This is not my job

This school year has definitely been different than any other in my career. Many days I feel like I am a first year teacher again. I feel like I am having to create new ways to do things nearly every day. Most days I feel overwhelmed and completely flustered. I am exhausted before the day even starts. I spend early morning hours in my classroom trying to find new ways to teach – to reach all of my kiddos. I spend all day behind a mask hoping that they can see the smile they bring to my face. I study their eyes – searching for a glimmer of understanding. I miss seeing the smiles that I know are there, but are masked. Creating engaging, cooperative lessons has become a difficult task. Sharing learning and ideas from three feet apart somehow just isn’t the same.

I come home at night, carrying a load that is much heavier than the stacks of papers in my bag. Did I even speak to her? Was he okay today or did he seem sad? If I could have only spent more time reading with them. Finding the balance between work and home is even more burdensome this year than ever before. As I lay my head on the pillow (or the couch, sometimes even my desk) my thoughts drift to tomorrow’s challenges. Do I have the energy for one more day of this environment? How am I going to reach them? And keep them safe? And listen? And show them how much I truly care – from three feet away?

But here’s the thing…I LOVE what I do – even when I’m doing it in the middle of a pandemic. I love my kids (my students carry the title of my kids). I love that they are so resilient and they handle every day of this crazy school year like seasoned veterans. They are still kids. They still laugh and play and have fun. They bring me so much joy when they draw me pictures or write me notes (even when the spelling is a little off). Yes, it has been a really tough, deflating year trying to make things feel normal when they are anything but. The pride I feel when I see how amazingly my kiddos are navigating all of the chaos – well, it makes every minute worth it.

I might be overwhelmed and allow myself to complain about the day to day details of the “job,” but the reality is, I love my “job.” I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to pour into these little lives each day. And the best thing is that I always get so much more from them that I give. My burdens may feel heavy at times, but my heart is always full. Teaching is not my “job.” Teaching is my passion.

It’s okay

IMG_2517When I decided to create a blog to share my writing, I promised myself that I would always do my best to be genuine with my words. Authenticity is a non-negotiable for this whole process for me. I don’t think it’s real to share just the happy highlights and keep the ugliness all to myself. Sharing a skewed view of my world seems like such a fraud and that’s not at all who or what I want to be. So…here we go. Yesterday morning I wrote about joy and how its not based on circumstances but rather it comes from God and its constant and a whole bunch of other thoughts that I do believe to be truth!

Last night by dinner time, I was on the verge of a breakdown. I am not using that phrase flippantly either. I was panicked, tight-chested, breathing heavy, sobbing, and shaking.  Swollen, puffy eyed, snot slinging, ugly crying. I had spent the entire evening worrying about anything and everything and had come up with the absolute worst-case scenario for each member of my family and myself. Yes, I was extreme catastrophizing. Where was my joy? Who was I to even create a post about being joyful in all of life? These questions led me to feeling even worse about myself…which led to more tears and feeling awful about myself. Why is this whole situation so hard for me? Why can’t I just do better, be better, live better? And the cycle continued….questions, self-loathing, tears.

This morning my perspective is a little brighter. Actually, my perspective is a little more rational. This morning, after a decent night’s sleep, two cups of strong coffee, and some allergy medicine, my thoughts are a little more clear, my emotions are a little more calm (it’s all relative), and heart is not quite so heavy. I thought back to the words my therapist spoke to me this week in our “virtual” session when I told him that I just don’t feel like I’m doing a very good job balancing everything. He asked me this question; “Have you ever done this before? Have you ever been quarantined indefinitely for a worldwide pandemic where you had to teach remotely and help your school aged kids with their schoolwork and help all five of your children navigate the fears and worries of this new normal?”  

*crickets

When I say that I hate when he goes all Jedi-mind tricks on me, I really don’t hate it because it forces me to answer the question that he and I both already know the answer to. Point made.

No, I have never done this before. No, I should not have it all together effortlessly. Yes, I should slow down, take a deep breath and allow myself some grace. Yes, we will all be okay if the school work is late, the dishes are dirty and we are wearing three-day old jammies. Today, in this moment, I am a MESS.  I do not “feel” joyful. I am bitter and angry that life is so hard right now. I am wallowing in self-pity in my unwashed, messy bunned hair. I will not stay here. I will seek my center, begin to balance and claim my calm. But for now, it’s okay.

It’s okay.