Loving Yourself

You guys, the thing about it all is … my story isn’t all that unusual. And, of course, lots of people have it way worse, right? I always feel like I have to lead with that.

Although, I will say that I’m also kind of tired of people feeling like they have to minimize their issues because someone had it “worse,” too.  Someone will always have had it worse, but I don’t think that’s a reason for us to not share. To not work on it. To not try to find a way to relate.

So, I guess I’ll start by saying I don’t have a diagnosed eating disorder. I am obese, but I’m not morbidly obese (yet). There are days when I look in the mirror and I see a beautiful smile, or like my eyes are standing out.

Most days, though, I avoid mirrors at all cost. I am your classic “before” picture of every weight-loss story you’ve ever seen. My belly is big; I’m often mistaken for being pregnant. If I’m not “sucking it in” as I pass a mirror, I feel this pang of…

hate.

There’s no mistaking that feeling, that disdain for myself. I channel everyone’s disgust for me in these quick glimpses in the reflection from a window, or the side of a car.

Recently I was riding in the car with my husband, and I happened to see myself in the side-view mirror. I know this seems horrible, and ridiculous, but I had this fantasy right then of having a knife or something and just cutting my belly fat right off (I mean, I wouldn’t do it, but some fancy doctor would, and I’d wake up 2 days later with a flat stomach and a Gap credit card).

I’m uncomfortable all day long. I am always tugging at my shirt, to make sure it’s covering my post c-section plus extra weight belly flap, I’m always pulling my pants up to try to hold my belly fat in. I’m trying to sit up straight to look thinner, I’m putting up with being hot because I need that cardigan to cover myself up.

I stand in front of students all day long, and I am acutely aware that they can see me from all angles, and I’m so grateful they are little kids so hopefully they aren’t thinking about it (although, I did get asked why I only wear the same 3 pairs of paints this week, so…).

I’m uncomfortable and out of place in conversations at school about weight loss and about clothing. I wear plus-size clothes and so when people talk about shopping, all I can think of is that I don’t fit into anything there. During lunch when people bring up dieting, it’s all I can do to not stand up and walk out because I don’t want to talk about it while I’m eating.

The thing about it is, I have not been honest with myself and with other people about my weight and my weight issues. And I think, for me, it’s more than just portion size or calorie intake, or whatever.

When I was a small child, my parents fought. A lot. All the time. And when my sister left for the army and I was the only one that was there, I became pretty sad. I spent a lot of time at the library, and a lot of time in my room, with the door locked, listening to music. I developed anxiety about a lot of things. As an adult, I’ve been told that living with someone like my father initiates a constant “fight-or-flight” reaction and I’ve never really gotten over that.

When I was in 4th grade, I started wearing shirts over my swimsuit. In 8th grade, when I was chosen to be drum majorette, I can remember sobbing in a practice room in the band room because the only drum majorette skirt they had wouldn’t go around me no matter what I did. My grandma had to sew me a new one.

As a freshman I was chosen to be on a leadership team, and if I could have, I would have locked myself in a bathroom rather than do the stupid team-building activities where you have to give each other piggy back rides. I was so afraid no one could lift me.

And here’s what I told myself: you’re not a terrible eater. You aren’t the fattest person in the room. Don’t worry. It’ll be ok.

But, after 3 pregnancies, one that resulted in twins who died after birth, and a LOT of emotional eating, and 5 different kinds of anxiety medication (trying to find the right one) and hormone issues and a $1,000 worth of doctor visits that resulted in me GAINING 12 pounds in 6 weeks when I was supposed to be losing, I am at an impasse.

I’ve been here before, of course. I’ll decide: this is it. I’ve had it. I am NOT doing this anymore. I’m done. I’m getting healthy for ME. And it doesn’t last. It doesn’t work. I have no willpower, maybe. Or I’m “too busy.” Or whatever else it is that I tell myself, here is where I am at:

I don’t love myself enough.

