As many of you know, I am crazy about my daughter’s puppy, Remi (my grand dog as I like to call him). He (and his mother) have moved in with us since the shelter-at-home orders were issued earlier in March. He has been such a source of joy and comfort during these days. He has no idea why we’re always home, but he sure does love that we are.
We have two older, larger dogs who are permanent residents. They have learned to tolerate Remi’s high energy and constant desire to play, although they don’t always oblige. Watching him pester them incessantly has become a source of daily entertainment for us. He pulls out all of the pet toys, drags them to the feet of the big dogs and then proceeds to run as fast as he can around the furniture in a beckoning them to “come get me” manner. His big personality keeps us giggling around here. We like to say, "It's Remi's world and we're just living in it."
One of the most entertaining things occurs as he tries to find comfort in the big dogs’ bed. It’s far too large for him to snuggle as he does in his own smaller version, but he often wants to be in the middle of where the rest of the family is, so he tries to make it cozy instead of retiring to my daughter’s bedroom upstairs. He begins his ritual by spinning as quickly as he can in a clockwise direction in what we assume is an attempt to find his sweet spot. He often growls in disgust after several moments of spinning in that direction before pausing to change his course and begin spinning the other way. Every time he does, I am reminded of a very ugly fraternity sponsored dizzy bat relay I watched in the courtyard of my college residence hall. Think baseball bats, boys, beer, pizza, a hot day, and dozens of onlookers cheering them on. They would spin forehead on the bat in one direction, then go the other way before finally attempting to run to the finish line on the other end of the course which tended to result in skinned knees, elbows and lots of vomit. Thankfully, Remi’s spinning has not elicited the same consequences, but he has yet to find satisfaction and comfort through his attempts. He usually only stays on the bed for a few seconds once he lies down before finding another spot in the middle of the carpeted floor to sprawl out.
Today as I listened to a podcast I heard the term “disorienting” used as a descriptor of what many of us are experiencing due to this pandemic. It felt incredibly accurate to me and it immediately made me think of Remi and the dizzy bat boys as I considered trying to find my sweet spot right now. With each day I feel as if I’m spinning in one direction only to turn and go the other in an attempt to make this feel comfortable in any way. Although there have been many highlights and moments of gratitude during the first 30 days, more often the hours leave me feeling dissatisfied, frustrated or just plain sad.
I cried for the first time today. The official announcement that there will be no return to our school communities solicited tears. I cried for the high school seniors and their parents who won’t have traditional graduation celebrations, senior nights, award ceremonies, yearbook dedications or tearful goodbyes that are a rite of passage. I cried over my own daughter’s cancelled college graduation ceremony, last sorority formal, and precious cap and gown pictures in front of orange tulips beside Ayres Hall that would provide lasting memories of her undergraduate days in Knoxville. I cried for many reasons, but mostly as I realized that I will now get very little closure as I end a 25-year career that I have loved dearly. I am more than certain that God has called me to something new, but the excitement of what is to come only slightly dulls today’s pain of realizing I will no longer work alongside so many of my incredible colleagues. I won’t have the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals to problem solve plans to best support students with disabilities. I won’t administer assessments again that I could probably give in my sleep because they are so familiar to me. But what makes me most sad is that I won’t continue to be a part of the community that I have grown to love and respect so deeply. I have watched over the years as many in education have taken verbal and sometimes even physical beatings but have continued to show up every day to love and support students unconditionally. I have seen them come early, stay late, and spend weekends to seek out resources to provide what students need. I have laughed with them over many “you can’t make this up” scenarios and I have cried with them over the loss of colleagues and former students. I have developed friendships that I pray will last a lifetime while learning lessons about compassion, perseverance and genuine love for the least of these from so many of them. Gosh I love them so much. There are no greater humans on the planet than educators. (Insert more tears).
I know the reality is that at some point, I will stop spinning and find something sort of comfortable to me. The disoriented feeling will eventually go away even though it will likely never feel the same again. I must slowly learn to embrace that this is a “new” normal. A new way of doing things. New routines must be established. New definitions of success must be identified. New joys can be found. New opportunities explored. One day that will happen. But for now, I think I’ll follow Remi’s lead and just find a spot in the middle of the floor. I’m not done crying just yet…and that’s totally okay for today. We are all allowed to figure this out one day at a time. We’ve never done anything like it before and I pray we never do anything like it again.
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