Pruning My Way to Mental Health


Photo by Yoksel ūüĆŅ Zok on Unsplash

About fifteen years ago, we put a chain link fence around a section of our yard. We’d finally gotten ourselves a puppy, and it had taken no time at all for him to convince us that if we didn’t have a fence, we’d have a happy hound dog rambling around the neighborhood chasing every chipmunk in sight.

He was not going to stay in place unless we fenced him in.

So that’s exactly what we did.

It was a good move, puppy-wise, but that fence was less than attractive. I didn’t like the ugly steel look of the fence around what had once been our son’s baseball field.

So I did what any frugal gardeners would do. I looked at what plants were already thriving in our yard, hoping for some transplants. I planted a nice little row of forsythia babies along the fence. They were free. They were super easy to grow. Their deep roots kept the dog from digging out, and the yellow flowers and arching branches of the bushes gave a new level of beauty to our mostly wild yard.

For the first five years or so, I was able to completely ignore the bushes as they grew.

After that, I learned to prune them a bit each early summer, in an effort to keep them from becoming overgrown.

But the dog got older, and eventually crossed that rainbow bridge. The little pups that came after him enjoyed the fenced yard, and the forsythia grew by leaps and bounds.

My back got older, my bones got achier, and the once lovely arches of my forsythia grew through the fence, and sent ever taller branches up toward the sky.

My yard felt increasingly out of control.

This morning I looked out there, and felt my anxiety rising.

EVERYTHING in my life feels out of control these days. Literally everything. This was simply one more item that I could not tame.

For a few minutes, I stood gazing out the window. The news was on, the Sunday morning blathering causing my heartbeat to increase even more.

I couldn’t take it another minute.

I took a deep breath and a long drink of water, then headed outside to the yard. Clippers in hand, I approached the giant row of tangled limbs. I had to tilt my head all the way back just to see the top branches.

I reached into the middle of the first bush, and blindly started to cut. I snipped and pulled and wrangled, piling each chopped branch onto a growing pile.

I was not careful. I was not subtle, or thoughtful, or mindful as I hacked into the wall of tangled green.

My muscles hurt, and my back maintained a steady beat of complaint. But I felt GOOD.

I had taken control. This was MY yard, dammit, and these were MY plants. I could hack them right to the ground if I chose to.

As I clipped and cleared, it occurred to me that I had become the Prince in Sleeping Beauty, faced with a giant wall of overgrown roses and thorns.

Like the Prince in that old classic, I was wielding my sword against an overgrown and thickly tangled mass of vegetation. I felt that I was facing an enemy.

OK, I wasn’t fighting actual thorns, but my arms were definitely getting scratched by the branches. The deeply tangled limbs were doing their best to push me out.

And while I wasn’t in pursuit of a sleeping Princess, I was in search of a sense of empowerment. My Sleeping Beauty was my suddenly dormant sense of control over the key parts of my life.

So I hacked and I slashed and I chopped. I unwound branches from the coils of the fence. I piled more and more branches into the pile of brush that we hope to burn in the winter.

I sweated, and I cursed and I thought, “I am pruning you out of my life, stupid social media posts.” I thought about my constant need to monitor the news as I cut down a giant chunk of wood. “Take that, stupid CNN!” I said it out loud as the huge lump of brush fell at my feet. “Go away, idiot elected officials who think we’re all stupid!”

I may have shouted that last one as I clipped back one twisted limb. I was picturing the image of an actual elected Congressperson using a giant gun to blow up a car labeled “socialism”.

My rage grew as my clippers snipped.

I was panting and furious by the time I stepped back and surveyed the damage.

I felt good.

I felt strong.

I felt vindicated.

I know that next spring there will be no lovely yellow flowers surrounding my fence. I understand that it will take some time for these bushes to reform and reassert themselves along the fenceline.

Just as I know that my mind will soon be crowded once again with the annoying buzz of political lies, endless ‘spin’, self-serving opinions and all the rest.

I don’t care.

For now, my muscles and I feel both exhausted and exhilarated. We have seized control of at least one of our foes. We have asserted our power over one small piece of our chaotic world.

The forsythia will be back, but for now, they must bow to the woman with the clippers.

