How to Find Your True Love

FullSizeRenderLooking for love in all the wrong places?  Feel free to read this blog post for unsolicited and free advice on how to find your true love.

My 8 year old nephew, Ben, is a hopeless romantic, I think.  He struck up the following conversation with me on our drive to my house this weekend.  We were at a rest stop letting my dog, Lucy, use the restroom.  Ben saw a man with his two dogs (but didn’t see the other man with him).  When we got back in the car, Ben told me that I should have asked that man out.

Me:  He already has a boyfriend, Ben.

Ben:  What?!  Boys can love boys?

Me:  Yes.  Just like girls can love girls.  It doesn’t matter.

Ben:  No. True love is true love.

Me:  Yes, it is.  What brought this conversation on?

Ben:  Well, you know how you have said that you are open to love?

Me:  Yes, that is my  saying on my board at home.  You remember reading that at Thanksgiving?  I can’t believe you remember.  That’s so sweet.

Ben:  Well, yeah!  It’s important!  I want you to find your true love.

Me:  Awww.

Ben:  I also want that because I want an uncle and I want to know what that’s like.  And I want cousins.  I’m so bored being by myself.  So, we gotta get a move on it, woman!  Ha ha!

Me:  Oh geez Louise.  So, this is about you, huh?

Ben:  Well, yeah.  Kinda.  But, I’m your guide to true love.  You will be walking your dog one day and you’ll see your true love and you have to stop him and say, “Hi, I’m Megan.”  Do you think you can do that?

Me:  (chuckling) I think I can manage that.

Ben:  (serious)  Ok.  Good.  Because you’ll have to keep the conversation going and that’s a good way to start.

Me:  How do you know all of this stuff?

Ben:  (blushing)  Well, I got like 5 girlfriends.  Duh.

Me:  How’s that possible?!

Ben:  I just say, “Hi, my name’s Ben.  What’s yours?”  Then, I help them carry things and I wink at them.

Me:  (laughing)

Ben:  And you need someone now to help you carry things and wink at you.  It’s important.

Me:  Yes.  It is.  And, how will I recognize my true love?

Ben:  He will be Russian.  Well, he will look Russian or even Japanese and he’ll teach me how to speak Russian and Japanese.  He will have blonde hair and he will be really nice.  He is silly too.

Me:  How can he be Japanese and have blonde hair?

Ben:  Well, he will have brown or black hair, but he will be able to speak Russian or Japanese.  He may be American or European (pronounced Yer-a-pen).

Me:  (chuckling).  European, Ben. Like Yer-a-pee-in.  And will he be kind?

Ben:  Definitely.

Me:  Tall?

Ben:  Really tall!

Me:  Handsome?

Ben:  Oh yeah!  He’ll be good-looking, too.  And he’ll teach me how to hunt with a 450 pound bow.  He’s a hunter and he’ll let me shoot with a rifle or a b.b. gun.  And he’ll teach me how to box.  Because it’s important that a guy knows how to box.  But, not in a UFC or a mega-Chinese wrestler way.

Me:  Sounds like you’re in love with this guy.  Are you sure I will be, too?

Ben:  Well, duh!  Yeah!  He’s your true love!

Me:  What’s his name?

Ben:  Ryan.  Or maybe Corbin.  Or maybe Matt.  Or Jack.  Hank is a good name, too.

Me:  All good names.

Ben:  And, Meeda, you’ll meet him very soon.  Trust me.  If not this year, then next year.  (laughter)  Get it?  Next year is pretty soon.  So, don’t worry.  That won’t be too long at all.

Me:  (laughing and a bit nervous.  What if his prediction comes true?  Will I owe the meeting of my true love to my nephew?)

Ben:  Oh, and Meeda!  He will have 2 cats, and a dog!

Me:  Any kids?

Ben:  Yes.

Me:  He will have kids, or we will have kids?

Ben:  Both.

Me:  What if we adopted kids?

Ben:  That would be better so your stomach wouldn’t hurt every single day and night.  Then, I’d have cousins right away.  But, you would have to buy them first.

Me:  You don’t buy kids.  You adopt them from orphanages or foster homes.  You welcome those kids into your family because they don’t have a family.

Ben:  (shakes head affirmatively)

Me:  What is true love to you?

Ben:  It is, um, love and. . .and. . .(embarrassed laughter)

Me:  Kissing and stuff?

Ben:  (blushing)  Sure.  Whatever.

Me:  Isn’t it more than just that, though?

Ben:  Yeah.  It’s when you meet your true love, help him, and wink at him.  And you’re friends.  You’re in a relationship and you’re best friends.  You play together.  You have fun together.  Friendship is all kinds of stuff.  It’s a good thing.

Me:  Well, I feel like it is time for me to get a true love if it is as great as you make it out to be.

Ben:  It really is.  And, I’m your guide to true love, remember.IMG_0271

 

 

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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.”

i_m_fluent_in_all_4_english_540

 

 

“I Hate You, Beastie.”

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Allow me a moment to be with my anger.  I want to stew in it a bit today.  (Besides, anger can be powerful and transformative, and I just don’t feel like shying away from it at this moment.  So, this is not an apology if you were hoping for one.)

 

As I was driving to work, I was trying to shake myself out of my funk.  There are a lot of things contributing to it:  achy hips, a SI joint issue that is causing pain in my flanks and hamstrings, stress of writing lesson plans, getting all my grading done, knowing I have to face 140 students today and be “in charge” of their whiny asses, to name a select few.

I thought about turning on the radio and finding some good 80s tunes to jam out to, but I had a brainstorm, “Why not just be mad?  Why fake that I’m happy when I’m really not?  Why care what others think  of me as I walk about wearing my anger like a cloak?”

And so I got angry.  I allowed my anger to fill up my car with imaginary green smoke like Maleficent when she curses the baby Sleeping Beauty.  Imaginary horns grew out of my head and my claws became sharp.  I wasn’t about to retract them for anyone or anything, including the jerk who tried to inch his way into my lane as I was approaching the stoplight.

I got to work and a colleague opened the door like a true gentleman.  I had a polite conversation with him and in the end he made me laugh.  After my chuckle, I said, “Damn’t Nate!  I’m trying to be all brooding and pissed off here.  Get out of my space so I can be mean.”  He laughed too and said, “I’m sorry.  I’ll leave you to your anger.”

I scrambled to get my lunch put away and pull up my worksheets to make copies for the first hour.  The bell was close to ringing and my copies weren’t complete.  Frustrated, I mentioned to my friend Ashley that I would “have one of my buttheads come and pick them up after the announcements.”  She laughed and appreciated that I was being verbal with my anger as she too was feeling some animosity as well.

