I woke up this morning at 4:14. I didn’t want to. I wanted to sleep. I’m beyond exhausted. I feel like the soggy bits at the bottom of a garbage disposal… all churned up and left to be washed away. But I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there tossing and turning, trying to quiet my mind. My mushy, damp, mushroom filled mind.
It wallows in darkness all the time now. After all, this is the year of living with mortality. From the five hundred thousand and counting deaths due to Covid, to the traumatic cardiac event that cost my father his life, to the long-suffering, slow loss of my aunt, it has been a tough year.
I was going try to fight through the wakefulness this morning. Try to lie there, mind churning, stirring and slicing my thoughts, leaving me anxious and exasperated. But then I remembered the article I read this week… about how we need quiet time, Me Time. Time with no interruptions, no pressing obligations (well, they’re there… but nothing can really be done about them at 4 AM), and how those simple solitary hours can be some of the most important, and most difficult, to find. Especially for a 54 year- old grieving daughter and niece, who is also the mother of twin soon-to-be-seven year old sons, as well as adult daughters, who still pull at the strings of my heart and the thoughts in my mind, no matter how grown they get. Plus, I’m the wife of a coach getting geared up for spring ball, and the teacher of 160-plus students. In a pandemic year. All of this. In a pandemic year.
Let me say, this year has shown me why teachers retire after 30 years. I get how if you start your career straight out of college, a dew-skinned, wide-eyed, tenderfoot, that by the time you hit 52, you’re spent. You’ve developed thick skin, side-eyes, and calloused heart. (Let it be known I work hard every single day not to let my heart grow hard. My conscience is a pumice stone, grinding away the calcium deposits and thick skin. But also let it be known that tenderness makes my job way harder. It leaves me wide open to wounds and weeping.)
But alas for me, I was never a 22 year old teacher. I am a product of a nontraditional trajectory: back to school at 32, graduated at 34, 20 years a teacher, and way beyond spent. Emotionally and mentally.
And I know it’s not all teaching that’s done it to me — because my nontraditional trajectory didn’t stop at my late-blooming career path. I also decided to have a second set of children, twin boys no less, at 48. Boys who didn’t sleep for sixteen months – which may be partly why (nearly seven years later) I still can’t seem to catch up… and why waking this morning at the ass crack of day’s beginnings was so incredibly insulting.
And I know it’s not all parenting primary-school twin boys that’s exhausted me. Because the pandemic has saddled me with all sorts of extra weight too… the five-to-ten pounds worth of stress eating because, hell, carpe diem, for tomorrow we may… well, you know. I mean, after all, 500,000 have, plus my father and aunt. And then there’s the return of teenaged acne from the fabric masks I wear faithfully, and the lack of smiles from my students (maybe just because I can’t see them under their own faithfully-worn masks or maybe because they aren’t smiling either). And the continual waves of students leaving for quarantine and returning from quarantine. And my asynchronous classroom adaptations so hopefully they don’t feel as lost and forlorn as I do. But they do…
And I know it’s not all pandemic. Because I’m also executor to my father’s estate. Which means I haven’t had time to truly mourn because I’m dealing with the load and stress and anxiety of dealing with finances and legal matters that are completely alien to my being. It’s like handing a toddler a buzzing chainsaw and telling her to clean out the underbrush. It’s too heavy. There’s way too much room for error. There’ so much I could do wrong. Chop down the ancient oak or the beautiful dogwoods, get tangled up in poison ivy, raze my legs right out from under me.
I need supervision every step of the way. And thank heavens I’ve had it. I have a family of experts in various arenas and they’ve all lent a hand. Me, all I’m good at is the grunt work. The clearing of the debris. I guess that’s why I have the chainsaw, after all. But, have mercy!
So here I am, typing away my innermost thoughts on my computer (at now, 6 AM), the warm glow of a lamp next to me, warm coffee in my favorite mug,and nothing to keep me company but the quiet hum of the boys’ white noise machines and the keyboard recording my inner-most thoughts.
And not gonna lie, it’s kinda nice. (Not saying nice enough to attempt on a daily basis because, by GOD, I’m running on dregs.) But still, kinda nice. Like the distinct pleasure of low tide. There are tiny, sparkling bits of peace unearthed or deposited there in the newborn damp.
I guess there are gems to be found in the soggy bits once the churning has paused after all.
So, right now, I’m actively searching for them. I’m using these newborn, wet moments of my day to write my memoir, to chase my future. To birth yet another nontraditional career inside the trajectory of my nontraditional life.
I’m believing in myself. For at least a hot minute — before the sun comes up and the boys wake up and the day’s demands start rising again… leaving me fighting for life. Not just my life, but all life. My boys’, husbands’, girls’, students’, society’s.
It makes for an exhausted life. But a worthy one. So carpe diem it is.
March 6, 2021 at 12:03 pm
I love reading your blog. I am a 57 yo mom of twin 15 yo sons; I almost missed the train entirely but so happy to have married at 38 & had sons at 42. It is tough & I was isolated & embarrassed to be so much older than all the other parents. Elementary school was toughest from multiple “Stop & Thinks” & calls from principal to lice & new jobs (after almost weekly calls, when principal called to let me know that my 2nd grader chose not to waste valuable recess time & relieved himself on playground, I was so grateful when she asked if I’d like her to call my husband this time).
It became easier in Middle School & now freshman year of high school is a breeze & really fun. It has been caring, sensitive teachers and coaches that have made the difference for us. There was the 2nd grade teacher who understood that the day needed to be broken into morning & afternoon & celebrated when Nick made it through either without a Stop & Thinks to the 5th grade teacher that shared with him that she was rowdy & got into trouble in 5th grade too, to the 7th grade Middle School soccer coach who understood that he hadn’t skipped an after school detention to be defiant but because he forgot to check email & punished him by forcing him to miss the first game instead of kicking him off the team to the Honors Geometry teacher this year who understood when my other son cheated on a test, it was because he was overwhelmed with the pace of the course & was concerned that the course was affecting his self esteem & convinced my son that there was no shame in moving to on level Geometry & helped us transfer to on level course after the deadline. I now have my calm, easy going, happy son back & school is going well – I didn’t realize how much not understand ing the faster pace of Honors Geometry was eroding his self confidence.
I wish that I could give all teachers a hug and thank them for their vital role in creating humans out of kids! From your blog, I know that you are one of those very special teachers, so thank you so much from one twin boy mom to another. I am in awe of you. Also, I’m in a Dallas suburb; my children were born at Dallas Presby, if I can ever help your daughter that lives here, please let me know!
March 8, 2021 at 8:48 am
Thank you so much for your kind words and optimism. I love hearing from moms of twins — especially moms who entered the world of twindom late in their motherhood pathway. It helps give a boost of encouragement and assurance that this hard thing can be accomplished.
I’m so glad you’ve found some good educators to help you along the way. There’s nothing more disheartening than navigating their struggles completely alone. We, too, have been blessed with some really good ones along the way and I pray we keep running into some good hearts and stable leadership.
As far as my daughter, she just recently moved to Houston for a fellowship at MD Anderson. She still ventures up that way, though, to visit friends and because Dallas calls her name — she was there for seven years and it has become her second home. It calls to me, too. I grew up in Arlington and every time we head back to visit, Dallas sings to my soul.
May you and your crew continue to be blessed and thank you for you support and encouraging words.