Monday, December 3, 2012

The Weight of Grief

I have had a full morning with my teenage students. In our five hours together, one block of teens and I discussed the concept of “economy” when writing a story, and they practiced crafting a two-voice poem with a partner. The exercise was enjoyed by most in the Creative Writing class, evidenced by the laughing as pairs brainstormed topics and gently ribbed one another’s use of language. “A dog wouldn’t say THAT!”, one young man said, teasing his friend. In the second block of my morning, my International Baccalaureate English students happily arranged their seats in a circle, anticipating our return to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The close-knit group of ten have taken parts in the drama, and my enthusiasm for the characters and the storyline, not to mention my insistence that they “talk like witches” when the Weird Sisters appear, has eliminated any worries they might have had with when first reciting iambic pentameter. The hot topic of the day was Lady Macbeth’s manipulation of her husband and her coercion to have him kill King Duncan in his sleep. Several boys in the class began calling Macbeth “whipped”, while others, girls and guys, simply dropped their jaws at his wife’s evil nature. “She said she would do WHAT to a baby she was breast-feeding?!”

And finally, in my final morning class, my twelve Horrific Tales students reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, jumped online to take Jung’s Typology Test, a 72 forced-answer personality quiz which when submitted, instantly placed students in one of sixteen different personality types. Students eagerly read articles listing qualities of their dispositions and providing the names of celebrities or historians or fictional characters who share their typology. Remarkably, the entire class tested as introverts, and we all discussed what it is like to be introverted. Everyone nodded and smiled at the discussion of how we introverts tire easily when placed in social situations, and then we took time to discuss how our “duality” of positive and negative characteristics can be compared to the psychology within the characters of Dr. Jekyll and the abominable Mr. Hyde. The students will draw self-portraits this week in an attempt to capture their own understood duality as we continue exploring the novel’s themes.

I went to lunch after these three blocks. I sat down at the teacher’s room lunch table. I had survived my day and would have only my prep period after lunch, a time when I would attempt to update grades online and plan for the lessons of the next day. But as one of my colleagues sat down to join me, I found myself apologizing for being poor company. “I could take a nap right now”, I said. And that’s when I realized how exhausted I really am. I am surviving, perhaps even thriving in my day-to-day teaching...I love it so, but I am weary. I had a decent weekend, spent time with my husband and the children, had a little fun and managed to get in some exercise, reading, baking, and holiday decorating. I even took a short nap! But hanging over me is this oppressive cloud, this feeling that I could easily hit the pillow and sleep for several days’ straight. It is the exhaustion of grief. My body is telling me what my head and my heart are trying to keep in check.

I think I am doing fine, moving on, accepting the losses, looking ahead, but my body knows differently. It knows that this is nothing so easily or quickly overcome. And so I give in. I rest my head on my hand at my teacher desk and I close my eyes for a few minutes. Breathe in...Breathe out. I plan to exercise some of the stress away after school when I take to the gym. I vow to get to bed earlier tonight. And I tell myself it is okay not to be super-teacher for the rest of the day...or even tomorrow. The heaviness will lift in time. But that day isn’t today, and that’s alright. I’m in the game. I’m putting one foot in front of the other. I am with people, beautiful, honest teenagers, and I am laughing and smiling with them every hour. I still love life, even if it tires me. That’s enough for now.

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