For much of 2020 so many of us have been waiting for results. Results of the national and local elections. Or of Covid tests—who’s been tested? —how long to wait? —where are you in quarantine? Ah, yes…awaiting results. I have had so many students in iterations of the loop of not knowing, knowing, deciding, reacting, and more waiting. My son, and many seniors of 2021 are waiting to hear from their perspective colleges. Waiting for ACT and SAT results. Results of applications and inquiries. Results of their own decisions. The principal at one of our high schools says, “Keep moving forward” and though incredibly positive, that means something different to everyone. My dad used to say something similar, “Do something, even if it’s wrong” as opposed to being idle, not contributing, not using your allotted time on this planet to produce something—anything. And I have been rolling these ideas around for weeks now.
Thankfully, our superintendent and his team get it. He reminded us all to just keep the kids here: present. Mindful. Be kind to them. He assured us that the curriculum cannot drive us this year and that we should not expect results like what we are used to. This message has been received with some trepidation from teachers: what, then, is our measuring stick? How will we know we have good results? Any results at all? Some of us teachers—so data-driven and questing for scores and fulfillment from our kids’ and districts’ successes. Well, those gears came to a grinding halt in the spring and although I am happy about leaning into what that is, it is hard to convince parents that their kids will not be behind; “Behind whom?”, I ask. Everyone is off. Everyone is living through this. Your kid will be no more or less behind than anyone else across the globe. “They will be fine,” I want to say. If they wake up and put clothes on and get moving on something… if they keep moving forward. The measuring sticks sure have moved and we either move with them or this communal trauma is going to get us in ways other than the physical illness.
In truth, the kids have been kinder. More enthusiastic. More eager to do well. Another principal said discipline issues are down 94% in his building. The kids are authentically grateful to be there with us—even for half the time. Those are some damn good results. Behaviors are changing. Empathy is visibly increasing. I won’t go into how the air is literally cleaner—but you get the point. What results had we been seeking before this pandemic? Some of them seem less important now.
Even for me, personally. It has been hard to write this year—I have felt stuck. And have been simultaneously maintaining a promise I made to myself to work on being fully present—to be HERE. To recognize that “multitasking” is over-rated; taking photos of an event rather than fully attending is, too. So instead of blogging about being, I have been just…being (as Fr. O’Neill encouraged us in high school. Seriously, we spent whole class periods just “being”. I loved it then—most 15-year-olds thought it was a joke, but I used the time to think and came out of those sessions exhausted…). The results of being stuck added to cultivating more mindfulness has been the equivalent of stopping to smell the roses. Stopping isn’t so bad if growth is still occurring. I found myself moving forward by most of the time just standing still. I was taking closer looks. I was appreciating the present. I saw that the world is still producing fragrant roses. And with a mask on, they are harder to detect so consequently I must try harder to breathe in the scent. The scent has not changed at all. The result is the same. But how I access and appreciate it is different for certain. Ray Bradbury has a line about how clothing went from having buttons to having zippers and man, daily, lost just that much time to reflect—when added up, a catastrophe.
In the first week of December, I underwent my yearly mammogram, and when the phone rang to relay my results, the voice on the line said, “How are you today?” and I retorted, “I don’t know…how am I today?” Expecting a giggle, I got a silent beat. One brief, well-timed pause told me this was not a moment to joke. The voice spoke as I silently listened, holding my breath, and grabbing a pen to record the time for another appointment the very next morning.
Over the next 3 weeks, I went to bed early. I called friends as I craved their voices. I read. I immersed myself in conversations with my students—clung to their words. Made sure I was home to hang out with my family; I made plans with them a priority. I got holiday shopping and cards done on time—a first. And as the calendar dictated, I drifted into several offices, into various professionals’ care until I sit here now wearing a post-biopsy ice pack to ease the swelling and soreness as I heal.
Waiting for these results has been like no other time for me. And thankfully, I can say that yesterday, on the last day of 2020, at 1:30 pm, I ended the decidedly overwhelming year with some undoubtedly positive results. I will start 2021 without breast cancer.
I will keep moving forward.
I will continue to be.
And most of the time, that really is enough.