In the Midst of Confusion

You should see the sunset behind the mountains here in Asheville, NC.  The mountain ridge’s silhouette is framed by a deep red and orange sinking sun and a deep purple burst of clouds fan out and stretch upward to touch a gray blue sky with even grayer clouds floating above.  It’s beauty is not lost on me this evening as we move into the winter solstice:  the darkest time of year.

I live on top of a small hill on the second floor of an apartment complex.  The tulip poplars’ limbs reach upward and I can see eye level with their small branches that have ridges and grooves where leaves will sprout out in the spring.  These trees act as a fence and along with the pine trees and mighty oaks and regal maples they keep the soil intact so we don’t slide down onto the busy street below.

Fifteen minutes have passed since writing the first words, and the sun has disappeared behind the mountains.  It is pitch black, save the streetlights in the parking lot below.  The solstice is upon us and like the black bears here in the area, it is time to go inside and hibernate.  Except, I am already indoors nursing a mild cold that creeped up on me yesterday evening.  Metaphor then calls for me to know the next step of going inside:  to drop into my heart center and seek the mystery that has been calling me for awhile now.

Truthfully, I never fully understood why I came out here this past summer.  I told my friends and family it was just a breakaway from my old life and a chance to explore and do something new and different before I got too stuck in my ways.  On the surface, it was really that.  So, I put all of my attention and energy there and explored the city and met interesting people.

I also had grandiose ideas of starting my freelance writing career and making money by writing copy and profiles for businesses and small organizations.  I did that for awhile and I put all of my attention and energy there.  It was exhausting and not as rewarding as I thought it would be.  And, I wasn’t making any money.  That was Ok if I could drum up the business, but I was in a new town, a new environment, and without a lot of chances to network nor had I enough experience yet to even charge for my services.  I also had to admit that I was putting on a good show for myself and my friends and family as a way to prove that I would drum up business and support myself financially and one day this would become my means of support.  I see now that I was trying to put on airs to make this move, this leap, not appear so scary to me or others.  A way to justify my need to be accepted as a mainstream, career writer with a solid vocation that fit into society.

Then, I heard a voice tell me that it is inevitable that I should become a published writer since I am a former English teacher.  So, I put all of my attention and energy there.  And, that felt better, yet it was still exhausting and I realized I was going on a path where my ego was getting the better of me and telling me I was worthless as a writer if I didn’t publish anything any time soon.  I went to writer’s workshops and writer’s circles, and even joined a critique group.  And, I failed and I fell.  Hard.  (See last blog post about a  piece of fiction I workshopped before it was worth showing to anyone.)  I was expecting my transformation as a writer to happen over night because it is what I want.  In September, I had written one of the most beautiful pieces of my life and now it sits in online queues at numerous literary journals.  There is one rejection letter already in my email folder.  I tell myself that it’s all Ok because it’s the name of the game.

img_3153After a little soul searching, and laying my persona of an English teacher and an academic to rest, I returned to my first love of drawing.  I started a doodle of a sugar maple leaf and it turned into something that lit me up inside.  Here, tucked inside the leaf, were images of butterfly wings, pine bark, rocks from a creek bed, elderberries, and mountain ash berries and so many more things from my daily nature walks.  “Maybe, just maybe, I can consider myself an artist?” I thought to myself.  In a classic self-loathing fashion, however, I berated myself and told myself that I was a fraud on all creative levels because I never went to school for art and I spent most of my writing time in a classroom reading teenager’s essays and re-reading and discussing pieces of literature and poetry from textbooks.

I didn’t give up on drawing, however, and saw it as a new form of meditation that could replace my daily journal writing, which was becoming cumbersome, melodramatic and morose.  And so I went about my days drawing, working at Trader Joe’s, teaching yoga, and going on nature walks when I had the time and energy.

