I think there should be a National Day of Whining. And yes, I know there’s a National Whiners Day (Boxing Day — December 26th — what’s up w/ that??). But it’s not the same. I don’t want to be a whiner. I want to whine. There is a (possibly subtle, but real) difference.
I’m not interested in whining all the time — I realise it’s pretty unattractive. But here’s the problem: it’ soooo satisfying when you’re doing stuff you don’t want to do. Like, say, sweeping up the weeding debris. Or unloading the groceries. I mean, here you are: hot & sweaty from the weeding and the pruning and then… You have to go get a bag, and stuff this junk into it?? Whine.
Or, you have to mess w/ the long line at the grocery store, trying to figure out (yet again) what you can make that everyone will eat, and you finally get home after being stuck in traffic behind a noxious-fuming whatever. And then? Unload the groceries and put them away. When all you want to do is sit down, put your feet up, and drink sweet tea that someone else made and handed you.
Can you tell today was a day full of chores? Including (in case you didn’t get the hint) weeding, pruning, & grocery shopping. Grocery shopping where I FORGOT the tomato for tonight’s BLT dinner. Which meant that AFTER I put up the groceries, I had to make the meatloaf I was going to make tomorrow.
Even folks working on their enlightenment should get a day off occasionally. I can see nothing valuable about whining, I confess. Except for this: it sure makes me feel better. 🙂
I was reminded today healing happens, but it takes time. More than a week ago, I cut my finger pretty badly. I think the verb I used was ‘clove,’ since I whacked it w/ my brand-new cleaver.
As you can see, it’s pretty much back to normal. A little tender, needing some attention now & then to make sure it doesn’t get bumped, but no more double BandAids and Neosporin.
I’m sure you can tell where I’m going with this… 🙂
The problem w/ a blog is that you often want to write about your life, or the lives of those whose lives touch and colour our own. And you can’t, in good conscience, always do that. Privacy and confidentiality are gifts we give our loved ones. But I struggle, when I don’t know what to do or say to family and friends who are suffering.
So the reminder — via my poor finger! — that time alone can heal some injuries is welcome. It’s not what I tell people when they hurt (it can sound pretty cold, if you’re hurting), but it comforts me, at least. When I don’t know what to do for people I love, and I can’t ask others for help? I breathe, as my son says in his own blog. I practice tonglen, offering up my own confusion and unhappiness for my friends & family.
It often doesn’t feel like enough — just like the double BandAids didn’t satisfy my poor guilt-ridden sister when I cut my finger. But it’s suprisingly effective. It just needs time. And we have far more of that than we pretend.
I often think that old hippies — those of us who were in it for the peace & love, not the sex, drugs, rock&roll — became teachers. Because that’s what the teachers I know believe in: peace & love.
Peace between kids, parents, teachers. Between the administration of a school and its district. Between those districts and their state government. Between all the ‘us’ and ‘thems’ of the world.
And love, most certainly. Love for our vulnerable babies, of whatever ages: from one to 100. They all seem like babies, when they count on you for affirmation and learning. Teachers may well be the original hippies… 🙂
Seriously, folks — I spent the past few days with teachers. Some of the nation’s finest (leaders at a National Writing Project site), all of whom GAVE UP a summer weekend, when they could have been swimming, or boating, or eating ice cream somewhere cool, w/ a summer book to hand. Instead? They were sitting in uncomfortable chairs in a sterile college classroom, reading and sharing research on how students learn to write argumentatively.
They did this for DAYS, folks. Because they love our kids. Yours, mine, ours. Their political beliefs are all over the place, as are their spiritual paths. But their love for our kids unites them in this singular project: a belief that if we all work together — teachers teaching teachers, the mantra of the National Writing Project —we can change classrooms. We can find ways to penetrate the despair so many teachers feel when confronted w/ too many students, too little time, no help at all, and impossible expectations.
I’m telling you: for these past few days, I’ve sat in a room of warriors. English teachers, elementary teachers, university professors, high school teachers, literacy coaches, special education teachers. Each battling against a culture that says teachers are responsible for what’s wrong with education. NOT systemic poverty, or broken families, or inadequate funding (Oklahoma, for instance, has cut funding for schools more than any state in the country — 22.8% since 2008).
Still, my friends and colleagues fight on. This war takes the shape of words on pages, books of research. Weekends spent figuring out new ways to ‘hook’ kids on reading, on literacy. Ways to reinvigorate exhausted colleagues who have 155 kids needing daily writing that must be read. Evaluated. Graded. Recorded. And then begun all over again.
You wonder, sometimes, why they do this (even they do, on bad days). Because they believe in peace & love, remember? And they know that education is the way for most of our kids to achieve that. They also know that while this mess education is in is NOT the fault of teachers, it’s teachers who are on the front lines, shielding our children (sometimes literally, as Sandy Hook should remind us). Feeding our children on their dreams, as the song says.
I’m a writer, and I find it difficult to convey how humbling it is to listen to teachers who have their own hectic lives, often second jobs (Oklahoma teachers are some of the poorest paid in the country), spend a weekend talking about their profession. About how they can accommodate the new demands of technology, federal & state mandates (which change with the prevailing political territory, often irrespective of research). About reading, writing, and literacy. About education reform. And about peace, and love. And teaching our children.
Because ritual rocks. Seriously: it offers us structure and space, time to sip a cold drink and pamper ourselves, as we would a loved one. A dear friend. Someone who needs a little extra attention.
And shouldn’t we be friends w/ our own sweet selves? Shouldn’t we (above all others) recognise how fragile we are, and how much we need a little lovingkindness?
Hence tea. 🙂 And stainless steel straws ($5 for four @ Amazon!) for Việtnamese coffee. And fresh flowers just for ourselves. All the little things we do ‘for company.’ Like making Việtnamese coffee — not hard, just a bit time-consuming (and you do need an espresso maker…).
I’m just saying: be kind to yourselves, folks. If we don’t deserve it, who does? 🙂