The villain/anti-hero inside of me started to grow into fuller form as my first hour class sat in complete silence while only a few kids stood for the “Pledge of Allegiance”.  They are a surly lot and rarely do they give me eye contact or respond with a simple “Good morning” when I cheerily greet them every day.  They choose to stare at their desks and not draw attention to themselves and do not participate in class or group discussions nor do they do the assigned reading, even when I give them time in class.  This morning, with my anger permission slip in hand, I decided to match their heavy, dark mood.   The moment of silence ended, and I wickedly said to them, “I’ve learned my lesson with this group to not engage you with even a simple ‘Hello’.  I’m not even going to ask you about your break.  I hope it was enjoyable for those of you that care.  Get out your notebooks and let’s start taking notes on Emily Dickinson’s biography.”

The downward spiral into the simmering pool of wrath continued as my 2nd hour group of juniors complained about having to do any schoolwork.  I gave them the my best Claire Huxtable head-twerk, stanky eyebrow raise impression I’ve got and my nostrils flared a bit as well.

And all would have gone seemingly well had not this one girl who has a daily negative attitude (and a permanent stanky-eyebrow raise, head-twerk, eye roll facial expression) approached me with an accusatory tone and gave me the “it’s you, not me” excuse by boldly saying, “You should give me an extra literature circle packet because I can’t find mine and it is all your fault”.  My dragon scales stood up and my hackles came out.  “Go sit down.  You were supposed to have this completed today.  Before the discussion.  You know this.  We’ve done this for 3 weeks in a row.  Go sit down.”  I cut her off as she started to complain some more.  (Later I learned I might have made a mistake and kept hers and others’ lit circle packets and forgot to grade them over the long weekend.  But, whatever.  Who talks to their teachers like they are a loathsome creature who is their lowly servant or slave?)

I was getting a little bored and annoyed with my anger by now.  It was starting to drag me down a bit, but it wasn’t completely through with me just yet.  I managed to get through a decent discussion with my 3rd hour seniors, but a know-it-all boy who was absent last week and didn’t have a chance to read the short story kept interjecting his thoughts on the character’s motivations.  He was off the mark the entire time.  I asked him nicely to just be quiet and listen to the discussion so when he reads the short story in class today he’ll have a better understanding.  He muttered, “I probably won’t read it.  You’re explaining it all right now anyway.”  My canine teeth grew another half an inch and my eyes felt like they flipped to the back of my head.  I curtly cut him off with a, “Stop it.  No one wants to hear your assumptions.  Just read it.  And do the work so you can get a decent grade on this essay.”  I finally got everyone back on task and gave them suggestions on how to take notes when reading the story for a second time.  Right then, he had the gall to ask me to go to the counselor’s office because it was an emergency.  I grasped the podium to brace myself in case my head started to spin around.  I firmly said, “No.  Do your work and figure out your life later.”  I walked away and went to my desk and began writing this blog post.

How is my anger now?  I will let you know after all these beasties are gone and out of my life at 3:25 p.m. today.  If I don’t devour them first.maleficent536acd244e2df

Perfection.

From Google images
From Google images

“Megan’s perfect,” the dental hygienist said as she placed my file on the reception desk after my 6 month checkup.

“Finally!” I laughed as I raised my hands above my head.

She and the receptionist simply looked at me like I was a crazy woman.

What was merely a benign statement indicating once again that I have no cavities (33 years and going strong), I turned into a lifetime achievement award.

The rational part of my brain put everything into context, but the tiny little voice that drives my ego jumped and did a quick somersault of joy inside my head.  Someone finally announced what I’ve been striving for since I came out of the womb:  perfection.  Perfection.  Perfection!

Then, throughout that following week, everything went to hell in a hand-basket metaphorically speaking:  I spilled salad dressing on my shirt, stepped in my puppy’s poop in the backyard, lost a set of keys, forgot to grade a set of papers, screwed up my lesson plan, and re-injured my hamstring while doing a fancy yoga move. (To name a few of my daily screw-ups.)

Honestly, there was a side of me that got really angry and fixated on those small hiccups.  (I have always been a driven, anxious, analytical, and somewhat fearful person.  I was born a meconium baby and literally was scared shitless to leave the womb.  And, I had digestive issues, possibly ulcers, when I was 16 and worried about everything under the sun.  Back then, I would sometimes even be so anxious and hypoglycemic that I would pass out on the sidewalk or at a restaurant or in the clothing section at Wal-Mart  So, there’s been a pattern of high anxiety there since birth.)  Innocently enough, these little imperfections from that week then led to self-criticism and obsession on emotional pains of the recent past like an argument with a friend or an insult by a student.  These small past events then caused me to really delve into my past and psycho-analyze myself and others.  Which eventually led to my recurring health problems of muscle-twitching and neuropathy/burning sensation on my leg and face.

From Google Images
From Google Images

But on this particular day, I heard the phrase “Megan’s perfect” in my mind again and I started to laugh.  And something amazing happened:  the buzzing, burning electical sensations on my face and scalp stopped for a split second.  A quick little window of opportunity opened and I happened to take advantage of it.  Fortunately it was my planning period at work (I’m a high school teacher) and so I went underneath my desk at work and pulled out my yoga mat. I dimmed the lights, unrolled the mat and then flipped myself upside down in a forward bend and started to really breathe in deep inhales and soft exhales.  I then did a fun rabbit pose (imagine curling yourself into a ball and arching your back while trying to touch your forehead to your knees).  Again, I breathed deeply and exhaled softly.  Over and over again.   Moving out of rabbit to another forward fold to a triangle pose and then an extended downward facing dog all the while breathing deeply and softly.  And something beautiful happened:  my heart led the way and my mind and body followed.  All the weird body sensations disappeared.  My  heart beat wasn’t rapid anymore.  My anxiety had passed through me as did all of those obsessive thoughts and stresses.  All that remained was a brief moment of perfection when everything was in tune.

I went back to the business of being an English teacher and I started grading research papers again.  The rest of the day, my body felt amazing and my heart was open.  The day unfolded quite nicely without any direction from my little ego-centered voice that lives somewhere inside that analytical brain of mine.

Google images
Google images

Last spring/summer and early fall, I flipped out when these bodily sensations happened and later got a perfunctory diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) by a shoddy ER doc who didn’t have much patience in listening to my complaints.  Nor did my general physician want to take the time to figure out what could be causing these sensations. (See my older post “When to Punch Your Doctor In the Face”)

What happened to me this time around was not because I reached a state of full time perfection (as the dental hygienist so unwittingly led me to believe).  It happened because I opened myself up to discovering more about myself which included paying attention to my body and what it is trying to tell me.  I was referred to a functional medicine/preventive medicine doctor in St. Louis who gave me the gift of her time, intelligence and wisdom.  She is originally from India and holds special degrees in internal medicine and rheumatology/chronic illnesses from U of I Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis.  But, she believes that the whole body, the mind and the emotional/spiritual side of a person needs to be examined and treated.  On that rainy day in October, she held my hands and listened as I told her what was going on with my body.  In my life.  In my heart/mind.  She smiled and said, “I don’t believe in the idea that a physician cures all.  I’m your partner in this.  Are you willing to do the work to help yourself get more balanced and healthy?”

