We are a good solid six weeks back into school. A good month and a half of getting back into routine and a good month of catching every stinking germ that goes through a school of 400 kids aged 5-11. I know our locality isn’t the only that’s been hit hard with the viruses, but it seems early for as many kids as have barfed in class or the lunchroom, sneezed on me and wiped a snotty hand on my pants or shirt as I help them.
So last weekend, as I crawled into bed at 8:30 on Friday night, exhausted and achy, I laid my congested head down and silently apologized to all the dirty places in my home that were not going to get attention that weekend and wandered through that doorway in my mind that takes me to another place.
Many years ago, in junior high, I read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber for the first time. I remember a distinct discomfit at how well I, a fourteen year old girl, understood this pitiful man. I was alarmed that an adult would need to escape in their head, indeed, I was looking forward to adulthood and the opportunity to live in the real world. It never occurred to me that it was a comedic short story.
Fast forward a few decades and there I sat on another Sunday evening, having spent most of the weekend living in my own head. Knowing, in part, that it was because I’d been unwell, and in part because I spend so much of my week in face to face contact with kids, teachers and bosses, and it takes a lot out of me. But as I took a hot shower, I felt my throat close, felt the tears burn as I wondered if I’d ever allow myself to live out loud again.
Until recently, I thought it was how most people coped. I was sure everybody thought about their actions, played out every possible scenario in their heads, practiced their conversations, indulged in their fantasies, all in their own heads before acting on them. Imagine my surprise when I realized, no, most people simply do what they want, say what they want, when they want. It’s shocking!
I’ve done that twice. Two periods in my life where I let go and lived. The first was a complete disaster, a nervous breakdown, a move from the United States mainland. The second, while much more successful, showed me things about myself that disappointed me and sent me scurrying back to the safety behind my eyes. And here I stand, a step inside the shadows, biding my time, knowing the moment is almost here that I step back out of my head. Excited, nervous, trying hard to be patient, trying not think too much about how many years it has taken.