Category: anxiety (page 1 of 6)

Long, long ago…

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.

Thoughts on Growing Up, Again and Again.

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.

Really, Dads?

** 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?

I’m sorry. I’m stupid.

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.

 

Intentions

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.

Powerless

In the last 2 weeks, our school power has gone out twice. Once the tech gurus managed to keep the internet humming (I have no idea – voodoo magic, I expect, was involved) but not today. It’s funny to be in a school full of kids on computers and have no way to get them online. My writing class found excuses not to write (surprise!) because they couldn’t link to stuff saved in cloudy regions.

I find it hilarious that we rely so much on technology to make our lives easier and then that tech (be it as simple as THE LIGHTS) goes away, and we kind of don’t know what to do with ourselves.

I think about this sort of thing kind of regularly – not so much the Power, but my dependence on it. Getting my car out of the garage for work in the morning, for instance. If the door doesn’t work, neither do I. My freezer full of food, for another instance. I know that on any busy day I could grab food of many varieties out of the freezer and produce a meal. But what if the freezer dies? (Not an entirely hypothetical question – last time that happened it was January, so the freezer acted like a cooler for a day or two because LUCK or BLESSINGS or COINCIDENCE, depending on your semantics.) Or what if the oven doesn’t work and I can’t cook Costco Orange Chicken? Or what if the power’s out and I can’t blend all those frozen fruits and veggies together? All my careful preparation is for naught, and here I am, stuck being the one who no longer ALWAYS HAS HOMEMADE BREAD in the pantry. So no dinner.

I have plenty of metaphorical powerlessness, too – when I depend on things (physical, mental, metaphysical) to work and they don’t and I’m left feeling all alone and drown-y and helpless and abandoned – and that right there is the thing. I always manage to take it personally. I feel like I’VE BEEN LEFT ALONE, which my brain knows is silly but my heart totally buys.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: If I have ever been your Power, and I went away and left you Powerless and you were depending on me because I should always be there for you? I’m sorry about it. And please understand (as I’m coming to understand) it’s not very often a conscious choice, and it’s mostly true that I don’t even know it happened unless you tell me. But if you tell me, I’ll try to get you connected to your power again so you’re not feeling all abandoned. Because we hate that, right? (Right.)

Little Town, Big News

Things are happening around here that are causing Major News. If you don’t already know about it, ignore this. If you do already know about it and don’t care about my opinion, I’m not offended. Short story, yearbook photos were edited to bring people (yeah, okay, mostly female people) into compliance with stated dress code. Please understand. I don’t speak for anyone. I am not in any sort of official capacity. I’m their English teacher.

At its core, this is an issue not of modesty but of obedience. There is a policy. It may be archaic. It may be outdated. It may be born of good ideas. I’m personally a fan of a dress code. However you see the policy, you do, in fact, see the policy. The students at our high school see it too.

The posted sign. The sign that says that the policy will be enforced. The girls say they didn’t see the sign. I believe them. I’m their English teacher, remember? I know that posted signs are routinely ignored — every  single day. Their not seeing it doesn’t change the policy. *

The problem comes when, like anyone in any position to enforce consequences born of disobedience to a policy, someone manages those enforcements of consequence inconsistently. I have a whole post in my head about the awesomeness that is our school culture, and the remarkable things our faculty empowers our students to do. The important part is that it’s our students who get to do it. And yes, this event shows that some kind of changes need to take place. I have nothing but respect for our yearbook advisor. And the student editor is one of my favorite brilliant/gifted/remarkable people in the world. Even the most awesome of us makes mistakes and manages to be inconsistent. So whatever the plan becomes for next year, there will certainly be better checks in place.

But I’m all for obeying the rules.

And for consistency in dealing with consequences.

And please, please understand, when I look at pictures in my own kid’s yearbook, I don’t look at shoulders. I don’t look for cleavage. I look at their beautiful smiling faces. And I like what I see.

___

* And right. Maybe it’s time to change the policy. That’s not my job. Nor is it the intent of this post.

Must Be Spring Break

My only real goals for today were to sleep until 7:00 and to write thousands of words before noon. So, naturally, my sleep was riddled with stress-dreams, rendering sleep-in impossible. Alas. Dreams about the classroom, the writers conference, the summer camp, the Prom, and the graduation. That pretty much covers it, until I start having the International Travel nightmares (for which I can totally wait – no hurry, Dream Fairies).

On to Goal 2 – the writing of many words. I hope my fingers remember how to do this part.