Friday, April 13, 2007

flying the coop

Some weeks are longer then others. This one whizzed by, actually, though not without some seismic changes within the core of my self. I was emailing Emily today, and I told her that it was strange to feel absolutely happy (a little fearful, a little off kilter coming from a place where I was nervous about so many things). Perhaps it is the future being wide open or maybe it is all this self reflection I've been doing.

I've been writing a lot in my notebook, much more than in 2006, and half the time it is attempts at rough poems, and others, it is simply digging into my self and my past. I give my students prompts that seem to fit the theme of my day: describe your perfect day, beginning to end; anxiety looming (observation day); the contents of my pockets; a dream I recently had. I've made it a point to warm up with my students, so that I have ten minutes every day at least that I have worked on my own writing. I encourage them to write the entire time, and generally I have learned the rhythm and pace of ten minutes exactly--when to warm my writing up, when to slow it down because the seconds are drifting away. I can now write a first draft of a poem in ten minutes, or at least a plan for one. I hope this pattern can be broken, though I know it is likely as I have found myself writing in many other small breaks (between classes, during a quiz, during rehearsal) and can go on and on or be as precise as the mood allows.

I also found this post that was linked from this blog (which I have just put up into my sidebar--the sidebar, by the way, with the non-standard-blog links, is courtesy of Angie and K both--I changed my template when she originally sent me some help, so he had to adapt it, but I am very excited I can now personalize and keep permanent some of my favorite places to visit). In it, the author speaks of giving your year a theme... an adaptation of the resolution...

I think, if I went back to January, I would say something very different from what I would say now. I might have predicted: The Year of Survival (or Struggle) due to the impending musical and Kelly's wedding as well as the budget cuts (little did I know the lump would soon follow). Or I might have said: The Year of Partnership (because of my wedding, Kelly's wedding, Emily's wedding, Roshelle's wedding... because of my co-directing and co-teaching and everything else).

But now I want to say The Year of Freedom or The Year of Making Peace. I came into this year full of anxiety, going through a biopsy and losing my job due to budget cuts, I would breathe strangely, like a fish thwaping its way across a wooden dock--gasp, gasp, nothing would fill my lungs enough, though I felt as if they might pop. It was as if the world around me was a spinning top, and I had to clutch the slippery sides, failing to hold on tight enough.

And that seismic shift occurred, and suddenly I am more at peace within myself. My desire shifts from the constant groping towards the future, stumbling along the way, and often hating where I was at that very moment to catching that breath, standing back, and looking around.

(the reflection of rehearsal in the grand piano)

Among other things (talking, feeling freedom, writing, support of my favorite people), I think this photo-a-day thing is helping me. My mother and sister are both very talented photographers, so I know I can't quite match that impressive ability, but I've learned my love of art and the visual from both of them.

I think when I was an undergraduate I had the ability to be in tune with the world around me as I was always looking for material. I'm beginning to do that again, but for a few years, I was constantly thinking about school and teaching. That's all I could talk about, and I'm sure I drove my friends nutty, especially the ones who had zero interest in K-12 education. A reel ran through my head, students billowing across the screen, situations playing and replaying, what I could have done differently and what I was glad I did (or didn't) do. Often it was the same story with different characters or setting, but each time, it was fresh to me. I was able to get creative energy out of creating lesson plans, and I played off teachers like Roshelle who had the kind of spunk that is required for teaching a classroom full of retriever-like freshmen.

But something else shut off when that awareness came on. And I know I can find a way to balance it (I am now) if I were to stay in this profession. But at that time, I had forgotten to look into the light and color of the world around me. I was so focused on getting through the day, maintaining my composure, and whittling away the stack of grading that I could not see the small things in life. I was becoming work obsessed, which was fine because it was also survival.

