Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I’m sad.

Not how I intended to start this post, full of sage wisdom, but true nonetheless.  I was making part of a friend’s birthday present last week and as I was cutting strips of paper I started to feel the wet cement of sadness filling my eyes and ears, making my breath stick to my ribs.  When I paused to question what was happening, I realized that I was cutting the strips in the shape of bulletin board borders.  July is almost over.  I will not be back in the classroom in a few weeks, yet the habit body is deeply entrenched.  I find myself slowing down, frantically planning for last minute details, and starting to draw a ritual deep breath…for nothing.

People get plenty of permission to be sad after a death or a romantic breakup, but try leaving a job, a city, a faith, and not only are you supposed to have a plan, but you are supposed to be excited about it.  Even if you have a dear and varied tribe that encourages you to feel your feelings, it doesn’t quite make sense in the face of a lifetime of absorbed lessons.  There is no free pass for therapy shopping, therapy eating, or even just therapy.  There is definitely less patience for emotional landmines.

When my first ever boyfriend dumped me, after two days of crying and not eating, I came into the kitchen for some food and the dish soap had sunflowers on the bottle.  My alarmed roommate entered a few minutes later to find me clutching the bottle to my chest and wailing.  “Ran-dall uuuuused to call me….SUNFLOWER!!!” I answered in reply to her question.  I promptly went back to bed for another few days.  Years later, I am currently watching a friend go through the same thing, never knowing when a great undertow of sadness will suddenly unseat her.  It’s both an exasperating part of healing and a testament to how deeply you’ve let the love enter.

Thus, instead of running from the stirrings this week, I am trying to let them take up whatever space they need.  In service of that I thought I’d share a (partial) list of landmines I expect I will trip over this year:

1. Free food (I know, y’all thought I was going to start out all heavy)–There will be a point this year when someone gives me food I didn’t expect on a long or trying day and I will lose my shit.  It’s not the food itself that I will miss.  At most schools, with maybe the exception of my last one, it was 90% junk food.  It was the knowledge that someone thought of you, someone approached you with generosity instead of expectation.  I find this especially true when parents cook for teachers.  I always thought that, despite their occasional dives off the deep end, this plate of brownies or PTA lunch was their way of saying: “You have a part of my child’s life in your hands.  He/she/they are my best thing.  I don’t know how to do what you do.  Even after you do what you do, I’m not sure if I know the depth and breadth of what you’ve done.  But I trust you, even if it’s just because I have to.  And I’m grateful.”  I know that’s a lot to project on a plate of brownies, but snacks during the school day are pretty important.

2.  Classroom control–whatever job/s I do this year, I know I’m going to have to answer to a lot more people than I am used to.  I am sure there will come multiple moments when I have a great idea on how to do a job better and am ignored.  I can taste the anger and panic at the back of my throat of, “I could’ve done it better.”  I know this is a criticism of education, but it’s also true that the more years you’ve taught, the less micromanagement is exercised as long as you have basic classroom management: aka if the principal doesn’t get complaints, you’re pretty safe in teaching how you see fit.  I know some people may think, “But wait, don’t we always hear about teachers having to spend so much time on test prep??”  I am telling you folks that I have not paid more than a sideways glance to test prep in years and am none the worse for tongue lashings.

3. Awkward adolescent humor–I will hear a story, either through Facebook or in person, about the weird and funny thing a teenager did.  I will laugh, and then I will get the same sharp pain in my chest that I get now when I realize that I have not known anyone with a pet potato in months, no one has offered to make me a duct tape purse, no one at my current work clucks like a chicken when they are bored or makes drawings of their colleagues to tape to chairs when someone is out for the day.  For all the time they pretend that they’re grown–teenagers still have remarkable access to the unfiltered if someone they love and trust will play with them.  I will have to fill my hunger to play elsewhere for the time being.