All seemed well and good at this point.  My easy-going lifestyle was nice when I was in the flow and enjoying my creative pursuits simply for pleasure and a release of years of pent up creativity that had no time or outlet to come forth.  But, life happened to me.  I began to get scared about why I was here in Asheville.  I worried again about living on a mix of a low income from the grocery store and my stored up savings account.  I began brainstorming of ways to fast track my creative pursuits and think of how I could develop them quickly and prove to myself and others that I wasn’t wasting my time here.  And worse, I began thinking of how to make my creativity the center of a new vocation or career based on the shaky skills I had pulled out from years of hiding deep inside of my psyche.

The universe brought to me an opportunity to teach a yoga and journaling workshop on overcoming and transforming fear.  I was (and still am) excited about it.  I even met with a doctor who has been practicing yoga and meditation for 30 years.  He overheard me talking about my workshop to a couple I know at Trader Joe’s.  To make a long story short, we met and he wants me to teach at his practice and also wants to introduce me to some friends of his that run a retreat center in the area.  So I thought to myself, “Aha!  This is what I’m supposed to do!  I can combine my love of teaching and yoga with my skills on how to write and I can make a living from this down the line.”  I abandoned my drawing and poured myself into my research and practiced breathing techniques and wrote lesson plans like I used to do when I was an English teacher.

I started to become confused.  Which path of creativity should I take in order to make a new life for myself?  Is this what I’m supposed to be doing with my life while I’m here?  How long am I going to be here in Asheville?  Will I stay forever or will I return to the Midwest or will I move somewhere else and do something else?  Will I run out of money before I accomplish anything in this world worth doing?  Am I on the right track?  Am I happy?  Where has my passion and my spirituality and deep connection to my heart and to the earth gone?  Why am I not feeling anything?  Why do I feel like I am off course?  What the hell am I doing here?  What the hell are we all doing here?  And down and down and down the rabbit hole I went.

I slipped into a mild depression without realizing it.   It didn’t help anything that I had suffered a very bad haircut.  A mop of hair with two different dye-jobs and  silver-white chunks sitting precariously on top of my head.  Zits popped up and a few pounds stuck to my cheeks (on both ends) from the treats at work.  Even my apartment appeared cluttered and small.  I piled up dishes in the sink and pulled out clean ones from the dishwasher. A tumbleweed of loose hair (mine and my pets’) drifted across the bathroom floor as I walked in and brushed my teeth the other day.  I shut off the sink and the lights when I finished and simply walked away.  Too tired to pick up a tiny mess.

A few days ago, I experienced the throws of angst in my body 2 hours before I went to work.  I was sweating.  My breathing was shallow.  I was jittery and couldn’t sit still.  My mind jumped around to all the “what ifs” and projected worries and difficulties that could and would happen.  I had the same exact feelings and thoughts I used to have before I walked into the hallways of Belleville West high school where I used to teach.  Trader Joe’s is a simple, albeit very physical, job.  There is no stress or pressure to it (although, there is some drama and some very real frustrations of dealing with a few of the arrogant young men that work there…I’ll save all of that for a later post).  Fortunately, I have an arsenal of resources and techniques I’ve cultivated over the years (ones that I will share at my workshop), and I tamed and curbed my anxiety and understood it for what it was:  an old biological and psychological pattern that is from my past and is revealing itself in my present.  The only control I have over it is to not let it be a part of my future.

My body wasn’t done with me just yet, however.  Yesterday was a full day of practicing and teaching yoga, meeting with a spiritual teacher for personal and workshop reasons, working on a writing project for him, all the while neglecting housework and life’s necessary drudgeries.  I sat down on my couch for a few minutes before getting ready to meet with a friend for a bluegrass concert, and my body took over.  I felt heavy and achy.  My eyes watered and a dry cough started in my throat.  I tried to fall asleep on my couch, but my dog barked at every single noise my upstairs neighbors and their wild dogs made.  I forced back tears and got up, showered, and went to my friend’s house and later the concert.  The food we ate was delicious and the band was amazing.  That perked me up until they took a break and I realized I needed a mental, emotional, and physical break as well.

