Don’t spend the entire first week just talking about rules and routines and regulations. Sure, there are things you absolutely need to do on the first day, but I think it’s SO important to actually… More
Hello! I’m Christy.
In a nutshell, I am a:
- Soon-to-be published author (March 29, 2018!)
- Grief survivor
I think you’ll love it here if you have ever tripped up the stairs, if you love to read, if you love true crime, if you have any kind of emotional baggage, if lots of people stress you out (or don’t), or if you have at least one child who is obsessed with Halloween. 🙂
At any rate, I’m glad you’re here.
You know there are memes and quotes and anecdotes that will support whatever “side” you’re on, right? Sort of like you can find research to support both sides of a claim-nothing is very simple when it comes to being a human being. For example:
Life is full of perspective and points of view, and they are all shaped on a number of things. Your background, your experiences, your biases, from who you seek advice, where you get your news, mental health struggles, trauma/abuse and more.
The thing about morals and ethics is that there are certain things we can all agree on, no matter who we are (think: the golden rule), yet it’s really not black and white because of how many different ways we actually see a situation. And whether we like it or not, what we see is somewhat already shaped by our natural bias, by our experiences, by that whole list of things I added above.
Lately, though, what’s been weighing on my mind has been the concept of intention. The purpose behind our actions, or lack thereof. The thing about this issue specifically is that there is no way to really know someone’s true intention. We can guess, right? We all can speculate, we sit and we analyze, we discuss what that person is going through (according to us, of course) and we draw conclusions about what happened.
Wouldn’t it be fair, though, to admit that we can speculate all we want, but we don’t really know?
This year, especially, I have grown and changed a lot as a person. That is to say that I’ve experienced some growing pains. I’ve had to become extremely comfortable with knowing that people dislike me, or are angry with me, or are making judgments about me that I cannot control.
(Ok, so I became a little more comfortable. Not extremely comfortable.)
Most of it I’m proud of, some of it I’m not. You know that expression about how you can only take so much before you blow?
I got so tired of hearing the same stuff, seeing the same actions, being somebody’s villain, that a few times (2 come to mind immediately) that I completely lost it. Once was yelling. Yelling like someone who had had.enough. Yelling in a completely angry, irrational way.
Do I wish I could have stayed calm? Of course. But do I regret losing it like that?
Because I know that my intentions were good. I know that I am ALWAYS doing my best with any situation that comes my way, with whatever I have at that point. I know my heart. I know that my intentions are always good.
But then, in the end, do my intentions even matter? Because people decide why I did what I did without asking me. Or even if I get the chance to share my intentions, I’m not believed.
So then, in the end, does it matter if what I do is coming from a place of good intentions?
I just want to say that I think it still does. I think it matters. Even if it’s just for your own heart.
On a simple level:
Someone stands you up for a coffee date.
A) she was in a car accident
B) she just didn’t want to come and didn’t bother to let you know
That’s different, right? When you don’t intend to hurt someone, the hurt they feel usually goes away. We’re always looking for that reason–and, frankly, sometimes in this complicated and messy life, you are not the only person that’s being factored into decision making.
As an educator, we spend a large amount of time trying to figure out what a student’s motivation/intention is for their misbehavior.
A student is acting out in class.
A) the night before, his dad was arrested and taken to prison
B) he is trying to be funny to get attention from his peers
Which one diffuses the situation? It’s almost like we breathe and we say, oh…ok. There’s a reason for this. It’s understandable. That poor baby.
But, maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe we should treat A and B equally and not care about the intent. (I will say that as an educator, my initial response will be the same, I don’t want you to worry! But getting to the bottom of the why is so, so important).
It personally helps me-I’m often comforted by the explanation, by knowing that what hurt me was not intentional. For me, it makes a difference.
What do you think? What are your experiences? Do you think intention matters? Does it make a difference? Do you listen to people’s intentions, and seek to find out if you don’t understand? Do you believe them when they tell you? I hate even saying this, but … do you believe in the “benefit of the doubt?”
Yes. It is, in fact, the 367th day of May. There is a full moon, I just saw 17 black cats, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain every single day this week, scheduled to the exact time of recess.