4.  Always being right if I choose–I wish I could say I was enlightened enough to not miss this one, but then I would be a liar-pants-on-fire.  Even now it feels traitorous to say, but for the most part teachers stick together, even when we shouldn’t.  I’ve tried to run my classroom fairly, consciously, humanely, but I’ve also done and said petty things to kids, probably lost some of the papers I’ve been accused of losing, and ignored some things that should not have been ignored.  Do we keep our mouths shut because we’re all so tired?  Maybe.  I suspect partly we’re afraid to admit our own inconsistencies lest the whole system crumble.  Regardless of where this “all in/all out” mentality comes from, the result is the same.  The most accountability I’m ever called to outside of testing takes one of two forms: a colleague saying, “Maybe you should have (fill in the blank) but it’s not your fault (fill in the excuses)” or an administrator saying, “I know this parent is (fill in the negative adjective) but I have to let you know (fill in the vaguely worded slap on the wrist).”   Maybe I am wrong, but I think other jobs will require more real-time accountability.  Do I have the humility for that, or will I find myself saying, “They just don’t understand…”

Side note: I am glad to hear any group of people condemn police brutality, but I am personally shocked to hear the it-would-never-happen-to-me self-righteous fervor of teachers condemning them.  The theft of life should always be sickening, but if we are honest with ourselves, teachers understand where and how that sickness starts.

5.  Creating–we are always creating something new, every moment, whether we are aware of it or not, but I was aware of it almost all the time on campus.  The creation of a new curriculum, the creation of a new teacher who can finally handle the dreaded sixth period without intervention, the creation of a student who actually likes you after branding you a bitch since August.  These creations don’t solve all the problems, but they are miniature miracles and they are everywhere when you are looking.  There will be more than once this year when I will create something new.  I’ll get that delicious, this is going to be awesome feeling, and either the audience for whom I am creating will be less visible, or they’ll havefewer pressing needs than a room full of thirteen year olds, and I will miss bringing my best gifts to a room that needs them.

Through all these landmines, after the blasts detonate and the emotions move through, there will come the same quiet that comes toward the end of every breakup.  In that quiet I come back to something very important, gently and clearly, over and over again.  The things I miss about the person/job/faith/city are less about the individual or thing in question, and more about the experience of being deeply connected, aware, and thankful.  I may circle back to that thing I miss at a different time, as a different me.  It is equally true that some breakups are forever.  What I won’t do is let the reality of landmines decide the journey–past, present, or future.

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Leave it Alone: AKA the practice of giving less fucks

The question: why leave a well paying job that you’re good at?  The reasons are both common and cosmic, tailored to be presentable to the audience in question at any given moment.  However, the reasons are not the answers.  The answers are still few and much less articulate.  I see them as a basket of warm laundry, straight from the dryer, digging into my hip on the walk back from the laundry room, jumbled together and inside out.  I do the work of lifting and folding so that I will eventually have something to wear.

The part I’m folding recently?  It’s an urge to redefine/add to/claim/practice an unacknowledged form of strength.  I can’t yet name that strength, that thing I’ve been hesitant to install, but part of it has to do with knowing when to leave something alone.  Until recently I have never, and I mean never, been able to do that.  From twenty minute earwax cleanings to replaying a conversation in my head for a month, I have always been a stickler for detail, dogged perseverance, and my favorite, ownership.

A few years ago, the night before my student’s biggest paper of the year was due, I was driving back from dinner with a colleague and friend after twelve straight hours of teaching and managing people’s anxiety around the project.  We saw Fernando, a young man who was supposed to come to the computer lab after school, riding his bike across the intersection we were just about to drive through.  My friend made a quick lane change and swung around the corner where we started to shout his name.  “Fernando,” my partner scolded when he stopped, “don’t you know that Miss Delaney and I have been driving around all night looking for you??  Why weren’t you in the computer lab??”  I marveled at her quickness, and tried to keep a straight face, but the thing that sticks with me the most?  He didn’t seem even mildly suspicious that we were lying.  You can chalk that up to caring educators, a not-too-academically-bright student, or the simple fact that he knew me as a person that squeezed, picked, and pushed with some regularity.