It might not be much, but it’s enough for me.

It Could Be Worse


My Mom is an inspiration.

She is 91 years old, and increasingly frail. She is experiencing dementia. She has been widowed for more than a dozen years.

But in spite of her increasing discomfort and confusion, her frequent comment is “Could be worse!”

It’s kind of funny, and definitely sweet.

And it’s been my mantra for the past few weeks….months….well, you know, about a year and half. I keep trying to hold onto that thought, as each new stressor comes rolling along.

Covid appeared and life came to a crashing halt.

“Could be worse.” I held on, and we kinda got through it.

The election got pretty heated up, and I had the joyful experience of watching the vicious attack on the Capital as it played out on national TV.

“Could be worse.” I might have had to mutter it under my breath a few times, but it got me through.

Scary times, but after all, it wasn’t the worst.

As time rolled by, and the summer of 2021 came along, I realized there were a couple of small medical issues going on in this old body. So I slowly, agonizingly, weaned off of a pain-reducing anti-depressant that I’d been on for years.

Hahahahaha! So. Many. Tears. So. Much. Irritability.

But, I knew that it “Could be worse.” I didn’t lose my mind totally.

Yay, me!

Then came the news that I have a very early, very treatable breast cancer. “Could be worse.” Truly. Could be a LOT worse!

But the biopsy and surgery have both be hugely complicated by an unexplained lack of platelets in my blood. My stress level, unaided by the missing anti-depressant, kicked up a few notches. There’ve been blood infusions, blood tests, arguments with a soon-to-be-replaced hematologist, warnings about surgery risks and a huge, honking hematoma.

I have taken in enough deep breaths to inflate a good sized hot-air balloon. I have whispered “Could be worse” at least 1000 times.

I hung on, more or less, if you don’t count the moment when I almost slammed a carving knife into my new granite counter. I hung on, clutching my yummy gummies and my glass of wine.

It’s all good.

Sorta.

Because the last two weeks, up to and including this very moment, are really, really stretching my ability to be as serene as my Momma.

Here’s the scenario, OK?

Covid 19 is RAGING again. Schools are about to reopen, and more and more kids are getting sick. My beautiful little granddaughter is about to start first grade. There is no state mask mandate. My daughter is a teacher. I have a good friend who is sick with a break through infection, and he is both fully vaxxed and super careful.

“Could be worse.”

I guess.

But humans are acting as if it’s the year 550 AD. Like science has never happened. They are screaming in rage about being offered a free vaccine. They are physically fighting over being asked to wear a 2 ounce piece of cloth while they’re shopping. They won’t give up their “freedom” to get sick, to use up all the ICU beds and to spread the joy to the rest of us.

So the virus just keeps on mutating, and it seems like only a matter of weeks before a more deadly, more contagious version rears its ugly little spikey head.

My stress re: Covid is right back to where it was in February of 2020. I’m more than a little worried that increased cases at our local hospital will push my surgery back or postpone it indefinitely.

Of course, there are all the wider, more chronic world issues adding to our sense of doom, too. Wildfires are sweeping the world, including the Western US. Climate change is accelerating just about to the point of no return. The Afghan government just collapsed and violence and terrorism are once again threatening us.

“Could be worse.”

By now my teeth are clenched as I repeat these words. It. Could. Be. Worse.

Sigh.

My serenity is being tested. Big time.

I’m also on week two of a pretty high prednisone dose, which means that I have slept approximately 2.2 hours in the past week. My eyes hurt, my heart won’t stop pounding, I feel like I’m have the big one all day every day.

And the mood swings. Oi, vey!

By “swings”, what I actually mean is that for two weeks I have been “swinging” between rage and RAGE. With the occasional moment of helpless sobbing thrown in just for fun.

Good times.

“Could be worse.”

So I’m sitting here today, worried that my surgery won’t happen. Worried that I’ll never sleep again. Worried that the human race is too stupid to survive. Worried about school reopening. Worrying about Mom’s increasing frailty.

And watching a hurricane as it barrels up the East Coast of the US and heads right at us. And right at the place where my son and his fiance are planning to be married next weekend.

At a lovely outdoor wedding that was already postponed for a year by stupid Covid.