I heard you the other day when you said, “Don’t LICK THAT GNOME! OMG!”
I saw you when you made every single kid line up and personally look at the pair of socks that have been in the hallway since November. “LOOK ME IN THE EYE AND TELL ME THEY’RE NOT YOURS!”
I can read your mind, and I know what’s going on in there is not pretty. I know you’re saying the swears. Even the super bad ones!
I can smell the rotting contents of your lunch bag, a compilation of “Whatever is left in my refrigerator” that can be carried in a bag and *isn’t moldy. Your lunch account is empty, and let’s face it, it’s “cook’s choice” for the rest of the month anyway.
We’re all hitting the snooze button on our alarms like 13 times, telling ourselves, “Well, my contracted time is 8:00, but I think there’s usually some wiggle room there, and I spent all night at home working on report cards, so technically, 8:13ish shouldn’t be a big deal.”
The sweet and funny quirks of our students have now become unbearable. A fire rages within you with every tap-tap-tap-tap of a pencil. You wonder if there is actual fire coming from your nose and mouth when you send the kids back to their desks to work and on the floor in front of you is everything from broken pencils to bookmarks to a “Unicorn that’s pooping rainbows” *Squishie. You know you can’t scream, “I SAID PICK YOUR SHIT UP” so you have to breathe in verrrrryyyyy deeply and say, “Boys and Girls, another reminder to bring back to your desk EVERYTHING THAT YOU BROUGHT UP WITH YOU OMG PICK UP YOUR PENCILS I WANT TO THROW AWAY ALL THE PENCILS AND MAKE YOU WRITE WITH THE TEARS FROM MY EYES.”
Your exchanges with parents are now similar to this:
Here are the updates for the week. Don’t forget Friday at 10:20 is our assembly!”
Thanks for the e-mail. Can you tell me what time the assembly is on Friday, though?
Maybe, I don’t know, you could read the email that you just replied to, the one with “Assembly Time” as the subject? Here’s a thought: look at one of the other places I sent that time home: your kid’s folder, I’ve brainwashed it into their brains, it’s branded onto their ankle, I’ve whispered it into the wind and sent it directly into your mind. Oh, oh! I know! You could look at the school calendar. You could look in the school newsletter. I’m pretty sure at this point you could find the answer in the stars.
Your kid’s teacher
It’s getting rough out there. It’s time to prepare for battle. You need copious amounts of chocolate, Diet Coke, your comfiest shoes, a bull-horn, noise-silencing headphones, a “I don’t know what to do with you today” packet of word searches, and, of course, a reminder that:
You’re almost there, fellow teachers. And, let’s face it: you know you’ll miss ’em. XOXOXOXO
*Certain amounts of mold can be cut off
*I still prefer Squishies over fidget spinners, even when they are poop shaped.
Teeth disgust me. When baby teeth get really loose, children lose all ability to focus on anything except using their tongue to push the tooth all the way down, so it’s just hanging by a thread. I’ll be in the middle of reading aloud, all snuggled into my comfy chair, getting to the good part in Where the Red Fern Grows, and suddenly there will be a child standing practically right on top of me.
“Mrs. Wopat, my tooth is loose.”
I look up, check to see if it looks like anyone is bleeding or about to vomit, then I give my “I’m so angry right now that you interrupted me and you know read aloud is my favorite and I hate being interrupted when you know Billy is just about to catch the Ghost Coon” face.
“Uh-huh,” I say, looking back down at my book. “Ok. Well, when it falls out you can take it to the nurse.”
“Well, but look at how wiggly it is! Watch!”
I don’t know why I look. I know better.
Seeing teeth move makes me gag. This makes my class laugh, of course. And so now they do it even more often. I swear 4th graders lose teeth at quite an alarming rate. And apparently never at home!
