Living for Breaks by Christina Knowles

To-do listToo often being a teacher means living for breaks. Fall break, spring break, winter break, and summer break—that’s when we will begin living again.

In the life of the teacher, particularly high school English teachers, but also for most kinds of teachers, breaks mean catching up on everything from cleaning the house to exercising. There simply is no time during school to do anything other than school work.

I’ve tried to change. Every year I make new promises to myself about how I’m going to erect boundaries and take time for friends, family, and personal interests, and every year, I get trapped in the I’ll-get-to-that-on-break lie. Here’s the problem. By the time break comes, I have accumulated so many things on my list of catch-up-on-break items that I can’t possibly get through half of them, and thus, I am sometimes even more stressed out over breaks.

For example, I have not properly cleaned my house in over a month, I have piles of mending to complete, piles of stuff to organize, the paint is chipping—all the paint—on everything, and things are breaking and wearing out all around me. I quit exercising about three weeks ago to catch up on grading and to get more sleep that I lost out on while grading papers and attending nighttime parent-teacher conferences. I quit meditating several weeks ago on Sunday mornings to plan for the coming weeks of school and to write tests I had to administer before the end of the quarter. I quit cleaning the house to grade papers before parent-teacher conferences. I put away the book I was writing when school started and haven’t touched it since. My poetry collection is waiting for me to finish the cover, but I said I’d do it over break. My fish are gasping for breath in want of fresh water, and my dog forgot what it was like for his mother to walk him. I have so many pictures on iPhoto that I’m not allowed to take another photo on my phone, but I haven’t had time to save them somewhere else. I need appointments for my teeth, my car, and my body. My hair needs cutting, I haven’t had a manicure in six months, and my summer to-do list isn’t even halfway completed, and now it’s fall break.

When you are a teacher and everyone knows you have break, they naturally assume that now you will not be neglecting them—at least for two weeks. Your friends, your family, your kids, your husband, and your dog all expect that now you will finally spend time with them. And I want to—very much. However, after I schedule them into my calendar, the rest of the list looks pretty hopeless.

Of course, there were even a few school things that I thought I could nonchalantly slip into my fall break schedule—re-reading the chapter I’m teaching after break, writing a new unit, finding an example paper for that assignment the students are finding difficult. Why did I think I’d have time to do that over break? Because there isn’t time during my workday, or even in the evening when I finish grading.

Some may wonder how I find time to write this blog? I find time because if I don’t write, I will surely lose my mind, and then I will never finish my list.

On a positive note, I’m really glad I realized the futility of catching up on things so early in my break. Maybe now, I will be able to cast aside my hopes and expectations and actually relax. I’m not sure I can, but admitting the truth is the first step toward tearing up the list. We’ll see. Maybe I can just put everything on my winter break list because who needs to spend time with family celebrating Christmas? Maybe I’ll start living for retirement.—Christina Knowles

Originally posted in 2013

Photo source: pieceofmindcounselling.com

Advertisements

“Fool” by Christina Knowles

Barren path“Fool”

I wander through a garden

Tall and green and dripping with the dew

The twisting path, the hidden

The way I thought I knew

Petals, velvetly imbue

A facile façade of innocence

But the thorny branch is true

The Judas kiss equivalence

The truth I never knew

The Pathos of pretense

I was fooled through and through

Mired in the dense

Brush, I construe

The twisted path is lost

I fight to make it through

The symbols I have crossed

The signs were always there

The realization overdue

A switchback won’t repair

A road I never knew

I reconnect and reassess

The lies and the true

The despair that I suppress

Is the path I make anew

Through a barren garden

Trimmed a bit too low

I walk along disheartened

For the beauty I forego

–Christina Knowles

Photo: Barren Path | by H. Evan Miller

Because of You by Christina Knowles

1524025_10202288016035929_699231179_oI’ve always looked up to you

It was so easy to do

My life is so wrapped up with you

You stayed home with me

When I was sick, you comforted me tenderly

You kept me quiet on Christmas mornings

With stories of Santa and gentle warnings

I remember late night stories on your bed

To Adventure Land you led

To a world of imagination

Your words an invitation

I read everything you gave me

A new world opened gaily

Science fiction, fantasy

Suspense, a genre tapestry

I always looked up to you

My life was so wrapped up in you

I listened to you play your flute

In your room, music took root

You gave me records that I still have

Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Chopin

You introduced to me to culture I never would’ve had

It’s because of you, I’m who I am

You took to me to buy my first good skates

You listened all about my first dates

Listened to my teenage angst

Put up with all my juvenile pranks

You let me come and stay with you

Just what I needed; I guess you knew

It was so easy to do

Looking up to you

You bought my prom dress so I wouldn’t miss the event

Then you managed to get Mom’s consent

Always on my side it seems

You supported all my dreams

Tutored me, and never disdained

The hours, the concepts explained

You co-signed for my first credit

Trusted me, I’m forever indebted

When I went away, you took care of my dog

Every week, you read my blog

You went with me to Star Trek club meetings

Conventions, outings, and club proceedings

My entire life is intertwined with you

I am who I am because of you

All through our lives we’ve had such good times

Remember when we went to Disney and stood in those lines?

