Through the Mist, Through the Woods, Screw your Courage to the Sticking Place

I have this vivid memory of walking to school one day when I was somewhere around 7 years old. My walk to school took us down a short wooded path and across the athletic field to the back of the school. On this particular day, the fog was hung with what we in New England refer to as “pea soup thick fog.” It looked terrifying to walk into. It was dense, had no visibility, and was seemingly impenetrable. It was the stuff of fairy tales; it suggested that dangers or mischief might lurk within. My sisters and I steeled ourselves, banded together, and powered through. As we stepped in, it only seemed thicker. It was white, hazy, and felt damp on our skin. I looked forward assuming that I was in an interminable forest of fog.

But then, about 100 steps in, I looked behind me. Everything behind us looked clear. It was empty, the landscape sharply visible and hugged only by wisps of fog that merely whispered of the specter we had just walked through.

I was mystified. How id it look clear?! Was the fog suddenly lifting? I looked ahead again and nothing was budging. It wasn’t that it was going away. It was that once you were pushing through it, the parts you had gone through became invisible.

I know logically that it was some kind of optical illusion, some trick of the light that made it only look invisible. But, 7 year old me saw magic. And 7 year old me took comfort. By toughing out the path, we were being rewarded by having the scariness dissipate.


The next month of my life is going to be brutal. When I think of what I have to do, my chest tightens.

I left work at 7:00 today. I will be at school or attending classes each night this week and will never be home before 7 pm on a single night this week.

I have to enter all of my assessment data for the semester into the system by May 30.

I have 3 major projects to do, each involving tedious data collection and research and writing and formatting.

I have to actively record student thinking and then find time to thoughtfully and gracefully put it up on a display that makes it accessible to children and edifying to adults.

I have Girl Scouts every other Monday.

I have class every other Thursday.

I have a meeting til 6:00 pm every Wednesday.

I have a wedding on May 24th and a wedding on May 31st

I have no free weekends until late June.


I have to manage all of my behavior interventions and think proactively to meet the specific needs of ¼ of my class so that I can prevent behaviors that make me reactive.

I have to be thoughtful.

I have to be engaged.

I want to be fun.

I want to be kind.

I have to not be exhausted.

I have to be patient.

I have to come up with great plans.

I want to finish the year with a bang.

I have to run an endless list of assessments

I have to make sure my kids are actually taking something out of this year.

I want to have fun.

I want the year not to just run out on me.


I have to be (physically, emotionally, mentally) present at school.

I have to work every weeknight for the next month.

I want to be (physically, emotionally, mentally) present at the weddings.

I want to have fun at the weddings without having my head on stress.

I want to have fun at the weddings without time running by.


Suddenly, my clothes feel too tight around my chest. My heart is pounding. My head is spinning.


How. How? HOW!? How am I going to make it?


I am heartened. Slightly heartened to think that just 4 weeks ago when I wrote, I saw everything as insurmountable. And since then, I’ve knocked things off my list. Since then my kids have learned. Since then, I’ve managed to breathe and have fun amid the chaos.

Maybe I will be ok.

Maybe I’m back on the foggy field. Maybe the more I do, the easier the field behind me will look. Maybe everything looks worse before you set out to do it.

If I’m honest, that attitude feels too optimistic right now. But if I don’t believe it, I think I will drown in my own maelstrom of panic.

So for now, I choose to think, to believe, to hope, that soon I will be standing on the far side of the field proud and triumphant, looking back on the ghosts of the fog.