“Could be worse.”

I guess.

And it might be worse.

Cuz the power might go out and might not come back in time for the wedding. The roads might wash out, like they did in Hurricane Irene. The farm venue might be damaged, the hotels might be damaged.

“Could be worse.”

Seriously?

This is kind of feeling a bit apocalyptic, to be honest.

Maybe I should go outside and double check for murder hornets, huh?

Grace Under Pressure?


You know, when I’m daydreaming and sort of just fantasizing about life, I picture myself as a person who would display enormous grace under pressure.

I imagine myself hearing scary news and reacting in a calm and measured way. “Well,” I imagine myself saying to my doctor, “I’m just so happy that I live in a time when there are good treatments for this disease.”

I see the looks that my dear family would share. “Isn’t she amazing?” I imagine them murmuring. “So brave.”

When I picture myself (too often these days) facing a world on fire, a world where the grid has gone down and the food supply chain is broken, I see a strong, brave woman. I see myself channeling my inner Ma Joad, bracing myself to face the danger with a sturdy back and an unflappable courage.

In my head, I am always serene but strong. I do not waver. I smile through the darkest moments. I rise above the challenges that face me, ready to take on any struggle in order to take care of those I love.

I am, of course, completely full of shit as far as this fantasy is concerned.

I know this because for the one and only time in my life (so far), I have a couple of minor medical issues facing me. I am not dying. I do not have a terminal illness. I sort of have more of an annoying few days of medical tests to make sure I don’t need some medical intervention.

Should be nothing.

But it’s something.

The reality of my life is this:

I am not a serene, calm, accepting older woman who is ready to take on any challenge. Instead, I am a scared, whiny, weepy mess of a woman who wants to curl up under my covers with a box of cookies and a glass of wine. I want my kids. I want my mommy. I want a boatload of m&ms.

I am disappointed in me, to be honest. I’m afraid that when the shit hits the proverbial fan, I won’t be the one to organize the neighbors into a rescue force. I won’t be the kind and wise lady who sets up a foraging team to feed the kids in town. I doubt that I’ll be the resilient leader who looks at the reality of the situation yet manages to stay hopeful in the face of disaster.

I suspect, to my chagrin, that if I get scary medical news in the next few weeks I’ll start whimpering and I won’t stop until I’m either all alone or no longer capable of whimpering.

I don’t want to be a horrible and wimpy aging human. I don’t.

But I’m not sure how to turn myself into the person I see in my head.

Any suggestions?

I’ll Cook My Way Back to Sanity


We are living in horrible times. We are witnessing the destruction of all that two generations of women have worked to achieve.

As far as I am concerned, we are seeing the complete collapse of the two party system in the US. I’m pretty sure that 90% of us would vote of “None of the above” if they were on any ballot.

So.

What’s a sad, angry, anxious old Italian lady to do?

Yup.

I’ll cook my way to relative sanity. l have bone broth on the stove. There’s a nice sourdough starter on my counter. I have canned tomatoes for sauce and locally sourced ground beef and pork for the meatballs.

I can’t make Mitch McConnell go up in a puff of smoke for his hypocritical bullshit. I can’t save the Supreme Court of the US from becoming infected with a total and complete lack of impartiality.

I can’t make Mueller hurry the freak up and get that awful, ugly, ignorant, hateful, nasty egomaniac out of office.

I can make ravioli and roasted peppers and maybe a nice ricotta pie.

If there is a Heaven, I will still be at least relatively sane when this insanity comes to its inevitable end.

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Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light


Or maybe a better title for this post would be “Mental Anguish in the Time of Trump.”

I love politics. I have been following political news since before the days of Watergate. I’ve always found it fascinating to follow the actions and words of our national leaders. Even when I have vehemently disagreed with a President or Congress, I’ve enjoyed the arguments, the discussions, the matching of wits with those who disagree.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

Now, like so many other Americans, I am overwhelmed with what is happening to my country. I’m anxious, even afraid, for the first time in a very long time. But that’s not all.

I was talking all of this over with my husband, the other day. And I realized that what feels unbearable to me right now is the uncomfortable combination of rage and helplessness that hits me in the face every single day.

