Every season deserves a break to stop and watch. Autumn happens to be my favorite. The leaves, the cooler air, the last of summer’s harvest. Up at my mom’s in Mt. Shasta, autumn is alive with color hidden beneath the unchanging pine trees.
This week is fall break, the glorious light at the end of the tunnel after nine weeks of school. For those of you with the normal two to three weeks off per year, I realize nine weeks does not sound like such a terrible stretch of work, but as a teacher, it is a solid chunk of energy investment, particularly given the first weeks of school are among the most tiring.
Before I became a teacher, I thought the breaks alone would make up for any amount of exhaustion in the classroom. Instead, I discovered that while time off definitely helps, the exertion required to keep 30 children learning, entertained, and emotionally supported surpasses anything I expected.
The upside, of course, is the reward in knowing I am doing something good for others, and the enjoyment I derive from building relationships with my students. So, none of this is to complain, but the truth is, I’m tired. Fall break could not have come at a better time, and I did not realize how tired I was until I finally allowed myself to sink into my couch this afternoon and shut my eyes.
Here is the thing, though, I know I am not alone. Teachers are not the only people pushing themselves to their limits. Most jobs are stressful and we also have family and other obligations that require our time and focus. We commit ourselves to a lot because we care about a lot. I get it. However, there has to be the balance, the time to stop and regroup, and sometimes, we have to let a few things go.
Balance is a big reason I have stepped back from my blog in recent months. Between school and family, writing has taken a back seat. Not because I stopped caring about writing, but because I realized other priorities had to come first. My health and my family are of paramount importance, then my job, then my writing. With less time to write, I have focused on my fiction over my blog. It is all a series of trade-offs. When I have more time, I enjoy blogging, when I don’t have time, I have to just let it go.
I know I am fortunate I get to stop, I get time to breathe and fall asleep on the couch as the leaves outside my window change color and the air is a bit more crisp. But, what about everyone else who is not a teacher? What do you do for yourself to allow for a little break, the time to stop and recharge and take care of just you?
Hopefully you have an answer!
Autumn storms in Sacramento mean chilly evenings, (you know, chilly by California, non-snowy standards).
Enter my beloved North Face down vest.
There are two things you should know. One, I have very stylish friends. Two, I’m not nearly as stylish. But, my love for this puffy, blue sleeping-bag-of-a-vest has nothing to do with style. It’s all about how it makes me feel. Warm, safe, happy.
You can ask my family. They’re likely to see me in this all winter long, (plus whatever I can get away with in fall and spring too). If I were a character in your novel, you would have to include it. I have an odd attachment to this puffy pillow of a vest that I received for Christmas last year. So odd and so strong I had to blog about it. That and I had to lighten the mood. Been a little serious lately.
Do you also have an adult safety blanket, or is it just me?
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
I came across this quote a couple weeks ago and let it sit in my document of random thoughts. It’s hard to always live your life as though everything is a miracle. Driving home from my mom’s house a couple weeks ago, I did. Even the trash blowing down the side of the freeway in the autumn sunset was somehow beautiful, the rain on my dirty windshield meaningful.
I’m slowly learning to live this way more often. It requires conscious thought, work, and desire. However, when achieved, everything starts to make a little more sense. Everything is more alive. I have always had little mantras for those moments I most need them. Today is the best day of my life was one for an entire summer. Now they change more frequently. Last week, my students are a gift. Yesterday, you are safe. Today, everything is a miracle.
As you probably already know, I was dreading going back to work. I feared my writing life would be over, that the summer me was gone. While the students returned today, I actually went back to work last week, transforming the past two days into my first legitimately earned weekend in awhile. To my surprise, instead of feeling rushed or deprived, I instead felt like life was full.
Even though I hate to admit it, there is something comforting about the return of the school year. For some reason I give myself more opportunities to relax when I know I have to go to work than when I’m trying to fit every imaginable pastime into the open expanse of summer. I don’t understand the logic, but it’s true. This weekend I actually hung out on the couch for a couple hours and did nothing. Oddly, that didn’t occur once this entire summer.
Suddenly I am craving the return of new episodes of my favorite television shows, the subtle darkening of the sky a little earlier each night, and the eventual change from summer to fall. I know it’s still a ways off, but starting school at the beginning of August creates a false sense of the impending shift in seasons. Still, this transformation brings me back to my childhood, the whispers of Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas around the corner.
One of my favorite parts of teaching is this difficult to verbalize connection to my own childhood love for the change in seasons. I’m sure I won’t feel this way every night during the school year, but tonight at least, life is full and the return to my routine is comforting.