Dear Shea,

Once we got to the point where we could publish your piece, I was pleased, relieved, proud. The sentences had become familiar to me and there were passages that lingered in my mind hours after I had last read them. And I told myself, this is Shea’s story. This story of bearing burdens, of carrying heavy loads most often for others, that’s their story.

Well, we published the piece and I went to bed. Of course I stayed up later than I intended. I went to bed tired and woke up almost the same way. I know there is a better way, but I’m not pursuing that right now. I’m not.

I teach Physical Education. I rely on my body to tell stories that children will understand and follow. I paint the movements I just described with words so my kids can see what it is I want them to try. I walk up and down lots of stairs in a day. Depending on the lesson plans, I may end up performing any number of stunts including cartwheels, handstands, or squat jumps. And yet most of my class time is spent moderating, guiding, correcting, comforting, cautioning. My classes are full of movement, words, expression, music – they are loud and busy affairs.

When I woke up tired (again) this morning, I remembered your piece. About burros, about being a strong Black woman bearing loads proudly and without complaint. Until of course, you learned different. That you cannot bear the weight of the world without attending to yourself, to your own needs for rest and recovery and all the things that belong to keeping yourself well. I told myself, that’s Shea’s story.

Until it dawned on me that I am doing a lot of the same things, not to the same level of selflessness, mind you, but apparently more than I can bear well. The more public I become in my personal disclosures, the more thinly spread I feel. An avid communicator, I like to talk and listen and dialogue and share. But 200 or 50 or 3000 to one is not serving me especially well, I fear. I’ve become one more megaphone among many. And even if I believe that I am using that megaphone for good – good people and good things, I am losing things in the process.

It probably begins with sleep. I certainly need more of it than I am getting. Less time in front of a screen would make sense. Fewer simultaneous projects, less multitasking, more time off, time away; more recovery.

I stay up writing because I want to be a good responder. To show people I care, I’m here, I’m thinking alongside you. Putting my thoughts on the screen can seem like a relief but perhaps that’s merely a mirage. Those same words could just as easily find space in one of several journals I have handy, right?  But those are the words that stay private, that have no audience, that garner no further attention.

Yeah, so I’m wrestling with this tension between being in multiple places at once and ideally with the same level of care and authenticity in each space. And now I am spent. Your writing helped me see it because I really didn’t want to look too closely. Although I’m still standing, still climbing stairs, running down the halls, running to the store, my days at full steam are numbered. I need to put rest higher up on the agenda and let it stay there for a bit. The world will not fall apart if I take my foot off the gas for a minute. Everyone will have more than enough to read and process without me tossing more words on the pile day after day.

I hope I can learn to step back before I get knocked back the hard way. Thank you for helping me to see myself in a way that I needed but didn’t necessarily want. Honesty stings sometimes. This is one of those times.

Healing with you,

Sherri

*in response to “a burro learns to breathe” by Shea Martin

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