Reset

Yesterday I found my notebook, the one I had been searching for since January. My work notebook: spiral bound, jumbo size, Ecojot—with an elephant on the cover. An extension of my mind, full of to-do lists, notes from planning with teachers, new ideas, and reflections on professional learning. 

It’s the perfect size to carry around. Substantial, with paper that feels satisfying under an inky pen, a visual cue for thinking work. I grab it on my way out the door, and I’m ready for anything. 

Had I left it in a classroom? At home while quarantined? I searched everywhere, but the notebook had simply vanished. 

I have a stash of these notebooks at the ready—I typically work through at least two a year—and I love going online to special order them in advance. I can’t explain why I didn’t just do the obvious thing and start a new one.

I’ll find it, I kept thinking. 

In the meantime, I had been jotting on loose sheets of paper, carrying sticky notes in my pocket. Two overgrown gardens took hold in my classroom—one at the table reserved for coaching work, the other in my remote teaching space, as I desperately sought to differentiate my competing roles this year. 

(Semi)-regular pruning solved the clutter problem in the short term; it did feel good to periodically throw away the notes in the “finished” category from week to week. However, this sticky note system left no trail, no evidence that anything at all of significance was occurring over time. Without artifacts to reference, there were no lasting signs that all the busy-ness of this year was having any impact at all. 

My thinking work was being taken out with the trash, and I struggled to find traction. Every day was Groundhog Day—an endless loop of so many tasks that were somehow never the right work. 

And then this morning. 

This morning I joyfully opened the long-lost notebook to its next clean page, wrote at the top: Week of 3-1-21. . . and I had a physical reaction to this very routine act, this ritual of professional life that I had been missing. 

I felt a sense of calm. I felt like myself, for the first time in way too long. 

I realized that all the frenetic note-taking in random places over the past two months reflected my own state of mind.

I know that writing keeps me grounded. When I don’t carve out space to create, I can feel it. What I discovered today is the extent to which some of my rituals for writing extend to my professional life. That notebook is a tool for thinking that anchors me to purpose. And in this year of so much uncertainty, I need visual and physical reminders of why I do what I do. I need artifacts of why this work matters, because it is so freaking hard right now.

As I started my list for this week, for the first time in a long time, I felt confident that I had the capacity to tackle everything on it.

Every day in the month of March I am blogging as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers Blog.

6 Comments

  1. Lainie Levin

    This post hits me in all the feels. Like you, I know how much joy and calm and delight the perfect notebook can bring. I surround myself with ALL KINDS of notebooks for taking ALL kinds of notes. There’s something so calming about bringing those thoughts and ideas together in one place. The RIGHT place. Thanks for this post. It made me smile. =)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Morgan

    I am right there with you, good Friend! I love this line: “My thinking work was being taken out with the trash, and I struggled to find traction.” The contrast between this and your description of the ritual that leaves breadcrumbs of your impact sums up this year for me, too! It IS so freaking hard right now. I’m glad you found comfort in the known and it makes me wonder what ritual I might have left behind that could do the same. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. aggiekesler

    You captured what it’s like to need a routine and what can happen without one. I’m glad you found your notebook! I have gone back and forth from using a notebook like you, to sticky-notes and pieces of paper, to online lists on my reminders app and Google Keep. I haven’t found one way that I can stick with for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nawal Qarooni Casiano

    Isn’t it amazing how cathartic putting words on the page FEELS? It’s a whole therapy in itself. The ritual is a gift. And your thoughts scattered across post its? I’ve been the same this year. I almost WANTED my thoughts to go out with the trash…
    So glad you’re back in action, all in one place. Onward!
    TY for sharing:)
    XX, Nawal

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Stacey

    Thank you Amy for sharing your daily writing with us. I feel connected to you, like we’re having a daily conversation. I so relate to having a notebook to capture thinking, process questions, name the work I’m doing. I can see some impact when I look for it, sometimes short term, sometimes long term. It’s a planning and reflection tool for me too.

    Liked by 1 person

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