Faking It Too Well

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Fake it ’til you make it. That’s what they tell you, and, sometimes, it’s very true. Sometimes, you have to act like you know what you are doing while learning exactly what you are supposed to be doing. That is rather how I feel about teaching. I feel like I am constantly acting like I know exactly what I am doing or supposed to be doing when, all along, I am barely staying afloat.

Studies call this “impostor syndrome” but the truth is that who I am as a teacher often feels very different from who I feel I am “in real life”. Teachers need to have a polish to them, a presence. It leaves my poor introverted soul tired and, maybe, even joyless at times. However, there is no denying that I am good at what I do. I am a good teacher, though maybe not as involved with as many shiny tricks as others who have been doing this longer or have it as more of a passionate calling. Nevertheless, I am organized and knowledgeable, even enthusiastic when I am teaching literature. I’m good at what I do. I have never gotten a bad evaluation from an administrator. I don’t pull punches with my students and push them to do their best and improve on it. I admit when I don’t know or I am wrong. I know how to hold my corner-classroom kingdom. But that me often feels very different from me.

One of my students asked me last week if I am bipolar. My answer was, “No.”

“Are you sure?” he pressed.

“I’m sure,” I replied.

He was a dog with a bone. “Because you’re usually really nice and then you can get all mean.”

“That’s not me being bipolar. That’s me being tired of people’s crap. I’m an introvert. I don’t deal with other people’s crap well.”

Who I am in the classroom takes a force of presence and authority that takes a lot out of me, leaves me weary and wanting to crawl back into a safe little hobbit hole to recover. But recovery time for teachers, as you know, is slim to none. Ditto and double for moms, which honestly makes it a double-whammy. So going back to work is not just a change in how I do life but, once again, a change in how I feel about who I am. It’s an extra twist in my self-vision that I sometimes wish I could untwist and smooth out at the end of the day. Some days are more successful than others, but there are successful ones.

Going back to teaching is the best thing for my family right now, and that is what is important. That is the driving force. It is allowing my daughter to go to preschool and daycare every day to gain social and academic skills that she will so desperately need in the coming years. It is also allowing us to put money aside and save up so that we can start dreaming new dreams again.

I will find a way to reconcile all this change. Right now, though, it’s difficult at times, I will admit. But there is always a way.

Love Is a Superpower

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Check out that title again. Go on. Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here for you.

See that? Did you know that? Think about it! Love is a superpower.

Love is versatile. Love is strong. Love is life-saving. Love is world-changing.

Love is a superpower.

See that girl standing against the wall over there, her head bowed? That head covered in luminescent teal and aqua hair, hair that perfectly matches her outfit? Imagine how proud she must have been of that radiant ensemble after meticulously planning and putting it together. Then no one complimented it. No one noticed the bravery and care it took to live her unique beauty and truth. Now imagine her face after you step over and tell her, “I love your mermaid hair!” Imagine the smile that might brighten that beautiful young face. That’s the power of love. That’s the supernal magic of expressed kindness and compassion.

Love is a quiet word. Love is a genuine compliment. Love is an acknowledgement of trying.

Love is a superpower.

When we extend even a little love outward, it ripples, reverberates, snowballs, and multiplies exponentially. It may not always come back to us but we can absolutely count on it surging forward like a wave swell, building and increasing in power as it courses onward until it finally hits and explodes, sending uncountable, shining, shimmering pieces of itself out into the air and the world.

Love is what compels children to pick up their plate, walk out of a restaurant, and hand it to a hungry soul huddled outside.

Love is what compels neighborhoods to rally around their sick, elderly, and downtrodden to lift them up to hope.

Love is why children who are left to grieve the death of a parent are gathered close and taken in by family friends. People who have always treated children like their own are taking them into their families as their own, ensuring that they know they are loved, protected, and wanted.

Is love always easy? No. I love always accepted, lauded, or thanked? No. Like courage, love does not derive its definition from simply doing it when it is easy. Courage is doing what’s right or what’s needed in the face of being scared. Love is doing good when we could do otherwise.

Love is we choose to step into an isolated corner or a lonely cafeteria table and speak to the soul that’s hidden there.

Love is when we choose to wait for someone rather than rushing ahead.

Love is when we choose kind words and a soft voice rather than the explosion our feelings tell us is warranted.

Love is when we choose to see the child needing help coping rather than the little tyrant throwing a fit.

Love is when we choose to accept as is. When we choose to sit with, hold close, listen intently, speak encouragingly, handle gently, defend boldly, and act mercifully. Watch what happens. Watch the changes, the improvements; watch the vibration, reverberation, and snowballing of that love as it is passed on to others. Love never remains stagnant, unchanged, or even in one place.

Love is supernatural. Love is supernal. Love is superb. Love is absolutely a superpower!

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To Print Love on Others

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Two days ago, I had a thought. I was in need of joy and the best way I know to garner joy is to give it as best I can. Bundling that thought up in my fist, I went to the dollar store and bought a pretty storage box. That took quite a bit of deliberation as I am sucker for a pretty box. You have no idea how much self-control it took to not buy all the pretty storage containers and vessels to use somehow in my classroom. All that to say that I left the store with just what I needed for my plan.

The next day, I typed up and printed ten encouraging quotes/sayings/thoughts that had always been an uplift to me. Then I made photocopies and then cut them out, folded them, and placed them in the box. Give it a good shake and we were ready.

