Kindness

Saturday is usually the day that I do the weekly grocery shopping at Walmart. It’s always busy, but manageable. Today was a different story because obviously it’s getting close to Christmas and there is shopping to be done. However, today was also the day that Santa Claus would be making an appearance for the children. And I was there right in the middle of the 12-4:00 time slot that he would be there. I carefully avoided the garden center area where he was set up, but that didn’t stop the volume of shoppers who were there with their children all decked out in Christmas attire for their visit and subsequent photo opp with Santa himself. I was patient as I weaved through the crowd, not because I’m a naturally patient person, but more because I had run 7 miles this morning and the ibuprofen hadn’t kicked in yet. I was moving slowly anyway, might as well make way for the excited children and their families. After paying for my groceries and heading out to my car, I couldn’t help but remember my own personal involvement with a department store Santa.

When I was a teenager in the early years of high school, my father worked at a Super K-mart store. At the time, K-mart and Walmart stores with the “Super” label were a novel concept. New enough for it to be the reason that my family moved to North Carolina just before I started the 7th grade. My father was offered a management position at a brand new Super K. It was a great store, complete with a full-service restaurant. The idea that you could stop at one store for everything, including groceries, turned out to be a hit.

During one Christmas season, my father’s store put a “pictures with Santa” event on their calendar. The store manager needed someone to be Santa’s “elf” and take Polaroid pictures of the kids on Santa’s lap for a small fee. When my father heard of the need, he turned to me. So, one weekend, I donned a Santa hat and a fanny pack to hold money, and worked as Santa’s helper to the tune of five tax-free dollars an hour. I wasn’t at the point in my teenager years where this sort of gig would have embarrassed me. There was no chance of that considering the store was a 45-minute drive from the city we lived in. It was certainly an interesting way to spend a Saturday.

As I stood next to the cardboard fireplace and watched child after child on the lap of Santa, I heard the same thing from the jolly man with every child he met. He would always encourage them to smile, and then he would tell them how smiling at one person would lead that person to smile at someone else and so on and so on, so that eventually the smile from one person will have traveled all the way around the world. I always smiled and was the happy “helper” I was being paid to be, but inside, I was getting annoyed at hearing the same cheesy thing over and over.

Fast forward a little more than 20 years later and honestly, what that Santa said to those kids is really at the heart of what we need to be doing as a society these days. Not just now, at Christmastime when it’s sort of the theme of the month to spread goodness and cheer, but really, all year. If we could all just be kind every chance we get, it will spread. Maybe not around the world like Santa told all those kids, but actually, why not? An act of kindness can go a long way, I’m sure of it. People don’t forget when nice things are done for them, or even when gentle and kind words are said to them. I’m positive that I’m not speaking of any kind of a new concept here, but the relevancy of being kind is not something that has an expiration date.

Touching the Earth

When I went through my teacher classes in college, a professor once told us that it takes five years for you to really get the hang of being a teacher. Obviously the first year is all about survival, but then as the years go on after that, you slowly come back down to the earth until you get to the end of your fifth year. It is only then that your feet finally touch the ground again and you truly feel that you can do this whole teaching “thing”. I’m very proud of the education I received at the school I attended. I learned so many things that I still remember, but honestly, I think Dr. Swanee was wrong about the five years. For me, it has taken 15 for me to truly find my groove. But oh how glad I am that I have found it!

You’d think it would have been easy for me to really get the hang of teaching, considering all of my 15 years have been spent educating the youth of the world at the same school. I haven’t taught the same grade though. Eight years were in a third grade classroom, four years in fifth grade, and now I’m on my fourth year teaching middle school English. As I have built up years of experience, I have also built up a long list of extra duties that I am responsible for. I don’t have children of my own, so anytime there was a need for a teacher to take on a committee or extracurricular club, I raised my hand….every….time. I felt that because I didn’t have anybody at home besides my husband, I had all the time in the world to work on the yearbook and plan activities for the arts and crafts club. That is, in addition to what teachers always have to do, write lesson plans and grade papers. It was fine for many years, but at the end of last year, the burnout was real. I seriously questioned my career choice. How could it be fair that teachers have so much extra work that they have to do at home? Why is it so easy for other teachers to not bring work home? By the end of last year, I knew I had to make a change. I could not see myself going another school year with such a long list of responsibilities. If there was ever a perfect opportunity to drop some off of the list, the end of the year was the time to do it. So I did. And it really hurt. I was admitting defeat–that I was not the super teacher I thought I was. I felt more anxiety than relief about giving up three things on my list.

