in the night
between enjoyment of the Winter weather
and the wish to
reach the warmth of our home
Under an old bridge
a sudden movement
close to the ground
A little fellow
jumps into the crack of the stone wall
Its curiosity stronger than its fear
makes it climb down back to the ground
Furry small and round
Big bright eyes
For a moment it seemed
like it would run towards us to say hello
It stays on its side though
Searching the ground for something to eat
I wish I always had a piece of cheese in my pocket
Is it true that mice like cheese?
Last week, while I was eating breakfast with my family, I noticed a weird sensation in my belly. Some sort of anxiety. I sat and wondered where the feeling was coming from. There was nothing to be anxious about. I tried to be with it for a while, but I also had to continue with our morning routine.
Some minutes later, while I was getting dressed, my husband asked if our youngest had already come down to eat breakfast. I went upstairs to find her still in her pajamas and on her mobile. I took her phone exclaiming that it was confiscated for a week.
When I went back down, I found our son on his mobile while eating breakfast. I took it away and started scolding both our son and our youngest daughter for their bad habits. I was quite angry.
When I went back to the bathroom and calmed down, I realized I had been unnecessarily loud and surprisingly angry for such a mundane ‘fault’. It is then I remembered the feeling in my belly earlier and wondered whether my [over]reaction had something to do with it. Most probably.
Over the last few years, I have been fascinated by my emotions. We have a tendency to believe that what we feel is just the of what we experience in the outer world, but the more I observe and reflect on my own emotions, the more I realize that my emotional reaction to what happens outside myself is directly linked to my mental state.
The simplest way to experiment on this is with sleep or lack of sleep. I know that if I don’t sleep enough, I am more vulnerable and can either move into a space of anger or sadness in situations where I later wonder what the big fuss was about.
Another good experiment is in my role as a teacher. If I meet my students with a calm state of mind, the lesson goes smoother almost no matter what happens. If I come in with an impatient and restless mind, I often end up overwhelmed.
When it comes to emotions and feelings, we can really ponder on the egg and the hen. Yes, there are situations that awaken certain feelings in us: fear, sadness, happiness, and even anger. These are mostly impulsive, but I believe more and more that the intensity of these feelings and the way we deal with them are directly linked to our state of mind.
Sometimes, we have this underlying restlessness, sadness, vulnerability, or even dissatisfaction within ourselves that has nothing to do with what is happening outside, and whatever happens, will then trigger a reaction to allow us to vent out the pressure the underlying feeling was causing.
I think this is natural, but not always useful and certainly no fun for those around us. So lately I’ve been thinking that I would like to learn to recognize my inner discomfort and link it to my impulsive mental reaction to the outer world before I act or react in ways that affect others in a negative way.
This is useful for me, because it allows me to take responsibility for my own emotions and stop blaming the world for my inner state of mind, and is useful for my environment because at l do my part to keep some peace.
Easier said than done, I know.
The good news is that the other side of the scale of emotions also applies to this principle. If I make a conscious choice to meet the world with thankfulness, openness, and even playfulness, things seem to go smoother. I experience more positive things and feel more relaxed.
I leave you with a poem from David Whyte called “Sweet Darkness”, I always think of this poem when I am feeling blue:
When your eyes are tired the world is tired also. When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you. Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own. There you can be sure you are not beyond love. The dark will be your womb tonight. The night will give you a horizon further than you can see. You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in. Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong. Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.
Monday morning rushing out the door I discover poo under my shoe No time to deal with it Let's hope the incessant rain will wash it away It bothers me this poo under my shoe all the bike ride from home to work Off my bike I stamp my way to the door Lift my foot up there's still poo under my shoe Already late I can't deal with it now I leave my shoe by the entrance not to bring into the school the poo under my shoe Early evening I find back my shoes where I left them No big surprise On my bike ride home I make a plan to get rid of the poo under my shoe I park my bike take out the hose Under this incessant rain My neighbours must think I have gone mad As I spray the water under my shoe I wonder What is the lesson to be learned here? Such an awful stink a bit of poo under my shoe causes yet when I spray it away with water over our garden the smell disappears After some reflection I conclude sometimes there is no lesson just poo under my shoe
One of my colleagues who is the gym teacher at our school has taken the initiative to invite everyone at work, every Friday evening, to play in the gym. To begin with, I was skeptical since ball games have never been my strength. Mainly because I never played ball games as a child.
However, this year, I have made the resolution to be more social in my spare time, and getting together to do some exercise is in my opinion a nice way to get together.