I didn’t go to work today.  I knew it was time to purge myself of this cold and these negative thoughts.  To awaken my body again to its resiliency and awaken my spirit as well.  I took it easy this a.m. and when I had enough energy, I cleaned my apartment in a mindful way.  I threw out or donated what was no longer serving me.  In my spare bedroom closet, I came across a stack of my old journals with beautiful ideas and words in them.  I smiled and a memory of my 10-year-old self came back when I realized I loved words and wrote poetry about soaring eagles or about the soft glow of the streetlight as I walked our family dog, Oscar.  I also found a stack of drawings and doodles I did on my free time when I had a career.  They’re not too bad and they show that I do have an innate sense of perspective, color, and design and a creative and unique approach to my subject matter.

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More importantly, I know how I felt channeling the words and the images through my mind.  My hands.  My heart.  I know that mythical time is there to support me and this linear time of moving about my day and earning money does not always have to be 100% in alignment with that.  Times like the winter solstice can help us go inward and empty out all that is dead and not working for us.  We can open up space and shine a light inside our hearts as a way to nurture what is to grow next. We cannot force its growth.  It must germinate and emerge from the depths of our souls on its own time.  Just like Persephone’s return from the Underworld.  Her mother’s sadness of losing her daughter is the world’s gain in the future when Persephone walks the earth with her mother again for a short while.

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When I found these drawings, I almost wanted to say “Fuck off” to my old self who had locked my mind, body, and spirit into a very unhealthy way of being where I consumed myself with martyrdom, angst, worry, and an authoritarian mentality inside a world confined to a small classroom inside a brick building.   But I brought compassion to that old part of me that is still somewhat wired in my brain and my body and comes out in awkward moments like I mentioned.  What I do know is that inside me all along has been the writer, the artist, the communicator, the teacher who can express the tenderness and beauty of the subtle and mysterious world.  Who can tell stories and myths and weave them into a yoga class or a blog post.  Who can help guide people through their own personal journey that is riddled with fear and grief.  Who knows the way to creating a body-mind-heart connection, even if it is for a brief moment.  Who is not a fraud, but a growing being with human skin and bones.  Imperfect but authentic in her pursuit of something bigger and more meaningful and helpful to humanity that only her blip of a moment on this planet can provide.

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Endings and Beginnings

One of my managers asked me the other day what are some of the differences between my old job as a teacher and my new job as a crew member at Trader Joe’s.  I stared at her for a little too long, bags of salad in my hand and boxes at my feet. My brow furrowed into a questioning look.  I searched for the right words that wouldn’t come out as smarmy or cliched.  Nothing is the same.  And that’s the whole reason I’m here.  It is like comparing apples to oranges (oops, I used a cliche).  Except I never received the round, shiny apple from an overly enthusiastic student hungry for knowledge at the beginning of a beautiful school day and the oranges here are in bags, stacked neatly in a bin waiting to be grabbed by hungry, overly enthusiastic customers.

I gave her some lame answers about not having to think, plan, or scheme ahead and deal with any teenage drama or angry parents.  I mentioned how nice it is to not have to think about work or take anything home with me nor work late hours at home to get ready for the next day.  She smiled.  She is kind.  She was reaching out to me and trying to connect with me and build rapport.  I was grateful for her attempt, but I had to fight back tears in the middle of the produce aisle.

The rest of that day I was a bit rattled.  I heard myself telling customer after customer that I “used to be a high school English teacher” whenever I was engaging in small talk and sharing the reason why I moved out here three months ago.  I couldn’t give myself a new title of “writer” or any other creative moniker that distanced me from what I used to be.  I haven’t fully untangled my mind from identifying as a high school teacher.  I have not accepted that part of me is dead.  Grief is settling in and it is manifesting in awkward places like when I am ringing up customers, eating my salad in the break room, or dipping up soup and slices of grilled cheese sandwiches in the demo kitchen.