“Yes?” I questioned while trying to hold back tears.

“No, I’m serious about this.  You can’t expect me to just give you some pills and push you out the door and tell you you’re cured if you take these.  This is a journey where we will work together to fine tune things specifically to your needs.  I’m willing to get down to the physical part of what is going on with you, but you really need to decide if you’re willing to get down to the core of you as well,” she firmly but lovingly said in her beautiful, powerful Indian accent.

“Yes, I’m ready,” I said as the tears rolled down my face.

Google images
Google images

We talked about MS symptoms and how other neuropathic pain sometimes can hide under that umbrella of a diagnosis.  We talked about stresses in my life (from the really big ones to the small ones and everything in between).  As I talked and she listened and asked specific questions, she took copious notes.  At the end of our one-hour session, she asked me if I was willing to get a MRI to rule out (or rule in) MS.  I said, “No.”  My grandmother had a brain tumor that killed her and my mother went through the MS diagnosis procedure (complete with MRI, muscle probing and spinal tap) with no real diagnosis as well.  I didn’t want to go down that path.  “Plus,” I said sheepishly, “I have a gut feeling that it’s connected to stress.  I know that sounds stupid, but well, I don’t know, I just feel like my gut is right.”

“I think your gut is right, as well,” she said and then smiled and reviewed her notes with me.  She was leaning towards neurotransmitter issues (hormones produced in the adrenal glands) and asked if I was willing to do a series of tests that looked at my cortisol, adrenaline and serotonin production as well as another test to analyze my Crohn’s ilietis and digestive problems.

Fast-forward through the urine, spit, fecal samples I had to collect and ship out as biohazard material via UPS and FedEx.  Fast-foward through the serious attention I now am giving to the food I eat by trying to “eat the rainbow” for better digestion, nutrition and prevention of dis-ease.  Fast-forward through my readjusting my sleep patterns and deepening my yoga and meditation practice.  Fast-forward through the monthly therapeutic massages I go to and the mindful, joyful living I try to do each day. Even fast-foward through the discovery that I had high cortisol levels and malabsorption of B vitamins, and fast-forward through the follow up appointment I had to get the pharmaceutical grade vitamins, supplements and pro-biotics to help me balance out my system.  Push pause on the particular moment that I realized I was in charge of my healing, my health, my happiness and my journey.  Let’s examine this moment briefly together:  how amazing is it that I get to choose how I experience, react to, enjoy and heal my body?

True, my analytical brain wants to do a somersault and joyfully scream, “Megan’s perfect!” but my heart knows better.  My heart, being in the center of my body, knows that this journey is more about joy, about laughter, about breathing, about discovering, and about self-love and the giving of love than it is about my physical sensations and quirks that will need to be fine-tuned every so often.  For me, this knowledge I have gained is perfection for it was given and learned as a way to be free from all defects, real or imagined.  Moment by moment I can tap into that knowledge to set myself free.

Google images
Google images

I Don’t Know.

This semester is my first year ever teaching Early World Literature class to seniors in high school.  Honestly, I am reading texts and writing lesson plans the night before (and sometimes on my lunch hour) and walking in to class more like the lead student than the teacher.  It’s exhilarating, but daunting.  I never know if it’s going to be a “hit” or a “miss.”  Recently, I taught a lesson focused on a small excerpt of the Ancient Indian texts, The Upanishads.

The Upanishads
The Upanishads

The lesson went like this:

I had students write down a serious, thought-provoking and difficult question on a slip of paper and put it in a bowl at the front of the classroom.  They became very excited and the room fell silent for a few moments as they put their pencils to their slips of paper and started writing.  Interestingly enough, no one shared their questions with anyone.  They quietly walked to the room and placed their papers in the bowl, beaming with pride and giddiness at the mysteries we were about to unfold.

I then read the questions out loud to the class.  They were fascinating:

How big is the universe and is there a finite point where it retracts into itself?

If the Earth gets sucked into a black hole, what will happen to us?

If time stops, how will we know?

What is the soul composed of?

What does it physically feel like to die?

As I was reading them, some students tried to come up with answers and then fell short with statements like, “Oh man, I don’t know.  That’s tough.”  Others stared or smiled or shot serious, probing looks at me, while others commented on how good the questions were.  No one had their heads on their desks (always a good sign).

After I read the questions, I asked them  if they frequently use Google to answer their questions, regardless if they are valid questions with qualitative or quantitative answers or if they were unanswerable questions like the ones above.  I even asked them if they typed in questions hoping for a prediction of how some situation in their life was going to turn out.  Everyone’s hand (including mine) went up.

We want to know what we don’t already know.  Or we want to know what we already think we know just to know that we know it.  Or we want to know what we might need to know in case the situation or scenario we were imagining occurs so we will know what to do.  It’s human nature.

I then gave them a brief overview of what The Upanishads are:  Ancient Hindu philosophical texts that try to explain, through paradoxes, anecdotes and questions, the ultimate reality of pure consciousness, and the awareness of and the joining of the Self to Brahman (the essence of everything in nature and in man).  In Eastern philosophy, the questions are more important than the answers.  The journey to finding the truth by asking more questions and going deeper in your understanding of your questions and what they reveal (and don’t reveal) is far more important than the destination.  I told them this key phrase:  “You have to admit you don’t know in order to really know that you don’t know so you can work on knowing more than you knew before.  That is how you gain knowledge and therefore gain wisdom.”

I instructed them on what a paradox is:  a statement that seems to be contradictory but holds some wisdom or truth inside it like Oscar Wilde’s statement “I can resist anything but temptation,” or George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote, “Youth is wasted on the young.”  Once they understood this concept (and even came up with a few of their own), I told them as I read the excerpt, they were to write down 3 paradoxes so we could discuss them afterwards.

We didn’t make it that far.  Class was way too animated when I read the first lines “Who puts the thought into your mind?  Who draws in your breath?  Who is the radiant Being that puts sight into your eyes and sound in your ears?  It is Brahman which cannot be thought, cannot be seen, cannot be heard.  Brahman is not that which is worshiped by man.  Once you think you know, you don’t know.  You must experience it.  But soon as you experience it, you are no more closer to knowing because now you’re trying to explain what cannot be explained in words, in thoughts, in sight nor in sound.”  [FYI:  I’m paraphrasing the Upanishad here and you’re still probably scratching your head asking yourself, “What the hell did I just read?” or “What the hell is she teaching these kids?”]

