Our Tangled World

Struggle

Is there a word for feeling contentment and sadness simultaneously? I am ever thankful for the life I live. I think those of us who are still breathing have some luck associated with our existence. But I am really, really lucky. I have a support team in my life that comes at me from all angles; I have enough food to eat, and a car to make an escape in if the going gets tough. And yet, there is this consciousness that sits next to all my joys. I struggle to ignore it.

I try to focus on the beautiful things in our tangled world, the birds in the backyard scavenging all my birdseed away in just mere hours, or the sun coming through the trees as I wait for the kids to get out of summer school. But I wonder. Is that okay? Am I allowed to be content? There is war all over our pretty globe, and just a few days ago a beautiful young woman chasing her dreams was senselessly killed. More than 50 others were brutally murdered for doing what we’re all trying to do, be happy. I am angry. I am sad. I am thankful for my own life. I’m caught in a constant struggle between feeling happy and feeling a little scared of the world we all live in together. If I go about my day as usual, it does not change the fact that someone else just a few states away, maybe even a few doors down, is grieving so hard they feel their entire soul will break. And how do I just simply do my laundry, fix the kids lunch and clack out a blog post like I’ll get another tomorrow? I do not know.

I guess I have to teach my kids how to be kind to all others and to understand that most people are extremely loving and good-willed, but that there is evil in this world. We must not let that win. We must help others, protect our loved ones, and we must go on with our happy lives to smite the fiends who try to break us into pieces.

The Closest I’ve Ever Been

This mid-life lost feeling is a lot of fun. It’s stressful, but it is fun. I am slowly unraveling the way I’ve been thinking about my career and daring to consider a string of new possibilities, but before I go off and quit my job, I’m taking some time to search for some catharsis. I’m liking the blogging thing, even though I am the only one who seems to be reading it, but I’ve also been thinking about what a mid-life crisis is and how different people deal with it.

I know a few people who have completely rearranged their whole lives. I’ve heard their friends and family talk about them like they are crazy just because they are taking a few risks and daring to find some happiness. But what is so darn wrong about that? Why should people in search of a change be talked about in hushed whispers? I am feeling more free and less stressed out since I’ve been considering new possibilities. I’m actually feeling a bit of resolve; and if I’m going to be completely honest, that hasn’t happened in a long while.

A few weeks ago, I got to thinking about the things I’ve never done. For example, I have driven through St. Louis four times, and I have not stopped to see the arch. I begged the woman sitting next to me in the car to take a picture of the arch, but I did not bother to get off the highway and check it out. The closest to the arch I’ve ever been is chronicled in the photograph above by my friend Kim. That stupid picture in my phone is taunting me! It’s reminding me that I have not done some of the simplest things, let alone some of the things that I’ve wanted to do for so long (like writing).

Now, I’m probably not suffering from an actual mid-life crisis, but if and when I do, I am going to try very hard to look at it like it is a new start. If I only have this ONE life to live, I want to know that I enjoyed it and dared to put myself out there. I am going to try to ignore that failure is more probable than success and that the American Dream is really built on a house of sand. I’m going to ignore all that because I don’t want to think about the fact that the closest I’ve ever been to trying something out of the ordinary is a photograph.

Crying in the Classroom

I never thought I’d be the one to lose my composure in front of my students. In twelve years, I’ve let my students see me cry three times. The first time was when one of my former students was killed while serving our country. He was only 21. His sacrifice left a hole in me that wouldn’t go away. A real tragedy will cause a deep pain that lingers.

But there are other deep pains. Sometimes my pain is not caused by real tragedy, but my body can’t tell the difference. My mind has it all figured out. My mind says, “Get over it, everyone has a tough job.” The rest of me is not that logical. There is real pain in teaching. It comes in the form of headaches and heartaches. I’ve cried in the classroom twice in three months because there is real pain in feeling that no matter what I give to those kids, it won’t be enough. There will be kids who do poorly on their ACT tests. There will be kids who would rather text in class than read books. There will be kids who just don’t believe in themselves. That’s where the heartache comes in, and the headache is not far behind. I could probably do 50 different jobs that are less stressful than teaching…

but…

I go back. I go back because I love them. I believe in them. When I am completely honest with them, they show me that they are decent humans. When I lost it in class the first time, every single kid in the room showed me honest concern. When I lost it today, two kids (who didn’t strike me as likely to comment on my embarrassing struggle) made sure to find me later in the library and tell me they hoped that I was feeling better and that they were sorry I was having a bad day. They actually meant it, and that meant everything.

Along side the burdens I face (too many standardized tests, students who live in poverty, depressed students, cell phones, so much grading I can’t even read to my own children at night, etc.) there are kids who pop up now and again and remind me that my work influences them. In the coming weeks, I will pretend that I am going to look for other work. One of those higher paying, less stressful magic jobs that make all my dreams come true, and then I will sign my contract and go back for my 13th year because there is no other job on earth that compares.

 

It’s Time

It’s time to give up. I just can’t wander around the world wondering if I can ever do this crazy thing I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s over. I’m done. I’m going to give a few fledgling keystrokes to my craft, let people attack my prose and just (try to) love every second of it…because I want my life to at least resemble the life I’ve been imagining.

So, the plan is to share some writing with a few strangers and not take it personally when people don’t fall in love with it. The plan is also to get good at it, but I’ll try not to get ahead of myself here. I mean, I have a lot to learn about where and how to share my fiction. I also have absolutely no experience blogging. It’s a little frightening.

It’s actually a LOT frightening. One of my writing fears is sounding trite and inducing eye rolls when I put what I have perceived as passionate, mind blowing words on the page only to make readers groan, “spare me.” Sadly, writing in private will get me nowhere. I have to share the bad with the good and just get set on improving.

I know I have a lot going great in my life and so much to celebrate, so it’s time to stop thinking about what I could do, and actually risk a little humiliation, get out there and give it a go. Writing has been one of my ignored passions and I am so lucky to have the resources to give blogging (and writing) a try. So…It’s time.