Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Atmosphere as Self

Spring weather in Iowa vacillates as dramatically as my students' emotions.  As any classroom teacher can attest, weather matters.  It affects our kids. If we're honest, we know it affects us too.

Today the stale air hung heavy.  It was thick, damp.  Molasses. Papers went limp.  Focus, too.  Kids whined and puttered and were slow to begin work (if they began at all).  Everyone was a bit irascible.

I'm keenly aware of how closely weather patterns influence my mood.  Today I internally endured that same thick, stale air.  I was irked to face the reality that I am still holding on to things I'd decided not to hold onto anymore.  I felt trapped under the heavy piles of work that remain, but struggled to mark more than a couple small tasks off my to do list.  I spent long stretches of time feeling a little prickly as I stared off into space listening to music that only exascerbated  my foul mood.  I was unproductive, static.  I hate that.  I desperately needed to be productive today.  I wasn't. Perhaps through osmosis, the tension in the atmosphere seeped into me as a palpable and disquieting force threatening to unleash.

The sky turned a sickly hue of green.  The wind bent trees, snapped trunks, tore limbs.  Finally, the torrents of rain, the pummeling hail, the eeriness, the sirens.  The atmosphere wailed, lashed out. It was scary, the unbridled force of it.  Like a toddler, the universe had a tantrum, made a scene, threw a fit.  It expelled more than anyone could have anticipated, as if drawing from secret reserves of angst. It raged.  And then, worn out, it slinked off.  The demons were expelled, the slate wiped clean. The sun reappeared.  The earth looked greener.  The scent of grass sweeter.  The sky opened up.  A double rainbow appeared.  Temperatures cooled.  The damage was evident, but there was some peace now. Something had been worked out.

The same tensions were mirrored within me.  But I didn't throw a tantrum. I didn't wail or rage.  I endured. I swallowed the desire to throw myself on the floor, to beat my fists and kick my feet at some frustration I couldn't even name, some intangible thing.  Instead, I harnessed.  I turned to my writer's notebook.  I took deep restorative breaths.  I reminded myself that the tension would pass, that I shouldn't give it energy.  I turned to the 5-4-3-2-1 strategy to quiet the storm: name 5 things you see in the room, list 4 sounds you hear, touch 3 things and name them, identify 2 things you smell, name 1 good thing about yourself.  I distracted myself from the chaos, from the thickness of it.  I paused.  I collected myself.

Eventually the winds abate.  The downpour ceases.  The earth glistens in its newness, in its baptism. The storm within, the tension, quiets and passes.  It's only May, after all.

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