Bibles and Cockroaches

A student told me this year that she and her father share a joke.  They kid with each other that on post-apocalyptic planet earth, the only things left will be bibles and cockroaches.  “Those two things are always consistent,” she nodded at me.  “You can count on them.”

I live in Texas, so it’s hard to argue with either.

When I first moved to Austin, my then-boyfriend and I went to the grocery store to stock our kitchen for the first time.  “We’d better get some RAID or something,” he said.

“Why would we do that?” I questioned him.  “Have you seen any cockroaches in the condo?”

I’d never seen a cockroach in my life.  Growing up in rural Massachusetts, I suppose it was just too cold.  Or maybe I’d been lucky.  But Bryant was originally from Baton Rouge; he was a more seasoned traveler than I.  So I agreed.

And sure enough, later that night, our first cockroach appeared.  And I realized that while I’m calm around bees and hornets, and spiders don’t really freak me out, and I’ve held a 100-lb boa constrictor across my shoulders, cockroaches make my skin crawl.  Maybe it’s the fact that they run away from you when you try to ambush them, or the way their little antennae wiggle and shake.  Or it could be that moment when you step into the shower, get your hair all good and lathered up with shampoo, and then turn toward the wall to come face-to-face with one of their crunchy, scaly little bodies, just inches from your nose.

Either way, my transition to Texas was marked by the introduction of cockroaches into my life.

And as for the Bible?  I’d never seen billboards advertising God before.  I’d never heard a State Pledge of Allegiance – nor had I experienced the changing of said pledge to include the word “God”.  I’d never been part of a public school that had a Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  And here’s the thing – I’m not anti-religion, or anti-God, or anti-Christian.  But I still experienced a considerable level of religious culture shock here in my new home state.

I’m coming to grips – ever so very slowly – with the realization that life is full of these changes and transitions.  Some are big, like moving from a small town in Massachusetts to the capital of Texas.  And others are small, like the ending of a school-year and the start of summer.

And even when I’m conscious of the challenges that these changes present for me specifically, they still rattle me.  I always think that I’m eager for summer to begin, but then the last few days of school find me a little weepy, a little fragile, a little sad.  I’m fine while my touring-musician boyfriend is away, but when he returns it’s startling to re-integrate him into my life.  Two years ago I left my current school and began working at a new one, and I was so wrapped up in the newness that I didn’t realize just how much I was struggling with the new curriculum, student culture, and school processes.

I try to head these adjustments off at the pass – prepare myself mentally and emotionally, set up systems to better adapt – but they still sneak up on me.  They still give me trouble and pause.  I still cry a little more than usual, and feel even more sensitive than I’d like.  My emotions are closer to the surface, and I’m quicker to argue with the people I’m closest to.

So while Bibles and Cockroaches might be consistent, they weren’t always a part of my life.  One person’s rock might be another’s wave: ever-changing, ever morphing into something new, ever arriving and then arriving again.

This weekend I started my summer with a writing retreat.  While I had to scramble to finish my year and hit the road for the Texas hill country in a flourish, the immersion set the tone for my next few months.  Surrounded by laptops and journals and other writers, I dug back into works in progress I’d let percolate for all too long.  And I started a few new things, too:  Ideas that had been brewing in my mind and my spirit for a long time.  It brought me back to some of my goals, and gave me a renewed sense of purpose and belief in myself.  In short, I’m transitioning from teacher to writer this weekend.  And in August, I’ll transition back again.  And the cycle will start once more next year.

Bibles and cockroaches.