I untie knots in shoes, feel heads for fevers, I wipe away tears, I discreetly give a granola bar to a kid who didn’t get breakfast, answer the phone when I forget to take attendance, take the lunch count, count how many milk cartons kids will take that day, I read a note left on my desk from a student that reads, “Last night my mom told me she fucking hates all of us,”, I start my class on a simple task while I take her out to assess the situation, I remember to ask how the hockey game was last night, and see how far he got in the 3rd Harry Potter book, I touch base with the special education teacher about what groups we’ll have in math, I chat with the gifted education teacher who has stopped by to see if she can support during reading today, I take a phone call from a parent who is angry that the students are still going outside for recess although it is icy, I see the guidance counselor walking by and she motions for me to talk quickly in the hallway, where I get a quick update on the case we’ve been working on to get free dental care for one of my students and update each other on the behavior plan for one of my students, I pat students on the back and make sure they are all greeted.
And then the bell rings for school to start.
There are so many professions in this world that are meaningful and fulfilling, and there are some that just seem like “work,” although we would be lost without them (think: garbage man, wastewater treatment plant worker), and then there are the ones that we could totally live without but get paid the most because of where our values lie (or at least seem to lie).
One day, during a class meeting, we were going around the circle, sharing what our dream job might be. I said a)writer, b)family and marriage counselor or c)cellist in NYC for Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. As we went around the class, nearly every boy said they wanted to play football for the NFL, and nearly every girl said she wanted to be an actress.
“Mrs. Wopat? What’s wrong?” the girl sitting next to me asked.
“I can’t believe none of you said you want to be a teacher! Or a doctor! Or even an astronaut!”
“What’s an astronaut?”
“Well, teacher is my second choice, if I don’t get drafted right away!”
“A doctor would be ok, I guess, but I wouldn’t make as much money as Ariana Grande.”
I got really quiet. I tried to hold it in. Christy. Don’t speak. Now is not the time for a lecture. Just move on. Time to start math. MATH, Christy. Do you remember that?
“Everybody! Take a knee!” I yelled. My class huddled around me, on their knees.
“I want you to remember that I am proud of you no matter what you do in life, as long as you’re trying your best. Remember that if you want to be a professional football player, I believe you can accomplish that as long as you never, ever give up. BUT, I feel like I need to say that we probably celebrate sports so much because of all the money involved. I will say, though, that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! Money doesn’t give you everything. My job is the best job in the world, I think. And I don’t get paid all that much.
I do, however, know that not very many people want to be teachers. And although it makes me sad, I get why. There aren’t tens of thousands of people cheering for me in a big stadium, and Nike doesn’t care if I wear their shoes, and I probably won’t ever get to come running out of the locker room through a lineup of cheerleaders and coaches and jump through a giant paper thing to make the print of my body in the paper and then have everyone screaming for me–”
“Uh, Mrs. Wopat? We get it,” one of the boys said, interrupting me.
“Do you though?” I pressed. “Because I need you to remember that your teachers keep on going, even though there aren’t a lot of cheerleaders out there! There are so many other important things you can do, and you have to do them even when other people don’t notice.”
We moved on to math then, and I thought Um, Christy? This is what happens when you try to lecture 9-year-olds. DUH. Of course, they don’t get it. They want to play football. Football is their life. Recess is their life. You did it again, with your incessant rambling!”
That afternoon, I got hung up in the lunchroom, talking to a teacher assistant. I had already sent my class back to my room, and so I was walking backward, trying to use my body language to show her that I, uh, kinda sorta needed to leave.
“So, then, do you think our next plan could be–” she started.
“I have to run! We’ll talk about this later!” I said and turned to leave.
“Ok, but, when later?” she pressed. This is not that important, I thought, shaking my head. I headed back to my room.
As I rounded the corner toward my classroom I heard a huge commotion. My blood pressure spiked. UGH. Seriously. 2 minutes. They’re in there for 2 minutes without me and they’re totally off the walls. What do we do after lunch? WE READ QUIETLY AFTER LUNCH. They will never learn. It’s March. I give up.
I had my teacher face on, and I was ready to give it to them until I stood in the doorway of my classroom and looked in. There was my entire class. Standing in a line, across from one another, holding their hands up like arches, cheering for me.
“And now, our starting QB, let’s give it up for MRSSSS WOOOPPPATTTTTTTT!!!!!!!”
