Light Vs. Dark

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I’ve had a lot of dark weeks in teaching, but this one has been midnight all the way around. One of the biggest stressors of this job is that it’s an unspoken rule that we can’t talk about the sadness around us publicly, so for the next couple of months I will continue to abide by that code. Those stories aren’t mine to tell, really. Instead, I want to rehash life’s oldest story: light versus darkness.

My parents live in the middle of nowhere and the darkness in their little cabin is bone-chilling. But that’s not even the darkest it could be. There are still little sprinkles of light here and there: their land is against a parkway, they have neighbors, and they, of course, didn’t give up the luxury of the moon. It could be much, much darker.

I am a believer in God as the creator of this universe. The Ruler of Everything knew straight away: this Earth needs some light. Pronto. I sometimes try to imagine exactly how dark it was in the beginning. No occasional headlights. No beacons from 100 yards away. No moon. Just darkness.

And we’ve been fighting darkness ever since, never realizing how much darkness we’ve actually been spared from.

I’ve been fighting darkness tooth and nail this week. I hate anything self-congratulatory but for the sake of this narrative, I want you to know that I have purposefully and boldly looked for little corners of darkness and thought of ways to bring the light. Reaching out to coworkers when it makes my introvert heart uneasy, bringing gifts in to brighten people’s days, and organizing a prayer time to bring a little hope to a seemingly hopeless situation. All completely uncomfortable to me, but I felt strongly I could fight the dark and maybe just win.

I guess I never considered that when you fight something, it might just fight you back.

***

 

Brandon has had to be out of town a lot lately, and while I know how to hold the fort down, it throws a wrench into the natural flow of our life. I have a lot of trouble sleeping when he’s gone. Part of it is an irrational fear that I will oversleep or not hear Novella if she wakes up. It’s a bit Ludacris because I am the one who wakes up with every cough and cry, and the one who wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and opens this house for business. But last night was especially hard because my heart was heavy enough for the things around me, plus he was hours away with a super early flight and I am never not worried about him oversleeping. He’s an amazing man and husband and much adultier than I, but waking up is his kryptonite.

I set my alarm knowing I would only get a few hours of sleep and all night had fever dreams of wolves and tornadoes and weird, random people from my past entering my classroom. I woke up around 4 and called him to make sure he was awake (he was) and then just sat and stared, hoping to cat nap before showering, but I just couldn’t seem to shake the awakeness, and so I eventually stumbled to the coffee pot, got myself ready, and went outside to put my bajillion bags in the car before waking Novella.

This was at 6:31 and I wish I had the forethought to take a picture of the sky, but in my bones I felt: girl, please just stay at home. I immediately dismissed the feeling and thought: no, I have visitors coming in for first block, I have that prayer to go to. Not today, Satan.

Went back inside and got Novella ready in record time. As I was changing her, I felt incredibly hot and so I took my temperature. Y’all I never get fevers, but my temp was 101 on multiple readings. I felt ok other than being really hot. And see, it was like 60 last night so we didn’t have the heat on…all very strange, but also explained the weird dreams. Either way, I said I feel fine and I am going to school.

She bounced to the front door and opened it and oh my gosh. It was like a blizzard appeared out of nowhere. I’d already set the alarm, so I rushed to turn it off and then ran to get her hat and gloves.

Dropped her off, went to school, so glad we had the prayer together.

Visitors came and went. Kids were crazy for a bit.

Took my temp again and it was fine.

I made the big mistake of saying ok, everything’s fine. I got prepped for the rest of my day and was actually very excited. Ironically, one of my coworkers told me she’d had a great morning and was doing everything she could to keep that vibe, and so I jumped on that train.

My Honors kids have a project due tomorrow, so many of them came to me during what is like our study hall. I was working with them all fighting being overwhelmed with so.many.questions. We have ADT and so I got a notification that someone was at our front door. I normally ignore these alerts, but we had no packages scheduled, B is out of town…so I checked.

I opened it up and I could see a live picture of someone standing at my front door, on the phone, and my front door was wide open.

I can’t begin to explain the fear, confusion…I called my boss and I don’t remember what I said, but something to the effect of I think my house is being robbed right now. I told my kids I had an emergency and their concern was Novella so I showed them the video I was watching, all live, of what I now know was my neighbor standing at my open front door.

I called the police and asked them to meet me at home. I made the commute back home not knowing what I would walk into, and could only think this was somehow my fault. There are a lot of details and mysteries to this story (like why did the alarm never go off and why did the cameras not pick up motion until this point…like not even the trash pickup), but we walked through the house and nothing was touched. If I had to guess, I would say in all of the fluster and buster of leaving in the snow, I didn’t latch nor lock the door…I may have even left it open.

