I snapped this picture on a recent weekend getaway with my husband, Gart. The lodge we visited was built on the edge of a cliff. Views of the valley below were breathtaking. Birds flew all around. It was a perfect spot for some quiet relaxation.
But that sign…I chuckled the first time I walked past. I even witnessed several people coming and going safely from the entrance to the trail. Still, I was hesitant.
After breakfast on our first morning, we ventured toward that sign. We walked the short distance down to the edge of the cliff. It was a narrow trail, but not scary, except for that “edge of the cliff” thing.
When we reached our stopping point, there were several big rocks- perfect places to sit and rest. Some seats were closer to the edge than others. No surprise, I chose the first available seat. Gart, however, picked one just a few steps further.
The logical part of my brain knew he was in no real danger. But the anxiety, afraid of heights part of me-well, it struggled. We were both seated, taking pictures, enjoying the scenery. Both perfectly safe. Yet, my imagination had him slipping and falling off the edge.
Later in the day, I thought about that hike and the warning sign. Life kind of feels that way right now. Like there is a danger sign around every corner. It is easy to become fearful and anxious.
At this moment, I am safe and healthy. My family is safe and healthy. But the news reports daily virus increases. There are increased warnings about travel, the importance of masks, and social distancing. Not to mention the impossible questions concerning a return to school.
Like the edge of that cliff, the potential for danger is real. And just like the warning sign at the trailhead, there are potentially life-saving signs offering help through the pandemic. But only if I read and follow the signs.
We are currently in a state of constant, overwhelming information. And though I try to limit my intake, anxiety has a way of creeping in. It is easy to lose sight of what truly matters.
These two poems provide a glimpse into how quickly my state of mind changes. Some days are a constant battle between worry and trust-anxious and calm. Can you say rollercoaster? 😉
Maybe you can relate. ❤
The pressure Begins to build In the center Of the chest Pushing past The heart Welling up In the throat Seeking an Escape route- Tears falling From my eyes- No consequence Weight remains Reason requires Assistance A temporary Reprieve Help from the Unexpected A song playing On the radio Laughing, I Shake my head Momentary release From the gravity
Not considering Personal gain Instead, seeing Another in the Light of grace The same grace Through which Each one of Us desires To be seen Grace that places Selfish interest Out of sight Out of mind Where it belongs Two people Face to face One saying I see you I hear you And I want To know you Not a request An offering Of friendship
Planning like Never before Worried about safety Worried about health For our students And ourselves So much at stake Far beyond academics Far beyond testing The emotional health Of our children Of our families Of all of us So many needs To be met Too many needs To be met By only a few But we are not a few We are many We are educators Waiting patiently For difficult answers To impossible questions And no matter what Others may say We will shine-Our Students will shine With kindness, passion And innovation as we Face our fears during These challenging times
I love playing the piano. And playing the piano in collaboration with another musician is even better. It requires a whole new level of concentration. But it also provides a whole new level of enjoyment.
Not only am I reading and listening to my part, but I am also doing the same for the other instrument. One section on its own does not make sense. But when played at the same time, harmony in motion. Almost like two characters telling the same story from their own perspective.
Even though collaborative playing is one of my favorite ways to experience music, it has not been part of my life in more recent times. Right now, my professional life is more focused on teaching. Playing is mostly for my own enjoyment.
That is ok. I am not complaining, just setting the scene.
Here we are, many months of living during a worldwide pandemic. The school year ended strangely. So many plans put on hold. And just when it seemed things were improving, our numbers are on the rise again.
There are so many questions about the future. How long will this last? What will school look like? It is easy to feel anxious.
What better way to calm anxious thoughts than some musical collaboration?
My friend, Lisa, came over and brought her oboe. Lisa and I teach music in the same district. She is also a professional musician. We have talked many times about getting together and playing music.
What better time than during the middle of a pandemic?
My music room has glass doors that open up to the main entrance. So, we opened the doors and sat a chair and music stand in the entryway. That way, we could still maintain a social distance but also have a sightline.
We played music for almost two hours! The time flew by. My fingers got a workout, but my brain was at peace. The music was beautiful! And we had the perfect audience, my miniature dachshund, Poppy.
Poppy’s bed was placed between the piano and the oboe. She was perfectly still, relaxed in her bed the entire time. I think she approved.
Playing music did not erase our questions or concerns. But it did provide some moments of contentment. Music is powerful, therapeutic. And the therapy is even sweeter when it’s a social distance duet with a friend.
There are many reasons for making lists. Dreams, goals, to-dos, groceries…that last one is the only list I write consistently. For me, going to the store without one is a mistake. The trip turns into one long, rambling adventure with little to show.
But what about life lists? The ones that show accomplishment when I scratch off an item. I rarely make those lists. When it comes to making lists, my brain seems to work in reverse. What do I mean by that? Here is an example.