Even as a new school year began in August, I still felt the sting of giving up those activities. However, as I am now approaching Christmas break, the halfway point of the school year, I am absolutely certain that clearing some things off my to-do list has made a huge difference in my life. I vowed at the beginning of the year that I would be the kind of teacher not chained to school work at home at all hours of the day on the weekends. If my husband and I wanted to be spontaneous and go on a trip, we would go. I wouldn’t use school work as a reason to stay home. Granted, most of our weekends this school year have been pretty tame. Trips have been planned well in advance and the two races I ran were local, so no travel needed. But I know a difference has still been made. I noticed it the most last night. Usually my Sunday evenings are reserved for the papers that I avoid grading all weekend. Avoided for good reason–I have hobbies. They always take a backseat during the school year, but not this one. So yesterday, when hubby had to go to his office, about an hour away, to do some last minute things to prepare for today, I tagged along to help. I figured we would be back in enough time for me to get some papers graded and some other school work done before the new, post-Thanksgiving week started. But it took a lot longer than anticipated. We didn’t get home until after 8:00. I knew that I had truly changed as a teacher, because it did not stress me out one bit that I didn’t get my work done last night as planned. I got most of it done today during school.

It has taken me 15 years, but I get it now. I still don’t have kids of my own yet, but what I do have is personal time at home. I knit, I crochet, I run, I read, I do things with my husband. I don’t have infinite time in my life, nobody does. So why would I spend so much of that precious home time doing work? Granted, there is some work that I will always have to do at home, it’s the nature of the job. But I’m loving the fact that I am just now realizing how to enjoy all of the non-summer break months of the year. I can’t live my life only during June and July, that wouldn’t be much of a life at all.

I don’t regret how much time I put into my job for all of these initial years. I have a passion for teaching, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I wouldn’t have put so much time into it if it wasn’t a career that I loved. But I am certain that regret would enter the scene if I hadn’t made the choice to have that separation from work that allows me now to look forward to Christmas break knowing that I won’t dread going back after New Year’s. It took this long to figure out what I had to do, but the time it took was worth it, especially for that wonderful feeling of my feet finally touching the earth again.

Being Accepted

At the end of 2017, I was toying around with the idea that I could be a runner. I had run my first 5k the year before and had discovered that I really enjoyed the sport. I knew that my city had a very active running club, as they had a large presence in the race that I ran. With enthusiasm, I paid the annual fee and joined the club and ultimately did absolutely nothing with it. The membership was for a year and even though I spent the first half of 2018 practicing running, I was very self-conscious of my weight. I read over and over that they were very welcoming to members of all ability levels. But as I looked at their posts on Facebook of the meetups I was tempted to join, I realized that I did not look like any of the runners I saw in the pictures. While I was able to run continuously over an extended period of time, I was still very slow and very heavy. I did, however, run the 4-mile race they sponsored on the 4th of July each year, but ultimately, my insecurity kept me from actively participating in the club. I never even made it to a monthly membership meeting to pick up my free t-shirt for new members. I let my membership expire at the end of 2018.

I unfollowed the ‘insiders’ group on Facebook but still periodically saw posts from their general group and kept the idea of the running club in the back of my mind. Fast forward to this month that had me running two local races on two back-to-back weekends. It was at these events, milling around before the start, that I again saw familiar faces wearing matching shirts and gathering for a group picture. I knew these people, if only from seeing them in two-dimensions in Facebook pictures. I began to wonder if it was perhaps time to reconsider joining the club.

