Monday, December 26, 2016

On agitation

I've been following Dan Rather on Facebook, which is how I came upon this quote: "To live in freedom, one must grow used to a life full of agitation, change and danger," by Alexis de Tocqueville   Rather found this in an article on politics through the ages, and today. I don't mean for this to be a post about Rather (or politics), but I'll share that his sane voice is pure comfort in the midst of what looms ahead: "...a life full of agitation, change and danger." Will the freedoms Americans have luxuriated in, remain? i-confess. I'm scared and agitated.   

In my personal life, I'm on slow simmer. I'm in the process of mixing and matching a new work life, one aligned with a more peaceful existence.The irony is that leaving a job of agitation before finding a replacement is another state of anxiety. There is the relief of a thought-out decision finally made. I believe fully something better will fill it. But it won't just show up. My friend tells me "you're standing in the hallway." One door closed, the other yet a mystery. Not stuck, but not fluid either.

As I write, Tara Brach's podcast "The Sacred Pause" plays in the background. It is impossible to write this and listen, really pause to listen. Words fly around me as my fingers hit the keyboard: don't react, spaces between, on automatic, except that this blog is my pause. It's where I settle into my feelings, or they settle into me. I want to figure out the freedom part of the quote. Is danger a euphemism for getting through uncertainty? Do we throw everything up in the air and see where it all lands? Pray for the best.

In my memoir class of eons ago one exercise was to cut up each page we had written, paragraph by paragraph. Toss the strips of paper, then tape them as they fell. There--a memoir in puzzle form, which in a way, is what a memoir is. The pieces can always be rearranged, long after its written, read, tucked away in the back of the closet. 

I'm rambling. In the four weeks before school starts up, I need to learn something new or improve my skills at something old. Too much time is my particular devil's workshop. Thinking: I get frustrated when students don't grapple too long with ideas. And yet, for me, thinking can be its own danger when I allow my thoughts to gallop through me.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

On endings

i-confess. I am addicted to Facebook. At 1:00 a.m., unable to sleep, I turn on the computer--not a good idea in the realm of insomnia--and feed (devour) my news feed. It's gotten so that anything other than political dialogue holds zero appeal. I know this isn't a good thing, and yet...I'm at the mercy of my untamed mind. I've begun to call my FB friends, Comrade. But enough of that.

Lots going on in my teaching life. As the semester draws to a close, I'm filled with anxiety. Final grades for two schools--nabbing students missing work, questioning legitimacy (i.e. plagiarism) of last minute papers, upholding academic rigor and standards, while getting it all done so that I can get it all done and breathe.

In that realm, I took some bold steps. I cut back for the spring from three schools to one. I put all my proverbial eggs in one basket and hope for the best. I chose to stay with the school whose agenda is most organic to me. That means essays, essays and more essays. They are the most gratifying to teach and tap my strength. Strength is a good thing when facing down upwards of 50 freshman. If you've never done it, trust me on this. (on right, favorite diner at the now-former school).

But with that comes sadness, looking over my shoulder, questioning. For I'm leaving a school (for now) where I've had my longest tenure and have a group of colleagues turned friends. Will we still see each other? We've managed to do so after hours for the past few years...I hope we make the effort. At my school where I'll be teaching, it's a come and go world with an enormous student body and even more enormous staff. (on left, futuristic view, with all students gone for break).

On the upside, I have time to look for other work, to get back to writing, to pursue my newfound interest in fundraising, to use my letter-writing skills for more than sending Letters to Editors that don't get published (at least not most of them).

Ah...sleep. Tomorrow (or is today?) we're watching The Joy Luck Club at 8:30 a.m. in school #3. The movie rattles me; its emotional manipulation in the realm of mother/daughter relationships, wipes me out. Sometimes there is nothing like a good cry. These days and times seem to call for it.