Saturday, June 6, 2009

Not Survival Mode

A number of people who read this blog have asked where I’ve been this last month. To answer all the questions at once, there is nothing wrong. I am not highly stressed, and we are not in the grips of crisis here. Nor am I in “survival mode”. In survival mode, the extraneous elements of life are surrendered and we are left with only what must be in order to endure. Rather, it’s more like “prevention mode”. I’ll employ that term (for lack of something more erudite) to describe the prophylactic efforts we all undertake at times to avoid the catastrophic. Suspenders and a belt. In “park” with the emergency brake on. CDs and a geek stick. We engage in these habits, fully aware of their disproportion, because we cannot dismiss the feeling that, without them, something bad might happen. Nonsensical when we are navigating life at a pace and in a style familiar and predictable to us, such measures serve as a security blanket in times of frenetic unpredictability.

The end of school for me is the culmination of long effort on the part of my students. It is a time when they examine what they’ve done, where they are in the continuum of their work, and many are finding that they are not as ready to move on as they would like. Time is short, though, and the effort necessary to accomplish their goals often requires a lot of last-minute negotiation, organization and collaboration. There are countless spontaneous conversations during the days now when students ask can retake an exam, get help on their research, show me their presentation activity. They want to know if I’ve looked at their papers, if their pen-pals have written back. Can I help them make a phone call?

In order to accommodate the mental strain from all this, I find myself doing things I don’t need to do under normal circumstances. I stop trying to keep track of things in my head, for example. There is just way too much information flow, so everything gets written down. Meetings, reminders and notes all live in their right places in my computer, and I make no decisions without them. All the paperwork I get is (for me) meticulously organized so I can know where to find what I need and what must receive first priority. This is not the time to retain the inventory mentally.

I also notice that I take measures to protect my reserves of energy. I need naps more and I eschew activities that might leave me too tired to take on all that my students might throw at me in a given day. It is unfortunate that blogging, being more of a creative endeavor than a therapeutic one for me, requires more mental and psychological effort to maintain than I can easily summon without risking burnout. I know this is so because, when I think, “This would make a great blog post,” all the little warning lights in my subconscious go off. This is a time of year when I find it important to heed the warning lights.

Although I have much to share about what we’re doing here at Wayfarer House, it will need to wait just a couple more weeks, until the bulk of the frenzy at school has subsided. Until then, know that things are going as they should. Wifeness and the girls are well. The community is moving forward. Summer has arrived.


Laurie B said...

Missed your voice and point of view.

Welcome back, but be careful there is only so much time in a day.

Mrs. Chili said...

Oh, do I understand all of this. I am, however, in survival mode. I'm ready to be done and breathe deeply again...