Little Deaths

Our lives are about to change. In a short few weeks I’ll be leaving my job after 7 years and I will be starting down a different path.

In less than a month I’ll leave here and begin substitute teaching.

Yes, I’m returning to teaching after years of wondering if that would ever happen.

And I’m terrified.

First, I must say my husband has been super patient and very supportive of my decision. Hell, he encouraged me to at least fill out the paperwork and just turn it in. He saw it as an opportunity to work through that first step, just applying. When I got past that step and onto the next, the interviewing, he again reminded me that what was most important was just going through the steps and completing each one. And I did.

Then that step turned into a job offer and the opportunity to start substitute teaching this coming school year.

Sadly, I didn’t react like I think people wanted me to. I don’t think my brain has clicked over yet to how thing may be this coming year. Instead, I’m stuck on the fear of leaving what I know, the comfort of my everyday being the same. So instead of rejoicing I’m scared.

I drove back to work from my interview and realized I wouldn’t have to commute as far for much longer and instead of sighing in relief, I felt a pang of sadness. When I walked in the door and heard my dad and saw my sister in her office, a little hole opened up and my sadness deepened.

Since Monday when I received the good word of my hiring on, I dealt with little deaths along the way. Today I was asked to write my job description, explaining all the tasks I am responsible for at my desk. It wasn’t an odd thing to ask and made total sense but it felt like I was writing my own obituary.

I’ve never been in a situation like this before so I’m treading into completely new territory. First, I’ve never had a job for this long. 7 years… that’s a good long time in one place. Also, the last 9 years I’ve been the financially responsible adult for my son. I left teaching when an opportunity opened up in a better position so that he could have insurance and a steady income to not only cover our basics but also to stock away some savings while we were at it. and now I’m leaving that cushy job for another one that’s not as lucrative but it’s a passion I want to follow. It’s hard, I feel selfish and risky, feelings I don’t cope well with.

But I’m doing it, step by step. And I’m grieving as I go, letting those little deaths come and go as they please. I’ve got a few weeks until I’m officially done and moving on and by then I bet I’ll be thrilled and looking forward to my first day as a teacher again. For now, I grieve and fret over the what-ifs and the unknown.

For now…

Little Pebbles

In the last couple of days, I’ve acknowledged that I am feeling down. I can’t put a finger on where it is coming from but it’s there, hovering around me like a soft grey blanket that holds all the warmth in and keeps everything else out.

It’s funny, since putting words to my feelings, I’ve noticed every little negative detail in the past few days. It seems that when you are down and feeling low, you notice every little pebble that normally wouldn’t catch your eye.

Lately (and I know it’s probably more my perception than reality) I’ve been noticing how insignificant I am. How little of an impact I make in the world. It all started when I realized a group of people I saw regularly are acquaintances more than friends. This all rolled together with my hermitude made me feel so isolated and left out. Why wasn’t anyone making the effort to be friends with me?

At first I was very upset and wanted to blame everyone else, that they were blind to the goodness that is my friendship. Then it came to me slowly; I had done this to myself. I make myself untouchable. Why? To keep my heart safe, maybe. I’ve lost a lot over the years, especially in the last 4, that I seem to have built a shell around myself. Also could be that I get so emotionally drained by people and tired in general after social interactions that it’s easier to keep people at arms length than to submit myself to a commitment I don’t think I can keep. And I hate being judged when I don’t want to socialize like others. I like my solitude and my space but I also like to be around people, just on my terms.

Suddenly I could see each and every little pebble of social awkwardness and antisocial behavior and anything NOT the standard I had done in the past and it seemed so overwhelming. All these little pebbles under foot, scratching at the bottom of my toes. And each time I picked up a pebble to toss away, I’d find three more.

So I began to wonder, out of honest curiosity, what it is that makes me a good friend? What draws people in to me? What do I have to offer? Right now, not much. But in the past when I had friends and people in my life that stuck around, what was it that kept them near?

I didn’t think I had changed much over time but I’m starting to see that the common issue with my social life is me so I must be doing something wrong, something different to keep people from wanting to stay in my life.

