The month of February was brought to us by the color gray. It’s been a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. As I mentioned last week, the orangey-yellow glow of inspiration has snubbed my current 20Time project, so this week I sought help searching for some sunshine.
My friend Tom was my first wise counselor. He’s in his 70s. His advice is always sound, and his hands are always warm. “Life is suffering,” he said, explaining that we can’t change life’s stressors but we can control our reactions and actions when facing those stressors. “We make most of our suffering 100 times worse by letting it roll around in our heads becoming this bigger and bigger thing.”
When his adult daughter doesn’t call, for instance, he starts to worry. He thinks, She must be mad at me…Why else wouldn’t she call and check on me?…I must not be a good dad…Maybe I was never a good dad?…She doesn’t care…She’s selfish. I raised a selfish person who hates me. I’m a terrible dad. Finally, he breaks down and calls her, only to hear that she’s fine, the family’s fine, everyone’s busy, doing well.
“It was all in my head,” he said. “All of my fears, doubts, anger were there only to increase my suffering.”
Lately, worries about my family, my health (my brain and inner ear aren’t getting along right now), my classes, my online work, and my failing 20Time writing project are running loops through my mind. I mentioned that life is gray right now, yes?
But Tom is right – much of my suffering is of my own making. I need to remind myself there’s no such thing as an easy-breezy, trouble-free life; apparently, we’re all riding the same seesaw of joy and suffering.
How does this impact our work in education?
Maybe it’s just the simple truth that misery loves company, but the realization that we’re all facing similar struggles has provided a few degrees of comfort this week. Teaching is filled with joy and suffering – for both teachers and students. That’s just the way it is.
Younger teachers on my Instagram feed often say, “The struggle is real” – and they’re right. The struggle IS real and it’s not going away. It’s part of life. The struggle is part of my writing project. It’s part of our family lives and relationships. It’s with us every day in our classsrooms, especially when J.J. in third period decides to bust open a bag of SourPatch Kids while you’re being observed by the v.p. Sigh.
Now not to get too woo-woo here, but Tom helped me see that suffering is connected to the meaning of life. I want peace and harmony, but I need growth. And growth cannot happen without struggle. That’s true for us as we work through our adult troubles, and it’s also true for our students who struggle daily, even hourly, as they grow.
So this morning as I’m looking at the gray clouds outside my window, I am reminded that they are necessary to make the warmth of spring so glorious when it does eventually arrive.
Next time, wisdom from my friend Leigh, who helped me discover a diabolical monster living in both our houses.