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 Those temporary moments of joy have been replaced by thoughts of work that has to be done for school, deadlines for extra things that I am responsible for, and guilt for weight gain and blood pressure that is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.

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I ran the race.

And it was tough. The first mile consisted of a really steep hill that I walked up, as did many other people who were in the rear of the pack. Once the route descended the hill, I was able to run. Not for the whole 4 miles, but as much as I could possibly run in intervals of varying lengths.

I had done a great job of getting out of bed every other morning at 6:30–of course it helps that 6:30 is when my husband leaves for work. I would get into my running gear and tackle the couch to 5k app, slowly building myself up to run in longer intervals. I was ecstatic when I got to week 5 day 3, which is running for 20 minutes straight. I had told myself that once I got to that point, I would stop using the app and just focus on distance. Time had run out by then and I was only able to do one run without the app before the race. For that run, I was able to go for about 2 miles without stopping to walk. Granted, my pace is that of a turtle, but my shuffle run is still faster than my walking pace. And really, just the fact that I was getting out there in the morning, like I had said I was going to, was enough for me. The temperature every morning was in the high 70s with pretty high humidity. But it never bothered me. I expected to come home sweaty each time, that’s what happens when you run during the summer months. Even on days when we were under a heat advisory, I still ran, because in the morning before the sun gets high, the temperature isn’t in heat advisory territory. So when several people talked of braving the heat and the humidity being the worst part on race day, I just kind of laughed because it really didn’t affect me. I had long since gotten used to it.

There were 1,016 people registered for the Firecracker 4 Miler this 4th of July, and according to the results website, there were 860 or so actual runners. I placed somewhere in the 740 range. I had no aspirations of doing anything spectacular for pace, I just didn’t want to come in last. I was very close to the bottom of my age group, but I wasn’t last and that’s o.k. with me.

What was spectacular about the race was the people. The event was hosted by the local running club that I’m a member of. I don’t go to their meetups out of self-consciousness, but I’m a paid member. It was many of the members that served as volunteers for the race. There were people at every turn in the route clapping and cheering for every person that rounded the corners. They didn’t know my name, but they could see my number and having someone call out “Come on 64, you’re doing great!” when I was huffing along was amazing. The people handing out water at every mile with big smiles as I approached were encouraging. Seeing my husband randomly on the side of the route taking pictures when I didn’t expect to see him and hearing him cheer me on, was a great motivation. Even the ladies running behind me commented on how sweet it was for him to do that.

But the moment I will carry with me came as I rounded the last turn that would lead me to the finish line. There was a lady waiting for me. Judy is the wife of the man I teach with. I teach English and he teaches math. He doesn’t have a Facebook page, but she does, and we have been friends on there for several months. She’s of retirement age, but is in great shape and running races like this are the norm for her. She had called out to me earlier in the race. She was about a mile ahead going in the opposite direction I was. We quickly passed by each other and I didn’t think much of it until I saw her on the corner of that last turn. Obviously she had already finished the race and gotten her medal, in fact, she placed 2nd in her age group. But there she was, back on the course, waiting for me. She hopped off the curb and started jogging beside me. Words of encouragement poured out and though I was very much out of breath, I thanked her as best as I could. She kept pace with me for that last quarter of a mile, continuously assuring me that I was very close to the finish line. When we reached the very last few feet, she stepped off the course and across I went. From extended arms I took hold of my finisher’s medal (which is all I really wanted), a banana, and a bottle of water. People were clapping and cheering and my name was being called over the loud speaker as I crossed, as though I was the first. It felt great. I didn’t see Judy after that, I had wanted to thank her again after regaining my ability to speak without my breathing getting in the way. I did get to thank her on Facebook later. It is very true what they say about runners being the best people.

the last leg
My fantastic hubby captured the moment. I’m the one in bright pink on the right, and Judy is on the left in the tank top and white hat.

This race was Judy’s last for a while. She told me this when we bumped into each other the day before at the packet pick-up location. Her knees have really been hurting her lately. I told her, this is just the beginning for me. And I meant it. I’m determined now to lose weight. My diet prior to the race wasn’t the best. But now I’d like to get rid of the weight so that I can be a better runner. So that in a future race, I can be an early finisher so that I can step in and jog with someone who needs an extra boost to the finish. It may take me a while to get to that point, but I’ll get there. I’m not going to give up, this truly is just the beginning.

Whatever, I did it.

I am absolutely serious that I’m going to run a 4 mile race on the 4th of July. The wife of my co-worker who is an avid runner and who is also running in this race, told me to prepare for the humidity. We’ve had a tropical storm bringing us a ton of rain and storms for the past few days and today was off and on rain while I was at work. I had worked out on the elliptical for the past two days, but today, I really wanted to get outside and run. I waited until the rain stopped and the radar showed that there wasn’t anything coming behind it. I originally planned to only walk a mile up the road just to start getting acclimated to being active in the heat and humidity. So I got out there and went up the hill and decided I was going to go ahead and complete another workout in the Couch to 5k app. I’ll admit that I skipped the last section of jogging because the hills I was going up and down really made me breathe hard and I didn’t want to overdo it.

