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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Little Black Backpack.

Dear Josie,

My life is my laptop bag.

Seriously, though...

Every Friday I pack it full.  Papers and essay questions and regions of the brain drawn onto swim caps bursting out through the seams, compartments half open and zippers clinging for dear life, barely leaving way for my actual laptop, all for the sake of an intention which will likely be failed. 

I have always hated the proverb, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".  Mostly because I am a huge procrastinator, but also because I think intention matters.  I think it matters a lot. 

Lately,  I don't have the time to grade and plan as much as I'd like.  By the time I arrive home from picking up your brother from school each day, it's nearly time for dinner.  And there are Lego forts to be built and diapers to be changed, baths and showers and a thousand and one bedtime kisses to be given.  Essentially, I don't have the time to grade and plan as much as I would like, but I still bring it home.  All of the unfinished business.  Every week.  Every time.  And as much as it pains me each Monday, lugging the ten pounds up three stories and cursing my way through the sea of potential,  as much as I feel like a failure I try to focus on the fact that I brought it home.  That I wanted to finish, because that has to count for something, right?

During my first year teaching I was so on top of it, and yet I always felt behind because I guess I was.  I didn't know the curriculum like the back of my hand yet.  Didn't know which concepts they'd likely struggle with, which ideas to focus on and which ones could be simply brushed, highlighted.  I wasn't sure which tangents to allow free roam during the lecture, and which ones to quickly, respectfully squash.   When to consciously guide and objectify, when to plant and step away.

Everything was planned for and thought-out because I thought everything could be planned for and thought-out.   My backup lesson plans had backup lesson plans and when they didn't work I went home and spent hours hammering out another.  I was desperate to teach them, desperate for them to learn something from me.  I graded every assignment, brought them home and added stickers and sparkle and was hurt, genuinely offended when they failed.  One night  I stayed up until two in the morning creating a Jeopardy Review game for our genetics unit.  A girl in my fifth hour refused to move seats when it was time to begin, saying it was "stupid" and that she was "definitely" not going to play.  When I got out the referral sheet and hurriedly began to write, she called me a bitch.  And I went home and I cried.

I'm a different type of teacher now.  For starters, the curse words no longer bring me to tears.  All too often I don't know why they're yelled across rooms or mumbled between breaths, but I know it's not about me.   It's not about me. 

Also while of course I still plan, there is an increased focus on the intention. I am willing to take risks that I wouldn't have before because I know the plans will change.  The plans will change in front of my eyes in real time, flip upside down from under me and if my intention is there, if my objective is solid then the route becomes less important.  The goal, the intention is the most important plan.  And so you simply start again another way.  You start again and you don't stop.

It was always my intention to mother you.  Before the ultrasound technician told us you were a girl I intended to love you until the day I died.  I also planned for you.  I planned your nursery color scheme and your first outfit home.  I planned to buy you a pearl bracelet for your baptism.  I planned to go wedding dress shopping with you and to learn to curl your hair into bouncy ringlets for your first day of school.  I planned and I planned and when those plans were ripped from me, all of the little stepping stones gave way to the much bigger picture.  The intention, all pristine and intact, remained.

I intend to be your mother, still.  I intend to love you and to talk about you and I intend to make the world a little better, in my own way, because of you.  I intend to venture out without you, to the brunch and the play date and to dance at the wedding, even though you died because I know you'd want me to.  I have no plans for you here, but there are intentions.  And that has to count for something, right?

Sometimes this proves difficult, paradoxical even.  Sometimes I leave the party perplexed or too soon.  Some days I don't make it past the couch, or I find myself crying on the drive home just missing you.   And I have to shift my weight to balance it all on my shoulders, all of the intentions without the plans. 

And I tell myself that although it may lay there for the weekend, all but forgotten beneath the life outside the bag, it is there just the same.  

Although the work is unfinished, at least I brought it home.  


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