The fun really began when hands went up left and right and in the back and the front of the room and a class dialogue similar to this erupted:

Students
Students

Student: “How are we supposed to know anything about this when the speaker admits he doesn’t exactly know who or what Brahman is?”

Me:  “I don’t know.  Is it more important to know who or what Brahman is or is it more important to seek by asking questions and trying to find the answers which will lead to more questions which will then lead to more knowledge and wisdom?”

Student:  “I don’t know that’s what I’m asking you.”

Me:  “Well, do you have a better explanation of that which isn’t seen but makes us see?”

Student:  “Yeah, well, no, well, I don’t know.  Let’s continue reading.  I’ll have another question in a moment.”

Student:  “Why did students trust their teachers when their teachers didn’t know the answers to these questions either?”

Me:  “What are you saying?”

Student:  “I’m saying, do you know who or what this radiant Being is?”

Me:  “No, I don’t know, but I know that according to this text I, and every living thing in nature, have experienced it.  Does it matter if we can define it or not?”

Student:  “Yeah, it matters.”

Me:  “Why does it matter?  Isn’t it more important to keep asking questions and realize that you are on a journey to finding out the truth eventually?”

Student:  “Why are you being so frustrating?”

Me:  “Why are you so frustrated?”

Student:  “Ugh! Can we ask questions all the time and will you answer us?”

Me:  “You can ask as many questions as you want, as often as you want.  I might not answer them the way you like because I might not have the answers either and I might have to ask you questions.”

Student:  “So, if I admit to you that I don’t know what is going on in this text, then I will magically know because I told you I don’t know.”

Me:  “I don’t know because you might be fooling yourself into thinking you know just to shut me up and get this frustration out of the way.  But frustration is good because that means you want to know and understand.”

Student:  “So, being frustrated is good?  Why?  What good could possibly come out of being so frustrated?  I feel more confused about how to read ancient texts, or texts in general, than I did when I came in.  My brain hurts because it feels so full of information, and now I want to know what Brahman is so I can get a good grade on the test.”

Me:  “Oh, you almost had it.”

Student:  “Had what?  What did I have?  Did I have Brahman?  Did I know him and I lost him?”

Me:  “Now you’re getting somewhere.  You don’t need to know this for a test, you need to know that you’re asking questions because you want to know more about what you don’t know.”

Student:  “Oh, I know now what you mean.  I think.”

Me:  “Yes, you are thinking and that is the whole purpose of this text.”

Sighs of relieve, anxiety, frustration and amusement filled the classroom (and still no one had his head on his desk) and I was having fun.  I laughed when the reading was over and they were still buzzing from what just happened.  With a smirk on my face I said, “I hope you’re all a little pissed off right now.”  In unison they replied, “We are!”  I told them that was good because it means they want to learn and inquire more.  One boy asked, “Wait?  Did we learn something?  What did we learn?  I feel like we learned something, but I’m not sure.  This was good, I know that.”  Wanting to end their frustration and wrap everything up with the 2 minutes we had left,  I asked them why they wrote down their particular questions on the slips of paper when they knew they would never get an answer that would explain even a fraction of what they really wanted to know.  And a few kids said, “Because it is an important question and I still want to know it even if I know that I’ll probably never know the answer.”

I raised my hands and sang to them in an angelic voice “Cue the heavens opening and light shining down because you admit you don’t know but you still want to know, and that is all you need to know for today!”

Then the bell rang and I was exhausted.  I had only created this lesson plan yesterday evening and over my lunch period today.  I had no idea it would turn into something as wonderful and magical as this.  As they were leaving the room, I heard them still chatting about the the class discussion and how different it was than other lessons.  I started laughing as I gathered up my book, notebook and notes and I thought to myself, “If only they knew that I really don’t know anymore than they think they know right now.”

Domestic Goddess

I wake up early this morning and have a sense of inner calm, which is good seeing how my day has been anything but that.  I shuffle into the living room to grab my tennis shoes so I can take the dog outside.  I switch on a light and look over at my green recliner, the one I use when I drink my coffee, write and read my book.  Smooshed into the cushion and covering almost half of it is a big glob of cat puke.  “Awesome,” I mutter and grab some paper towels as my dog is barking at me and begging me to take him outside.

Once back in, I spray stain remover on the cushion and feed my dog and cat and pour the hot water into my French press for my morning coffee.  I grab a sponge and clean off the chair as best as possible.  Suddenly, I hear a retching sound and watch as my cat throws up again near my feet.  I sigh and turn around to grab more paper towels and have to yell at my dog who is getting too curious with the cat hack.  I clean that up and fix myself breakfast and a cup of coffee and set everything on the end table.  Looking down, I notice there is what looks to be a piece of a granola bar wrapper on the floor from yesterday’s breakfast.  I reach down to pick it up and come up with a smear of cat puke on my fingers.  I clean that up and finally sit down to drink a lukewarm cup of coffee and read my book.

Awhile later, I hear rustling from the laundry room and look around.  My dog is nowhere in sight.  I know he has moved the litter box again and found himself a tasty breakfast morsel that is not on the menu.  I know I’ll have to clean that up, but I choose to do yoga and prepare for my day.  Wearing my tight spandex yoga clothes, I unroll my mat and start doing a “sexy” butt wiggle practice, channeling my inner goddess and laughing at the mundane yet gross start to my day.  I shimmy my hips and dance and breathe and do core bicycle work and sweat and breathe and shimmy my hips some more before I end with relaxation pose and sit in a deep meditation.  I am ready for whatever my day hands me, and somehow I know that it will not be the type of day where I get to go out with friends and dress up and look pretty.  But, I still feel the need to connect to that inner sexy goddess that has been begging to be recognized for awhile now.

My sexy morning continues with the cleanup of said litter box, which includes a thorough suctioning with the vacuum hose of the entire laundry room because my dog isn’t the neatest when he goes on a cat turd raid.  I rationalize that the cleaning shouldn’t stop there and I vacuum and sweep and do dishes and organize the clutter in the usual drop spots.  I reward myself with a hot shower and feel confident that my day is about to begin and something fun and interesting will arise.  I decide that today would be a good day to blow dry and straighten my thick, curly, wild woman hair, but tell myself that I should also throw in a load of laundry while I work on my uncontrollable brown locks.

