Becca Wilhite Blog

December 6, 2017

Being Okay

Filed under: emotion — becca @ 12:24 pm

Here’s what I’m wondering: What is okay? When  questions are answered with “okay” what do we actually mean?

So many different questions are answered with the same word, and the questions are SO diverse. So, why are the answers the same? And how are we supposed to translate what they actually mean?

My kid is okay. My friend’s car is okay. The neighbor’s experience training the new dog is okay. Plans for the wedding are okay. The podcast was okay. Surgery went okay. The weather is okay. Everything will (sooner or later) be okay. The haircut is okay. I am okay. Yes, that hurt, but it’s okay.

And if this bugs me, why, why, why do I use the same word for everything I don’t actually want to deal with? When people ask me things that fall into the “can’t deal” or “none of your business” or “not prepared to engage in this discussion right now/with you/until I have something buttered to eat,” the answer is almost always, “okay.”

I think I’m not willing to get uncomfortable with a discussion. Okay works. Okay fills.

But sometimes, it’s actually true. Not good, not bad, but sustainable. Okay.

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 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?)

 

May 2, 2017

Found

Filed under: emotion,familyness,food,writing — becca @ 10:08 pm

I was looking for a thing in my “writerly things” file. I came across a pile of essays. Here’s one from what must be 8 years ago. There are more. I may unearth another soon.

___

When my kids were small, hours were eternal. And there were so many of them in a day. It was impossible to find an activity that could adequately fill one without driving me to lunacy or complete physical exhaustion.

Years passed, full of those ceaseless, relentless hours.

What happened, then? When did the space-time continuum shift? Why is it that now, hours are scarce, precious, and all too short? Time, that monster that used to hover over me, huffing out the moments like hot breath, has disappeared, been replaced by a frantically-ticking clock, spinning seconds into hours, into weeks and years.

These days, it’s my most important work to wrangle that clock into submission and slow down one hour a day. Keep my finger on the second hand so it won’t get out of control and run away with my family’s moments.

A few minutes of that hour happen in the morning, when groggy, bed-head kids and half-primped teens and at least one sweaty, post-work-out parent (the other parent may have abandoned the work out ritual, again) meet at the kitchen table for scripture study. It’s one time in a day that I’m grateful that school is in session. The forced schedule kick-starts our morning motivation. Even through the yawning, the paper-scorching morning breath, and the zoning out, the words get spoken aloud. And we pray together, and I pray in my heart. I pray for the sinking in. I pray for the application. I pray they’ll remember the sweet moments here, not the other kind.

The rest of the wrangled minutes come at the other end of the day. Back around the table, in what have become “our spots,” we gather for dinner. It’s my one consistent offering. We don’t do fancy. We don’t even always do tasty. I’m no Julia Child. I can’t even spell “gourmet” without looking it up. My kids didn’t know meat came on bones until I accidentally introduced them to KFC. Now they think of The Colonel as a kindly uncle who stops by once a year to clog our arteries.

Dinner is simple around here. I don’t mean easy – give me credit, please. I mean unadorned. And while I try to feed these people healthy meals full of green and growing things, that’s not even the most important part for me. The nourishing I aim for is the other kind. These minutes, the ones carved out of every evening, stolen from work schedules and rehearsals and practices and play time, these minutes hold the moments.

At the table, between passing the white salad dressing to that kid and the pink salad dressing to this kid, we hear the stories that make up the missing hours of the days. We hear the giddy stories about the boy who almost said the most charming thing. We hear the angsty stories about the friend who is, if not actively in trouble, heading that way. We hear the hilarious stories that don’t translate to any place but that table. Sorry. You had to be there. We hear the frustrating, the exciting, the proud-making stories. We hear and we tell the stories of the other parts of our lives.

And in sharing the stories, we recapture a few of those spinning moments. Every day, a few minutes at a time.

 

February 4, 2017

I though I knew what Busy was

Filed under: emotion,goals,musings,priorities,publishing,writing — becca @ 8:34 am

Once upon a time I was a high school student with a full load of challenging classes and a job and family responsibilities and I thought I was busy.

