Slipping the Vortex
It’s mid-September and I’m caught–even though I swore I wouldn’t let myself get this way again–in the vortex. It’s not a matter of poor planning. Those of you who know me well enough to forgive me for my quirks know that whenever someone comments on one of my “OCD” tendencies, I am quick to respond that there is no “Dis” in my order. Heck, I’m the kind of person who Facebook-bragged on having my meals planned through December 2018. It’s all right there in my datebook. I’m the kind of person who is working on hand-copying the Book of Psalms as a method for calming my mind. I figure those Benedictine monks may have been onto something way before Herr Gutenberg invented his printing press and changed the face of history.
I’m the kind of person who has lists of lists, organized for quick reference. It shouldn’t surprise you at all that I was that kid who memorized the Dewey Decimal System just for fun in the third grade. To this day, I highlight every word I look up in the dictionary and, yeah, I have argued vehemently over the necessity of the Oxford comma. The organizational strategies I model at school are far more valuable than either a passing appreciation of Harper Lee or the formula for cracking at least a 3 on an AP exam. One of my greatest points of pride is when my students realize that the skillsets I empower them with crossover not just to other classes, but to life beyond the hallowed halls of the school building. That, folks, is the difference between teaching and educating. LOTS of us are making it happen!
But, sometimes, like about now, I let the sound of my own wheels drive me crazy (a nod to both the Eagles and my parents for raising me right musically). I get caught in the vortex of planning/teaching/grading at breakneck speed as I implement whatever the mandated “solution of the year” for getting standardized test scores up maybe. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that cynically. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m stuck in that lather/rinse/repeat cycle as we settle into the expected performance norms, which of course have shifted enough to make last semester’s objectives irrelevant. We are so busy with process that we overlook purpose. It’s not enough for me and it’s not enough for the kids.
The vortex is a powerful one that colors my attitude at home as well. I race home each afternoon just in time to pick up the girls from band/vet science/drama/orthodontist/???, try to get them to eat something besides chicken fingers, pitch in with farm chores, do laundry (talk about a vortex…I’ve been caught in that cycle since 1994!), and crash exhausted in bed only to crank it back up again at 5AM. I burn up my Saturdays catching up all I didn’t have time to do over the week and feel lucky if I have time to snatch a Sunday afternoon nap. We are so busy doing that we overlook the living. It’s not enough for me and it’s not enough for my kids.
So, it’s time for me to snap out of my “I’m so busy I feel like I’m drowning in to-do lists” pity party and slip that vortex. Perhaps you feel caught up in the “Wool Pooh”, too. If you’re also in that September riptide, you know you have to swim parallel to the “beach” until you escape, well, the suckiness of your situation.
We can’t drop our to-do’s. That’s just part of the fabric of being a grown-up, a teacher, a mom…or all three! Try slipping your particular vortex with a to-be list. What do you want to be this week? Write it down right there next to your to-do list. Itemize it! I want to be a cook, a voice of reason, a force for positivity, a road biker, a field hiker, a freakin’ Julio Jones of English (a former student paid me this tremendous compliment and I’ve been trying to live up to it ever since), a worshipper, a friend, a comforter.
PS, gentle reader: Bonus points if you can identify the source of the Wool Pooh reference!