Come sit a spell

When I was going through the most trying and tenuous days of my divorce, I adopted Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” as my unofficial theme song. I’m not a particular Elton John fan, and “I’m Still Standing” isn’t even one of my favorite songs of his. But I liked the bold, defiant imagery of the title: I’m still standing. Hearing that title, I envisioned Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky movies or Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: characters who were repeatedly bruised, bloodied, and beaten but somehow managed to find their feet. As we Zennies like to say, “Fall down six times, get up seven.”

Where else would I be?

In the days (and now years) after my divorce, “I’m still standing” continues to be a personal mantra of sorts. At the height of any busy semester, when colleagues greet me with the usual “How’s it going,” I often respond with that bare-bones fact: “I’m still standing.” This “still-standing” philosophy reminds me of my Italian grandmother’s typical response to the same question: “I can’t complain.” Even if I’ve gotten four hours of sleep and still have a to-do list the length of my arm, I can’t complain: I’m still standing.

This week has been a proverbial juggling act, with my students at Keene State struggling to decide upon topics for their semester-long research projects, my SNHU Online students struggling to figure out the logistics of a fresh term, and my soon-to-start online literature class for Granite State College needing some last minute tweaks and attention. My mom once summed up motherhood with the observation, “When you’re a mother, someone is always mad at you,” meaning that you can’t please all your children (and your husband, and your mother-in-law, and the neighbors) all of the time. I’m not a mother, but I can say that when you’re an adjunct instructor teaching at three different institutions, someone always needs you. That’s not a bad thing: helping students is my job, so I’m glad to do it. But sometimes the proverbial juggling act leaves you feeling bruised, bloodied, and beaten.

So far, the three-ring circus called Fall Semester is going well: I’m still standing. Or, better yet, I’m still sitting: in the face of all those students with all those needs, I’m still finding spots of calm where I can meditate, write in my journal, walk the dog, or otherwise unplug. I haven’t been around much online, but I’m doing okay offline. I’m still standing, sitting, walking, and writing: in other words, I can’t complain.