The contrast between the demands on a teacher and the demands on a camp counselor are sharp, and yet I still struggle.  I had just started a scheduling task that had been given to me on Monday–not future altering by any means–when it was time to go on break.  A sweet, younger counselor offered to do it for me.  I hesitated.  Would she mess it up?  Would she understand my directions completely?  Would she ask questions if she didn’t?  Would I be held responsible for her mistakes on this non-important project?  I’m sure my thank you and directions sounded a little strained when I said yes, because washing my hands in the bathroom a few minutes later I was still tempted to go back and regain my jurisdiction.  I looked at myself in the mirror: “Leave it alone or I will smack the micromanagement off your face!!”  I went to break and, surprise surprise, the world had not ended when I came back.  It hadn’t mattered.  It was wholly unremarkable, unless you count the young counselor who now felt closer to me.

I saw the same thing as I taught Creative Writing in the last few years.  Students blew my mind as they planned schedules, divvied up the workload, mediated disputes and gave each other high caliber revision feedback on their group projects.  What I’d always said I wanted: a classroom where I was invisible and they did the work, was happening.  It was as close to true co-creation as I’d ever gotten, and yet a part of me was horribly bored during project days because I wasn’t needed to make the rules, assign the importance, say what made it “good” or “bad.”  True, it was enormously pleasing to see them sip, lick, and guzzle from their own fountains, but I didn’t know what to do with myself without all my fingers in all the pies.

So, why can’t I take the advice of Elsa from Frozen and…”Let it go, let it go!!”?  Why does it feel like doing so will be a part of a newly emerging strength?  Mostly because the self-doubt and accusations can sometimes be VICIOUS when I don’t keep a careful eye on everything!! The following is a dialogue where I will be playing the part of me trying to give less fucks: “Come on lazy, what’s so special about you that you can’t put in the extra few minutes?  So what, you’re trying to rationalize and deify slacking?  Everyone else is doing their part.  People expect a certain standard of quality from you,” and on it goes.  Sometimes, in their most logical sounding form, they remind me of the magic I’ve been able to create for others through my willingness to shoulder large loads for untold miles.  Yet this new, inside out part of me with pockets flapping and buttons burning, quietly asks, “Is there more to your strength, your value, than your perfect service to others?”  I don’t know.  There seems to be all sorts of world changers big and small who really go in for heavy lifting…

but not everything is mine to lift.

And so for a while I’m going to be leaving some things alone that I normally would not.  In retrospect I see that it’s already been happening naturally on occasion, right outside my conscious vision.  Those times are delightful because of the space they open for help, for community, for rest, for ripening.  However, sometimes I know I am going to have to say to myself, as I did in that bathroom mirror: it is not yours, leave it alone.  I’ve experienced the end of the spectrum where I (try to) hold, control, and take in the effects of everything.  I need to now practice giving fewer, or even (gasp) no fucks, before I can find the middle.  For those of you that grew up with healthy boundaries practiced and modeled, this must seem like a duh, but for me it is…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from the Field: Maybe

Hello from Day 39 of Delaney Walkabout!  The reality of non-teacher life has not yet set in, but the reality of a working summer has.  My general sulkiness has started to fade a little–I did after all take a sailboat (cardboard) to Sonoma yesterday.  While on board we drank milkshakes and watched Humpty Dumpty until realizing that sharks also like milkshakes.  Long story short, four first graders dragged me to safety across the ocean floor (linoleum) after our boat sank.  There could be way worse jobs than camp counselor.

There are a lot more maybes than yeses or no’s in the last five weeks.  For example, did I want to take the boat back home after it was fixed in Sonoma?  “Maybe?”  I answered, fearing the first trip had pulled my shoulder out of joint.  My yes, and especially what I call my “big yes” has always been fairly easy to hear, even when I didn’t want to hear it.  My no is getting easier to hear as I grow in trusting myself and let go more and more of my need for outside approval.  But the maybe?  It both tantalizes and annoys the crap out of me.  Will I be missing out on something if I say no?  Am I being talked into yes as I have been in the past?  What the hell do I do with maybe?  From my own estuary of passion and logic I thought I’d share what I have been trying:

1.  Does it have any stubbornness to it?  If so, my experience tells me that it might be a yes that is hiding in plain sight.  I signed up for a variety of job alerts from different services so that I can still keep my job eyes open this summer.  Each time I find one I could do I have gone through my own version of Macbeth: “To apply or not to apply, that is the question.”  However, each time a new job comes in that is feasible, it effectively washes the last job and its argument out to sea.  In contrast, I am still thinking about a movie I saw more than a year ago now.  The movie itself was terrible, but somewhere towards the end they go to Niagra Falls.  I couldn’t tell you what was happening in the scene, but the big yes was vibrating my spine with: you need to go there as soon as possible.  To have called that a maybe would be giving in to my fear of air travel and the infinitesimal chance that I will be air sick enough to puke in front of a stranger (it did happen once).  It’s taken me longer than it should’ve to comply on this one, but I am starting to plan a trip after camp is over.

2.  Make a move.  If it is a no disguised as a maybe, action will clarify it if you are listening to yourself.  One of my more recent maybes in job search land seemed like it had a little more stubbornness to it than usual, but I still couldn’t decide whether or not to apply.  I finally just sent an inquiry to the organization, asking if an eligible candidate had to be in the office for all of the 20 hours a week.  The answer: yup.  Problem solved.  There is no physical way I can give 20 in-person hours a week before camp lets out, and I am definitely not putting off Niagra Falls one more time.  Get the ball rolling somewhere and then TRUST.  You will do more for the world as you trust and follow than you ever will by giving advice and clinging to one picture of yourself.

3.  Learn to bless the maybe.  What if it’s not a secret yes or no that you are refusing to hear?  In Marge Piercy’s gorgeous poem, “The art of blessing the day,” she ends with this stanza:

What we want to change we curse and then

pick up a tool.  Bless whatever you can

with eyes and hands and tongue.  If you

can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.

What is there to bless about maybe?  I’ve spent so much time longing for the safe landing of endings and beginnings, and perhaps I will continue to do so, but maybe is about journeys.  Maybe is about being new again, at the frontier of what comforts and terrifies you, present to each moment, mundane or jaw dropping, curious.  Maybe requires and rewards you as you ask for help, even when the asking is awkward or downright incoherent.  Maybe is a great catalyst in creating community, asking those around you to wait with you, not knowing the results, unable to calm their fears since you are currently busy with your own.

Maybe brings perspective to your bullshit.  When I did most things in my life on autopilot there was tons of energy for pointless obsessing about nothing.  But now that I am here, more engaged in living, so many of the Tasmanian devils are curled up sleeping.  I scratch their fuzzy bellies occasionally but they are hesitant to wake up.  And so where I thought maybe would create more noise, more chaos, it has actually given me the opposite.  The gratitude for the space and the quiet is immense.  If gratitude were a meal, right now it is stuck in my teeth, all over my face, and down the front of my shirt.

Maybe is for building a life, not an institution.  The exhale I have each time I think or write that thought is like the removal of the bra at the end of a long day (sorry guys, you’ll have to trust me on this one).  Institutions need products to prove their worth, be they tangible or not.  They could not do that if they took the meandering path of maybe.  I however am trying to build a life.  Who knows when and if an institution will become part of that life again, BUT THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.  I had it wrong for a really long time.

I am trying to bless the maybe, whether it be in job possibilities or multiple offers for weekend plans when I’ve only been used to grading papers.  Remember, the sharks in these waters are not as scary as we thought they were…they like milkshakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, and…

It was a stupid high school theater game.  For warm-ups we would stand in a circle and give one line of a scene or a story per person.  You would step into the circle as you gave your line, and as you stepped out everyone was supposed to shout (in unison, although that rarely happened), “Yes, and…” before the next person was up.  It was supposed to get us to think outside the box, silence our voice of judgment, and create safe and collaborative community.

Turns out it wasn’t really a stupid game.  Yes and…has been everywhere lately.