And somewhere in the mix of all of this I get a wild hair up my ass to make guacamole.images

Midway through my styling session, I hear the washing machine go “thunk,” and then it doesn’t progress to the rinse cycle nor drain any of the soapy water.  I investigate and even stick my hand down in the warm soapy suds and feel around to make sure no clothes are stopping up the flow of water.  I reset the rinse cycle again and the washing machine starts up.  “Awesome,” I say and go back to running the straightening iron through small sections of my hair.  “Thunk,” goes the washing machine and the rinse cycle stops.  I walk back in and repeat the process and start the machine up again.  This happens 3 more times and I finally admit defeat.  I have a broken washing machine and a load of my delicates floating around in warm, soapy water.

I call my dad, frustrated at the fact that I am going to have to spend some money at some point to get this damn thing fixed or replaced.  Dad tells me not to call a repairman on a weekend or I’ll have to spend a lot of money then.  Instead, he tells me to take a bowl and scoop out the water and dump it into the laundry sink next to the washer.  “Awesome,” I  say and start looking for a bowl (after I finish straightening my hair and getting dressed in cute capri pants and a sexy little summer top).

Broken washing machine
Broken washing machine
Scoop 1. . .2. . .3. . .
Scoop 1. . .2. . .3. . .

I look and smell pretty and I am standing in front of my washing machine with a tupperware bowl that fits down into the basin, but cannot be pulled out without angling it and spilling out all the water.  “How is this going to work?” I ask myself.  Then it hits me:  I’ll just ladle the water out of the basin, put it into the bowl and dump the bowl into the sink until it’s empty.  This won’t take long.  I squeeze out each piece of clothing and toss them into the dryer for a half an hour.  Then, I begin scooping out water with the ladle in my left hand, and dumping it into the bowl with my right, and then pouring it into the sink.  A rhythm sets in.  So does my OCD and before I know it I’m counting out 10 ladle scoops of water into the bowl and counting how many times I pour the bowl into the sink.  “Scoop 1. . .2. . .3. . .4. . .5. . .6. . .7. . .8. . .9. . .10.  Pour 1.”  50 times.  And I’m in sort of a trance as the dryer whirrs next to me and the counting, scooping, pouring continues.  I would’ve kept going on ad infinitum but my cell phone rings and it’s my dad asking me if I’ve checked the circuit breakers and can I get behind and see if the hoses are completely connected.  I’m a little miffed that he’s broken my rhythm and I say, “I don’t know.  I’m not gonna check that crap.  It’s broken.  I’m not going to fix it.”

He says, “Yeah, probably not the circuit breakers.  Just keep using a bowl to dump out the water.”  I told him I was using a ladle to dump it into the bowl and he got quiet and said, “Why not use one of your big cups to pour into the bowl.  It will go a lot faster.”  It’s been almost an hour and I’m only at the halfway mark of the basin.  “Awesome,” I say to him and mentally kick myself for not thinking of a faster solution.  I grab a 32 oz plastic cup my mom has collected and kept at my house for years.  Immediately I see results and the basin empties in less than 20 minutes.  The downside is that I am no longer in a zen state and realize that I do miss the elegance of the ladle, the bowl and the counting.  That moment has passed however and by now it’s past lunch time and I’m hungry and want some of that guacamole I made earlier.

I go into my bathroom to freshen up and see that my straightened hair is in disarray, I have a new zit on the side of my mouth and my hands are cracked and irritated from being in soapy water for almost 2 hours now.  I clean up, eat some of that guacamole and feel better.  I debate whether I should eat one of the juicy peaches I bought at the grocery store yesterday.  “Later,” I tell myself and resolve to get my soggy loads of laundry finished before the evening is over.  Unknown-1

I load up the laundry, making sure my underwear and bras are stashed down at the bottom.  As I pull out of the garage, thunder and lightning fill the sky.  I decide to keep going and get a $20 from the bank ATM.  I pull up at Jessica’s Coin Laundromat and watch as a jagged line of lightning pierces the sky.  I dash inside and feel the blow fans inside toss my “straightened” hair over my face and every which way.  “Awesome,” I say and let out a sigh.  I am hoping that they have a big change machine that gives out dollar bills at least and another small one that gives out coins.  No such luck.  I stick the $20 in the coin machine and laugh as the quarters come tumbling out.  I stash them in my billfold and when that fills up, I toss them into a hidden pouch inside my purse and add a few to my pockets.  I look around and see that “The Honeymooners” TV show is blaring on the TV screen above me and Ralph is yelling at Alice because she screwed something up to ruin their momentary domestic bliss.  I laugh with Alice as she gets the best of Ralph:  “Hardy har har, Ralph”.  I walk over to the row of plastic chairs and pray that a torrential downpour doesn’t begin as I’m walking to my car with my clean, dry clothes.

An hour passes and nothing dramatic happens at the laundromat.  photo

My clothes are dry and thank God my sexy lingerie are intact (if you call polka dotted underwear and yoga pants sexy).  The fans in the laundromat mix with the outside breeze of the storm that passed overhead.  I stand in front of one of the big blower fans and fold my delicates as the generated wind tosses my hair over my face and all over the place.  The sun is shining and my purse is heavy with silver coins.  I shimmy my hips a little bit and pretend for a split second I’m Cindy Crawford in one of her famous Pepsi commercials.  I laugh and walk outside with my bundle of clothes and dream of the juicy peach I’m going to eat while I lie naked in my bed and reign over my world like the domestic goddess I am.

From Google Images
From Google Images

Day 55 of 100 Day Creative Writing Challenge:  Calm

When To Punch Your Doctor In the Face

from Google images
from Google images

For the past month, I’ve had some weird tingling and burning sensation on my right side.  Seeing how I have a few health problems like Crohn’s (an autoimmune disease) and circulatory problems, I thought that it was time to get it checked out so I made an appointment with my doctor.

Skip ahead to this past Monday.  I went in expecting to get a chance to tell him all the nuances I’ve noticed in my body that I feel are connected to these weird flare-ups.  I am not in the medical profession (I couldn’t handle seeing someone’s insides or have to deal with all the years of medical school and loans), but I consider myself to be somewhat intuitive with my body.  After practicing yoga for 10 years, I feel like I am at a point in my practice when I am open to listening to my body and pushing it to bend and twist in certain ways while also acknowledging its limitations.  I try to eat healthy (with Crohn’s that’s a must in my book) and I try to stay active (so I don’t suffer clots from my Leiden Factor 5 genetic issue or my heart murmur).  So, when I described that the tingling and burning were on my cheek, my arm and my thigh and that I noticed they’re most prevalent when I’m under stress or sleeping on my right side, he immediately said, “This seems to be stress-related.”  I told him that around those areas I also have a sensation of pinched nerves and that when I press on trigger points those sensations go away.  He immediately disregarded what I said and told me that there is no one nerve that connects all the way up and down the side of the body.  I asked him if it could be cardiovascular and he told me that I’m too young to be in the range of having a stroke.  I asked if it could be circulatory because I notice that in those spots my skin is cold, and he told me it is neurological or maybe, just maybe, he said it’s “psycho-somatic.”  Code for I’m imagining things.

