Saturday, 12 May 2012

Refocusing with less violins to distract

I dread the possibility of becoming a negative person.  And yet, the events over the last few days, the last week, have drawn me down, so that all I can see is down low.

These events aren't so important, really.  Things I thought I cared about going away.  Things I did actually care about. When I try to put into perspective (I have my health, Pip is doing okay, kicking along, I have my partner, I have a job, etc.), it doesn't take. It's more like a distraction, and then I will go on and do other things, but before I know it my mind wanders back and my heart is breaking again.

I guess that there are fundamental questions I need to ask myself.  For instance, how committed am I to working at a job that I treat in a sincere manner?  I have always been a person that has given 100% in her work, even when that work was menial.  My work now is not menial in that I am doing something that others would class as needing skills and garnering some respect, some status, but actually day after day, year and year, it has become menial.  The kids I work with can give respect and sometimes do, but there is also a "substitute teacher" vein in the larger culture that eventually gets to them.  I thought I had overcome it, with my commitment to my own dignity and the dignity of others, but I was reminded the other day that I am "only" this role.  A massive part that I had stepped forward to add on, that gave me a lot of meaning and that required a lot of my attention and effort was taken from me and given to someone of the appropriate status.  On one level, I know it is for the best.  The person who will receive this responsibility, when the time comes to transition, is a good person, with good intentions. He will do a fine job, and perhaps, although we cannot know the future, this will be the best thing for the kids, which is the most important thing.

But I am shocked at the seismic proportion of heartache I feel.  I feel like I am staring down the barrel of daily work that is sustainable in that it will continue and perhaps it will be better for me, me as a Mom, Pip, my family.  It just all feels so patronising and devoid of the sort of meaning that I gave it.  It was like when I managed a gas station back in the US.  I had a bit of a tendency to look after the homeless people that would come in and by their things there.  They were people I knew by name and when they disappeared for a while, I would ask after them.

Was I their "social worker"?  No, I do not have that qualification.  I was a person who cared, who was good at caring.

I gotta remember that it will be ok.  That this sadness, though unimaginable to others in a similar position and role, who have this responsibility like a yoke around their necks, not wanting it, in a larger culture that seems to take pride in not feeling, is ok for me to feel.

I just don't want to cry at work.  Please, universe, don't let me cry at work.

So, I am feeling less the negative person now, and just a bit miserable.  See, this too shall pass, is

Pema talks about how many people pride themselves on not letting their hearts be touched.  That they gird themselves against pain and anything getting inside and see this as a triumph when really, letting ourselves feel it, however horrible the "it" is, means we ultimately grow and move and get on.  This is the victory.

And I try to consider that just having a job, an in-and-out, don't suck up your life sort of task that pays the bills is ultimately a good thing. I never wanted to be a teacher.  It was looming up on the horizon as the other options fell away.  I didn't want to be that kind of teacher, the kind that didn't know what else to do, so they did this thing, this teaching thing, that actually requires much more of a person than that.  If they want to be a good teacher, the kind that makes a difference in young peoples' lives. So, why was I trying so hard to devote my life to this school in this way?

Bless Rob Breszny's Free Will Astrology.  My horoscope this week was a meditation on refocusing: "It's possible, my dear, that your tendency to overdramatize is causing you to lose focus. Let's trim the 90 violins down to ten and see if maybe that helps." Refocus.  Remember. This was a job for now, until the thing that you really want to do that you can't quite yet.  The thing where you will make the difference (and incidentally garner more for you in terms of status and in cultivating skill, a role that can't look menial, not even on Tuesdays.) 

Or write.  Continue to write.  Lay down the lines and then the next lines. Tell stories.  Some true and some made up.

There are so many things I would rather be doing.  This is the thing for now.  The job.  It's only a job.  I will find the middle path.  The meaning and the meaninglessness.  I will let go and hold dear.  

If I spent my life working in a school, I would consider it wasted.  I don't even really believe in institutionalised education.  Not at least how it is practised where students emerge mostly with an apathetic view of bureaucracy. Imagination is too important.  Freedom of self is too important. 

Remember this.  These kids will thank you for remembering this. Your kid will thank you for remembering this.  Your inner kid thanks you for remembering this.  

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Baby Brain: Peoples' Evidence A

***Below is a reply to a friend's e-mail. She wrote from Ireland sending lovingly unsolicited advice.  Good advice.  And I went off one a bit.  Such is my lovely baby brain right now. I am quite enjoying it, but I wonder if anyone else is being driven slightly bonkers.  Well, sod 'em. Tangents are my lovely little islands of consciousness and I have a feeling that the in-between parts that I have only a passing awareness are now missing weren't really that important for the task at hand anyway.***


Thank you so much.  I would class that all as intriguing advice, excellent leads from someone I really respect, and I really appreciate you taking the time to write it up and send it.  Do you mind me discussing a bit with you? If you do, skip to the bottom of this letter, and don't worry about it a bit.

