In the first few weeks of school, I find myself swinging between this isn’t that bad and then suddenly falling into I’m not sure I can do this for an entire semester or an entire year. What I keep returning to is the knowledge that this year, perhaps more than ever, needs to be filled with intentional work-life balance and an abundance of good, life-giving things for me. It is always the desire and goal each year for those things to have a critical place and yet this year I think they need to be a desire turned into reality.
With everyone masked, I find myself trying to guess more and more what my students are thinking or how they are receiving the information presented. Not every student gives away their inner thoughts on their faces, but it certainly helps me know more about what is happening internally when I have an entire face to view and not simply a set of eyes.
I realize the same is true for them, too, when I re-watch videos of me teaching and I see how crucial the facial expressions were for the lesson. I don’t claim to have the most interesting face, friends, but the whole face is incredibly helpful when lecturing. Even though I was raised by a man who disciplined with his eyebrows, I cannot convey every emotion purely through raising or lowering my eyebrows. I attribute at least part of my excessive tiredness to this COVID-induced reality.
I’m thankful for the sake of my students that we are back in school. Personally, I could live quite while on a hybrid classroom with a couple days at home and a couple days in the classroom. But for the sake of my students and some sense of normalcy, I am glad we are in the classroom. I do feel as though there is a greater stress in them, the alterations of COVID pushing them closer to breaking points than would normally be there. And as I feel the mask-social-distancing-fatigue within myself, I have a desire to extend a bit of mercy to them. We are all tired and this is weird for all of us. So I’d like to offer random bits of silence, beauty, competitive trivia spurts, and time to remember that there is so much more than the pandemic we are living through right now.
I haven’t compiled a neat list of life-giving goodness I want to indulge in, but I have been thinking about what it ought to include. The cooler temperatures set my thoughts to simple parties with soup, bonfires where the fire is actually desired, and small dinner parties with warmth and conversation aplenty. I’ve been trying to make time for reading good literature and check my email infrequently on the weekends. While yet unactualized, I’ve been dreaming of a hike on a nearby trail and attempting delightful recipes for freshly baked bread. There are several books of poetry I have been meaning to peruse and the cooler weather seems a good time to do so.
This time of added stress ought to be, if possible, time of intentional joy. I cannot control the rules that govern my work or any natural disasters that may occur. I cannot manipulate the virus or know how many of my students or co-workers will become ill. I can, however, seek to infuse my life with as much beauty, truth, and goodness as possible. I can strive to be grateful for the many blessings in my life and look for opportunities to see Christ working in the midst of the mundane.
Life and goodness is abundant here, in the grips of a pandemic and an uncertain future. I want to focus on that perspective this year.