I feel a charging readiness for something that is not here yet.  My muscles and nerves have been rung out and filled and rung out again in the last year.  My heart has embraced questions and contradictions like food.  My brain is so hungry for raw material with which to make connections that I cannot take in information fast and contemplatively enough to satisfy.  Far from exasperating, to walk this almost-not-quite edge is a lesson in fascination, like being in the shower the moment before the water goes from lukewarm to icy.  You have another few seconds before something is expected of you: jump out with teeth chattering or welcome this shocking sharpness.

This yes and readiness doesn’t feel like the sarcasm of the jaded, the mockery of the self-righteous,  or the boredom of the list maker.  It is an invitation.  An invitation to keep the door open to the next breath and the one after that.  Tonight I contemplate the death of a former colleague who just lost a secret battle with late stage stomach cancer.  I see his curly brown hair and Tigger-like bounce step.  He would gesticulate wildly with his hands and shout, “Yes, and….”  I look at my new haircut, even shorter than the original hacking off back in February.  It is not quite buzzed, but paired with my new purple Mr. Magoo glasses it is dramatic.  The face is mine but I don’t recognize it.  All I hear is, “Yes, and….”  The last book I finished was entitled The Crack in the Cosmic Egg.  My latest book shows up in the mail with the picture of a cracked egg on it.  The first words might as well have been, “Yes, and….”

I even hear it in my summer campers.  That’s right, I have gone from eye-rolling teenagers to little kids who bite each other, tattle about everything, and can not wash their hands without help.  But you know what they can do?  Create like nobody’s business.  Create like their fucking hair is on fire but they don’t care because there is a truck full of free candy parked outside their house.  I was playing Battleship this week with a first grader named Matthew when this conversation happened.

“You know what we should do?  We should use the marbles from the Mancala board and use them as protection spells for our ships.”  Being no slouch when it comes to creation, I was able to hang with him on this part.  “I like that, it will be like we created a whole new game.  What should we call it?”

“Battleforce Awakens.”  Seriously took him less than two seconds.  I said okay and we continued to play, but soon things got tricky.  “G3,” I said.

“Hit, I mean miss.”

“Well was it a hit or a miss?” I questioned.

“It would have been a hit but I have my blue marbles around it so it isn’t.”

“But I had my blue marbles around a ship that you sunk just five minutes ago.”

“Yes, but they weren’t dark blue marbles, they were all kinds of blue and you did not have them in the right spot under the fortress (a business card holder he was using from the desk) so they could gain power.”  At this his coach he recruited nodded solemnly.

“So if I call G3 again then it’s a hit because I disabled the force field?”

I was missing the point.  Trying to figure out the rules in a made up game left me no time to marvel that he was creating whole new systems of reality on the fly.  He was giving me yes and, but I stopped with yes.  I stopped with yes (I needed to write it again to hear myself say it again).

I am not afraid that I will miss the next step, whether it is hopping on a plane to go live in Paris or playing a game of Bop-It-Red-Rover-Tag.  I no longer wonder, like I did this year, how much I would be willing to sacrifice to find a me that is more authentic, more sustainable.  I am in my life more than I have ever been.  It may sound silly to some, but for a creature of habit like myself, the fact that I am willing to give up my “summer break” for an early rising job that is 50% sheer boredom, tells me everything I need to know about my sincerity regarding Delaney Walkabout.

I am waiting, with night-before-Christmas faith sweat, for presents to be delivered.

 

Calling Pop, Pop

My Dad has always referred to himself as ‘pop’.  As a child I was distinctly uncomfortable with that.  I knew his growing up on the East Coast made it more logical, but it still annoyed me.  It wasn’t dignified.  I wanted him to be father, dad, or even daddy for that matter.  At least daddy was a word that little girls were supposed to use.  Pop, on the other hand, felt more like a term for drinking buddies.  Thus, I was more than a little surprised to hear myself end a message to him last night with, “Love ya pop, talk to you soon.”

I don’t know how long I’ve been using his word for himself, but thinking about it today I realize the word doesn’t hold the same lip-curdling, teenage self-righteousness  that it used to.  In fact, it is more accurate than father or dad or daddy could ever be.  Pop implies loveable frailty, a generous heart, a tendency towards garrulous storytelling, and a slightly saucy, yet ultimately corny, sense of humor.  “Honey, did you hear about the man who was found dead in a bathtub full of milk and Cheerios with a banana stuck up his butt?  The police said it was a cereal killer!!”  Five minutes of laughter on his part, and yes, the first time he told it to me I actually thought he was relaying odd but true news from Southern California.