Once upon a time I was a college student with a full load of challenging classes and a job and no social life to speak of and plenty of food to cook and I thought I was busy.

Once upon a time I was a young mom with four little kids running in at least seventeen directions and I thought I was busy.

Once upon a time I was serving in a Relief Society presidency/Young Women presidency/Primary presidency in my church along with all the wonderful family things, and I thought I was busy.

Then I got a full time teaching job. And kept most of my other things. And I was pretty busy, and I learned how to be okay with sandwiches or pancakes for dinner (because, after all, sandwiches might be my love language, and pancakes are undoubtedly Kid 3’s) and a clean-ish home, and significantly less awesomeness in pretty much every aspect of my life: I still do all the things, I just don’t do any of them very well.

I miss naps. Wait. How did I take naps back in the day if I were so busy?

I miss small kids on my lap for story time. Wait. I had time to read books out loud back then when I was so busy?

I miss making bread. (Blessing: our congregation meets at 1:00 on Sundays now. Huzzah! Bread last Sunday! Cinnamon rolls the week before!)

I miss writing whenever I feel like it. Instead of its being a casual fling, I have to make time for the writing. We have to make a date with a beginning and ending minute. I have to get SERIOUS about this. And do you know what? I think it’s making me like it more. I have more respect for this thing that requires careful planning. And I have to think that’s a good development. It requires me to be grown up about it. As if, perhaps, this were a job. Which – well, they’re paying me, right?

I am in a place of perspective today that allows me to recognize the probability that I don’t know what busy is. And that it’s likely to arrive someday on my doorstep. And I want to be able to embrace it – that thing that life may bring me – wholeheartedly and generously. And I want to keep pressing forward with the other important things. And to do them better, more graciously, more gratefully.

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.

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 24, 2015

Writing Stories

Filed under: emotion,metaphors,rambles — becca @ 5:34 am

It’s not just something writer-people do, you know. Everyone does it. When the car goes screaming past, we automatically give the driver a story. I learned a long time ago that the story I give the driver has more effect on the rest of my drive, and maybe my whole day, than I would have expected.

“That maniac. She’s probably hurrying home to hide the evidence of all her vile behaviors before her landlord comes for an inspection.”

“That idiot. If he’d plan his day and leave his house on time, he wouldn’t have to endanger everyone on the road. I’ll bet he’s got his music turned up so loud he can’t even hear sirens when he gets pulled over. There’s probably a shrine to that guy in the police office – Most Valuable Driver.”

These stories give me a tiny moment of satisfaction, and then an afternoon full of righteous indignation. But they’re not the only stories.

“His wife is in labor. They’ve waited so long for this baby, and she’s laughing and crying at the same time in the front seat – all the pain and anticipation blending together into a kind of baby mania, and he doesn’t know how to help her, so he’s hurrying her into the care of someone who does.”

“She’s running to her nephew’s birthday party, and the box turtle she bought him is scrambling up the sides of the crate it’s in. She’s terrified that it might get loose in the car, because there’s nothing she fears more than reptiles (are turtles reptiles?) but no one she loves more than her nephew.”

These stories make me infinitely more glad to be a part of humanity.

When I get a glare from a student or a colleague, I can assume “You hate me,” or I can develop a little backstory that is probably totally inaccurate, but makes me sympathetic to the plights of humanity.

“The babysitter she feared wore a T-shirt that said “The Grapes of Wrath” on it; it’s not me she hates, and it’s not Steinbeck. She’s dealing with long-repressed memories of being forced to eat cold canned peas.”

“He only appears to despise me. In fact, he just found out he’s been assigned to teach driver’s ed this summer, so all his longed-for early morning tee times are wafting away like a puff of smoke.”

Is it likely? Well, no. But it’s not impossible. There’s a chance that it’s not, in fact, about me at all. And there’s a more sympathetic story I can devise. The generous stories don’t change the reality of the manic driving or the glares, but they change the way I feel about it. They change the reaction from a reflex to a choice.

I prefer choice.

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