My class cheered.
I was frozen in place, tears instantly in my eyes.
“Mrs. Wopat! Run through the tunnel! We made you the tunnel! Do you get it?” a girl said. She nudged me on the back.
I ran through that tunnel, while 25 9-year-olds cheered and screamed and patted me on the back. Most of us were crying.
You ain’t got NOTHIN’ on teaching, NFL. Nothing.
Disclaimer: This post is not about anyone in my life in particular. I’ve been working on this draft for months, a little here and there, so I seriously promise. It’s not my passive-aggressive way of telling someone I’m angry by posting something about how you should communicate when you’re angry. LOL.
I hate small talk. I don’t mean, like, pleasantries as you pass by someone. Those are fine (although I could live without the “how are you?” part because no one has time to answer that as you pass someone by so you’re just basically required to say you’re fine.)
I like to talk about the important stuff. I LOVE to know what you’re afraid of. What keeps you up at night. What are the parts of you that you wish you could change? What are your ultimate dreams and goals?
Chances are if you’re a close friend of mine, you know this already. Chances are that I’ve made you sit down and answer one question after another after another. And pretty much close to nothing that you say would change my mind about you, unless it’s hatred toward someone else.
Knowing all this background information about someone matters so much to me. Our past contains so many clues to our actions and intentions now. Have you ever had a moment when you find out a key detail about someone and suddenly everything clicks and makes sense? This happens to me a lot, especially with my students. One piece that I didn’t know about puts everything into place for me.
Relationships are like a dance, right? Except it’s like the “Jerk” dance that Eileen on Seinfeld does or Napoleon Dynamite’s butterfly moves. You just have no idea what’s coming next, yet you work to keep up. I am convinced that the ONLY way you can keep up is to COMMUNICATE. And I don’t mean talk. I mean to ask and share and seek information.
This year, for whatever reason, I’ve had some relationship issues at work. Maybe it’s because I’m doing too much outside of school and I’m tired, or because I have a class that needs a lot of me, or maybe because it’s now my 8th year here and it’s the witching hour or maybe it’s that I’m ready to be done teaching. Maybe it’s because I’m just a jerk?
I’ve had family relationship issues this year, more than ever. Probably because of grief and death and break-ups and me over-sharing in the name of vulnerability, which makes me look more like I’m playing victim than anything else.
What do I actually think is causing these issues, though? The fact that I have stopped settling. The fact that I have said, “This is what I need.” And I’m certainly not saying that I’m giving everyone else what they need, but I’ll tell you what- nobody has asked me.
Nobody has said, “Christy. Please stop doing this. Or, I need more of this from you. Or, this hurts me greatly when you do this.” And so, instead, I sense the tension because that is how I’m built. I can sense it amongst people I’ve never met before and it makes me emotionally AND physically uncomfortable. When the tension involves me it’s even worse, especially if I don’t know why.
I am so physically worn down from wondering about who is mad at me for what reason, or if someone letting the door slam in my face is someone in a hurry or because I’ve ticked them off. I’m tired of advocating for kids and being made to feel like I’m some kind of selfish, horrible person.
And I’m tired of being the ONLY one who wants to do anything about it. Difficult conversations are just that: difficult. It’s not fun to tell someone that they hurt you. Sometimes, it backfires. This year, for example, I gathered the courage to confront a situation and was basically so condescended to that I felt just about an inch tall. It bombed. Oh, well, right? I tried.
There are so many times, though, where if I hadn’t said, “Are we ok? What’s going on here?” it would stay horrible and tense and when you’re made like me, when you carry feelings as I do, it is a physical and emotional hardship.
I often ask myself:
Am I imagining the tension? Leave it to me to be so egocentric that I think whenever anyone is upset it’s about me when it could very well be a million different things.
Is it worth it? Is it worth putting myself in this vulnerable position? What will I gain or not lose? And how do I know?
Why is it so easy to be upset about something, but so hard to tell someone about it?