As the end of the year is now approaching, I remember that this is around the time that I had signed up for a membership in 2017. On a whim, this morning I scoped out the running club’s website and immediately saw the option for renewing memberships. I didn’t even hesitate. I paid the yearly dues and signed back up. After that, I perused their schedule of weekly meetups and found a group run that will be held at a time that I can make it after work. Without a second thought, I clicked on the button to say that I would be attending. The options for that practice run are 3.3, 4, or 5 miles. When I saw that, I almost smiled because those distances are no longer a problem for me. At a minimum, I go 3 miles each time I run. I’m also not nearly as slow as I was a year ago. I feel pretty confident that my 11-12 minute mile pace can keep up with the other runners.

Soon after getting the membership renewal confirmation email, I posted in the “insiders” Facebook group and expressed my joy at having joined the group again. I briefly mentioned about my inactive membership in 2018 and how much of an improved runner I am. There was also mention of my half-marathon goal. The amount of positive feedback I got from the group on my post reaffirmed for me that I had made the right decision.

The right decision indeed. When I think of going to that meetup on Wednesday, I am filled with eagerness to meet these long-awaited running partners that I hope to call my friends soon. There is a feeling of accomplishment and self-confidence that I definitely did not possess last year. I still don’t think I look like a typical runner. I do have some more weight to lose. But now more than ever, I know with 100% certainty that since I can run for a sustained amount of time without feeling like I’m going to suffocate and die afterwards, I AM a runner whether I look like what I think a runner should look like or not. I am also certain that what I look like will not matter to this community of runners I have just rejoined. I can run with these people and know that I have come to the right place–the place for running tips and advice, for encouragement and motivation, and most importantly of all, the place for acceptance.

On Becoming Who I Am

A medication-induced vivid dream that I had last night featured my mother. In it, she and I were talking and reconciling the past year. I woke up with the reminder that this week marks exactly one year since I cut my parents out of my life. I still don’t regret my decision to do that. In fact, this holiday season will not be filled with the same anxious sadness I felt last year after making up my mind that I would no longer be a victim to their mental games. And while this week is a reminder of what I did last year to better my mental health, I am also reminded of how much has changed with my physical health. Granted, the lifestyle change I have instituted started the day after Christmas, but I am keenly aware of how different I am in just the 11 months I have been on this journey.

For reference, all of my weightloss success is due to the Phit-n-Phat program (www.phitnphat.com). I highly recommend the free course and podcast. I didn’t join the paid membership and have lost a little more than 51 pounds since I began. Through following the four basics of the program and exercising, I have lost physical weight; but truly, I have gained as much as I have lost.

My husband always told me that once I lost weight, I would have so much more self-esteem. I was sure he was correct, but I always assumed that my self-esteem was fine. At my heaviest, it didn’t bother me to look in mirrors. I knew I was overweight, but that’s just how I looked, no big deal. I did want to look better in pictures, but I figured that I wasn’t an insecure teenager, so there was no need to obsess over my appearance. Now that I have lost enough weight to truly notice a significant difference in my appearance, I realize that I care more about how I look. Because I have had to buy new clothes several times throughout this year as clothes continually became too big, I have found that I enjoy experimenting with new outfits and how new clothes make me feel. I have taken several mirror selfies that have never been seen by anybody but myself because I wanted to be able to look back on them and remember how good I felt the day I wore a particular outfit.

This translates to a confident feeling when I go out in public. It’s difficult to truly describe the difference in how I feel walking among other people in a store or other public place. I don’t feel as self-conscious, leading to my head being held a little bit higher. There is a comfortableness with my body that I don’t think I have ever truly felt. I am by no means at my goal weight. I still have another 40-50 pounds that I would like to lose, so I can only imagine what I will feel when I get to that goal.

I have gained a sense of control around food. It used to be that I would worry if I would be full enough with the food I ordered at a restaurant, or if I would get hungry after the dinner my husband or I would cook at home. It’s unreal just how much I had those thoughts in the back of my mind. It was for this reason that so many work days included a stop at a fast food restaurant either on the way to or from work. Even if it was after work, I could get McDonald’s on the way home and still eat dinner with my husband that evening. It never made sense to me why I was afraid of being hungry. Growing up there was always plenty of food in the house. My mother experienced hunger as a child which led to her always keeping our pantry and refrigerator well stocked. She was successful in preventing me from ever thinking that I wouldn’t have enough to eat. Yet, I developed this truly irrational fear of being hungry. Since being on this health journey, my relationship with food has changed. Rather than fearing not having enough, I sometimes become concerned that I will have too large of a serving or will eat too much during a meal. I have learned to listen to my body to know when I’m satisfied and should stop eating, well before the feeling of being overly full or ‘stuffed’. I have gained healthier eating habits, such as learning that I only need to eat when I’m truly hungry, not just because it’s a certain time of day. A feeling of freedom has come from these new habits I have formed around food.