Rage.

I am feeling true rage about our President and those fools in Congress. Tearing away every kind of protection that our government has put in place for us. Regulations designed to keep our air and water at least marginally safe? Gone under this administration. I’m old enough to remember when our rivers were on fire and our harbors were so toxic that falling meant an immediate trip to the Emergency Room.

I’m enraged that Donald Trump is sending us back there.

Angry doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about Trump’s one sided assault on our insurance system. Congress couldn’t find a way to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, so Trump is taking a machete to it. It doesn’t matter how many people will lose coverage. It doesn’t matter how many people die.

Trump wants it to happen, so he’s making it happen.

And the list goes on, of course. Impending nuclear war with North Korea threatens the whole world, but Trump just keeps on tweeting. The United States will ignore its allies, pull out of legal treaties, go to war with anyone who annoys the man in the Oval. The NRA will keep its stranglehold on our government and more and more innocent people will die.

And then there are the lies. One after the other, day after day after day. Trump lies, lies, lies and lies some more. EVERYONE knows it. The entire media knows about it, but when they call him out, he screams, “Fake! Fake!” and repeats whatever lie it was.

That’s what brings me to the feeling of helplessness.

I am used to contacting my Congressional Reps. I contact them by mail, by email, by phone, when I think that there is an issue that needs their attention.

But what am I supposed to do now? My Congress people agree with me! They know that Trump is dangerous, unhinged, dishonest, amoral. They’re as scared as I am.

Should I march in the streets, the way I did at the Women’s March in DC and the anti-Nazi march in Boston?

It feels good when we do it, that’s for sure.

But NOTHING seems to change.

When you are living in a country that has suddenly been turned on its head, what do you do? When you find yourself going through your daily life under a President who make up his own facts, threatens the press, mocks his colleagues, admires the worst among us and lies with a completely straight face….Well. What are you supposed to do to ease that sense of fear and rage?

I feel completely helpless.

We are dealing with a completely surreal situation here. Our President wakes up every morning and tells us things that are simply untrue. He’s contradicted by those who know the truth. He repeats his made up facts. And he repeats them again.

Up has become down. The sky is pink. Trump’s agenda is, according to him, “ahead of schedule.” No President in history has been as successful as he is. No President was smarter. Or a better negotiator.

Facts no longer matter. The truth has become as malleable as hot taffy.

What are we to do?

I no longer believe that I can do a single thing to make things better or safer for my family. Now my goal is to find a way to maintain my own mental health as I sit back and watch our leaders fail to cope with the fact that we have elected a madman and he is taking us on a path of destruction.

Rage and helplessness.

Not a good mix. Not a great way to move through middle age.

What do we do? How are you holding onto your fragile sanity in an age of total insanity?

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A lesson I keep needing to relearn.


I had one of those days yesterday, and it ran into this morning. I think every middle aged woman in America will understand what I mean.

Maybe other people feel this way, too, but I don’t know. I don’t know if men feel like this. Or if young Moms do.

I don’t know if women in other countries feel this way.

But I know that my fellow late middle aged women friends will be nodding their heads and saying, “Yup.”

The problem that I was overwhelmed with yesterday was the crushing sense of responsibility that women in my generation feel.

By the late afternoon yesterday, I was feeling that I absolutely had to do something to fight back against Donald Trump. I’m already going to the March next week, but that didn’t feel like it was enough. I write for LiberalAmerica every day, but I didn’t think it was enough to keep calling out the idiocy of our incoming President.

I was upset because my writing wasn’t perfect. While taking care of my 18 month old granddaughter and a puppy and an old hound dog, I had written three articles about the Trump transition. But the mistakes that I made weighed on my mind.

I was upset that hadn’t written and published perfectly. What must everyone at LA think of me???

And while I was trying to write, to make some money because I retired way before I should have, even though I retired partly to take care of my grandchild, I worried that I wasn’t doing enough for that grandchild.

I hadn’t taken her outside for three days! OK, it was pouring rain and 35 degrees and the yard was full of frozen slush. But I know that kids need fresh air. And I was failing.

