Becca Wilhite Blog

August 22, 2017

First Day

Filed under: anxiety,emotion,rambles,school — becca @ 6:29 am

It’s happening again — the first day of school. I’ve felt more dread and fear in the last two weeks than ever before in either the four years I have taught or the three years before that when I worked as a sub. Weird. Nothing really has changed (except for all the humans, pretty much), and I still love the job. But weird fears have crept in. Sunday, sitting in church, I told my girl, 16, that I was worried that I’d used up all my cool and maybe this was the year that nobody would like me. Silly, right? But not really.

And I’m trying (always) to be a better teacher. Which means I’m trying new things. And, since I don’t yet know the kids, the possibility of those things going wrong? It’s there.

In general, I don’t live in fear. In general, I am hopeful and excited and eager. (Having said that, let’s be clear: I’m still afraid of everything scary. Like kittens. And paper cuts. And spider webs. But not spiders. And being a disappointment. And basements. And everything else.) But knowing what’s scary doesn’t equal living in fear of those things, or the other things. I don’t generally assume that the negative things will happen.

But there are some days in which the small difficult things become heavy. And sometimes those days stretch out for long times. And that heaviness affects, well, everything.

And so this morning I woke early. I prayed. I studied. I exercised. I did something that made me laugh (which may or may not have involved Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand) and ate healthful food and drank water. I put on my face and did my hair and breathed in and out. I practiced smiling. I spoke to myself like I’d speak to someone I love.

It’s going to be a good day.

July 19, 2017

Breathe

Filed under: anxiety — becca @ 7:36 am

When my kids were small and in a small-kid panic, I used to tell them, “You don’t have to worry about that. Just breathe in and out. That’s all you need to do right now.”

Sometimes it worked.

Now they’re big and occasionally in grown-person panic and I can’t tell them they don’t need to worry anymore. They’re smart. They know what requires their attention and what doesn’t. But the panic doesn’t always flow away because the responsibility isn’t theirs.

I think the breathing is still key, although it sounds patronizing and silly to tell an adult, “Just breathe. In and out.”

Silly and patronizing are kind of in the eye of the beholder anyway. If I don’t say it out loud, I pray it on their behalf. Please. Keep them breathing in and out.

July 18, 2017

A Thing About Discouragement

Filed under: anxiety,emotion,food,losing it,Uncategorized — becca @ 9:34 pm

Germans probably have a word for that feeling where everything is going pretty well, and all the people you love are healthy and fine, and one small unpleasant thing in your otherwise glad life totally throws you over the edge.

Hey, Germans, what’s the word for that?

Because I had it this week. And it’s making me weepy and mopey and generally incapable of productivity and adulthood.

And I feel the need to put on my happy face and buck the hell up (sorry, Dad). And putting on the happy face isn’t usually this hard.

The thing is, once this over-the-edging happens, everything looks darker and gloomier and there’s no actual reason for trying to get out of bed in the morning and it’s probably a good idea to watch three hours of Riverdale with the 13-year-old and probably also 4-5 episodes of Criminal Minds while I’m at it and probably eat all the food that comes in cellophane packages and definitely ignore all the phone calls and texts and for sure abdicate all the responsibilities and for also sure never write again.

Like that.

This tipping of the scales (remember — for unreasonable reasons) gives me opportunities to try on darker versions of myself. I put them on like exotic silken robes or fancy hats or even jeans with on-purpose rips in them. Here’s a fun fact: Darker isn’t so good on me.

So I am doing the one thing I feel like I can do. I am taking a little control of my physical self. I am resting. I am eating green things — lots of them. (Also beets.) I am staying away from the Emotional Foods that are generally made of hot, white, buttered starch. I am walking many miles every day. I am yoga-ing both in the privacy of my room and with my lovely yogi friend who practices Wednesday mornings for an hour in a darkened church because she is made of generosity and goodness.

And I guess there’s a little more: I am reading. I am working on school things so as not to get nightmare-y in the 3:00 am hour. I am calling a friend who will tell me that it’s okay to try on the darkness for a while as long as I shuck it back off again. I am asking my man to make dinner because he is willing and good and capable. I am sitting outside on a birdsoaked night watching the sun settle over the western mountains and turn the hills flat and blue.

I am convalescing from discouragement so that I can once again be me, filled with couragement. (Germans, that’s a word, right?)

 

April 19, 2016

Long, long ago…

Filed under: anxiety,dumb things I do,history,rambles,school — becca @ 12:39 pm

I just had occasion to remember something.

When I was in 7th grade, (can you, reader, already feel the tension mounting? the horror building?) I had a co-ed PE class. (Now? Now can you feel it, reader?)

The end.

Just kidding. But I really did have a 7th grade co-ed PE class. One for which we “dressed out” daily. And there were various and sundry humiliations attached thereto. But I just want to tell you about this one day, this one moment, and the eternal fallout that it caused.