I have always enjoyed running. In fact, many of my earlier posts on this blog have been about training for my first 5k. I have not given up on my desire to be a runner. Now I truly feel like one. I recently ran another 5k and the next weekend I ran my first 10k. I ran 6.2 miles…didn’t stop to walk once. With that confidence in my athletic ability, I registered for a half-marathon to be held at the end of next March. Of course, I’m having to do some training for that. At this point, I can’t imagine running 13.1 miles, but I am enjoying the training process. I have joined a gym so that I can practice running long distances on a treadmill after work without having to run in the dark. I enjoy the fact that I get frustrated with the treadmill because it automatically goes into cool down mode after an hour of running. It takes me a little longer than an hour to run 6 miles. I also enjoy the fact that I can run for an hour non-stop. I enjoy the muscle soreness the next day because that soreness tells me that I have done good for my body.

There are so many physical changes to my body that I never would have imagined at my heaviest weight. For instance, I can no longer where my wedding or engagement rings. They are simply too big for my finger. I stopped wearing them out of fear of them falling off and getting lost. I will get them sized down when I reach my goal weight. Aside from obvious changes in my waistline, I have noticed that my feet are no longer ‘wide’. I realized that when I recently bought new shoes in my regular 9.5 W size and had to sell a pair of ankle boots because the width was almost comically too big. Another pair keeps giving me blisters because my feet slide around so much in them that I have to press my feet to the sides of the shoes to keep them on my feet. Of course, my doctors are very happy with my health. My A1C and blood pressure have significantly dropped to normal ranges. Medications that I have been taking for several years to help with my blood pressure and blood sugar have been seriously reduced. I anticipate being taken off of them soon.

I don’t recount these positive changes as a way to brag. Some would certainly say that after losing 50 pounds, I should consider myself worthy to brag. These positive changes are indeed something to brag about, but I am more concerned with how they have shaped who I am now. I have plenty of side by side pictures that I have taken over the past year to help me visualize the difference between now and the time before I started all of this. But that is only the outside. Who I am now is somebody who isn’t perfect, still battles anxiety sometimes, but is now better equipped to deal with the imperfections of life. I have learned that I am capable of much more than I thought. If I can take control of my overeating, build up endurance so that I can run long distances, feel like a rock star when I’m grocery shopping at Walmart, then what else am I capable of? I took control of those things in less than a year, what will the next year look like? What else will I learn? What amazing changes will this new self-confidence lead me to? Whatever those changes are, I will welcome them with all my heart. Because above all else, in this past year, I have learned to love myself.

The Doppleganger of My Dreams

To the woman I passed in the produce department at Walmart–I was instantly mesmerized by you. You looked to be about my age and the only difference between you and I was that you had a child in your shopping cart and I only had fresh vegetables. Your hair style was short, but not enough to be spiky. It was a white blonde with a blue tint swept up in a swirl on one side. I immediately noticed the tattoos all down your arms. I have tattoos. But they are not as expressive and confined to places on my body that can be easily hidden by clothing. Teaching in a private, religious school makes me timid about revealing too many of my tattoos at one time. The small sun on my ankle is about all I feel comfortable putting on display during warm weather. I was envious of your style. While I don’t think of myself as anything but beautiful the way I am, there is a part of me that wants to have a style that is uniquely my own.

I wish so badly that I had said something to you. After all, aren’t women supposed to build each other up? It made my day when the young girl at the McDonald’s drive thru said that the color I was wearing looked good on me, or when the pizza delivery lady said my hair was pretty. But you were on the phone and clearly in a hurry. And while I was fortunate to be able to take my time doing my shopping, I was not brave enough to even realistically consider complimenting you if you had not been on the phone. The same timidness that I feel about my appearance runs deeper into my heart, not allowing me to say what I truly want in the moment. Despite this, I want you to know, that had I been brave enough, I would have told you: “I love your style! I wish I had your look!” And I would have sincerely meant each and every word.

