One pooped sinner
Life is no track meet, despite what people say. When you round the last turn in a 400-meter race, my guess is--not having run one myself--you're absolutely out of gas. What you pull out of yourself to gut your way to the finish line is little more than adrenalin. Physically, you couldn't go on--even if you had to.
But it's the end of the semester, and there's no reason to believe that my lungs have collapsed. The weariness in me--and in my students--is entirely psychological, maybe even spiritual. I've got nothing left, but my sheer exhaustion has nothing to do with an empty tank--well, with some kind of empty physical tank. It's got everything to do with a greater malady: I'm just plain sick of it.
And that's an exhaustion of the spirit, not of the flesh.
Yesterday was a curse because my students are just as blitzed as I am, and their infernal weariness--honestly, they wouldn't be thrilled by a theme park right now--just makes me ornery--no, more ornery.
I know--I know--there are zillions of people in our world who have it worse. I won't even list them because just thinking about Darfur makes me more sour.
I wasn't brought up with the traditional Christian calendar. People in the church I go to and the denomination I've been a part of for my entire life never talked much about Advent, this supposedly blessed period of waiting, waiting for the Christ child, waiting for the blessing. Advent is not part of my natural rhythms--spiritual or ecclesiastical or otherwise. I've got to be told it's advent.
But I'll tell you one thing--I'm waiting all right, waiting for the end, for the last class, for the last paper, for the last frantic e-mail from some kid wondering what degree of penance he has to perform to bring his forlorn grade up. Only then--when it's all over--will I move on. Only then will I look up. Only then will I see the dawn.
People used to say that the horses would actually pick up steam when, after a day in the fields, they started on their homeward way and, as if by instinct, sensed the comforts of the barn. What I want to know is, where did they get the oompah? Besides, even my instincts are shot.
Had I ever been a sprinter, I suppose I'd say that finishing the race is all a matter of will. You put your nose to the grindstone (how many cliches can you list here anyway?). Sure. You run through the pain. You hit a zone. Whatever.
Me, I'm fading, I'm dying on the last turn. The only consolation, maybe, is that I'm not falling back from the pack because the whole bunch of us have lost our steam, and, by and large, we're all sick of each other. Ain't we got fun.
And the only sweet thing I can manage here is to remind myself that it's not some alien malady. This transcendent lethargy is like a flu bug that besets the world with the consistency of this town's noon whistle. You can set your clock to it. Look, I tell myself, it's always this way--forty years' worth of teaching. Sure it is--every semester.
What am I?--some rookie? It's always this way. I've been on this asphalt for forty years. Sounds biblical.
There will be an end. A week from today, classes will be over for all of us. Hallelujah. A week from now, no more preps, no more stand-up comedy to get their attention, no more fronted happy face. I'll be home free.
Advent. Must be something like that, I guess. Waiting. Looking forward to the end. The preacher says advent teaches us how to live. Maybe so. Maybe someday, after forty years of wandering, this pooped sinner will learn.
Meanwhile, I'm not kidding--the tape seems a mile away on a quarter-mile track.