You’re only human

You’re having a hard time and lately you don’t feel so good
You’re getting a bad reputation in your neighborhood
It’s alright, it’s alright, sometimes that’s what it takes
You’re only human, you’re allowed to make your share of mistakes

Billy Joel – You’re Only Human

Lately I’ve been learning some painful lessons about cutting myself some slack. I have worked hard to teach myself to cut other people quite a lot of slack. I believe quite passionately that everyone makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect, and that people are allowed to have an off day. What I am very bad at doing is allowing that I might be human. I might have an off day, or even an off week. That I am allowed to make mistakes. Somehow all that generosity of spirit and compassionate understanding runs out before I can apply it to myself.

On Wednesday I was really struggling with life. Things were getting on top of me and pummelling my resilience until it seemed in danger of vaporising. And then I got an extra.  For those who are not familiar with teacher-speak, an extra is a class you take when another teacher is away. It’s often a subject you’re completely unfamiliar with, in which case you have to hope that the kids have some work to be going on with, or that it’s a team teaching environment, so the other teacher will know what to do. In this particular case I wound up far from my familiar domain of IT, and found myself teaching English.

As a writer, and a former teacher of communication skills, it turned out that the subject matter was well within my scope, so I actually taught the lesson, and I had an absolutely wonderful time. After they stopped looking at me as though I had 3 heads, (“What on earth is ‘That IT Teacher Chick’ doing teaching English???) the kids and I really got into the subject matter. With the adrenalin rush of finding myself unexpectedly “on stage”, I hammed it up and played around with the language analysis we were doing. I loved it, and the class was very responsive. Several kids came up to me during the course of the day and told me how much they’d enjoyed it.

It was a buzz of magnificent proportions, and left me feeling good all day.  That really got me thinking: What was it about that class that left me feeling as though I was flying? How could I incorporate more of the things that make me feel that way into my every day life?

It’s not always easy to be living in this world of pain
You’re gonna be crashing into stone walls again and again
It’s alright, it’s alright, though you feel your heart break
You’re only human, you’re gonna have to deal with heartache

It’s really easy to get caught up in the chaos, drama and trauma of life and forget to take proper care of yourself. It’s even easier to be so focused on taking care of other people, whether it’s friends, children, or people at work, that your own needs become invisible. I am fortunate in my friends, and there are several who don’t hesitate to wield the frying pan of enlightenment in my general direction. ‘Wham! Look after yourself, ok? Wham!’ And yet sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how to do that.

I think the answer lies in those things that make you feel as though you’re flying. I won’t always get the same buzz out of an English lesson that I got on Wednesday. Maybe next time I’ll be flying in choir, or playing the piano, or out on my bike. I might be flying at a party (due solely to the pleasure of the company, I assure you), or flying with a new book (come on Terry Pratchett/Kerry Greenwood, surely it’s time???). Or it might be discovering tadpoles in our pond. Sometimes opportunities to fly fall in your lap, but often you need to hunt them down, and that means knowing how to recognise them.

We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to hit those stone walls. But that’s ok. It’s learning how to get up again that’s key. After all, we’re only human.

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