the difference a day makes

Cliché.  I know.  What a difference a day makes.  But, in many ways, it’s true.  Yesterday was great.

After school my son and I made an impromptu trip to the beach (only about 10 minutes from our house) to collect seashells.  You see, I’ve developed a new hobby.  I draw designs on seashells with sharpies.  Sounds weird, but, it’s true.  I find it very relaxing.

We arrived at the beach.  The sky was overcast and it was a bit chilly, but the tide was low.  My son, who had been cooped up in the house with illness the week before, delighted in running on the sandbars.  He chased seagulls.  He proclaimed “this is the best day ever”.

I was truly grateful.

I love going to the beach because I feel so small when I stand beside the ocean.  (wasn’t that in a song?) But it’s true. To me, the beach is pure bliss.  Peace.  Constant movement.  Nature at its best.   The power of the ocean leaves me transfixed and in awe.  To me, the beach is calming.  A place I can sort out my thoughts, find treasures and truly practice gratitude.

Hearing my son giggle and seeing him run happily actually made me weep.  Tears of gratitude and joy.  A blessing after a long, hard day.  Freedom.  A change in our usual routine of hurrying home from work to make dinner.

Running on the sand.  Chasing seagulls.  Collecting shells.  Getting our sneakers wet.

Pure.  Bliss.

It was one of those strange moments when you realize this is the stuff you want to remember.   We made memories.  Good ones.

I went to bed last night satisfied.  Happy.  At peace.

Today, however, was another day.

Of course nothing of the ordinary happened but it was a “typical” day.  Meetings.  Emails.  Deadlines.  Screw ups.  Stress.  You know, the usual.  A “typical” day where you scoff down food but don’t really taste it.  You rely on a little too much caffeine to make the day more pleasant.   You’re two days shy of payday and you realize you’re two dollars short on everything.  You know, typical.

Yesterday’s bliss was quickly replaced by running from appointment to appointment.  Remembering milk.  Karate practice.  Life.

When I have a good day I get a little scared.  I almost feel undeserving.  Let me explain.

In my mind I keep flashing back to April 24, 2012.  It started out like any other.  I had the world by the ass. My stars and moon aligned.  By 3pm I was getting a life changing phone call telling me my mother found my father floating face down in a creek.  Heart attack.  Drowning.   Funeral planning.  Frantic plane tickets home purchased.  Phone calls to relatives.  Pure.  Horror.

Since then, I have been very cautious when I have a “good” day.

Because I’m fearful that if I become a little too complacent, a little too cocky, the rug will be pulled out from under me.  Again.

So I stood on the beach yesterday and wept.  And prayed.  And muttered thank you while my son joyfully raced ahead of me, unaware of my tears.  Happy tears of gratitude that I stepped outside of my routine to embrace something that makes me feel calm and peaceful.  Gratitude for my life.  My son.  My home.  My ability to stand on a beach on a random Tuesday and drink in its beauty.

I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately.  When it’s time to lay me down to sleep, I ruminate.  Ruminate about all the things I should have done. All the things I need to do.  All the things I need to remember.  It’s as if my pillow is a license to be miserable.  Sleep is hard to come by.

Not a night has gone by in the almost four years since we lost my dad, that I don’t ruminate over him either.   I know it doesn’t do me any good.  I know I should stop it, but in the few quiet moments before I drift off to sleep I let my mind go there.  I imagine what it was like for him on his last walk down the beach toward the place he died.  Was he in pain, just trying to walk it off?  Did he know he was about to die?  Did he panic?  Was he scared?

I will never know.

Then I let my mind drift to my mother.  I imagine how awful it was to round the sand dunes to see her husband’s jacket, inflated by an air pocket and the soles of his rubber boots.  Her husband of almost 40 years floating face down in the one place he was the most afraid of… the water.  Cruel irony.

