That's the phrase that comes into my head--the title of that movie: "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". Except that it isn't unbearable. It's VERY bearable.
I want to write about this before I go to bed tonight so I can capture this feeling, the atmosphere that's in our house this evening.
My husband, a 25-year-veteran of the Indianapolis Public Schools, put in his papers for retirement today. It wasn't a rash decision. Or maybe it was. It's something that's....been there...lurking for the past year or so.
Things have gotten worse and worse in the school system: tighter and tighter requirements on attendance, documentation, curriculum. The behavior of the students more unmanageable every year; every year, more and more not a place for a gentle, artistic man who values literacy, art, culture, decency to other human beings. The school system, not as it was when we started, but as it is now--no place for him. Dealing with the students, the administration, the impossible expectations, the no-win situations--have made him tense, disillusioned, constantly on edge, cynical, yelling at the kids, the dog; distraught over small things. Jumping at the slightest sound; he wakens from nightmares of being trapped, in danger, lost, with a lingering sense of hopeless despair.
What to do? What to do? Still so many financial obligations.
This year, this week, it came to a head. IPS put out that it would put $20,000 towards a health insurance program to the first 150 eligible applicants to put in papers for retirement. We talked about it over the weekend, read the paperwork together when it came through on Monday, and decided against it. A hard decision that left us feeling weighted down and discouraged, so that when I departed from his school after our discussion, I drove around for awhile, just...absorbing the situation, preparing myself, steeling myself, for more of the same.
Then he had an encounter with his principal which belied the writing on the wall. It was time. He went down over lunch today and put in his papers. He was 109 out of the 150.
So now, come what may. There are part-time hourly jobs in our future, to be sure, penny-saving, cutting back measures on the horizon. But the lightness of being that envelopes our house tonight is undeniable, almost tangible. A great weight, an oppressive gloom, years of worries and concerns have been lifted from us. We are no longer waiting for some nameless administrator to indiscriminately dismiss my husband. We have acted on our own without waiting for the other shoe to fall. It's almost as if, here in our 50s and 60s, we're starting over. The world suddenly seems fresh and new and has opened itself up to us. What is around the corner? What is ahead? Who knows? But my husband, the one I married, the one I know during the summers, is back. Chatty, talking, laughing. I sat on his lap while we watched TV this evening. The world is our oyster, and come what may, we're in it for the long run, and we're in it together.