I have vowed to myself not to touch schoolwork this weekend. I have worked nonstop since the March closure preparing to start school at new schools, at new grade levels, amongst new artists and their teachers. I’ve planned for a return to school having a classroom studio, then immediately had to change plans to travel on a cart. There’s half a career’s worth of a classroom in my basement right now, and that doesn’t count the storage containers, flexible seating options, and decorations for the 3 schools I was planning to set up. Even my therapist had to firmly advise me to take a break at one point in August to fill up my cup because I would be taking from that cup in extreme amounts once I returned to school. I listened to her and began making time to walk outside every day.

A break. I may have not physically touched schoolwork yet this weekend, but my mind has been on overdrive. My school to-do list is on a loop in my thoughts. In the middle of the night, I awake and there they are – online LMS, stuff I have to print out or make digital, must make at least 10 days of emergency sub plans, what are the recess procedures for the next school, the list goes on. I’m a list maker, and my lists are too long to keep up with right now.

Saturday morning I noticed that beginnings of what might be a cold. It took me until supper to admit to my husband that I was experiencing congestion. Why? Because he’s also a teacher and knows that this year, in particular, cold symptoms are a major deal when it comes to school. Why? Because over the summer, our son was sick with strep, but he and his sister were both tested for COVID-19, and it was the scariest experience for them and for us. Luckily, it was only strep. Why? Because I’ve already been around hundreds of kids this week, and what if? You know….what if?

It’s Sunday morning now, and I’ve tuned into my church’s online service. I still can’t focus on the service alone. Church service has been offered from my basement since March. Our pastor lives just a 2-minute bicycle ride from our home, and my husband plays the hymns and reads the scripture during the Zoom service. Hopefully next week, technology will allow them to broadcast from the church building for the first time in months.

This year my aunt and I were going to be teaching at the same buildings. It was her last year before retirement. We actually would have been sharing the same classroom space….for storage of all of our awesome supplies, of course. She, like other itinerants at the elementary level, would have been a traveling teacher like me, given the current circumstances. She decided to retire. Our district extended the retirement deadline, and this gave her the opportunity to remain safe and healthy at home. My grandmother lives with her, and her health factored into this decision, too. Today is a surprise retirement party for her at their campsite. Until this morning, I planned to attend, bring food, and celebrate. Something nudged me, maybe it was my tried and true friend, anxiety, and I let my cousin know that I didn’t think that it was a good idea to attend. I cried almost the entire time I spoke to her. It’s probably just the start of a cold. That’s what it feels like. I want to air on the safe side. My 8-year old daughter was looking forward to celebrating with our family, and seeing her cousin of the same age for some much needed bff time. When I broke the news to her, she spiraled into uncontrollable crying. I had ruined her life. What is it going to be like when she’s a teenager?

I know that I am not alone. I am not the only woman, mother, or wife, who backed out of a commitment at the last moment because of not feeling well. I would have gone had this happened a year ago, unmasked, not worried, but it’s different right now. We’ve canceled family vacations, birthday parties, and have declined wedding invitations. Fear and uncertainty are driving me crazy.

Well, I broke my vow to take the entire weekend to relax from schoolwork. I couldn’t help myself. It’s Monday, Labor Day, and I’ve definitely done some advocating for supply donations to somehow create individualized art kits to make creating a little more robust for my artists. Tomorrow morning is the beginning of our second week back to school. For me, I have 3 more 1st days of new-to-me artists. I am feeling better after a weekend of rest and cold medicine to prevent whatever was stirring in my body.