He then threw out the deadly phrase “systemic MS” but “poo-pooed” it because he told me that he would like to see a lot more symptoms pop up before even suggesting I go see a neurologist.  To cover his butt, however, he had me do a series of balance and motor skill tests.  Then, he told me that I passed with flying colors.  “Ok,” I said, “Now what?”

“What do you mean, ‘Now what’?  Stress can do a lot to our bodies.  You said you were under a lot of stress, right?”

“Well, yeah.  I have been worrying about paying a double mortgage and have been trying really hard to get my old house to sell.  I am having some money issues because of that.  I’ve had close ones in my family who are going through serious health issues and I am trying to get ready for teaching new classes this year.  But still.  This feeling is just so weird.  I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I’ve dealt with a lot of stress in my life.  My nephew had a bone marrow transplant 2 years ago.  That was extremely stressful.  Wouldn’t this problem have occurred back then as well?”

He had no reply.  None.  Zip.  So, I mentioned my Crohn’s and said that I know that sometimes patients have a hard time absorbing vitamin B12 which can cause neurological issues.  “Could it be that?” I asked.

He jumped in and said, “Yes, well, that was my next step.  We’ll get an order for you to have a blood draw and we’ll go from there.  Call me if the problem persists,” and he shook my hand and told me the nurse would come back with my paperwork.  When she did, the reason for the blood draw said “Anxiety.”

I left feeling defeated.  I should’ve punched him in the face.

***

Tuesday morning came and I got 3 vials of blood drawn and a big bruise to show for it.  No phone call with the results the following day, so when I had a stronger tingling and burning sensation in those places late in the evening, this time with tingling in my feet and a sensation like I had popped a thousand blood vessels, I called the doctor’s exchange.  The doctor on call got aggressive with me and told me he couldn’t do anything about it over the phone and I better get myself to the ER.

His tone of voice made me want to punch him in the face.

****

One of my best friends was with me and she spent the four hours with me in the ER.  She left my side later that night to go to my house and walk my dog.  While she was gone, I was tired and thirsty so I pushed the call button to see if a nurse could bring me in some ice water.  (It also should be noted that I sat back there for almost 2 hours prior to this with no nurse or orderly coming in to check on me.)  My curtain had a gap in it and my door was open, so I could see a night nurse in front of me.  She picked up the microphone and said, “Can I help you?” but the speaker in my room wasn’t working.  She was maybe 10 feet away from me, so I simply waved at her and said, “May I have a glass of ice water, please?”  She pointed at my speaker and mimed that I should pick it up.  I did and told her in a louder voice, “It’s not working?”  She said from her desk so I could hear her, “Try it again.”  I put the speaker up to my mouth, pressed the button and loudly said, “It’s not working!”  She rolled her eyes, and defeatedly asked, “What do you need?”  I gave her my request and she barked to an orderly, “Can you go see what she needs?”

I wanted to punch her in the face.

****

After meeting with the ER doc for 5 mins and giving him a synopsis of what’s going on, he ordered a CT Scan of my brain and said they should have my blood work results in about an hour.  My nurse finally came in and saw that I wasn’t wearing a hospital gown.  He gave me one and he handed me a pee cup and told me to go to the bathroom and pee.  I did as ordered and came back and put the ugly gown on.

About 2 hours post CT Scan and blood draws that left another bruise on my left arm, the doctor came back in and said, “Well, I have good news.  Your CT Scan showed nothing and your blood work came back excellent.  Everything looks great, but I think your problem is neurological.  I think you have MS.”

I immediately retreated into myself.  “What is going on?” is all I could think.  I pulled back up from a drowning sensation in my mind and I heard him talking to my friend saying that he recommends a great neurologist and that he will do a MRI and can see the MS problem right there.  I asked him, “Is this debilitating?  Are you sure?  Can you diagnose this without further tests?”  It was the best I could muster seeing how I felt like I had been punched in the face with his words.

He bested me and said, “Oh, a MRI will show more than what a CT Scan can.  But your symptoms are MS symptoms.”

I got scared and asked, “Can this be debilitating?  Is it urgent that I get this taken care of right away?”

He then replied, “Oh, some people can go their whole lives with minor symptoms like you have, while others can become very debilitated and wind up in the nursing home.  It’s a very debilitating and unpredictable disease, for sure.”  He then handed me the paperwork and told me the doctor’s name and excused himself and said, “Good luck,” and walked out the door.

I was left with my friend holding me as I cried and imagined that I would be alone, curled in a fetal position, drooling and living in a nursing home before I was 40 years old.

I should’ve punched him in the face.

****

I’ve had a few days to think about what happened in the course of less than one week.  I’ve not ruled out going to see the neurologist, in fact I scheduled an appointment for next month.  I found out that my B12 levels are fine as well, so it’s plausible that my Crohn’s is not a cause of what’s going on.  And that’s the thing, I just wanted to have an opportunity to talk to my doctor and have him listen to me before sending me into a tizzy about what was happening with my body.  After all, I am the one experiencing all of this and notice all the nuances and factors that are bringing these sensations about.  Now, after seeing him and having my traumatic experience in the ER, I sit and worry about whether me forgetting my friend’s friend’s name in a story we were sharing is a symptom of MS.  Or, if me feeling a little woozy and nauseous today is a sign of MS (turns out it is more likely a sign of a scone and coffee not being a substantial breakfast).  Or, when I bump into something while I’m thinking about all I have to do that day is a sign of MS.

I’ve gone through a range of emotions these past few days and talked to my friend who has had a definitive diagnosis of MS.  She told me that during her journey to getting diagnosed she learned that doctors liked to use MS as an umbrella term for any neurological issue they can’t explain right away.  She did reassure me that if in fact I do learn that I truly have MS that I can lead a full, happy and normal life and manage it just like I manage my Crohn’s.  She encouraged me to keep a positive attitude and to call her at any time.

I didn’t want to punch her in the face.  If I could’ve jumped through the phone, I would’ve hugged her.

Where I stand now on this issue is that I want to go deeper in my yoga practice and work on meditation and doing poses that make me feel strong, grounded and stretched out and pain free.  I do notice that when I am calm, the burning sensations go away.  I also know that I want to listen to my body more and explore Ayurveda medicine which looks at your body, mind and spirit as being part of a big system, and work in conjunction with Western medicine, which breaks the whole into smaller parts.  I booked a massage with the best massage therapist I’ve ever been to and explained to her what’s going on with me.  She is working on putting together a session that will address those issues.  So, I’m good.  I will honor my body and do what I feel is best for it.

