Today starts our mini-unit on self-compassion in the mindfulness class I’m teaching. It’s a hard unit, even as a teacher, because so much of our culture says we need to be hard on ourselves–and probably much harder than we already are. It’s almost painful to be self-compassionate, and it’s about as awkward to talk about it to kids.
And on top of that, I’m still feeling sick. I got to bed a few hours earlier than usual last night, and I woke up feeling so much better–but my throat is so dry it’s raw, and I can barely open my mouth to talk without feeling the pain of it. I was talking to myself last night, and I know when I’m feeling sick I have the least amount of willpower, so all my normal challenges look like massive mountains right now.
So it’s the perfect time to talk about self-compassion.
I’ve been down all weekend. Despite some fun outings with friends, an itch in my throat slowly spread until it erupted Sunday into an all-out cold. My plans to do a big weekend social media push for my Kickstarter instead ended up with me napping on the couch.
Now that the school week has begun, it’s time for me to turn my attention back toward willpower in my mindfulness class. Today’s multifaceted prompt begins by asking us to think about our willpower role models. Who inspires us most to meet our goal?
I love it when I get to use puns in my titles–it’s not quite clickbait, but it’s almost just as good. Anyways, stress. We often feel defeated by stress. We think stress is a sign of failure and inadequacy (and then we get stressed out for failing and being inadequate), but according to Kelly McGonigal, that perspective on stress is incorrect.
One of the hidden stress responses Kelly McGonigal talks about in her book The Upside of Stress is the “tend and befriend” response: Stress physiologically compels us to help others and strengthen relationships. We can tap into this stress response, she says, whenever we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed simply by answering one question:
There’s that saying about the freshman fifteen, and perhaps due to the fact that I didn’t live on campus my freshman year, I never experienced it. Even when I did move on campus the start of my junior year, I began working out more at the gym and made healthy food choices at the dining halls, so if anything, I lost weight.
The first-year-teacher fifteen, though? Now that’s a real thing.
The year 2016 is my big Year of Re-creation, and the magnanimity of this statement only grows with the realization that I won’t be recreating myself as a husband, but as a single man again. And that’s okay. Perhaps painful at the outset, but all change can be.
In any case, it’s been a while since my last shot of stress, when I took that first step from Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress to finally make stress my friend.
It should be obvious–as a three-year relationship ends and I set out to begin my summer teaching training–that stress is paramount right now. So it’s time to go on.
Yesterday I began reflecting on some recent challenges in my relationship with Harel, and it’s a topic I’d like to return to. I feel it’s worth mentioning that although I can’t describe exactly what’s going on without breaching Harel’s trust and confidence in me (he has not said if I may share what’s going on), the general motion is that the circumstances within which our lives are suspended have shifted, and despite no change in our love for each other, it’s unclear if a long-distance relationship can be sustained in the way these new situations would require.
It is, ultimately, an ongoing process we’re both trying to figure out.
So while this post won’t, and can’t, address the details of what we’re going through (and ultimately, I’m not sure I’ll discuss those details publicly, even with Harel’s consent), what I wish to return to is a discussion the strategies I’m using to get through it all.
Because after two years of being engaged, news like this isn’t easy to digest.
Chaos is not disorder. Chaos is order so precise and sensitive that the slightest misstep at the start sends us far from where we intended to be.
Water is, as it tumbles over rocks and flows between our fingers, a creature of chaos. And so is life.
We drift along, pulled between rapids and brief moments of pause, seconds of tranquility that split time into austere fractions that enclose us and confine us. Solutions (and the problems they supposedly solve) seem suddenly clear, and then the water draws us away, and once more we are left without recourse and direction.
I’ve been watching a lot of lectures about education lately, and there’s a common theme to answer a common question: How can I keep myself from burning out?
The answer is always a variation of “work harder” or “work smarter.”
This, I’m afraid, is simply insufficient. There is no amount of working harder or working smarter that can make the work we’re doing any less exhausting–and this applies to all areas, whether you’re a student, a teacher, healthcare provider, or something else.