This all seems so dark and self deprecating but it is what it is.

Now to work on it.

The Great Malaise

Ever get the feeling your skin doesn’t fit, nothing is right, and everything is wrong? But, when logically considered, all is right with the world and you actually have no complaints? It’s like feeling ill but having no fever or symptoms to prove you aren’t well, instead you just feel like the color grey: not black or white, just in between and void of any characteristics that make you stand out.

My life right now has a very mellow shade of grey hanging over it. I can’t tell if I’ve brought it on myself (which I acknowledge I’m wholly capable of doing) or if some outside force is wreaking havoc on my view of things. If something has painted my rose colored glasses a dingy color to dull my view of the world around me. Things seem blah.

I blame myself, as always. I can’t seem to handle the changes in our lives and for some reason I’m bringing the whole ship down with me. I know I’m not the only one feeling this deep sense of malaise. The contagion has spread and affected those around me and we’re all feeling a little under the weather, emotionally. Sensations aren’t as heightened and happiness seems to be hiding. Instead of feeling joy and anger, everything just feel… meh.

But this is life. The ups and downs and how we adjust to them. How we muddle through the crap and celebrate the good. We’ve been riding high for so long that I forgot what it was like to hit the bottom and scrape along looking for a morsel of joy. And I’m hoping this is the bottom and that I have no where else go but up from here.

The biggest issue is figuring out what is causing this malaise. I know I’m down (and I’ll refrain from using “depressing” or “depression” because that’s more than just a feeling, that’s a diagnoses) but I’m not sure what’s causing it. Could it be the expectations I feel that have been placed on me? Or the expectations I’ve placed on myself? Could it be the uncertain times ahead that, for some, trigger excitement at the unknown but for me trigger anxiety? Who knows right now. It could be anything and everything. Either way, I’m feeling down and lost and very much alone.

For now, I’ve taken the first step: I’ve acknowledged that there is a problem. And from here on out I just need to work through it with care and kindness for myself and without judgment.

The March Of Minutes

A string of pearls, listless and bemused,

hangs languidly from the hands of the clock,

striking slowly with little intent.

Pointedly, the hands drag and stalk the Hours,

marking the March of Minutes.

And I wait.

I take a step, with precision and exactness.

Then I wait some more,

the tightrope I walk swinging and swaying.

Gently. Tense.

Slender beneath my feet.

I inch forward, tickling the wire a fraction at a time,

then I stop. I am poised. Listening to the creak of the string, swaying.

And I’m waiting.

Again.

 

 

Letter To My Son: Your Girls

Dear Jacob,

I’m writing this letter to you in the middle of the summer. You are almost 8 1/2 and growing like a weed. Last night, even with a healthy snack or two and a full dinner including some of my soup followed by dessert after, you were still hungry. I swear I can’t feed you fast enough and I get the feeling that this is how things will be from here on out.

This is also the summer you got your first pets. After months of reading and prepping for it, we brought home two baby girl rats. And, you were beside yourself with glee.

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We named them Twinkletoes and Mia. Twinkletoes was white with a grey face and Mia was the same but with a brown face. The girls were terrified the moment we put them in their cage. They huddled together in the corner just shivering with fear. Poor babies…20140721-130148-46908747.jpg

But that didn’t stop you from loving them. The day after they came home you were up before the dawn to spend time reading to them. I could hear you quietly sharing your book and lovingly reading the story of some helpful penguins. But that wasn’t enough, you had to hold them. And try you did! You reached in without fear and held onto Twinkletoes with so much patience and grace. She wasn’t having any of it and not long after you can into my room in a panic to tell me she had gotten loose.