There are lots of things I do love about myself, surely, but I do not love my body. I don’t love my face. And I have given it my best-I’ve told myself it’s no big deal. I should be happy the way I am. I have a husband that loves me. Like 40% of the world is overweight now; I fit right in.

But, somewhere in the back of my mind, there is this nagging that reminds me that I’m less than. I didn’t get the luck in the genes and metabolism department. I eat through my emotions. And now, on top of it all, all I can think about is the same thing happening to my own kids.

I worry about what and how we eat. I think about it WAY too much, but don’t DO anything about it. I can’t afford it, I don’t have time, they are picky and won’t eat the healthy stuff.

My worrying spikes my anxiety, and my anxiety makes me eat. I think, think, think about it but I never DO anything about it. I feel so lost and so clueless and it hurts.

So, here’s what I know:

  1. This is the one major thing in my life that I have not been able to overcome (yet) through strength and determination. I feel like a failure. It’s a constant, visible reminder that I lost the fight.
  2. Everything I’ve ever accomplished that matters, I’ve had to do it by setting many goals.

I don’t want you to worry-this blog will not become a blog chronicling my weight loss.  In fact, you probably won’t hear much about it again, unless I’m in the mood to talk about my shortcomings. And I swear to not post before and after pictures of myself should I actually happen to lose some of this weight.

But, here’s what I will ask of you, especially if you are my friend in real life:

*Please don’t invite me to dinner. Let’s go for a walk, or have coffee, or just browse at the bookstore. Let’s go to the movies and NOT get popcorn or candy.

*Please don’t comment on the nutritional value of what I eat in front of you.

*Please, if you can, stop mentioning how thin you are, or what size you wear. It messes me up in the head, yo. I start thinking about how much bigger I am than you.

*I’m asking you to understand that this is SO mental for me-it feels so much bigger than I am, and it’s scary. Because if I say I’m going to do it, I don’t want to flake out.

*If I see you at the Weight Watchers meetings I’m about to join, I’d kinda rather not talk to you. I wish there were a way I could make sure I could be anonymous or something. I know that sounds harsh, but my anxiety is already in overload.

*Please just love me, even if this all sounds stupid and made up or if you think I’m just lazy, which is why I’m fat.

Whew. Ok, it felt good to get that out there. What have you struggled with that you feel like you haven’t been able to beat?

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So. Much. More.

hugs

Sometimes, I feel like a broken record, especially when I talk about my profession. I feel like there are 2 camps out there, fans of teachers (usually people who have one in their family, or had one save their life) and people who think teachers are useless and make them pay too much in taxes.

During a school year, I would say I have at least 2 stretches of time where I sit at home at night and say to myself, “I really could be good at other jobs. I have to have some other qualities that would make me a good worker for someone else!” and I stare at Monster.com for a while, daydreaming about coming home at night with NO work and being able to leave work to go to a dentist appointment without a 20 step process.

I don’t want this to alarm you, I know some of you reading this are like, “Uh, that’s my child’s teacher, or could be, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want someone teaching who hates her job.” Rest assured, I do NOT hate my job, and I tell my students all.the.time that I have THE best job on the planet, no question. They know I love them.

But, still I come back to these moments where I think I just can’t do it anymore. This has to be the last year. I can’t watch 9-year-olds take so many hours of standardized tests. I can’t be a mom, social worker, and teacher all while trying to motivate kids to learn things they have no interest in, and still be standing when I get home. I can’t give more of my energy to my students than I do to my actual children.

And then.

Annnnnddddd then.

Friday happens.

I was on my out the front door of the school, my class trailing behind me lazily, and the second I stepped out, I saw one of my former students (a now 6th-grader, who has gone on to middle school this year) grinning at me.

His smile was SO big, and then he left his mom, ran straight to me, and gave me the BIGGEST, hardest hug. I laughed so hard because I felt like he was going to squeeze my guts out. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, for real, I should remember this when I start getting down on my job.”

A simple hug.

And then.

Annnnnddddd then.

