There is no Wi-Fi in the forest, but I promise, you will find a better connection.”
You may notice that this is a special holiday newsletter edition combining November and December. You may also notice that this is not my typical cheery newsletter. Here’s why.
As a result of an unanticipated move from a home and neighbors whom I love, I was left in a state of deep grief. The required packing, moving, and unpacking left me in turmoil and exhaustion. All of the fall holiday dinners which required a ‘Martha Stewart’ impersonation left me fried and flattened.
It has been nearly impossible for brain synapses to jump into any meaningful, coherent thought. I gave myself permission to stop, rest, and wait for some kind of “flow” (in memory of Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi and his book Flow) to kick in. Flow has a mind of its own and does not follow a Gregorian calendar. Hence, a combined holiday newsletter.
Then it hit me. FLOW! Thank you, stars above.
I’ve heard similar sentiments from administrators around the world with whom I have the privilege of working. This includes, “I am putting a smile on my face every day, trying to be a symbol of strength for my teachers, but the fact is I go home every day and cry.” And a quote that might resonate with you, “I have nothing left to give. I thought that last year was hard with the pandemic. It doesn’t hold a candle to what this fall has been like.”
All of my client schools and school systems have reported that students returned to school out of control, acting out or downright traumatized. Suspensions, referrals, fights and other inappropriate behavior from students has risen 40% compared to pre-pandemic levels. The teachers are enacting a politically correct version of the same, as found in the number and frequency of teachers calling in sick in the name of mental health or leaving the profession in record numbers.
On average, on any given school day, you’ll find six absent teachers’ classrooms for which there are no substitute teachers available to cover. The effect of the new reality is that the teachers who do show up – and are also exhausted with classrooms of their own – are now covering their absent colleagues’ classrooms using their personal and prep times. The same goes for administrators, central office, and support personnel. The exhaustion digs deeper and wider.
How could this year be an easier one when a belief that a recovery was imminent betrayed us and the fourth wave of the virus has brought spiked numbers along with the threat of death or just waiting for the next shoe to drop? People have dragged themselves to a Thanksgiving holiday in the US or are currently searching for the light of the holiday break throughout the world.
Let’s not pretend that “this is the most wonderful time of the year.” It has been hard and heartbreaking for so many.
The New Survival Game Plan
We need a new plan of attack which is way beyond the requisite Self-Care and Resilience 101 lessons. This requires a downright HALT. You get a round of applause for just getting out of bed! We all need an intensive care prescription for giving ourselves a break, for breathing deeply, and for avoiding or minimizing contact with toxically positive people.
10 Questions to Reflect Upon
- When was the last time you made it okay to do your best and say that it is good enough…even if you could have given it more effort?
- In what ways do you listen to others without an intention to cheer someone up or “fix it”, but to be present for someone’s disappointment, sadness or exhaustion?
- When was the last time you asked for help?
- With what frequency do you give yourself permission to say “no”, “not available”, “maxed out” or “so sorry. I can’t’.
- What does “rest” look like for you?
- What have you let yourself off the hook for in the last week, month or year?
- How can you leave your work at home so you can declare a true day of rest over the weekend?
- Imagine what would happen if you didn’t send out Christmas cards this year? (Start with “Nothing”).
- Decide which holiday tradition you will take a pass on this year because it is too much work.
- How might you give yourself permission to read this newsletter in the New Year? – (trick question)
5 of My Favorite Quotes on Taking a Rest:
- “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.” – Anne Lamott
- “If you will only pause, as you hurry through your days, take a minute to look at passersby, beyond cursory skin-deep analysis, all the way into their eyes, what beauty you might find woven from the life threads there.” – Ellen Hopkins
- “It’s precisely those who are busiest who most need to give themselves a break.” – Pico Iyer
- “Renewal is what happens when you realize that some of this stuff you’ve been carrying around doesn’t matter.” – Rob Bell
- “Real rest feels like every cell is thanking you for taking care of you. It’s calm, not full of checklists and chores. It’s simple: not multitasking; not fixing broken things.” – Jennifer Williamson
The Sabbath Manifesto
- Avoid technology
- Connect with loved ones
- Nurture your health
- Get outside
- Avoid shopping
- Light candles
- Drink wine
- Eat nourishing food
- Find silence
- Give back