Friday, May 21, 2010

Yes, I Know That I'm Whiny

God and I are a bit on the outs these days. Last Saturday night, I went to bed without setting my alarm for church. On purpose. I was mad at God, so I decided I didn’t really feel like going to His house to sing His songs and listen to His words. “If I’m meant to go to church,” I said to myself, “then I’m sure I’ll manage to wake up at the right time without any alarm at all.” I fell asleep late and decided to just let whatever happened happen. Which really means I decided to sleep through church.

I woke at the exact time my alarm would have woken me.

I lay in bed for about 20 minutes – time I would normally have spent snoozing the alarm anyway – internally debating.

Clearly God wants me at church.

Maybe it was just coincidence.

Yeah, but either way I’m up now, so I really should go.

But I’m still tired and I want to sleep.

In the end, even though it was difficult, I had to own up and be honest with myself.

I don’t want to go. I’m awake, I have no other legitimate demands on my time, but I’m still not going to go. I am deliberately choosing to stay home instead of going to church, just because I don’t want to go.

Basically, I was giving God the silent treatment.

I tried to go back to sleep, and I did doze a little, but mostly I tossed and turned for close to three hours in a fitful attempt at rest. It was that sleep where you’re not quite awake, so you can’t just get up and go about your day, but you’re also not quite asleep, so you’re getting no actual rest. The kind of sleep where ultimately you wake up more tired than you were before. I’m still not sure whether it was God making a point or just my guilty conscience. At the time, though, I blamed God, since I was already mad at Him anyway.

It was all very childish sulking on my part, and I realize that. Picture this:

Little Lara is turning 8 years old, and Lara’s Mommy has planned a wonderful party. All of Lara’s friends are coming, and there will be pony rides, and princess cake, and a man making balloon animals, and a bounce house, and a giant slide, and a petting zoo, and an ice skating rink, and a woman who will paint your portrait while you eat ice cream sundaes. Lara’s Mommy also bought Lara a special princess dress, brand new, just for this party, with sparkles and ribbons and flowers and jewels, and a beautiful gold tiara for Lara to wear alld ay so that everyone will know that she is the birthday girl. And Lara’s mommy did all of this because she loves Lara so very much. And on the morning of the party, Lara’s Mommy asks Lara to please take out the kitchen garbage to help Mommy out. And Lara, spoiled brat that she is, throws a fit over being asked to take out the garbage, and she gives Mommy the silent treatment because garbage is yucky and she doesn’t want to do it.

That’s kind of what it’s like with me and God right now: I’m just being ungrateful because I don’t like the chore He’s currently asking me to do. No matter, of course, that He has done all kinds of amazing things for me in the past, and that He has all kinds of amazing things planned for me in the future. I am seriously mad about what He’s doing right now.

Although, to be honest, I’m not entirely convinced that God is the one who gave me this chore at all. Because God didn’t tell me directly – other people told me. So it’s less like Lara’s Mommy asked her to take out the garbage and more like Lara’s siblings came to her and said, “Mom wants you to take out the garbage.” Maybe Lara’s Mommy did say that. But maybe she said something else entirely and Lara’s brothers and sisters heard wrong. Or maybe Lara’s Mommy said nothing at all, and Lara’s siblings heard the wind, which just happened, at that moment, to sound like Mommy’s voice saying, “Lara needs to take out the garbage.” For now, I can only trust them at their word when they say God is the one telling me to do this.

“Do what?” you ask. You need to understand that this entire year, the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that next year would be better. Sure, this year is killer, but next year things will be different! Next year I can rejoin the dance community! Next year I can join a Bible study at church! Next year I can exercise and eat healthier! Next year I can start attending a therapy group again! Next year I can blog more! Next year I can DATE!

But no. Next year, I will – once again – subjugate my entire life and self to Christian School and its students. Let’s look at some comparisons, shall we?

This Year’s Work Schedule:
* I teach three English classes – two 10th grade and one 11th grade.
* I teach one Ballroom dance class.
* I have two prep periods to lesson plan and/or grade student work.
* I have one Study Hall that I monitor, which is very much like a third prep period.

