Street sweeper with leaves

Around 5:00 this morning, I gave up hope of finishing the thick pile of essay drafts I’d promised to return to my first-year writing students at noon. Going back on my promise wasn’t a huge deal, as we did something other than what I’d originally planned to do in today’s class. Keeping these drafts another weekend will give me time to prepare a grammar handout based on sample sentences from these essays, so it’s ultimately a good idea for me to take time finishing them rather than hurrying through the pile.

Street sweeper with leaves

This marks that point in the semester when I realize there simply isn’t enough “me” to go around. For every one task I cross off my daily to-do list, a handful more remain undone. I have unanswered emails, unpaid bills, and a dusty apartment that demand my attention; the kitchen sink is filled once again with dirty dishes only one meal after I finally dried and put away the last overdue batch.

I sometimes think that teaching a course overload–full-time here, part-time there–is practice for growing old, because there eventually comes a point in any semester when you finally let it all fall away, like a gradually declining body finally surrendering to mortality after a good, long fight. Eventually, you just give up the ghost, throw in the towel, and let it all go. One by one, you loosen your grip on things you never had a hold on in the first place, giving way to gravity, inertia, and momentum–the inexorable trinity of Powers-That-Be–as you let things slip and sag into their naturally slouchy state.

Street sweeper with leaves

It’s merely an arbitrary preference, you learn, that insists upon perpetual cleanliness, order, and timeliness. Lines don’t naturally want to be straight, ideas don’t naturally want to be ordered, and bodies don’t naturally want to be slender, upright, and toned. Something there is, they say, that doesn’t like a wall, and something there is that prefers life, work, and love all to be untidy. Why spend precious time and life-blood fighting that inescapable Something?

We did something other than what I’d planned in my noon writing class, and I’ll finish reading drafts over the weekend so I can hand them back in class on Tuesday. In the meantime, I’ve re-learned an important life lesson: deadlines can slip, promises can break, and your own tight hold on your schedule can weaken, but life presses on regardless. Is the true test of any juggler the number of objects she can keep aloft at any given instant or the skill, dexterity, and grace she exhibits in retrieving a single dropped ball?