As I thought about the pop-ness of my Pop, a question came unbidden: “I wonder what else wants to call its own name that I’m not believing?”  Ooooo….juicy question, thanks brain.  How many times have I wondered ‘what else is going on’ with a friend who was sharing the trivial or traumatic?  How many times have I downplayed a need of my own because ‘I can make it through just a few more days or hours?’  Heck, how many times did I ask students ‘do you really have to go or are you just trying to get out of doing work?’  What if I took the motivation, the story, the need presented, as the truth of the moment, trusting that any other truth that would come later was working its way up from the roots of the situation?

It is not unprecedented.  I had a student come out to me for the first time ever this year.  The last day of school she handed me a note that popped my tear ducts like water balloons.  The first lines read: “Dear Miss Delaney, you are the first adult I ever came out to.  Thanks for making it easier by believing me.”  I would never question a heart offering of such a fragile nature, but in her mind she did not yet have the right to call her own name.  She was, as we often do, testing out how much permission she had, in the hands of one she hoped would love her.

I’ve even spoken to myself without inquisition quite recently.  Laying in bed a week or so ago, unsuccessfully trying to ignore mounting anxiety over upcoming dental work, I finally gave in to the skin stretching flaying reality of panic attacks and started to question.  “You know you’re not going to die.  You know you essentially bring this on yourself by not going in more often.  You trust your dentist and she has been immeasurably kind to you for many years.  Why are you still so afraid?”  No answer.  I got out of bed, stood in the dark of my apartment, and started to move whatever parts of my body were calling.  Finally, like the whisper from the side of a scared child’s mouth, “Pain means you are not loved.”  I didn’t stop to gawk at the new creation.  I kept moving, I felt what emotion it stirred, but what I didn’t do was question it or try to construct a story of how it came to be so.  In fact, the few times I wondered if I should sit down and write about it, I knew that it was a not yet.  The truth of the moment was here, telling me all I needed to know for now.

As a writer, my taste for questions makes this a very different way to approach life.  I will never give up asking questions, nor do I believe I am being called to.  Questions help things be birthed.  But what would it be like if I let something be that has just been born?  When I talk to my Pop tonight, I will thank him for seeding that lesson, whether consciously or not, from my earliest days.  I do not get to tell someone what their name is.

Notes from the Field

Hello from Day 6 of Delaney Walkabout!  This is the title I’ve decided to give to this year, one of many heartfelt parting gifts of the school I walk away from.  Yes, that’s right, for those of you just tuning in to my saga, I have started my year’s leave of absence from public education.  People keep peeking to see if I’m elated yet, but mostly it’s just confusing.  My mind is aware that we need to start this process of discovering the new creation, but my body has said repeatedly, “Why aren’t we drinking yet?”  In my defense, that has been the reliable pattern for the last thirteen years–I was last priority during the school year, and my reward was ridiculous sloth and excess during vacations.  Doesn’t sound very balanced?  It wasn’t.

So, as I approach the end of this week, let’s recap successes in order to keep the goblins of confusion at bay:

Jobs applied for: 3.  One of the “serious” variety and two of the “not-so-serious” variety.  I’m having problems with the not-so-serious jobs however.  First,  the applications themselves.  Although Will Smith’s Getting Jiggy With It (or Getting Jobby With It if you are clever like me) is a great song for loosening up before the experience, I can’t quite get loose enough to write down my former hourly wage in the work experience section.  I contemplated writing in very small print, “Way more than you pay anyone here, but that’s okay because  I know this is a minimum wage job.”  That seemed a little condescending however and so I ended up leaving them blank, with a very respectful line drawn through the space so they wouldn’t perceive any eye-rolling tone on my part.  I also balked at putting down references.  Both my principal and vice-principal are good sports, but there is not much they can say about my ability to work a cash register or not drop plates of food (I can do both by the way, if either of you are reading this).  Finally, I can’t understand why you’d want a resume and not just an application for a retail or food establishment.  Both give you the person’s experience?  Are you trying to weed out the mature from the immature by seeing who knows what a resume is?  I’m trying to maintain a straight face when I encounter requests like these, but my brain is getting a cramp from rolling its eyes.

