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in the middle of a story

July 7, 2016 , , , , , ,

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When you are in the middle of a story, it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a hour in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs, or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. 

It’s only afterward that it becomes anything like a story at all, when you are telling it, to yourself, or to someone else. 

[Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace]

I know this feeling! When I am in the middle of navigating a school day, up to my armpits in problem-solving, I don’t always feel like a have a clear path. I always wish I could have a clear path through the situation to hand, but students don’t think like that, and classes definitely don’t work like that! It’s all part of the hustle + charm of negotiating a classroom, rather like air-traffic control, but harder.

But what happens when, as with teaching, there is emotional connection and heart involved? What happens when each word you speak has an effect, and each action you make carries momentum that is being read and absorbed by the students and staff around you? Navigating that can be a treacherous journey. The guiding light is having clear ideals that I can measure my decisions by, always checking my moral compass. That, added with time, space, humour, playfulness, succinct words, clarity of thought, quiet sincerity, and even the “right” sort of heated anger that comes with complete integrity of the situation; these are all the tools required to figure out the next few steps.

It never, ever feels good in the process. Sometimes the problem-solving is fluid, other times it is as chaotic as it is emotional.

But if the chaotic, ping-pong path is lit, even ever so dimly, by a sure set of values, there is no doubt that intent and integrity, compassion, persistence, and time will win the day.

And when I look back at the paths I’ve traversed, the week after the dust has settled, it never looks as bad as when I’m up to my armpits in it. It somehow has clarity and sense if I’ve done it right.

Story-writing is a rather courageous way to be spending a life, and I’d have it no other way. A life of agency and momentum, over a life of bland safety, any day for me, please!

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