Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Down Time

Yesterday, I left school after two periods and made it home just in time to enjoy the stomach flu in the privacy of my own bathroom.

Monday, I taught six classes, stopped at Walmart after school to pick up supplies for a school event on Friday, attended a neighborhood association steering committee meeting, took B for a walk, shopped for a suit for Will, typed out committee minutes and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Sunday was Mom's birthday party.

Saturday was the wedding.

Friday was an all-day event with 400 first to fourth graders in blistering heat. I was home by 3:30 and asleep by 4.

The last few weeks have been spent planning for the event, guiding twenty-three seventh and eighth graders to make posters, bring materials and arrive at the assigned place at the assigned time.

Then there's teaching my Language Arts classes, including some literature I've never read before, much less taught. There's grading and grading and grading.

There are the weekends where I sit at Borders with my laptop and hate myself for not being able to write a word. There are queries sent out and library books returned because I didn't even have time to crack the cover.

Then two funerals, two weeks apart.

There was August 16, when I started teaching full-time for the first time since 2007.

There was August 9, putting on my new suit and telling myself I could do this, I could be bright and well-spoken and as impressive in person as the resume I'd turned in a week ago.

There was my graduation party - the last time I remember relaxing. And four days before that, three weeks of traveling in New York and Boston -- and Maine, where I workshopped part of my novel, gave a reading and presentation and walked across the stage.

From June 8 to July 8 I taught summer school/dodged bullets/graded crappy half-assed papers/tried to hold it all together. Then packing, delivering a disappointed B to my sister's house, driving to the airport, dozing fitfully on a red-eye flight to Maine.

On May 27, I finished my novel, sighed, breathed, felt happy and empty all at once.

STOP. Is it possible that this was the last time I was happy, the last time that life wasn't pushing in on me from all sides? Is it any wonder I've been exhausted, disconnected from my friends and colleagues, unable to read a book from start to finish (well, I did read The Corrections in a listless five-week span), barely able to construct a sentence? There must be a way to find balance -- to find equal parts down time and "on" time, to be goofy, word-loving private me as well as the busy, polite public me.

If only I could split myself into two people and do everything well. And then maybe the real me could just walk away from the other, imposter, Paula. Walk or run.


  1. Hi Paula. You may remember me or may not; I'm Will's coworker.

    As disheartening it was to read of your sickness and overload, it is still amazing how you can weave entrancing storytelling into an everyday life review.

    Finding balance is an "adult experience" for us all in some form. My experience is as a woman, then mother, and components of that one keep changing just about the time I've finally made peace with it and eventually into something sensible & doable.

    I don't know you that well at all, however, I do see you as capable of getting what you want. Your awareness of what's happening in your life will continue to grow and, with each layer building upon the other, you will find your balance. It may not be what you expected it to be once you've got it, but it will be right for you at that time.

    Take Care Of You!

  2. Suzanne - of course I remember you! Thanks for your kind words. I was feeling a little embarrassed about this post -- kind of a public pity-party, I guess - but I'm glad I kept it up. Otherwise I would have missed the chance to hear such great encouragement. So, thanks...