The neighbor came by and told me a red truck pulled into her driveway, backed out, and then sped away. We really don’t know what happened. But that alerted her to realize my door was open.

***

I thought I might take a little nap before picking Novella up around the corner from our house. My soul was finally started to settle because y’all: I was shook.

I wasn’t greedy with my nap. I turned on Frasier and set my alarm for maybe 40 minutes later. The alarm was just about to do its thing when POP! There was a pop so loud, I actually checked to make sure I hadn’t just been shot (keep in mind, I was ‘sleep!) Turns out, something blew in our tv and that good ole bulky girl finally met her maker.

I promptly left to pick up Novella where she ran to me and said with a grin: “I hit my teachers today!” And her teacher told me: “She hasn’t just been a little rebellious today; she hasn’t been herself at all.” Novella has had some bad days, but never once has anyone said this. I explained to her what a bizarre day it has been for me in about 30 seconds.

***

As we were leaving, I noticed they put up a new board and it said: “This week, we are learning about darkness and light.”

And so, tomorrow a bunch of littles will learn about this again while the bigs do just the same.

Leaving to Stay

I love writing and I love teaching writing. But one thing that always crushes my soul is trying to tell my students how to start off what they want to write ahem…the introduction. It’s easy enough if they’re typing- I say go ahead and just start writing and then add your intro later. Unfortunately, we haven’t figured a decent solution to taking state-mandated tests on the internets, so they are forced to write on paper for now…and that makes it difficult to go back and add the intro later. All of this to say…I have no idea where to even start with this week or last few weeks or months, even.

I guess I’ll start in September, when one of my dearest friends came to visit. ‘Twas a beautiful weekend, not only in the time well-spent, but the sun enveloped us in a way that only a sunny September Saturday could. And I had 3 panic attacks that weekend. Worst of all, in doing all things that l love- hiking with mountain views. Watching Saturday football with a good drink. Eating cheesecake. I was restless and uneasy, and all of it was because of variables associated with my job.

So, on panic attack #3, she asked me the simplest question, but one that would change my life: “Without thinking, what do you think it would take to make you…stop panicking all the damn time?”

“I want to be at home,” I said. And the whole world lifted, and I mean lifted, from my shoulders.

The thing is, choosing to stay at home, or admitting you want to stay at home, or really anything associated with choosing one way or another are so controversial no matter what the stance. For the record, I have also chosen to work (outside the home, if I’m being politically correct) for the last three years. You wonder what your choices say about you as a person. And people wonder what your choices say about them. And if you talk about your choices, then, well, people wonder if you’re making some sort of commentary on their choices.

And because it’s so controversial, I’m not even comfortable talking in depth about why I had to make this choice right now, but I want you to know…this is the definitive plan for our family right now, sprinkled with signs from above in every step.

Minutes, and I mean minutes, after I said those words out loud, one of my lifelong friends texted me and told me she is also staying at home for a little while (I am also only planning on this for a couple of years).

I went home that afternoon like the cat who ate the canary, dying to tell B what I wanted to do, but also completely terrified. When I finally let it out, he said: “I think this is the best plan for our family.” I told him what my fears were, and he said he would take care of those specifics. Without any further prompting, he did. And I am so grateful for him in a brand new way.

This doesn’t mean that it’s all hikes by the lake, Saturday vibes, and cheesecake. I am heartbroken and unearthed in leaving teaching right now. Being a teacher has defined me in a way I could have never imagined, all the while disarming me. It’s hard for me to imagine that things will go on without me. But they most certainly will.

What it boils down to, for me, right now, in this lot, is: where can I make the biggest impact? For now, that means quite literally my own backyard. In some ways I feel like a failure that I can only focus there right now. So many women in my profession are amazing in handling the demands of teaching and parenting flawlessly. I am not one of those women lately.

I don’t want the grass to grow beneath my feet. My vision for the next few years of our family life doesn’t mean a lot of Netflix-watching. I have dreams of opening a little preschool/ homeschool. Maybe I’ll write more. Maybe I’ll google recipes on how to fix crow because I am definitely eating a lot of it now. Maybe we will perfect dance of routine, maybe we’ll skate through each day.

I’ve worked for as long as I could, so the thought of anything else is a foreign land. But this much I know: I’ve always been scared to go places I’ve never been, but never once disappointed that I did.