I know I sometimes create “issues” that aren’t really there. But I also know that my expectations are high. And I’m not willing to bend on that! I want positive, healthy relationships where people value me and they value my loyalty and my willingness to learn and change. We live in this culture where it’s like, oh, you pissed me off, so bye! How in the world do we expect people to NEVER mess up?
When I say good-bye, it’s because I don’t see a willingness at all to communicate. To see another side of the story. I’m so often floored when someone shares something with me because I had NO idea. Throughout our relationship struggles with my mother-in-law, there was so much sulking on both sides, when we both really wanted the same thing: to be together! I wish I could’ve done something about that sooner, but, you know what? I was still a kid. I was only 25 when my father-in-law died from cancer and I didn’t know SHIT about what was happening. Those years for me–23-um, well, probably 28, were tough. I was trying to figure so much out at once.
So, I failed. And failed again. But all this loss in my life has taught me so much about both what I want and what I need to be.
I think it’s time that we start really communicating. You’ve got two jobs to play in this thought-first, you have to be willing to have a difficult conversation. And next, you have to be willing to listen and not immediately jump to the defense, which is our knee-jerk instinct.
So much of the time, it wasn’t our intent AT ALL to hurt someone. Sometimes they are just plain imagining it. Sometimes it was an equally shared kind of thing. But, if you can’t let them get through the “This made me feel like this…” then it’s not going to work.
I hear often that communication comes naturally to me. That I must have had good role models growing up. Here’s the deal: I’m self-taught. My parents communicated by, literally, screaming and swearing and throwing things. My siblings and I never actually shared anything except a bathroom. And that’s, I think, sometimes pretty typical. So I had to teach myself. And then get my husband to learn along with me. And now my kids. And it’s HARD, yo.
But it’s so, so, so worth it.
Keep on keepin’ on, yo!
I love my students. LOVE. THEM. Every single day they make me smile, they make my heart dance, they make me frustrated, they make me laugh hysterically and make me roll my eyes so hard I can see the back of my head.
I love my school. I love hearing children read. I love watching them run and sing and dance and play. I love feeling like I have a family away from home and I love emails from students 5 years later that ask me the title of a book I read to them when they were 9. I love knowing that my words and encouragement could change a whole kid’s day around.
The career of an educator has changed so much, though, even in the 15 years I’ve been in the profession. The expectations put on us are insurmountable, yet I don’t go a week without hearing about how easy our job is because we have summers off.
It is alarming how many educators that I know suffer from mental health issues (anxiety/depression). We are faced with feeling that we are NEVER adequate enough. That we are NEVER caught up. That we can do the right thing 1,000 times and it’s not noticed, but we mess up once, and we’re called out immediately.
We are facing classrooms full of kids with myriad issues: not just divorced parents, but parents with restraining orders against them, victims of abuse and neglect, kids whose parents are incarcerated, kids who are homeless and hungry. And this is all in my small town-we have a population of less than 10,000.
I am not naive to think that these issues didn’t exist always, but I insist that we are now responsible more than ever. Social and emotional issues are affecting all of us, and in a world where test scores are more important than anything, I get quite literally stuck on the fact that kids whose minds are wandering to the worries of their life aren’t exactly trying their very best on the multiple choice tests in front of them.
My 4th graders will embark on another round of state testing next week. We spend TWO weeks of class time taking these standardized tests. I’ve been stocking up on granola bars to feed hungry kids, and gum and hard candy as a teeny tiny gift. We’ll plan extra recess and a movie day at the end, but, you guys—it is SO.MUCH.TESTING.
It makes me physically ill to think about going to school during testing week. Because I know that in the middle of it all, someone might be pulled to talk to Child Protective Services, or miss school because they were at the parent’s house who drinks too much and forgets to bring them to school. They might rush through the test just to get done because they think they’re dumb anyway.
I used to spend quite a bit of time judging parents. I couldn’t even imagine what was wrong with them that they would treat their children like they did.
I know better, now, and so now I do better. I know that the support systems I have in my life are most definitely NOT in a lot of other people’s. I know that parents, with few exceptions, love their children and want them to do well. I know that they are human and they make mistakes and sometimes there are substance abuse issues and sometimes there are a lot of things we don’t know about.
