Connecting and Disconnecting

WARNING: Contains Sad

 

It has been a really rough June for me, and I am very ready for it to be over. I know that there is only about a week left, but that seems too long.I have been so incredibly busy finishing up my degree. I am taking two grad summer classes at the same time. One is a 6-week class and the other is a 4-week class. I spend so much time doing homework that my back aches from being on the computer all of the time. I will be done with my classes on July 1 and will have earned my Masters. While this is exciting in the abstract, it isn’t real enough. When June is over, it will be real.

The beginning of the month my aunt in Colorado passed away. It was a complete surprise. Two weeks earlier, I was sitting at her dining room table laughing and realizing how much she meant to me, how she was a huge part of my life growing up. You forget things like that when you live 10 hours away and always have things to do that don’t involve visiting other people. I left there, promising myself that I’d get out there more often. I still plan on doing so, but it will have to be to visit other family. She won’t be there.

I was there with my cousins and my uncle as they prepared everything for the memorial. It was bittersweet watching them comb through photographs, remembering and sharing stories. I was a part but also apart from them. They were my close family when I was a kid. We spent pretty much every weekend torturing each other, but we always knew that we had each other. When we moved away between my freshman and sophomore year, we lost touch. We all were wrapped up in our teenage lives, learning who we really were, and preparing for adulthood. Now, 25 years later, it is pretty much impossible to get back to that closeness, especially living so far away.

I miss that sort of connectedness. I need it desperately. I don’t know how to find it. I really don’t know how to keep it. My heart aches because I don’t have it.

I realized that, if I were to die today (knock on wood, pour salt over the shoulder, horseshoes, and luck rabbit’s feet that I don’t), there would be few people who would mourn me. I’m not saying that I don’t have people who love me, and I am not trying to say that the people who love me don’t matter. It’s just that I have so few people in my life. My immediate family would be unconsolable. I don’t make friends easily because I don’t trust people not to hurt me. The friends that I do have seem to move on. In my brain, I understand that it is normal for people to outgrow each other, but my heart still hurts when they withdraw.

I am sure this macabre thinking has a lot to do with exhaustion and the grieving process. So much of my life is uncertain right now. So far, I’ve been able to face it with optimism. Right now, though, I am just tired and wishing that I had a big group of friends and family to take my mind off of everything. I want to be connected.

I just don’t know how to make it happen and that scares me.

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Embarking on my New Adventure

I have been a teacher for 13 years. It is a huge part of my identity. People ask me, “What do you do?” and I answer that I am a teacher. There is no explanation required. Even though they don’t really understand all that being a teacher entails, they still have an ideal of what I do. It is a known entity. For 13 years, I’ve labeled myself “teacher.” I know who I am because I am a teacher.

Now that I’ve decided to leave the profession, I am not sure who I am anymore.

I don’t have the crutch of pointing to my teacher label when I meet new people.

Hello

 

I have to rediscover who I am. It is exciting and yet completely terrifying.

I don’t know where I am heading. Will I be able to find a convenient label for myself? If so, what will it be? Director of Something Something? Project Management Specialist? Will my new label be one that people understand, one that I don’t have to explain? My husband’s title at work tells me nothing about what he does. In fact, for the first few years of our marriage, people would ask me what he does and I would just answer with a jumble of words that I’d heard him say (sorry, love). I have more of an idea now, but we’ve been together forever.

Do I even need a label anymore?

I am at a point in my life that makes me want to give a one-finger salute to all the people who want me to conform. For most of my life, I’ve done the conventional thing. I went to college, got a degree, got a job in a respectable career, got married, had a child, etc. I’m so glad that I did all of these things. I have been blessed with stability and support from so many people.

Now, I am not sure if I want as much stability. I don’t want a contract tying me to a position for nine months. I am not even sure I want a go-to-work-from-7-to-330 job. Those of you who know me personally understand how much of a stretch this is for me. I’ve thrived on consistency and stability.

I want to take risks. I want to do things that I was afraid of doing, like working freelance or going on occasional day trips by myself. Heck, I want to go on spontaneous weekend trips with my family. I want to have no itinerary and just drive until we get somewhere interesting and stop there. These are things that I could not have done two years ago.