It didn’t matter. Your dad and I got her back in her cage and we calmed you down. You were so concerned and afraid for her but you wanted so badly to just hold her tight, to cuddle with her and to let her know she was loved. We planned to let them settle for a bit and not to force them out of their corner. You had other ideas…

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That little moment of panic didn’t stop you because you were determined to gain the girls’ trust. We spent time at the library pulling up books and you’d show me that we did, in fact, need to spend time holding the girls each day, even if they were scared. We needed to show them we could be trusted and that we didn’t mean them any harm. So I went with it. You presented such a strong case backed up with information you had researched that I couldn’t say no. Together we carefully reached in a pulled the girls out. Then, you cuddled and held your girls when they would let you and whispered sweet words of comfort to them and they listened. With you, they seemed at peace.

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And when they weren’t in your arms or hearing a story read to them, I found your nose deep in a book about rats and the best ways to care for them. You were like a sponge, soaking up everything bit of information to make you the best rat caretaker ever. It had become your mission in life to care for your girls as best as you could.

It’ll be interesting to hear you relive these days when you are grown. To hear what you thought and what your memories of these first pets were like. How you perceived yourself in this time, if you saw what we did. If you saw yourself as a dedicated friend to these four legged sweethearts. If you saw yourself grow both in spirit and heart as you learned to care for something smaller than you.

Son, I saw this happening before my eyes. In those first few days with the girls you aged and matured so quickly. I saw you go from the boy who had to have the last word in EVERY agreement to the boy who thought of his pets first. They were the first things you checked on when we got home, they were your first thoughts in the morning, and you were always thinking of new ways to engage them and play with them.

It felt like overnight you went from a boy to a young man. You had a purpose and it was to love and care for your girls.

I hope when you look back on these times that it is with love and positive memories of a time when you were very happy.

Love,

Your Mama

Reopening the Wound

It’s been ages since I last wrote. There hasn’t been much to share because life has been just that. Life. It’s busy, chaotic, hectic, and beautiful. All these things rolled into one fast 24 hour span, seven days a week.

We’ve celebrated a first anniversary and a signing of a second lease. We’ve survived a new sport and second grade. We’ve lived through a tough year of trying to conceive without any success. Together, we’ve survived.

I come back to writing when I feel like my soul needs to get something free. To loosen the words floating about my mind and to clear my thoughts.

Today, I renewed my credential. Renewing this document has caused a rise sadness and anger of the likes I’ve never known. The resentment, the rage, and frustration all swirling together, making it hard to think or talk without stumbling on all those words tangling together. So tangled I felt the need to write about it. To work out the knots that have formed in between my synapses.

In 2005 I got my credential and taught for about 4-5 months. Then I discovered I was pregnant. In light of this discovery I turned down a job opportunity, packed up, and moved home. There I got back into teaching by way of subbing in my hometown. Little could I have known, or anyone else for that matter, that the job I turned down to raise my son would be the last job opportunity I would be offered. Each year I would apply to teach full time and each year I would sign back up as a substitute when no interviews or opportunities opened for me.

After so long I knew I needed more. I needed insurance for my son and consistency for both of us. I needed an income that was steady and a work schedule that never deviated. So I left. I turned my back on teaching and did what any parent needing to care for a child would do: I sacrificed.

It’s been seven years and much has changed in the classroom. New policies and laws have made their way into the schools. Now that my child is in school, I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground and watching with a keen eye on the changing face of education. Larger class sizes and a new curriculum. And most recently, talk of ridding the state of teachers’ tenure, a ruling I’d happily stand up and clap for. No teacher has earned a lifetime job after only 2 years in a classroom and it makes it difficult to file against a teacher that isn’t pulling their weight and relying on their tenure to secure them a job each year.

With this news, it was suggested that I update my resume and make sure my credential was in order. And I balked.

“What resume?” I said. I hadn’t stepped foot in a class as a teacher in seven years! All of my references would be no good and I would have no letters to show off all my glowing achievements. Instead I would have empty hands but many years of loving my child. I don’t regret becoming his mother and I can’t regret stepping away from teaching. It was a decision that had to be made. But now, I’m nothing in the realm of education. I’m practically the same level as a student still finishing their student teaching semester.

Even so, I went along and updated my credential. My name has changed since and it was coming up for renewal anyway. I so did just that. I removed my maiden name and filed for renewal.

