May 11, 2016

Some Days

Get a drink. This is a long one.

Each day is not that different from the next when you document them as meticulously as I have been doing for the last one hundred and thirty two days.

You wake up at 5:45am and check your likes and statuses and tweets- you’ve read that this obsessive checking-in leads to stress, anxiety and unhappiness, but you want to get a grip on your world, so you read the comments people may or may not have written on last the post you wrote last night. (Oooh that was a popular one: 14 likes and a few new comments. They seem to like the funny self-deprecating ones with some kind of lesson at the end.)

Most mornings there is some overnight activity that makes you happy. Some mornings you start your day watching soul-crushing videos of Syrian children being bombed and you think that maybe checking your phone before you are awake is not such a good idea. But these routines are ingrained, so it is harder to stop than you think. Maybe this pre-awake morning time could be better spent sitting a quick mediation, or a enjoying a stretch on the balcony, but then when would you catch up on twelve hours of online activity. The world spins while we sleep.

At 6am sharp you wake up the kids. They usually struggle a bit and grumble, but they are pretty good at dragging themselves to the table. You sit with them at breakfast to make sure they eat. You are all trying to be positive and happy, when all of you just want to go back to sleep. Some days are easier and more pleasant than others, but usually you are all at the table, half asleep, forcing a few bites of food into your mouth. The sky is dark. Some days you play some gentle music, but some days the silence is enough. By six-thirty breakfast is done and you are in the shower. On most days you enjoy the scent of the peppermint soap, but you think that it might be time for a change in shower products. The new scent of a shampoo or conditioner could mix things up a bit. Coconut would be good. You miss coconut. Smells like the beach.

Your older child is independent and can get ready by herself. The younger showers with your wife. While they are in the shower you get dressed quickly so you have a few minutes to strum your guitar. You’ve been quietly whispering a few songs. You miss playing live and make a promise to get back in that habit.

The younger child tries to sneak up on you every morning to scare you, but she seldom does. You help her get dressed- all the moods have perked up by this point. She is all silliness and on most mornings this is a welcome distraction. Teeth and hair brushed. Shoes on. Bags zipped and ready. This efficiency affords you a few more minutes on the guitar. You think that this cannot be considered “practice” and ponder how this must be why you are not getting any better at guitar. You make a note to build in more practice time. You remember how last year you went to play at school every Wednesday night. Why did that stop? How can you build that back into your life? You need a band.

At this point your wife is ready and you are all out the door, like a gang of sherpas, each person carrying bags, lunches, guitars, tennis rackets and a variety of work-out clothes. There is usually music in the car. The kids like the pop, but you know they need exposure to other music so you insist on Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Tori Amos, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Sleater Kinney and other bands that will shape their identities without them realising it at this time. You cringe when you hear their top 40 choices, but you understand the value of allowing kids to own music that they have “found.”

At school, you drop the kids off at the infant lot, relieved that they are old enough to simply get on with it on their own. It is now 7:30 and you have arrived at school. In your room, you turn on your laps, get your computer set up and check in with your co-worker. You catch up on TV shows and make sure that you are set for the day, sometimes there is some last minute planning, but usually you feel prepared and ready to go.

Then you teach. This is actually the part of the day where there is some variety. Some days run smoothly. The kids are engaged, intuitive and enthusiastic. Everything you say is funny and insightful and life changing for every kid. You float down the halls and do a million things at a time. You are a super hero. You can do no wrong. On other days you are cranky and snappish. The meetings run long. Your brain is fried and you are sure the kids hate you and are making fun of you behind your back. Nothing works. They learn nothing and you feel like a fraud.

But most days is a combination of the two. A conference runs perfectly and you feel like you may have lit a light that will change the way that kid reads books forever. Other times you ignore that one kid who needs you most, because you are grumpy and cannot afford the energy. On most days you inhale and exhale pride and shame. Give and take. Win and lose. Such is the nature of teaching and life.

Lunch is the same nearly every day. At this point it is a large salad with: spinach, pastas, cous cous, brown rice, onions, sprouts- bean and green, tomatoes- large and cherry, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, tofu, beets, four kinds of beans: garbanzo, kidney, butter and white, olives and croutons with olive oil and vinegar dressing a large dash of salt and chili flakes. You eat with your two friends and colleagues and talk about how a lesson went, a student's progress or the show you watched last night or a book you are reading or a movie you want to see. It is adult conversation, for the most part, and it keeps you grounded.