My workdays are spent in pure physical labor tasks where my body is engaged and developing muscle memory.  My mind is focused solely on the task at hand.  It is only when I am prompted by a coworker to talk about my old job that I begin to let some of the old memories materialize into hazy mental images that have been tucked away in some hidden corner of my mind.  I am surprised by how little memory I have of teaching after 18 years of the career.  It worries me.  I question if I have completely erased that part of my life.  On break, I check my phone and see that I have two emails from former exchange students who are back in their home countries.  They ask how school is going for me.  They do not know what my new life is like, and they still have me locked in their memory as their English teacher who shared with them her passion for American literature and writing.  Somewhere across the globe and in small pockets of the United States are young people who know me as only “Ms. Hoelscher” and either love me or hate me or remember to put a comma or a period in a certain place when writing an email because of my attention to grammar on their essays.  I was once a high school English teacher.  But what am I now that I have no one sitting in a classroom with me for fifty five minutes a day, five days a week for 180 days out of the year?

One afternoon, a coworker grabbed my box cutter out of my hand while I was stocking shelves and began to chastise me by saying, “Never, ever, ever. . .” Then she realized my safety was on and that I am left handed and have a left handed box cutter so my actions look “off” to her.  I stood there and smiled and listened to her apologize as she handed me back my cutter.  I went back to work knowing she was just trying to give me a veteran tip and help me adjust to my new job.  A few minutes later, however, tears pooled up in the corners of my eyes and a sense of embarrassment and shame flooded over me.  I wondered if this is how my students felt whenever I was harsh with them.

Another day I gave a break to a coworker who was working the demo kitchen area.  She is very good at her job and did a great job training me on how to run a smooth kitchen the week before.  She worried that I would be too overwhelmed for the 10 minutes she needed to use the restroom and eat a snack.  I listened as she fussed and  went over the small details on how to ladle the soup into the cup and put the grilled cheese slice on the plate.  I nodded and smiled as she reminded me to fill up the cider sample cups and be friendly to customers.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this was an easy job in comparison to dealing with 100 teenagers a day, tolerating the loud noise in the hallways before and after school and during passing periods,working 12 hour days, mentoring emotionally conflicted students, calling parents and taking work home, staying after school for an extracurricular assignment, grabbing copies out of the run down copy machine while grabbing a snack, peeing before the five minute bell was up, answering random questions in the hallway, rushing to the classroom and beginning my lesson, and also managing bad behaviors and technical difficulties while still managing to teach a complex lesson on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” in under 55 minutes.  I can handle 10 minutes of ladling soup into a disposable cup, placing a piece of grilled cheese on a paper plate, and smiling at customers as they wait patiently for free food.

Thankfully, I have moved away from feeling shell-shocked and fearful on a regular basis like I did in late July and early August.  I am only now coming to terms with the fact that my old life is dead and gone and will never return to me.  Pain is settling in and manifesting in places like my neck, jaw, shoulders, and upper arms.  I’m sure the lifting of heavy boxes and scanning and bagging people’s groceries are the physical cause of this outer layer of pain.  Whenever I find myself talking about my former life or reliving memories (good and bad), I feel my body shifting to this protective mode so I don’t start crying while I sweep up spilled tomatoes and onion skins off the floor around the vegetable and fruit bins.

I realized that my attachment to my old identity was a way to protect myself from feeling lost in this new skin I am starting to grow.  I have no idea what to call myself when people outside of work ask me what I do.  And I find myself feeling sad when customers find out I’ve lived here only 3 months and ask what did I do before I came here.  I am stuck.  Am I a writer?  Am I a former English teacher who is on sabbatical?  Am I a yoga teacher?  Am I an artist/creative person?  Am I a crew member at Trader Joe’s?  Am I a dead beat (as one customer asked one of my managers when they asked about his former life)?  Who am I?  Why am I here?  What is my purpose?  All of these questions swirl around me as I walk my dog down Weaverville’s Main Street or scan a box of Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s and cauliflower rice and cases of wine.

