There's something in the way she moves...

written on 17 March 2020

I was going to write about my first day of work as an English teacher, or about my first week, or about my first two, but now much of the world is in "lockdown" mode or "social-distancing" because of the Coronavirus and a lot more is swirling besides learning to navigate a new job.
capturando los pensamientos a mano

I am also writing this by hand initially because being locked into a screen felt like too much tonight. I needed some distance from the electronic drain.

I started thinking today about the effects a world event like this has on us as emotional individuals. Something Michelle D'Avella of Pushing Beauty said in her email newsletter made me think that maybe the exhaustion I felt mid-afternoon (partway through a day that wasn't particularly stressful) and the light headache developing in my temples and behind my right eye weren't mine alone. Maybe some of this is in the airwaves. And I decided to give myself and my body what we needed. This turned out to be slowing down, rather than forcing myself through lesson planning quickly in order to have a "stress-free evening." Slowing down, taking a nap, using my hands to make some simple pieces of art for some bare spots in my room, spacing out lesson planning and grading to the moments when it felt more easeful, saying no to a request to sub some classes tomorrow because I knew I would need that time to plan for classes I already have, getting off the devices for awhile, and finally getting into bed to write this.

I feel a bit self-indulgent about writing this to post because it is about me and how I am feeling this week, and in all the chaos of this world right now my smaller world has been relatively untouched. (I pray it continues that way as I pray that the people more affected than I find health, help, strength, and peace.) But I also would tell anyone else that it is important to acknowledge and honor our own experience while also keeping perspective in relation to the world. So I am trying to extend that same permission to myself.

In Madrid we have been on "lockdown" since the government announced an estado de alarma on Saturday. This means we are only allowed to leave the house for eight reasons, which include to visit a grocery store, pharmacy, to go to work (if your work is still open), and five more reasons I don't remember because they wouldn't apply to me. I had stocked up on groceries on Friday, so I haven't been out yet. The estado de alarma is set to last fifteen days, though I think it is highly likely that it will be extended beyond that. The number of cases and deaths here in Spain grew quickly in the days leading up to the lockdown.

Also starting Saturday, each night at a specific time (originally circulated via WhatsApp messages passed from friend to friend) practically the whole city goes out on their balconies and applauds the healthcare workers who are taking care of the sick and working to find a prevention or a cure. I haven't missed it yet. There is a great sense of connectedness, of gratitude, of "we're in this together" as we stand there clapping and clapping. Tonight (last night by the time I post this), after the applause died down I stood there for a moment looking at the night and still hearing the noise of nearby streets that hadn't yet quieted, and my roommate summed up my feelings completely. Standing on the balcony of her room as I stood on mine, the living room balcony between us, she said, "es un poco triste y un poco de alegría." I agreed. Then, noticing the little dog poking his head through the balcony across the street and one floor down, I joked that he heard the applause and was asking, "¿Qué está pasando?"  And she laughingly replied, "Como todo el mundo."

I am very grateful that I don't live alone during all of this. And that I get along so well with my roommate. We only speak Spanish together, and we joke and laugh a lot when we meet in the kitchen in our breaks between both of us working from home. We are lucky that our jobs allow us to work online. Indeed the English language academy I started working for two and a half weeks ago has gone entirely online for the time being (starting this week). So I have added "also online" to the end of the sentence: "Learn how to be a good and effective teacher of English."

There have been times (both before and since going online) when I have felt utterly overwhelmed. Mostly by needing to prepare X amount of material for five different classes in Y amount of time. But each time it has worked out. I like my students. They are each dedicated to their learning in their individual ways.

I am working hard on allowing myself to be new at this, to not punish myself for not being perfect yet, two and a half weeks in. Things (specifically lesson planning) have already gotten easier. It was also helpful to my people-pleasing tendencies to write in large letters in my notebook: BE WILLING TO GET FIRED. This was not to say slack off or don't work hard, but rather to say, keep balance in my life: work hard but don't kill myself for this, and accept that it will continue to be a growing and learning process. And if that isn't "good enough," well the worst thing they can do is fire me.

I can feel this writing coming to an end (sometimes it feels like the writing just needs me to hold the pen and I'm not actually the one in charge). One more image first...

On the first morning of my new job, on the first Monday in March, as I stepped out the front door of my building onto still-dark rain-wet streets to a city not yet awake, there wasn't a car or a person in sight. Until a shiny white SUV, the single other thing awake besides me, chose that exact instant to splash a puddle right onto my boots and dress. Madrid to me is the She that moves in the Beatles' song Something. And in that moment She was reminding me to stay humble and stay amused.

Stay safe everyone. In love, Alex

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