A Beautiful Day

Thanks to Ofsted, the term ‘deep dive’ is being hijacked in Planet Teaching through frequent use.  Bless Half Term then for allowing a gasp of air above water and a helicopter flight with family and friends to reframe the ‘big picture’  before swooping down to get in some surfing  practice.  You can’t stop those waves but you can learn to ride them. Tomorrow I aim to be brave enough to do more than just swallow dive  the water; I may even be ready to return to school’s compression chamber and to master some professional deep diving techniques. Let us see.  Only time will tell.

Owning no more than a very snug (ok, extremely tight) wet suit, I know little about underwater diving.  I research it and feel reassured to discover that humans are not physiologically and anatomically well adapted to the environmental conditions of diving, but that various equipment has been developed to extend the depth and duration of human diving.  Apparently I need to adapt to ambient pressure and this takes time.

The older I get, the more I appreciate that time is exactly what is needed to deal with all of  life’s ambient pressures  – time to be in the company of wise people; time to actually listen to what these wise people may be saying; time to act on their wisdom.

The distractions are so great however and I wonder how non-teachers find time to calibrate their lives without the enforced boundaries of inter-term breaks.

I find myself in touch with more people than ever through the wonders of social media (which I love by the way; no putting this genie back in the bottle please) but it also allows me to hide behind a choice one-liner – I can check in to find out where a friend is, what they are doing and ask how they are – but technology also allows me the comfort of feeling too busy to make time to really hear the reply – to hear their reply properly without just hitting the ‘like’ button and scrolling on.

I love it this week when my Oldest Friend (OF – we’ve discussed this before – she’s not my oldest friend in years but she is the friend who has known me the longest) books in for one of our monthly telephone conversations.    She too works in education so these scheduled calls can surely count as a deep dive.

These calls can take over an hour but nothing is off limits during this time, and in her case, a lot of active listening is going on (after all, we all know Mama J can talk).  When whale-like I eventually breach for air, OF will reflect back on what she has heard – challenging, encouraging or leg-pulling which ever is appropriate. I always feel better informed after these chats.

With FD (Favourite Daughter) the same always happens.  Give my gal a bag of pick’n’mix and an episode of ‘Vera’ as a comforting TV safety net and she will readily unpick the last term as we sprawl across the sofa for a couple of days. (She also lives in Planet Teacher).  We text and speak a lot during term time (I have even been known to Messenger and Meme #don’tpigeonholeme) but nothing beats a good old fashioned face-to-face chat.  We can segue-way off, meet in the middle, cry, laugh, sleep on it, get distracted, stop for more food, take up again after a film and rejoin the conversation twice over two breakfasts in the best beach side cafe ever built. (I stand by my bias).  We are still talking as I put her back on the train to London three nights’ later.

My daughter is very wise.  Wise beyond her years.  She always leaves me with plenty to think about.  I sometimes think she missed the memo  containing my job description as mother.  I certainly dress like her mother (you can’t beat an elasticated waist on a jean, in my opinion) but she got my full maternal quota of wisdom and it is too late to demand it back.

Later in the week  I get a long lunch with BC (Bestie Cook).  We just never get to do this – not because of BC for she would make time for friends even if her kitchen was on fire – but because I am always trying to cram too much in to my day.  She is also a very patient listener.  BC allows me to talk with my mouth full to maximise our time together and I leave with a full stomach and a very full and happy heart.

To stretch the diving analogy even further ( I am an English teacher, so at least scuba along with me please), talking with BC allows you to scan the sea-bed – to walk safely, sharing an oxygen tank and stopping to note the minutiae under those threatening waves. Strange how those thundering breakers never seem quite so scary when you are walking underneath them.  BC attributes this gifting to her height. ‘Other people get to walk tall and marvel at the moon and the stars; I get to look downwards and to remind people where they are planting their feet’.

Last day of the holiday and FM (You choose) can see that I have slowed right down and by doing so have managed to unpick some of the knots I have been tying myself up into lately.  He doesn’t really want to go to the cinema and see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ even though he loves Tom Hanks (FM is more Scandi Noir than Feel Good Blanc) but he knows that I have been frustrated that we haven’t found time to see this film and that cinemas are already taking it off their listings – ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ is apparently more pacey.  FM secretly finds time to book two tickets and we take a leisurely drive to the cinema.

The cinema’s advert reminds us to switch off our phones and to ‘lose ourselves in the story for a couple of hours’.  I do readily, but five people walk out after the first 20 minutes; perhaps there just isn’t enough pace or the character of Fred Rogers is simply too nice to watch without cynicism?

Perhaps it is the way that Fred looks you straight in the eye (trying to be fully present to  feelings and needs) and says, ‘Just take a minute and think about all the people who loved us into being’.  Easy for me – I have finished my popcorn and have been been hanging out with a lot of these people this week. I certainly have no difficulty remembering those absent loved ones who shaped me deeply for I think of them all the time.  I am now feeling quite ambient and pleasantly unpressured. Thank you Fred; I would like to be your neighbour. Thank you for asking.

I am feeling so ambient that at the end of the film I sit in my seat to see the last of the credits roll by – I know I can Google to see if it is Tracy Chapman in one of the film’s soundtracks (I’ll save you the time, it is), but I am happy to sit and wait.

Strangely so is FM.  I am suspicious that he may have fallen victim to a leaky eye during the film and that he is happy to take these few moments to compose himself but for once I am happy not to comment.  Our mood is ambient and we are in no rush to dive off anywhere. I notice that the film has had the same effect on other people around us. People are still sitting in their chairs chatting when the cleaning crew come in.

‘Beautiful film, isn’t it?’ one cleaner says. ‘Sorry to dive in like this.’




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