Someone else’s extraordinary life

A few months ago, I was asked if I’d be willing to facilitate a book club for the local community center. I said yes, of course, but then I was anxious about it (you’re not shocked, are you?). Would anyone show up? Would too many people show up? Would I run out of questions? Did the book I picked have too many controversial topics for strangers to discuss?

In true Christy fashion, I made props and a slide show and re-read the book because I was so nervous and it had been a while. 11 INCREDIBLE women showed up. I mean it, as each person introduced herself, I was like, oh man, I want to be your friend.

Anyway, we read the book, “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell,” which is a book that covers so many themes, from the meaning of God’s Will, to bullying, to child abuse, to discrimination-it has, as we so often put it, “all the feels.”

Sam is born with ocular albinism and so his eyes are RED. They call him Devil Boy and tease him relentlessly. As an adult, we then find out that he is wearing brown-colored contacts. Just like that, his differences are gone.

Just kidding. He still has plenty o’problems, just like the rest of us.

I think the reason this book spoke to me is that I’ve often thought that if I could just get (skinny, rich, beautiful …) my life would be easy. And it’s not true, but I do think it would be a lot easier in some ways. And as we discussed this, someone asked why we thought we have so much empathy for others. Why it hurt us to read about Sam’s struggle and his bully that shows back up in adulthood.

I think that, sure, many people gain empathy when they go through difficult things. I know the twins dying and my severed relationship with my father has changed me profoundly. But if I’m honest, I think the biggest place my empathy comes from is books.

I read so many books. I let the words take me in and I feel the pain of others, and I weep with them. I celebrate with them. I laugh with them. It’s kind of like living in their shoes, even if just for a moment. If you’ve ever seen me speak before, then you know I’m very honest about how books saved me. When I was young, my parents fought a lot and so I spent hours and hours at our tiny community library. So often was I there that I actually read through the entire children’s section at one point and let’s just say I was reading Stephen King books WAY before an appropriate age. 🙂

I’m a writer because I think words make a difference in this world. I’m a reader because I think seeing the world from someone else’s point of view shapes who we are. I read because seeing myself in a book is a thrill.

I share my thoughts not because I think they’re better than anyone else’s, but because I know that when I really hear what someone else thinks it helps me grow as a person. I’m so proud to be here, sharing my world with you–thanks for being here.

Christy

Yo, teach!

I have a savior complex, especially with my students.

I’m sure in some ways it can be beneficial, but mostly I don’t think it’s doing anyone any favors.

I’m fiercely protective of my students. I want to be the one who makes everything turn right again. I want to be the one they trust. Me, me, me. So if it is about me, am I actually helping them at all?

Over the years I have seen so many sad things. Kids hurting and kids hurt and this is all in a middle-class, mostly white, suburban area. I used to think that kids here were ok, but as it turns out abuse is everywhere.

The thing is, if I weren’t me, I probably wouldn’t know in most cases. Sure, some were obvious, like the student who had to leave with the police on the last day of school because the meth house she lived in was discovered. But more are subtle, you don’t know until they ask to have lunch with you and they mention something that gives you pause. My first year teaching, a girl wrote a suicide note to me in her daily journal. So much grief and trauma and …

This year, more than ever, has cemented the role of public schools in society. It has made me acutely aware of the limitations you have when the only way to connect with a kid is through a computer. It has caused me to sit and stare at the wall trying to figure out how to reach a kid. Sitting on a zoom call while a kid sobs to you and tells you how sad they are– I haven’t quite figured out a way to describe that feeling.

So much of my life and health is impacted by my career. My anxiety, my sadness, my savior complex, my fixation on trying to save kids, the way I tie my success to empathy and kindness, it sucks the life out of me.

And, one could argue (and they have) that it’s not even my job. Right? My job is to educate. Deliver a curriculum.

But how do you deliver a curriculum to the child whose dad was just put in jail? How do you keep a child in for not doing homework when you know they take care of their baby sister all night? How do you punish a child for not paying attention when you know they had fetal alcohol syndrome?

I’ve heard so many things during this pandemic. Shut up. Do your job. Must be nice to not have to do any work. You are lazy.

It’s wearing on me. I don’t like to admit that, because I’m supposed to be stronger, but it is. Did people in other generations feel like this? Like the world was going to shit and there is nothing you can do to stop it? I’m so terrified of everyone’s anger. I’m so heartsick at the lack of kindness and the fight over politics. If you cannot even hear a sentence you disagree with without having your blood pressure rise, perhaps it’s time to reflect a little.

Maybe it’s just me. And maybe I’ve had way too much time in my head without the normal distractions of life. But I had a dream last night that a long-lost relative left me a fortune so I could stop working and write. And I woke up crying, which is strange—because isn’t that my dream? A way to be a full-time writer?