I dropped my class off at the buses, fist-bumping them and reminding them to be safe, and headed back in the building.

I was just walking through the hallway, when one of my students from last year, still on their way out the door for the day, saw me and ran straight to me, and gave me a hug. Then 3 other kids from last year saw this and started piling in. Suddenly, I was laughing hysterically, with 8 5th graders all with their arms wrapped around me.

“We miss you, Mrs. W!” “Can we come back for the Harry Potter party?” “Mrs. W, I finished the whole series and I’m onto something new!”

And then.

Annnnnddddd then.

The kids let go, leaving to catch their buses, and around the corner came this boy, a student I had last year. He was one of those kids that I will never, ever in my life forget, for a lot of reasons that I shouldn’t post publicly on a blog. But, let’s just say that he didn’t even look at me for the entire 1st month of school last year. He wouldn’t look up. He had already been to several different schools by 4th grade. By spring, he would stay in for recess sometimes to talk to me about what he was reading, because it was a HUGE deal that he was reading. A breakthrough, you might say. He always could read, he’s an intelligent kiddo, but it was never on his list of priorities (he once told me he plays video games until he’s so dizzy he almost pukes).

Anyway, I conned him into starting to read a particular book series last year (lots of encouragement, and maybe even a bribe or two, lol!), and the week before he mentioned to me in the hall that he was almost done. So, back to the story. This boy, this kid who wouldn’t look at me, wouldn’t say hello, wouldn’t share at a morning meeting, wouldn’t tell me what he needed help with, he came around that corner and he walked right up to me and he gave me the BIGGEST hug and then said, “I finished the series. Next, I’m going to read Narnia.” Then he grinned at me, and ran down the hall to catch up with his class.

And THAT, my friends. That is it in a nutshell. THAT is why I have the greatest job on the entire planet and why although I swear somedays that  I would be so much happier working at Barnes and Noble, I will never do it. I went up to my room and I cried and I wrote this down because I don’t ever want to forget it.

Teachers, remember: we are here for a reason. And although no one is ever going to give us a raise or our prep time back or stop with all the data already, we are worth so much more.

So. Much. More

xo

The Benefit of the Doubt

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I have read so many articles and books about education during my career as a teacher. I have read them from the parent point of view, and from the educator point of view. I have seen what politicians think and I have seen what community members think.

I’m sure all of you out there know the usual things we talk about: teachers are overworked and underpaid, teachers are overpaid because they have the summers off, schools are failing, school lunches suck, the whole education system needs to be revamped, and probably hundreds more.

I love my job, you guys. I swear. 4th graders make me OVER THE MOON happy. They are so lovable, funny, creative, and kind-hearted—my days with them are so well spent. I love books, and writing, and solving math problems, and I love how I get to laugh and learn all day. Sure, kids are frustrating sometimes, and there are a LOT of things about education that anger me (*cough*standardized testing *cough*).

But, if there is one thing that will eventually drive me away from this career, it’s stress. And it’s not stress because I have NO TIME TO DO ALL THE THINGS (although that is definitely real). It’s emotional stress.

Being an educator is this weird mix of things. Ultimately, I’m responsible for delivering curriculum to students, and making sure they are proficient in certain main areas over the year. But really, in the end I also have actual human being children in my room that I have to keep safe both physically and emotionally.

I work in an elementary building where I have gotten to know the staff very well. I’m a people person, I like to get to know interesting things about people, I like to listen, I observe. I can tell you this, without a shadow of a doubt: EVERY staff member in this building cares IMMENSELY about the children in their classroom.

Teachers have strengths in weaknesses, just as there are in any profession. Some of us are better with behavior, some of us might be more organized or more creative, but we ALL are doing everything we can to make school a safe, enjoyable, fun place for kids.

My biggest stress, then?

It’s the fact that I am consistently and never-endingly questioned on my motives and decisions.