True, glitches in our physical bodies are out of our control and sometimes we need medical treatment to heal, manage, or eliminate them.  Our mental attitudes on how we approach the treatments and the medical process are not out of our control.  From now on, I’m not going to let doctors bully me, ignore me, or see my body as just car parts.  I sometimes think we forget in this society that we’re paying for their services and they have an obligation to us to heal us, and part of healing is how they listen to us, speak to us, and honor our wishes and our bodies as well.  They don’t control our mental outlook on our bodies, our journeys in this world through our physical beings.  That’s for each and everyone of us to determine in this lifetime.

But, that philosophical platitude being said, If I see any one of those doctors on the street, I might just punch him in the face.

from Google images
from Google images

For those of you following my 100 Day Creative Writing Challenge, this is Day 33: Anger

 

Go for the “Gusto” in Life

There is a lot to be said about living a life full of zeal and soaking up the life that you’re given.  This past weekend, I was at Lake of the Ozarks (aka the “Redneck Riviera”) with my friend Mary and her 8 year old son Zane.  We stayed with her in-laws, Gary and Judy, at their home.  We took the train on Friday morning and by noon we were hopping off the train and being ushered in to Gary’s and Judy’s car in a whirlwind of excitement.  Omaw and PawPaw were happy to see their only grandchild and Mary and I were happy to have a weekend of friend time together.  She’s an artist and their house is under construction (her hubby stayed behind to deal with the construction) so she was in need of a place to get some “head space”.  I am a teacher and this weekend was my “calm before the storm” because school starts in less than 2 weeks.

The boat dock
The boat dock

Judy and Gary are very kind, charming people who are full of life and energy.  Judy is a retired middle school teacher and Gary is retired from owning his own company (and I later found out he was once in the Army as well).  Gary has Parkinson’s disease, but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he wants to do.  Although his body is misshapen from the disease and he has trouble getting around and is on a lot of medication, he still has this larger than life charisma and charm to him.  He gets out on his boat dock every day and can drive his speed boat and give you an hour long tour of the mansion laden lakeside (I dubbed the tour “The Great Gatsby on the Lake”).  He rides his jet ski, fishes with his grandson and grills a mean chicken, onion, pineapple kabob.  I was surprised by his agility this weekend when I asked him where I could find a plate for my toast.  I was standing behind him and he was near the cabinet.  Before I finished my sentence, he threw open the cabinet, grabbed  the heavy Fiesta-ware plate, lifted it with both hands behind his head and over to me.  I wasn’t expecting that at all and said, “Uh, thanks,” as he stood there laughing.

Judy is equally as charismatic and charming and as spry as someone half her age.  While Gary messed around on the boat or the jet ski, Judy was in her kayak (she kayaks every day) pulling Zane and a neighbor kid on a raft behind her.  She and Gary hung out on the boat dock with the kids for hours, zipping in and out of the kayaks, the jet ski, the floats and also scheduling a winter to Australia using their iPad.  Later that evening, they took the kids to play a round of 9 holes of golf and then out to dinner.  On the other hand, Mary and I were drained and had headaches and upset stomachs and fell asleep in our rooms for 2 hours after a fattening meal of potato skins and pizza.  Around 8:30, Judy, Gary & Zane came back home and got us up and going and we played Uno and chatted away as Judy led Gary through his yoga and stretching exercises for the night before they went to bed.  Mary, Zane and I again crashed into our beds and slept in late the next morning, unable to keep up with the 2 of them.

In our youth obsessed culture, we tend to overlook people who have lived longer than us have more experience and (hopefully) more wisdom, guidance and interesting stories to share.  We don’t expect people who are in the winter season of their lives to have so much excitement and enthusiasm for their lives.  We get so wrapped up in the petty dramas of daily life and try to control their outcomes that we forget there should always be a space in our lives to play and to explore and to travel and to laugh.  I think these positive behaviors are a benefit of aging that for whatever reason we are afraid to look into as a culture because we don’t want to think of the final outcome of our physical bodies.  Judy’s and Gary’s intensity may seem overwhelming, and maybe to some out there it is, but for whatever reason this weekend their zeal for entertaining us while also letting us go on 2 hour long walks or reading books or taking us on a tour of the countryside really grounded me.  I’ve had a full but hectic summer and there are things that are stressing me out like a tight budget, trying to sell my old house and preparing for school to name a few.  But now, I’m reenergized by their energy and sense of play.

But for me personally, too much zeal can be an overkill, and I’m one who appreciates a little bit of solitude on a regular basis.  So, it was nice when I had a “zen” moment where I got a little bit of alone time to read and to write while the rest of them went on a bike ride.  I sat in the sun and listened to the waves break on the shoreline.  It felt like I had a moment to hit the “pause button” and allow in the ebb to the flow of that vital energy.

The Lake
The Lake

And just when I was “ebbing,” the flow came back in the form of Mary and Zane coming up to me with a 1970s Cher cover album.  They were laughing and asking me if I could hear the music blaring from the garage into the street.  Zane smiled and said, “C’mon, Megan, you gotta hear it!” and I started laughing and obediently followed.  Sure enough, Cher was singing away, her voice being pumped out of a circa 1980s record player with a dual cassette player underneath.  Old records from Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall,” to Henry Mancini were stacked on a shelf.  Mary shrugged her shoulder and laughed and said that this is what her in-laws do whenever the moment feels right.  Judy and Gary were nowhere in sight and Zane switched the LP to fast track and Cher’s smooth, alto voice morphed into Alvin and the Chipmunks.  Our laughter filled the garage and Z switched it back to normal play and then he and Mary hopped on their bikes and took off down the long drive while I was left behind wondering what had just happened.  How did getting left behind in a garage listening to 1970s Cher songs and smiling become part of my weekend?

And the Beat Goes On. . .
And the Beat Goes On. . .

Even in the mundane moments of life zest and zeal can enter in at an unexpected time, making you laugh and appreciate right where you are.

On the suspension bridge out in the country
On the suspension bridge out in the country

This post is Day 27 in the 100 Day Creative Writing Challenge.  Topic:  Zeal.

Real Estate Is the New Dating Game: Part 3

This past Wednesday, I closed on my new house.  It was a tedious, overwhelming process that it was a bit numbing.  I had to sign so many papers at the title company (don’t even get me started what a racket that all is) and had to hand over a hefty cashier’s check for my down payment and closing costs that I really didn’t even have time to think, “Oh my God!  I’m buying a house!”  All of those thoughts, and the nerves that came with them, were in full force leading up to this rather anti-climatic moment. But they weren’t there that day as my hand glided over the 50th copy of some tax form.   It wasn’t until I walked into the house an hour or so later that everything hit me all at once:  this space, this far bigger space than I’ve ever lived in my entire adult life, is all mine.

