Six months and change. It seems both forever and a heartbeat in the territory of mess, adventure, and rewriting. That’s how long I have been unteaching as of Winter Solstice–which of course I find to be no coincidence.
So here I am again writing, more for me than any of you, to remind myself of how all these transitions are integrating, resisting, pushing, and colliding with one another. But mostly…mostly I would like to remember what it feels like to try and move towards something, even if that something is undefined, a cranky toddler that I lay a blanket of words over to help it sleep. I know about leaving–I hate it, but I know about it. I know about hiding, running, guarding, and even the gracious ending. But towards? That is a passport to an unknown place. To not just accidentally bump into one thing while leaving another, even though I believe in grand “accidents,” is what I hope to stamp into my flesh these days.
There have been many things that have stayed the same since I left the classroom. First and foremost, I still have no plan. At least once a week an idea pops up, from me or someone else, and although there is much overlap between these ideas, my response is still, “Eh,” with a shrug. Truly and deeply, my blood races the most just to be out on a walk, headphones in, listening on all channels. Games of pretend with my little charges and a good nap tie for second place. I was on one such walk a few days ago however and it occurred to me that I didn’t really have a plan before I left teaching either. I found a job that I liked, I gave A LOT in order to get good at it, and it counted for points in others ‘Big Book of Adultyness.’ Thus, my “plan” was pretty much to stay there until I died. Outside of finishing high school and finishing college, I’ve made very few large scale plans. So I start to wonder: Does anyone have a plan? Part of me hopes the answer is yes, the part that wants to trust and not be scared. Part of me hopes the answer is no, because then I am not “behind” on anything.
I have also found my love for young people hasn’t changed. If anything it has grown since I now have the luxury to meet them as they are, to work on their time table, from their priorities. Whether they are babies who are looking at me with galaxy eyes, or teens who are trying to move from one self to the next like a series of stubborn nesting dolls, I feel at home with children. I feel at home close to the source, and this is the immense grace which they bring me. I have never felt with adults the consistent and overall sense of understanding and being understood that I do with children. There are moments, pieces of dearness that catch the reflection of this with my friends and loved ones, but those are largely the product of investment, of learning how to hold each other. With kids it is easy. To keep a dual citizenship between the magic and adult worlds makes me feel honored. It also makes me feel utterly, inconsolably lonely.
Finally, my habits are largely the same (goddamnit!!). I have more time, space, and energy with which to observe them now, and sometimes make different choices, but I have to be fair and say school did not cause these pieces of myself. I still want to stop caring for myself when I am stressed–poor eating, poor spending, hibernating beyond what is necessary, basically anything that will allow me to still or shut out the creative impulse, the pulse of intuition beckoning. Something tells me that if I cease to exist, I will no longer have to wade into this crashing sea of uncertainty and just let it be. I still procrastinate and stop short–I have a finished manuscript that only needs one phone call to set the next motions in action, and I am going on nine months of putting off getting new health insurance. I still seek for that ‘one thing’ that I can pick up and tunnel into in order to ignore the anxiety of choices. Every time I now have to turn down one invitation for another or one job because I am already booked, I run into this longing for something all consuming. The problem with the all consuming however, is that it also leads to inflexibility, inability to flow.
There have also been changes during Delaney Walkabout, though I struggle more to articulate these in words. I no longer feel that every second of this year is fairy magic, although there is a lot. Work once again feels like work many days, and I no longer carry the delusion that I can “DO EVERYTHING” now that I have so much extra time and energy. I no longer wake up every morning and laugh like a drunken little monkey at how long teachers have already been at work. There are whole weeks where I don’t think of school at all, at least not the question of my connection to or involvement in it. And that in itself is strange, to let one thing dictate the contours of your life for so long, and then to have it let go with much less effort than you would’ve expected.
More importantly perhaps, I now really feel that I am being supported; that the universe is big enough to resource whatever it is I am doing, even if it’s “just” rest. My lifelong scarcity mindset started to turn last year, and I now feel it’s last dying gasps. Every time I hear ‘not enough’ coughing and begging from the floor, and decide to ignore it to go outside, I am met with some form of support. Even if I can only manage to stick a metaphorical toe out the door that day, there it is–more work, a new friend, new writing, a piece of joy created just for me. My mind swims as another long held narrative starts to turn: maybe everything doesn’t have to be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments, and Fall especially has felt heavy, awkward, and unbalanced for a lot of it. But it is nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be.
Part of this support has come through my increasing openness to really being in community, understanding finally that that process is just as layered and messy and inexact as everything else in life. When I had a life that dealt largely in quantifiables, it was hard for me to see that. I can ask for help and accept help, sometimes in the same motion. I can share my biggest shames and conundrums without worrying that they will burden someone else or lead to my disinheritance. Even when my biggest foe comes along, the lie that, “Everyone is better at relating and relationships than you,” I can stay.
This deepening of presence and community continues as my relationship to time and to money changes. It’s not just that there is more time and less money, although both of those things are true. It’s more that time is no longer a weapon and money a reward. I find myself with less reason now to whack myself with ‘to do’ lists, to stay longer than I want, or to leave early. I move slowly when I want to, I move quickly when I want to, usually at weird hours of the night and morning when I feel energetic without the help of caffeine. Time is not my enemy. As this has dawned on me, one of my first desires has been to cultivate my relationships. Money is nice, and ultimately I hope to one day have it again, but it really doesn’t beat out what’s happening now. Although it was great to be able to buy books, eat out, get a mani pedi, and pay a three dollar ATM fee all in the same day, it also lulled me into the sense that I was more active than I really was. Buying things is not the kind of active life engagement that I want.
So this is what I bring to the next turning of seasons. I’ve always loved Winter. When I was young I thought it was because the best things happened in Winter: Christmas, Christmas break, my birthday, and Valentine’s Day. But I realize now it is more than that. As so many things quiet themselves under the rain and snow, that sense of peace and room unleashes my wild animal self, my urge to explore and create. I can almost believe my four year old charge, whom I believe to be an indigo child, when she told me last week: “Your ladies lived in the snow Chelsea. Don’t you remember?”
It’s dark, it’s cold out, but as we race over the snow, my pack and I can see the stars.