In the Queue with Qualls

I had a post written about Isaac and how he is in boot camp and how it’s the first time we have been apart as a family. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker. Quite frankly, I’m tired of crying. I’ve cried because I miss that kid like crazy. I have cried because I am overwhelmed at work. (They call the trunk of a car a boot. Extrapolate that out and you get how education might be extremely different as well.) I’ve cried for my girls when they have felt overwhelmed. I’ve cried because of hormones. I’ve cried. 

So, let’s move on. 

Today, I had a training day in a different part of London. It was called “acclimatization” training. There’s a great deal of irony here. It was just under 60 degrees Fahrenheit (I won’t do Celcius yet) when I left the house and clear, but it’s London. Someone sneezes and it starts raining. “Never leave home with it,” means rain coat and umbrella. But now, I’m literally underground, in my trench coat, in a heard of people. They are British so it is rather civilized. No eye contact. Never talk to anyone near you. And pretend this is what you do everyday of the week. 

I proceeded to transfer to a different subway line, and then walked at least half a mile through a small homeless camp to arrive at the building where my training was to be held. I was soaking wet and it hadn’t started raining yet. Thank God I’m still on my American strength deodorant. I found the bathroom (or toilet as they call it-they can be literal, just mostly choose not to be) just to take a moment to collect myself and attempt to look like a professional teacher, not a professional athlete. Toilet tissue came out as an attempt to absorb the aftermath of my trip. 

Ok. Breathing back to normal. Sweat was no longer pouring down my back. Progress. Until I began to wash my hands and I glimpsed in the mirror. There were a dozen small flecks of white all over my face and neck. Like I was a recently pubescent boy learning how to shave and my first attempt was my whole face. 

Remember when I said the day was about acclimatization training? I seriously thought of turning around and repeating the journey home. How much more acclimatization training can one person endure in a day? The queue alone was so incredibly British! But I stayed. The rest of the day was spent listening to a British lady who spoke rather fast and I spent half the time trying to decide if she was saying “half” or “have.” (More irony.) Remember I am a math teacher so the distinction is rather important. I’m not going to lie; I was thrilled when I thought the day was over. I finished my survey and enthusiastically headed for the door, only to find my acclimatization training was yet to be over. A short bus ride to the tube station and a quick switch to the second train when two stops in, the conductor comes on the intercom to say the train will no longer go to my stop, but will “terminate” early. We all pile off the subway, stand on the platform, again with a great deal of British decorum. I desperately wanted to ask someone if they thought the next train would actually come. They all stood so poised and assuming. They make sweatshirts that say “Keep calm and carry on” for an actually reason. It’s how they are. But in my American head, I was already planning two alternate roots. I could ditch the subway and find a series of buses that would get me home, or say, “screw it” and hail a cab. But today was after all, acclimatization training, so I held fast to the British decorum and continued to “carry on.” 

The next subway train came. Maybe it was the British who can claim the whole, “If you build they will come” ideology. We all got on, as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred and of course, I had to process this. I’m standing again on a train I hope will get me to the literal end of the line and I realize today was really about one word–capacity. We spend a great deal of time determining if we are “glass half-full” or “glass half-empty” and I think we are obsessing about the wrong thing. We are asking the wrong question. Who cares how much is in your glass? (I’m tempted to insert a gin comment here.) The question you should be asking is this, “Am I allowing my ‘glass’ to grow?” 

We all think we have our capacities. We believe there are limits to patience, grace, strength, insert your word here. And consequently, we spend a great deal of energy managing the ends of those limits. “I’m running out of patience.” I felt that today. Standing on and off subway trains for almost two hours, but then I saw a little boy take the gum out of his mouth and proceed to wrap it around his thumb after he has subsequently touched every public surface within a foot radius. 

That made me chuckle. So much so that I actually made eye contact with the girl standing next to me who had obviously seen the same thing. Maybe I’m not almost out of patience. So then I had to think what if our limit is really only a construct, a feeling? What if, in reality, there’s an endless supply? Today’s training could have been a test. How acclimatized am I? If it’s a test, there is a limit. The glass will reach a certain measure. That’s it. Pass. Fail. The end. 

But maybe it’s not a test. What if it’s just an opportunity? A chance to change the capacity, to grow the glass a little, to stretch the boundaries.

I used to think patience was a string. It could be consumed. At some point I would run out. But now I’m not so sure. I think it might be a rubber band with a tremendous capacity to grow. Or maybe a piece of gum wrapped around and around and around your thumb. Maybe it has the capacity to keep going. Maybe we have that same capacity.

We all need a bit of acclimatization training now and then. It stretches us. Pun intended. 

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6 Comments on "In the Queue with Qualls"

  1. Leta Seck
    03/10/2019 at 7:16 pm Permalink

    Hi Rebecca!
    I have always enjoyed your writing and now will enjoy your travels too.
    The first time I left home was to Germany for three years and HAD to go home 2 months into it just to find out I COULD do this! London is big and overwhelming but I am sure you all will settle in soon. Best to you all.

  2. Rebecca Qualls
    04/10/2019 at 8:47 am Permalink

    Thank you, Leta! I’m looking forward to the 2 month mark!!!☺️

  3. John
    03/10/2019 at 8:14 pm Permalink

    If it was easy everyone would do it
    Pain is temporary pride is forever
    Praying for you guys

  4. Rebecca Qualls
    04/10/2019 at 8:46 am Permalink

    Thank you for your prayers! How’s your new adventure going?

  5. Andrea Marks
    04/10/2019 at 7:00 am Permalink

    Loved reading this!! Well written, funny and true! Could totally relate to times when I’ve pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. (Living non a boat in Oakland so I could take advantage of an opportunity to work at The Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley.) hard stuff, but so worth it! Keep writing!

  6. Rebecca Qualls
    04/10/2019 at 8:46 am Permalink

    Thank you, Andrea! It’s always helpful to know people have been grateful for the struggle. It gives hope! ☺️

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