When school ends, people often ask how I’m doing, and I say, “Well, I’m not feeling like myself quite yet.” I mean, I need a little more time away from the intensity and responsibility of teaching. It’s been four days since school ended. Just today I sweated through the classroom cleanup and whisked my plants away to their summer refuge. Finally home, I feel like a goopy, half-baked cookie, or a chalk-straight mannequin. I know it’s normal (for me, anyway), and I know it will pass. Here’s what doesn’t quite compute though: if I’m not feeling like myself, who am I feeling like?
After I’ve had about a week off, it’s like Dorothy opening the door to Oz. Like the warmth of blood flowing back into your prickly foot that fell asleep. Teaching soothes with its rigid schedules and demanding customers, and then teaching baits the moody temperament with its wild ups and downs. Some time soon, I will feel great. Not just great, but born again, like only people who have worked very hard for a very long time can feel. Soon.
Tired, blank, disconnected, fuzzy me is so annoying that I don’t want to claim her. I will pretend not to know her at parties. I will not take her calls. She’s just the stand-in until I start feeling real me again–fabulous me, sharp me, outgoing me, gorgeous me. Most of the time, the virtue of tolerance is presented as an accommodation of other people’s quirks or sins or preferences. Tolerating your own dumbness and weakness is a greater challenge for me. I hate being grouchy. I hate being slow. I hate being tired. I want to be fabulous, now that I can be fabulous. I’m annoyed that my restoration isn’t immediate. I’m annoyed that I don’t perk right up like a car with new spark plugs.
I am trying to be gentler with my dumbness. I hauled in all my classroom plants this afternoon, several trips from the car. I have been building this plant collection, of only the most standard, dull varieties of houseplant, until this summer I have more hangers than hooks, and more pots than windowsills. My living room is lush. One big, deep green, heart-shaped leaved plant has let it all hang out, like Rapunzel, next to my TV. My dumbness likes plants, and quiet animals, and water. It hates black and white movies and ringing telephones. I spent the last nine months tolerating the dumbness of high school students, so it’s only fair that I should be sweet to my own.