls feel twisted up and broken. To help people care for their bodies so stress won't toxify their lives. I would love to be able to help my own Kath when she tightens up due to her CP. I would love to know how to take care of my own family with alternative therapies. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

Then, in the midst of my struggle and angst of indecision, several things happened. 1) Several old students reached out sharing with me how much I mean to them. In big ways, not the 'you helped me write a good essay,' but in "you made me feel like I mattered," "you believed in me even when I was a jerk," way. 2) I was considering pulling my daughters, especially Kath, out of public school as I thought about the unrealistic expectations on her teachers and on my daughter herself with these new standards and increased class sizes and homeschooling. But I found  myself at ease almost immediately with Kath's teachers and her classroom-- what a delight and a surprise. And Alex's teacher is marvelous too! 3) Then also (surprise!), I was approved to be the Dignity for All coordinator (gulp) for my school (a new law was passed regarding bullying and harassment). More responsibility, no pay increase. It seemed that teaching was pulling me back.

When I allowed myself time to reflect without guilting myself...haha, well THAT never happens!

But anyway, this morning I sat here thinking about how even though we are only three weeks in, I feel like I have a handle on things; my three ring circus. And then I thought-- do I really want to change things? Add another ring?? Do I really want to leave education? Do I really want to homeschool (that answer is always yes, especially if I could do everything else)? On any given day the answer to those questions is yes!!

At the end of the thinking though, I found that when I stepped back into my classroom, I didn't feel the same powerlessness I do when I hear and talk about the current education struggles. When I'm with the kids teaching, I feel like my soul is in the right place. I do good there. Despite the chaos of the education system right now, I am where I belong. Doing what I need to be doing.

I read an email about a friend I work with who passed away after her battle with breast cancer and I was brought full my mother's death and realizing life is slipping through my fingers. And I read a graduated student's comment to one of my Facebook statuses. He said "Write a book! I can't be the only one who wants to hear what you have to say next!" and several people clicked like on that post. A woman I'm friends with on FB, who manages an online magazine asked me to write for her. And lastly, a writer friend of mine said she'd like a copy (of the book)...and she actually does sit her butt down and writes! 

Maybe I'm already living my dream and I just need to go a little further to see it fully, to work a bit harder to make it all come true.

While maybe not everyone might want to read or hear what I have to say...maybe, just maybe MY way of healing souls is through teaching and writing ...and I can go to Jamie for my own massages and healing.

At least for now....

What if we come to places along our Life Journey where we question the Path so that we are not just blindly following that path? What if I had this slight detour/dream so that I could double check my desire and passion to continue in education? What if I had that dream so I could see that I could go elsewhere if I was ready to give up on public education, so I could see I do have options? SO I could see that I was not as STUCK as I had been feeling, that I always will have a choice?

 As I survived the first weeks of school and prepare the girls and myself for the week coming up, I recall this summer of doubt, of thinking about what I want. Really want. I want to be able to be the best mom to my girls and sons as possible, while being the best wife/life partner I can be to Roger, and still be the best, most effective soul-filling teacher and writer I can possibly be. And maybe that's enough.

I love to sit on my front porch with a cup of tea. I love to sit in bed at night and read to Kath, even if it's the same book for the 100th time. Talking to Alex about her hopes and dreams while driving her and being her cheerleader is fun! I love having students feel like I am a safe person who cares about them and always has time for them. And, taking the path of massage school at this time would mean that I would not be able to enjoy those simple pleasures as much, and for this intersection, this moment in time, I am not ready to give those up.

Not today. Right now, this path feels right. And when I have to soul search this again for March's admissions I might be ready to jump into the insanity of taking classes, working full-time and raising my children, but for now, my soul needs to stop and absorb these moments right in front of the best of my ability.

Afterall, time is too short....

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Writing AND Teaching and well, LIFE is a kind of fire...

There's a poem by Taylor Mali (Taylor Mali's Poem) where he talks about the only thing he could envision that would make someone jump from a building was fire...until his first wife committed suicide from her depression. Then he says that depression too is a kind of fire. I'm not trying to minimize depression (I would never!) but I think writing, teaching and life are also a kind of fire. For me they are the things that push me out of my comfort zone into unknowns in ways I could never imagine.

I sit here the weekend before my classes begin and I feel unprepared and scared. My old students going off to college share stories about not being packed and ready...they are nervous about this life change. I am not ready for my new batch of students. I feel hesitant for the life changes heading my way this year too.

Teaching. I love my old kids. I love who they are, who they became before my eyes. I put so much into my day-to-day teaching, getting to know them personally so I know how to teach them individually that I'm exhausted by March. Especially if the kids are having a struggling year.

I'm not sure of what other career is like teaching in this regard. Each year I get a new batch of students. Some love school, some hate it. Some can read and write like they were born doing it. Some have been told they aren't good at they believe and stopped trying. Some have so many issues going on at home that learning Shakespeare is just way beyond what they can handle right now...even though the Bard might be the one to show them that the world and life is cyclical...badgoodbadgood and not with many absolutes. And I feel my job is not only to teach English and literature but to also either show them how they are connected, or to reconnect them, to the world around them and thereby show them they are also responsible for the world around them.

So here I am on September 1st getting nervous and upset as I think about the new people I will have to try to teach. And this year with the new core standards and new teaching evaluations my 'job' has just been twisted into something that is not quite the kind of teaching I do. So my plan? Continue with what I do and try to squish in what the state SAYS is core and important. What's core and what's important is the CORE of the student, the humanity...and I'm hoping that as I jump off this high building and begin to run my marathon sprint (how I describe the school year) I have what my students need and I have enough energy to do it all.

Writing is a kind of fire too. I want to be so good at it. I have all these stories that chase me down the supermarket isles and pop up in faces of pedestrians as I drive my chores. But for this summer my keyboard has been silent. I planned on tracking down my Facebook statuses so I could compile them..a sort of bio of the past few years. I planned on getting the first draft of my young adult story done and contacting possible agents. I planned on starting the children's story and the mom warriors book and weekly blog posts. Blah, blah, blah...I did none of this.

Without writing I'm disorganized and cranky. Yet, I stay away until I'm at the end of my rope as I try to figure out how to best assimilate my day-to-day life with my need to write ( I treat it like a luxury instead of the lifeline it really is)...and my need to write always seems to slip down the list of things-to-be-done after everything is completed...and everything is never it seems as though writing has to be made into a kind of fire. I need to jump off that high building and see if I can fly on the way down...because waiting until it fits into my day, or I have time, is just not working.

And my mother's passing has made me reevaluate every priority I ever had. She thought she had plenty of time..she was buying Christmas presents....Sigh. You don't want me to reopen that vein right now, this is long enough!

So, here Sept 1st as the whole family embarks on transitions...
Chris is continuing his grad program Chris' website post
and Nick begins a new job at the Baergarten;
and Roger cuts back on his second job (weekends only);
and Kath begins kindergarten --integrated into a regular education class (while still struggling with toileting issues);
and Alex begins 3rd grade wanting to continue and up dance classes to 2 nights a week, run cross country, take a gymnastics class, take piano lessons, and so on;
and I start back to school in October for a massage therapy program (their part time/two year program);

I guess the best thing for me to do is jump and hope I learn to fly as I do. Afterall, this is all Life (and good stuff) and Life is a kind of fire. Here we go! Wish us success!