Walking back down the road in the direction of home, I thought about all the cars flying past me. I always feel a little self conscious walking on the side of that road to get between where I live and the neighborhood that I like to run in. There is a lot of traffic on that road, but I’m only on it for a little more than a quarter mile. So what were they thinking of the overweight woman walking on the sidewalk in clothes that looked like she had been walking in the rain for how wet with sweat they were? I don’t know what they were thinking and I don’t care, because I did it. I went out in the humidity and ran. There was steam coming off the road, it was very sticky out there. I felt slimy and gross, but man did it feel good to know that I had accomplished my goal for the day. Doing that today proved to me that I don’t need to wimp out in the air conditioning and use the heat and humidity as an excuse to not go out and run. Whatever, I can do it.

IMG_2162

A screenshot of the weather from my exercise log that I took when I got back from running today. 

 

The purpose of a teacher’s summer…

…is to relax and rest. Two months off in the summer is the reward for 10 months of having very little free time because of lesson plans, paper grading, and a thousand other extra things that I’m responsible for. There are exactly two and a half days until summer break and my principal has already let us know that when the kids leave on Thursday, she wants us to leave with them. You don’t have to tell me twice! I will lay rubber in that parking lot just as soon as that last kid is picked up.

This summer, I fully intend to do a lot of knitting and a lot of reading. Doing all of that in a reclining position on the couch with my feet up is also in my plan. But this summer, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to actually get up early each day and go running. I have to get up early because here in the southeast, there’s a small window of time each day before the crushing heat and humidity take over, and I plan to take advantage of it. I want to run, I love running, and I’ve been very, very bad at it lately. Bad, only in the fact that I haven’t been consistent in my efforts.

Now though, I have to be consistent because I have already paid my registration for a 4-mile race in the downtown area of my city on the 4th of July. I’m cutting it awfully close on training time. To be fair, I did re-start my couch to 5k app a couple weeks ago, however, school kept me busy and a new baby kitten kept me busy, and a whole host of other excuses kept me indoors. After May 31st, I will have no excuses. There will be nothing to keep me busy besides what I come up with myself. I’m doing this.

It’s going to be a bit tougher this time because I’ve only ever run a 5k, which is about 3.2 miles. This is a full 4 miles, but man oh man am I excited to get out there and try. I really can’t explain what it is that makes me like running so much. Maybe just the sense of accomplishment… I don’t know. But I do know that I’m eager to run this particular race. Perhaps because when I ran my first 5k, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a finisher’s medal, so I went home empty handed. With this race, I am determined to get that medal at the end.

Training for that race will take the first month of my summer break. I don’t plan on stopping after that race–I want to keep a running habit going, so we’ll see what the second month brings. That’s going to be my main purpose this summer–running. One of the songs I listen to when I run has the following line: “Surprise them with a victory cry.” If I make it through this summer and actually develop a running habit and run that race and get my medal, I will surprise myself with a victory cry when back-to-school time rolls around. Wish me luck.

 

There are those days…

There are those days like yesterday, when my husband left to do laundry at his mom’s house and I had to convince myself it was not a reason to cry. When I got dressed and got in the car and headed to the store to go grocery shopping only to turn around halfway there and come back home because I was afraid I would break down crying in the middle of the store. When I’m usually early with emailing a weekly file for my second job but decided yesterday that I just didn’t want to put the effort into finishing it at my normal time. When my nap on the couch turned into something I had to force myself to get up from. When my Saturday routine and joy at being alone turned to torment until my husband came home again.

There are those days like today, when I had enough energy to do everything I wanted to get done yesterday and still had motivation left over to clean the apartment from top to bottom with my husband. When he and I cracked jokes while putting away the laundry and I remembered why I was labeled somebody’s “loudest friend” one time, all because of my laugh. When we went out for dinner and had a nice conversation while we ate. When I marvel at the difference a day makes to someone battling mental illness.

There are those days like all of the ones in between when I am constantly grateful for medical science and all that it has done to help me find a life I can live without the intensity of an untreated mental illness. When I can look forward to going to my regular therapy appointment because I have found someone who can help me understand so many things about myself that I never could before. When I am in awe of the man I married whose patience and willingness to see me through every single day that I am here.

Yes, there are those days.

To a fresh start

To a fresh start-

the beginning of a new chapter, a needed change.

To a fresh start-

pressing the restart button to engage a new life.

There is fear, uncertainty, and doubt,

but there is also hope, possibility, and a second chance.

To a fresh start-

making the right decision, leaving behind the bad.

