Monday, February 6, 2012

Reckless Abandon

I often think about writing. More often, and lately, I think about not writing. I am not writing. Sure, I write lesson plans (tons), and behavior reports (half tons), and scads of assignments related to my practicum and CAGS program and other professional development endeavors, but let's call a spade a spade. This isn't writing. Writing is nourishment. Writing is love. It's sustenance, the kind of soul food that makes some people feel integrated and whole. And then, when writing disappears from the regular routine, things atrophy. They wither. If writing were my child, which it kind of is, then I would be reported to the authorities.

I feel like I've ditched my kid.

I effectively gave up writing Tales From The Clink when I left my job teaching reading in the juvenile justice system. I did not leave willingly--I was laid off, and because I have bills to pay and mouths to feed, I had to chase down a full time gig. Quickly. And with good fortune on my side, I landed my current job, teaching English language learners at the middle school level in an underperforming school. Yes, I think I may have mentioned that I work in an underperforming school in a previous blog post. The underperforming status of M school serves to make sure that I (and my fellow teachers at M School) do the opposite. Perform. And golly, do we do that all the time! We do it before school, giving extra help to students; after school, when we are contracted to teach extended days because someone theorized that more instructional time translates to higher academic achievement; after dark, when we are mandated to stay 2-3 hours weekly for professional development; and after we return home to our families each weekend, which I'd prefer to reserve for spending time with, well, my family.

The time that I used to use for reflective thinking and writing has been supplanted by these new "have-to"'s. I feel stripped of a certain vitality that used to feed my teaching self as well as my whole self. Do I just need to become a better manager of time? Or am I in an untenable situation?

I try to meditate sometimes. I'd been hearing more and more about meditation, from the occasional Facebook post or in quick snippets of "news" from Yahoo, that meditation is the new/old essential practice for good health. So I try. I never seem to stay at it that long, but when I do, and when I try to "listen" as I empty myself out, I hear something in myself. A voice, a signal. Write, it says. You have to. Don't and you'll starve.

Starving is a pretty senseless thing to do when you should and do have access to food. It's reckless. Making time for writing in the face of all these other responsibilities feels the same way. As I type this blog post, my children are fixing their own dinner and bickering over who got more mini chicken tacos. Voices are being raised. They clearly need their mother's attention. But I'm finishing this piece because I owe it to myself. Sometimes, you need to go after and get what you really and truly need. With reckless abandon.