Not giving spelling tests this year? I get a scathing email from a parent demanding to know why. I don’t give as much homework as the year before. Scathing email sent directly to the principal wanting to know why I’m “allowed” to do that. Didn’t do the same activity as another 4th grade class at my school? Oh, man.

I am NOT saying parents should never question their child’s teacher. Educators improve on reflection and analysis of their methods. Perhaps I could demonstrate the difference:

Method 1:

Dear Mrs. W,

Hey, I noticed Jim hasn’t been bringing home spelling words this year. Will he be? Or is there another way you have been practicing spelling? Just want to make sure we’re not missing anything.

Thanks,

Jim’s mom

Method 2:

Explain to me why there are NO spelling words in 4th grade.

You have no idea how many emails and voicemails I’ve gotten similar to #2 above. I dream of writing, “Oh, I respond to people who are polite,” just like I would say to one of my students who was impolite to me.

I am a sensitive person, and so are many of our colleagues. Many of us are in the field of education because of those emotional, perceptive sides of ourselves. Those are great qualities when you work with children. We all want to make a difference. We don’t make decisions lightly. Also, a LOT of the things we do are not actually our choice. In my school district, for example, I have seriously little control over the curriculum between the common core and the series we are required to use.

I am human. I have 25 9 year-olds in my class. Some of those children are facing issues that are heart-breaking, soul-crushing problems I can’t even begin to understand. I have kids with IEPS, severe allergies, medication, anxiety, phobias..I can GUARANTEE you I am going to make mistakes. I will say things I shouldn’t, joke about something that makes someone sad, tell a funny story that will make someone scared, or give an explanation to a question that a parent disagrees with. I will lose my temper and scold someone for tapping their pencil 875,600 times in 30 minutes. I may “punish” (I use that term really lightly here) the wrong kid on accident.

But, what I need parents to understand is that I really, truly, honestly MEAN WELL. I strive EVERY SINGLE DAY to be the very best human being I can be. I love the students in my room. I know their hobbies, their fears, their sense of humor. And sometimes I fall short. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to degrade me, or speak to me condescendingly, or rudely.

I need the benefit of the doubt. 

Now, I realize that you are thinking, but, Christy, you’re saying everyone makes mistakes, maybe the parent is just angry and fires off the email before thinking. You should forgive them for that. Yes. Yes. I get that, totally. But, to me, this is a society-wide problem. We don’t think about our words. There is not enough thinking-before-we-write-that (or say that).

One bad communication with a parent will ruin my day. A parent who doesn’t even have a child in my class unfriended me from Facebook and I cried-this was months ago and it still bugs me because it feels so personal-like I did something, but I know I didn’t. I had literally no interaction with her except for likes on Facebook-not a word about her or around her, and so I felt like someone was lying about me. I know I’m overthinking this, by the way. I just hate being hated.

I’m not tough. I’ve tried to be, but it turns out my emotions are my strength, and I don’t want to lose that. I want everyone to be happy that I’m their child’s teacher. I wish I could get everyone to feel the family and community that I work SO HARD to building my classroom every year. This community is built first, that way we work hard together. We laugh a lot. I laugh at myself a lot. But …

I have feelings.

Lots of feelings.

That’s why I’m an educator.

I am asking parents to step up and try to forge an actual relationship with your child’s teacher. I’m asking for you to remember to ask questions first. Please, please remember that children are sometimes dishonest about what happens at school because they don’t want your disappointment or consequences. Seek answers before you blame. And if something is really wrong, and the teacher doesn’t handle it correctly, then by all means, you do what you have to do. Stay firm to your convictions and take action.

I am asking teachers to be honest, to respond favorably to parents, to admit when you are wrong, and to remember the children are what matters. Don’t judge parents for things you really don’t know about-you have no clue what goes on in their home.

Do this, though, without blame.

We are, after all, all in this together.