PE class was ending. I don’t remember what we did that day. Don’t remember what we played, but I know it was inside, so not golf or tennis or a mile run (all of which I did very, very badly). The moment was after that part. After going down into the girls’ locker room at Batesville Middle School and changing back into my dress. I don’t remember why exactly I was wearing a dress to school, but there must have been an occasion. I have always pretty much been a jeans-and-sweatshirts kind of girl. This dress, though. I remember it clearly. It had large pastel squares on it, like maybe 6-inch squares of pink and blue and light green and yellow and cream. (Do you remember, reader, that “cream” was totally a color in the mid-to-late eighties?) The dress zipped up the back. I fear it may have had a rounded collar, but that could be a misremember. I know it had a very, very full skirt. Like the kind that even at the mature age of whatever-I-was-in-7th-grade (12, of course), I couldn’t really help myself — I had to twirl. Not in public, necessarily. But for sure at home. It was an excellent twirling dress.

The dress also had a belt, because it was the 80s. The belt was wide and pink and vinyl/plastic. It flattered my 12-year-old waist. Oh, I loved that dress. And so. I wore it to school for whatever the occasion was. And at the end of changing time in PE, I walked back up the steps and into the gym.

7th grade PE was co-ed but divided (occasionally). The girls sat on one side of the gym, and the boys sat on the other. After changing back into our “street clothes,” we took our places on opposite sides of the gym and waited to be excused. I didn’t want to wrinkle my cotton dress, so I stood in front of the bleachers, facing the other girls, maybe talking to one of the Angies, maybe just waiting and listening and totally not twirling. Meanwhile, the boys were slouching on the bleachers opposite.

Could someone have told me? Could the knowledge have descended like a bolt of figurative lightning? Maybe the teacher tapped me on the shoulder. Maybe a creeping sensation caused me to check. I don’t know how I knew, but suddenly, I KNEW.

My skirt was tucked. Up. Into my belt. In the back. And there I stood, already way too body-conscious at 12, with my backside completely THERE. “Facing” the boys.

I could try to describe the humiliation. I could endeavor to explain the horror. I could even delve into the certainty that none of the girls — literally no one from “my” side of the gym — tried to hide me or help me. I remember that I spun (fast) in a half circle. I tugged. I smoothed. I tried to smile. I tried to ignore.

But I never forgot.

To this day, I have a compulsion to check the back of my skirt EVERY time I leave a room. Sit in a chair? Check the skirt. Stand up? Skirt check. Use a bathroom? MUST CHECK THE SKIRT. And, although some may say it makes me nosy, I am always willing to tell/hide/help anyone who is in a Dire Skirt Predicament. Because sisters, reader, need each other. And I will die happy if that particular event never happens to me again.

March 2, 2016

Thoughts on Growing Up, Again and Again.

Filed under: anxiety,dumb things I do,emotion,kids,school — becca @ 12:10 pm

I was always kind of offended by the phrase “terrible twos” – is it really fair to condemn a toddler for acting his age? But I get the problem. I totally do. And I think I know why it is what it is. (*Easy for me to say, my youngest is 12.) Here’s what I think: Two year olds are split almost evenly in two halves – no, not good and evil. “I want to be big,” and “I’m the baby.” Hold me. Let me. Help me. I will do it myself.

Fast forward three years. Many of the same behaviors are exhibited by a kid starting school. A fairly even split between wanting to be independent and wanting to be coddled. In my family, it happens again at eleven or twelve. Coincidentally (?) add in hormone shifts (sweet!) and this manifests itself mostly as moodiness – but work with me here. If you could figure out if the kid wanted to be snuggled or sent on an errand, wouldn’t you kind of have life managed?

What I’m finding now is that it happens again in high school. Here’s my theory: growing up is a series of decisions about how a person wants to be treated. Kid or grown up? I mess this up every single day. I assume my students know more / can do more / are willing to stretch more than they know / can / will. They freak out. “Too much pressure!” Okay, so I’ve been treating them too Big. So I back off. I assume they know nothing and will try nothing, and they rebel. “We’re not idiots!” No. You’re not. You’re in the process of growing up. And Process is the key. (*Sometimes I get it right. Or right-ish. I try.)

If I can keep this in mind, and if I can strike a balance, for a class or a section or a kid, I can help that kid succeed in the moment. Just like when my kids were tiny, and really, really NEEDED to make their choices. If I could give my kid a couple of reasonable options, it was far more likely that the choice of the moment would end happily for both of us. (As opposed to, you know, “What would you like for lunch?” which could end in a variety of terrifying disagreements.)

So I’m searching for that balance. I’m seeking to do it respectfully – to give genuine adultish opportunities for those who are leaning that way, and to be patient about repeating the same directions a thousand times (and answering “why?” questions over and over) when they’re feeling needy. When they’re lucky, kids grow up in increments. They do it over and over, a little at a time. I need to learn to access and respect their place at the moment. And, if I’m being fair, I still have days when I want to get wrapped up in a blanket and snuggled. And plenty of times I have a fit when I think I’m being treated like a dumb kid. This may be a lifelong process, so it would be awesome if I could figure out how to do it right.

August 31, 2015

Really, Dads?

