Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jokes That Aren't Funny


At the end of staff meeting, I got up saying that I didn't want to talk about the future. The meeting was over and people had moved to gloom and doom talk about the future of our school and our jobs. None of it sounded good and I really did want to flee from the talk, but I kept my voice light, tried to sound as though I was joking. Others started out of the room as well. My joke had worked. Escape was at hand.

A woman in the meeting who tends to "joke" with me about things that aren't at all funny said, "I know what your future is, Brian." If there had been a way I would have kept walking. She said that I will likely be transferred to a different school because one of their teachers is leaving. I've known that the teacher was leaving, but kept it to myself. I had come to the same conclusion that I will likely be moved. It makes sense, but I don't really want it to happen. Adjusting to a new job is tiring and not something I'm interested in doing. She knows that and just wanted to see how I would react.

What she doesn't know is that I'm learning the art of acceptance.

Earlier today a kid asked how I stay cool when a kid goes off. I said, put your hand up. Have someone put their hand against yours. Push a little. What happens? They push back. When they do, what do you do? You push back. I'm learning to not push back. He asked, "isn't that just surrendering?" It can be seen that way, but surrender isn't always a bad thing. It's tough to fight someone who surrenders. Besides, allowing my hand to be pushed lets me concentrate on something more important: balance. My hand is moved but I remain balanced.

The woman at the meeting pushed, hoping I would push back. I wanted to, but I didn't. I shrugged. She talked some more. I shrugged again. I breathed in and out. I smiled and said, "we'll know when we know," as I walked away.

It wasn't long before she sprang her other joke on me. As she and another woman left for lunch she said, "Come on, Brian, time to go." I have never gone out to lunch with them and likely never will. She knows this. She doesn't like something about it. She "jokes" with me about it every single time.

I told her to go ahead without me. As I said it, I was reminded of Naomi Shihab Nye's poem The Art of Disappearing:

   When they say Don't I know you? 
   say no.


   When they invite you to the party
   remember what parties are like
   before answering.
   ...
   When they say We should get together
   say why?
   ...
   When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
   nod briefly and become a cabbage

And most of all the ending of the poem:

    Walk around feeling like a leaf. 
   Know you could tumble any second. 
   Then decide what to do with your time. 

I rejected her invitations, both of them, and spent the time writing. I could tumble any second. Deciding what to do is easy: write on.