When I was done, I felt a warmth rising up my face and over my whole body. I wanted to cry. The dream of being a teacher, something I’d wanted since I was a little girl, had been shattered long ago. But renewing my credential almost feels like picking at a scab that had long since healed over only to discovered a festering wound still open beneath.

I’m still angry and frustrated at the hand that I was dealt. The bad luck that followed me down my path. As I waded through these hot angry tears surfacing through all my rage and angsts, I started to realize something else was bubbling to the surface. I am scared. I’m scared to leave my nest. I may be miserable here at times but I’m comfortable. I also carry the family on my insurance plan. I can’t just leave. I’m also afraid that I no longer will want to teach. It was easy to flow from school to the classroom. I had been teaching for years. But being away for so long has made me reconsider whether teaching is even a vocation I want to pursue.

This last thought, this realization that maybe teaching isn’t what I want to do anymore is devastating. Like a big eraser, this thought wipes away all the years of wanting to be a teacher. All the years of working for it and wanting it with every fiber of my body. The sudden idea that maybe this isn’t the dream I thought it would be breaks my heart.

Under the surface of all these warring feelings and thoughts, another realization is slowing rising like a patient balloon reaching for the sky. While I renewed my credential I also changed my name. I’m the same person but with a new name. Maybe this could be my fresh start?

For now, I wait for the notification that my renewal has been approved and that my credential is now legal for another 10 years. While I wait for this response, I will spend my time reflecting on the changing surface of my feelings. The anger and fear and hope and sadness. They swirl and swish together like an oil slick riding the sloppy waves along the coast. I’ll ride them out, address each one and allow them to each sink below until my mind and heart are clear.

 

The Hat

This is a story about a hat. A hat that was just a simple baseball cap but ended up becoming a symbol of hate. My hate.

It all started when our son told us he wanted to play baseball instead of soccer in spring. Being that neither my husband nor I are baseball fans, we asked our son a number of times whether he truly wanted to play. After answering yes each time we asked, we gave in and signed him up. Spring was looking to be rather interesting.

As the holiday season ended and the new year rolled around, emails came slowly started trickling in from coaches and managers and officials of the league informing us of events to warm up the players and try-outs for the teams. Knowing as little as I did about this sport, I went into it thinking this should be fun! And new! And exciting. I was still thinking this until try-outs arrived and I realized the kids would not only try-out but would be marked down and drafted by the coached sitting quietly on the first base line. They were judging each player based on the skills they showed instead of a blind numbering system that I had known in soccer. Oh man… This mama was not ready to watch her son get judged, even though I understand why. Then realization of how different baseball was from soccer hit me and I had a sinking feeling.

But I brushed it off and went along, encouraging my child to believe that this will be fun and that he only had to stick out the season if he didn’t like it because we didn’t believe in quitting. We worked through things we were afraid of or things that we were uncertain of. While I was speaking to him, I know my words were meant more for me. I was telling myself not to quit and pull him from the possibly HUGE mistake we were making and stick him back into soccer, a sport we all know and like.

Then the final nail in the coffin came, sealing my doubt in with my fears. It came in the form of a parent meeting for all rookie players. At this meeting we were given our practice schedule and our practice location. They also explained our game schedule for the season and all the little tidbits of information needed: expectations, volunteers, events, the usual. My husband attended this and sent me back text messages that made the pit at the bottom of my stomach grow larger. We’d have two practice a week, throwing off our whole routine. There would also be a weekday game (WHY?!) and a weekend game.

So we sucked it up and shook off the initial shock of how much was involved and the scramble that would become our lives from now until the end of the season. And I realized that our son was hearing our doubts and voiced his concern that he’d made a mistake in choosing baseball. That shut us up fast. If he wanted to play, we’d make it work. From here on out, I’d have to silence my concerns and just fake it through.

