New Beginning(s): “This is the first day of the rest of your life . . . “

I feel like I am constantly starting over. Personally, starting over feels good to me, and I wake up nearly every day with the bridge of one of my favorite songs stuck in my head: “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” Sometimes, though, I think this might get draining for my friends. I think they sit around thinking, What is she going to try to do this time, and how long will it last? You know, I think the same thing. But instead of feeling like a flake or feeling defeated by my inability to “stick to it,” I feel invigorated by it. This may be wishful thinking, but I think starting new again and again and looking at every day as the first day of the rest of my life is actually a very healthy place for me to be in. I never get stuck in a rut, unless it is a rut of starting over. This constant change of focus, however, might mean that I never really finish what I start, which is a signal or indicator of failure in American culture that places so much emphasis on the completion of tasks, even at the face of incredible boredom or monotony. I, however, vow that each day is the first day of the rest of my life, and I retain the right to change my mind and to act out those changes in my little corner of the world.

How will this work out, you ask, in the facets of my life I hold most dear? Well, Friend, here’s today’s new and improved me (with a smattering of the old me for good measure, and a touch of the same old topics being knocked around again).

Anyone who’s read this blog before knows that one of my largest areas of struggle is spirituality. I reason with my analytical self and contemplate inside my mystic self, I wrestle with the (many understandings of) the Judeo-Christian God and, lately, I’ve been conversing with Buddhism. I’m also looking for ways intentionally fit in some meditation and prayer throughout my day. Providentially, I happened upon the Daily Examen, which is an Ignatian practice. I think this short simple prayer exercise will complement the other meditation I have started, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment,” which I read about in Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh. Thay, as his students call him, seems to be onto something that resonates inside of me when he compares mindfulness and meditation to the presence of the Holy Spirit and prayer. Never does he claim that they are one and the same, but he carefully describes the ways in which they can exist side-by-side to bring a further understanding of ourselves in line with a further understanding of the world and its spiritual realm. His writing is so beautiful and his spirit so kind and peaceful, it makes me want to visit Plum Village. I’m thinking about going there next summer if I can find the funding. I need a bit of renewed-ness in my life. Summer seems pretty far away, but I know it will be here before I know it.

Looking toward summer probably isn’t what a teacher should be doing while she sits at her desk spending time on personal writing before beginning to plan two first, six-week units for classes, but it’s what I am doing, and it’s necessary and good work, and looking toward summer is natural for me. However, the school year is here and brings with it many, many changes to our school. Most important to me is the change that enabled me to move to the high school. I am very sad to leave my middle school students and some of my middle school colleagues, but I am excited to embark on a new journey, “This is the first day . . ..” This year I am teaching two sections of British literature, which is new for me. I never imagined I’d teach British literature. I never thought I’d want to, but it’s part of the bargain of moving up to high school. I’m finding that I really enjoy planning for the class and thinking about something new and different to me. I’m also enjoying three sections of American literature, which is, of course, why I made the decision to move to high school. I love American literature. I love everything about it, and now I can restructure the course into thematic units and teach it in a more holistic, well-rounded way, giving more voice to those groups which are currently under-represented. At Burris, we’ve always taught it chronologically by literary movements, which is entirely the easiest way to teach it when two teachers are sharing the classes. However, it’s my own gig now, and I plan to switch things up for next year. This year, because I only have two preps and because we’ve been released from many of our committee requirements, I feel like I can squeeze in a few things that I thought might get squeezed out of my life.

One of the things I’m putting back into my life is my dissertation. This, I think, might be the thing that makes me seem the most flakey. To most, it likely seems that I don’t know what I am doing and I’m flighty and not very serious about this piece of my education, but I am. Very. Serious. I want to finish my PhD, but I don’t want my ideas, my paper, my writing to suck. I don’t want to be subpar, and that’s where I was headed. I’ve taken an entire summer off, rested, and refocused, and I am ready now to a superstar! (That was a little too much, eh?) At any rate, I have a plan this time, and it might actually work. I plan to get up and get to school by 5:30 every morning, giving myself two hours to work on my dissertation every day before school starts. My mind is the freshest at this time of day, and theoretical concepts make the most sense before I’ve intermingled with my students. I’m not a morning person in the way of being with people that early, but I can surely write and read before the chaos of the day clutters my brain. I have two hours of prep time to get things ready for classes throughout the day, and our lesson plans are due on Monday by 4PM anyway. I am really excited about this prospect, and now I can’t, simply can’t, fall on my face, or I will look like a real tool.

I’m also going to start taking piano lessons every other Friday, and, as of now, I’m a little nervous about that bit of exploration and learning!

What does this do for my swimming and running, my athletic endeavors, you might wonder. I’m canceling the rest of the races I had planned for this year, in favor of being a bit more low-key and doing some 5Ks as they come up. I’ve decided to put a hold on my morning swims. It’s going to be two school years of sacrifice, and then I can swim again. I doubt I’ll forget in that time. As far as biking goes, the season is almost over for it, and I don’t plan to bike on my trainer until spring. Until it is over, though, I plan to go on long rides on Saturday with Bec, and I ride my bike to school every day anyway. In order to sort of rein in my extra energy and balance my moods, I plan to combine the prayer and mediation I mentioned above with an evening run to wind down from and reconsider my day. It’s my goal, Monday through Thursday, to walk over to the lookout by Minnetrista and do the smiling and mindful meditation, then run two miles. When I return to the overlook, I will then complete the daily examen and walk home. There is no reason that I can’t have an hour to myself to be contemplative before going home to cook.

I plan to continue to cook delicious—I’d even say gourmet (sometimes)—paleo meals. We feel better and look better in just the nine months we’ve been eating grain-free. I hope to keep it that way. Also, my brother and I want to eventually open a paleo gastro pub with our own home-brewed hard ciders. We’re going to start brewing the ciders this fall, I think, and we’re hoping to make some pear cider next fall. One thing we both love is trying new foods and drinks, so I think it’s a bonus that we found paleo eating when did!

Cheers! (Raising a hard cider): here’s to starting over. Here’s to rethinking. Here’s to new beginnings. Here’s to exploration, and growth. Here’s to future hopes, past failures and success, and present moments to savor. Here’s to “the first day of the rest of your life. Even in the darkness you can still see the light.”

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