mental health, Uncategorized

Gift of Words

I’ve mentioned the challenges of working in an elementary school during this time of COVID. Telling the kids to spread out. Masks all the time. So. Much. Sanitizer. Constant changes. One of the reasons I wanted to work in an elementary school is honestly because it seemed playful and fun. That hasn’t always proven true, and this fall has been even less fun than usual.

In typical years, the time between Thanksgiving and Winter break at an elementary school is equal parts festive and frantic. We have 15 days to cram in two month’s worth of learning and celebrating. The schools I’ve been in go all out with decorations, which means trees, menorahs, stockings, and so on. It’s also the wrapup of the first half of the year, so we pile tons of tests in there just to add to the excitement (and panic).

This year was different. Widespread testing is postponed or canceled for the most part in elementary schools where I live. And when I got back from Thanksgiving break there were no trees going up, no stockings… maybe just a handful of stars and tinsel in the hallways. The lights and energy of the holidays are usually palpable when you walk through the front door. This year no one would have known it was December.

My job has changed so I am not telling stories to kids anymore right now, so no Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Christmas tales. Last year I made a tree out of ancient textbooks. I also have a little sliver tree with international ornaments. The kids love these touches. This year I didn’t find time with all my other shifting responsibilities.

Every year has also brought a dress up countdown for teachers, 12 Days of Christmas style. We all wear red one day, silver the next, silly socks on Tuesday, crazy hats Thursday. I wore my tacky Christmas sweater on the right day and I was the only one who did! Most of us are so tired and beat up we are just lucky to be dressed and physically present. December, such a special, silly time of celebration and connection, was just more show-up-and-get-it-done days.

The twelve days also bring treats at times. Hot cocoa after school. Cookies in the mailroom. Pancakes from the local breakfast place. I generally skip all that since too much sugar makes me sleepy. But one morning, when I returned from my morning outdoor duty all dressed up in my tacky garb, a piece of paper caught my eye. It was a paper, to me, thanking me for my gift of flexibility. A quote from Picasso about finding your purpose and sharing it. A short explanation of how I have adapted to every role and challenge this year. An appreciation.

It was a simple thing. A word. An acknowledgement. A recognition that in this crazy time, I have played my role as best I can. And what I do matters. Then I noticed that every teacher’s door in the school had a similar paper.

I made excuses the rest of the day to walk around the building, dropping off items or doing other errands. But what I really wanted to do was see other colleague’s notes – what gifts did our administration identify in them? Kindheartedness. Generosity. Passion. Good humor. Creativity. I nodded my head at each one. Maybe not what I would have said is most important about that person, but each one still rang true. Some of them made me laugh since they were gifts I often struggle with. Efficiency. Patience. Productivity. Focus. Again I nodded, but understood why those weren’t top of mind for me.

This has been a year of challenges. My job has changed at least weekly, sometimes daily. Stress levels have brought patience muscles to their breaking point for many, even me. While the cookies and chocolate are sweet, the gift that meant the most to me was just some words and the knowledge that what I am doing is seen.

Who around you needs to be seen? Who can you lift up with a word or two? Who brings a gift to your life just by being in it? I hope you’ll take a minute to let them know this week. Words are precious gifts.

challenges, friendship

Garage Games Part Two

It’s the Garage Games Competition time. Master’s division/scaled for this girl this weekend. I wrote about the preparation for this comp a few weeks back but so much has happened in between that post and the actual competition itself.

Corona waves hit some of the competitors I knew, making their prep come to a halt. The recovery for COVID and its impact on one’s lungs will make competing extra grueling for these folks. They will get it done at their best level for that day. I will be cheering for them between rounds as I can.

The comp itself changed some setup rules to accommodate for more social distancing due to waves hitting the area. Only active athletes competing can be inside the gym for their heat. No fans cheering. No warm ups in the gym. No watching the heat before yours. So many changes. These workouts are non-forgiving so that extra cheer will make a difference for some who want to give up in the moment.

Warmups are outside but it’s freezing out. So very cold at 6am, 7am and so on. The bars are cold. The chill is in the air. So that’s a whole different element of warming up your body and then performing in a different temperature inside. 

Talk about added stress for me. It’s also stressful to know I will immediately be shuffled outside as a sweaty mess to cool down in the elements. That’s a recipe to get sick as in a cold. Not COVID but a cold. Unfortunately, now days a cold is like COVID where you have to be locked up if you have the slightest cough or sniffle. So yeah I’m not thrilled.

The reality is also hard to think about visualizing how you compare to others on that big board outside of your home gym when you might feel like a big fish in your pond but when you go in the ocean you seem so much smaller. 