Now I am looking through the world in many different lenses... Poetry comes out of a late afternoon at the Y where I can write about Mississippi barges and the feeling of sweaty heat coming from your face after proud exertion. I write phrases on the back of my hand again, even when I am in the front of the room and a phrase or word catches me by surprise. My notebook is filling faster and faster by each day.

And I am looking through a camera lens as well; I have committed myself to this new project and I am loving the way it combines a new form of art with self reflection. It's therapeutic and artistic at the same time, a combination I thrive upon. I find it compelling to have to analyze the daily world around me to see what might interest a public viewer--what can I tell you about my day at home, letting the dogs out, reading a book and watching the snow fall outside? What can I tell you about my fourteen hour day at school, where I watched the same clip from The Odyssey four times in a row then watched my actors rehearse the same scene four times in a row, each time a new experience, each time I had something else to say?

What can I tell you about the way that I feel as I see these things? I am mesmerized by this bright child who wants to give us notes, handwritten scribbles, or mimicks a student's mural on the white board.

Here I spend hours in the theatre and am distracted by the shapes and contours that surround us. There is so much going on in the space of my life that I had forgotten how to take it all in, rather than standing back and only looking at the big picture. I've stopped the constant question: "What next?" (though it still gets asked, and it's good to not neglect that) and instead: "What's here, now?"
And next year. So many people, after they hear I am to be cut for next year ask if I have found any prospects for next year. My mother hounds me with the question of the one teaching position within half an hour that I have applied to thus far. I resist answering this question because there is no real answer. I do not know what I am going to be doing next year. I thought I would be wild with fear at saying something like that, but instead, I am actually thrilled.

The French teacher in the neighboring classroom decided this would be a good year to take a leave of absense (our district gives tenured teachers three, though they're not always approved). She and I had spoken of wanting to go back to school and do something else; that teaching wasn't quite as sparkly as it once was for us. I ran into her after school today and said I heard she didn't know what she was doing, and she cried out, "I know!" and I said, "Me too! Isn't it wonderful!" and she said, "Yes!"

I'm not sure how many people can understand why "yes" seems to make complete sense to both of us, how wild with fear has become wild with joy. It's not that we are going to be lazy next year (far from it, I hope). It's that our futures have spread open for us and we can try on other personalities. We aren't repeating ourselves; we are throwing ourselves into the mix, seeing how others live, seeing if this is where we should live too.

I'm limited geographically, but that is OK. Our town is small, but it has personality, and I wouldn't mind spending a year close to him, getting to know this place. I am tired of feeling disconnected from the place I am supposed to call "home."

I am also trying to learn new things. I did make a first draft of my own mondo beyondo list, but I'm going to work on it a little before I post it here. Among other things, I want to grow an organic garden, get my MFA and Ph.D, publish (of course), travel (especially the British Isles and New England), learn to cook many more recipes, being working on visual arts (besides photography, though that too), maintain my picture a day blog, grow my group of writing friends, teach college classes, have children and have the opportunity to stay home in their earlier years as much as possible, lose that weight (yeech), run in some event (I don't run--at all--remember, this is mondo beyondo), etc. I'll flesh it out soon.

I want to explore and take on and take in... Angie and I have started weekly assignments for our photo-a-day blog. I posted the explosion here. This week we are to find something related to "sound." Above may be it, though I'm going to play around with it, see if I can find something more complex, either visually or try to avoid the musical (after all, that's a little unfair). I keep imagining a tuba with a student's cheeks all puffed out. Too bad I don't know any tuba players (or don't know that I know any, since any one of my students could). Or I could take a picture of the king in our musical, as he is mute.

I leave you, my readers, with the question: What is the theme of your year? Please feel free to leave your responses in the comments! They are fun to read, and it lets me know someone (besides me) is reading this thing. :)

1 comment:

Angie said...

The theme of my year (so far!) is Travel. I will be spending at least 5 weeks away from home in 3 different locations (2 different countries). Possibly 6 weeks from home in 3 locations if I'm lucky.