today feels like the sun hasn’t set for a week

I don’t feel human at the moment. I feel like a molting bug, a human-size one. My body is worn and I’m flying at the same time. I’m on a constant high of no sleep and too much coffee: one feeds the other, and I can’t remember which one started the cycle.

All I wanted to do when I got home was sit in this big chair in this back room with a computer in my lap and write. But it’s all just brain dump.

No writing. A shame, since I felt I had important things to tell, the usual stuff about my cockeyed view of the world and life.

(Is today Wednesday? no, Thursday. Thursday?)

I have something profound welling inside me, but I have to let it stew a bit. I don’t know what it is, I just feel it. The words will come. I have no doubt.

 

2:47am: late-night advice to the lost and weary

My sleep schedule is messed up. I’m awake and asleep at all the wrong times or maybe all the right times and the rest of the world is out of whack.

I woke up not too long ago because I thought I heard the front door open. But it was locked when I checked it. I lay here for a while before getting up, not really having the intention of getting up. And I thought, as I lay here, of the same thing I think of every morning I wake up. Every time I wake up day or night. Every last breath I take before I fall asleep. My mind wanders deep into the night. And tonight it brought me here.

I wrote something in the evening but I was so dog tired that I didn’t know whether it made sense. So I clicked the side button on my phone and closed my eyes. I don’t remember what I wrote but I remember what I wanted to.

The moon is full. Did you notice? I saw it when I checked the front door. I would have stepped outside into its light but I didn’t want the sound of the door to wake anyone. A great sacrifice on my part, but it’s good to know the moon is out there even though I’m awake in this dark room.

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I’ve lived a bit less than half my life, and only sometimes do I think I know where I am or where I’m headed. I figure I’ve got another 50 years to find out, and by then I will probably realize that I had never been going anywhere, that I had always just made the most of where I’d been. The pieces have always fallen into place, but what else have they to do? Some people follow their dreams and some have none to follow. I was never so organized to have anything specific in mind except for architecture. But that dream wasn’t my future. It was exactly what it was: a dream, a short-lived vision of a life that I wasn’t supposed to have, that I didn’t have. But the architecture thing wasn’t a passion. It was a want. The passions I’ve had in life have never been practical nor possible to live out in a professional way. I wanted to stay in school forever. My passion was physics. And later, writing. I never gave writing a chance before the rest. And now it’s something I want to do, need to do. It was all in the timing I guess. I don’t know that I’ll do anything with it, but here it is. Here I am. Breathing it. And physics is a memory now. I don’t feel it anymore. Not like I did. That life was never mine, either. Makes me wonder what the next 50 years holds. Passions come and go, I guess, as we let them, as I’ve let mine. Maybe my path will loop back around, or maybe I’ll find something new or something new will find me. The latter has always seemed to be the case up to now. I currently have professional choices at my feet, which is good. But I don’t know whether I want any of them. Everything I think I want to do is out of reach, so I keep those things in a bag of hobbies and try to make my days worth looking back on otherwise. But new things pop up when I least expect them to. 

I tell, implore my students to start a problem by taking one step they know they can take and to not overwhelm themselves with the big picture. Then after that first step, take another. Then another. And so on. Look at the whole thing all at once and the problem can be daunting, scary and seemingly futile. 

One step at a time.

That’s all I’ve known to do. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” Though some say Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote it. Regardless of its origin, the idea is truth as far as I know it to be. I said it before I learned that anyone else wrote it, so the method is popular and it works.

Geez, it’s after 2am, and I’m wide awake.

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dos

I now have a non-English-speaking eighth grader preparing for an all-English math test. This assignment will require some creative teaching.

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The little guy really knows his stuff. He finished the reading practice test within an hour and got all but two questions right. And he taught me a new word: estornudar. “Choo!” he said, all three times I asked him what it meant during the course of the morning. It’s a big word, okay? The kid is smarter than I am. (“Choo!”….this is why I don’t teach little ones….they are way too adorable.) Or maybe I asked him all three times just too watch him say “Choo!” He laughed at me each time he saw me giggle, or at the choo, but in either case I could have gobbled him up.

E-storr-nu-darrr

got it

i think

a virtual store of beests gives me the sneezes

definitely got it

He’ll probably test me on it tomorrow, so it’s especially important I know the word going in.

But the math…I can’t teach the girl English in two weeks (eight days now)….so I have to figure out a way to get her to understand what each question is asking (nearly all word problems, of course) without her having to learn how to read a new language. I think I have a plan that will work.

This is by far the best job in the whole school. God put me in the right place at the right time. Thanks, God.