And I kept getting frustrated with the puppy. Who was acting just like… a puppy. He wanted to eat shoes. He wanted to grab Ellie’s stuffed animal out of her arms and run around the living room. He was driving me nuts. I was not a good puppy mommy.

I was sure that I wasn’t writing enough. I wasn’t writing and publishing well enough. I wasn’t giving Ellie enough attention. I was short tempered with the puppy.

Even though I vacuum every day and dust every week, I was sure the house was dirty. I only baked home made bread with Ellie once a week. I hadn’t made cookies with her for three weeks.

I felt awful. I felt overwhelmed. I felt that I just. couldn’t. do. any. more.

Then I went onto Facebook. Where I read a post that absolutely melted my heart and gave me a strong slap in the face. In all the right ways.

You see, the town where I taught for 22 years is in the middle of a terrible crisis. Children are killing themselves in what feels like an epidemic of hopelessness.

And that has added to my sense of failure. Some of the children who have died were once in my care. While I know that it is the height of arrogance to believe that one elementary school teacher could have made a difference, I still have felt that I’ve failed.

So this morning, when I read this post, I was struggling to greet the day. I was sure that I wasn’t up to the challenges ahead of me.

But.

The full post is here. You really should read it, no matter who you are or where you live.

The author is the mother of a young adult who grew up in that town where I taught for so long, and where my daughter is now a teacher. She is the mom of a child who struggled with mental illness.

Basically, what she wrote was that we all need to take a big step back from our desire for perfection. She wrote that kids should break some rules. They should seek out some fun when they can.

She wrote that we should all accept our best and just move on.

I read her post.

I looked at my puppy. I looked at my sweet, beloved little grandchild.

We all went outside for an hour and got soaked, muddy, dirty and tired.

It was fantastic.

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Ellie in the puddle. The puppy is in the woods. The old dog was inside snoring.

This is NOT the behavior of a rational adult.


 

I am unable to tear my eyes away from Donald Trump’s Twitter vomiting.

Its like seeing a terrible natural disaster;  you are horrified. You are filled with disbelief.

And yet.

You cannot look away.

I log on in the morning, and I cringe. I see the kind of vindictive, petty, immature ego stroking bullshit that the President-elect sends out to the world.

To be honest, if I had a 14 year old who spent his time tweeting nasty lies about other people just to make himself feel good, I’d take away his devices and get him into therapy.

Things like this:

I mean…I am a student of American history. I understand the vital importance of a free press in a democratic society. So that whole “dishonest media” line scares me.

Then there is the obvious lunacy of referring to a non-existent wall between us and our Mexican neighbors as “The Great Wall.” All you can think when you see this is, “Seriously, dude? You are comparing your proposed, unplanned, maybe its only a metaphor, border wall, or fence, or something to one of the great achievements of human history?”

The mind boggles.

I decided today that I should look at the tweets of other world leaders. You know, just to see if any of them are as…I don’t know….creepy as the ones from Trump.

I started with Obama. I scrolled through about 8 weeks of his tweets. This one pretty much sums him up:

It gets his point across, and it certainly supports his political aspirations, but when you compare it to Trump’s. Well. It looks so professional.

Next I went to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. I wondered what he was tweeting these days.

How about these:

I tried, I did! I tried to find something self-serving, something snarky, something mean spirited or vindictive. Nothing. Rien. And may I add that Mr. Trudeau tweets in both English and French…

Then I went to Germany. Surely Angela Merkel would have something as inane and self focused as our own Big Orange Menace.

That was interesting. Mostly the German Chancellor retweets other people. When she does send her own tweets, they mostly look like this:

It says, “Thank you for your trust! Chancellor of Germany.”

Not exactly the same level of self serving ego stroking that we are seeing from Mr. Trump.

So.

OK.

Surely Vladimir Putin is just as obnoxious as his neon-headed puppet. I checked his Twitter feed, too.

This one caught my eye pretty quickly.

But this one was in there, too.

I spent a lot of time on Putin’s feed. I couldn’t find one single tweet that called any of his opponents nasty names. I couldn’t find one that made it look like Putin was responsible for everything good in the world.

I tried.

I did. I tried to find one single world leader who was as immature, as self-absorbed, as mentally unstable as Donald Trump. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t find anyone in the role of world leader who came close to the obvious personality disorder that we see in Donald Trump.

