I never thought I would find perspective in a sink, but there it was, staring me in the face.
Stress causes anxiety, which releases adrenaline. Adrenaline leads to rushing through life. I was doing just that, rushing around trying to run away from whatever it was that was chasing me when I realized that I was not living in the moment.
I was thinking about the past and worrying about the future, but the present was elusive. Something as simple as a sink brought me back to reality.
I have had a lot of changes in my life lately. Some minor and some pretty major. Until last year, I had been working at the same school for 15 years.
At the end of the last school year, my school closed. It was pretty heart-breaking but it was going to happen so I had to try to come to terms with that.
This left me unemployed and grieving the loss of the work “home” I had known for 15 years. I had a little bit of wiggle room to figure out what I was going to do next.
I was feeling both excited and anxious about this because I wasn’t sure what was coming my way but there was potential for something new and big. I had decided that I needed to take a year away from the stresses of teaching. This would also give me a little time to explore my passions.
As the summer was coming to a close, I still didn’t have a real plan or a paycheck. I got a call from a small school asking me to help them begin their year. I was apprehensive but I needed some income and they needed the help so I agreed.
I had wanted to step away from the classroom, so the fact that I was volunteering to go back in left me feeling very nervous.
The more I thought about it the more tempted I was to back out, but I decided I could manage this situation for a little bit, I could do this. I struggled daily with the thought of just quitting.
Every time this feeling came up, I did my best to shake it. I have done all of this before so what was I so worried about?
I was being given a chance to do some of the things that I love to do like set up classrooms and work with small groups of kids. How bad could it be?
I began with the room set up, which can be a messy job. The more I did, the dirtier I was. My hands were covered in all manner of dust and dirt.
I went to wash them and was greeted with a push handle sink that gives a metered amount of water.
No problem there…until I turned it on.
It came out so fast and hard that it not only splashed all over my shirt but hit my glasses too. Ugh! I didn’t have time for that. The only saving grace (and frustration at the same time) was that it only stayed on for a short burst. I washed my hands as quickly as I could and left.
The next time that I had to wash my hands, I tried a different sink. As it turns out, that sink had the same problem as the first one. I had a soaking wet shirt, spotty glasses and soapy hands. Things were not going so well.
There had to be a sink in this school that I could use without soaking every part of me while I rinsed my hands. My patience for this was non-existent and my frustration level was beginning to get the better of me. There had to be a solution!
I decided I would try to use a more gentle approach. I pushed very lightly and the water came out in a much more manageable flow.
The downside? It was going to take FOREVER just to wash my hands. I was trying to get my work done and if it took this long every time I had to wash my hands I was not going to get it all done. I finished up and got back to work.
Each time I washed my hands it was a delicate balance of pushing just hard enough to get some water but not hard enough to get completely soaked.
Didn’t this sink, or the universe in general, understand I had places to be and things to do?
Who has time to mess around with a crazy faucet? Not this girl.
I was feeling anxious about what was going to happen in the coming weeks. I was feeling the pressure of time and I knew that, but I was struggling with the prospect of the future as well. I was trying to speed through all of my work, and in turn all of my worries and these crazy sinks were just sucking the very life out of me.
AHHHHH, I just wanted to wash my hands for goodness sake. Not bathe or spend a day at the sink! Something had to give.
As I stood there, finally giving in to the spray of the faucet and just getting the hand washing done, it occurred to me that maybe I was fighting something that did not need fighting (the sink and the battle in my head).
Maybe I was rushing through the days, trying to outrun my feelings about all that happened. I was worrying about what was coming my way in the future. Maybe I just needed to give in and go with the flow.
When the 1st day of school was upon me, again, my nerves were riding high. I had never been more tempted to call in sick in my life. I knew I couldn’t do that to people who were counting on me to be there and help wherever possible so I dragged myself to the school (kicking and screaming in my head, but I went anyway).
The parents came, the kids came and the nerves came with them. I was making my way through the morning and things seemed to be moving right along, but I was running the halls like I was in some kind of race.
Eventually I wound up at the sink again (ugh, my nemesis). I didn’t have time to try to convince the faucet to cooperate. But if I didn’t, I would walk out into the halls of the school with a soaking wet shirt. Embarrassing, right? So I gave it a little time and forced myself to let go of the anger I felt toward that faucet and just slowed down.
I thought about what I needed to do in that moment and realized that I really didn’t need to do anything except be there, be present in the day and do the work I was hired to do.
It made me feel more encouraged about my situation, like some of the weight had been lifted.
The future would wait until later and the past is already gone. I needed to be there, in this new (to me) school and work with the teachers and kids. I needed to enjoy this moment of freedom that was allowing me the chance to be with kids and not have the pressures of being the lead teacher in a classroom.
I could help teachers in some of the most impactful ways and take some of their load, which felt very rewarding. This was a good thing.
In a strange turn of events, the sink had become a quiet place, rather than my enemy.
Every time I went to wash my hands, I remembered to breathe and slow down. I thought about what I needed to do to be present in the moment and allow myself to actually feel the joy of a school rather than the anxieties.
Sometimes it’s still hard to stay present. Every time that I feel that way I stop, take a deep breath (sometimes while I wash my hands) and remember how much better I feel when I do just that.
Slowing down and just being there not only gives me peace of mind; it also gives me fuel to get past those moments when I’m feeling unsure of myself or the situation I’m in.
Longing for the past and worrying about the future only brings anxiety. Living in the now and enjoying the “moments” that come my way is what brings joy to life. That is the path I am walking, that is where I want to go.