Filed under: anxiety,school — becca @ 9:48 am

** Disclaimer: I LOVE FATHERS. Awesome dads make up most of the population of men I know. This is not meant to bash fatherhood. Dadliness is one of the most amazing attributes I can possibly observe. End Disclaimer. **

I had this friend in High School – we’ll call him Ryan, because that’s his name. He played baseball. He liked it, and he was good at it, and it’s a good thing, because his dad would never have let him quit. Never. His dad was, as far as we could tell in our High School Haze, living his own baseball dreams through his kid. Which, fine.

Today my sophomores gave presentations where they told nine truths and one lie about themselves and FOUR of them in one class talked about doing a sport that they HATE because their dad makes them.

This is what I said.

“!”

and

“?”

and

“Huh?”

Because, really? This was one kid’s lie: “I love playing football,” and I could tell by the strain in his voice that he was lying. I’ve known him for very few days. In fact, he’s spoken aloud very seldom in my presence. But I could TELL.

This is weird, this number (I hope). It represents one out of eight kids in that section. ONE OUT OF EIGHT kids in that class “have to” play a sport that they admittedly dislike. Maybe that’s not weird. Maybe I’m the weird one. Maybe the reason my kids aren’t elite athletes is that I don’t make them play sports they don’t love. Or it could be genetics. Either way, we’re not elite. At all. And I’m okay with that.

So what if my kids hated school? I’d still make them go. What if my kids hated writing? Okay, I hear you. (Some of them claim that they do, but they’re so good at it that I just nod and stand back and gasp in wonder at their blog posts and tweets and Instagram tags.) What if my kids didn’t want to attend church? Yeah, I think I’d make them. Maybe I need to look at high school sports as a form of religious worship. Heaven knows I wouldn’t be alone in that mindset. I grew up in Indiana, remember?

What do you think? Am I missing something? Or is this “I hate this sport” conversation just a step in growing up that hasn’t happened yet?

June 16, 2015

I’m sorry. I’m stupid.

Filed under: anxiety,dumb things I do,emotion,musings — becca @ 12:07 pm

Once upon a time I made what I had NO IDEA was a stupid, hurtful comment to a struggling friend. She was telling me of a newly-discovered battle she was choosing to keep private – a diagnosis of a child on the autism spectrum. I said what I thought were the right (supportive) things, and then I said something idiotic about her choice not to “wave the flag” about her kid’s diagnosis.

— Here is why I said that. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are fighting remarkable battles every moment with special-needs kids, and I applaud their parenting AND I LOVE THEIR KIDS. Having said so – I have occasionally heard acquaintances speak about their children with special needs as the need: Like, “I have my hands full with this CONDITION who also happens to be my child.” I am a huge supporter of parents who advocate for their kids, and an even more huge supporter of those who help their kids advocate for themselves. Something hurts me when a person is placed behind a diagnosis, as  opposed to the other way around. I think the human being should come first, is all.

Now, I know that what I said hurt this friend. I didn’t know it for a long time. Naturally, as soon as I realized that I had been stupid, I apologized. I recognize that what I meant and what she heard were at vast odds, and that it may have driven a fatal wedge in our relationship. I do not fault her for this in any way. I was stupid. I said something vague where (hello) even if I’d been specific, it would not have been useful or helpful. I caused hurt. The fact that I didn’t mean to? Not relevant. The fact that I apologized? Not enough. I am not here to try to fix all the dumb I’ve been responsible for in my long, long life of dumb. I am here to say that sometimes I say things that are categorically stupid, and that when I offend I am sorry. I try to keep the stupid to a minimum. I really do.

This is an event that I think about on an almost daily basis. It happened YEARS ago. The thing is, I deserve to think about it. I deserve to have it on my mind. That bad decision I made might make me slightly less stupid in future discussions of that sort (or of any sort – thoughts about that mistake enter my mind in nearly every critical conversation I have). And I think it helps me choose to take offense less often than I might, because I consider that when someone I love (or like, or simply don’t despise) says something stabby or hurtful, I can – from personal experience – choose to assume that what I hear isn’t necessarily what he meant to say.

 

March 2, 2015

Intentions

Filed under: anxiety,dumb things I do — becca @ 3:10 pm

Can a person make a habit of good intentions? Because on the surface that sounds like Not a Bad Idea. It seems like good intentions would lead to great actions and amazing results. Except, it doesn’t, always.

I generally act on my good intentions (in all my life’s aspects), except for when I don’t. And the don’t times feel bad, and I have regret and stuff. I tell you this so you understand that I’m actually a pretty nice person.

Sometimes, even with the best actions following the most excellent intentions, I get poopy results. I offend. I overstep. I underdeliver. I mess up, is what I’m telling you. And I worry that my habit of good intentions is causing me to be the person who offends and oversteps and underdelivers and messes up and I don’t want to be that person. I want to be the excellent one. And sometimes I’m really, really not.

But I guess I have to take what happens as it happens, because I don’t think it would be a good idea to stop intending goodness, or to stop acting on those intentions. I can’t control the results very often, so I guess I have to Let It Go and junk. And hope that the people whom I offend can get past the offense and decide to discover my intentions. I promise, they’re pretty good.

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