This Year’s Outside-of-Work Schedule:
* I generally get 6-7 hours of sleep a night. (I function best at around 9.)
* I eat 2-3 meals a day. (They are pretty much always unhealthy.)
* On weeknights, I am either working until bedtime, at a Christian School event, or – occasionally – vegging in front of the TV because I am so brain-burned that I have no mental energy left.
* I am usually able to take Saturdays off work to relax or do laundry, errands, etc.
* I go to church (almost) every Sunday, then to school to work for the rest of the day.

This Year’s Mental/Emotional State:
* There was some depression, but mostly contentment.
* There were almost constant feelings of stress, pressure, and/or anxiety.
* I frequently felt overwhelmed and/or insufficient for the task at hand.
* I depended heavily on the hope that next year’s load would be lighter.

I think it’s important to note that the baseline mental/emotional state for most of the year really wasn’t all that good. It also generally wasn’t too bad, but still – we’d hope for better, right? Keep that in mind as we look ahead to…

Next Year’s Work Schedule:
* I will teach five English classes – three 10th grade and two 11th grade.
* I will teach one Ballroom dance class.
* I will have one prep period to lesson plan and/or grade student work.
* I will have no Study Hall to act as a third period of prep time.

In other words, I’m going from teaching four classes to teaching six, and from three prep periods to only one. Awesome. Let’s use that knowledge to predict…

Next Year’s Outside-of-Work Schedule:
* I’ll probably still get 6-7 hours of sleep a night, with occasional lapses to 4-5. (This is mostly because I literally shut down at a certain point and cannot function without sleep. It just doesn’t work.)
* I’ll still eat 2-3 meals a day. (They’ll still be unhealthy.)
* On weeknights, I will pretty much always be working until bedtime. If I also need to attend a Christian School event, that bedtime will be later than it would have been otherwise.
* I will work pretty much every Saturday.
* I will continue working every Sunday.

Note that my free time is less, not more. Hence all my plans of dancing more, joining a Bible study, getting back to blogging, trying to go on dates, etc. – these are all gone with the wind. And frankly, my dear, no one gives a damn. (Except me.)

Using all that we’ve learned, what do we think will be…

Next Year’s Mental/Emotional State:
* If not outright depression, certainly unhappiness.
* Stress, pressure, and anxiety will become as familiar as breathing.
* Feeling overwhelmed and insufficient will be the norm – feeling even moderately competent will be a rare, treasured moment.
* I will depend heavily on the knowledge that the following year I will A) get an easier load, B) quit, or C) die. (In my current state of mind, any of these would be an improvement.)

The thing is, though, that most of this difficult change comes from the fact that I’ve been spoiled to have only three English classes and a Study Hall this year. Here is, as I’m aware, the schedule of our full-time high school English teachers this year:

* Mrs. A: three English and two History
* Miss B: four English and one elective
* Mrs. C: five English
* Mrs. D: two English and four Religion
* Mr. E: four English and one elective
* Me: three English and one elective, plus Study Hall

You might notice that my schedule there is the easiest (though as of next year it will be the hardest). I don’t understand how they all do it! I spend so much of my time working, and I only have three real classes. What am I missing? I feel like to do my best work, it really does take that much time. Spending less time on it means not doing my best. It means doing mediocre work – work that is “good enough,” but less than my best effort. And I just don’t know if I can do that.

All I do now is that right now, I’m extremely unhappy. And all I can see in my future is a whole lot more unhappiness coming.


fjd said...

In this essay, I write three body paragraphs, 1, 2, and 3.

1. Teaching is a tough job. Teaching six classes with three different lesson plans is rather ridiculous. Whining? Nope. Ers.

2. I have this view that only a little bit of thought about churchgoing suggests that the activity is about the individual and community and not God. I imagine a caring God doesn't care where one's butt is sitting on a Sunday morning; or, more likely, is quite happy to have one's butt reclining in repose with the rest of one's body. A comfy bed on a Sunday morning: the new church of overworked Christian school teachers.

