Thursday, June 6, 2013

I think I have a spare bailing bucket around here somewhere

My school year just ended. Literally. Yesterday was my last day of teaching for the year. After 9 years at my old school, this was my first year at a new school--new students, new colleagues, new policies and procedures, new copying machine (which proved more of a challenge than I had anticipated). Never has a school year flown so quickly by. Yesterday grades were entered, textbooks re-shelved, the little white orbs of paper from the 3-hole punch vacuumed up from the floor one final time. I gathered my children in a whorl of cheers and chaos, and we drove home.

At the end of each school year I like to take stock. Of me, of my family, of the greater world around me. And last night in my stock taking, I was frustrated. In reading a bunch of other "mom" blogs, there's a continual discussion about how to "have it all." And I'd like to submit that this whole idea of "all" is rubbish. 

Sure, it all can be done, but something (or everything) is going to suffer for it.

  • I am continually fighting off frustration and guilt at my inability to give my children as much concerted attention as I would like. 
  • I am continually agonizing over the fact that I should be doing more with my classes, being more creative with my students.
  • I am continually ticked off because I have a 1st draft of a novel that is patiently waiting for revision, yet never seems to get a glance from my writer's eye.
  • I am continually wallowing in filth. My house is a disaster, so much so that my mother-in-law started to clean when she came for a visit. (It's sad, I know. But what's even more sad is that I was so relieved at having my house cleaned that I didn't even protest...much.)

This is my office (at home) and probably the cleanest portion of my house.

As you can guess, I'm a treat to live with. Yet there are moments when my head fills so full of life's noise that all I can manage is to chug a glass of wine and go to bed. Where I toss and turn, my mind spinning with what I should have done today and what I need to do tomorrow.

This is not a "reclaiming my life" speech. This not an inspirational "Pull Yourself Up by Your Bootstraps" song and dance. This is not a "woman-power" rant. I don't even think this issue is specific to women. (However, I do think that it can at times become more obvious in women simply because we don't compartmentalize the different facets of life quite as easily as men. But, again, that's a generalization and may not be precisely true.) I have male friends who are teachers and writers in addition to being husbands and fathers, and they face the same challenges.

Last night, Jonathan took me down along the Susquehanna River, set up chairs, whipped out wine, and we sat as evening shadows lengthened and the lights of the Wrightsville Bridge twinkled across the water. (Yeah, I know, he's a rock star.) While looking out over the water, I did my stock taking. And I'm sorry to say that the conclusion I came to is not going to sound reassuring to those of you also bailing water from an ever-flooding boat.

Our view of the Susquehanna last night.

As we sat in silence, I came to this conclusion: Life is a continual bailing of water

There will be moments when I've got the upper hand on the leakage and can relax and enjoy the view. There will be moments when I've lost my bailing bucket completely, the water is rushing in all around me, and I'm inevitably gonna get wet. 

So, after coming to that conclusion, I came to several more. (I was on a roll.)

1. I must come to terms with the leaks. Life's unpredictability is completely outside of my control. Deal with it. It's gonna be messy sometimes. It's gonna be infuriating sometimes. I'm gonna fail as often as (or more often then) I succeed. Yet, as I tell my kids, the only thing I can control is me. So do it. Get yourself under control, Anna, and stop focusing on the leaks.

2. I'm going to fail, just as I'm going to succeed. And I'm not sure there's a rhyme or reason for which happens when. Revel in the successes. Learn from the failures. And share both with those whom I've chosen to surround myself--just as they share their failures and successes with me. Because it's in sharing and shouldering life together that life takes on its sweetest flavor.

3. Keep bailing. Never stop. 

PS: If you need an extra bailing bucket, just holler. I think I have a spare.

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  1. Ah, I see my comment from yesterday never posted. Curse that smartphone! My response was a resounding YES! I deeply relate to the constant bailing, the inevitability of failure and messiness, and the necessary acceptance of (surrender to?) the reality that this is life, plain and not-so-simple. I can't tell you how much good it does my heart to know I'm not the only one taking on water. Maybe together we can figure out how to perfect that bailing technique. :) Love this post!

    1. I'm so sorry you had to post your comment twice, that's so frustrating. But thank you, Alison, for your support! When I commented on your post the other day that I was working on much the same thing, this wasn't it. I actually deleted the post I wrote originally because I felt like 1) it wasn't honest and 2) it wasn't interesting. It was just me whining. So this was Take 2. And I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in my bailing :)

  2. I'm right there with you Anna. I catch myself watching other moms pull perfectly portioned, organic snacks from their bags while I buy my kids ice cream. They seem to never raise their voice, their house is always clean, not to mention their cars and I think, what is wrong with me? Truly, I cannot do it all, much less do it well. So, I stand waving a flag of solidarity from my own filthy house before I go back to bailing. You always seem to capture so much in your posts. Thanks!

    1. Thank you, Kristi--and yes, the perfectly portioned organic snacks kill me every time. Along with the perfectly matched outfits their kids wear and neatly plaited hair. I'm lucky that my children are wearing shoes most of the time. So I'm delighted to hear that there are others buying their children ice cream and wallowing in filth :)


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