We screamed all the way down Splash Mountain

Took our picture in front of the fountain

Universal Studios was such a blast

That trip went way too fast

A Hawaiian luau, taking in the show

An earthquake, a flood, just Hollywood though

We haven’t taken a trip like that in a while

Now days, it’s more our style

Dinner and a movie on Friday nights

It’s still one of my favorite rites

It’s no wonder I look up to you

My life is so infused with you

The holidays we always share together

Thanksgiving at my house, no matter the weather

Christmas at yours, and candlelight service

The Living Christmas tree and your performance

Playing the bells on Christmas Eve

Christmas dinner, and after— a movie

Sometimes A Christmas Carol

Or we’d see The Nutcracker Ballet

In our finest apparel

A Christmas Story once again we’d replay

Our traditions are so special to me

Sisters, but friends, especially

My life is so wrapped up with you

It’s easy to look up to you

A chemist, a musician, an intellect to admire

An older sister, a height to aspire

A friend and a confidant

You went way beyond

What a sister should be

What a friend could see

I’ll always look up to you

It’s so easy to do

Because my life is wrapped up with you

And I am who I am because of you—Christina Knowles

The Business of Dying by Christina Knowles

seidoryu       As an atheist, I shudder at the thought of a chaplain at my bedside when it’s my time to die. However, today I was privileged to listen to a truly profound and helpful chaplain guide someone close to me on “the business of dying.”

Shortly after being informed that she had very little time left, the chaplain arrived, and instead of a long dissertation on theology, endless prayers, or reading cliché bible verses, he merely accepted her word that she was confidant of her eternal life and moved on to the harder part, the present.

At first, I was concerned. He seemed pushy and inconsiderate. When he asked her what she was feeling, and she replied, “It is what it is,” he pushed, aggressively.

He led her through each possible emotion, explored them, talked about them, and acknowledged their validity. He said it was okay to grieve your own life, the disappointment, the lost time, the things that you will never be able to do, time with loved ones stolen. He asked about fear, not fear of the afterlife, but fear of the actual dying and fear about leaving loved ones behind. He validated all emotions someone might feel and empathized.

Next, he asked her what she wanted. He said she didn’t have to answer now, and that it didn’t have to be one big thing, but that she should think about that every morning when she wakes up and ask, “What do I want today?” He explained that he meant real things, good things like asking for a hug or asking to have a conversation about a memory or about what someone means to her. He encouraged her to go deep inside herself everyday to really get in touch with her heart’s desire. He said to not let these things go by undone. If she needs to say something to someone or just relive a memory with someone, ask for it. If she needed closure, to fix a relationship, or address a regret, she should have that conversation.

The chaplain told her that part of the business of dying was to celebrate the life she’s lived. He said to reflect on her life’s accomplishments, things she was particularly proud of, things she enjoyed, and things that she did right. He told her she lived a life that deserved acknowledgement.

He ended his counsel by asking her if she wanted anything else from him. She asked him to pray with her. He laughingly responded, “Is that what you want, or do you think that’s what I want to hear?” She said she did want it, and his prayer was beautiful, specifically saying that she was in control of her life and how she lived it to her last breath.

He was brilliant and profound, comforting and respectful. I thought, This is what a chaplain should do. So many times, I’ve heard the well-meaning pastor spout clichés and seemed more concerned with reinforcing religious beliefs than dealing with real emotions and concrete issues. I always cringed at the shallow recitation of the typical platitudes. Finally, a chaplain who knows what to say to the dying, what they need to know in their last days, what not to forget in the days to come. The compassionate and practical advice I heard today cut through all the nonsense of avoidance. People don’t need vapid dictums when they face the end of their lives; they need something real, something meaningful and honest to go about the business of dying. –Christina Knowles

photo via seidoryu.com

Signs of Life, A Memoir in Poems

I have always wanted to write my memoirs, the story of how I got from there to here. Perhaps, I just need to explain it to myself or to those I love. Perhaps, I need to leave a legacy for those who knew me after I’m gone. At any rate, I find that whenever I try to express my deepest feelings and my most profound experiences, I do it through poetry, so here it is, my memoir in poems.