As far as the advice: actually, one of the things I am doing is having a baby shower.  How typically North American, right?  But I like rites and rituals, so I am trying to make sure that there are as few nappy sculptures as possible and as much of lovely women space as possible. But one thing I wanted to do was ask everyone to bring a bit of advice or insight to pass along. I did this same ritual when T & I got married and the book that resulted has made the loveliest little memento and many things I don't need to consult the book for because they are firmly stuck in my head (like my friend Lydia [aged 8] who said "be fancy for each other" i.e. get out of the sweatpants every once in a while or my friend Mary who had been married and divorced three times who said: "You know, I am not that good at being married, but all I can say is, don't drag out the d word unless you really mean it." Golden stuff.)

Anyway-- (at least you wrote a lot about germane things!) I may--with your permission-- print out your note and put it in whatever the birthing equivalent book is. If you lived on this island instead of the next one over (and oh yeah, not a newly two-kidded mum), I would hope you'd be part of this day too.

Onto the advice. I have a good friend back in Oregon who is a hypnobirthing teacher.  If I was there, I would have signed up for her course. I am of two minds about it here.  First, it's pricey.  That puts Tony right off it and I need him participating. And I am wary that Londoners like charging too much for stuff in moments.  I will check out your friend, but the second thing that creeps onto my radar about it is in regards to instinct.  I have loved that part of being pregnant.  I feel like I am connecting to something really ancient and instinctual becoming a mother and being pregnant.  My inner voice that I have been trying to encourage and cultivate for years is louder and more sure of itself than... well, ever.  I don't know if I want to introduce a way of doing things, a philosophy. I don't know how much I feel like I need it.  That may sound ridiculously arrogant and naive.  It probably is to some extent.  But through my meditation practice as well that has been something I have worked with for years, I have been able to really practise observing pain and discomfort.  Even when quite intense.  Am I being really silly?

At the same time, I've never heard of the Ina May's Guide to Birthing, but I just reserved it from my local library, even though they are offensively disorganised.  (Sorry, their website makes me miss my old library so so much. And angry apparently.)  I can't believe I haven't heard of her as I have several friends that are midwives including my Mom's friend who delivered me. So thanks for compensating for this glaring discrepancy.

I will take my time to check out the other suggestions.  And stop writing for now.

But I wish you and M and S such enjoyment during this really special time. I am the eldest and I remember my sister's birth at our house, even though I wasn't even two.  It was an exciting night.  And then I had a little sister.  May you enjoy it and feel very loved and supported.


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Hungry for Stories

I realise increasingly that I am constantly hungry for stories.

I read PostSecret religiously.  The fact that I made it to Wednesday this week before reading Sunday's secrets only indicates my baby brain has truly taken hold.  I haven't done that unless I have been truly out of e-contact... for like years.

I used to read the wedding announcements on the New York times website every Sunday before I got utterly sick of the classist perfectionism.  The snobbish money-ism. Did that increase recently or did I change? It used to be that my favourite stories were the improbable ones.  Not "she went to Harvard as did he where they met doing their PhDs in MBA blah blah", which seemed rarer, and you just know that these poor souls are striving for someone else's narrative, and measuring themselves in finite units.  I preferred the ones where he was her divorce lawyer as she tried to extricate herself from a difficult marriage.  (Actually, come to think of it, that was my great-grandparents.  Good story, but moving on.) But the ones where they were sweethearts in the forties, but fell out, but always missed each other, went on to marry other people, have a bunch of kids and really decent lives.  But when they saw each other the buffet sneeze guard, it was as if not a moment had passed...

I think that is another reason FaceBook and Pinterest are inextricable for me. Although to a lesser extent. And that's ok. Music with stories, with scenes, with original sentiments.  Cary Tennis. Pamela Stephens Connoly in the Guardian.  Heck, the whole family section of the Guardian.  Also religiously, but on Saturdays.

And I think this is a good indicator that my life's work really is to be some sort of a therapist or counsellor. I don't want to share the secrets and stories.  I just want to know that the boundaries of what people are capable of are ever-expanding with every glimpse into a story I hear.  That peoples' humanity can always surprise and impress me. That the longer I carry on in this lifetime, the less I will believe those people who set up short barriers and close-in boundaries as fact and then ask me to commiserate: "you know how it is".  Men are like this.  Kids are like that.  Work is like you-know-what.

No, actually, I really don't.  Tell me why you think that.  That is more insightful for me. 'Cause the one thing I know is asking why is one of the most natural impulses I have and it's always been that way. And you containing your life means something for you. Those are stories too.  Because it takes audacity to tell one's own story outright.  That's why PostSecret is so radical and safe.

And that's why I yearn to hear what people say behind those safe doors, with permission, in the somewhat privileged place of listener, confidant, guide, questioner. I am grateful that I know that, however "late" (to some peoples' minds) and however far off it is still will be. In the meantime, I have ye olde internet, depository for the human condition.

With a different perspective, all the time aspects of the scenario, of whatever scenario, are perfect.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Pregnancy is (7 months, one week, 2 days... approximately)

Pregnancy for me right now is wearing an apron to make even the simplest dish (avocado toast) even just for me... because I will spill on my belly.

It's being mystified and surprised by my energy levels.  One day, I can only drag myself through the simplest yoga class.  The next day, I am crushing my opponents (or so I imagine) swimming lengths in the community pool. (Ha HA, goes the inner dialogue.  Take THAT, beginner.  Slowpoke.  Watch out for me and my Pip!)