And this is a biiiiiigggggggg but. Teachers are being expected more then ever to step in and support and comfort the children in their class. To help teach social and emotional skills that are not being taught at home. To make sure that kids are fed and have clean clothes and personal hygiene products. To answer phone calls and emails from parents immediately, and with a “customer is always right” attitude, although sometimes they are so far from right.
Perhaps you can see the cycle now. Parents are not healthy, which affects the child’s life. Teachers want to help but really cannot, and the issues seep in, causing the teacher to feel extra stress and worry.
I’ve been told I need to keep in mind the child’s home life. I’ve been told I’ve gotten “too close” to students who come to me for advice or for that extra connection (in other words, I need to be there for them, but not too often, because then they maybe won’t connect enough with other adults).
I’ve been treated SO horribly by parents – here’s a lesson plan for you since you don’t know how to teach writing (that one is extra ironic now), how dare you tell me my child needs this or that, complete harassment from a parent when I declined to be a part of their custody fight (as I only ever heard from one parent, I didn’t feel qualified), and on and on.
I’m telling you this because before if I were not a teacher I would have no idea. I’m telling you this because teachers need your support. I’m telling you this because we need you to stick up for us, whether it be with your drunk Uncle Bob, or in the online comments on the newspaper article about teacher salary.
I’m telling you this because it is referendum time. Schools need your support now, more than ever. I’m telling you this because we need YOU. Email your child’s principal and tell him/her how much you appreciate your child’s teacher. Email your school board and ask them what their plan is for rising student numbers in classrooms. Please stop complaining about school supply lists. Shift your mind to the knowledge that there is NOTHING more important than our children and those that take care of them. Vote yes in your referendums.
If you are able, send in some Ticonderogas and some goldfish crackers to have on hand in a classroom. Trust me, we always need them.
Write a sweet note to a teacher you’ve always loved. Encourage them to keep fighting. Some us are ready to give up and give in.
We need you now more than ever!
I’ve been thinking lately about how so much of life is about misunderstanding. A lack of clear communication. An absence of the ability to say how we feel and why. A tendency to jump to the defense when someone tells us we’ve hurt them, instead of actually listen to what it is they’re saying.
Have you ever been in the “middle” of a terrible fight? By that, I mean, two people are in a horrible disagreement, but they are both confiding in you?
For whatever reason, this has happened to me more than once. It’s, of course, extremely difficult because you can’t tell the other person what the other one said, and it’s so important to stay neutral, but more than anything it is so interesting to see how one thing, one problem, can be seen in two totally different ways. You know, the whole “two sides to every story” problem.
One of my biggest faults, and it’s gotten even worse since the twins died, and then amplified by two kids who NEVER stop talking, is that I have a complete phobia/hatred of speaking on the phone. I used to pace around in circles, wishing and wishing for the phone call to be over so I could move on. I’d pretend that we lost connection or my phone was about to die (but never with you, if you’re reading this! LOL). I hate how when you tell people you have to go, they continue on anyway. I hate how once you’ve said what you need to say, there’s a feeling that you should keep talking anyway.
When I first got married, I had no idea how much it bugged/angered/hurt my mother-in-law that I never answered the phone. I loved my mother-in-law so, so much, but I couldn’t stand having phone conversations with her, when she lived 4 minutes away and I always thought, why don’t you just come over?
So, anyway, a ton of my communication is done over text and email and social media. This is the way I like it, because I like using written words. I like having time to think about what I’m saying, and go back and reread and make sure I don’t sound like an asshole. I like being able to set aside the time to respond in a meaningful way, instead of answer the phone while I’m also cooking, doing laundry, reading to my kids, and brushing the cat.
Like everything in life, though, there is always a downfall. And first of all, my choice to not answer the phone or return phone calls puts out a message, even when it’s not intentional, that I don’t want communication. And sometimes, when a phone call is absolutely necessary, I still flake out and I don’t make the call.