I imagine her screaming and crying for help, attempting to pull his waterlogged body on to the shore and administer aid.  I picture her running in her sock feet up the beach for help.   I keep hearing her small voice repeating “I tried to save him, I tried to save him” to me as she did in her phone call that day.

And it’s too much.

This is the bedtime ritual I’ve had for almost four very long years.

And I’ve had enough.

I had a talk with myself and my dad.  Of course I’m assuming he can hear me.

I told him I can’t do this anymore.

I can’t ruminate over these pictures in my head anymore.  And knowing my dad, he wouldn’t want me to.  No parent would ever want that for their child.

I told him that I have to let it go.  I have to let this part go.  I. Just. Can’t. Do. It. Anymore.

I guess in some strange way I figure if I rehash the gory details of his departure,  I will stay grounded and not cocky, like I was the day before he died. Arrogant that my kid was potty trained, and our time-outs were working. Arrogant that after 2 tumultuous sleepless years of rookie parenting, the pieces were starting to fall into place.  I was finally getting a handle on this working mother thing.  Arrogant that I was comfortable in my job and was actually good at it.  Arrogant that everything was neatly tucked into its place and my world had sense and order, just how I like it.  Arrogant and ungrateful.

Well, that taught me, didn’t it?

The constant ruminating, anxiety attacks, nightmares and depression in the days, weeks and years since my dad left have been part grief, part self imposed punishment for my assumed arrogance.  I should never have felt like my life was so together.  I should have said thank you more.  I should have said a lot of things more.  Especially to my dad.

And for the past four years, I’ve held on.  I’ve punished myself for how I took my life and my family for granted.   Somehow I figured if I just managed to worry and stew everyday over something I can’t control, the universe would not punish me anymore.

Weird logic.  Useless logic.  Exhausting logic.

Death has a funny way of changing you.  I’ve read you either curl up and die (no pun intended) or you are changed.

I am changed.

I have become the poster child for gratitude.

Some days I forget.  Some days I’m too tired.  But I always manage in some small way to remember how quickly life can turn and how quickly things can change.  Especially in a day.

So I sit here tonight, pouring out my heart on a computer screen, typing words I don’t even dare share with my loved ones.  Funny how sometimes it’s easier to spill your guts to strangers than to admit to your own family you’re hurting.

Tomorrow I will get up and do life all over again, hopefully with more gratitude and joy than today.

Peace.

 

I’m not your mother

I’m a teacher.  If you’ve stayed with me long enough to read this, you know this already.

I teach elementary school (upper grades).  I cannot say much about what I do because, well, I don’t want to make headlines or lose my job.

For the most part, I like what I do.

I’ve been at it for 19 years.

I’m old.

In my 19 years of teaching, I’ve started to burn out.  No, this won’t be a diatribe complaining about standardized testing and shitty teaching conditions.  Those I’ve come to accept.  Trust me, no one does this for the money or the glory.

What I’m burning out of is the parenting factor.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I , too was once a public school child.  It was up to my parents to feed me, clothe me, provide me with school supplies, and transport me to and from school.

Shocking.

My parents actually had to take responsibility for me.

And they did an excellent job.

In today’s classroom, I am the parent.  The onus is on me to not only squeeze the best out of kids, but to pick up the slack.  The parenting slack.

And it’s sad.

Because if it wasn’t for me, and people like me, who care, where would some of these kids be?

We are the ones who fuss at them to wear coats when it’s cold.  “What did you eat for lunch?” we ask.  “What time did you go to bed?”

We see when they don’t have school supplies.  More often than not we provide kids with the essential tools they need to be successful in the classroom.  It’s easier to hand a kid a pencil than to chase a parent down to buy them.

And it’s sad.

We notice when kids are dirty, tired, hungry, sad.  We are the ones who cheer them on. Often, we are the only ones who show them any affection and encouragement.  Often, we are the only ones who show them structure and consistency.  Often, we are more of a parent to them than their own parents.

