You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.Buddha
Well, I did it (almost). It’s a stunt that I have done to near flawless perfection on three other separate occasions in twenty-four years as an educator. But this time was different. I could not simply pullout of the ‘graveyard spiral‘ this time. I couldn’t pull back with desperation on the ego throttle. This time, I recognized that this emotional nosedive would end in catastrophe if didn’t do anything. This time, I waved the flag of support (no mas): a medical leave from my teaching responsibilities. The only way to face my deepening anxiety, burdening feelings of overwhelm, and heavy-footed fatigue was to exercise self-compassion and award myself the necessary time and space away from the dominating noisy distraction of my work.
In my last post, I worried about the fallout of taking a mental wellness break from work. These concerns included leaving my class in the middle of an in-depth learning exploration on truth and reconciliation; acknowledging the guilt around being seen as weak and unable to cope with the increasing stress that is placed on teachers; and of course, protecting my bruised ego. As I sit here, twelve days out from an averted disaster, I feel peace of mind and serenity about my decision.
You can rise up from anything. You have choices. You can learn something new. You can create new habits. All that matters is that you decide today and never look back.Idil Ahmed
In hindsight, the near-crash was a signal. A warning. Or maybe just a very loud reminder: For my both my mental and emotional wellness to continue to heal and strengthen, I must heed a deeper guidance from my heart (and intuition) instead of listening to (and feeding) my domineering and feckless ego. I am learning that my body (and its reactions) is the filter, the knower. The truth.
As I dedicate this time to rest, rejuvenation, and reflection, I can’t help but wonder how my colleagues are doing. How are they coping? Are they well? Do they have the necessary resources and supports? Are they struggling with increased pressure to push forward in an environment where the masking and vaccination debates have collided? When necessary, will they have the courage required to listen to their higher-self?
I have been asked by a few friends and colleagues about the resources and supports I have placed at my disposal. Who is helping me? What resources am I leaning on? Am I practicing self-care? I am so grateful to be able to surround myself with a therapist, coach, a longtime men’s support circle, and this fantastic mental wellness resource (which I use with my students). I have enrolled in an art therapy program designed especially to support teachers that commences next week. Daily journaling has helped to set each day with intention. And my longtime meditation and yoga practices have continued to offer opportunities for getting out of my head and into my heart and body.
When you operate from the Higher Self, you feel centered and abundant, in fact, overflowing. When you experience this abundance, your fears automatically disappear.Susan Jeffers
A practice that I have also adopted (and ramped up) over the past several months involves giving twice daily gratitude and appreciation for the privilege that has afforded me opportunity to rest, rejuvenate, read, and reflect. I am astutely aware that my privilege allows minimal financial penalty (I accrued numerous paid sick-days over several years of service.), and admittedly, was a factor in the final decision. This is, however, exceptional and not the norm for many hardworking colleagues in the education and healthcare sectors.
The power of a daily gratitude practice is highlighted by American writer, philosopher, and speaker, Sam Keen:
The more you become a connoisseur of gratitude, the less you are a victim of resentment, depression, and despair. Gratitude will act as an elixir that will gradually dissolve the hard shell of your ego—your need to possess and control—and transform you into a generous being. The sense of gratitude produces true spiritual alchemy, makes us magnanimous—large souled…
Friends have asked if I plan to go back to the classroom before the end of school year. My initial response is a slow, but deliberate, ”yes”. My heart, however, knows that any future participation in education will be different. A dear and well-respected colleague who recently moved into the corporate sector after nearly two decades as a teacher and administrator shared that “sometimes a good break is all that is needed to reset boundaries and realize how much you love the profession! Or to make a shift!” What about regrets? “I did not take my departure lightly [and] will always be an educator and really value the skills, relationships, and perspectives…gained from my time in the system.” Words of wisdom.
Words of wisdom that reminded me to re-watch a TEDTalk by artist, writer and filmmaker, Emilie Wapnick, where she shares her theory of ‘multipotentialities‘ (A group of individuals who have a range of interests and careers over a lifetime.). Wapnick’s words and illustration are deeply resonating with me during this time of self-reflection and introspection. Resonating, indeed.