3. Way back in high school, and continuing to this day, I often wondered why there is such a strong emphasis on the 1500-word analytical essay. Five-paragraph essay, sure: it's a good structure for beginning analytical writers. But why 1500 words? Why not 800 instead? It seems to me that the (great?) majority of students pad out essays to meet the 1500-word requirement. Why not instead grade an 800-word essay with the same rubric: looking for the same ideas, but now in a greater idea/word density? It would save the teacher time and end the regrettable practice of encouraging verbosity.

In this essay, I wrote three body paragraphs after first writing an intro paragraph. Then I concluded by writing the thesis statement in different words.

Still Jill B said...

Sweetheart, I'm with you on trying to figure out life and do what you think is best and helping/serving others, and it's easier to say this next part to you than to try to make myself believe it...

This sounds like a bad deal. I know there are plenty of reasons it may be your only/best choice, but please don't fool yourself into doing something that's not great for you under the guise of "I like teaching" or "it's a Christian school so it MUST be God's work for me" or anything that could be labeled "platitude". Also, no comparing your workload to others to see how "good" you are at your job.

And if you are going to forge ahead, seriously, SERIOUSLY: forcing yourself to dance or work out or group-therapy or whatever, one weeknight every week will make everything better, and be much better than the night of television you give up to do it. It's a hard one, but adding variety/spice really helps.

Clair said...

Ugh, your schedule looks brutal. What are the requirements for attending school events that happen after hours? Can you cut down on going to those in order to free up some after-work time for the one activity that's most important to you?

And maybe you've got some time this summer to consider what Jill said: is teaching, and teaching at this school, the right thing for you to be doing right now?

Good luck!!

Breathe Gently said...

That is a really massive difference - and I know from personal experience that you take on board more and more responsibilities with teaching as the years progress BUT you need to keep your sanity in the meantime!

Is it worth checking what's out there in terms of changing schools and trying something different? The last thing you want to do is burn out before it's even begun.

And you know, we'd love to see you blogging some more. ;-) Hugs from me!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to remind you that at least you aren't teaching French again.

I do have to agree with Jill that getting some sort of regular exercise, even if only once or twice a week might help you feel better. The endorphins will help your mood, and you'll feel good because you did something other than school.

Also, you need to eat right if you're going to be under that much stress. Eating right will help keep you energized to get you through that brutal schedule.

So, in recap, be glad you aren't teaching French again, make time to be active (dancing, walking, exercising of some flavor) and fuel your body. If you can do these 3 things, everything else will fall into place. Or at least be easier.

Anonymous said...

I actually feel like you already know the answer: this is too much for you. For some reason you are justifying it by saying "someone else told me God wants this for me." When someone presumes to speak of knowing what God wants FOR YOU that makes me feel like that person is trying to get you to do what THEY want and is using what they know will manipulate you. Don't give up responsibility for your own choices to "someone else" or even "God." Do you think God wants you to do something that is clearly making you miserable? Something(s) to think about.

bernthis said...

is there nothing you can do to ease the load? '

I feel for you. I am worthless, literally worthless without my sleep.

I don't know how you do it.

Amanda said...

I have no concept of the rigors of teaching, attending church or the dance commitments. What I can say is you need to strike the unhealthy eating. No excuses. Keep your body nourished. Would you feed a student what you feed yourself? You must, in the small windows when you are able, cherish yourself. You are worth it.

dawn said...

As an English teacher and a teacher of future English teachers, all I have to say is that you are working too hard. Really take a look at your lesson plans and the day to day. You should not be working harder than your students. Where is most of your work time spent? grading? planning? figure out what is the time drain and start searching for ways to make it more manageable. You cannot continue at this pace. There is a reason why over 50% of teachers leave within the first year.

Let me know if you need any help with things you are struggling with.

Jessica R. said...

Wow that just sounds brutal, but as Oregonsunshine said... at least there's no French!
My gut tells me that as the years progress, prep for each class is going to get easier and easier since you'll be able to recycle lesson plans and such.
Plus, not so sure about God testing you and all, but I'm sure that by now your supervisors know you quite well and I'm willing to bet that they wouldn't set you up for failure. If they're assigning it to you, they know you can handle it.

Last year started horribly. You were convinced it was going to be atrocious. It hasn't been the greatest year, but it wasn't what you anticipated. There's no way to predict the future, sometimes you just have to trust that things are going to turn out just fine.