Sometimes, as they say, silence speaks volumes. Even when all I really mean it to say is, I will totally answer you if you text me. (HA)
This summer, when my mother-in-law died, my husband was in France and un-reachable, and my children (and myself) were distraught. I had suddenly added a cat to my household, and I was in total and complete shock. I was on auto-pilot, going about my day to plan a funeral and play with my kids, then put them to bed and weep. If my mom hadn’t come for a few of the days, I don’t know what I would’ve done (thanks, Mom!).
But during this time, one snap decision that I made to not pick up the phone (not at all because of any animosity or to cause pain, but because I just couldn’t. I just could. not.) turned everything into this big horrible mess. Of course, when someone has died, you should answer the phone. I knew this. I know this. I messed up.
Next, my poor husband who was stranded abroad with high schoolers and hardly being able to function, should have made some phone calls himself. After all, someone had died. But that someone was his mom, and he was so worried about everything that he could barely function. And so he didn’t pick up that phone, and he sent a text instead (I mean, maybe I could add here that I texted him like 10 tens telling him to call, so I get a little credit, LOL).
What happened next was right out of a novel, of course. One thing after another and soon I was, quite literally, SCREAMING into the phone like a lunatic, my rage and fear and grief all combined into one huge toddler-like fit in the middle of the night and through that enabling a situation to tumble down the mountain like an avalanche.
Y’all know that funerals don’t exactly bring out the best in people. There is so much judgment. People get misinformation. There are misunderstandings. There are people who we forget to thank, or people who we feel have let us down. There’s money, and paperwork, and lawyers, and decisions. But most of that is just happening in the fog of grief, and unless we can talk openly and honestly about how we’re feeling, it’s just going to be a mess. A dumpster fire, if you will.
As I get older, I just have come to realize that relationships are more difficult than we ever knew as kids. My mother-in-law always tried SO hard to not suffocate us (like she had felt), that we spent years hurt that she didn’t want to be around us. Had we talked sooner, I think we could have saved a lot of tears. But her experience was different than ours, we were of different generations, and while she loved to talk, she wouldn’t (and probably couldn’t) express her feelings very well. She was often in riffs with her friends and, boy, was she stubborn!
One summer, I shared with my husband that I just felt it was so silly that all of us were adults and we were having all these hurt feelings across the board, when we really all wanted the same thing: to be together. So we called her up and said, “Listen. We are having family dinner every Wednesday. If one of us has to cancel, we reschedule for the next night. End of story.”
She agreed. And I’m telling you—it didn’t fix everything, but it came darn near close. I learned so much from that. I am so grateful to my mother-in-law for everything she taught me, and for her fierce love and her pride in everything I did. I’m grateful that she loved me like a daughter and gave me all sorts of second chances. I’m so sad that I never got a chance to say that I was sorry for any of the ways that I made her sad or mad.
Losing her has taught me so much about living my best life. It has reminded me that I need to be open, and honest about as many things in life as I can. It has hurtled me back into this space where I feel uncomfortable and I want to fight the grief that has crept its way back in.
We’ve lost some other people along the way since she died, not because of death, but because of misunderstandings. Because nobody wanted to own up (including me!) to the mistakes that had been made. Because we let history get in our way. Because we really didn’t mean it when we said, “I’m sorry,” or we just thought it was easier to ignore the problem.
I read recently that as soon as you start caring for yourself and for what you want, you start pissing people off. I have clearly done at least a little of that in the past 2 years, since I started Um, You Guys and published my book. I’ve hurt people, I’ve made mistakes that I have learned so much from, but I do sort of feel that that’s what life is about. I’ve tried to use my experiences to connect with others, but really people just see it as me flaunting my personal problems/struggles all over the Internet(s). Sigh.
I never, ever imagined that I would be the “toxic” person in someone else’s life, someone who needs to be removed, like a pest, but it appears that I’ve not been able to escape that particular label. Removed without a second thought, my toxicity having leaked too far in.
I guess that’s helped me learn that the people who are toxic to me probably don’t mean to be-and I’ve removed them, too, without the wish to hurt them, but just to have my heart back and safe. Maybe some of them have been a misunderstanding- and maybe not. But for what it’s worth, it’s never been personal.