To the woman I passed in the produce department at Walmart–you inspired me.

Christmas Nostalgia

Johnny Mathis is Christmas, to me anyway. Apparently he has albums that aren’t full of Christmas music, but I wouldn’t know anything about them. My parents had every single one of his Christmas albums on cassette tape and they played on repeat in the background of every Christmas throughout my childhood. It was the soundtrack of baking cookies in the kitchen, decorating the tree, and opening presents on Christmas morning.

It has been many years since I have spent any time with my family around Christmas, but it only takes the playing of any of his holiday songs for me to instantly feel the memories of family. The Christmases of my youth were truly something special. As it is now only two days from the big day, I couldn’t help but go back to what it was like for me as my husband and I were driving home from a day trip. After giving up on scanning the radio for a good station, I insisted he listen to some of the Johnny Mathis songs I have on my itunes Christmas playlist.

My mind focused clearly on the excitement of Christmas Eve. My two older (teenage at the time) sisters and I would be “sentenced” to one bedroom for the night. It was mostly to keep me from getting up and peeking in the middle of the night, as I had vowed each year to set an alarm and get up in time to see Santa. Of course, I never slept on Christmas Eve, and because of that, neither did my sisters. My grandpa, from what I understand, always had a similar sleepless night on Christmas Eve. His excitement rivaled mine, which easily explained his annual 5:00 am arrival at our house with my grandma so that he could put on his Santa hat and pass out gifts to all of us. And of course, when I would hear Grandpa and Grandma Jean arriving, I nearly burst as I waited for my parents to give us the o.k. to come out of the bedroom. When the all clear was given, I always led my sisters into a living room with all our lights and decorations plugged in and shining brightly, and Johnny Mathis singing in the background.

Despite the many years between my last Christmas at home and the Christmas I will have with my husband and his mother next week, I can remember everything so vividly. Some of the excitement still lingers too. I still have a difficult time sleeping on Christmas Eve. With the exception of last year when we slept until 7:00, I still insist on getting up extra early on Christmas morning so that my husband and I can exchange gifts. I’m thinking that perhaps this year, I’ll be sure to turn on the music when we get up. My husband and I don’t have children yet, and though I very much wish that we did already, I know that it will happen for us at some point. When it does, I will absolutely relish the opportunity to introduce my children to the significance of Johnny Mathis to Christmas. I’ll tell them, like I told my husband tonight on the drive home that “Hallelujah Chorus” was my grandpa’s favorite Christmas song. I’ll play it for them as we decorate cookies or as we drive to the mall to shop for gifts, and I will take comfort in knowing that the tradition is kept alive.

A Breezy Prelude

I drove home from my mother-in-law’s house with frustration in my heart. I had spent much of the day at her house doing laundry, since our small apartment doesn’t have a washer/dryer hook-up. We’ve been doing laundry at her house for the past 11 years…the exact duration of our life in this apartment. My frustration intensified as I thought of the day when I will not have to leave my home to do laundry. How much longer do I have to wait?So much of the future is not certain. So much is not decided yet. My impatient heart so badly desires a firm plan…a timeline of when our lives will change. Driving home I could feel the sting in my nose and throat that always arrive before the tears start to well in my eyes.

It wasn’t a long drive home, and before the tears could actually begin to pool, I had gotten home with the clean laundry. I initially thought about taking a walk. Today is a very mild winter solstice day. The temperature is in the mid 60s and there is such a strong breeze outside that I decided instead to open every window in the apartment. A quick look at the weather app on my phone showed that there is a line of rain headed towards my dot on the map. The skies have turned from intensely bright and sunny to heavily overcast. So rather than go walking and risk the rain, I have put on one of my favorite movies, “Julie & Julia”, and am preparing to put away the clean clothes.

Perfect weather for sitting in a window.