And it’s sad.

This problem is not new, and I am not the only educator in the world to face it.

But I’m quickly burning out of parenting children I didn’t bear from my own flesh.

I’m tired of picking up the pieces of dysfunctional homes.

And it’s sad.

Because I know some kids need me.  I know nothing I do will ever be enough and it certainly won’t be appreciated.

But it’s getting old, and I’m getting old.

I’m a very tired, old 42 year old teacher who is burning out very, very quickly.

“Get out!” you’re screaming at your screen.  “Get out you old washed up hag!”  “I wouldn’t want my kid in your class!”

And I get it, I do.

If I had viable options, I would get out.  But every day, I put on my smiley face and put my best foot forward as I unlock the door to my classroom.

I can’t let kids down.  They’re kids.  They have shitty parents. It’s not their fault.  They need someone to look out for them.  And in a strange way, I feel compelled to be that person.

But, I’m not your mother.

Peace.

 

new year, old habits

Happy New Year.  Here we go again. I hate this time of year. There. I said it.   I’m tired, worn out, and I don’t want to go back to work.

I’m tired of everyone telling the world what they resolve to do this new year.

Shut up.

You and I both know promises will be broken by about mid February.

I’m grumpy.

I look at the new year with anxiety and dread, not hopefulness.  I lost my innocence a long time ago.

A long time ago I believed anything was possible in the 365 days that lay ahead.

A long time ago I believed my world would never be rocked by anything bad, and that bad things only happened to other people.

A long time ago.

A long time ago I had energy to care.  Energy to want better, to do better.

Now I’m just faced with a whole shit load of reality.

Bad things happen when you least expect it.  Unexplained.  And it’s up to us to pick up the pieces, cling to hope and move on.

It’s up to us to figure out how to navigate through the muck and mire and trudge on like good soliders.

I don’t have energy to do that anymore.   Bad things just happen and no matter how much hope I hold out and positivity I exude, I am not immune to bad things happening.

And now there are 363 empty days to fill.  Who knows what will happen.

Many readers will tell me to stop being so negative and to kick myself in the ass and move on and up with life.

Yes, I need to. I need to do that.

And I will. I will squelch my anxiety about the unwritten 363 pages that lay ahead because it makes others feel uncomfortable.  I will pretend that everything is peachy.  I will overlook the fact that a new year brings no new changes, only more and more opportunities for people I love to have bad things happen to them.

Yes, you can’t walk around your whole life under a dark cloud worrying about what might happen.

I get it. I do.

But anxiety riddled people don’t want to hear that.  To us it doesn’t make sense in our brains.  We can’t live a carefree life.  We pick up the pieces, plan ahead and are the dependable ones.  We are the thinkers who crave the known, want everything in its place and want routine and order.

But that makes others uncomfortable.  It appears to be a tragic human flaw.

So I will hide my anxiety of the unknown.  I will move on and move forward, living each day, doing the best I can.

It’s hard to be grateful and thankful when you feel like the boogeyman is about to jump out from the next corner.  Everyday.

It’s hard to be grateful when people assume you will always pick up the pieces and clean up their messes.

It’s hard.

Happy New Year.

Peace.

Thanksgiving and all that jazz

Another Thanksgiving is in the can. Thank God.  I’m Canadian. Though I’ve lived in America for almost 17 years, I have never fully understood the importance of an American Thanksgiving.  Don’t get me wrong. I respect the ways of your land.   I just don’t get it.

I don’t get why I have to drive 10 hours one way after working half a day to visit relatives out of state, sleep on an air mattress and suffer through four straight days of Fox News and football.  It’s cultural overload.

En route to the Thanksgiving spectacle my child barfed twice.  In a moving car. In the dark.  Armed with wipes and an empty Burger King cup I managed to straddle the front and back seats and clean up my wailing child.

After barfing in one state, he managed to barf in another.  I think it was somewhere around West Virginia my husband and I stopped speaking to each other.