 

 

 

How to be a runner in only 20 easy steps

  1. The night before, set out all your gear.  Your gear makes you feel good.  Gear = street cred, yo.  You ARE a runner. Pictured: headlamp that makes you feel like a cave spelunker, very expensive wireless headphones that you thought would make your life so awesome, but really just make your ears sweat, polar watch that constantly beeps at you to tell you you’re not going QUITE fast enough to make your heart beat where you want it to, and reflective vest so as to not get run over.

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2.Get up at some ungodly hour. You know, one where you need reflective gear in order to not fall and break your face.  Look at yourself disapprovingly in the mirror because you seriously look like a dork.

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3. Get your shoes on. Realize you’re kinda glad it’s dark, because your pajamas are also ridiculous.  Maybe add normal looking exercise pants to my “To Buy” list.

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4. Get your podcast ready to go. Do I want a true crime one? No, because I’m running in the dark and that’s when people get kidnapped. Do I want This American Life? No. They always make me cry. Decide actually to listen to music today, Hamilton is where it’s at.

5. Step outside. Oh my gosh, I think. It is so BEAUTIFUL at 5:00 a.m. Here I am, out here alone, just me and my thoughts, and the open road. Why do I not do this every day?  Seriously? Everyone should do this. I am so smart to do this.

6. Begin by warming up. You have to get your legs ready, you know. I think…oh, a 5 minute warmup walk should take me to the top of that hill at the end of this road.

7. Ok, 6 minute warm up walk, just to get me around the corner. It makes more sense to start at an intersection, and I don’t think STARTING at the top of a hill is a great idea.

8. Allright, here we go. This is what its all about time to start running. Since I’m just a beginner again, I think I’ll run until that house with the little free library in front of it.

9. Actually, it might be more reasonable just to go to that first tree, and then I’ll take my walking break. I don’t want to hurt myself since I’m just starting.

10. Slow down to a walk once you reach the tree. Immediately pretend like you were just stopping to look at something and start running again, because you see “that guy.”  “That guy” is the guy who was just beginning to run 3 years ago, the first (or maybe second time) you were beginning to run. Look at him go now! If I wouldn’t have quit, I could be running like that. Dang, he got so skinny!  How nice for him. Man. I can’t let him see me walking. Pick it up, pick it up.

11. Ok, he’s around the corner. You can walk now.

12. Turn the corner, and immediately get splashed in the face by a sprinkler. Step in a puddle. Yell to yourself, “SERIOUSLY PEOPLE NOBODY NEEDS YOU TO WATER YOUR GRASS ANYMORE ITS PRACTICALLY WINTER AND ITS GONNA DIE ANYWAY AND NOW IM WET AND I HATE WET!”

13. Alright time to run. But, maybe I should wait until I dry off a little? I don’t want to slip. Well, I better run. I’ll stop at the Moore’s this time. Well, once I get past, so if they look out, they’ll see that I’m running and think, “Oh, wow, look how athletic Christy is.”

14. Stop before the Moore’s.  Tell yourself: They’re sleeping anyway. My heart’s at a good rate to stop, I think. Don’t want to overdo it. Plus I’m not exactly breathing right now.

15. Allright, walk a little bit. Oh my gosh. That house has SO many cupboards. What do they have that they need so many cupboards? I wonder if its illegal to glance into people’s houses as I run by. I’m really just looking at the cabinets. Well, and maybe to see if it’s messy. And I don’t look in houses of people I know. People should shut their blinds.

16. Christy. Time to run. You’ve got this. 10 seconds in, you eat a bug. How do I manage to eat a bug EVERY TIME? Spit all over the sidewalk. See someone walk by and pretending you’re coughing. Get going.

17. Run

18. This is really not my sport. I am mentally weak.

18. I probably should be doing yoga. Wait. That probably won’t work either.

19. Ok, I’m walking. You know what? Walking is better than not being out here at all!  It’s better than if I were asleep! I AM PROUD TO BE WALKING. WALKING WITH PRIDE OVER HERE. WATCH ME WALK WITH MY HEAD HELD HIGH.

20. Man, I am an awesome runner. Mission Accomplished.