The past two months have been jam-packed. May brought Mother’s Day, the RKM Run for Heaven’s Sake & Joshua Tyree Half Marathon, and perhaps my final day as a classroom teacher. June brought our fourteenth anniversary, Father’s Day, and a visit from Aunt Em!
My friend Stace recently shared with me that this has been a year of transition. Her words are so true. In many elements of life, I have floated from one extreme to the other, back to the first, and then tried to tread water somewhere between the two shores. Perhaps transition is the best word for the ebb and flow of life and the waves of bliss and those of sadness each holding us in their wakes. Ironically, I battle motion sickness anytime I do anything with water but swim, but I am too stubborn to admit it and instead attempt to work through it so I don’t miss the good times. Perhaps, like grief, I need to give up on some elements of control and dive into the water where I feel the most comfortable.
During her last visit, Emily commented “we all have something.” Her words echo the popular paraphrased quote from Plato about how we need to be kind to one another for each of us is fighting a battle others know nothing about. Being kind goes a long way these days. I need to work on this. There are days I am unkind. Sometimes the people we lean on for strength are the same ones we need to be holding up. My sister comforted me by sharing that just because others are suffering, it doesn’t make our pain less important. Each of us carries a weight.
My family life has always been private. It is part of what has made publishing this public blog such a risk. I remember from an early age politely responding “doing well” anytime I was asked how “enter personal situation here” was doing. I never viewed it as secretive, but more so as self preservation.
When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, I asked if she was comfortable with me sharing her diagnosis. She shared that the more people who know the more people who can pray for her. This week she finished her final round of radiation. Each time I visit with her I am awed by her unfaltering faith, courage, and grace. Her wisdom has passed onto Courtney and I am glad she kicked cancer’s ass so she can keep guiding us. She is a port in the storm for many of us.
When those we love are ill, it reminds us how much they mean to us. We desperately hold onto the moments and work to pack in the memories just in case they becomes our last. It calls into question the who and what we surround our lives with. It makes us question things like the jobs we work and the effort and energy we put it to certain tasks. Yet, we still take so much for granted. We miss so many moments.
I am fortunate to be able to see my parents on a weekly basis. Our time together is both joyous and emotionally draining. It is hard to watch my mother slowly change as she is held hostage to her mind and body. Each visit, I leave thankful for the time we have as I know others do not have this privilege.
When my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the fall of 2005, she shared with me that she didn’t want people to know she had been diagnosed. Instead, she wanted at whatever point it was obvious that she had Parkinson’s to be able to simply answer “I have had it for years.” This fall will be the sixteenth year she has been battling the disease that has slowly taken pieces of joy from her. She still has her witty humor and on occasion, her full-of-joy smile, but we are no longer able to honestly say we are “doing well. Their love keeps us afloat, but many days she is out to sea and my father does his best to navigate the troubled waters.
Moments with my parents and my in-laws make me realize most of what feels like a big deal, is in fact trivial in the long run. Our time with family, the moments we share together, and the examples we leave for our children is what will remain.
I have been mentally wresting about my professional identity for the past year. Who am I, if not an English teacher? So much of my identity the last fifteen years has been centered on the work I do instead of the person I have become. On my final day of classroom teaching, I received a message from my friend Karissa.
Such a simple gesture, but her words of encouragement have stayed with me these past few weeks as I transition from a teacher to an educator. This connects to how I feel about my search for grace. I am constantly searching for the footing between what I want to do, what I should do, and what I end up doing.
This month marks my third year of contributing my voice to Josh’s story. To my story. As I drafted this blog post, I read back through my previous post on this occasion and although I feel I have grown, I feel the same pull towards needing to find balance between what was, what could be, and what is.
I hope some day to return to the classroom. As I consider the person I was when I started teaching compared to the person I am now, again I feel a surge of remorse for what I could have and should have accomplished as a teacher.
I am still in contact with one of the first students I ever taught, Katelin. It is disheartening to realize the influence I had on her versus the impact I feel I have had on students this past year
Her words have stayed in my mind as I consider my search for grace. It is fitting that the three words she uses to describe me are the same three I use to describe her. I wrote the words out and have taped them to my mirror. Perhaps a daily reminder of the me fifteen years ago will help me become more of the me I hope to become.
For the prompt on the final semester exam I asked students to reflect on “a positive moment or experience that shaped their definition of learning.” One student came up to double check that it was acceptable to reflect on a negative experience. I attempted to redirect her to the part of the prompt that asked her to find a positive, even if it was initially out of a negative. She left my desk (and perhaps my class) generally annoyed at me and my expectations; however, in the next hour she transformed her writing into one of the strongest piece of reflective writing I have read from a student. Her concern and purpose for writing (other than for a grade) was to show how a moment that could have been bitter, as a result of her reflection and commitment to growth, has instead become a positive.
This is my ultimate hope in pushing myself to continue to write this blog – that my role as a mother is not a negative or slanted, but because of the challenges – I have learned joy unlike any other. This is not to say Josh’s life or memory is a negative, but each day he spent with us has forever shaped me to appreciate the positives even in times of hardships.
Here is to another year of striving for strength, stability, and grace regardless of what waterway or hallway we find ourselves traveling down.