img_3060On Halloween, we were encouraged to dress up for work.  I didn’t have a costume until the last minute when I decided it would be fun to follow the traditions of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and use humor and love to commemorate my old self.  I dressed up as a zombie English teacher, complete with a bruised apple, composition notebook, and a Great Gatsby bag as accessories.  I let her come out and play and be seen.  I remembered her and remembered how good she was at her job.  How she created solid and creative lesson plans and adjusted them according to her students’ various levels and needs.  How she listened as a student came to her crying about her boyfriend and her fears of becoming pregnant.  How she was yelled at numerous times by frustrated students and angry parents and stood her ground and took the verbals hits and then went home and licked her wounds and ate ice cream in front of the TV.  I remembered how she once farted in front of a class of 30 sophomores and ran out of the room straight to the restroom to discover she had food poisoning from the Mexican restaurant she ate at the night before.  Then, she came back to class and taught like nothing had happened and finished her day running to the restroom between the five minute bell periods.

I loved her.  I still do.  I am just not her anymore.

The next day, I decided to put her to rest and give her a beautiful ceremony up in the mountains in a tiny alcove of rhododendrons and Mountain Ash berries. I had bought a bouquet of marigolds, sunflowers, rosemary sprigs, and yellow and purple flowers.  I brought it with me on my drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway up to Craggy Gardens, an elevation of over 5,000 feet.

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In front of me was a semi-private dead end trail, no more than 20 feet away from the parking lot.  There was a circular clearing.  I spread out the flowers in a mandala.  I said a prayer and thanked Ms. English Teacher for all the years of protection and lessons learned along the way. I sat down and closed my eyes and silently asked myself, “What needs to die and be released?”  After a few moments, memories that had been stuck inside of me and that I was having troubles recalling, came flooding forth in a stream of chronological order:  from my first days as a student teacher, to my first year as a teacher with her own classroom at a local junior high school, all the way to the old Belleville West campus to the new one right up to the day of my last goodbyes.  It was like watching a slide show or a movie where my life flashed before me.

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I would gladly share all of those memories, but they are enough to write a book.  And who knows?  Maybe one day I will.  The more important thing is that a wave of bittersweet memories and a twinge of melancholy flooded through my mind and body and came out in the form of silent tears.  I cried so much that my lungs heaved and snot dripped out of my nose.  I wiped away the tears (and the snot. . .sorry grass) and inhaled deeply and exhaled out of my mouth while my chest shook.  Something inside of me had broken and released and all of that tension and pain I had felt for weeks in my jaw, arms, shoulders, neck, and chest dissipated.  I could finally breathe in the fresh mountain air and I took it in small gasps until I finally settled into a steady and calm rhythm.

I wiped away a few more tears, straightened my spine, and then asked myself, “What needs to be born inside of me?”  Hints of the creative self and the written word came to me.  Time in nature and a deep connection to the trees, plants, animals of my youth and the ones in front of me swirled around me.  Some sense of teaching and communicating through creativity and movement flowed through my mind and body.  Yet, no real answers came.  Momentarily I tried to plot out my future, and that’s when the tension started to arise again in my body.  I shook my head and settled back into my hips and legs that were connected to the earth.  No need to know right now.

The next day, I went to my small writing critique group and got excruciatingly honest reviews of a piece of fiction I’m trying to write.  I sat there and listened to the necessary feedback where I have gaps in point of view, too much telling and not enough showing of what the characters are going through, and awkward sentences that take the reader out of the moment (just to name a few critiques).  I listened graciously and accepted the feedback (I mean, I did ask for it).  I left not feeling defeated, but definitely feeling wounded.  This is what it feels like to show off new skin that hasn’t fully formed yet, I thought as I drove back to my apartment.

It was way too soon to show that piece of work or let alone claim myself as solely a writer when I haven’t had enough time to work on old skills and talents that have been dormant for at least 18 years of my adult life.  I am capable of teaching what makes a good story, but I’ve never really had time or gave myself a chance to write one.  Besides, why only limit my skills to writing?  I think I have a lot more creativity inside than just pushing myself to become a published writer and calling myself a “success” so as to justify why I left a comfortable life (even though that life felt like a tight, itchy sweater).  I now have time to flex my creative muscles.  I have a job that allows me to work my body and calm my mind.  One in which as soon as I walk out of the doors I don’t have to think about until I walk back in those doors.  I have money from the sale of my house and backup money from investments I made outside of the Teacher’s Retirement System.  For now, I am O.K., and I don’t have to put a label on myself at all.  And that is O.K. too.