This collection of eighty-one poems is a series of reflections of moments throughout a life lived. Some are joyful, some tragic, but all are heartfelt and real.

“Christina Knowles is a poet who is not afraid of delving into the inner world of symbolism, emotion, and dream imagery. Signs of Life is a revealing journey into the soul, a look at the inner self to which we can all relate.”

Available in paperback and Kindle Edition on Amazon.com. 

img_1216

 

“Dozens of Days and a Thousand Smiles” by Christina Knowles

24 in colorado (1)Dozens of days in my memory play

I can’t help but smile

Rewinding the slow serenity of those days

Reflecting on each fleeting mile

Each ephemeral year that goes by

The collected hours, passed time

The unfortunate distance we multiply

That priorities realign

Separated by a thousand small details

As time seems to stretch before us without end

We can’t quite make out all it entails

And what lies around each future bend

But I remember those days when

We could just sit for awhile

Sipping coffee or talking and then

Fishing on a still mountain lake

Camping at Eleven Mile

Swapping stories in the break

While time stretched before us without end

The wind blowing through my hair

Speeding through turns

On the back of your bike, unaware

Of time slipping by, unconcerned

I remember driving cross-country in the snow

Holding our breath through the pass

A little CCR on the stereo

Rubbing the frost from the glass

As time stretched before us without end

Just watching westerns on a lazy Saturday afternoon

Nothing but time to spend

I never realized life would move on so soon

I remember when you taught me to drive

And how to work on cars, to prep and to sand

Working together, talking and laughing comprised

Our minutes and hours, a lifetime spanned

Leaving me with a thousand smiles

Memories to tend

Images of dozens of days and a million miles

As time stretches behind us without end

–Christina Knowles

 

 

 

 

 

“Distant Trains” by Christina Knowles

Train tracks

“Distant Trains”

Though miles apart, the same blood runs through our veins

On different tracks, we wave, riding gracious trains

A big brother and a little sister, two branches on the family tree

Through time and space, you linger in my memory

Images of you from childhood wane

Faded pictures lovingly explain

A Christmas wish book and a Santa story

A moment in time, but not transitory

Because no matter the miles, our blood is the same

Idolized, a big brother contains

The wisdom and sweetness of reverie

Looking up to a you, a brotherly apogee

Distant the miles, but our blood is the same

We took separate paths, but love remains

Older, you spent your life far from me

Pursuing your dreams separately

Though through the miles, our blood remains

But on different tracks, we wave, riding distant trains

We smile wistfully

Sharing a memory

At times, we gather to reminisce, too often in pain

Through time and distance, love is the chain

In sorrow, we pull together as family

In joy, we share transiently

Because the same blood runs through our veins

And we’re never gone so long as to constrain

The feelings between you and me

Two branches on the family tree

Though miles apart, blood sustains

And on different tracks, riding distant trains

We smile and wave wistfully

Sharing the same sweet memories–Christina Knowles

Photo via Pinterest

“Nothing’s Ever Been the Same” by Christina Knowles

BabyValerie“Nothing’s Ever Been the Same”

The sun shone brighter

When you were born

The world got lighter

The cold grew warm

 

Flowers bloomed larger

Joy was realized

You became a harbor

For hope idealized

 

You’re uniquely independent

Curious and strong-willed

Resolutely ascendant

With dreams to fulfill

 

Somewhat of a loner

No one could tell you what to do

I’ve always known there

Was no stopping you

 

The world grew fuller

With you in it

Filled with color

And promise within it

 

Creative and artistic

And lovingly attentive

Empathetic, altruistic

Imaginatively inventive

 

Love unimagined

Began the day you came

Beauty happened

And nothing’s ever been the same

–Christina Knowles 

“Remembering” by Christina Knowles

I heard a melody so sweet

Sweet as the words you once whispered to me

A fragrant sound

A tender and unexpected chord

That at once lifts my soul

And tears my heart

A tinge of melancholy among the smiles

Suddenly invades me

Measure by measure

A symphony of memories

My whole being recalls you

Not a particular day

A certain event

But the entirety of you

Inseparable the parts

Existing in a timeless encapsulation

Of every sweet experience

And simultaneously

The deep hollowness

The absence of you

—Christina Knowles

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: