These past few months I feel I have been drowning in a sea of stress, most of which has been precipitated by external events. The main event was the springtime RIF (reduction in force), which in education is becoming an annual event. This pushed me to take the CBEST, which is the “California Basic Educational Skills Test.” I did this to add to my credential – but until I get a job in any one of my qualifying areas, I’ve just got a letter stating I am qualified. I added eight adult subjects. All this took up most of January and some of February, with my attending classes every weekend until I took the test. The Ides of March date for RIFs (in California) passed me by, but over 200 colleagues in a district with 900 teachers received RIFs. The final notice date will not be until May 15th; the classified will know on April 30th. While my period of employment / no employment has passed, others are still in line.
Stress takes its toll. Blood pressure rises, sleep becomes overwhelmingly desired or impossible, depression and a sense of helplessness are constant companions. Fatigue makes functioning a challenge at times; for me, this fatigue is mental. The making of a decision is hard. To focus on one thing is elusive as restlessness causes me to pick something up, and then put it down. Reading, moving, thinking, doing, accomplishing are too much effort even though I know that once I start actually doing them, and determined to finish them, much of that hill of inertia begins to disappear. However, that hill is really a Mt. Everest in size.
Perspective, though, does make an opening through all of this. I am not as bad off as some, and certainly worse off than others. I know what I want to do, and I know how positive completing something – reaching a milestone, putting another step forward – is.
All this came together for me when I read Kate Davies’ current post on her blog Needled. She suffered a sudden, unexpected stroke several weeks ago. Reading her writings of her life post-stroke are painful and inspiring, a solid reminder of the fragility of our own daily existence, as well as our ability, and need, to move beyond the current limitations of life, whether physical, mental, emotional, circumstantial. Today’s post, invisible metaphors, spoke of many things and works she was reading. Kate requested input for reading material, and that is when I remembered this poem I read in my teens, found in an old schoolbook of my father’s, that has provided a light in the darkness for me over the years.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
–William Ernest Henley
Human history continues, individually and collectively. Perspective can shift attitude. “Fake it ’til you make it.” Pandora’s box. 1 Corinthians 13. Viktor Frankl.
Forget this, and all may be lost.