Today, after long period blocks of mandated early-semester testing, I handed these simple slips of paper, these drops of (hopefully) encouragement, to my students as they left my classroom. I am also urging them to add to the box if they think of or find encouraging quotes or things to say. Because everyone can use an encouraging word now and again, and building each other up is a habit that it is never too early (or too late) for anyone to learn.

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When the Ground is Unsteady

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The best-laid plans…

My plans for this year went to pot two weeks ago when I did a scary thing and accepted a last-minute teaching position at the same corporation where my husband teaches.

This was not what I had planned on! I had spent the latter part of the summer framing my mind to being home with my daughter for one last year. I enrolled her in part-time preschool, accepted an invitation to be a contributing writer with My Trending Stories, was planning my time and our budget to save more, cook at home more often, and maintain my workout routine. I was dreaming of enjoying walks and park time with my daughter, intentional time with dear ones, and time to dedicate solely to writing while my girl was preschool. And now, in a perfect hurricane of change, all of those plans have been shattered and my life feels as though it has shrunk immensely. I get up, I go to work, I pick Elizabeth up from daycare, I pick up or make dinner, I care for/play with Elizabeth, I put/wrestle her into bed, and finally collapse myself. There is very little time for what I love, for what gives me joy, and precious little energy with which to do or enjoy right now.

So, even though I know–I KNOW–that this is a good position, in a good building, with good people, and a good salary, I have to admit to having a very difficult time surrendering my plans to God right now. I am mourning the loss of them, the dream of them. The dream of what I thought God was calling me to. I miss my girl, I miss the life we had together. I miss the opportunities that I was looking forward to. Now, I am nothing if not unsure.  Right now, all I know to do is to get up and go to work each day. I have signed a contract for this year; I will honor my word. I will pick up my daughter from daycare each day. I will feed my family. I will clean house when I can. I will leave work at work as much as I can (though all teachers know just how futile this can be at times), and try to live life in the small spaces.

I gave a commencement address this summer where I spoke on not being afraid of being small, that greatness can be in the small things.  Right now, my life feels small, contracted down to the barest of routines with little room for the unexpected magnificent. All I can do is get up each day, keep my word, and do the best I can for my family and for myself and soul. Tonight, my daughter and I will have dinner with some good friends; a small pocket of time carved out that means so much because it shows that we are loved and cared for. All I can do right now is be small and try to live fully in the small spaces. Even if I don’t understand, even if I’m not totally sure of where I am or where I am supposed to be. I guess, for now, I’m here. I may not be entirely happy about that fact but, then again, I don’t think I necessarily have to be. Happiness has never been a requisite for me working hard and doing my best. I may not want to be teaching, do not yearn for it with all my heart. This was, honestly, a purely logical choice, for the good of my family. And that will have to do for now, I think.

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Running On Ahead

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My mothering thoughts today.

I Have a Forever

Today was the day. That day. That first day. Today was my girl’s first day at daycare. And tomorrow will her first day of preschool. Her first day(s) in the care of someone not a parent or grandparent.

Only a week and a half ago, I accepted a very last-minute position and, in a positive gale of13872934_10153805997603133_477313044703904389_n change, have returned to teaching this year. This was not what I had planned for, not what I had settled on, and so it has been quite a tumultuous time. One of the most difficult parts for me, however, has been the realization and reality that I would not be able to be there for her first day of school. I will not be there to hold her little hand and walk her to her class. I will not be there to see her face light up with excitement or grow sober with…

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Not Perfect. Functional.

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On the eve of my next major life change (going back to work after three and a half years of being a stay-at-home mother), I can honestly only liken these moments to the ones after I found out that I was pregnant. It was not a perfect moment; I was in pain from a pulled back and other momentary health issues, frustrated from other life stuff, and exhausted from what would turn out to be my first trimester. It was not an Instagram-video worthy moment full of giggles and squeals and a positive pregnancy test. The joy would come later. For the moment, it was me sitting the doctor’s office, a Kleenex clutched in one hand, two prescriptions in the other, and my doctor having wisely given me a few moments alone for it to sink in. It was not perfect. I was not ready, despite a child being what we had planned on, tried, and hoped for. In my eyes, I was not perfect. In my estimation, I was not ready. But I was functional. And that would have to do for that moment.

When Elizabeth was born, her bedroom was not finished, much to my chagrin. Her wall decorations weren’t done, pictures weren’t hung up, rocking chair wasn’t bought yet. Like me, it was not perfect or “ready” but it was functional. The bassinet, crib, chest of drawers, and changing table were sturdy and would safely hold my infant and her things. The room, while far from finished or ready in my eyes, would serve its purpose. “Finished” came with time. “Functional” served right then.

Right now, I am far from perfect. I am leaving the spaces and child that have been my world these past few years. I am not ready (my girl might be but I am most certainly don’t feel so, ironically enough). My classroom will not be ready; things will not be just as I would have them. I will not be entirely comfortable, or even comfortable at all at first. I don’t even know if this is my intended path. I’d need God’s eyes for that so I will have to have faith and trust what I cannot see.

I am not perfect. I don’t feel ready. But I am functional.

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Evenings’ Readings

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I’m getting back into the practice of reading before bed. So here are my bedtime books for the past two nights:

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. I haven’t really been a big fan of Felicia’s before but I really enjoy her writing style. It’s bright and conversational and fun. Feels like chatting over dessert.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda. This tome is big and beautiful and an utter delight. I am a process person so reading about Lin and Hamilton’s process of becoming is amazing. And his libretto annotations? Sheer joy!