The frustration I felt on the drive home has dissolved. There’s something about being at home that truly calms my soul. This is only a temporary home. We pay rent, not a mortgage, and there’s only one bedroom, not room for another smaller person, but this is home…if only just for now. Christmas is in four days, and while there is still so much up in the air about the future, I am going to focus on the joy of the season and the time I will get to spend with my husband over the next several days. In the meantime, the impending rain has arrived, accompanied by thunder and lightning and there is still laundry to be put away. Although the weather is not, my heart is calm, and I am at peace once again.

The Blood Pressure Project

I have many hobbies. I knit and crochet, and have a massive quantity of scrapbook supplies that I haven’t used on a scrapbook in quite some time, but treasure nonetheless. My small apartment holds the makings of many projects. And yet, I look enviously at my students and the projects they engage in. Some are school related…such as my champion Battle of the Books team and their project of reading 15 specific novels in a few months in order to compete in a contest of their comprehension and knowledge of the books. Much to my boastful delight, they take it very seriously and bring home the trophy every year! There are other students too, that have told me about personal projects. One year, a young girl wanted to learn how to crochet so she could make and sell potholders. She wanted to send the money to the ASPCA because she saw the commercials featuring images of abused animals and sad music playing in the background.

With an intense focus on their goals, these students have been successful with their projects. While I don’t really have time for projects like these kids, I do wish I had something to focus on. I have run two road races in the past and that seems to have worked for me. They were projects that required training and a specific end goal, but that end goal ended with the finishing of the race. Each time I had the best intentions to keep running and sign up for other races, but I never did.

Yesterday I was presented with a new project that really isn’t optional. An appointment with my psychiatrist led to a same-day appointment with my primary care doctor. My blood pressure has been an issue for many months. I had dental work done last month and even my dentist was concerned about my blood pressure. The appointment with my psychiatrist was at 8:00 in the morning and my blood pressure was high right off the bat. 167/107 when I went in and 165/105 when they checked it again on my way out. Considering my psychiatrist spent most of the appointment discussing my physical health rather than my mental health, I felt that I should take his advice and get in to see my primary care doctor asap–which ended up being an hour and a half later.

When all was said and done yesterday, I spent this morning making plans for this new project. Both of my doctors want to see me back in a month–not the usual three months they give me–so I truly cannot procrastinate with starting this project. I have a month to get my blood pressure started on a downward path. Losing weight is ultimately what needs to happen here. This means that exercise needs to become a priority again, which leads me to believe that it was some sort of divine intervention that after repeated messages and inquiries on Let Go and Facebook Marketplace, nobody actually followed through to buy my elliptical. I was trying to sell it because I stopped using it and wanted more space in my living room. Silly reasons to get rid of something that had helped me so much in my past attempts at weight loss.

This will be the third time that I’ve started a weight loss journey. I hope it will be the charm. I’m going to mix the elliptical, weight training, and running in with a low-salt diet. I really do enjoy running and I am looking forward to getting back out there again, though I am going to stay away from races for a while. I’m afraid of running the race and not continuing with my running regime after it’s over. Running, for me this time, has to be a means to an end. I have to use it as a part of my project to lower my blood pressure, not just to run a race.

I watched a Facebook live video yesterday of a woman who lost 100 pounds in one year. She said that you have to consider your weight loss journey as who you are now. Not just as something you do part time or do some times but not others. You can’t quit because you make a mistake and gorge on junk food. You have to learn from your mistakes and keep going. I’ve made mistakes in the past in my attempts to lose weight and those mistakes were simply that I did not keep going.

I want to lose weight and lower my blood pressure in order to be healthy in a way that I never have been before. Granted, there’s no Battle of the Books trophy that I’ll get when I achieve my goal, but then again, this project doesn’t have an end. It will be something that I just keep doing and maintaining. A daunting task? Sure. But not a task that is unfamiliar and certainly not one that is impossible. Here I go.

