Yesterday we went grocery shopping at a store about five blocks away from the school where I worked for so many years. As I scanned shelves for mild salsa, I scanned the aisles for small people I might know. I wanted to see someone and I absolutely didn’t.
I would like to say I don’t avoid the area, but that wouldn’t be true. I don’t exactly avoid. I just work at finding reasons to not go that way. It’s too raw. It hurts to miss it. I wrestle with rushes of guilt. Rushes that come at me and then quickly fade away. Like ferocious stormy waves. Crashing in and instantly receding. Leaving me doused and sputtering. Checking to make sure I am on solid ground.
I had necessary reasons to leave. I mostly believe myself when I insist that that makes it okay. I stayed for more than two decades. Leaving to get away from poverty, to get away from hard, to seek refuge from trauma – those things were never going to be my reasons.
And they weren’t.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize when I have walked through a day without the intensity that deep inner city teaching brings. I feel the absence of pain. I am aware of my new found calm. I am deeply conscious of the pure ease of things that were never ever easy.
Sometimes, I just am aware.
Sometimes the guilt comes.
Soon, I think, I will be able to write about the differences. How it is really so very hard there. Hard to support the children. Hard to do the necessary work.
Not hard to love them. Not hard to care. Not hard to give everything.
Hard to bear witness. Hard to know. Just hard.
I miss it desperately. And, I am at a place where I am happy. Not happier. Happy different.
Recognizing the happy has been all about light. But it has activated the guilt. I thought I gave it away. Left it at least.
This is now the haunting.
I am letting myself feel it. It’s not scary. It’s full of remembering. Remembering all of it like it never really happened but at the same time like I am right there in it. It’s an enchanting, exhausting process.
This sometimes guilt is washing away. It won’t be here long.
It’s like how mud from a strong rainstorm is a mucky mess and then it gives way to beautiful.
I am almost at the beautiful.
But today, there has been a lot of pacing about in the mud.
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.