Stop leaving things outside the door.
Just recently I told a student to leave what’s happening outside the classroom at the door, so they could focus on what’s happening inside the classroom.
That was dumb of me to say.
It’s impossible to leave the things that eat at our hearts outside of us.
It’s in us.
What I should be saying instead: Let what’s happening outside fuel what’s happening inside in a positive way.
Bringing it all inside.
My dad died three weeks ago tomorrow of esophageal cancer. My journalism professor said to never use the phrase “John Doe died suddenly” because every death is sudden. And he’s right.
One day, I’m talking on the phone making plans with my dad, and the next thing I know I’m watching the casket close over his face for the last time. It all happened suddenly to me.
But it happened, and I’m finding that I can’t leave my father or any of what happened outside any door.
Well, actually that’s a lie. It’s actually very easy to leave it outside.
It’s very easy to sit on the couch and let the t.v. fill the space in my head. It’s very easy to diddle daddle on the internet to distract me from dealing with the realities of the situation. It’s very easy to just not think about anything and go to sleep instead.
But this isn’t right.
Avoiding the work–the coping, the writing, the creating– isn’t doing me or anybody any favors.
I don’t think it’s fair to ask a child to just stop feeling when they get inside my classroom. Rather, I should be helping students channel their energy into creating something positive.
Writing is a tool, sometimes a therapeutic one. One of the best gifts you can give another person is a journal and a good writing pen. Writing can help you problem solve, create, dream, plan, get excited, feel empathy, make decisions, and the list goes on and on of all the positive things that can come from writing.
Right now, writing is helping me settle into the new normal.
It feels uncomfortable and even somewhat wrong and scary moving on, and anybody who has lost somebody close to them knows what I mean, but it’s what needs to happen.
It would be a dishonor to my dad to stand still. Not finishing what I set out to do is not being kind to myself or honoring my father. It would be a dishonor to the gift of life both my parents gave me, and life, I’m realizing, is so very, very short.
In my father’s final hours, he pointed out to me I wasn’t writing. I had my journal in my lap, but my pen was not to the paper. I told him it was hard to write right then because of all that was happening. I can still see him looking at me in disapproval. I continued writing for him while he was still breathing, but when everything went still, so did my pen. And for this, I apologize, to him and to myself, but no words revealed themselves appropriate to serve the moments that followed.
But I’m here now. I’m starting to show up again, and I’m not leaving anything at the door. I’m bringing it all in–my father’s voice, his spirit, the scowl of disapproval on his face–to use as fuel for what’s going on inside.
Love you, Dad. In your honor, I will continue to write.