Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Geographic Cure

At AA meetings, you will frequently hear about this concept of moving somewhere else to make a fresh start, get away from the old grind, see things from a new perspective. We call it the Geographic Cure. We call it that because it sounds like just the ticket for a lot of what might ail you about where you live.  If you are still out there drinking, you might be thinking of escaping from  a variety of stinky relationships, obligations, and messes created while under the influence or trying to get under it somehow.  We alcoholics have a way of finding every conceivable bridge that might offer a way out or up and burning it the hell down.  We go through lots of friends, lovers, jobs, rental agreements, cars, library cards, volunteer commitments, gym get the idea.  So, moving sounds incredibly seductive and we do it a lot, only to find, to our horror, that wherever we go, there we are (to paraphrase another AA ditty).  
If we aren't drunks or addicts, we still may have reason to want to make that leap into a new life.  This seems to be the case with we boomers, as we contemplate the possibility of retirement, or just the possibility that we could die before we get the chance to live in the mountains or go to Bangladesh for a stint in the Peace Corps.  We have a sort of renaissance of the same cravings for adventure, novelty and challenge that we had when we were starting out, except that we have some money in the bank, a longer and more impressive resume, and maybe a slightly more mature perspective.   

For the past few years I have toyed with the idea of moving to Colorado or New Mexico. I love it out there, have friends and family strategically placed and once again am wondering how in the hell I will survive another winter in the Land of Grey that is Holland at that time of year.
This year, I looked into it a little deeper, talking to my financial guy, Ron, ever patient, practical and steady, and to some friends, and to my kids.  What I found happening was that I began to create a sort of dichotomy or polarity between here and there in which I was able to create an ever-longer list of pros for there and cons for here. Some of them were no brainers: Denver gets 300 days of sunshine a year, there are cool people out there and I can live out all of my hippie fantasies in close proximity to Boulder.  Others, a little more subtle: I have been doing the same thing for a long time here. That is the good news and the bad news of it all. That is the trap and the allure.  Could I do it? Could I pick up and leave, sell it all, take off in my little car with my little dog and just go? Find a funky little apartment out there somewhere and simplify my life?  Make a new start? Escape the sameness and the routine of my life here?

Of course, I am a drunk, and this could smack a little of the GC, though of course daydreaming about the possibilties in life is what keeps us interested and moving ahead.  It could be quite the adventure to move away. The only trouble is, I can't figure out how to do it without taking me along.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the things that are bugging me about my life have little to do with where I live and everything to do with my reticence to do the work I need to do to make it better. The grand gesture always sounds better to me than the daily work of making a life and making it worth living.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Last Day of School

If  you are in the proximity of a school child today,
you cannot help but know that school is either out or should be, depending on which school you are talking about.  And, it you are in the proximity of a school teacher, you probably are making an effort not to be today: we glow on the first day off, and it can be a little annoying to the rest of the world, for whom Monday will be business as usual. We are alive with the possibilities of summer and all it may hold. We may have a fat check in our hands that we vow we will not piss away by the end of July, leaving us penniless and counting the days to the first paycheck in September.) We may be feeling some sadness, saying goodbye to certain kids who burrowed into our hearts especially deep.  We may be pushing aside the nagging reminder that our rooms need to be packed up and report cards marked.  We may, as I am, be slightly nauseous from a last-week diet that was a little too carb-rich and veggie-light.  (In the teacher's lounge on Thursday: two  boxes of donuts, a box of bagels and cream cheese, a huge sheet cake from a family saying, "Thanks Waukazoo Family", that was out of this world, a crock pot of overcooked veggie chili (my contribution) and lime-flavored tortilla chips.)  
But, understand this: we are glowing anyway, as we throw out the produce in the fridge that we bought with good intentions, as we clean out boxes of end of the year gifts, the best ones hand-made, and re-read heartfelt letters smudged and misspelled so endearingly ("Thank you for making me hapy. Love, Thomas"), as we clear off the kitchen table and throw in the laundry and go to Lowe's to get serious about the lawn.
Yesterday was a half-day, and as always there was so much to do. There is a sense for me on that day that I need to be ready for anything, and of course I never am ready for what actually happens.  I did pretty well in passing back gobs of artwork (cursing myself for procrastinating), 
saying goodbye to kids, getting started on room clean-up, chatting with friends (and fitting in several cake-trips to the lounge).  Then, at about  11:00, one of my first graders named Jaden came in and asked me about his clay fish. The one he had to make a week late, because he was sick. The one that had lots of very sharp teeth and  a long remember, right, Mrs. Art?
(Fish? there is still a fish that hasn't swum home yet?) Then, I remember, and there he is, sitting on the edge of the kiln, ready to go. Jaden and I put together a tray of paints and brushes and he sets off for his classroom to paint his fish. All seems well. Phew, I think, I am glad the little guy remembered!
Then, at 11:40, twenty minutes before the final eruption of joy when the kids run out that door for summer vacation, Jaden returns with his fish. It is in three parts.  Apparently, it was on his desk, and he lifted the top. sending it flying onto the floor. The delicate jaw with its snaggly teeth has broken off, as has the sleek (really, really skinny) tail. 
Quick calculations tell me I can do this, and I plug in the glue gun and examine the pieces.  The jaw and teeth aren't too hard, but the tail is really a challenge; the hot glue leaves a thick line that doesn't allow the two pieces to fit together well, and it takes repeated tries to get it back on. (Jaden: "his tail is very thin so he can swoosh it through  the water and go very fast.")
I get it on, and then he says, oh, here is another piece-it is the tip of the tail." It is now five minutes before the bell. I am sweating and I have glue on my fingers. Nothing like  challenge in the last lap of the marathon.  I glue the tiny piece on and the whole tail falls off.
Somehow, the tail gets glued back on and Jaden hugs me and says goodbye. He walks out the door with his ferocious fish and now, only now, do I feel like school is really out.
Love and gratitude to all teachers out there.