We pulled into a gas station where a very sympathetic cashier and I bonded over plastic bags and to-go cups (for my child to barf in). I felt like a homeless person depending on the kindness of others outside a gas station.    The absolute worst moment was when my child was actually holding a cup of his own vomit as we drove on with nary a rest stop in sight.

All for Thanksgiving.

sigh.

After four days of non stop eating, children screaming, visiting a zoo in the dark to see the light show (did I mention it rained?) we got up at the crack of dawn to do it all again.  Drive home that is. Ten hours.

We drove home ten hours just to get home to find our heating and air system has conked out.

Sigh.

I guess I should be thankful for first world problems… barfing and the like.

And that was Thanksgiving. And all that jazz.

Peace.

carving, pounding, rocking

Carving, pounding, rocking.  All verbs.  All super important verbs.  All verbs I managed to incorporate into my life today.

Let me explain…

My doctor told me my stress level is sky high.  My cholesterol is sky high.  I lost six pounds and my cholesterol went up.  Go figure.  I started thyroid medicine.  My numbers went out of whack.  Go figure.

But enough of the technical stuff…

My doctor basically told me I need to exercise, and I know that I do.  That is not news.  My problem is WHEN do I fit it in?  I am busy with work, saddled (and I mean that affectionately) with a five year old after work.  I do what most working mothers do… I put everyone ahead of myself. I fix dinner. I help with homework.  I sort laundry.  I grocery shop.  I make sure everyone’s life is running smoothly. AND I hold a full time job.

But today I carved out a few minutes for myself.  I pounded the pavement.  In my head I was my 19 year old self jogging.  I used to run. USED to.  I rocked out to a playlist of favorite high school songs as I walked.   It was dark (evening) so it was even better.  I wasn’t visible enough for anyone to see me look stupid as I lip synched my way through my neighborhood.  I didn’t have to stop and wave at neighbors.  Complete solitude.  Complete bliss.

Today I carved, pounded and rocked.

And it felt good.

Peace.

the Lone Ranger…my new theme song

I am single parenting this week.  Again.  Hub is out of town for work.   Of course, this is the week when everything decides to fall… so, to the tune of The Lone Ranger… this is my “to do” list this week. (and I feel like this song is most appropriate for the anxiety I feel right about now knowing this is the week I face…)

Monday- meetings, meetings, homework with kiddo, Wal Mart trip for scarecrow supplies (see Thursday) dinner, bath, bed, household chores
Tuesday- meetings, meetings, meetings, homework with kiddo, soccer practice, dinner, bath, bed, grading papers, attempt to make scarecrow costume

Wednesday- meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, homework with kiddo, Karate, attempt to rectify failed attempts at scarecrow costume (while silently weeping and cursing my lack of sewing abilities), dinner, bath, bed, grading papers, drinking….

Thursday-  meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, take snack into Kindergarten, take Halloween treat (which is separate from snack) into Kindergarten, take pumpkins into Kindergarten (remember to include one for the poor little lamb whose mother forgot…),  dress kid as a scarecrow for the kindergarten parade, attend parade, take endless amount of photos, maintain sanity and the full time teaching job I have (I work at his school),  homework with kiddo, dinner, bath, bed, copious amounts of drinking…..

Friday- take out recycling, maintain full time job, make sure child is in pjs (pjs, by the way, I had to go BUY for this ‘special’ day because none of our pjs were really school appropriate) for pj day at school, attend award ceremony (just realized I would have pictures of my kid in pjs as he accepts his award) prepare for Halloween.  With a Kindergartener.  Copious amounts of drinking

Saturday-  soccer game, soccer party, attempt to alter ‘soldier’ costume which is 2 sizes too big, curse, loathe inability to sew, attend crazy Halloween party, trick or treating, household chores, copious amounts of drinking.

