I’m tired. My body is tired from carrying four years of tension. My soul is tired from being slowly, methodically drained of joy and hope. My intellect is tired from reinventing, pivoting, adapting and being responsible. My smile is tired from putting on a happy face. My heart is tired of pouring out love and support with the knowledge that once my usefulness has been wring dry, I will be forgotten until the next time. I’m like Lili von Schtuup in Blazing Saddles. I’m tired.
Why am I tired? It’s not the last four months that has caused this fatigue. It is the cumulative effect of almost half a decade of fires, power-outages, rewriting curriculum, absorbing student and family stress, and feeling like my job is to be the rudder the ship lost in stormy water. Actually, it feels like I am a ping pong ball tumbling around the bowl before the toilet sucks the whirlpool of water down the drain. The only thing that keeps me from being sucked down into the plumbing is my irrepressible stubbornness and ability to compartmentalize each individual trauma and use it as a building block for the ladder that keeps me just above the waterline – until there’s another flush.
The last 24-hours have been far more “flushy” than the last four months, but it all started with a phone call four Octobers ago. We all know that when the phone rings at 2am, it’s never good news. Fires. Everywhere. Heading our way. Pack up the car, prepare for evacuation. Listen to the radio. Pray. This time we were lucky. Fires stopped a mile from our house. Friends weren’t so lucky. They fought the fire to save their home, but lost a 100 year family legacy. Such sorrow. Such loss. Such, damn predictable loss. Schools closed. Students stressed. Smoke everywhere. Someone’s got to keep it together, even with four families, 2 dogs, a barn cat and eight lizards, and a partner who runs into the fire while everyone else is running away.
Fast forward. One year later. Phone rings at 2am. Fires. Everywhere. May come again. Pack up the car. Prepare for evacuation. Listen to radio. This time we’’re lucky. Schools close. Students stressed. Rewrite curriculum…again. Counsel students as best I can. Smoke everywhere. Keep it together. Partner still running into the fire while everyone else runs away. Sit, Wait. Pray.
Fast forward, One year later. Phone rings at 2am. Power is out. May be out for two weeks. Done to prevent a repeat of the last two years. Realize that property that has a well requires power to pump water. Pack up the car. Prepare for evacuation. Listen to radio. This time we’re lucky. The power stays on in our 4-block grid. Power is like a magnet. It attracts people with devices that need charging, and those people want to stay…for food, community, shelter, normalcy. My job, again, is to keep it together. This time, four families, 4 dogs, barn cat, eight lizards, and irritated mother-in-law. Rewrite curriculum. Start wondering why one even bothers to write a curriculum. Counsel students. Keep it together. Oh, and partner who has to be on call in case…you guessed it…there’s a fire for him to run into.
Now, here we sit. One year later. Phone doesn’t ring, because rather than come together, viruses cause insulation. We keep to ourselves. Students have been forced to leave, and not only new curriculum, course delivery all changed to online, teach students how to be students all over again. I’m lucky. I know what I’m doing. Keep it together, except this time instead of fires, I’ve got a partner who dives headlong into treating Covid-19 patients. I want to run away, pull the covers over the head and hibernate for a year.
Tonight, it’s not masks and sanitation protocols. It’s stay in place. Not for viruses but for more fires, layered with anger. I watch your words, so not as to offend, even though I see both sides. I’m lucky. The violence is far away from home. Partner is snuggled under a blanket watching a silly romance movie. No fires. No virus. No fear. For a brief moment, I take a breath. I can’t think of fast forwarding. Embrace my now. Feel the tired. Breathe a moment into my soul.