Summer is different this year.

I assumed that summer would be different this year.

I’m having a difficult time putting it into words.  I’ve written and then immediately erased at least 5 sentences before writing that one.  It’s not that I don’t know what to say, it’s simply that I don’t know how to say it.  Or maybe, it’s just that I’m too scared to say it.

Scared seems to be an overarching theme these days.  I only have the kids 50% of the time during the summer and I thought, at first, I would relish the down time.  I’ll have time to read!  I’ll have time to go to the pool!  But instead I just seem to have a lot of time with my thoughts, which has never meant good things for me.  I spend my days overthinking, overanalyzing, and simply being on such a high level of alert and anxiety that my body seems to vibrate constantly.

I’m buying a car, which for someone who has always had money issues, is highly stressful.  Can I afford it?  Yes.  Do I need it?  Yes.  But I keep hesitating, picking a different car each day, simply so I don’t have to do this thing.  Then, I start thinking about what Mike will say if I get a new car.  The arguments form themselves in my head seamlessly and without help from me.  My rational mind says:

“Who cares what he thinks?”

“He has bought a ton of stuff for himself without consulting or caring what you think.”

“You are separated.  You need a car to get to work.  All that matters is what you think.  The end.”

But it never really is the end.  That damn subconscious comes around to rear her ugly head to remind me in no uncertain terms that she is really running the show and it’s stupid for me to think otherwise/

And yet, I am 37 years old and I know this is a problem. The amount I seems to care what other people think is astounding.  I have always tried to pride myself on the fact that it only matters what I think and feel, not others.  But here I am, with all this time on my hands, CONSTANTLY thinking about it.

I tell myself to write.  That this process will help me work out what’s in my mind.

*What if people don’t like what I’ve written.*

*What if they think what I have to say is stupid.*

*What’s the point of writing.  No one is even reading it.*

I tell myself to throw myself into my half marathon training and the gym.

*Why?  You’re just going to quit again like you always do.*

*Why do you even thinking you can do this when clearly you can’t.*

I tell myself to put down the screens and read, go outside, do anything.

*Right after one more scroll through facebook to see that my friends (and others) are having a way more fun and happy summer than I am having.*

I don’t even know how to write more to this post.

I know I need a break, but I am simply too scared to take it.  I know I know I need to find the person I lost over the past couple years, but I just don’t know what to do to find her again.

When I was little I used to run around and smash lightning bugs.  Cruel, I know (at least now I do), but when I did that I was never thinking about their death, only thinking about how they would make me sparkle.  How, for a brief time, I would shine.

I never imagined that I would have to find a way to make myself sparkle and glow without the help of the lightning bugs. That I would have to do it on my own.

When did I stop believing in myself?

I have no idea.  I just know that I have to find a way to begin again.

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Confidence and marriage and running.

We met in college.  We were in the same biology class and lab.  It was an 8 am class and I clearly wasn’t interested in impressing anybody since I showed up almost every day in my pajamas.  We became late partners (or rather a group of three) out of basic convenience…we sat near each other and it was easier than seeking out others.  I actually had a crush on the other guy in our group, but alas, he had a girlfriend.  We started studying together outside of class.  One thing led to another, and Poof!  Three years later we were married.  Now 13 years after that we are separated and headed towards divorce.

I was a mess when I was in college, even more so than I am now (for those who know me in “real life”).  I battled depression and manic episodes.  I was unhealthy.  I was “in love” with a boy from high school who was dating another girl.  I transferred schools every year or so and my debt was out of control (hi credit cards).  Because of all this, and I’m sure so much more,  I had the confidence of…well, I don’t know.  Let’s just say I had really low confidence.  And it took me a  long time (16 years to be exact) to realize this is the main contributor of me getting married and the age of 24 to my first “real” boyfriend.

In the beginning, I think I was just trying things out and having fun and then it became a dependency.  Here was a boy was was relatively normal and seemed to like me.  I’m lucky, I would think.  I don’t have to be alone anymore.  Did I love him?  I’m sure I did.  But I don’t think it was a life changing, earth shattering love.  And I know (especially now) that it wasn’t a love that could sustain a marriage.  I thought so little of my self and my self-worth that I  reveled in the attention. Someone likes me and I owe it to him to be with him.  It saddens me now thinking about how much my low self confidence contributed to this MAJOR aspect of my life.

