Sunday, December 7, 2014

Heart of the Matter

The more I know, the less I understand
And all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again
I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my heart is so shattered
But I think it's about forgiveness
~ India Arie’s “The Heart of the Matter”
I’ve watched friend after friend (writing friends who are also writing teachers, adjuncts) thrown away by their educational institutions in callous and even shocking ways. I’ve felt blessed to continue receiving enough classes to make ends meet (by enough, I mean overloads, as many classes as I could find). Unfortunately, I’ve discovered this semester that my time of overflowing classes is at an end. I haven’t been thrown away like some stories I’ve heard, but I’ve been told in no uncertain terms from the various institutions that I work for that I can no longer have overloads, no matter what (partly because of lower enrollment and partly so that they don't have to pay adjuncts health insurance).
Even with working at more than one institution, this change necessitates changes in our living situation.
Another change in our life has overshadowed everything for the past year: Lexi going off to college. I haven’t written about it because I’m not ready, but the bottom line is this: I am thrilled for Lexi to have the opportunity to live and study in NYC. Yes, I realize that it is a normal and natural cycle of life for her to go off to college and move on with her life, and I support her and let her fly. However, it has changed everything for me and for Laina. It’s like someone came into our home and sucked out a huge chunk of life and energy and who we were. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through, and we are still reeling from it and working to adjust.
Furthermore, I am rethinking my career path. I’ve taught for over twenty years and have loved it. I’ve taught people from all over the world and people of all ages. I have a high standard in my classroom, which means that I challenge my students to see, learn, and be more. Not all of them like that. In fact, nowadays most of them hate that.
Recent feedback from a student (printed with permission): “I am almost ashamed to admit that this exercise has left me feeling maudlin.  There are actual tears in my eyes.  I feel like I have wasted so much of my life with unimportant work and petty concerns when what I should have been doing is writing.  I am mortified by my own lack of discipline and I can only hope that it is not too late for me to accomplish something I can be proud to say I have done.  This semester has been the most fulfilling bit of education in my life, despite the fact that I already have an AA degree.  My attitude has always been never to let school get in the way of my education because ninety-nine percent of the drivel I sat through in college felt like remedial classes for high school.  I just seemed to reap more from independently reading on my own.  At first, I found this class daunting.  You want a lot of time and effort from your students, much more than most instructors at this institution.  I am sure that does not sit well with some of your pupils, but I appreciate it greatly.  Thank you.“
Words and students like this make teaching so worthwhile. The thought of giving up teaching breaks my heart; however, the whole climate has changed for educators, even for college instructors, and I have been looking for full-time work for five years now.
Moreover, my high standard also means tons of work for me. This semester alone I have read over one thousand pages of student essays and many more pages of simple assignments along the way (both online and on paper). All of that reading and helping students with their writing interferes with my own writing and creativity. This past month (while in NYC and away from the computer, away from a screen, for most of two weeks), I realized just how much strain my eyes and brain have been under. The crux: I am exhausted and need a real break while I reevaluate and decide where to go from here.
Furthermore, my dad has recently gone on hospice. Again, not something that I am ready to write about because I still have so much processing to do. But, I want to spend time with him and be there for family right now.
Coming to Florida was definitely the right thing five years ago. We have met so many amazing people here and been blessed in so many ways. We have healed and grown and learned so much here, and we have had so many incredible opportunities.
Florida 2014
Florida 2009
I am deeply grateful for the friendships and support that we have found here. Words cannot express how much you all mean to me and how you have blessed our hearts and lives with your kindness and love.
I’ve prayed for clarity and answers, and I’ve written hundreds of pages of journal entries the past few months as I sorted out options and the pros and cons of everything. As I processed it all, a few simple truths emerged.
Truth #1: Something has to change.
Truth #2: If I only do the same thing/ask for the same thing (piecing together a living), then I’ll just keep getting the same thing.
Truth #3: I am exhausted from piecing together a living.
Truth #4: We miss family.
I don’t have the answers yet, but I do have the beginnings of a plan. We are packing up this month and going to Missouri to be with my family for the holidays and a couple of months while I finish sorting things out. Transitions are hard, but this is still part of the whole divorce transition. I learned in Divorce Recovery that it generally takes five years after the divorce is officially final to be completely settled again. It’s been three years for me, and I know I’ve come a long way in those three years and am excited to see where the next couple of years take me.
Going through all of this (the divorce, the move away from everyone we knew, the fresh start, the longing for family, my dad’s illness and prognosis, etc.) has taught me so much about the kindness of others and the importance of forgiveness, of letting go. I’ll never forget words that my dad spoke to me over twenty years ago, when I was the one in college. He said, “When it comes down to it, all you’ve got it is your family.” Right now, that is the “heart of the matter,” and I am happy that Laina will have a chance, even for a few months, to be rooted in family, rooted on land that has been in our family for over a hundred years. Nothing can replace a foundation like that.
This is a bittersweet moment as we plan to leave friends who have become family here to go stay with family we have missed there. I don’t know where we will be by summer; we may settle into life in Missouri or return to life in Florida or even begin again some place new. Either way, I am ready for the next adventure.


  1. May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face;
    the rains fall soft upon your fields
    and until we meet again,
    may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

    (traditional gaelic blessing)

    Love, DUG

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Jack. Blessings to you and yours!

  3. i wrote wonderful response but was too tired to rewrite when it went into yourself with an iron heart..Cancer is very very ugly ,,,

  4. "a whole new world.... a new fantastic point of view".... those are the lyrics that came to be after reading this optimistic blog. I'm SO Proud of you, Rachel, and your two Beauties!! Please don't stop blogging for your Adoring Fans. Love, Heather

    1. Thank you for your kind words and friendship, Heather. :)