To a fresh start-

stepping into the light, out of the darkness, refreshing your soul.

The past can’t defeat you, strength and wisdom replace the inner weakness.

To a fresh start-

that we make together.

 

Hold on!

Tonight, my husband and I were watching a documentary on HBO that told of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life just a few years before his assassination. His life was narrated by the people who worked alongside him. One of the major events that Dr. King had gotten involved with was the Vietnam War. He was opposed to the war and there was footage of speeches he had given at that time, as well as a clip of people yelling hateful things at him as he walked by because of his opposition to the war.

It made me think of my father. He fought in the Vietnam War. And as I watched the footage of what was happening in the United States during the war, I imagined my father on the other side of the world at that exact moment in time, experiencing the horrors of war. As I thought of him, and pictured him in the same war situations he has described to me in previous conversations, I marveled at the fact that I know how his life turned out when he got home from Vietnam. While I don’t know every detail of his life, I know what he has told me, and I know that I am here, a living testament to the life he went on to live. He was only just 18 when he joined the army. He would have had no idea about his future wives and children at the time, as none of us do. We don’t know our futures.

And yet, I am amazed every day when I teach the pre-teens in my English classes that I have been a teacher longer than these children have been alive. Right now, my future students are learning to crawl, saying their first words, and experiencing a host of other firsts–first time walking, first time trying certain foods, etc.

On that same thread, somewhere, there are other children being born. These children will be abandoned by their biological parents. Perhaps it will because their mother is a teenager and cannot take care of them. It could be because some disturbance in the family has caused child services to take them away from their parents. There are so many reasons that children end up without their parents. These children will be placed in foster care, or they’ll be put up for adoption. They might be placed in a group home or some other home where there will be other children like them. They might be scared, or lonely, or simply angry at their surroundings. Their physical needs will be met by those tasked with their care, but they may not have the kind of childhood that would produce happy memories for them. They won’t know what the future holds for them. None of us do.

These children are not my students, they could be in the future, I don’t know. But these children, the ones without a home, without a family, these children need to just hang on, because I’m coming. WE are coming.

My husband and I are working hard to make sure that in a year, we don’t have a need to sign another lease on this tiny apartment. We are working hard to make sure we have a home for these children.

Easter just passed us by, and God willing, there will come an Easter when my husband and I will sit around our kitchen table and dye eggs with our children. I’ll show them the neat way my grandpa used to color eggs using a damp cloth and egg dye tablets. We’ll take them to Mass with us and teach them about Jesus and what Easter really means.

There are so many things I want to do for our children. I want to teach them to knit, and introduce them to my favorite movies, and torture them with music from my generation like my mom did when I was a kid. I know that my husband wants to take them to Jones Lake like his dad did. He’ll want to take them to Bear Island for the day, again, like his dad did. Most importantly though, I just want to be there for them. I want to give them a stable home with two people who may not be their biological parents, but are people who love them as if they were.

Somewhere, right now, our children are waiting for us. Several years from now, I’ll look back on this moment–I’ll think back to this cramped apartment–and I’ll marvel at just how different our lives were before our children entered the picture. Until then, we’re waiting too. But the time is coming soon, we love you already, but please, just hold on, we’re coming.

I want to attend the Oscars

One of my earliest posts on this blog is similar to the thoughts I’m having tonight. The Academy Awards are on tonight and while I have absolutely no desire to be a famous celebrity–I don’t like being the center of attention, even at my own wedding–I still wish I was one, at least just for tonight. I want to be dressed up in a fancy gown and sitting in a plush seat in the audience enjoying the show. This is my desire tonight for the simple reason that I’ll bet none of those people in attendance have to get up early tomorrow and go to work.

When I’m envious of celebrities only because they don’t have to go to work tomorrow, I know I’m starting the downhill descent to summer vacation. I am starting to become “teacher tired”. It’s a real thing. I slept for 12 hours Friday night into late Saturday morning this weekend, and yet, I’m exhausted. I know it’s because I’m the yearbook editor and the deadline is coming up soon for it. My Battle of the Books team is preparing for their annual competition which is going to be a week from Wednesday. We’ve won the past four years and since we’re hosting the other teams this year at my school, there is even more pressure for us to not break the winning streak at home. It makes me nervous every time I think about it. It’s also the week of our monthly faculty  meeting and my principal has already promised us that it will not be a short one. I’m ready for next weekend already and the work week hasn’t even begun!

What I’m dreading about the upcoming week is not the same as what I’m looking forward to. I have not exercised with my whole heart being put into it for a few weeks. I have one excuse after another for why I haven’t exercised consistently and why I have drank more soda in the past two weeks than I have in the past four months. Despite all that, I am looking forward to Monday afternoon because I am determined to stop the excuses and come home to the elliptical and make an honest attempt at getting back into my fitness routine. There are too many gains that I have made that I do not want to lose. Too many signs and reminders pointing me back into the direction of my elliptical and weights. Those A-listers in California can have their night of leisure and grace and not have to worry about tomorrow. But as for me, teacher tired or not, I’m doing this.