So here is my question: ¬†Who can take center stage to name the very deep mental illness that our future President is exhibiting? There are no psychologists or psychiatrists on Capitol Hill (I checked.) But can’t someone point out the obvious?

This guy is sick. He is NOT rational. He is clearly NOT able to put the needs of the United States before his pathological need to be admired.

There must be someone in the mental health field who can step onto the national stage and call a spade a spade. Whether the issue is Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder or something else, the truth is obvious.

Mentally healthy adults do NOT use Twitter to attack those who disagree with them. Mentally healthy adults to NOT use Twitter or other social media outlets to continually point out their own successes and attributes.

They just don’t.

The United States of America is about to swear in a delusional, mentally ill President.

Who is going to save us?

 

ESP? Or what?


For my entire life, I have been aware that I have a little bit of….well….ESP. ¬†Or some kind of mind reading skill. Or maybe a weird kind of serendipity. ¬†Or something.

When I was little, I learned about this skill from my Mom, who had an absolutely uncanny ability to identify the caller when the phone rang. ¬† “Oh, its Nana”, she’d say calmly as she reached for the ringing phone. ¬†I just sort of assumed that everyone had the same skill. ¬†As I got older, though, I realized that Mom’s talent was unusual, to say the least.

Later, when I was in my teens, I discovered that I had the same strange ability to recognize or create moments of perfect symmetry.  Moments of strange coincidence.

Let me give you some examples.

When I was 17, I was an exchange student. I was sent to Tunisia to live with a family for three months, learning about the culture and language. As part of the trip, I attended a two day orientation in NY City.  My group, the Tunisia kids, consisted of 18 teenaged Americans from all over the country.  I was put in a room with three other young women, and told that I would share a double bed with one of them.  We randomly paired off, and I found myself bunking in with the lovely Patty, of Long Island.  As we chatted and asked questions and slowly got to know each other, we realized that we shared a birthday. In fact, we were born within ten minutes of each other.  Both of us were the second child in Italian American Families. Both had older brothers. Both had a younger sister named Liz; they were born four days apart!

It was weird, and we knew it.  We are still friends.

When I grew up and had my own children, I moved to this small town in Central Massachusetts. ¬†I made some friends, but didn’t realize that my odd talent for coincidence had followed me here. Not until my youngest child fell in love for the very first time. ¬†The young lady of his dreams has a wonderful Mom, who quickly became a friend. ¬†She also happens to share my birthday, in date if not in year. ¬†Sweet! ¬†And that’s not all, oh no. The young lady’s oldest brother went off to West Point after graduating from High School. Where he became close friends with (are you ready?) the oldest son of my friend from Long Island.

Seriously weird, right?

I have begun to believe that I carry a certain “karma”, too. ¬†A certain sense of payback, for good or ill.

I once provided speech/language support to a little girl at our school, even though she did not technically qualify for “special education.” I knew that I could help her, and so I did. ¬†I got a LOT of pressure and pushback from the rest of the special ed world, but I held my ground, and I helped the child.

Fast forward some 12 years, and the mother of that child became the mentor and teammate of my daughter when mine became a new teacher in our district.  Karma, right? Coincidence. Serendipity.

My life is filled with these kinds of small connections.

Today I had a busy day, putting the garden to bed, cleaning the house, correcting 24 essays.  At last the day began to wane, and I put dinner in the oven. I poured a glass of wine and pulled out a piece of stationary.  This week is the birthday of one of my dearest and oldest friends.  We met some 35 years ago, and became incredibly close. We sang in a choir together, worked as interpreters together, shared the angst of our twenties.  Paul and I even introduced her to her husband! Our children were friends. She is one of the people who knows me best in all the world.

She moved across the country long ago, but we have somehow managed to hold onto the love that we feel for each other.  This afternoon, my heart and mind were filled with images of my dear Deb, and all of the wonderful memories that we have shared over all these years.  I sat down, and I wrote her a long and tender birthday note.  I sealed it, put on a stamp, placed in on the countertop where I will be sure to mail it in the morning.