My heart aches for adventure and thrills at the thought of embarking on this new journey. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

~E

Taking the Leap

Whelp… I resigned from my job. I wrote this super-long post explaining the reasons why and, I have to admit, it was a wee bit ranty. No, that isn’t accurate. It was a whole lot ranty and a little bit bitchy. I decided not to post it because it wasn’t me. I am usually only a little bit ranty and pretty much never bitchy. I didn’t want to post something completely out of character. It did feel really good to get it out of  my system, but it definitely was not something that I should share.

So, in case you are interested, I resigned because my philosophy about education no longer meshed with the district’s philosophy. Trying to change my beliefs to mesh with theirs was making me physically ill and preventing me from being the teacher I know I can be.

This is something that’s been coming for at least three years. At the end of each of those years, I’ve thought about resigning. Every year, the part of my brain that hates change convinced me not to. Just give it one more year, it said. Things are going to be so much better next year, just you wait! 

This year was different. When I thought about leaving at the end of this year, that part of my brain was a cheering section chanting “Do it! Do it! Do it!” All of the parts of my brain reached a consensus: it was time to move on.

The scary(?) part is that I have no anxiety about my decision. None. That’s right; little Miss Freak-out is completely calm about it. Friends ask me what I’m planning to do, their faces crinkled with concern. When I tell them I have no idea where I am going to work next year, they look at me in disbelief. I should be having a panic attack– that is what I usually do– and they wonder what in the world is wrong with me. I can see the concern in their eyes. I’ve put in applications for teaching positions. I’ve had one screening interview and another one scheduled for next week. If teaching doesn’t work out, I’ll sub until I find a job. I have backup plans for my backup plans. I know I will go where I need to go.

For the first time I can remember, I am relying– without fear– on the Universe to take care of me.

Light Echoes From Red Supergiant Star V838 Monocerotis – October 2004
Source: Hubblesite.org

Remembering

I realize that my posts have been few and far between and, when I do post, they aren’t the most upbeat. I guess I am in a time of reflection, but I do believe that it is passing. I’ve already got many ideas about fun and happy things to write about. Until then, I’m going to leave you with this.

________________________________________________________________________

Today we went to the Veteran’s cemetery where my father-in-law is buried. We wanted to see the holiday wreaths that decorated the headstones. Our plan was to drive through, not stopping. When we got to where Bill is buried, my munchkin wanted to visit his grave. Even though it wasn’t part of our plan.

My daughter walked (almost) straight to his grave. She was so happy to see it. She hugged the headstone, laying her head on top of it. When she was done, she gave it a kiss. Then she popped up like a typical six-year old and bounced off, light and happy.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve felt that cemeteries are morbid places. I don’t really find comfort visiting them. It amazes me that my daughter feels closer to her grandfather when she visits his grave. It is a concrete reminder that her grandfather was really there and that he loved her completely. Going to visit him is easier with her there.

I’ve always wanted to be cremated. I don’t think that putting my body in the ground is a good use of our limited land resources. I wanted to be cremated and forgotten. I didn’t want any sort of memorial headstone or marker to remind people that I was alive. I thought that the memories of me would be enough.

I think I’ve changed my mind. Maybe my daughter or husband or whoever may be comforted by a physical reminder of my presence on this planet. Maybe I was being selfish because of my own views of cemeteries. It’s something to think about.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… Sort of

As summer approaches, there is a feeling of anticipation and frustration. Students and teachers are counting the days until the sweet, sweet release of the last day of school. We are occupying the same space, but there is a tenuous truce, an air of tolerance, safe in the knowledge that we only have a few days left until the end of school.

Everyone is sick of each other.

This sick is not a simple cold; it is a festering buboe of yuck that is about to pop. Kids are tired of the “blah, blah” they hear when we talk. We are tired of seeing their lovely faces. Even the good kids start to grind on the last nerve. It is nothing personal. The beginning of the next year will bring a return of the fond feelings that arrive with the hope that a new year brings. Right now, however, there is a gritting of teeth as we all keep up the facade that we are not tired of each other.

