Football, Teaching, Burnout, and Self-Care.

I’m home with bronchitis today, and let me tell you, getting four hours of uninterrupted sleep for the first time in a week has me feeling like I can do anything. Until I start coughing again, anyway.

But since I’m home and the Tessalon perles are working as they should, I thought I might as write a little bit about Andrew Luck, because not enough people are.

That was a joke, by the way.

Anyway. My favorite coverage of Andrew Luck’s retirement has been Deadspin. This piece is what made me think that Luck’s retirement decision was radical self care, and the fallout since from fans and sports pundits has appalled me, but also not surprised me.

Here’s why. We have this mythos in American culture that working hard–almost working ourselves to death–is the best thing we can do. We wear “busy” as a badge of honor. We conflate professional success with personal happiness. And I see this in my own profession.

We get movies like “Dangerous Minds” and “Freedom Writers” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” where teachers are celebrated for putting students first, for sacrificing their families and their personal lives to inspire and “save” students. We are told that the relationships we develop with students are the primary key to their learning (so I rather enjoyed this clarification on that idea).

Or we judge and shame teachers (and really, anyone who works) for taking time to get well when sick, or heal when hurt–physically or emotionally.

And then we wonder why we all burn out.

I know comparing an NFL quarterback and a public school teacher is a false analogy, and maybe if my mind was clearer I’d be able to make that analogy a bit more solid. But before I take another dose of medicine, two things.

  1. Andrew Luck did what was good for his mental and physical health, and while he’s in a privileged and moneyed position to do so, calling him soft or weak is really just jealousy that we can’t retire at will and build a completely new life.
  2. Teachers, as we start the beginning of the year, follow these steps when you are sick:
  • See a doctor if needed.
  • Write the sub plans.
  • Stay home.
  • Rest. For the love of all that is holy, rest.
  • Your students will be fine without you.
  • Read that last bullet point again.

A Call To Action.

Today after school, a conversation took place in our lab that shook me to the point of speechlessness. I don’t want to give specifics out of respect to those involved, but I feel compelled to call upon all adults as a result.

We must pay closer attention to how we talk about our faces and our bodies to others.

We must pay closer attention to how to how we think about our own faces and our bodies.

We must call out photoshopped faces bodies when we see them, tell the young people in our lives that those images are not real, that people do not look like that.

We must explain the often unsustainable regimens actors endure for superhero films.

We must call attention to the strengths of children and teens in our lives that have nothing to do with their appearance: talents, abilities, personality traits.

We must call attention to what the children and teens in our lives can do with their bodies: dance, help, comfort.

We must explore ways to help children and teens internalize that their faces and bodies have beautiful elements despite what Instagram influencers are subtly telling them. Seek out those challenging beauty norms, like Lindsay and Lexie Kite.

Teach young people how to challenge, challenge, challenge every image they see.

And we need to do this for all young people, regardless of gender.

Young people need us to show up in ways we might not have imagined, because the world they are living in resembles nothing we may have imagined when we were younger. We might think we don’t need to be specific with some of the things we say and do; we might think our young people just “get it.”

But I’m at a point now where I don’t want to assume they do. We should err on the side of being too obvious, rather than risk that assumption.

After This…

How many times in my life have I said “after this…” then I would be able to do the things I’ve always wanted?

I set goals, I long for change, yet the day-to-day spirals beyond my control. The lie I tell myself, the lie we all tell ourselves at one point or another, is “after this…then I’ll be able to do that.”

As if life will somehow slow down or stop entirely, allowing us to engage in a Thoreau-like existence of meditation and self-improvement in wood cabin, off the grid, away from society.

I caught myself thinking “after this…” today, as I once again face down three months of rehearsals and individual practice time for the musical, while still teaching, while overseeing a student news organization and co-managing sports broadcasts, while still serving at church, while still maintaining relationships.

“After March,” I caught myself thinking. As if March and the end of the musical didn’t signal a chain of interviewing journalists for next year’s staffs, or commence soccer and baseball broadcasts, or who knows what else. Life won’t get easier in March. Or April. Or May.

