I’m reading my most recent post (from nearly a year ago! ugh), and my determination to honour time. This is an outcome of loss and tragedy: a pronounced need to slow down, to treasure each moment and remain connected to what matters most. There is a tension – a well documented, ancient tension – within a world and life bent on motion, continually turning our eyes to what lays ahead, missing what lays before.
I’m thinking of the Bukowski poem ‘Nirvana’ and the crunching noise of big, bus tires on a fresh, clean, otherwise quiet blanket of snow. The will of the world is at odds with peace. I recommend this reading by Tom Waits.
And so it is hard. If you’re anything like me, you are too often left with a pit in your gut characterised by longing and regret. In education, we know this well, with all of the expectations, routines and traditions that effectively distance us from what may actually matter the most. But more (much more!) on that in a later and not too distant post. I am circling back to the idea of time because I am again struck by it, as I stumble upon another truth: time is scary as hell.
Very recently, I made a decision to take time for myself, for healing. It is a decision to prioritise my health and my family. (If you’re interested, you can read my letter to our school community here). Yes, it is a decision to properly confront PTSD, but it is also a decision to regather, reevaluate, and make some firm commitments – to myself, family and profession. Blended with the desperation for a calmer brain, is the need for a calmer life. I am imagining an approach that allows the most important priorities to remain within reach, and all else washed away with greater ease.
In a faculty-wide PD exercise in January – just on the verge of another shutdown and new layers of disconcerting complications – we each took stock of our personal pedagogies through a lens of mental health. It was reassuring and exciting that virtually all of us prioritised joy, love of learning, community and relationships above all else. I believe this global pandemic helps us to clearly see what each of us and our students require most. As an aside (for now), ‘meeting curriculum expectations’ sat near the bottom of ALL lists (again, more on that in a later post). We know where our hearts are at. The scary step is a full and honest evaluation of ACTUAL approach: to what extent does practice actually reflect philosophy? To what extent and way are we compromising our own values (either necessarily or unnecessarily)?
Perhaps all of this puts into perspective the frightening prospect of time. For me, the paradox is that the relentless motion of life has provided comfort (even though it can be endlessly stressful and overwhelming?). In a state of trauma, it has ensured motion; there is no choice but to keep moving, put one foot in front of the other, get out of bed each day and not pull the sheets up over my head. The motion of the world has been a distraction, and I believe a necessary one. I have been thankful for it. Time, I am beginning to feel, is only valuable if we understand why it’s important. It has taken 15 months for me to see, with any amount of clarity, how it is that I may in fact use time as an essential ingredient of reflection, articulation, learning and healing. Being. Time may in fact be a friend as opposed to an enemy.
If I am to extend my personal experience into the realm of education and beyond, I might begin to argue that in any circumstance (not just trauma or tragedy), time is scary. It is deeply connected to truth, honesty and humility. In education, we refer often to the idea of self-actualization, perhaps to capture each of these qualities. I believe the correlation to time – carving, allowing and honouring – is striking. Do we really require a global pandemic (or personal tragedy) to more genuinely connect to the importance of slowing down? We know magic occurs in the gaps, those often unplanned spaces in between. Are we intentional about providing those spaces? Are we confident living – taking time! – within those spaces? Do we possess the expertise to inspire, guide and support students within those spaces? Or, is our discomfort so great that we find ourselves continually pulling all of our students back onto the bus (listen for the sound of crunching snow)?
And so, here it is. For me, it’s time for time. Searching for healing. Indulging and being present on the good days. Finding courage on the bad ones. Living in the spaces inbetween. Growing acceptance of what life offers. Capturing my learning so that I may carry it with me. Blogging. Blogging a lot. No, really! Until then…