- Melissa Westemeier
Winter doesn't really reach its stride until January, so 31 days of cold and snow feels new and fresh. February is short, plus I have a birthday squashed in there. But March. March, March, MarchMarchMarch. Wretched month. Too long, too chilly, too sluggish to endure.
Pandemic March is especially brutal.
In the spirit of fighting off the funk, I've maintained my commitment to Norwegian recreation by getting out to hike 3-4 times a week, but March makes the trails icy or muddy. I don't know if I should've worn my cleats or rain boots until I'm well into the trail, and then I usually discover I guessed wrong. We've had a few glorious days in the 50's, but I accept them with a level of skepticism, well aware that overnight it might drop to 20 degrees.
School is between-seasons. March means ACT testing, the end of term coming up, no days off and a bit of boredom because only dance team and robotics is happening. Everything else is off-season. (Don't try and argue that Math Team and Student Council is still happening, they are not spectator activities and don't generate anywhere near the level of excitement that a basketball game does.) My irritation at technology grows each week when I have to fumble with cords and plug in various components because without fail something isn't where it should be. Every single hour is a juggling act between teaching the in-person crowd and the virtual crowd and it sucks. I have to remember eleventy-thousand different details, like making sure I click "optimize sound for screen sharing" before showing a video clip to my class (and making sure the laptop is connected to the projector is connected to the speakers is connected to the Zoom...). I have to plan for today's class while thinking about tomorrow's class and know I've got the right handouts because when kids are NOT sitting right in front of me, I cannot change my mind suddenly about the handouts I want to use--unless I want to pause everything and email the students and locate the digital copy so I can email it to them or post it on Classroom. Add to this daily equation the random absences (gone for vacation/wisdom teeth extraction/quarantine). My brain feels fried.
The best part about teaching (for me, anyway) involves students working together, and this is limited between the masks and social distancing. Everything I've ever worked on to develop an active and engaged classroom has gone out the window (which I love having in Room 209, but cannot open because modern buildings aren't built for letting in TOO much sunshine and ANY fresh air) and I'm supposed to keep kids engaged without actually...engaging them. The COVID model of education looks like seat work. What my friends and I derisively refer to as "Sit and Get." I HATE worksheets and kids working silently and passively at their desks.
But I'm also feeling hogtied and my creativity for coming up with alternatives is as parched as California.
Don't even get me started on climate change.
My students seem to share my flagging energy and enthusiasm. They're as exhausted as I am, just as fed up with pandemic life, which combined with the usual itch of late winter and adolescence must feel terrible in its own way when you're 17 years old. It's the SAMEness of it all, and no end to the SAME in sight. At least for a while. A few months in the future feels REALLY LONG in March.
The weather's wonky, work is challenging, and I miss my friends. We sometimes meet up virtually and I chat with people at work, but it's not the same as hanging out in person, next to each other on the couch. We're all counting down the days until we can meet up on someone's patio--or all of our vaccines reach full-strength so we can go to someone's house. My only regular social outlet is the monthly Bumble Book Club meeting, which obviously carries its own COVID-protocols, so that doesn't feel the same either. Close, but not quite. I ran something up to my neighbor last weekend and when she invited me to sit at her table while she worked in her kitchen, well, I didn't leave for over an hour. (My neighbor J rocks, but also? I was SO THIRSTY for conversation with someone I don't live with.)
I've tried to find amusement (and improve myself) by reading some recommended titles. I picked up Jack by Marilynne Robinson. It was on everyone's "Best Read of 2020" list. Guess what happened? Seventy pages in and I'm literally reading the SAME scene from the start of the book. Two people are walking around a graveyard at night talking and not talking to each other and OH MY LORD IT IS SO BORING AND READS JUST LIKE MY REAL LIFE WHERE ALL I DO IS WALK AROUND THE SAME AREA TALKING TO THE SAME PERSON. (D and I have no conversations left. We've used up all of them. And we can't even go anywhere different to have the same conversation.) I kid you not, seventy pages in and the scene never changed. It's almost comical how badly matched that book was for March!
I'd feel kind of bad leaving such a crabby and pessimistic post here without offering some small token of joy.
Things that surprised me or amused me during this awful month (and how sad is it that we're not even halfway through March?):
Lovebirds (on Netflix) was hilarious and NOT what I expected. I thought it would be more of a love story and it ended up being an absolute RIOT of calamity while two people try to figure their way through a real mess of a situation. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani were brilliant.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (on Netflix). Julian Dennison (the kid from Deadpool 2) is a terrific actor and Sam Neill is a legend. The film had a Wes Anderson-y vibe about it, too.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (book). Five of my favorite writers wrote cover blurbs for this book, so I opened it with high expectations that were exceeded about 20 pages in.
I discovered these packets of tuna at the grocery store. This has provided an easy and nutritious alternative to lunch meat or peanut butter sandwiches. I feel virtuous with my packet of high-protein, low-calorie, tasty lemon pepper tuna dumped on a bed of greens and cherry tomatoes once or twice a week. Tuna does not qualify as entertaining or mood-boosting, but it was a good discovery, so I'm adding that to the list.
B took an after-school job as a trainer at a gym, so hearing him talk about working with the public is funny. He reads people well and has figured out quickly which of his clients need an extra push and which clients he needs to leave the hell alone while they take out the day's frustrations on a punching bag. G is just all of his regular quirky, sending me texts like "if mr r asks, i have a pet lizard. And his name is Lamar." Between their weird stories and insights on human nature I do feel like I did parenting right.
Spill it, reader. Share your suggestions to get through the pandemic grind of March.