The Logistical Issues with Living and Writing

Like so many other English majors, I have been working on the same book for years. And yet, in all that time, I’ve only managed to write a few chapters.

Life just seems to keep getting in the way.

As a teacher, I even have an entire summer off from work—the perfect time to hunker down and write for days on end! Yet, despite all my great intentions, every summer seems to be busier than the last.

There are always various appointments and tasks to accomplish that have been put off during the school year. The house is always crying for attention by the time June rolls around, and the yard tends to be in worse condition. Needless to say, there’s plenty to keep me busy.

Knowing that, I decided I needed a new approach this summer.

After being awed by The Tiger’s Wife, I was intensely curious how someone so young could write something so incredible. When did she have the time? How did she focus on tying together all the minute details in order to weave such an incredible story?

Apparently, I learned from an interview, she became nocturnal.

She slept through the day, woke at 5 pm, and wrote through the night. Basically she isolated herself from all of her distractions.

Impressive is the word that comes to mind. She was so devoted to her craft that she allowed it to dominate her life, and the result was a masterpiece of writing.

Unfortunately, becoming nocturnal wasn’t an option for me. I have a husband, family, friends, and obligations that require me to be awake and functioning during the daylight hours.

My alternative was to “treat my writing like a job” as many have suggested. I decided to set strict writing hours from 10 to 3 Tuesday through Friday. These hours were non-negotiable and would ensure that I made some serious progress on my poor, abandoned novel.

Now that we’re several weeks into summer, I’d like to tell you of my great success.

I’d love to tell you about all my progress.

But I’ve only written one chapter.

Even with the best of intentions, my new plan proved as ineffective as all the others. In essence, it can be summed up by a saying my husband and I adopted ages ago from the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall:

I was going to write daily, and then “I just went about living my life.”

You see, every summer it’s the same thing: I commit myself to writing, and then life gets in the way.

Of course, the clear answer is to be stricter about writing, to avoid distractions.

But what if those distractions are equally or more important?

Rare days off with my husband. Outings with friends. Adventures with family.

These things matter. They make up my life and shape how I see the world. How can I limit them or cut them out in order to write a book that may never see the light of day?

The truth is that the book can wait. It will always be there, waiting to be called forth from the recesses of computer storage. It will be my ongoing hobby, not a job.

The people in my life, however, cannot wait. Who knows how long I have with them? Who knows the importance of that shared afternoon coffee or the spontaneous decision to stay in a strange city and make s’mores?

Living life is what matters most.

Clearly, others have found a way to live and write. Hopefully, some day I will find that balance.

But for now, I’m going to stop feeling guilty for things not done and focus on the beauty of things that I chose to do instead.

Like making s’mores with my sister…

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Or going to gaze at a species that might not be around much longer…

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There’s no regretting that.

Accepting the Epic Fail

As I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, I have a preoccupation with perfection. I am not programmed to accept failure, so it goes without saying that I feel an intense need to reconcile my shortcomings.

I need to fix things.

I need to explain away misunderstandings until I have no more words.

I need for people to see my perspective, so that they’ll understand why I said or did whatever crazy thing it was that seemed to make sense at the time.

Yes, I clearly have issues.

I’m going to blame it on the perfection fixation.

And since we all know that the world is not a perfect place, and no one—especially me—falls under the category of perfect, you can see the inevitability of consternation, better known as failure, in this equation.

Well, this weekend resulted in what can only be called an epic failure.

You see, for the past seventy-two hours, I have said the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time over and over again. Even with the best of intentions, I have caused disappointment after disappointment. Worse yet, I have not managed to reconcile any of these errors.

When I recall the events, I can’t help but think if this hadn’t happened and that hadn’t happened…

But it did all happen in the worst possible way.

Maybe it was just horrible luck. Or maybe I just screwed up a lot this weekend.

Regardless, you can imagine my intense desire to continue an attempt at damage control.

Fortunately, I have friends who are much more sensible than I am.20140616-223253-81173965.jpg

Oh yes, it took an emergency, therapy coffee session with my best friend for me to realize that there was no fixing this weekend, no way to reconcile all the impossibly frustrating events.

It just wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, I had to do something I rarely do…take a deep breath and let it all go.