As we wrap up the year, there are some mannerisms of theirs that are making me nuts. The fact that they lose focus every three minutes (okay, that might be an exaggeration but some days it feels that way) makes me hang my head in frustration. When they start cleaning up five minutes before the bell rings –even when I am closing up the lesson and still talking — it screams disrespect. Unfortunately, at this time of year, it is something that increases in frequency. I know this but it still irritates me.

They are also tired of my mannerisms. Okay, maybe this is not true. I asked my kids what irritated them the most about me and they gave me nothing. Seriously! The only thing that they could give me was that sometimes I’m too nice and they are worried that I will be taken advantage of. Silly kids. I told them that I could try to be meaner, but they didn’t think that was a good idea.

I tried new things this year. Some were successful– integrating even more technology in my classroom. Other things bombed like the movie Battleship (my attempt to get a classroom blog going). The one thing that seemed to affect my students the most was when I  arranged my classroom to a completely non-teacher centered classroom.

How do you make kids squirm?
I’ve found the answer.

My kiddos got positively twitchy. I didn’t realize that switching it around like this would freak them out so much. I have to admit that I took twisted pleasure out of their discomfort. The amazing thing, though, is that most grew to like it. It gave them a feeling of freedom that they didn’t have when they were stuck facing the board. I also noticed something else. They stopped asking me questions and started working more on their own. My goal has always been to make myself unnecessary in my classroom. Achievement unlocked!

I am quite fond of my students. I will be even fonder of them when they are no longer with me every day.

Four days and counting…

When a Heart Hurts

Today my daughter and I drove by a cardiac care facility. Natalie right away saw the heart next to the sign and knew exactly what it was. She said, “Momma, is that a place where people go when their hearts hurt?” I replied in the affirmative. She said, “If their hearts hurt, they get in their cars really fast and drive here. Then they lay down and the people fix it so they won’t die.”

“Is that the way it works?” I asked.

“Yes, Momma,” and she paused. “Why didn’t Grandpa come here when his heart hurt? That way they could have fixed him so he wouldn’t have died. I miss him.”

I wanted to run right in to the care facility and have them fix my heart hurt.

A Soft Goodbye

This week has been a very hard week for my family. My father-in-law lost his battle with cancer and was laid to rest.

I realized today that, since he was diagnosed in August, we’ve been living our lives in a daze, knowing that the end was coming soon. We spent as much time as we could with him. Up to the end, he still kept his sense of humor and his mind sharp.

Bill was a man who lived with a purpose. He was shy and took a while to open up to me. When he finally did, though, I was blown away. He had a wicked sense of humor–  he made me blush on many an occasion. I can see where my husband learned humor and I am thankful for it.

Bill was an unapologetic conservative, but it suited him. I remember the chuckle that I got when I looked at some of the books he would read. I remember one being about how to talk to liberals (if you are forced to) or something like that. Needless to say, we didn’t talk politics that much.

There wasn’t a time when I visited that we didn’t watch sports. He watched everything from college sports to professional sports. It was fun to watch him give up the television so his grandchildren could watch their shows. He acted as if he was doing it begrudgingly, but you could see his joy in watching them.

My daughter loves him so much. She is taking this like a five-year old would, but I can definitely tell that the loss is hard for her. It hurts my heart, but I knwo that she will be fine.

One of the things that really struck me was the way he made sure that my mother-in-law was taken care of. He always took such good care of Peggy. This didn’t end with his passing. Because he knew that his time here was almost up, he arranged so many things to help her. Instead of succumbing to despair because of his illness, he faced it head on and with dignity. I hope I can be that strong.

Bill truly loved my mother-in-law. It was apparent in the way that he looked at her and spoke to her. Thirty-seven years didn’t diminish their relationship. I know it wasn’t all sunny, but they took the adversity and made it into a stronger relationship.

Jason learned how to be a husband by watching his father. He takes such good care of me, always making sure that I have everything I need. He supports me in everything. I know that Jason learned this from watching his father interact with his mother. I am so thankful to Bill for being a good model for my husband.

I know that this post is a bit rambling, but I really needed to say these things.