 

monday

I was hired to teach algebra remediation for two weeks starting today, but none of the students assigned to me, and only me, showed up.

I was put to work making phone calls to parents of absent students, and just as I picked up the phone to make the first call, an administrator walked into the room frustrated and in a bind. One student signed up today for remediation in reading comprehension, a fifth grader, which would have been fine because there are teachers teaching that subject this summer, but the reading comprehension test that the student will be taking is entirely in Spanish and none of the summer school reading teachers can help him prepare for it. I butted into the conversation between that administrator (who speaks Spanish) and the summer school principal (who doesn’t), and said, excitedly, that puedo hablar en espanol un poco, y leer tambien, y puedo hacerlo (!!) please please please PUHLLEEEZZZ

I don’t really speak Spanish. I pretend to. But the words come out correctly more often than not, and the only thing holding me back from reading fluently is my lack of vocabulary.

The truth is that I speak it as often as I can, and almost always when I’m drunk, but I’m not even close to fluent. I want to be, though.

I was out of my skin excited about teaching a different subject, because how often do I get to? Never. Minus the next two weeks. Because today I was assigned the duty of teaching reading comprehension to a fifth grade student in Spanish. I’ve never taught reading or writing, not in English nor any other language, but starting tomorrow I get to. I would have done it for geography, too. Or history. Or anything. Latin.

E pluribus unum.

I have that one down.

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This is going to be way more fun than that stinky algebra stuff.

There is no curriculum available, so I downloaded a released state test for he and I to work on.

The first reading piece is about Archimedes, a famous Greek mathematician and physicist. The story used in the test is one of my favorites to tell. In a nutshell, a king asked a guy to make a crown of solid gold. The king didn’t believe the new crown was all gold, so he asked Archimedes to determine whether he was duped. While sitting in his bathtub, Archimedes was struck with an epiphany that enabled him to prove to the king that the crown was indeed pure gold. So the weirdo jumped out of the tub and ran down the street naked screaming, Eureka! Eureka! Though the version in the test does not mention he was naked, it does acknowledge that the man was a nut job. Which he was.

Funny story.

So as I was typing into Google Translate, I pressed the space bar too soon while typing a word and, appearing before me on the screen in the middle of Archimedes’ moment of insanity was the word “wildebeest.”

Word fact #3: Spanish for wildebeest is nu.

I will now refer to the animal, both in literal context and when used as a metaphor, as beest or nu.

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Wow, I’m sleepy, and I have a very exciting day ahead.

 

Buenas noches.

 

Perspective

My cat sits on the desk each morning and evening and watches me get ready for my day or get ready for bed. It’s her routine. I walked up to her tonight to pet her before getting in bed, and she walked away as though she wasn’t interested. But I know she was because here she is all curled up next to me in the dark as I type. I thought, as she snubbed me earlier, how nice it would be to be a cat. No responsibilities. Sleep all day. Eat. Demand attention and refuse affection and get away with both, incurring no more than a sarcastic remark about the typical nature of my species. Like I’d care. Because I’d be a cat.

Anyway, my moment of envy was simultaneously countered by the idea of dependency. Cats have the life only at the mercy of their owners. 

I then got to thinking about the cards dealt in life, how some people get better hands than others. But it’s all relative, when you get to the nitty gritty. Mostly.

I’ve been reading a bit here and there on this blog, and tonight, what I read made me think of my desire to be a cat and thankfulness that I’m not one. 

The grass is always greener somewhere else.

Unless that somewhere else is Calcutta, so it seems.

My summer hasn’t really started. I’ve been lying to myself to make the end of the school year feel more satisfying. I have to get up early for the next couple of weeks and remediate students in their algebra skills. But my cat doesn’t. And neither do the unemployed. Nor do teachers who traded extra pay for vacation time. It’s all perspective.

But no matter how you look at it, I am falling asleep (quickly, as I type) in a comfortable bed with very, very, very little chance of losing limbs or getting run down by a rogue van or being stabbed with a large knife. I fear this list of unlikely events will increase quickly as long as I keep a record of the most recent ones. Tonight I am thankful for my safety and that I have hot water, that I have water, that I have the opportunity to bring in extra income, and even for this smug ball of fur curled up next to me. She’s thankful for me, too, but she’d never admit to it.

Saturday night 

I’ve missed solving puzzles. Even the little ones that I have to look up. Especially those.

. . .

My Chinese friend kept a Rubik’s Cube in his desk drawer. I brought it home for safe keeping until I see him next fall. Attempting to solve it comforts me.

. .

I got another haircut. I was in a bad mood and could have gone drastic, but my hairdresser is a magician. She does magic with hairstyles and the people they belong to.

