Koyaanisqatsi purports to be a Hopi term meaning “Life out of Balance” and if so it accurately describes my life. My days are fueled by a stomach churning inner core of anxiety that endlessly runs a subliminal script telling me that I’m late, inadequate and short changing someone. No matter what there is not enough. Not enough money, not enough time, not enough me.
At school on a Sunday, writing a test for the 7th graders and a lesson plan for the 8th grade I remind myself that I need to look up science fair projects that use pinewood derby cars for my son whose project description is due on the 23rd. I glance at the time because I promised my daughter I’d run by Goodwill on the way home to look for items that fit into Homecoming Week’s spirit dress up days. And I try to mentally run through my recent bank debits to make sure I have enough money to stop at the store and buy toilet paper, top ramen, hot dogs and dog food. Whatever I get needs to last until Friday, the long awaited payday.
Goodwill sports a “Now Hiring” sign outside the door and again I weigh the pros and cons of trying to find another job – not at Goodwill as they don’t have night shifts- but somewhere. We need the money as there is never a month when we don’t run out before payday and it’s been impossible to save on my meager salary, most of which goes towards our inadequate health insurance before it ever hits the bank. We are always one emergency away from disaster. A second job could help repair the air conditioning that went out in the car (I had thought about just waiting it out as the weather is cooling but realized that the fan no longer works which will make heating and defrosting difficult this winter). It could help pay for gravel for the driveway and fill the propane tank before we need to turn on the heat. It could update the kids’ cold weather wardrobes as they’ve all out grown last years pants, sweaters and jackets.
But as it is I’m away from home from 5:45 AM to about 6 or 6:30 PM every weekday and I often spend about half of Sunday at school. I never feel finished at school – there’s the science fair (which we are just starting this year) to plan, the STEM initiative to work on, the intensive reading training to incorporate into science class to improve content literacy, the endless lesson plans, grading and documentation of how I differentiate for learners with different abilities. I care deeply about making a difference in my students’ lives but often feel its an impossible goal.
And when I get home my kids await with their own unmet needs – they have homework they need help with, they want to talk about a difficult situation with a friend or teacher at school, they feel resentful that so much of the daily animal and house care is left to them (and I feel irritated and burdened when I come home and its undone). They and the animals vie for attention and I again feel inadequate as I try to sort out the necessities from the wants. Is it enough to feed and house and rush through homework help when their deeper emotional needs are only briefly touched upon? I doubt it.
I arrived home, picking up the laundry my daughter has done at our relatives on the way, we’ve put away the few bags of groceries I was able to purchase at the store, fed the animals and hauled water (we haven’t had significant rain for weeks so we don’t have running water) and I’ve ducked into my room to write this post that has been percolating in my mind amidst my fractured thoughts for the past few weeks. I feel starved of solitude and ‘me’ time but I leave the door open, knowing that my son will be popping in to discuss his science fair project. I try to remember what I want to say and start writing. My phone beeps. It’s a text message from my oldest daughter, away at college. She asks, “Can you look over my resume and tell me if I need to change anything, please?” I close my eyes briefly and text back, “Sure, send it on” while channeling the conscious mantra I use to counteract the debilitating subliminal script, “It is what it is. It is what it is.” And I keep on keeping on.