We’ve been learning about safety drills.
How to check temperatures when students arrive while having our own checked each day. Where they should stand on the 6-feet apart markers with our super cute school logo. Masks on. No hugging or touching. Wash hands, use sanitizer, rinse and repeat.
Wellness surveys must be completed the night before. Primary through that door. Middle schoolers through the other. You have 25 minutes to accomplish the seemingly impossible.
I was walking in our new school building the other day as we prepared for in-person student learning coming back from another COVID-19 pandemic safety protocol drill, when a teacher colleague asked a loaded question, particularly in this pandemic back-to-school climate, “How are you?”
My answer wasn’t the usual coffee chat like, “Things are great!” or “All is good.” My real response was, “I feel like I’ve been dismembered and that parts of my existence are scattered all over the place.”
Her face was priceless. I don’t think she was expecting that response. It definitely caused her to pause.
So we did. We paused.
We momentarily relieved ourselves from safety procedures and the stresses of figuring out how we are going to become new teachers again when all our fav tools in our teaching toolbox aren’t the ones we can use this year.
I also clarified my stop-and-jaw-drop dismembered statement to explain that I actually feel so many different things at once.
I feel confused. I feel joy. I feel excitement. I feel anxious. I feel frustrated.
I feel overwhelmed. I feel grateful. I feel uncertainty. I feel unsure. I feel peace.
I feel MIXED.
And, I’ve felt like this since we left school for spring break in March and never returned due to COVID-19.
I’m suggesting it be a new emotion on the emotions meter. Mixed = all the feelings, all the time.
This one should come with a warning and disclaimer though: Beware of experiencing this new “mixed” emotion because it’s utterly exhausting and it may cause rapid burnout every day. Proceed with caution and take really good care of yourself. It might not completely work, but it’s better than the other options right now. Good luck!
I feel isolated and alone like I’m the only one in the world experiencing this new mixed emotion.
I see others smiling, celebrating, and posting all kinds of positivity on social media even in the midst of one of the most screwed up years in the history books.
It’s nice to see those pictures…
Something insidious happens. I realize I’m not that person because I start comparing my life to theirs and my entire world breaks down.
“I know better than this,” I often say to myself. Somehow even in those moments of comparison I’m searching for connection. Weird I know.
Other days I feel like my old self pre-COVID 19 – I feel my inner spark deeply and I’m ready to take on the world and spread what I like to call the AWEsomeSauce here, there, and everywhere.
Then other days, I feel dysregulated, foggy in my mind, running around in circles and not getting anything done because planning and doing in constant uncertainty feels like building a house with tiny sticks in a 100-mile an hour wind storm.
The plan is always changing. The way we do things is always changing. Life as we know it is always changing.
My life, like many of you reading this, has been filled with tiny, daily experienced traumas like when we get into a tiff with our kids and raise our voices or yell like maniacs, and it goes too far. Unfortunately, I’ve also experienced really big and earth shattering traumas.
This groundlessness context in which we are living right now has triggered all the crazy inside of me, and at times, I feel like my nervous system is in contact survival mode.
I definitely don’t feel like my normal self, whatever that means.
As a mindfulness educator, I know how important it is to practice detachment and that there is really no “old self” to go back to. All I have is what’s arising in each moment and it tastes bitter.
Tastes salty, only with a side of sweet sometimes.
This is tough. I know tough though. I was born from tough. Tough and resilience is basically tattooed on my heart.
My new daily, moment-to-moment mantra, “We can do hard things.” It’s something I shared with my students at the beginning of our virtual year.
Then there’s this mixed emotion kind of tough that feels like so many things. So, if this is you (please tell me I have a friend out there), then you aren’t alone.
Mixed IS a new emotion that comes with a warning and disclaimer. However, it isn’t the emotion that defines our existence in the hard and tough moments.
Sharing our struggle is important. We don’t have to walk around saying that everything is ok when it’s not ok.
That’s toxic – toxic positivity, which is another post I’ll save for another day.
Radically accept this mixed emotion. I mean, the alternative will leave you feeling even crazier.
It won’t always be here or feel this way. Though right now, I get it. It feels like the intensity of this new mixed emotion is taking deep roots in our life, but like all things usually do, it will change.
We will grow.
And somehow, we will be better for it. Stronger. And, more resilient because of it.
Photo Credit: Tengyart, Unsplash
Athea is a mindfulness educator at KIPP Texas Public Schools. She’s the author of Today’s Gonna Be Awesomesauce: Daily Meditations for Youth, Parents, and Families and the creator of the educational resource, Today’s Gonna Be Awesomesauce: affirmation + art card deck for youth, parents, and educators. Athea is also the host of the educational podcast, Mindful Living with Athea Davis.