Its funny how our fantasies change as we age. Once upon a time, mine included dashing heroes, dramatic rescues and me as the brave heroine. As I got older, my daydreams most often showed me becoming famous as a writer/singer/actress/diplomat/chef (I have a good imagination, what can I say?).
Then there were the Mommy years. You know, the ones where I somehow managed to juggle a 35 mile commute, a full time teaching job, and three children. Those were such alluring fantasies, pulling me in and holding me close. I remember standing at the washing machine, sorting the dirty clothes while dinner cooked….my mind wandering to a delightful vision of me, asleep in a freshly made canopy bed. Alone.
And now I am firmly ensconced in middle age. I still drive 35 miles each way to my job as an elementary school teacher. I get up at 5:30, turn on the news, read my emails and Facebook, check some blogs and get in the car by 6:15. I turn on the radio and listen to political talk radio as I battle the morning traffic. Words, words, words. They swirl around me, flooding my eyes and ears. Words go pinging through my brain, caroming and zooming around, waltzing with the words already filling the nooks and crannies.
I get to work at about 7, and jump right into the day. I talk to my colleagues and friends; I listen, I consult, I plan, I read and write and chat and ask and answer. Words, words and more words.
The students come in at 8:15, and the real day begins. I greet each student with cheerful words, then bring them to order with stern ones. I use inspiring words, cajoling words, empowering words, reminding words. I talk, and talk, and tell and describe and clarify and comment and request. Phew. Words!
Three girls come up to ask me, “Can we speak to you in private?”, and now it is my turn to listen. I sort through the “ums” and “likes” and “kindas” to try to find the problem that prompted the request. I sift through the tangle of words, the intonation, the facial expressions, the gestures. I listen, I ask, I weigh and measure and offer advice. With words.
Lunch is a conversation with a parent, a consultation with another teacher, and a series of questions for the secretary. Words, words, my poor achy brain is choking and gasping with the glut of words.
The afternoon is just like the morning, with more stern words and fewer hilarious ones. Eye contact, touches, smiles, words, thoughts, pats on the shoulder, words and words and words! Words to write, to read, to edit, to circle. Phrases and comments to puzzle over, mull, ponder and monitor.
At 2:45 the last child leaves, and it is off to the meetings, conferences, phone calls and strategy sessions. On-line tutorials (WORDS!), textbooks to read (WORDS!!), emails to send and read and sort and delete.
And then back in the car, where the news of the day drowns me in more words, and I listen and judge and evaluate each one. I try to turn to music, but the lyrics capture me and make me think. I worry in words, I remember in words. I taste and breathe and drink in words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs. I am exhausted with words.
Now when I am walking in the woods, or turning the garden, or trying to fall back to sleep, my fantasies have changed once again.
Now I dream of a tiny cottage on a remote island, looking directly out to sea. My back to the town, the neighbors, those who would communicate with me, my eyes and ears trained on the wordless ocean, I see myself in my fantasy life. My dreaming shows me a quiet, middle aged woman with a job that she does all alone, every day, in a non-verbal world. Maybe she is a painter, or a gardener or a collector of sand dollars. Sometimes I see myself as a shaper of wood; silent, undemanding wood. Working with my hands, and not my mind, and not my voice. Working to shape something beautiful (as I do now), but working with a medium that can’t argue back. I see myself working to please no one else, in a place where there are no egos to coddle or anxieties to ease. No conferences, no conflicts, no challenging behaviors; no futures to touch or shape or craft. No sense of failure for having failed to find just the right words to get through……
In my dreams now, it is just me, without a dashing hero in view. Just me, the endlessly rolling waves, and a sense of mute satisfaction.