There were times I felt that I should leave.  That I should break up with him because I knew I didn’t have what it takes to be his girlfriend and then his wife.  He deserved someone better, someone that was completely over the moon for him.  But instead I stayed.  I convinced myself I belonged there.  Someone loved me so much and I should stay with them because of this.  I worried I would hurt him and I didn’t want the guilt of hurting anyone.

In reality now, I realize I also stayed because I didn’t think anyone else would ever want me.  How horrible is that?  It took me a very long time to admit that to myself.

Our marriage was so tumultuous; up and down constantly that I couldn’t keep up.  I always wanted to leave, but never wanted to leave at the same time.  I didn’t want to be alone.  I didn’t want to have to start over.  I was safe here in this place.  Unhappy.  But safe.

I wish I knew what it was that finally made me realize it was OK to leave and that I deserved to be happy.  I know a small part of it was finding someone else who really did love me for me.  Another part was the kids and realizing that they shouldn’t be growing up in an unhappy home.

In all honesty, I think the biggest thing was that my confidence was improving and I know it had a lot to do with running.  Running made me happier and helped me become healthier, which of course led me to be more confident.  It was an outlet for my anger and frustration and gave me time to think and decide.

I loved myself during those times.

I haven’t run consistently since I began dating Joe.  I guess when I found another source of happiness running just fell to the side until it was almost non-existent.  While I am happier now than I have ever been, I miss the confidence.  I think that’s why I’m chasing running again after two years, and why I’m chasing this marathon.

I need to get that feeling back again…and I’ll make myself run until I do.

Shit’s about to get real.

*I’m writing this post for both of my blogs because it is equally pertinent to both.*

It’s gotten to that point again…the point I never thought I would be at again.  The weight is slowly creeping up and has been for the last few years, ever since Charlie was born.

It comes so slowly that you don’t even notice it.  A pound here, a pound there.  Then you realize that you are tired all the time and you just don’t have the energy to do much.  Just thinking about doing something *anything* makes you feel more tired.  You’ll do anything to NOT step on the scale (I just ate, I just showered, I’m wearing too many clothes it won’t be accurate), but when you finally do the number staring back at you takes your breath away.  And not in a good way.  Not in a John Cusack holding a boombox outside of your window way.  A sickening way.

Your clothes start to get tighter.  It must have shrunk in the dryer. Then there is no denying it.  They just don’t fit.  You need new ones.  You promise yourself you’ll just get one or two things until the weight comes off again and then you’ll reward yourself with brand new clothes to celebrate your hard work and perseverance.  Waking up is a drag because you have no idea what to wear.  Nothing really fits and nothing really looks good.  Every outfit becomes a best effort, one that your throw an over-sized cardigan over and hope for the best.

Things hurt.  Your body that you worked do hard to get healthy is now betraying you and groaning under the extra snacks and libations.  Your knees hurt.  Your hips hurt.  It is hard to get comfortable and sleep well at night.  You used to run miles after mile each week, now you loathe walking down the block when you don’t get a close parking spot.

You make promise after promise to yourself.  You will get healthier.  You will have energy again.  You will stop hurting.  You are two young to feel this way.  37 is too young to be falling apart.

But you’ll do it tomorrow.  It’s always tomorrow.  Because we always feel like we will have tomorrow.

I’m supposed to run the NYC marathon in 177 days.  Fate, destiny, a higher power, luck, whatever you want to call it, has landed me this opportunity and I told myself this is what I needed to get back again.  This would be my comeback.  I would DO THIS.

But I have 177 days until this marathon and I haven’t run in weeks.  And even though I used to run 10 miles at a time (albeit slow, but I did it), I know I can’t even run one anymore.

It breaks my heart.  More than leaving my husband.  More than my impending divorce.  More than anything, this is what breaks my heart.  That idea that I’m not who I used to be anymore.  The idea that I am not who I am SUPPOSED to be anymore.  The idea that I’m not who I was MEANT to be anymore.

It’s sobering and humiliating that I let it get this bad.  That I crashed to the bottom once again only to feel that there is no way up at all this time.  That I’ll tell myself I WILL get up and run tomorrow.  And I WILL be healthier and happier for it.

