It was hard. I kept waiting for an epiphany, or at least some information that would influence me decisively one way or another. It never came.
I found out where I've been placed yesterday. The job is not quite my ideal, but second to staying at my old school, it is probably the smoothest transition possible. The school is close by; I will have to drive but won't have to commute on any of our crowded and dangerous city freeways. The job is special ed: a different student profile, but a lot of parallels with my old job. (In fact, as far as I can tell, the funding went straight from my old program to this one. So it was rather obvious that I go with it, I guess.) There is a lot of I will have to learn, but I know what questions to ask because I've worked in a similar setting. It's also (going to be) a two-teacher program, so similar to my old program in that respect as well. The difference is that at my old school I was the "veteran" who helped transition the new teacher, and in this case the roles are reversed. That could be good or bad: if the incumbent teacher is as easy to work with as my former colleague, or dare I say it, myself, it could be a great asset. If not, it could be a giant pain. Still, I now have a reality to plan for, rather than an infinite number of possibilities. That in and of itself has definitely brought down some of the anxiety.
However, I still struggled and struggled with the decision. I'd turn things over in my head one hour, and think I'd made up my mind, only to feel completely the opposite about the matter the next hour. Wake up at 1am with one idea of what I could live with, wake up at 5am with a different one. I constantly asked Mr. Turtle for his feelings and opinion, but he seemed to have much the same conflicted feelings as I do. Sometimes, perhaps, thinking so much alike is not an advantage! But he took good care of me last night, doing all the chores that I said I would do one minute, then forgot about the next because I was so preoccupied. He cooked us dinner and made me Tension Tamer tea. I lay on the floor staring at AJ saying "But how can I?" Mr. Turtle said that he didn't think it was possible to look at the situation objectively, which is the probably one of the few things we can say with certainty.
I asked him before he went to work today if he had any final thoughts. He said: "I know you are strong and whatever you decide to do you will make it work." Then I asked: "Is going back to work full time, and retaining my contract status worth putting AJ through the transition of going to child care?" That was the question I kept coming back to: the one that was more important than all the others. Mr. Turtle said Yes. There are advantages.
So I called and accepted the job. I'm going back in September.
What else can I say? The decision for us came down to this: there are two ways to go, broadly speaking (due to the nature of this particular job part-time work/job share isn't an option), and we had to take one of them. Both options involve sacrifices and compromises. Some of those are short term, some are long term, which makes it more complicated because it's harder to understand the long term consequences of an action. But there wasn't an overpowering moral imperative either way. At least, the way we looked at it, based on our attitudes, knowledge and perspective, there wasn't.
There are many circumstances and events in life we have no choice about. Things are one way, or they are not. Events happen, or they don't happen, and we just have to respond to the reality. Sometimes however we do have a choice that will influence our circumstances, and I believe strongly that in those cases it's important to make the choice, consciously. I could have made this decision easier for myself, sort of, by relying on assumptions: "I have to go back to work", or "It's best to stay at home." I gave myself the space to challenge both those assumptions and many others. It is really hard to do and I do not know if I made the right choice. As I've noted before, the only way to know the consequences of your actions for sure is to act.
I know it's going to get harder before it gets easier. AJ will have hard days; Mr. Turtle will have hard days. As for me I know there will be days when I just hate myself for my decision. But I'm hopeful that this was the right decision for our family in the long term and that we will adjust and benefit from the many positive aspects of my being employed.
If I'm not wrong.
During challenging times in my life I often find myself returning to the poetry of Seamus Heaney. There's something grounding in it. Literally. Many poets look up for inspiration: light is clarity, spiritual awakening, enlightenment. Seamus Heaney digs in the dirt, stares down wells, looks for the door into the dark.
These lines are from the poem "North." In the poem the speaker stands on a chilly beach by the Atlantic, and communes in his mind with ancient Viking raiders (full poem here).
"the coil and gleam of your furrowed brain" - we perceive our thoughts as somehow separate from our bodies, but they are also located in our physical bodies.
"Compose in darkness" - in some cultural traditions darkness was considered necessary for poetic inspiration. To me this also says that sometimes we have to create, live and act without full knowledge or understanding.
"Expect aurora borealis....but no cascade of light" - There will be guidance along the way, but not necessarily dramatic epiphanies
"Keep your eye clear...." - Honesty with ourselves and others is hard, very hard. But with practice we can become both more perceptive and honest.
"Treasure": Treasure is the feel of AJ's soft flesh and weight in my arms; her complete trust. Treasure is every moment I have with her, and every moment I hold her in my heart when we are apart.
in the word-hoard, burrow
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.
Compose in darkness.
Expect aurora borealis
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.
Keep your eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure
your hands have known.’
- excerpted from "North" by Seamus Heaney
Thank you to everyone who offered comments and perspectives on my last entries.