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Skin Jumpy: Paths, Multitudes, and Compulsions

March 5, 2011

The five of us have been in a cleaning frenzy all morning, although the girls have been more in a get-out-of-cleaning frenzy, but we’ve established some order on this chaos. We’re in no way done, but we at least have an “Oh, at least they are organized hoarders” thing going on. Kinda. Mostly.

It can be a bit overwhelming when the detritus of daily life threatens one’s peace of mind (or the piece of mind that’s remaining). We’re adjusting to this whole both parents as full time workers thing, and while I’d like to say we have the hang of it, the reality is that we push forward one day at a time, doing the best we can.

One of the things I was doing in cleaning today was dusting and reorganizing some of my piles of books, and it struck me that my current interests remain in critical reasoning, neurology, psychology and medicine. My literature books comingle beside these piles, but they aren’t the totality or even the main part of who I am. We’re studying Walt Whitman these two weeks in American Literature, and while perhaps there’s a hint of hubris when he writes, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes,” there’s also a bit of truth to this idea that we are, as individuals, often difficult to contain, to confine, to label.

We do contain multitudes (although perhaps not multiples), and we can feel a bit stretched at times because of this. I don’t have all the time I’d like to have to pursue various interests or serial obsessions, and it makes me, quite frankly, skin jumpy when I don’t get to things I need want to do. I suppose, then, that I can understand my middle child’s tendency to be skin jumpy quite well. As  I wrote in a post Thursday, I can, unfortunately, relate all-too-well to her tendency to overthink, to obsess, to be twisted with anxiety.

And there aren’t any easy answers; there are no quick fixes, or I’d have taken care of my quirkier, more uncomfortable bits long ago. There is, however, acceptance, that these quirks, these rough edges, make me who I am, and that these traits, no matter how uncomfortable, actually work to make me the conscientious, dedicated pain-in-the-ass  person I am. I read the other day that if you want something done right, give it to the OCD  person, which makes sense (I do not have OCD; I’m just really intense and focused, that’s all, and I have a hard time letting things go, dog-with-a-bone, you know?).  If I have work to do, I need to get it done now, not later. It’s a handy way to be, as I’m prepared, often sooner and better than I need to be. I think that pays off in the classroom, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable at times when I have months before classes begin and even if  it’s ridiculous that I can’t use breaks as breaks. I’ve got work to do on some of my quirks; I freely admit that.

But back to the dusting, the multitudes within us: the books that piled together near my bed and near my chair indicate that there’s a significant bifurcation in what I now do full-time as a career and where my mind is when I’m not in English instructor mode, although I do find ways to integrate the two.

If you’ve been reading me for awhile, you know that I had gone back to school in 2009 to get a BSN in nursing and was working on the prerequisites at the time I was hired full-time this last fall, and I had to make a huge and fast decision on paths and whether I could go down both paths at the same time. I let the nursing path go, and it was the right decision for a variety of reasons. I love what I do; I am teaching where I want to teach and what I want to teach, and it really does make me happy. It also holds the power to make me unhappy, tremendously, when I worry about those issues that crop up like attendance, participation, cooperation, and other things and  it can tie me in knots.

It’s one of them quirks; if I’m involved, if I’m invested, I’m all the way invested, and that means whatever it is has the power to really shape how I feel. I don’t think I can change that, and if I did, well, it wouldn’t be the same, would it? I wouldn’t be the same kind of teacher.  So even when I restructure my schedule of due dates to give myself a break on the weekend, my mind remains firmly fixed on these classes I’m teaching, how I can help the students, what I need to tweak for the next week, making the experience more meaningful and productive for them and me. I chew on it, even when I’m doing something else.

Even though I’ve ended up exactly where I dreamed of being, there remains the fact that I’m tugged by these other interests, these other worlds of knowledge, and that tug is irresistible at times. I would be and do so many things, if I could. If I contained multitudes, I would indulge and it would be bliss! And in that sense, I am reminded firmly that the career I have, as an instructor, especially of composition courses, really is the dream job, as it lets me continue those other areas of interest, while allowing me to integrate some of it into the composition courses. It’s pretty cool, even if it feels I’m going to overflow, even if it means I exist in a semi-permanent state of skin jumpy.


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