After two full weeks off, I’m recharged and eager to go back to work on Monday! I’m so glad I decided to not bring any work home or go into my classroom to work these two weeks. Being fully free to live in the moment was more refreshing and healing than “getting caught up” or “getting a jump on things” could ever be. This rediscovered enthusiasm was well worth any consequences that Monday morning brings.
A quick reflection on my December goals:
-I brought my lunch! For about two weeks straight it was a Lean Pocket and an orange, but still. Cheaper and marginally healthier than school lunch or fast food. I did not every pack all my lunches for the week on Sunday night, but several times I packed 3-4 days worth to keep in the fridge at school.
-As I knew it would be, making daily quiet time was the most important goal of the year. There is nothing like the constant overwhelm and persistent feeling of guilt that I could have done better and worked harder (otherwise known as just a typical week or month in the life of a teacher – and many other jobs, I’m sure) that make me aware of my need for power, peace, and competence beyond my little human self. I felt that December was a month of intense spiritual growth and I want more.
New goals for January:
I have thoroughly examined the habits and practices that make my job more manageable, and I intend to continue them: Leave at 5:30. Don’t take any work home. Schedule blocks of time to dedicate to predictable categories of tasks. Leave the classroom ready for tomorrow. Use to-do lists in a way that makes sense and is effective.
But here is the cold, hard truth: I am not superhuman. I am not omnipotent. I’m just, you know…me. I cannot accomplish more in a day than a human being can. Yet, that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do. My humanity is expressed in mind, body, and spirit. I have a job that engages my mind very well. I love it, I love being good at it, and I find it meaningful and worthwhile. And while I want to continue to grow as a professional and improve my effectiveness in the classroom, it means nothing if it kills my body and spirit in the process.
So…for January, my two goals will be directed toward body and spirit.
-For the body: I must exercise. I will say it again, I must exercise. It relieves stress, elevates mood, and increases energy. And that’s just on the day you do it. Never mind the benefits of doing it for a bunch of days or weeks or months in a row. I’ve tried lots of things to make exercise a part of my routine, and still it comes and goes for a few weeks or months at a time. So instead of focusing on how to make it part of my routine, I’m going to focus on those immediate benefits. For better or worse, things become part of my routine without effort if they feel good: Drinking coffee. Zoning out in front of the TV. Calling my sister. Journaling. Checking Facebook. Eating something sweet at the end of a meal. Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed. Obviously, some of these habits are “healthier” than others! But what they all have in common is that they feel good and those good feelings make me want to do them again. For the month of January, I’m going to think about and seek out that feeling of having just had a good hard workout. That warm, cozy feeling of getting home from the gym, taking a hot shower, and putting on clean pajamas. Or that happy, energized feeling of a morning workout followed by a big cup of coffee. I’m not going to make rules for myself regarding when or where I exercise. I’m simply going to try to help myself crave those feelings.
-For the spirit: I feel it would be beneficial to spend more time outside. In the daytime. I never see daylight in the winter, Monday through Friday, except when I’m on recess duty. (I’m not sure that counts.) Today I watched Mile…Mile and a Half, a documentary about hiking the John Muir Trail. I recently read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve been thinking about a day this past June when I went wandering in the woods at a retreat center near where I live, and made rare peace with all manner of stinging, spraying, biting, or just wild creatures that usually feel threatening to me. “You and I will both walk in these woods this morning,” I wrote in my journal, “and we will both go away unharmed.” I’ve been thinking about my experiences hiking in and near Arches National Park in August, experiences that made me brave, made me aware of my strength, and left a soul-deep impression. Perhaps I am learning what so many people seem to already know: Being outside is live-giving and soul-nurturing. One cloudy, drizzly Sunday afternoon last month I walked around the east loop of Lake Zorinsky, 4.5 easy miles of paved trail, wandering as quickly or as slowly as I felt like going. During the month of January, I want to do something like that each week, whether it’s an entire Sunday afternoon of hiking at a nearby state park or just a 20 minute walk around my neighborhood. Maybe I will even get to go sledding on a snow day…it is winter, after all! I will spend intentional time outside, for the simple purpose of breathing the air and soaking up the sunshine.
There is a shift in how I am making my goals. I am more complex than I can wrap my own mind around. We all are! I want to be good at my job, to work for this forward-thinking, innovative school district, to be a leader in my team and to do work that is meaningful to me and matters to my students. But my purpose on this planet is to be firmly, deeply connected to God, to thrive in this body He gave me to live in and use, to breathe in the air and soak up the sunshine of His creation, and to live in community with my fellow humans, His beloved children. My career is an expression of part of that purpose. My career is one beam radiating from the source. It doesn’t give light; it needs light from the source. How easily I forget.
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5) (Also, this clip from a recent message at my church made a huge impression on me. The whole message was fantastic, if you want more. Of course, I say this several times a month. My thirsty soul just needs everything it can get, and the pastor at my church is awesome at scripture-based, Spirit-fed, deep-yet-relevant teaching.)
Hold me fast / ‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer (“Hopeless Wanderer” by Mumford & Sons)
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. (John Muir)