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Do what we can: lyrics and the hidden work of a life well-lived

This is a story about a full life, but it’s not exactly the kind of life anyone’s going to make a movie about. It’s about a maths teacher who gives her best years to caring for her mum and teaching maths at a high school in the north of England.


It’s not glamorous and on paper, it’s not exactly what we'd call a success. But when you speak to her you realise that the good stuff in life, the really important stuff is all there. She’s loved deeply, and she’s content even when really hard stuff happens and she totally rocks out at the end.



Do what we can

By Tina Boonstra and Barnabas Shaw


What can I tell you about Monday? I’m running late,

wait for a train, that I don’t want take

When I see Beetroot at the station

And I know somehow that things are going down


My old maths teacher she walks over, I can’t avoid her

She asks how how am, where’d I go after school

And I think what’s the point in lying? I’m late, I’m broke,

and nothing since year 12 has gone to plan.


For a minute she just sits there saying nothing, everybody else is running,

then I watch a smile sunrise on her pink face,

‘You think you hold the ropes,’ She says,

‘y’think you're in control, until you’re sitting in a cancer ward alone.’


You never really know what’s coming your way, don’t ever think you can control it

You gotta take it as it comes, the good and the bad and try to make the most of it


We’re all just walking through life, so take a day at a time

It never sticks to a plan, so we all just do what we can

When you’re down, don’t try to figure it out

You learn to throw up your hands and say ‘We just do what we can’


Then she says to me

23 years I was a teacher, I liked the feeling

Of my hands wrapped ‘round a lesson plan

But every single summer I would wonder,

what would’ve happened if I didn’t have to look after my mother?


Did I miss out on really living? my best years hidden

Behind all the things that I felt I should do

But now I see it doesn’t matter,

It’s your one wild life, but you can’t always change it and


Don’t look so scared little girl, there’s joy in my life

I quit school when I learned I was running out of time

I travelled out to Rikashesh, that place is colour

I loved my job but it wasn’t all I wanted


So what if I never married? Did the right thing by my family,

Tried my best to teach you something, did ya listen?

I loved the people that I worked with, held my mum’s hand at her last breath.

Don’t go telling me that this isn’t living

I loved it all, but it wasn’t all of me

Oh no there’s nothing wrong with making plans out of your dreams

But if you think you hold the ropes, you’ll just kick against the goad

Sometimes you gotta, gotta let it go



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