Even in the summer, though I’m not tied to as strict a schedule, the days and weeks somehow fill and I catch myself saying “after summer…”

I’m sure life has been like this for a while now, a constant stream of responsibilities and personal pursuits, at times quarreling for my attention because I say to one, “After this…” and ignore the other. For some reason—age? experience? necessity?—I’m grasping more fully the reality that “after this…” doesn’t exist.

Each year as people start making and sharing resolutions, whether it’s setting SMART goals or selecting a word to live by or scribbling a bucket list of longed-for accomplishments, I am tempted to join in. As if “after December 31” will signal a complete change of character and I’ll be wealthier, thinner, smarter, more productive, or less single in 365 days.

Instead, I’m shifting my paradigm in 2019: eradicating the trap of “after this…”

I need to embrace the 14-hour days as evidence I am physically and mentally healthy enough to handle that kind of load. I need to look at my calendar objectively, and find the pockets of time that appear—and then fill those pockets with endeavors that don’t include time-wasting vortices. I need to say yes a bit more often to friends and family, to view that time spent as energizing (because it almost always is).

“After this…”, I’ve learned, is a surefire way to collect a few regrets. So if you are also feeling the pull to start something new, as many do with the advent of a new year, I have two suggestions:

  1. Do things.
  2. Don’t wait until January 1.

Letter From A Sick Teacher

So I caught a little virus.

It was a bit worse than previous colds I’d had. This one brought along a couple friends, 72-hour Fever and Total Body Aches, and I was forced to take two days off from work.

This is not easy for me to do, to take time away from my students. When I taught English, I could leave reading or writing assignments and grammar exercises and call it good. But in my electives world, it’s a bit tougher to be gone.

Not only was I too weak to go to school or do any schoolwork, I could not even stay awake through the next film in my movie project, “The Great Ziegfeld.” So you get to wait another week for a movie review.

This virus lingered for a good week; even yesterday I could barely accomplish the few tasks I deemed necessary for a successful week, and when my editor-in-chief asked me if I could read stories so she could publish them, I responded “Are they time sensitive stories, or can they wait until tomorrow?”

If you’re not familiar with the Action for Happiness project, every month they produce a calendar of ways people can be a little happier. This month is self-care September.

This is a well-timed experiment for me, as I was forced to do next to nothing for seven straight days–a reminder that if I don’t take care of myself, I am absolutely of no good to anyone around me.

I loved this tweet from a fellow educator:

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 7.09.59 PM

Dear teachers and students, can we all follow this advice this year, and can we all give each other a bit of a break when we notice people on the edge? Then maybe we will stop wearing exhaustion and stress as badges of honor, stop compbragging (complaining yet bragging at the same time) about how much time we spend at work, and start living slightly better lives.

 

 

 

Keep Families Together.

Real quick, before I get on with my day:

I get that immigration is a complicated and divisive issue, but I like to think that most people would agree that separating families at the southern  border is excessive. (I have seen no reports that this is happening at any other borders–if so, please let me know.)
 
Today, if you have five minutes, please consider calling your U.S. senators and ask them to support a bill called “Keeping Families Together Act.
 
I called Senators Sasse and Fischer this morning, and staffers picked up on the first ring. When I’ve called their offices on other issues before, that rarely happens. People are there, and lines are open. It takes two minutes to say “Hey, I’m not wild about the reports of families being separated at the border. Can you please tell the senator to act on proposed legislation to prevent that from happening?”
 
Also, phone calls > emails > tweets. Even leaving a voice mail is better than an email.
 
Also, only call *your* senators. Calling senators from border states does nothing, unless you are their constituents. (And if you live in Arizona, please consider calling Jeff Flake’s office and remind him of the photo he tweeted earlier this week…)
 
I have to believe, at least for today, that we the people can still affect change, but it will only happen if we raise a little hell.
 
Here’s some links to statements from faith leaders and organizations over this new practice of separating families:

And finally, at the risk of hyperbole: if you’ve ever read or learned about events in human history where people in power excessively oppressed others and thought, “I would stand up to that. I would never let that happen,” it’s happening now. Do something.