Three weeks until the end of the school year, and since we live on a campus, we can see the signs of exhaustion everywhere.
The students fluctuate between half a care and exactly zero cares. They can barely drag themselves to sport practice after school. When they’re not busy avoiding school work, they’re complaining about how busy they are with their one test a day schedules.
The teachers are showing their seams as well. They are in that mad dash to make sure they’ve covered all the essentials, and super tired of wearing their dress shirts and ties. The cool mornings and sun dappled afternoons are just too tempting to spend time grading papers.
My daughter is finishing her junior year. She’s a driven student who prefers to do more work than necessary. She came home yesterday, turned on Netflix, and entered the Zone. I could see the end of that series of events like one might have a sickening premonition of an accident. I predicted that she would rant and rave the following morning, mad at herself for not doing any of her homework, for not reading the assigned text, or rewriting her notes from chemistry class.
Usually I love to be right. But in this case, it meant listening patiently and with deep maternal care to the ranting and raving of the girl who didn’t do what she knew she needed to do.
She told me later:
I have all this stuff to do, but no will to do it. So then I don’t do it, but then I get so mad at myself for not doing it.
She’s just talking about homework, but isn’t she also talking about one of the deepest conflicts of mankind?
We do what we don’t want to do, and don’t do what we know need to do.
I don’t want to train alone for a marathon, but I don’t have a running buddy or three yet, and I want to run the marathon well, so I’m gonna get my rear out of bed at 5 in the morning and do it. I don’t like doing dishes, but I also don’t like waking up to a sink full of them. I hate paying bills, but I hate getting calls “gently reminding” me to pay them.
We buck up, suck it up, we march on. We do the homework, read the assignment, pay the bills. We show kindness when we’d rather jump in line or cut off other drivers. We don’t speak the hurtful words. We measure, constantly we measure and weigh and calculate the cost of every action, and assess its worth.
It’s worth it to me to train, so I’ll train the way I have to train. It’s worth it to her to get the work done, so she will. We put aside the short term pleasure for the long term gain. And soon, she’ll be sitting outside, in the sunshine, reading a book for pleasure. And soon, I’ll be running across the finish line.