Workload and anxiety

grass tree panorama

grass tree panorama

I have tonight breezed in the door to home with dirt caked in my nostrils and shoes, smelling of sweat and the Australian bush, utterly dishevelled after five days of Year 9 camp. Going on camp was important; it was an opportunity for me to get to know more closely my pastoral group, the class I’ll be travelling with on their high school journey for the next four years.

The group built cohesion and relationships across the week. Individuals and the team were challenged by everything from expedition hiking, camping, eating and toileting, to abseiling over cliff faces into caves, surfing big Margaret River swell, and completing a high ropes course.

I recognise the significance of the week of camping for my students, while simultaneously trying to quell the rising panic that comes from a week away, ‘out of the office’. Not only was it a lot of work to prepare to be away—planning a week’s worth of lessons and resources, shopping and packing for camp, making sure the things required for our house sale-and-purchase were in order before I left, getting through the Famous Five novel I’ve been reading with my kids—but I’m returning to being (at least) a week behind my work.

Yes, lessons will have been taught while I’ve been away, but the double pile of marking I left behind wasn’t marked by marking fairies while I was away (darn those marking fairies; never there for you when you really need them!). Deadlines remain as they were, despite me being unable to make progress for a week (although I did take a notebook on which to scribble ideas). I feel in debit with my family, like I need to spend extra time with my kids and husband, like I somehow owe ‘extra’ because I left them for five days.

So I am feeling behind in my work and behind at home. I am pulled between the tension of wanting to do the right thing at home by immersing myself in time with my family; to do the right thing by work by catching up on marking, policy-writing and strategic project implementation plans; and to do the right thing by myself by painting my chipped toenails, exercising my aching body and finding time for solitude and seeing friends.

Workload and homeload as a working parent are always a tricky balance that can easily tip on their delicate axes. While I currently feel sucked into a vortex of mild anxiety, I know rationally that I will catch up. Sometime, I will catch up. In the meantime, I’ll breathe, do my best with the time I have available, and remember some of the stunning vistas I enjoyed while on camp in the West Aussie great outdoors.

my home for the week

my home for the week

Redgate Beach

Redgate Beach

abseiling into Brides Cave

abseiling into Brides Cave

Karri forrest

Escaping the machine in nature: #PrayforNice

For I have learned to look on nature, not as in the hour of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes the still, sad music of humanity. ~ William Wordsworth

my fave wellies, Hunters bought in London

This week I attended and presented at the Heroism Science conference, one that presented theoretical and practical exploration of acts of heroism and ways of being heroic. But it also looked at how our neoliberal world works against heroism and instead promotes individualistic narcissistic egocentricity rather than noble purpose and common good.

And then days later was news of the Nice terror attack, an antithesis to heroic behaviour. I have small children at home who are too young to listen to news of atrocities committed by people on other people. I don’t watch the 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock news. If I’m driving with my children in the car I turn the volume off if the news comes on the radio. I pick up a lot of my news on Twitter during the day and sometimes catch up in the evening.

This week we went far from televisions and 24/7 commentary. It has been school holidays for me and the small people in my life, so we have gone outdoors.

Into nature we went.

My husband always tells our children, “Explorers take their time.”

We went slowly and deliberately.

We haven’t been hunting Pokemon but we have been chasing muddy adventure.

We went outside to embrace the wintry outdoors and walk, ride, dig.

Curl fingers and toes in mud.

Fill our ears with the roaring of oceans and waterfalls.

Fill our senses with aromas of gumtrees and wet leaves.

Crowd out the noise with silence and stillness and nature.

I know escape doesn’t help the world to be a less frightening place. The world continues to be one in which terror attacks now have a familiar news cycle and even more familiar internet memes. One in which beacons of racism and xenophobia are an accepted part of the Western political landscape. One in which the ordinary person can’t comprehend their reality let alone see a way to enact meaningful change. But it helps us to ground ourselves in the world and be present, as human beings rather than human doings.

As a parent, teacher, coach and school leader my hope is that I can have an impact on helping people find the best versions of themselves. Kind, thoughtful, even heroic selves who work towards a better world. As a researcher my hope is that I can be a disruptive cog in the neoliberal machine, challenging from the inside systems that value self-interest, profit and metrics over equity, ethics and freedom. I aspire to find a balance between working with systems that exist and ethical activism.

As an antidote to images and words of violence and terror, here are some of our grounding moments in the natural world this week.

by Deborah Netolicky

by Deborah Netolicky

by Deborah Netolicky

by Deborah Netolicky

by Deborah Netolickyby Deborah Netolicky

by Deborah Netolickyby Deborah Netolickyby Deborah Netolicky