After school, there is usually a meeting or some activity, but rarely nothing happening. You keep your head up and act professional, some days you dream of just leaving and going to a movie or getting a massage, or taking a nap. Lately you even fantasize about going for a run. But no, you sit in the meeting and you share ideas and do your best to improve the school and the lives of the kids you teach and the people you work with because you are a team player on a team and you are, for the most, winning; you want to keep it that way. This is a job you love and at the end of the day the tedious bureaucracy is part of it.

You leave school at 4:30 sharp. The ride home is quiet. You discuss the day with your wife and older child, the younger one went home with the nanny. You look forward to the day when you all have the same schedule, so you can all go home at the same time and maybe not need the nanny anymore. You realise not wanting a nanny makes you sound like an ungrateful prick, because so many people would love the childcare you have, but at the same time you look forward to the day when you family can exist without her.

Once home, the older one is sent to her room to do homework that you do not really agree with, but you are playing the school game and at this time she needs to do that math worksheet instead of going to play in the park or a swim or just playing with her sister. You want to write the teachers and ask why they do this homework, but you trust them, because you demand the same trust from the parents of students you teach, but the homework feels wrong and you wish you could take her to the skate park and practice for an hour. A late afternoon bike ride would do more for her soul than sorting a bunch of random words and writing sentences using them. This homework monster has been at your throat for over thirty-five years, why can’t we kill it?

Some days you run. Some days you play with the little one. Some days you lay on the couch like a useless exhausted whale, beached by fatigue, barking at anything that comes near. Some days you fall asleep. One night a week you make dinner. Dinner is served around sixty thirty and you all sit at the table and eat and talk. It’s easier than breakfast because the kids are hungry and awake an they eat.

After dinner, the kids are in PJs, teeth are brushed and they are in bed at seven and allowed to read until seven-thirty at which time you need to sit in the room with the younger one because for some reason she is scared of her “new” room and will not fall asleep without you there. You know that this is a phase and she will grow out of it, but it annoys you nonetheless. You sit on the floor of her room with your laptop and headphones. You catch up on emails, but you have been good about not doing too much work at home. You are nervous that your new role might add work at home, but you prefer to use this time to watch funny videos, read the news, interact with friends on FB and Twitter and you write your nightly blog post.

You are proud of the writing you have been doing. You have taken a break from the novel until summer. It needs to sit for a while, but you have plans to work on it and set a new deadline soon. The younger one usually falls asleep within thirty minutes so you are back in the living room. Your wife is usually working-out until later, so you either read, play a bit more guitar, relax, spend more time online….hmmmm. You think that maybe this time can be used more productively, but damn it sometimes you just have to watch and RT John Oliver videos.

By this time you have posted your nightly writing and some people are interacting with it. So you interact back, thrilled by the quickness of connection between your words, your ideas, your world, your self and those beyond the screen. You see their faces reading and wonder what they are thinking. There is a small dedicated audience who reads and likes every night, and more interestingly there are a few random people who jump in from nowhere. You wonder how many people read- all, most, some of your posts. You wonder how many people have hidden your friendship because they are tired of the litany of posts.

Your wife comes home and after she gets some work done, you usually watch TV. Monday nights are good this time of year- Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley. You usually have a few shows running. After an hour, around ten thirty you wife is passed out. She has been up since four thirty preparing breakfast and lunch and dinner, and working full-time at school. You have offered to take turns with the meals, but she seems to find it easier to just do it all herself. This makes you feel guilty and like a bad feminist, but what can you do but offer? You can try to insist more strongly you suppose, but secretly it is nice not having to do all that.

After she is asleep, you read for a bit. Check in on posts and comments one last time and around midnight you shut off the light.

You float in the darkness. In silence. You remind yourself to be grateful that you are fed and loved and sleeping in a warm safe bed. You remind yourself of the pain and suffering so many people face and you try to find ways to fill your heart with hope. At which point you will fall into a deep often dreamless sleep. Until 5:45 the next morning when you hear your wife’s soft voice say, “BZ, time to get up."

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