Jobs considered but discarded: 2.  Transcription–listen and write stuff down.  Should be easy, right?  Wrong.  It’s REALLY FUCKING DIFFICULT.  I took a test to gauge my abilities, and after 15 minutes I still wasn’t sure about the accuracy of the 16 second practice clip they had given me, although I was sure I wanted to punch sports announcer Skip in the face.  Considering the fact that the pay scale was .08-.35 cents a clip, I figured this was not going to be a big game changer in the battle to pay rent.  Next, sex texter.  It is an actual thing.  You no longer have to have a seductive phone voice to do sex work, just be good with your thumbs (ha!).  This one had real potential until I read the fine print and saw you had to send 2000 texts a month in order to get paid at all!!  The boyfriends and lovers of my past will attest that I have a great imagination when it comes to chicka-chicka-bow-wow, but even I highly doubt I can send 2000 texts a month.  Just to be sure I looked on Thesauraus.com for synonyms for ass.  Sadly, only twenty-something.  Sex texter, dismissed.

Pledges made and kept: 1.  I have never done this in my life although I’ve heard it suggested as best practice a jillion times: write every day.  I know, I know, it seems common sense, but I much prefer writing when it comes in a rush of glory and not a calamity of toe stubbing and cursing your own brain, or word hole as I sometimes call it (“Come on you stupid word hole!” is a phrase my cat actually heard me utter last night).  But, I have written for six days in a row now, and I can see the appeal even through the frustration.  The highs may not be as fancy, but the door stays open more easily, and my patience for revision is greater.  Stay tuned for how long I can stick with it, but my goal is the whole year.

Some parts of summer are of course the same.  By the time this week is over I’ll have gotten to see so many of the people I love and catch up with them.  It’s such a treat to not have to force myself to socialize with what little energy I have left at the end of a teaching day or week.  I also start the yearly summer ritual of reminding my body what green food looks like–carbohydrates and cheese covered foods being the norm in May.  Finally, tomorrow on day 7, the day God rested from creation, I’ll finally get some drinking in.  Or, as my friend Erika likes to call it, Wine in the Daytime!!!!! 

All in all, not a bad entrance into the wild.

 

I am being stalked

I am being stalked.

Not by an ex-boyfriend, disgruntled colleague, or crazed parent (this time). No, I am being stalked by a thought.  It only showed up yesterday, and so it may be a little soon to call in the Orwellian Thought Police, but I have a feeling it wants to stay.

During my weekend Facebooking yesterday—differentiated from my weekday practice by actually reading posts and shared news stories and not just clicking on funny gif’s like a nicotine addicted monkey—I finally realized that a friend of mine might be having relationship trouble. After checking in and confirming, I wrote her back a note pledging my support and comparing notes on our respective life transitions (I am done with 13 years as a public school teacher on June 3rd).  As I ended my missive, hoping it would help her breathe a little more easily, the stalker slipped in with the last line.

“There’s no way to do this wrong thankfully, since it hasn’t been done before, at least not by me.”

Hold up there…there’s no way to do this wrong? Aren’t you a tall, dark, handsome stranger of a thought!  Fortunately, I’m protected from such a seductive yet menacing arrival by my immense distrust of the overly good looking.  Ryan Gosling?  Nuh-uh…likely a cyborg, but a dog with three legs?  Yes, please.  That dude has known suffering and is still hobbling around sniffing butts with a smile on its face.

There’s no way to do this wrong…pssssh. I’ve been thinking of ways this career transition can go wrong for almost a year now, only half believing myself when I say things to people like:

Whether it’s right or wrong, I’ll definitely learn something.

Or…Regardless of outcome, it’s time to do it.

Or, my favorite because it is has an epic ring to it…If not now, when?