(I promise I’m not intentionally channeling Disney’s Frozen.)

I had to accept that there are things that cannot be undone, instances from which I can only learn. I can’t disregard these experiences. Instead, I can use them to shape my perspective and my response in the future. I can file them away like lessons about long division—I thought I’d never use that information, but every once in a while I need it.

So I had to accept that this weekend was an epic failure, and there was no fixing it.

Although I wish it wasn’t the case, I believe weekends like mine are not uncommon, and it’s important to know when to shrug it off—we carry too much on our shoulders anyway—and move on.

I needed a friend’s guidance and a strong latte to realize this. Then, I just needed to do it.

So, upon arriving home, I turned up the Jack Johnson Pandora station, started chopping vegetables for dinner, sighed deeply…and then let it all go.

And after that, I felt so much lighter. After all the tears and the obsessing and the self-doubting, it was amazing to accept that the only thing to do was move forward.

Thank goodness for brilliant friends.

So I invite you to do two things this week…

One.

Do yourself a favor and take a moment to consider all those frustrations that have been weighing you down—you know, the ones that require you to be more and do more than you realistically can.

Breathe in deeply. Then breathe them all out, and let them go.

Two.

Check out Starry Eyed Photography because not only does this girl give great advice, she also happens to be an incredible photographer with an amazing ability to capture beauty in the every day.

View More: http://amalieorrangephotography.pass.us/monicaalbertswedding

And with that, I wish you luck in focusing on what matters and shrugging off the rest.

 

 

Photo Credit: Amalie Orrange Photography

Saying Goodbye

Today, I took each concrete step slowly.

I paused to fully appreciate the grandeur of the stately brick buildings.

I inhaled the aroma of grass and clay from the ball fields.

I sighed.

Then I walked across the parking lot for the last time.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing myself for today: my last day at LMHS. I’ve written extensively about how this school, these people, saved me, saved my teaching career.

My readers have been bombarded with my nostalgic commentaries about what teaching has come to mean to me, and how my experience this year changed everything for me. It changed my outlook on education, teenagers, teachers, writing, testing, and what it means to live life fully.

To say that I’m thankful is an understatement. Those of you who read the blog weekly already know that I will never be able to truly repay everyone who helped me my find my way this year. Those readers are also privy to many of the ways they supported and shaped me into the kind of person I want to be. (Please check out “If Only for a Season” and its follow-up post for details). So, after many blogs that reveled in the joy of this school year and my overwhelming hope for the future, I really felt that I had prepared myself for the goodbyes that would happen today.

Not the case.

Instead, I felt as though I was leaving a part of myself behind.

I couldn’t ignore the fact that although all of my personal belongings had been packed up and moved home (to take over the dining room for the summer), that something important to me still lingered behind, making it difficult to walk away without looking back.

I desperately hope this is not the case.

You see, I like the new Emma Grace.

Oh, she still has so many flaws, but she’s working on some and learning to embrace others.

Most importantly, she has a newly acquired passion, which she gained from working with passionate educators and unique, quirky students.

And now she wants to take it with her wherever she goes.

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So while I hope to be remembered, I don’t want to leave this passion behind me. I want to embrace it, use it to build a classroom where students want to be, and apply it to a curriculum that prepares them for so much more than an end of course exam.

But there is a part of me I’m ready to leave behind: my concern for my VAM score.

The county can care about it all they want. They can make themselves crazy with numbers and statistics and percentages. They can stress about the outcomes of flawed tests.

I’m more than a number, and I’m passionate to prove it.

With this realization, I find that I’m feeling better about moving on.

I am ready.

I’m also finally ready to say:

Goodbye Lake Minneola.

You’ve made me stronger than I ever could have imagined, and I’ll forever be grateful.

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photo credit: elycefeliz via photopin ccphoto credit: Mary Brack ~ www.mewithmyheadintheclouds.blogspot. via photopin cc

When is Rebellion Justified?

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Ladies and Gentlemen, this week the discussion takes a political turn as I add my voice to the ongoing debate over public schools’ ridiculous schedule of standardized testing. Please check out “When is Rebellion Justified?” at TalkingClassRadio.com by clicking Here, and add your voice to the collective outrage! As always, thank you so much for your continued support!