Cleaning Out

I keep blowing my nose. Wet, snotty, and gross, I go through two and three tissues at a time. My wife says I'm getting the cold out of me, purging myself of the virus. I'm not so sure, but the alternative is to sniff or let it drip, so I blow my nose and blow my nose hoping she is right. I have to clean it out of me one way or another.

In my classroom I saw a stack of folders and paper on one shelf, more piled atop the filing cabinet, and still more near my desk. I picked up the first stack and began filing. Half of it went into the recycling bin (which I'm pretty sure gets dumped into the garbage, but what can you do?). I did that stack, the one on the filing cabinet, and the one near my desk. I pulled old files out of the filing cabinet and cleared two shelves behind my desk. The recycling bin is chock full as is the garbage can. The room is a little bit cleaned out.

My plan at the end of June was to simply walk away from the classroom. I don't have much there anyway. All my things fit in my messenger bag. I'll wipe the computer drive, close blinds, lock the door, and leave the keys. Stuff on the wall will stay. The books will remain shelved in the classroom library. Student computers will lie dormant. Old textbooks, unused in my nine years there, will continue to gather dust. My standing desk will remain up on cinder blocks. I didn't think I would clean out much of anything.

Today I did more cleaning out than expected and it felt good. I got rid of things written by students no longer attending the program. I purged ancient curricula and threw away the three-ring binders in which they have slumbered for a decade. And that was that. There isn't much else to clean out. I still have forty days of work there that I'll ride out like the cold lodged in my nose and lungs. Time is the only thing that will make it better, but every so often it makes sense to clean things out, blow my nose, and try to breathe more clearly. That way I walk out of this place at the end rather than running or, heaven forbid, striking a match and setting the bridge on fire.

Already I'm kind of walking away and where I'm going is becoming clearer with every bit of cleaning I do inside and out.

Not The Hardest Thing

After the dentist I went home to my daughter who had had trouble with a hawk. Really. Home from school she found a hawk (a juvenile sharp shinned hawk according to a friend who knows these things) sitting in our driveway refusing to move. My daughter was supposed to put the garbage cans in the spot occupied by the hawk but you know how hawks are. I agreed with her not messing with it. No way. She went to have a snack while I changed into running clothes. I had just enough time to squeeze in a run before making dinner.

Ten minutes later I started jogging down the street. The air felt colder than I had expected. Maybe I should have worn the tights and damn, I left my gloves on the kitchen table. I hate running with cold hands. This is going to be tough, I thought.

A quarter mile into the run I felt rain drops. Big ones. Rain plops. Few and far between. Some snow flurried in there too. Wasn't it supposed to be forty-something degrees? Felt more like thirty. The rain plops came harder. The sky was dark, dark grey, like dusk in early afternoon. I had my reflective vest. I wondered if I shouldn't have grabbed my blinking LED lamp. I kept going.

At around three quarters of a mile rain really came down, filling the shoulders of the road and soaking through my vest and shirt. My hat dripped. That rain was cold, let me tell you. It went through me. I blew into my fists but was missing those gloves I'd left in the kitchen. I wondered, how long does hypothermia take? Surely longer than I'd been out, but maybe I should turn around.

I'm trying to accumulate mileage. I want to get in shape and am making a game of how many miles I run this year. I know the average miles I need to run per day. It's not many, but it's more than I had run. A car drove by and I caught some of its splash. I think the driver waved an apology. I waved back: It's fine. I kept going.

I ran through the worst of the rain and what seemed like all of the puddles. By the time I had my miles in the rain had slowed, the sky had turned a lighter shade of grey, and my hands weren't that cold. Maybe it was forty-something degrees again. My feet and clothes were soaked, I was beginning to chafe, and I was still cold. Then this thought came to me:

This isn't the worst thing that's happened to me today. This isn't the worst thing this week. This isn't the worst thing that will happen this year.

Cold, wet, chafed, tired, worried about hypothermia, my job, my weight, and money, I thought, this isn't the worst thing, and felt a little better. I knew I could keep going.

I don't recall the worst thing that happened that day. I don't know the worst thing so far this year. The worst thing didn't happen on that run and isn't happening now. I may never know the worst moment, but compared to whatever it might be most everything feels like something I can survive by putting one wet foot in front of the other. It turns out the puddles aren't that deep and sometimes it's not as cold as it seems.