Every six months or so, I take up running again, which in this curvy petite body looks like this: For a month, I reappreciate running and all of its benefits, and for at least a couple of those weeks of running, I do not totally feel as though both my lungs are going to collapse and I am not going to have some kind of reverse-intestinal upchuck fiesta on the track. Running is a great outlet for stress but I do not live in a body that can endure running on the regular. My long history of pounding out Irish step dances has netted me ankles that are predictably unpredictable. Also, my lust for change does not a good endurance runner make.
Right now, I am back at track practice. Running my ever-loving guts out. I need running to work for me right now because the stress I am feeling is not the stuff of checklists and bills to pay. I am back on the identity carousel, trying to figure out which pony I want to be riding for this go-round before they start the ride and before the siss-boom-bah of the merry-go-round musicmaker starts playing. Is it this one? This one with the ruby reigns or this one with the long and flowing mane? Or is it that one over there that bobs higher and lower than all the rest? Or this one that just stays put for the entire ride.
I have an enviable career. I get to teach bright people in a resource-rich, spiritually-gifted community, close to where I live and where my children school. And I? Only have a master's degree.
I am oh so lucky and yet I question the stability of this when I feel so unstable. I know God's hand was in every detail of our move here. I just want to feel a touch of the divinity in what I am doing here now.
We all want to do work that matters, right? It's a universal cliche. Teaching has its rewards, but on a day-to-day basis, I see some long faces in the classroom. Teaching is a give, give, give business and the return on investment might not be known for many years henceforth. We prepare and prepare and we teach and jump around the classroom; we run our guts out. Unlike a chef or a hairstylist, our "product" is often not immediately recognizable. The reaction to learning or developing a nascent skill? Is not the same as reacting to a California sushi roll or a new body wave perm. So we teachers wait in hopeful expectation of a reaction, a response to this gift of active learning and oftentimes we get blank stares, a deep and abiding disinterest in favor of a cellphone screen, or an evaluation that says, Errrmmm, yeah, maybe you should get out of this business altogether.
I will not worship at the crumbling altar of the evaluation, but I will look inward and upward and continue to run my guts out and hope that as I make another lap around the track, this now my fourth full year of teaching college writing, that I can know that I am in the right lane, running in a fair heat, that with more training, I'll only improve my time and my stride.
Rather than grow weary, I want to grow more fit for this race and I want to know and see and experience the outcomes of this work that I believe matters.
At the end of track practice, though, I know I'm still okay. If my career dries up tomorrow, I'll still have the love of this little family. Their hugs and affirmations and little teeth to brush and deliveries of coffee when I left my mug at home are pretty amazing. I feel equal parts unworthy and totally whole as their mama/wife person. They are the ones for whom I am running this race. They keep me running strong.