Sure, there are a ton of things I accidentally omitted from the week.  I’m sure you get the point.

Kudos to single parents.

I don’t know how you do it.

Peace.

over the edge of exhaustion, just round the corner from a crash

It’s happened.  Yep.  It has happened.

That point where being a mother and a professional has collided.  With a bang.

That peaceful, easy feelin’ of summer has long since gone.  Back are hunched shoulders, deepened frown lines, shorter tempers and enough anxiety to fuel a small village.

Yep.

It’s back.

That point where you are so tightly wound that if you dare unwind even just a little bit you chance having your whole self combust, unable to be stuffed back into your being.

It’s an awful feeling, anxiety.  It’s awful to be so energized (for all the wrong reasons) at 1:15 am on a Thursday that it’s all you can do to force yourself to sleep as the hamster wheel in your brain spins and spins.

Being told to ‘just chill’ does no good.  It actually aggravates the anxious person even more (not to mention angers them).

Being told to ‘forget about it” does no good.  The anxious person ruminates and ruminates and ruminates over seemingly trivial problems.

Anxiety is no fun.  It’s like the nerdy kid who shows up at a high school party hoping to fit in, but who soon realizes they will only be the one uncomfortably picking up beer cans and making sure everyone’s coat is well looked after.

Anxiety is like a kite that gets picked up by the wind. It swirls you around uncontrollably.  You look down and see where you need to land but you can’t do it.  Gusts keep picking you up higher and higher, preventing you from free falling.

Anxiety is like one big mother long dog paddling session.  You try and try to get somewhere but tiny, little strokes prevent you from making any substantial headway.  You keep paddling and paddling trying to keep up, only exhausting yourself in the process.

And why?  Why are some of us built tightly wound, and others in need of a good winding?

Seriously.

Why?

Why are some of us destined to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders and others just sit back, relax and let us do it.

Maybe they’re the smart ones.

I used to think that I was making up all of this anxiety.  As a child, I was called a perfectionist, high strung.  What the adults in my life didn’t realize is that I was an anxious child, one who hated going to bed because all I would do is lay there, eyes wide open worrying about everything, willing sleep but not getting any.  It was horrible.

But thirty five years ago, kids didn’t have anxiety, or at least they weren’t supposed to.  Anxiety was not recognized or labeled or whatever you want to call it.  We were just ‘worriers’.

No amount of being told to calm down works.  In fact, it just agitates me more.

I wish anxiety was taken seriously instead of treated like some made up problem inside my head.

It’s late and morning is only a few short hours away.

I will return to bed and will myself to sleep.

And get up in four hours to start it all again.

The ‘on’ button never shuts ‘off’.

Peace.

a walk in the rain

It’s been a while since my last post.  (why is this starting to sound like a Catholic confession?)  But life has been busy.  My kiddo started kindergarten and has transitioned well.  He is bursting at the seams with new knowledge, excited to sound out letters and attempt to read sight words.  It feels like he’s grown up before my very eyes in just a few short weeks.  Gone are the fears and trepidations of starting a new chapter.  Routines have slowly been established, summer has packed its bag and left.  Fall and all it’s pumpkin latte goodness has descended upon us.

For the past week or so we’ve had nothing but steady rain.  Reports say we’ve had about 16 inches in the past week.  We luckily missed Hurricane Joaquin, but the rain has been a force to be reckoned with.  It’s starting to get depressing.

All this time inside is not good for thinkers like me.  I can’t relax with ‘down’ time.  All I do is think.

My former Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, once took an infamous walk in the snow.  On his walk he contemplated his future and decided to announce his retirement.  Since then, the phrase ‘a walk in the snow’ has become synonymous with trying to clear your head and figure out your future.

I’ve been doing that for a long time, the debating my future part.  Today I took a walk in the rain, much like Mr. Trudeau’s walk in the snow.