I am like a baby giraffe on roller skates.

One day I will be something else.  But for now, the transition can be awkward, messy, funny, strange, sad, scary, and down right mystifying and magical.

I’m working with what the Transcendentalists and Romantics call “mystery”.  As Emerson once wrote, “What lies before us and what lies behind us are tiny matters to what lies within us.  And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.”

It is now a matter of exploring what lies within.

 

A High School English Teacher’s Dilemma

Today is the beginning of semester exams.  Today is also the ending of rational thought and behavior.

Forget everything that teachers have taught their students.  Forget the appreciation of literature, the analysis of symbolism, the construction of a well-written essay.  All of that has been tossed out the window in a panic to make room for the perfect grade – a meager percentage which will keep a student at her perfect “A” or keep another from failing the class.

Students wander, push, shove, fall, slink, and slam into the classroom.  They yell obscenities at one another in the hallway and get tangled up in each other’s earbuds while trying to kiss, hug, and say goodbye to the love of their young life.  Ninety minutes of isolation from one another seem unbearable and cruel, although each one promises to text the other to ensure the relationship is still going strong.

2bornot2bThe bell rings.  The teacher steps up to the front of the classroom, wondering if it is truly nobler to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and to endure a series of irrelevant, off-topic, base questions; or if it is easier to just tell them to all be quiet and then handout a trivial exam that will only adjust their overall grade by a small percentage.  A “Hail, Mary” pass for only a small few who are on the brink of going up or down a letter grade.

After the exam has started, one student opens up a bag of chips and starts crunching and munching.  The teacher gives him the stank eye.  Another girl shakes a bag of hot flame Cheetohs in her mouth and then smears the orange flakes of dust across the exam.  The teacher gives her the stank eye and then casually walks over and takes the Cheetohs and bag of chips from these students and throws them in the trash all while giving them the stank eye.  One young girl doesn’t understand why it’s not Ok to make a tuna fish sandwich in class during the exam, while another boy has just gotten kicked out of class for bringing in White Castle in which the grease that has leaked out of the bag is now smeared on a desk.

In the middle of the exam, another student from another class walks in and asks if the teacher will edit his final essay.  She gives him the stank eye but sits him down and marks up his paper for revision so he’ll get a passing grade.  And after the final bell rings,  all the students leave class pushing, shoving, falling, slinking, and slamming into one another in the hallways and getting their earbuds interlaced with the arms of their long lost boyfriends and girlfriends.  Just when the teacher thinks it is safe, another student walks in and demands she grade his late work so he doesn’t fail her class.  The late work is from late September and early November.  Today is December 17th.  The teacher gives him the stank eye and tells him to leave her class and go see his counselor.  He will need to give up one of his “easy” classes next semester so as to retake the English class.  One he could have passed had he turned in his work the day it was due.7019ff94ebe1a7d22703d1e3008140e9

As the teacher stands in the middle of this  hurricane of hairy, hormonally-challenged humans, she mutters a mantra that she has been reciting since the beginning of the week:  “Please don’t let me murder my students.  Please don’t let me murder my students.  Please don’t let me murder my students.  And if I do, please spare the one who just left a box of milk chocolate truffles on my desk.  Unless it is a bribe to get me to change his grade.  Then, may the blow of my red ink pen be swift and fierce.”

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The Sunday Dreads

The Sunday Dreads.  I can’t shake them.  I’ve been suffering from them probably since I was in the 2nd grade and realized that school was there to stay.  I would have succumb to the teacher’s and my parents’s will and do classwork and homework.  I would have to overcome my shyness and learn to get along with kids on the playground.  I would have to pay attention to the teacher as she or he asked me to recite my alphabet or write down my spelling words or carry the 1 in arithmetic.  Little did I know I would make school my career nor that I would be battling this chronic malady well into my mid-30s.