I will admit-the thought of logging back onto Zoom in a few days makes me feel ill. I’m weary. I’m tired. We’re heading back to school f2f in a few weeks and I’m thrilled-except that I’m high-risk and the kids eat lunch in my room, unmasked, and that keeps me up at night. But I cannot wait-I can’t wait to have to deal with recess drama and dance around the room while the kids are working and randomly blast music to take them off guard and decide to take a day off writing and turn off the lights and tell ghost stories and read books outside once it gets warm and all the other tiny joys of life with a class of 10-year-olds who hang on your every move.

Teachers out there-maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’re not. But what I know is there ain’t NO WAY we’d all be doing this anymore if we didn’t love kids. And so I want you to know that I see you. I’m with you. Hang in there, if you can. If you can’t? Ain’t no shame in that, either.

XO

Bits About This and That, Back to School Version

I’m not sleeping very well right now (who is?) and my dreams are INSANE.

Like, certifiably. People from high school professing their undying love, me on a subway train trying to find my stop but every time the doors open, it’s not the right one. I’m a guest on a talk show but when they ask me a question, my mouth won’t open.

(The other day I was thinking about a friend’s mom who had her mouth wired shut so she could lose weight. I was in like 5th grade, probably. But, anyway, random thought leads to random dream, right?)

I can’t focus on anything, my whole attitude is up/down, up/down. I’ve never complained so much in all my life. I’ll try to read a book or write, and find myself thinking about how the little sister on the show Family Matter just disappeared and no one ever said a word about it. Like, hello, Laura, you’re so busy with Steve Urkel you forgot you had another sibling?

I’m the biggest complainer right now that I have ever met in my life. Every single thing just makes me irrationally annoyed. And I can recognize it, it’s grief, I’m familiar with that. But I can’t seem to stop it. I just keep going, bitching about this and that and losing all touch with what is actually important.

Except it all seems to lead to what is actually important, which is the health of my family!

I feel things deeply. We know this by now. I analyze. I follow my intuition.

And right now, my intuition is like, oh, hey, go this way. Nope, that way. HA! Just kidding. That other way!

I’ve been buying too much stuff. Here’s the cycle: I’m sad, so I buy stuff. I’m overwhelmed, so I have to declutter, so I give stuff away. Then buy more.

Um, Christy.

Well, in the spirit of another blog post that is really about nothing, I’ll leave you with this: take a deep breath. Go outside in the fresh air. Write a letter to someone and rip it up. Scream into a pillow.

Then, we pick ourselves back up and on we go.

Bits about this and that

Well, it’s definitely autumn here in the midwest. We put our Halloween decorations up yesterday. I tried to be a little less National Lampoon’s this year, but … I tried, ok?

We are on a 14 day quarantine because one of us was exposed to the Covid. My mom heart is so sad. Also, there really should be a reality show about a 4th-grade teacher trying to teach rounding to the millions place using a number line via Zoom while her 7-year old comes in every 4 minutes to ask a questions about his Zoom school.

You know, hypothetically.

If anyone out there is waffling, you should buy a ranch house, not a 2 story. I spend at least 50% of my day moving things from one level to the next, putting them on the stairs to be taken, getting angry because no one else takes the things up or down the stairs, and then finding more things to move to a different level.

Because of the general malaise I feel thanks to the pandemic and the election, I alternate between Zillow and Petfinder. I look at houses I can’t afford. Then puppies I have no business getting because I already have two cats, and they are so much work and I don’t need more stress or decisions to make.

I have 94,000 books to read in this house. Just thought you should know because I ran out of bookshelf space again.

I wonder how many trips I could take if I didn’t spend my money on all the dumb stuff I have in my house.

But, I mean, we can’t take trips right now, so who is the real winner?

I wish our fall TV shows were coming back right now.

Today I decided to clean one toilet. Because my son is disgusting. Like, really, a disgrace to humans. He gets pee in places that must be invisible because then it smells like pee. So then I thought, I’m cleaning one toilet, might as well clean the next one. Then I cleaned all 4 bathrooms, did all the laundry, vacuumed, and changed the sheets. I was supposed to be relaxing, but now my house smells like Lysol instead of pee, so…

I have a new goal: to get an essay published in a magazine. I’m working on it, you guys. Wish me luck.

We watched Jaws together as a family last night. Dude. The guy? The shark hunter? Not Mr. Hollan’s Opus, but the other one? He is intense. We were belly laughing at the scene where they are sharing their scars and stories.

Ok, well, that’s enough about this and that for today.

What’s new with you? Drop it in the comments and tell me what’s up!

XO

Christy