Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 How It Was for One Spinster Teacher

I won't be sorry to see the back of 2013. Not that it's been a bad year; on balance it's been okay. In some respects it has been a vintage year but the last few months have been spent under a threatening cloud. I can't write too much about it here but the cloud is partly responsible for how quiet I've been here.

This is a personal look back at the year. I don't know enough about politics or economics or geography to discuss what's been going on nationally or globally with any confidence. Around me there seems to be confidence but I worry, in so far as worry does any good. I know in education that the more "teaching and learning" are hyped up with events like Féilte, the more ground is being lost in terms of teacher moral and student enthusiasm. Ideology-driven and poorly designed curricular reform looms. Students are seen increasingly as learner/lab-rats to be measured and tested, subjected to experimental treatment in the name of radicalism and change, weighed and re-tested. All are seen as fragile and while a life-raft may be offered to the most capable in the form of recognition of their Gifts and Talents, those who fail to make the cut will be cast adrift to land on an intellectual desert island where they'll spend their days making tasty and nutritious snacks for pets.

In my own life,  I faced 2013 with pessimism. Time was running out. I'd be thirty-eight in May. Where was I going? How was I ever going to get there? Did the place exist? Did I just suck at being alive and should I quit? This day's diary entry from last year is weak and tired, mentioning the sun in the garden, saying I might go into town later and I might go out that night. I wrote how I wanted to be stronger, saying "If I were strong I'd be capable". I must have felt incapable of doing what I felt needed to be done.  I also wrote that "God gives me strength" and that I believed that. I still believe that, even though I've lived in this house for fifteen months and have yet to see the inside of the parish church.

I made resolutions for the New Year. In the course of renovating the house I'd read a lot of feng shui and the nine-box bagua reminded me of Susan Jeffers' nine-box life planner. That's probably where Jeffers got the idea. I decided to resolve to do nine different things, based on nine different areas I wanted to improve. I was mad to improve, and still am. I'd read the books, consult the websites, looking for the tips and the how-to. I picked up many tips but the most important thing I learned is that there is no ten steps to perfection. That no-one has written the "How to Be Ellen Metcalf" book. Life is hard.

I'm looking at the nine things now with bemusement. Meditation? Night courses? Carpooling? Well I did that and continue to do it and it's a great success. I didn't take any night courses and meditation was sporadic. I also solemnly undertook to paint the coal-shed. Of course I would, I had a year. And of course it's still the same grimy concrete grey it was when I moved in. I had a year, a whole year, but you should never give yourself a year to do a job that'll take you a day.

I did some of the things on the list. I took up running and that was a success for a good eight months until I lapsed. So it's a resolution again for 2014. I love making resolutions so much that this year I'm making twenty-eight of them. And I've already started on some of them. There'll be no Mardi Gras carnival before this early Lent.

And so the year went on, and on. It got harder. I kept going. The summer was hot. I kept going. School restarted and I got on with things. Thankfully the issues with my hours were sorted and that has been an indescribably relief. I can plan. Things got harder again towards the end of the year. I felt alone despite the support of many friends, because that support is not the same as some-one who will join you under the yoke and help you pull life's burdens and steer a clearer furrow. It does follow logically that  doubling the power could mean doubling the weight and the problems.

I remember standing on a footpath waiting for the lights to change. It would have been October. It must have been a Saturday. My longest and most serious adult relationship had just ended, the first that could be measured in months rather than days. I can remember the lightness I felt, the feeling for the first time that being single meant I was free. That's how I feel now; I feel free. That I can do what I want, in so far as funds and the laws of physics allow. I'm not chained down by the awful memories and marked with the stigma of the mentaller.

That relationship was the good thing. And there were good times as well, and laughter, and no tragedies personal to me. There was stress, the clouds I mentioned have parted but not disappeared. I'm still single and I feel each passing month brings me nearer to a reckoning I never want to make. That I yet might not have to make, that I should put from my mind and concentrate on where I am. Here is here and now is now and pessimism may be as delusional as its opposite. I feel better now, older and tireder, but better.

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