The only way to deal with eliminating The Sunday Dreads is by doing my homework.
The only way to deal with eliminating The Sunday Dreads is by doing my homework.

What are the symptoms of The Sunday Dreads you ask?  I’m sure they vary for everyone depending on what job you do Monday-Friday.  I’m a high school English teacher, and so I suffer from the following symptoms (in no particular order):

  • a constant resentment that you have to go to work on Monday and that your weekend is soon to come to an end.
  • a nervous stomach that gurgles and sputters whenever you think about and begin all the work you have to do to prepare yourself for work on Monday (this pertains a lot to teachers).
  • a tightness in your chest and shallow breathing as the late afternoon and early evening set in.
  • anxiety over the amount of grading you have to do, but really don’t want to (again, this symptom is specific to teachers).
  • cracked lips from biting them or licking them because of your dry mouth (caused by “anxiety” or “nervous stomach” symptom).
  • a slight fear that you have to stand up in front of people and teach them to correct their mistakes or how to become better people (for supervisors, managers, teachers, or self-motivation speakers).
  • a ringing in your ears which is the far off buzz of the hum-drum work schedule you’re soon going to have to follow.
  • a clenched jaw that pops and cracks whenever you open it.
  • insomnia, interrupted sleep, or nightmares due to your over-anticipation of the day that is rushing to your doorstep too quickly.

How to treat The Sunday Dreads?

  • Get up early in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, read a book and watch CBS Sunday morning while sitting in your comfy chair.
  • Take a walk or 2 or 3.
  • Take a nap (if the insomnia, interrupted sleep or nightmares have not begun).
  • Eat.
  • Go shopping.
  • Watch a TV show on your DVR or rent a movie.
  • Pretend that you don’t have to go to work and that you’ve won the Lottery and plan a virtual vacation.
  • Or just do your homework and deal with it.

Obviously I have self-diagnosed and treat my condition as my figurative albatross that I have chosen to live with since I’ve chosen to be an English teacher.  I simply can’t seem to shake my routine that has been in place since I was 8 years old.  The Dreads were never present the rest of the week.  It didn’t matter if my school day  was great and I got an ‘A’ on any given assignment, or if I got beat up by the neighborhood bully and would have to face her every day at the bus stop, I would come home, eat my after-school snack, watch 3-2-1- Contact, Sesame StreetBugs Bunny, The Flintstones and then go outside and play before I had to do whatever little homework I was given for the night.

Things remained somewhat the same in junior high school, but the bullies were now mean girls and puberty was rampant.  My Sunday Dreads occasionally spilled over into Monday, Tuesday, and sometimes Wednesday, but were gone before the weekend came.  Then, when I got my braces off in high school, my concern over my looks and my perpetual gauge on where I ranked on the popularity scale blended into a whole other form of anxiety that looked similar to the Sunday Dreads symptoms.  Still, I knew there was an end in sight because I was accepted into my university of choice and that would take away all of my school anxieties for good because I would be “free” (whatever that meant).

No one told me about the Saturday Drunks I would experience in college that fueled an ever heightened case of the Sunday Dreads, especially when finals were looming.  Then, once I got my teaching job, I thought everything would settle down and I would feel normal and less anxious once I had been teaching for awhile.  Once I was “in the groove” and had all of my classes, lessons, activities, worksheets, PowerPoints in order and all of my #2 pencils sharpened and sitting on my nicely organized desk.  Now, 15 years in “the biz” and I’m still anticipating that ideal which will be my “cure-all” for these Sunday Dreads.

Until then, I guess I have to do my homework and take a few antacids.

Homework is just so boring.
Homework is just so boring.
Stick a fork in me.  I'm done.  I've succumbed to the Sunday Dreads.
Stick a fork in me. I’m done. I’ve succumbed to the Sunday Dreads.