And then I booted up my email.  And there it was.  For the first time in at least a year, my technology averse friend Deb had sent me an email.  Talking about every single item that I had written about in my note. Every one.

I don’t know exactly what this is. ¬†I don’t know if I have a strange kind of ESP or what. ¬†All I know is that I am surrounded by coincidences that don’t seem to be a coincidence. I am supported by a sense of karma that prevents me from being cruel or cold to strangers, who may one day turn out to be my greatest supports.

I don’t know what this is.

But I REALLY like it a lot.

Silence is golden


Ahhhhhh.

This is parent conference week.  Lots of talking.

I have been teaching ten year olds to multiply two digits by two digits.  A wicked lot of talking.

I am a mentor in our school district, and I met with my protogee today.  Talk, talk, talk.  Talk.

My math coach came in to help today.  Talk.

I drove home from school with my commuting buddy, my daughter. We are women. We are teachers. We love each other a lot.  TALK TALKY TALK TALK TALK.

Holy sweet verbal overload.

In an hour, I will leave my house to go to choir rehearsal, where I will listen to directions, work on the lyrics, catch up with all the news from my fellow altos and chat about the upcoming concert.

Ouch. My aching brain.

Right now, though, I am at home.

Alone.

Unless you count two big nonverbal dogs.

I am on my couch.  Feet up, glass of wine in hand. No TV. No radio.  No husband. No kids, no friends, no colleagues, no neighbors.

Ahhhhhhhhh. Sweet relief.

60 minutes of silence.

Absolutely golden.

The Woman Who Does Everything Better Than You


There is a woman in my school who I want to hate, but I can’t. ¬†She is my age, but looks 15 years younger. ¬†She runs. For fun.

She is a superb teacher; she can actually speak coherently about both state and national standards in every curriculum area. Without sounding smug.

Her students love her; their parents love her. ¬†She plans the best field trips, teaches the most accurate and detailed lessons, creates the most innovative projects. ¬†¬†And I don’t think she even knows how to yell at kids. Its like she’s missing the cranky muscles or something.

She is also funny, kind, friendly, generous and thoughtful.  You see the problem, right?

In everything that I do at school, I feel the comparisons to¬†The Woman Who Does Everything Better Than You. ¬†She’s there, in my head, every day.

Sometimes I go through phases where I think that everyone is somehow better than me.  More virtuous, more honest, more hardworking.  And I just get so tired of trying to measure up!

I am married to a man who is unfailingly calm. ¬†When he is at his most moody and crabby, he gets quiet. When I am crabby, I snipe and whine and complain. ¬†I make snarkly little comments that I know are unfair even as they are formed and sent out to their target. ¬†I can’t be him.

I have friends who always go to the birthday party/shower/dinner/wedding/cookout, no matter whether they want to or not.  They smile, they are charming, they are gracious.  I find flimsy excuses to skip social events, then beat myself up all night about what a bad friend I am.

And then there is the issue of health.  Overall, I am a remarkably healthy woman for my age.  Good cholesterol, good blood pressure, good blood sugar.  The only medicine I take is a baby aspirin a day, and a few supplements.  Somehow, in my twisted little mind, good health equates to living a virtuous life.  But only for me!

You see, when my friends or family get sick or develop health problems, I feel empathy and support and warmth. I wish them well!  When I develop aching joints and fatigue, I immediately attribute it to being too fat, too lazy, not athletic enough. If I hurt my back (like I did this morning while walking 170 pounds of canine energy), I blame it on my low pain tolerance and my tendency to avoid aerobic exercise.

A cold is my failure to eat enough vegetables. Insomnia is due to weight. Headache? The wine I had with dinner.

In my head, my recent bout of irritability with my class was due to my own lack of patience, not to the fact that four eleven year old boys have discovered the joys of testosterone pooling.  The fact that my lawn is too high and my garden completely overgrown? Obviously it is because I am a lazy slug, not because we are having a spring season that mimics the Amazon jungle in terms of rain and heat.

I know that this is a stupid way to approach life. I know that it is self-defeating and supremely counterproductive.

See?  I lack the mental fortitude to snap myself out of it.

I bet that¬†¬†The Woman Who Does Everything Better Than You isn’t having this conversation with herself today.