The leaderboard is part of the experience. The measuring stick. How you measure up to others who are CrossFit junkies in your age band of 5 years. There is no asterisk next to your name that says competed under duress. For me the comp is a challenge of myself. The will to push through and thrive as a party of one in hard times. In today’s crazy climate which is a shit show on most days. The temperature elements in the environment. The COVID restrictions. The lack of cheering. It all dials back to just me. Which ironically has been what a lot of 2020 has been for me.

Self discovery. Finding hope inside of oneself. Pushing through individually. A party of one it literally is. My daughter and friends are coming to cheer me on through the windows. Thanks to COVID they have to stay outside in the cold for the safety of the athletes participating. I get it but that’s part of the competition. The crowd. The cheers. The roars. As a competitor I feed off that. There will only be silence and the silence will kill your performance if you let it!

This is a battle I wasn’t expecting when I signed up. I guess I could just celebrate that’s it’s not canceled but I can’t. The reason for this is I did a few virtual races already this year and I again missed the chaos of the crowd, the cheers and the small touches that make those events fun.

When will the world stop snatching all the fun things from us? How long will the madness of isolation, separation, and masked life and more go on? My pals improvised. They made signs and yelled through doorways. I loved their efforts.

My mini group will have fun in our outdoor parking space of solidarity. Socially distanced. Bundled up in warm onesies and blankets. No hot cocoa. No fire barrel but maybe we will have a makeshift heater. Here’s to parking lot madness on a Saturday with good people getting their fitness grind on. This is what masters do. They master adversity. It’s a sign of grit.

(drum roll please) Comp results:

I completed all three taxing workouts.

I didn’t die although I was exhausted.

I changed outfits three times so I wouldn’t be sitting in sweaty clothes in the elements.

I wore a hat during a comp for the first time ever!

I met a cool competitor today and we took a ton of pics together.

I had fun with all the parking lot shenanigans.

I munched on comp snacks from the darkness of the morning through the day.

I put up my best efforts given the environmental challenges.

Now I get to see where I fall on the leaderboard. Took the gold for the local comp. Let’s see if I make to the big board.

It’s time to move on. A new day. A new week. A new month. A new year is on the horizon. On to bigger and better things as this event is now history.

The next event on the chopping block is sunrise yoga with the girls for a fun holiday gathering since we can do this distanced. How are you ringing in the holidays this year?

challenges

Flexible, Agile, Pivot

These three words have come up multiple times in the past week.

First, from my friends in the teaching profession. Those are the three words they are being told to embrace as school begins in person (don’t say face to face it sounds too close) as we return to the buildings. Don’t plan too far in advance, as things could and probably will change day by day. In fact, since we started writing this post, we’ve already switched from in person to online school in many places to start the upcoming year.

Be flexible and ready to adapt to evolving conditions and unexpected challenges. Be agile, able to move quickly, efficiently and confidently from situation to situation. Pivoting to change direction is almost inevitable. With so many unknowns and twists and turns on the horizon those words are valuable to latch on to. For teachers who are trained to plan, abide by calendars, and be as routine and predictable as possible, it’s a bit against their training and possibly their nature. Time to rethink, reframe, and expand in a different direction, and help students and their parents do the same.

Me on the other hand, I giggle a bit on those three words. They represent my life In many ways, during a pandemic or just a routine Tuesday afternoon. All the twists and turns. All the adapting. The organized chaos I call life. I thrive under pressure and beg for adversity most days. It’s fuel to my fire.

Then the conversation hit on a Friday night at the ball field. We all had masks on. Following the rules. The sun was scorching despite the evening hours. I took my face mask down briefly for fresh air. It was still hanging on an ear. Technically I was wearing a mask. The directions didn’t specifically define what mask type, how it needed to be officially placed and so on.

Out comes a gentleman I knew well. He saw my mask and followed his glance with an affirmation (or was it an accusation?) of me not being a rule follower. That spurred a discussion that lingered. I am a rule follower. I just choose to follow the rules within the terms I choose. He implied that I am an A, B, C2-C3-C4 person. As if all the rules have an asterisk. Options within the boundaries.

Yes, that is correct. I always have a backup plan and C4 may be a good pivot point description for me. Explosive. Dynamite in a way. Always with a second, third and fourth plan. I call it depth. It’s layers deep. I make the rules work for me. It allows me to not only survive but thrive.

Some may see it as grey. Operating in the grey tones of life. Pushing the limits. Especially if the limits don’t make sense in certain situations. Staying in the black and white only confines me. Shades give life texture, interest, originality, make me memorable. For some, it makes them rewrite the rules with more care and specificity. It forces people to be agile in their mind and in their lives. But I am always at least one step ahead, if not more. Rewrite the rules and try to corral me. Just another challenge for me to find the gray and keep growing.

I see it for what it is. Depth, diversity, dynamic layers ingrained within. How the mask conversation turned into an unmasking of sorts