The first Friday, I arrived ten minutes late on my bike and I saw three of my colleagues and the son of one of them engaged in playing basketball. They were having lots of fun, but the game seemed ‘serious’ to me. I stood outside the gym, in the dark, considering riding my bike back home. I felt intimidated because I would be unable to join a game like that and I didn’t want to ruin their fun. When I was about to turn away to get on my bike, one of my colleagues saw me and opened the door for me. I came in and joined them. It felt uncomfortable, but the gym teacher, who is used to students like me (haha) organized some games where I could join. It was lots of fun. I pretended a couple of times that I was very tired and needed a break, so they could also play some basketball without having to worry about me.
The next Friday, I came home from work, ate dinner with my family, and started doubting whether I should join or not my colleagues in the gym, but I decided to push myself. This time, we were even fewer than last time, the gym teacher, another male colleague, and his son. All three, quite fond of and good at playing basketball. I felt uncomfortable again, but again, the gym teacher found ways to include me in some of the games. I had so much fun, and I think I got a good workout without even thinking about it.
Growing up in a small town in Mexico, I went to a small school too. The gym lessons in primary school weren’t great, and I was not very good at pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I also played sometimes football with my neighbours, but I was very insecure, and very soon I created this idea that I sucked and that nobody wanted me to be in their team. The older I grew, the less I participated in team sports at school and with my friends. I never learned to play any of the common team sports. It was uncomfortable to not be good at something, and I didn’t have the awareness to realize that all I needed was to play and have fun, and with time, I could have maybe gotten a bit better…or not.
Last Friday, when my colleagues and I were in the gym having fun, I started thinking about all the moments I missed out as a child and teenager because I was unable to push myself beyond my comfort zone and because I was too afraid of not being skillful. So sad, I thought.
Even though my dad and some of my friends tried to convince me to be less self-conscious and join the fun, I was unable to do so. I wish our gym teachers were more inclusive, like my colleague. I don’t feel regret, and I have had a good life even if I haven’t participated in any team sports, but my point here is that I believe it is important to understand as early as possible in life that one of the best ways to interact with others is through play. The goal is not to win, nor to prove skills, but to lose yourself in a game, to learn to be part of a team, to have fun. To learn to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and collect experiences.
Nobody knows for sure what the point of living is, but one of the things I have come to believe makes life meaningful is gathering experiences. Good and bad. Success and failure. Fun and boring. We are not here to prove something to anyone. Not all of us are here to become champions of some sort.
Do you have days where you feel you are not ready to face ‘the world’? I sometimes have such days. I feel tired and irritable and feel that I don’t have the energy to face whatever small or bigger challenges the day might bring… I know, it sounds dramatic, and luckily, I don’t have many of those days, but I do have them. Especially after an intense period at work and/or at home.
I try to work with my mindset, and I also try to find out why I feel like that to avoid going into that space. There can be different reasons, but what was overwhelming my mind this morning was the thought of having to ‘deal’ with teenagers the whole day to come home and ‘deal’ with my own teenagers the whole evening.
Neither my students nor my own kids are especially difficult teenagers, but I often have a feeling that as a teacher and as a mum, I am constantly negotiating with them to do what they actually don’t want to do, and trying to explain why they need to do less of what they actually do want to do.
I can go on and on in my mind about why it is so tiring and why I am so worried and wonder also if I am right or if I am exaggerating. This usually makes me feel even more tired and overwhelmed, and I start dreading certain situations that lie ahead in my day: a lesson because I know how certain students are going to behave and I am going to have to deal with it, a situation at home because I will have to be stern and I don’t feel like it.
I was having one of those clairvoyance moments by the kitchen counter this morning when I realized that all I have to do is to do my job. I just have to show up, and if the usual suspects do the usual that require me intervening, I just have to pull them aside and take that conversation all over again. It doesn’t really matter how they react to it. Whether they respond well or not, it is up to them. All I need to do is to stay calm, be clear, maybe even be stern and stop reading people so much. Stop expecting this or that, and most of all, stop dreading uncomfortable situations/conversations. They are what they are, I can make them less uncomfortable by keeping my cool and talking calmly.
I recently read somewhere something like “burnout happens when we have expectations connected to our actions”. Yoga philosophy says something similar without using the word ‘burnout’. We cultivate a peaceful state of mind by doing our best and letting go of the fruits of our actions. I think I get very tired because I am constantly absorbing my students’ and my kids’ reactions to what I say and do.
So, on my way to work today, I kept repeating to myself “be clear, be firm, but don’t get angry. If I get a negative reaction from a student, let it be”. It might sound weird, but I keep telling myself that the less I focus on what other people do or don’t do and the more I focus on what I do and why I do it, the less stressed and tired I will feel. I also think that putting my attention in myself allows me to be more mindful of how I act and why.
It turned out to be a good day at work with the usual challenges, but I think my mindset helped me stay focused and less stressed. I really need to remember this every day.
At home, things are also what they need to be. I keep choosing my battles. and reminding myself to speak calmly but firmly even if it is the millionth time I ask my youngest to pick up her dirty clothes from the bathroom floor.