My words have failed me these last tumultuous weeks. As have my other coping strategies: yoga, walking, journaling, listening to classical music, chatting with friends, baking treats, cooking elaborate meals, reading for fun.
These strategies failed mostly because I stopped using them, instead obsessively reading the news, venting with friends, and curling up into a tight ball of sleep every night.
Last Tuesday night was a particular low point, when I questioned my educational path and my unfailing belief in education as empowering. Why had I worked so hard in school? Why had I lived seven years away from my home region? Why had I loved the reading and writing and research so much that I spent 12 years earning three degrees and spending much money (mine, my parents', and governmental loans) as well as delayed my entry into the workforce for this?
This: constant stream of devaluation by those currently in power in this, my adopted state on the west side of Lake Michigan.
I could launch into a political rant about the misconceptions about educator lives and work and pay.
I trust that readers who care will ask, or will do real research and find out facts.
Rather, I'd like to share with you 16 dozen cookies and a loaf of banana bread.
Two weekends ago, I declared a baking blitz "cookiepalooza" and urged others to join. We would shower the campus with homemade cookies to lighten spirits and bring a touch of sweetness to the overall gloom. Students and colleagues alike baked along, and cookies graced desks and tummies across campus.
I felt warm, happy, and delighted at the power of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs to work such transformation.
Then Tuesday hit, with the aforementioned despair.
On Wednesday morning, while working on some important emails and phone calls in my office, sunlight streaming in, and soft music playing, my vision started going wonky. Letters were missing chunks, and a strange shape, made of light, filled my left eye.
I turned to two dear friends and colleagues, who comforted me, reassured me that I was probably having a visual aura typical of migraines and not the stroke that I feared, and drove me to the emergency room, where my friend R held my hand and waited the hour and a half it took for me to be seen, diagnosed with a migraine, injected with imitrex, and sent on my way to rest and sleep without any visual or auditory stimuli.
As I rested on the couch that afternoon, I felt the stress and tension of the past weeks slowly melting away. I accepted my enforced rest. And I realized that I needed to change my approach to these tough times if I'm going to survive them with my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health intact.
My coping strategies are no longer optional additions to my days. They are essential. They are about valuing and honoring myself. They are about thriving in the face of adversity. They are about staying compassionate and generous when the world suggests competition and scarcity.
They are about love.
And so, today, I practiced yoga. I walked in the brisk half-sunshine. I put in eight hours of work. I came home, turned on the oven, and started to bake:
A loaf of my favorite banana bread, studded with toasted walnuts and redolent of vanilla.
I selected the slim, deep bread pan my blogging friend (and migraine sympathizer) N sent me a month ago.
I mashed the roasted bananas, and stirred the dough, thinking of gratitude, and looking forward to tomorrow morning when I will bring half of this hefty loaf to R, as a thank you for being a friend who was there when I needed help and reassurance.
The world is full of love and beauty, always.
The human spirit contains multitudes.
Kindness and generosity are transformative.
And, yes, I believe these statements, from the very core of my being. It is only when I forget that I descend into the darkness that others try to fling over the world.
Not my world.
It sparkles; it shines.
It radiates love hope possibility.
And sweet treats from my kitchen, to your heart.
Namaste, my friends.