Right now, most days are spent at home. I meander through the hours, often with no set plan-only vague ideas of what I might do or what needs to be done. At the end of the day, there’s a little pang of guilt. A question-what did you do all day? In my head, I answer by making a list.
I managed to clean the kitchen.
I sorted the laundry.
I did one load of laundry.
I washed my hair.
I spent time writing.
I took a nap.
You get the picture. In society’s eyes, this might not be considered a productive day. For me, it leads to a list of questions.
Did I actually dry and put away the laundry?
Unload the dishwasher?
Talking to a friend count?
Playing piano for fifteen minutes?
What about sitting outside and watching the birds?
And really-a nap?
My conversation with myself will not likely change what I do with tomorrow. But it might change where I place value. Or I might just add those other, less finite activities, to my after-the-fact list.
Those are the things I cling to right now. Those things keep me steady and ease feelings of anxiety. Those things remind me there is beauty in the middle of the storm.
I suppose an argument could be made for making a list ahead of time. But the truth is, that’s just not me. Maybe I should quit making lists altogether. Except for those grocery ones, of course. 😉
I left home at the mature age of seventeen and, except for one summer, never came back. My mom often reminds me. 😉
Before college, I had lived in the same house my entire life. I attended the same school, first grade through senior year, and was surrounded by extended family.
And even though I needed to find my own path, the place where I grew up would always be home.
A recent visit with my parents caused me to think about the word home. Especially the idea that home has little to do with the actual place.
As I pulled up in the driveway, my dad was waiting under the carport. Mom came right out as if she’d been listening inside for my car. Soon, we were talking about everything from the kids to work, politics, church. And, of course, the pandemic and quarantine.
As an adult, I enjoy this time alone with my parents. Being there by myself means my only role at that moment is a daughter. Even if this visit brought some adult daughter anxiety.
Due to the current pandemic, I had to be very careful about where I stopped on the four-and-a-half-hour drive from our house to theirs. My parents are over seventy, Mom a breast cancer survivor and Dad with diabetes and kidney disease. Their health is currently good, and I couldn’t bear the thought of exposing them to this virus.
My anxiety quickly faded as Dad asked, “How’s my little girl?” Mom said more than once, “I’m so glad you came.” At face value, simple phrases. Yet, they wrapped me in the love and security I experienced growing up.
When going to visit my parents, I say I am going home. And when it’s time to leave, I use the same phrase. I guess both are true. Home is about the people not the places.
I may have to leave tiny pieces of my heart behind when leaving one, but I know they will be refilled upon arrival at the other. Not the same, but new, and whole.
A sweet paradox, traveling from one home to another. ❤
Green Green Grass of Home by Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr.
Question of the week-
Which is harder
Only seeing faces
On a screen
Or seeing faces
From a distance?
The computer screen
Filled with little faces
Smiling, waving, singing
No group hugs
Yet, welcome connection
The short visits
No pats on the shoulder
Yet, beautiful smiles
Bring a rush
Tears, happy and sad
Despite attempts to
Swallow the lumps
In my throat
Maybe it’s not
A question of difficulty
Instead, a reminder
Of how desperately
We need each other
Up On the Roof by Carole King/Gerry Goffin"And if this world starts getting you down
There’s room enough for two…"
This week I was able to go back to my classroom for a short time. Take things off the walls, put away personal items, clean off my desk. Basically, the process of closing things up for summer.
Typically, this day happens in late May and is followed by a celebration with colleagues at a local restaurant. We congratulate each other on making it through the school year. We talk about plans for the summer. Not this time…
The building was empty, quiet. Only a few teachers are allowed in at the same time to work. The only sounds came from the precious workers in the cafeteria, busy preparing the food being distributed to our families.
My daughter, Rachel, went with me to help. Both of us wearing face masks. It didn’t take us long to get things packed away. I only had two small boxes to carry home-some personal piano music and my Freddie the Frog puppet.
The final step was turning in my keys. This action usually comes with a sigh of relief. A pause in responsibility, allowing rest after a hard year’s work. Not so much.
Once we were back home, I found myself feeling grumpy and irritable. I tried reading a little. I had a zoom meeting with my team-our last official one of this year. Everything just felt strange.
Maybe a nap would help. Clear my head, at least. It did not completely change my mood, but it did allow some perspective.
It’s no surprise I was feeling strange! This is not how the school year is supposed to end. It is supposed to end with celebrations, hugs, goodbyes, and even a few tears. Those things will not happen.
I was missing that “Hooray for summer!” time with colleagues because I missed the “Hooray for summer!” time with students.
My classroom is empty. Ready for a fresh start. Hopefully, that fresh start begins with a happy, “Welcome back!”