- The much needed mental break that was the first full week of summer, because new ideas got a chance to simmer.
- The chance to connect and reconnect with some good friends over the last week or so.
- I have plans for English 3: minority voices in American Lit and American philosophers with some heavy historical perspective.
- The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff for the angle I can now justify fully with The Crucible.
- Knocking out two books on my extensive reading list. Afterwar is anything but subtle; it is a great read though. The Collapsing Empire was fun and fascinating and such a throwback to the sci-fi I teach. I wish I had an unlimited book budget for my classes.
- The children of my soul and the friends who raise them so I can revel in the role of “aunty”.
- That I’m healthy enough to walk.
- The hope that I can/will reign in my laziness.
- All the people I love who love me back.
- The students I’ve gotten to teach over the last twenty years: those who have learned, those who have hated me, those who listened, those who phoned it in (slightly different meaning now than it was when I first started, but not that different), and those who taught me important lessons.
I often forget how little skin to skin contact I get in my day-to-day life. The most affection I usually get is a purr from a well-fed or well-petted cat. I don’t date and I don’t get regular massages. I usually don’t think about how important touch can be; it’s easier to put those feelings on the shelf and ignore them. Today, I’m getting a pedicure with a close friend in anticipation of her wedding tomorrow (earlier this week I got my hair done, so that’s two situations that happen only every couple of months). I also got a few hugs from graduating seniors last week.
With the sad news this week of celebrity deaths, the death of a former student’s father, and the rise of my “summer blues” our human need for connection is weighing on my mind. I’ve often felt that platonic touch is deeply underrated in modern America. In fact, one of my deepest joys is seeing how much more comfortable kids are these days (generally) with platonic touching amongst friends and in public. It’s nice to see people holding hands for comfort or affection rather than because they’re dating. It’s nice to see people hug each other for comfort or to show affection. For all that my students and their generation are regularly derided by various crackpots and media outlets, they are getting quite a few things right that were taboo or at least frowned upon when I was growing up. I’m glad to see the normalization of ace and aro tendencies, I’m glad to see the normalization of alternative households, and I’m glad to see the normalization of platonic affection. I suppose I need to be less afraid to seek out platonic touch and be more willing to ask for help when I need it. My thoughts and prayers are with all who have lost loved ones this week.
I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes, trying to figure out what to write. I always tell my students that the only way past writer’s block is through. Whether it’s getting away from the words for a little while, reading something sure to inspire irritation or agreement (or, even better, thought), or just letting words flow into something resembling a mess and hoping for mediocrity. Like everything else in life, the only way out is through.
So, how do I get out of the word hole I’m in?
Honestly, I dig myself a lot of holes. I think most of us do. We get into financial debt by filling our voids with shopping or money. We get into friendship holes by staying inside our homes or heads or getting too wrapped up in other relationships. We get into deadline holes through procrastination. People who aren’t me, aren’t really like me, can lose themselves into other holes…
Eventually, we pull up our grown-up costume and start working our way out of these holes. We consolidate our debts or start paying them down individually. We make efforts to hang out with our friends and keep making efforts until they pay off. We create budgets and stick to them (including saving a little money—however much we can). We get our projects done and hope they meet our standards and the standards of those we are working for or the judges of things we are working toward.
Sometimes things work out in just the right way and we get surprised by what we don’t like. Many times we reap the good and the bad from other people’s whirlwinds. Usually, we reap the good and the bad from our own whirlwinds.
I’m all about personal responsibility. I don’t believe in the western version of karma; I do believe in the fact that we throw seeds into the wind and that those winds become whirlwinds and that we don’t always reap what we sow, but we do reap a lot of whirlwinds in our lives. I also don’t believe that everything happens for a reason; sometimes thing just happen and what matters is how we deal with those things.
I don’t have any security in the hope that I teach my students better ways to deal with problems of their own making and problems of others’ making. I just have that small, fluttering bird in my soul (allusion, kids) that I feed and nurture. I also have a heart of darkness which is only caged by the roots of bitterness. I hope that showing my students what they can learn from myth and fairy tales, from current news, from history, from philosophers, from canon and minority literature—every success and every failure and every moment of mediocrity has a lesson we can learn.
I believe that luck is really understanding how to deal with the good, the bad, and the ordinary in life. And luck comes at a steep price. After all, we have to be strong enough to survive all the moments we are given and the smarts to learn from them.