Like farts there’s no way to do this wrong. But what if? Damn it!  I know better than to speak the magic words, the ones that historically open my locked doors.  I drew in a sharp breath as my stalker gained physical weight.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had a thought put on flesh and bones and a suave tuxedo with tails before, but it is a moment more surprising than any Cinderella story.

How would it be possible to not do this wrong, I wondered as I left the house for the afternoon.

Because you know your yes, your no is coming out of the fog, and your maybe allows for just the right amount of adventure for your nervous little heart.  You’ve learned how to listen…you’ll know when to follow.

Sorry, not good enough. Logic dictates that some things are right and some things are wrong.  Some things are good and some things are bad.  Logic jumped up and uncharacteristically high fived me (in my brain of course, just in case you were wondering where all these characters came from all of a sudden).

“ABSOLUTES ARE HOW I’VE KEPT YOU ALIVE ALL THESE YEARS.”

I nodded my head as I got into my Uber to go visit a friend’s cat in the hospital. Not two minutes into the drive, driver Mike and I were talking about what made for a fulfilled life, and he was sharing with me quite earnestly the process he’d gone through to be able to say, at 46, that he accepted himself.  I was moved as I always am by shared intimacy.  As I got out of the car, I realized he had dropped me two or three blocks shy of the actual address.  Sigh. There is no way to do this wrong. Creatress showed up as I walked.

“doN’tttt GET me rrrrrong, LoGiC has its place…butt yo’ure gOINg 2 have toooo kill me if U Want Me To ShuT UP everagain.” Frick.  Creatress had a point too I thought as she twirled off to melt borders and devise schemes.  I was going to have to deal with both she and Logic as I decided what to do with my stalker.

Leaving the animal hospital later, I had put this new presence out of my mind. I was sitting on a sunny bench waiting for my next Uber, thinking back to a time this morning over Mary Oliver and waffles that was not so fraught with choices, when I glanced to the empty spot at the right of me. There’s no way to do this wrong. The whole right side of my body tingled as petaled nerve endings strained towards water.  My stalker was back.  With a shock I realized that I wanted to hold its hand, like you do on a first date, inch by inch, till finally the pinkies touch.

Problems with this:

  1. You can’t hold hands with a thought.
  2. You shouldn’t hold hands with a suspected stalker.
  3. It’s Los Altos and you are wearing cut off jean shorts and flip flops. If you add ‘bench caressing’ to this list of transgressions, someone really might call the cops.

I didn’t do it, but I will note that my car that was supposed to be 12 minutes away never showed up. Almost thirty minutes and five texts later, I cancelled and requested another car.  I was given plenty of time to think about who I was sharing a bench with, and later when I laid down to take a nap it spooned right up to me, undeterred.  It was a decidedly awkward pleasure-pain confusion, and I woke up unrested, way too soon, with heart racing.

There’s no way to do this wrong.

Later that night I was finally feeling able to wade into the world of home internet to try and purchase service. I’m giving up both my free wifi at work and my work laptop in five days, so it’s time to pony up for my own (or install a lightning rod or make up an internet dance–I really have no idea how it works).  Since I was busy trying to find a compromise between wanting the cheapest thing possible and something that actually worked, I was annoyed when the stalker made its presence known again.

There’s no way to do this wrong.

Like hell there’s not. If I can’t fucking pay for it then it’s wrong!!!

No, its just not paid for.

Wait.

What?

Oh.  Ooooooohhhhhh!

You mean the thing that happens and the judgment of the thing that happens are different?  Woah.  Then why am I so eager to either be proven “right” or avoid being “wrong”?  My new stalker boyfriend couldn’t answer that question, and frustratingly he didn’t even try.  He was content just to laugh at my overthinking face and wake up with me again this morning.  Our pinkies were touching.

It may take a while for me to develop a true love affair with gentleness, and in fairness I’ve come a long way in that pursuit. However, for now it is still met with a mix of suspicion and longing.  I imagine there is great freedom on the other side of labeling actions right or wrong.  Following handsome strangers in a crowd, just because you can, does seem like great fun.