Dang, y’all, that got long. If you’re still with me, thanks so much. Keep on living that best life, yo.
You got this.
Most of you are here because you appreciate my vulnerability and my honesty, even when it, quite frankly, paints me in a bad light. But part of what I think my platform is, part of the reason I think I’m here, is because I need for people to know that life is so messy and so unpredictable and so roller-coaster-y!
Just this week I had someone confide in me that she was nervous about her child because she has been sneaking things and lying. I was like, “Girl! That’s what kids do!” I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone look so relieved. And yes, I’m sure there are kids who don’t lie or cheat or sneak, but as a 4th grade teacher for almost 10 years? Yeah. Most kids do.
And that’s totally developmental and normal, and what do I think you should do about it? I think you should talk. Talk to your kid. Model. Show empathy and kindness. Show love and show logical consequences.
But…you guys. I still totally lose my mind sometimes! And I’m an educator, who is literally trained to work with children.
This school year has been a huge challenge for me. I’m gonna be honest and say it’s been the most challenging school year I’ve had. But that’s probably because I have blocked out several of them 🙂 But, really, it has been challenging. And not necessarily because of my students (I love them ALL, for real!) but because of adult relationships and growing pains and pressure and stress. I mean, and also my students, because some of them just need SO much of me.
Not because they’re “naughty.” Not because they’re “bad.” But because they have these extraordinary personalities or learning abilities that make them this giant puzzle that I have to constantly move around to try to piece together.
When I say I’m struggling, I’m saying that little things turn into big things really easily. I’m saying that I’m pulling back, pulling in, and wanting to stay home where I feel the most safe. I mean that my anxiety has cranked itself up a notch and when I’m anxious, it comes out as irritability and lack of patience, and I mean that I am sad.
I am sad.
But, you know, I’ve learned over these past almost 10 years that it is ok to be sad. And I am still putting my all into teaching and my class is a community, and that’s what matters most to me.
What I can’t get is that even though I KNOW this, there is always, always this voice in the back of my head telling me I’m a loser.
Today, I lost a follower on Um, You Guys. I spent $50 of my book money (which isn’t that much to begin with) on a contest that I shared like crazy and only 25 people entered, and I didn’t gain any new followers.
Right now, you’re thinking, oh, wahhhh, Christy. Not a big deal.
And it’s not!
But really, just about 10 minutes ago I had pretty much decided it’s time for me to shut down the Um, You Guys Facebook page. It’s been 2 years and although I think long and hard about what I post, and I love the comments I do get, I’m just not getting anywhere that I want to get. I still have less than 2,000 followers, and people don’t comment or share, and it takes up a LOT of my time. If there were a way I could even make a little money, or grab someone’s attention….I don’t know. Right now it feels very much like I’m not making the difference I hoped I would.
I wonder if my mom told me I was special too many times, because I always have this idea in the back of my head, that I will be successful at whatever I do. And I DO feel successful with my book, but, and you can laugh at me right now, I was honestly convinced that someone (read: Colleen Hoover) would share my book to her bajillion followers and I’d be on Good Morning America reaching ALL THE BEREAVED MOMS EVERYWHERE and then I’d start a foundation and lead retreats.
Yeah. For real.
But, instead, I can’t even figure out how to record my own audio book, although it’s not for lack of trying, and I’m quite often too tired to write, and my self-esteem is probably at an all-time low.
I think-and correct me if I’m wrong-that this breaking point is where we get divided. I think this is where people give up, or they decide to power through and give it their ALL to see if they can “make it.”
So, I guess it’s time to see what I’m really made of. Can I reach a little deeper down and grab all the strength I have left so I can keep going? Can I find a way to keep trying? Because, yo, the reality is that I’ve barely even been in this “business.” I have SO MUCH more time I need to put in. This shiznit doesn’t happen over night, ya know!
I think so, because I just had a really good idea of what I want to put on our Um, You Guys T-Shirts and Tote Bags. LOL.
We’ll see! In the meantime, thank y’all so much for being here. For reading. For giving this girl from a tiny town in Wisconsin a chance.