So here’s the thing…

I haven’t been in a good mood for a while. I haven’t been upset or in a negative emotional place, at least not one that lasts for very long. But what I haven’t experienced is that feeling of optimism and excitement. Sometimes in the middle of the school day, I’ll find myself thinking about going home and putting my feet up and even that simple thought puts me in a really good mood. Or this weekend, knowing that tonight is Sunday night and I don’t have to work tomorrow because of Veterans Day. That should elevate my spirits, but it’s not. Those temporary moments of joy have been replaced by thoughts of work that has to be done for school, deadlines for extra things that I am responsible for, and guilt for weight gain and blood pressure that is dangerously high–guilt because I’m not currently doing anything to remedy my physical conditions. All of this, plus wondering why it’s been three weeks since I’ve heard from my mother. In an unusual way, I have not received any texts from her. I don’t expect phone calls anymore, that would mean something is wrong, but no communication whatsoever. My thought is that she is holding out on contacting me to see how long it will be before I reach out to her. I could be wrong, but not likely when it comes to her. I’ve been going back and forth with bitter thoughts about this non-existent mother/daughter relationship. Good thing I didn’t decide to abandon therapy. I have an appointment this Tuesday, perfect timing. I have an appointment every third Tuesday, but I tend to cancel every other appointment. I’m keeping this one, as I feel that I’m on the verge of crying a bit too frequently lately.

So much weighs on my mind all…the…time. None of these things seem to be harbingers of that feeling of happiness I miss. I recently finished writing an essay for the annual non-fiction contest I enter every year. I’m almost tempted to not enter this year. I don’t think my writing is what this particular magazine is looking for. I have found other publications that I’d like to submit my piece to, in the hopes that I can continue to get my story out there so I can potentially help break this damn stigma that exists. This stigma is real. To the point where I was sitting in the waiting room at my therapist’s office and I was nearly 100% certain that a parent of one of my students was also in the waiting room. We didn’t speak, we didn’t make eye contact, and inside I was cringing and praying that my name would be called as soon as possible so I could get out of there. Granted, she was there too, but I’m her son’s teacher. How does that make me look? These feelings of embarrassment for being there are absolutely not necessary, but they are also automatic. Automatic because society has made it that way. Recently Lady Gaga became an outspoken advocate for ending the mental health stigma after she openly talked about her own battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. I’ve always enjoyed her music, but her openness makes me respect her on a much different level.

I usually try to wrap up posts here on a positive note. An expression of hope for the future or a new found determination to go out and do something…but not now. I don’t feel hopeful and I don’t feel depressed. I’m just here, moving forward, doing my work, doing the best I can, and sometimes, that’s all there is. And that’s o.k. too.

Birthday Eve

Technically it’s my birthday. But it’s almost 3 am, so my birthday hasn’t really started. It’s sort of like Christmas when you’re a kid. You may be awake most of the night on Christmas Eve out of excitement, and even though it’s technically Christmas after midnight, it doesn’t officially start until your parents wake up and you’re allowed to come out of your room to see the magic under the tree. Except this time, I’m not awake out of excitement, in fact, quite the opposite. I randomly woke up and just can’t go back to sleep. I’m pretty good at falling asleep when first going to bed, thank you pharmaceutical companies for that. I can usually tame my random thoughts long enough for the handful of prescription medications to kick in. That’s probably not going to work this time since it’s been about 4 or 5 hours since I took them. Which means a whole flood of randomness has invaded my brain. As a teacher on summer break, who also has a mid-summer birthday, this is the 2nd year that I have sworn off anything school related until after my birthday. Since technically it is my birthday, thoughts of school have come to this impromptu thought party. Though I’m pretty sure it’s not necessary now to think about how I’m going to prepare my presentation at the professional development day in September. Also not necessary to wonder what it will be like having a new principal when my current one retires in a couple of years. Funnily enough, pushing those thoughts out of my head and focusing on what I want to do today while my husband is at work also did not help me go back to sleep. I planned out a crafty day for myself, starting with a trip to Joann’s Craft Store to use my birthday discount coupon. I even came up with a little shopping list. That only made me a bit too excited about what I am planning on making today. The store is not open this early, so that’s a moot thought process too.

I wonder if this is what insomniacs experience every night. It kind of sucks. But thankfully, this doesn’t happen often for me. So on this birthday eve, I think I’m going to find one of my cats to bring back to bed with me and be very grateful that there’s only a few hours left before the sun comes up and I won’t have to feel weird about being awake when I’m usually asleep.