Looking for Light at the End of a Tunnel of Undetermined Length

I have often turned to fictional characters for inspiration. I have always found the final conversation between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Patrick Fugit near the end of Almost Famous a powerful conversation on the concepts of perception and reality. Today, I have found some motivation in the words of Justin Bateman’s Michael Bluth: “Just put your head down and power through.”

Not pictured: my bat, because I wasn't doing anything with it, anyway.

Not pictured: my bat, because I wasn’t doing anything with it, anyway.

I banged out a single in my final at-bat Monday night. It was my first hit in four games. Sadly, the rest of the team appears to be in a similar funk. I think we’ve scored a total of five runs in the last two games. This is 12″, slow-pitch softball. Five runs in fourteen innings seems impossible. And yet, here we are. I can’t speak for anyone else because I am not them, but man, I’m super frustrated. It’s not even that I’m making solid contact and the other team is simply making plays; I have been popping the ball up and grounding out at an alarming rate. It all culminated in a ground out with the bases loaded in a 0-0 game on Monday. I muttered F-Bombs to myself and if the dugout was not constructed of mesh fence, I probably would have hit something.

I don’t know what it is. I assume that I’m somehow out in front of the ball, so I’ve tried to raise my leg kick to keep my weight back. I also assume I’m under the ball, so I’ve tried taking practice swings exaggerating a downward swing path. I’ve gone back to resting my bat on my shoulder, then getting them in to the load position so as to minimize movement. That’s just the technical stuff. I’ve swapped out different pairs of batting gloves. I was so desperate that I wore my glasses to the plate and took them off while I was in the field for fear of getting drilled in the face and/or diving and somehow messing my glasses up and/or messing my face up. All I did was give myself a headache.

When I get into the box, I don’t feel right. Something about my base feels off. Now, I don’t know if that’s because I’m in a slump, or if I’m in a slump because my swing is totally jacked up. It’s one of those chicken-or-the-egg things. All I know is that I need to figure this thing out soon. Mondays used to be my sanctuary from the real world. I’d get one hour free of real-world worry. Now? All I can think about is how screwed up my swing is and how the hell I am going to fix it. This is not supposed to happen.

Sometimes I ask her to say something in Mickey's voice. It's hilarious.

Sometimes I ask her to say something in Mickey’s voice. It’s hilarious.

I went on a weekend-long retreat a couple of weeks ago, and while my sleeping patterns have returned to normal, I am still trying to catch up on all the grading time I missed. This logjam was exacerbated by the Thanksgiving weekend during which I did no work at all. I will spend Wednesday and Thursday night at school trying to catch up just like I did last night, and did last week. I don’t get to see much of Mad.

When I got home last night, she heard the garage door from the living room and ran to the top of the stairs. “Daddy!” she shouted. “Goobi!” I yelled. She descended a third of the staircase to meet me. I scooped her up and carried her up the stairs. These few seconds made my day. She told me about her attempts to learn “Silent Night” for her school’s Christmas program. She also informed me that she and Lynnette “beated” me home. I gnashed my teeth at her grammar but said “Yeah, you guys did.” But then it was time for business.

"Can I make a silly face?"

“Can I make a silly face?”

Lynnette told me that Madison touched Reid and later lied about it. Supposedly, if one touches the Elf on a Shelf, said Elf loses his magic. “Madison, did you touch Reid?” I asked. “Yeah, dad. But it’s okay, he made it home alright,” she said. “Do you know what a lie is?” I asked her. She shook her head in the negative. “Do you know what the truth is?” I asked. Again, she shook her head. I spent the next ten minutes trying to define “truth” and “lies” while providing examples. I also included that she should not lie to Lynnette and I. This was the most difficult lesson I would give all day, more trying even, than trying to explain to 16-year olds how to incorporate the function and effects of imagery in a thesis paragraph arguing for the central message within a Shakespearean sonnet. That was cake compared to this.

I realized a few minutes in that truth and untruth were concepts she wasn’t ready to handle, so I had to substitute in the word “real.” “The truth,” I said, “Is something real.” She nodded. “I am wearing a shirt,” I said. (I was down to boxers already) “Is that real?” “No,” Mad said. “Good. So that’s not the truth.” “Okay, dad.” I guess only time will tell.

I haven’t seen Mad much recently. Al I know is that I can’t wait until Christmas Break so we can hang out a little bit. Sometimes I wonder about my job. The best part about it is that it affords me time to spend with my family that many other jobs could not. But sometimes when I am alone in my classroom and the sky outside is dark and I have two equal stacks of graded assignments and ungraded assignments, I wonder…

I spend so much time trying to teach and correct children who are not mine. Will I spend enough time to do the same for my own?


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