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She gave me a cute little French doo, and I just noticed I’m wearing a top with navy horizontal stripes. I feel international. Français mignon.

I like it.

do something nice for someone today

Yesterday

When the dust settled at work today, I read an article about a bomb that went off in Kabul, one that killed a lot of people. Perhaps you heard about it.

The article was quite graphic.

I hear or see newscasts about attacks and bombings in all sorts of places, and when I do I picture it all happening in a nightmarish make-believe land somewhere other than anywhere near me. The pictures I see on TV or in articles should affect me emotionally more than they do, but they don’t. I’ve become desensitized to horrific scenes of brutality.

After watching the second airplane hit that tower and then, worse, watching the buildings crumble while the woman standing next to me crumbled right along with them as she watched loved ones be destroyed in front of her, not much else can shock me.

But today when I read that article, I wasn’t shocked, I was shook. I was not traumatized, I was sensitized.

The article that I read described the scene in grotesque detail. My imagination put me in the thick of the chaos and horror because my mind was given freedom to make the story real. The writer described charred body parts and bloody body bags. And I was suddenly there. I saw those body parts. A leg. An arm. A foot. My mind saw it all.

 …………

For a long time I’ve been stuck in a “who am I really” rut, and while trying to figure myself out I have realized that I have not been exploring myself but humanity as a whole.

Who are we?

………….

As I envisioned inanimate clumps of burnt leg-shaped flesh strewn about the road and picked up by those clearing the scene, I thought to myself how those parts, moments earlier, were pieces of someone’s body. That burned leg belonged to a human, who in an instant prior was a whole body of busy organs and rushing blood and firing synapses. A whole body not only awake and breathing but sentient. And more than that, a soul. A precious human soul was physically reduced to that burned piece of leg that was carted off like rubble in a construction zone. The leg of a precious soul could be you or I or anyone we know. Can you imagine your bloody charred pieces coated in ash among the pieces of eighty-something other people?

……….

I’m sitting in a comfortable leather chair, in a climate controlled environment, eating chocolate and typing on this ridiculously expensive handheld device. I’m wearing a soft blue sweater to keep myself warm in this cold-kept room, drinking clean water (as far as I know) and eyeing an unopened bag of puffed Cheetos.  

I have very, very, very little chance of having my pieces violently torn apart in a fiery explosion while I write this post from this black leather cushy chair. But today I imagined it, because a journalist did what papers and TV rarely do, which was give horrifically gory verbal details of what happened while I slept peacefully in my king size bed of cotton sheets and fluffy pillows, safe with all my limbs intact. The pictures that news media generally warn of being so graphic are no more graphic than what I’ve seen in movies, though I’m sure there are worse real ones that would make me retract this point—it’s hard to tell the difference between real and imaginary when I am so detached from the situation.

……..

Who are we?

Crocodiles feed their young. Humans are barbaric.

………

I’m looking at all of this from a broad perspective including all humans in all of recorded human history.

I’m looking at this broadly as a study of humanity.

But what brought me here wasn’t the questioning of humanity nor the need to decry an unspeakable act. What brought me here was my wake up call. People are losing limbs in the streets. People are getting blown to bits, and a writer took the care to slap me hard across the face with this reality.

Do I sound sheltered and naive?

I should, because I am.

 

………………

Today

I decided to poke around the internet and come up with a few examples of how horrible humans have been to each other since forever. I was disturbed. I knew some things, things about the Romans in particular, but wow. I won’t post any of what else I found from that era. Then you have heads floating in recreational lakes (okay, one head in one lake) on the border between Texas and Mexico and little boys in Africa with machine guns fighting a war against their own people for a government using them as a means of genocide. Or is that America? I get confused. And the Middle East…then, now, forever…destroying themselves while radicals creep into Western Europe to take over what the last conquerors did. Except the Nazis. They tried taking over, but instead they destroyed things and places and people and buried all of it in lime pits for the rest of the world to reclaim and repair and mourn with seething anger.

I don’t know much about any of this except that mankind has, is, and always will attempt over and over to self-destruct. We pesky do-gooders are getting in the way of the death goal by mucking up what history has tirelessly worked to achieve.

Again, what do I know. I mean that with all sincerity of ignorance. In terms of war and brutality, outside of watching those towers fall one morning, there is really only one threat I am familiar with. I spent years of nights falling asleep in fear of it.

…………..

I’m thinking of a way to wrap this up, but there isn’t one. I can no more sum up my thoughts as I can all the evil that provoke them.

Or here, this got me through a lot of sleepless nights. Fretful days, too. It’s something, if not a reaction to a situation that offers some hope for something in some way.