My new home
My new home

Countless thoughts swirled in my brain as I stood there in the new kitchen.  I looked around at the 700 more square feet I’m gaining and thought, “I can have my friends and family over and we can all sit around comfortably.”  I also worried about who I would call if I accidentally locked myself out of my new house. (Don’t laugh, it’s happened twice in the past at the home I currently reside in.)  A random thought (or maybe an urge) of realizing I could walk naked from end to end in this new home raced through my mind.  (Not that I can’t do that now in my current townhome, but the mere idea of walking naked in this big open space made me feel far more alive and vulnerable at the same time.  Is this some sort of “territory marking” ritual new homeowners do or is it just me?  I don’t know.  I think I’ll skip the self-analysis for now.)

Entrance to the great unknown. . .
Entrance to the great unknown. . .

Suffice it to say my life has been a whirlwind of change lately.  Being the control freak that I am, I want to organize all this chaotic change and put it in neat little compartments and tuck it all away so I can get down to the business of being happy and enjoy all this newness in my life and make it normal.  I’ve been wanting so much in my life lately, and I don’t do well when that newness doesn’t show up in a linear fashion like a checklist that is neatly written in chronological order.  In the spring, my personal life got a boost of excitement when I met a really great guy through mutual friends.  We exchanged emails regularly and went on an amazing date that lasted 7 and 1/2 hours.  I was excited at the possibilities that could unfold with him and looked forward to a growing friendship, but distance (long distance as well as his emotional distance) made that all fizzle and go flat faster than a cheap can of soda. I also met someone through the kennel I take my dog to, and we exchanged texts and pleasantries, but he wound up getting back together with his ex-girlfriend and canceling our date.  Online dating is now officially off of my list of ways to find a date.  I’m tired of posting beautiful pictures of myself, writing a nice profile and sending out countless “winks” and emails and searching and reading the profiles.  It’s becoming like a part time job with no benefits:  a few dates with one guy who got mad at me because I reacted awkwardly when he tried to unexpectedly kiss me in the middle of the date while I was in mid conversation walking in to the restaurant, one guy who stood me up, and a smattering of emails with no follow ups for phone calls or dates, and one creepy stalker who I had to report to the website.  A  few weeks ago, a traveling sculptor at the art fair downtown  hit on me while I was simply walking across the street looking for the public restrooms.  I’ve been checked out so many times at the grocery store, the bank, the hardware store and once while I went into the doctor’s office for a regular checkup that I sometimes worry my ego is getting a little out of check.  I have no idea where this part of my life is going, and though it sounds fun as you’re reading this, it has been stressing me out because it’s so messy and confusing, fun and aggravating all at the same time.  My mind races and tries to organize and compartmentalize what is happening and I’ve been holding on to that one amazing date wondering “what if” and sadly worrying about what I did wrong to possibly make it all go away, and make all these other guys ultimately pass on by too.

The stress that came prior to buying a home caused my neck, jaw and back muscles to spasm.  There was the  incompetent insurance agent who sent all of her information in emails and to the wrong email address at that.  The uptight loan underwriters and processors who asked for 50 million different documents and proof of funds to the point that I wondered if they could even poop without having a contract for proper excretion signed and dated first. Then there was the race to get all the forms, applications, loan approval, home inspection and bank appraisal finished one week before the closing date because the angry homeowner was trying to get out of our contract  (he felt I cheated him out of money simply because he accepted my  $4,000 offer under his asking price, and he claimed he had an offer for $11,000 over asking price the day after he signed our contract).  I also worried about my stressed out realtor who had to deal with said homeowner’s constant badgering about the contract while he was also calling her “honey,” “sweetie,” and “darling,” and offering to give her discounted Cardinals’ tickets, rides for her and her friends on his company’s party bus, a discount on a used Corvette if she could just talk me out of wanting to buy his home.  Once I got the cashier’s check processed (one day before closing), I then had to deal with my bank’s incompetence for online money transfers from checking to savings in which someone somewhere screwed up and caused me to overdraft in both my checking and savings accounts.  I had to call every day and get my money back in the right order for home improvement supplies and funds for my upcoming vacation.  Then, today I get a smiley faced email with exclamation points from my insurance agent asking when I’ll be moving into my new house and telling me that I need to get this current house sold before 6 months is up or they will stop their legalized extortion for more insurance money on this townhome.   She ended by writing “Congratulations on your new home!” and put a big smiley face and another exclamation point after that.

All of these stresses have been enough for me to want to walk away from the unknown and settle back down into my old, comfortable life where I’m rarely noticed by guys, I don’t have to put my heart on the line and look foolish and where my money, my house, my routine stays in place and nothing ever changes.  Or, everything can change but at my command and on my terms.

Open Space = Open Heart
Open Space = Open Heart

Add in all of my worries of wondering if I will fit in with my neighbors, if I’ll be broke because of a pricier mortgage and higher taxes, if I will ever find a guy that will not feel threatened that I bought a nice home, unjustified fears of friends and family feeling jealous of my good fortune, questions of if I deserve this good fortune and just worries in general, and I’ve become a neurotic mess.  And an ungrateful one at that.  Luckily, I have friends and family members that ground me and put me in my place.  My mom and dad both told me how proud they are of me, and my mom reminded me that this life is racked with such difficult, real problems that it is important to seize these beautiful moments and soak in the joy.  My friend Mary has been my biggest cheerleader and paint consultant.  I needed her artist’s eye and advice on what colors would best replace the putrid terra cotta ceilings, electric blue room, and glitter-encrusted walls in the spare bedrooms.  Every time we talk on the phone, she always reminds me that life is full of endless possibilities.   My friend Jenn keeps telling me to “let it go, and let it flow.” And my friend Sarah has told me to “have no fear, bitch,” and to keep my heart open to all that is coming my way and I will know more love than I ever thought possible.  My sister texts me and asks me updates on my house and even embroidered beautiful towel sets for my new kitchen.  And my friend Katie, my wingman through this entire process (Read Parts 1 & 2 here: ), came over to my new house yesterday evening with her two little boys.  She smiled and hugged me and said, “This is all yours!  I’m so excited and happy for you!  You did it!”  And we laughed and watched as Charlie and Peter ran, stomped and yelled from one end of the house to the other.  They ended with a grand finale of somersaults on the hideous shag carpeting in the bedrooms.  All is right with my world.

(Maybe I should do somersaults in my new house, too.  Don’t worry, I won’t be doing them naked.  And if I do, you won’t know.)

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.