Word Choice

Have you ever chosen a word for the year? It can be an anchor, a goal, or a touch point of sorts. Last year I chose “joy” which turned out to be ironic, but also a challenge to find joy amidst the year-that-shall-not-be-named.

I didn’t enter 2021 with a specific word, but rather more of a mindset of positivity. Then as 2021 came tearing in like a hangry toddler looking for goldfish crackers, I concluded a general vibe wasn’t going to cut it.

Balance? Hope? Those were good options and definitely applicable, but they didn’t feel right. “Relax,” I told myself, “there’s no rule that you have to choose a word by a certain date, if at all. Be patient, you’ll land on the right one.”

Covid numbers started rising and it was clear school would not return soon to in-person learning. As a teacher and a parent that’s hard news. Not knowing how long this new lockdown would last or what it would entail caused a new wave of uncertainty. Be patient, there’s no point worrying about things you can’t control.

School reconvened online and I adjusted to teaching remotely. Our family found their “school” spots and we gradually got into a routine. However, technology lagged, links didn’t open as I’d planned, I got booted out of my own google meet (more than once), and I found myself frequently saying to my students, “thank you for your patience.”

On a rare trip to the grocery store someone accidently bumped into my cart as he navigated the arrows and people. “I’m so sorry!” he quickly apologized. “No need,” I replied, “It’s bound to happen.” The shopper ahead of me in line shrugged and nodded her agreement. And because I am the type of person who speaks to random people in stores I observed, “No point in getting upset, we just need to budget more time for these errands nowadays.” She whole-heartedly concurred and said, “We all need to have more patience.”

Patience. Waiting without getting riled up even if you’ve been waiting a long and tedious amount of time.

Haven’t the past ten months been tedious? They have certainly been cause to get riled up. And it often seems like we have been in an perpetual state of waiting.

Patience? Now? Come on. During this collective trauma? Patience when I literally and figuratively have 15 tabs open at once? Now, when we’re navigating a global pandemic and a Stay-At-Home order?


When I was in grade one our teacher let us bring in records to listen to during indoor lunches (yes, I’m old). One of my friends had an album with a singing snail and I can still recall the lyrics (no googling necessary):

Have patience
Have patience
Don’t be in such a hurry
When you get impatient, you only start to worry
Remember, remember
That God is patient, too
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you.

My students need to wait for me when an assignment didn’t load properly or my screen won’t share. My sons need to wait when I am still teaching, but they are done for the day and why can’t I answer their questions and requests RIGHT NOW? Or later when I am preparing lessons and focused on that instead of the story they are trying to tell me.

Being patient is hard work. The more I think about it, patience is an excellent choice for this year. We all need to have it and we all deserve to receive it, too.

I need to be patient with myself. That is particularly difficult when I feel like I have too much and too little time all at once. Or when I feel I am in a fog and can’t focus; or I feel overwhelmed by the unknown. It’s easy to feel like a failure when a reasonable goal isn’t met and the only reason is “welp, it’s Covid.” I will quiet the voice who berates me “What happened to reading more and cleaning out that closet?” I can be more understanding towards myself when I intended to be present with my family, but the latest presser got my attention instead.

I’m committing to demonstrating more patience this year. Yes, even towards my husband when he saunters into the kitchen and blows out my scented candle for NO REASON. I will be patient with students who turn in blank assignments or don’t log in all day. I will have patience for those who are trying to navigate these past, present, and future months as best they can, even if we don’t share the same point of view.

Patience isn’t all we need, but it’s a start. We are mourning the loss of how life used to be and a future that is uncertain.

Be patient with yourself, friend. You deserve it.

Me trying to wait without getting riled up.

Hot Sauce and Sneaky Tears

Did she notice the tears welling up in my eyes? I don’t think so, she was very focused on her job. But they were there and I was caught off guard and quickly composed myself. She carried on with her task, oblivious to the quiet sob I choked back. Or maybe she was being kind and ignored this burst of emotion – she probably sees it often in her role at the blood donation clinic.

As I reclined in the lounger and listened to the whirr of machines around me, I did some self-analysis. My emotions had snuck up on me and it was unsettling. It didn’t take long to think of another time I was ambushed by my feelings.

Covid-19 has caused me to become emotional many times, that’s not new or unexpected. When I drove by the local high school and the sign out front said “School Closed” I felt the tears rise with the realization that we would not being going back for a long time. My grief for the students was logical. Telling my children we wouldn’t be going to Disney like we’d planned was hard news to deliver and understandably sad. Finally seeing my parents after months of only phone calls had me sobbing as it was twinned with the knowledge it would be months before we could be together again. Those instances made sense.

Then there was the time, few weeks into the lockdown this past winter, when I was at the grocery store. Covid protocols were still being implemented and adapted. As much as I craved getting out of the house, I found it was upsetting to see the realities of our new situation: long lines, two metres distance, and masks. This trip was different, though. I was more relaxed and felt less like a scavenger scouring the shelves during a zombie apocalypse. But then I turned a corner and there it was: the bottle of hot sauce I needed to buy for the soup we were having for dinner. And along with that were the tears.

No, I’m not adverse to spicy foods. And no, it wasn’t out of my price range. The bottle in question was the exact same type that a student in my class brought along in his lunch bag. It was the topic of many lunchtime conversations with my classroom family. The hot sauce made me miss those kids in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

Grief is funny that way. It can sneak up on you when you least expect it. The smell of coffee brewing on a summer evening makes me miss my long-departed cousin. Wearing a cozy sweater brings with it the sadness of the loss of my sweet friend who definitely would have loved it. Jellybeans instantly and unfailingly connect me to memories of my grandpa who always had some in his pocket. And hot sauce was a tangible reminder that I would never teach that group of kids face-to-face again.

I have given blood before. I have been poked and prodded and had medical exams. Needles do not faze me, nor does blood. In fact, the kind nurse hadn’t stuck me yet when I felt the tears gather. All she had done was take my hand.

It was not about the hot sauce, or the needles, or the masks, or the two metres, or the lack of human touch. It was and is all of it. And we all carry it differently on a given day. Let’s be kind to each other and gentle on ourselves.