Friday, June 13, 2008


After a month or so of daily countdowns, today we reached it: the last day of fourth grade for the Monk. How can this be so? And will we ever stop asking that?

Monk has had a great year this year. He seemed to fall into his groove with making new friends, taking things in stride, doing his homework without much complaint, growing more responsible. He had a couple projects in school that he really poured his heart into. Especially he worked hard on his Mission Project, in which he made the case that the California Mission system was largely responsible for the destruction of Native American cultures. He made a very sophisticated argument in his essay where he was able to recognize that although some of the intentions behind the Missions were good, in fact they had some very negative, unintentional consequences for Native Americans. For a fourth grader to be able to realize such complexity is pretty remarkable, in my (humble mom) opinion!

This was the year that Monk's parents saw way, way more closed bedroom doors than ever before. It used to be we couldn't get Monk to play in his room for anything: toys were always strewn around the living room floor when he was small! Now it seems we can't ever get him to come out of his room for more than an hour at a time. Of course, given that our apartment is roughly the size of a shoebox, we're never really far apart. :)

I have always seen the end of school years as opportunities to re-evaluate things. And I've been doing that these past couple weeks. Some of that I've been blogging about here and there--about looking for ways to live more faithfully in a broken world. But I'm also seeking ways, living as an academic, to be more embodied. Or, maybe put better, to pay attention to the fact that I am a body.

Having gotten sick at the end of May with a pretty serious (and painful) staph infection, I realized just how much the stress of these past few months had affected my immune system. And I saw that my ability to keep pushing on, no matter how stressful things are, while good for the short-term, is not a long-term, sustainable lifestyle.

This past week, inspired by PeripateticPolarBear, I decided that I wanted to start walking to work this summer. (I would have started earlier, but needed to recover my health first.) Although I haven't exercised for ages upon ages, I jumped right in this week and started walking the three miles to my office and back.

I made it a day and a half (9 miles in 24 hours) before I realized something pretty important. That is this: not exercising for twenty years is rooted in the same disrespect for one's body as jumping in and walking nine miles in 24 hours. I wanted to be able to do it all, every day, rather than understanding that I needed to gradually ramp up my expectations. It's a humbling thought, to be honest, that I can't just immediately begin walking 6 miles a day.

But realizing that I can't do it all, well, that seems to be the thing I must be working on these days.

I took a day off from walking on Wednesday, to let my aching muscles get their rest. And then yesterday, rather than walking to work, I went to the Bay and walked briskly for thirty minutes. And that felt great.

Gradual change feels so much more, what? tenuous? vulnerable? less likely to succeed? not dramatic enough? But I have an inkling that it is sustainable change in a way that drastic change is not.

Yes, this is what I want to try and pay attention to right now. Small things I can do, not trying to change everything all at once, looking for ways to live sustainably.

Oh, and as of 2:30 today, I am the Mom of a fifth grader.

Lord have mercy.

P.S. Oh! Speaking of changes! Much thanks to Mrs M for generously posting code for how to use a photo as a backdrop on blogger! And also thanks to my Brother, who edited the photo so that the sailboat could be seen in the left margin of the page, rather than in the center. He's so cool.

P.P.S. The picture here is the view I have when I take my half-hour walk. Yeah. Kinda nice.


Anonymous said...

o, so true. baby steps. baby steps.

Songbird said...

What a gorgeous photo! I love this new look for you.
We're coping with the end of 7th grade and the nearness of a 13th birthday. Some passages just feel bigger than others, don't they?