A Long Overdue Reflection

Pema Chodron asks, "What are you going to do with what you have already--your body, your speech, your mind." I'm beginning to think that there is power in the universe, some type of synchronicity that brings what you need. I'm taking a second writing class during the semester (my rule is usually only one and sometimes one a year), because writing had leapt to the not so distant outskirts, away from a consistent center that grounds and stills me.

I began this semester in a less than grateful mode. I lagged from the summer, a summer spent chasing travel and fun, a summer with little writing and reading. Ask me if I'd do it differently, and the honest answer is no--in many ways it was perfect like every summer, like every moment that I surrender to without judging.

When the first 1/3 of the semester ended, and I again began to feel like work weeks usually topped 50 hours and sometimes soared above 60 hours, I decided to keep score. Every hour I was on campus (regardless of whether I spent the time chatting with colleagues or surfing the web, I counted as work), every hour I spent at home (even if distracted and surfing the Facebook in between) counted. My calculations weren't to predict how efficient I was and whether I could be more efficient, but to get a realistic sense of hours worked, even if sometimes in a distracting way. The first week, I hit 40 hours by Friday afternoon (starting with Monday). At that point, I decided to stop working until the clock reset Monday.

While my decision proved a wee bit amusing to me, its effects weren't worthy of laughter. On Monday, anxiety set in, and I realized the enormity of the current grading pile and the looming grading pile. For that week, I worked over 60 hours (and stopped when I hit that number). Boom. Predictions somewhat correct. But when I told Nan of my supposed success, she asked me whether knowing that felt good. She reminded me of what I have--enormous flexibility in my job, and encouraged me to start keeping track of that. Keep track of those rare four day weekends when I can accomplish lots at home and have time to do my thing. Keep track of a lack of an alarm on many days. Keep track of engaged students and the ability to approach the classroom however I'd like.

And so I did. And continue to do most days. Sometimes I falter, but lately I stay grateful, remembering all that I have. And to answer Pema, it's to remember to be, to find ways to stay more present. And the way that always brings me there is to write. Always.

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