It wasn’t until the first practice that made me realize how big a of a mistake we’d made. After practice, our son was lamenting how he missed soccer and didn’t like baseball. Oh boy… this was not what we needed to hear. Knowing now that he was only lukewarm to the idea of baseball made us feel even more hesitant. Was this a bad idea? Could we still get out of it? Instead we told him to give it a little bit longer to get used to it. That we didn’t quit things we started but if after this season it didn’t work, then it didn’t work. But, together as a family, we’d make it through this first season come hell or high water.

I only half believed what I was telling him.

By the second practice we were receiving both emails and text messages about all the goings on of this overly involved sport that neither of us liked. And each mention of the team made me grumpier and more frustrated. How could we have been so mislead to think that a family of two working parents could make this work? Who can make 4:30 pm practices twice a week when both parents have jobs?! This was becoming a perfect pitch for multiple wives. More hands, more help. But I digress.

At the second practice, it was asked that all players brought their hats and $25 for some embroidery to be done on them. Well, we never made it due to issues with homework not being finished so his hat was still with us. On Sunday we were reminded about uniform pickup and to bring the hat, too. That way the team moms could take it all in to get stitched and ready for our first games. Come Sunday, we were ready, cap and money in hand. We got our uniforms all picked out and sized up and then we left… with the damn hat. Somehow I had missed the memo that we were to leave the hat. I didn’t know who to give it to or what we were to do it with and somehow my husband didn’t know that I didn’t know so he didn’t do anything either.

So we left. With the hat.

Suddenly I get a message. The team mom realized they didn’t have our hat and wanted us to come back to drop it off. We were already out of the area and on our way to our delayed beach day with my sister, a day that was supposed to be a brunch date but got moved to late lunch when we found out our uniform pickup time conflicted with our plans. So no, we weren’t going to turn around and come back. Instead we made plans to drop it off the next day.

It was that moment that I started to hate that hat. The hat was nothing more than a piece of clothing but it became a symbol of something more. Of our frustration, of our lives slowly being whittled away by a sport that none of us, even our son, was really all that interested in. A sport that he wanted to just try for a season that was now consuming us. My running schedule was being disrupted and my husbands work schedule and gym sessions were being moved around. Everything was changing. Our happy little life was slowly being rearranged for baseball, a sport none of us loved.

As we all woke this morning, the moods were light and fun as we gave each other hugs and kisses goodbye. Everyone seemed to be in good moods. That was until I realized I hadn’t sent the address of our team mom to my husband for the hat drop off. It had slipped my mind. As I pulled up to drop off our son at his grandmother’s house, I sent a quick message containing the contact information to him when I saw out of the corner of my eye the lurking black bill of our son’s baseball hat.

The damn thing was with me. Sigh….

Dropping him off with a quick word and a kiss from my mother, I jumped back in the car fuming. I had to retrace my route and go back home to give my husband the hat so that he could drop it off for us. And this made me 30 minutes late to work. I was not a happy mama.

In a joking manner, I took a picture of me giving the hat the Bird and sent it to my husband for a good laugh. And we did chuckle at it. It was funny and stupid to flip off a hat because you are angry but it also had a deeper meaning to us. This hat, this season, this sport, was slowly becoming everything that was making us mad. It symbolized all of our frustrations and anxieties over how we would pull this off. It was the visible reminder of our big mistake.
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The hat is now in the possession of the embroidery shop that is stitching our son’s name to the back of it along with his name on his jersey. And to add insult to our already tender wounds that this damn hat inflicted over the past two days, we received the schedule for our games. From Monday-Thursday and then Saturday, our lives are now all baseball, the sport we are slowly hating more and more each day. The messages between my husband and I are littered with colorful words and a deep sense of frustration and anger. Anger at the loss of control over our schedules, the inability to foresee how this sport was going to affect us and change everything. And, personally, I think this has opened our eyes to how much we love our lives and how much we love the schedule we had built carefully and meticulously.

For now we’ll have to decide if this is something we can make happen without putting too much strain on our family. We’re also going to have to pool our resources in the form of babysitters, grandmothers, and family members that can be there if we can’t. And if we can’t make it happen, then we’ll at least have the ability to say we tried but it just wasn’t for us.