Pregnancy is, when totally sick and exhausted from said yoga class, swinging around, back and forth, back and forth, like I learned a baby likes in my antenatal pregnancy class and seeing... no, glimpsing my toes. (I thought I still had sparkly purple nail polish on.) Hi, toesies! Practicing peekaboo.  With my feet.

Pregnancy is being grateful a lot for how people help me out, even if I don't always really need it.  For the students, who have suddenly sprouted ancient manners way beyond their years, awkwardly trying on chivalry.  It's sweet and entertaining if nothing else.

Pregnancy is insisting that no, I can still carry very little things.  Being lovingly tricked out of carrying out the rubbish by my partner and walking as far as I'd like, thank you very much.

Pregnancy is something I already feel is escaping away from me in the finite way that temporary states do. Seven months already. And knowing that I want to only do this once makes it sweet and sad.  Very, very special.

Pregnancy is forgetting to wash certain parts of me because they are hidden other, or rather, on the other side of certain other parts of me.  I almost have to have a check-list in my head.

Pregnancy is re-launching this blog although I long for a more apt moniker.  Why?  It is silly, but it is me.  From childhood, across the ocean and a few trips here, there and back to another childhood.  One that I am growing with my greatest, best intentions.  Getting this thing reloaded now has the feel of preparing the bottle for a message to be sent out.  There may be times when, at home with Pip, on my own or overwhelmed, I may need to cast it out there and see if anyone is around.  Though the ocean seems a more friendly conduit than the internet.  More comprehensible.

And pregnancy means that I am in training, multi-tasking and super-efficiency training.  I know that I will have to get smarter about how I do things with the arrival of this baby.  The mommy olympics.  London 2012.


Pregnancy means pregnancy brain, which means I get my jokes at least. The pressure to be intelligent is officially a lost cause, and therefore, off.

Monday, 11 July 2011

(a misery post)


Mondays blow so hard... working in schools (and it's not just the dismal, barely-keep-you-fed-pay, although I pride myself on not caring about such trivialities... I find that I am starting to resent people who make more than me with equal or less work, which is most people because I work a lot and don't make much. Do people decide to make more or do they just care about it and prioritise money more?).

How can this be the reality that anyone is expected to endure? It wasn't even that bad. It just feels like it will be this way always: too much to do, not enough time to do it, feeling not enough for not doing it.

And my sense of gratitude feels long gone. My sense of joy in life with. Talking about it doesn't seem to be helping. In fact, it is one of those rare cases where talking about is just spreading it around outside myself.

Tomorrow could be totally different.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

I'm cured!

I won't actually say this out loud because it seems to be that this may be overly-presumptuous and the heavy hand of fate (or fist rather) will flatten me, but after nearly a week of feeling ill and under the weather (and the weather in London this week has been dreadful so that says a lot), I am feeling better.

And it is through just a little practice of ye olde yoga... and least it seems to be. Yes, hippies, we have yet another victory over the people firmly steeped in the mainstream. Those taking pills and tablets and addictive syrups. (My righteousness is cut short, as usual, by the headache that was still dogging me nearly the entire day and the whiff of ibuprofen that took care of that.) My chi is restored. Being in touch with the "subtle energies" creates an authority to say that it was because of the yoga I practised before dinner. A self-fulfilling hippy science. Not unlike the more conventional schools of science.

But this is the first evening in well over a week where, come evening, my limbs are not freezing and my finger and toenails are not purple, where my nausea hasn't crept in post-meal to help me remember (in an almost itemised, uncomfortably visceral fashion) what I just ate and where my energy is merely a figment of my memory. Yes, a few sun salutations (despite the soggy lack of sustainable sunshine) has put paid to my flu.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

On the couch

Normally this would mean something different for me, but this week, it is more literal.

I have apparently contracted a stomach bug and have been, therefore, banned from going to work, since I work in a school. Although I often joke that it is a "germ-redistribution centre", I don't think they want that to be its official purpose, so one day off (Tuesday) to recover from dizzy, flu symptoms has now become four days off.

I am a bit sad.

I like work. And not only do I like work, but I like to be a "good" worker. This probably stems from some version of the "nice girl syndrome" whereby little girls want to grow up to be "nice and pretty" or something similar. Here I am a grown woman, who truly believes that if someone is ill, they should keep themselves home, take care of themselves and keep their mangy plagues to themselves. I too have read the shocking statistics about "presenteeism", worse in the States than here in the UK, I suspect, what with everyone actually having medical care and all, but there is still guilt that niggles.

But this is no drippy nose. And I cover a lot of food technology lessons. The mind boggles at the potential for an unwitting carrier to spread the virus (I am assuming it's a virus) I apparently am currently carrying. I feel like I might say to my kids next week: look kids! I stayed home! I didn't come and cook pizza with you even though it was going to be fun!

And by stressing about missing work, I will only make myself more miserable. I didn't even make this choice after all. I have to see this as a considerate thing I am doing for others, so they do not get sick. I am walking the walking. Or lying on the couch. Whatever.