I wish I could say that I cleared a lot up.  I didn’t.  I just got wet.  And more depressed.   I am so disheartened and disillusioned with my job I’m at a crossroad.  I’m not sure what to do anymore.

I don’t hate my job.  I work with great people.  I think what I do is important.  I’m just tired and beaten down.  Kids are now numbers and data points plotting expected growth.  If I don’t achieve said growth, I’m a lousy teacher.  It hurts having the weight of the world on your shoulder every. single. day.   It becomes too much to bear.  It makes me want to hand in my keys almost every single day.  But I can’t.

I have a kid to consider.  My job allows me to be on the same schedule as my child.  My job affords me the luxury of buying him clothes and food.   There is no other viable option.  I am in this for my kid.

So I will put on my raincoat and continue to walk until I feel better, or at least make my peace with the crossroad I am at.

I think I’m going to need a bigger umbrella.

Peace.

and so it goes…

September is here. I don’t care how many scarecrows, pumpkins, bales of hay and mums you park outside of Wal Mart, it’s not fall. It’s 90 freaking degrees here in the good old South.  It’s hot.

School has started.  I’ve gotten my kiddo off to kindergarten.  I am amazed at how he has bloomed and blossomed in just one week; full to the brim with a love of learning, excitement to learn letters and sounds and an unbridled enthusiasm to be all things ‘big boy’.

And it breaks my heart just a little.  Where did my baby go? Time. Slow down.

I’ve begun year 19 of my career in education.  It’s week 2 and I’m barely hanging on by my fingernails. You’d think in almost two decades I’d have a clue as to what I’m doing, that maybe, just maybe this year I’d get it right.  But nope. The same inadequacies and worry creep back in to my already saturated mind.  The curse of a perfectionist.

I’ve tried to watch the news. It’s too sad.  I want so badly to scoop up every refugee I see and give them a safe place to live.  I hug my child a little tighter when I see toddlers washed ashore, dead, lifeless.   It’s too much.  And then I feel guilty about complaining about my mediocre job.  I need to stop doing that… complaining.  It’s really unbecoming to bemoan first world problems.

Fall’s cooler temps and routines can’t get here fast enough.  I thrive on predictability.  The introvert in me silently cheers being indoors cozy and comfy, tucked safely away from the world.

I look at kids starting university with their whole lives ahead of them.  They are the least equipped to make decisions yet they have every opportunity in the world.  Cruel irony.

And so it goes, the onset of fall.  My annual pity party should be winding down soon.  By annual pity party, I mean reflecting on my career choices and kicking myself in the ass that I was not true to myself when declaring a major many moons ago.  I am the sell out I learned to hate.

But I will trudge on, buy my obligatory pumpkin spice latte and call it a day.

And so it goes.

Peace.

failing my child one babysitter at a time…

Tonight we got our first baby sitter.  Ever.

My child is five.

He has never had a non-family member babysit him.

Suffice to say we don’t get out much.  My family is in Ohio full time and Canada part time.

We had our first baby sitter.

We went to a movie.

I sat the whole time, cell phone clutched in my hand, convinced I was going to get a phone call about some unwanted tragedy.

I was able to enjoy the movie (Vacation… a fitting send off to my last day of vacation) and laugh like I haven’t laughed in years.

But then I felt guilty.

I hired a babysitter so I could do something selfish… just me and my husband.  For two hours.

I feel like a complete waste of a parent.

And why do I feel like this?

Because tomorrow I have to get ANOTHER babysitter for him as I go back to work.  It’s his former daycare teacher, a woman who loves him like her own and has a grandmotherly touch.  He knows her and likes her.  It’s a good fit.

But I feel horrible.

I’m leaving my child.

My husband doesn’t share this guilty feeling.  He is all business… “I go to work to provide for him…”

He wasn’t on the receiving end of the hugs and kisses I got when we arrived home from the movie.   I felt like a complete failure that I had abandoned my child for two hours.

Please slap me.