Homebody

I like being at home. I yearn for the time that I have each night sitting on the couch with my feet up. I enjoy my Saturdays when I have the time during the day to sit. Being that it’s March, which means the school year hasn’t ended yet, most of that time on the couch is spent on the computer working on something for school. And yet, despite that fact, I absolutely detest staying after school. Many of my coworkers will stay to get work done. Bravo to them for not wanting to take work home. I really don’t want to either, but it’s inevitable, and given the choice, I much prefer to do the work while being at home. Perhaps my  attitude will change when my  husband and I welcome children into our home, but for now, I have found that I truly just want to put off my school responsibilities until I have the opportunity to do it in front of the t.v., usually with a cat laying across my arm in need of attention.

Is it laziness that drives this desire? A routine, perhaps, that has come from being a teacher for the past 13 years and living in this same apartment for 11 of those years? While I am indeed lazy at the end of the day, as we all are, and I am very much a slave to my routine, I think it’s not quite for those reasons that I am happiest here. The physical space is quaint, the rental office uses the term “cottage” to describe this phase of apartments on the property. We’ve lived here long enough to see our space go from an out-dated habitat of the 70s to a newly renovated modern space (still without a washer and dryer hook-up though). My husband and I are looking forward to the near future when we will get a lease renewal notice on our door. We are planning to finally take the next step and NOT renew our lease in favor of moving into a house of our own. Our space here being what it is, one-bedroom and all, is not conducive for starting a family. And yet, I still feel a strong sense of contentment when I’m here. I feel that nesting urge that I understand pregnant women often get.

living room

Our living room this afternoon as soon as I came home. 

I’m almost certain that it’s because this space belongs to us. Maybe not financially, but over the course of our time here, we have certainly made this a home that we can be happy in, if only temporarily. For my birthday last year, my husband bought me an entire new living room set–8 pieces in all! Certainly it’s a long cry from the worn out old couch that had once belonged to my grandmother and the coffee table my husband and his roommates saved from the curb when he was in college.

Much like bringing a pet home and giving it time to acclimate to its surroundings, I too have had time to get used to my living space and I now consider it my safe haven. I truly feel comfortable here and I’m grateful for the seemingly dull evenings spent on the couch. I do enjoy going out with my husband, but I always look more forward to coming back home. There is peace here. No drama. Security. A man that loves me on the couch next to me. Possessions that make me happy. Cats that snuggle with me, even when I’m trying to work. I have everything that I need, right here at home.

Positively “lucky”

The thing about a typical Monday when you’re a teacher, or at least a teacher at my school, I have to submit lesson plans to my principal. She checks over them and then gives us some quick feedback when she returns them. The feedback is usually a hand scrawled note on the paper copies that are turned in, or a response to the e-mail that I send mine in. I’ve been a teacher for 13 years and a teacher under her for 10. It has taken a great deal of time and effort to rise to her expectations and I can honestly say that at this point, I think I have risen high enough to exceed them.

Despite this tooting of my own horn, I know too, that I’m not perfect. She and I had a difficult relationship in the beginning. And it is because of fear of her blunt nature that I often have anxiety before a faculty meeting or before I am to receive feedback from her because I fear her criticism. Certainly nobody likes to be criticized, but I especially want to please her. When she brings prospective parents around to meet the teachers, she always tells them our names and a little bit about our role at the school. I’m always introduced as the person who edits the yearbook, manages the website, mentors beginning teachers, and the list goes on. It’s made me wonder lately if I am only as good as the things I do around the school. Is my way of pleasing her simply the fact that I am in charge of more things than most teachers at my school? Or does she genuinely think I’m a good teacher? After all, she taught the same subject that I do before she became an administrator, am I as effective of a teacher as she was?

Her feedback to me this morning was reassuring to my mind. In part, her feedback said of the students, “They are lucky to have you”. I read this e-mail before the first period of the day was over and it is a good part of the reason that the rest of my day was good. It was a very validating remark and it made me realize too, just how powerful a positive comment can be. It certainly made my day and yet I have such a hard time giving that same positivity to the people I encounter on a daily basis. Why is it so difficult to smile and engage the few people that just get on my nerves? What makes me want to engage in gossip about these same people?

It’s the 2nd week of Lent and I am determined to make my “sacrifice” about being more positive in my relationship with the people I am challenged by. As our priest said on Ash Wednesday, Lent is about “growing up”. For me, growing up will mean being nicer to everybody, while I’m in their presence and when I’m not. To speak kindly of those not favored by all and let them know that they are valued, just as I felt this morning, the positive effect of knowing that I too, am valued.