And I don’t.

I want to but I don’t do it.

Even though I know I need to.  I truly need to.  To save myself before I’m swallowed up whole again.

Half Life

“Please mom? Can we go the waterfall way?”  all three kids shout from the backseat in unison.

It’s just a dam.  And half the time it’s off and there’s no “waterfall” anyway.  But it means 20 extra minutes with the kids, singing the Despicable Me 3 soundtrack at the top of our lungs before dropping them off to their father.

So I always say yes.  Always.

This is the part of divorce that I wasn’t prepared for…the part where I see my kids less.  While I am a full time teacher, I am a mom first and foremost. I made breakfast each morning.  I packed the lunches, signed the permission slips, did the homework.  I made dinner each night.  I did the baths and showers and the bedtime routine and then also the house cleanup after bedtime routine before slumping exhaustedly and somewhat defeatedly into the couch for the rest of the evening.  365 days a year this is what I did.

It’s not the case anymore.  Two days a week I don’t see them at all.  I always feel like I’m going to be happy about having a break.  “Yay!  No kids tonight!  I can relax, or watch TV, or sleep in a little bit tomorrow morning!”  But that feeling lasts for about an hour and then I just want them with me.

It’s because of this whole half time phenomena that it took me so long to leave.  It was an unhappy and unhealthy marriage for far too long but I couldn’t not see my kids every day.  I assumed they would fall apart.  But in reality, I seem to do way more falling apart without them.  And no matter the sadness we feel at being apart sometimes, we are all happier.  All of us.

I think back on last year and get nauseous knowing how much I put them through when I couldn’t leave, but I couldn’t stay.  The shortness of breath.  The tightness in my chest.  They rush in when I think of last year, a panic attack on the brink every single time. It’s the year I would take back if I could ever take back anything.

But I can’t take it back.  It’s there.  It happened.  It changed us.  It scathed us.  It traumatized us.  But it also taught us.

It taught me it was ok to not see my littles every single day if that meant a better quality of life for all of us.  It taught me to leave the pile of legos for the night if that meant feeling like they were here when they weren’t.  It taught me to put down the phone and really be present in the moments because they were no longer unlimited.

And no matter how much longer it makes the drive, always say yes to waterfalls.

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Starting Over

Don’t call it a comeback…

I’ve started going to the gym before work again.  On Monday when my alarm went off I immediately turned it off, rolled over, and went right back to sleep…just as I had done the last two weeks.  But after 5 minutes of laying there I knew I had to get up and go.  And I actually did.  I was so proud of myself for getting up on Monday that I was able to easily rise out of bed today.  Fingers are crossed for tomorrow and the rest of the week.

I’d forgotten how much better I felt during the day when I worked out in the morning. I feel calmer (though it’s probably just that I’m tired) and more focused.  I’m able to tone my anxiety down quicker and compartmentalize better (This is a school worry.  You are home with the kids.  Stop thinking about this).  And this is just after 2 days.

But 2 days seems to be the most I can do these days.  Usually by day 3 I convince myself I need a “break” and the one morning off turns into a week or more.

It’s amazing how much easier it was to work out when I was unhappy.  When it was hard to be at home or spend time with Mike I would always find time to take a break at the gym.  When my dad died and I spiraled into my summer of self destruction, running was the thing that was able to pull my back to the surface long enough to take a breath.

But now, bed and home are my safety nets.  I like being here.  It’s cozy and warm and far away from the anxieties of a bad marriage and an overly stressful job.  It’s hard to get up and go.  It’s hard to leave the place where I feel the safest.

But I’ve done it twice this week.  I managed to get myself up and go, even when I did it alone.  So I can do it again, I know I can.

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The Scaries

I think maybe I’m having a mid life crisis.  I’m only 37, so I sincerely hope not.  Since I don’t really know when midlife is, maybe I’m just always in crisis.  That sounds a bit more like it.

Happiness in some life aspects seems to be taking its toll and I’m struggling lately.  While my “relationship” with my ex is always in turmoil, my other key relationships seem to be working rather nicely.  It took me a long time to actually feel confident in my life with Joe.  Seeing as both of us were with other people when we decided to be together, the constant wondering if he’d rather be back with her was always in my mind.  Now, not so much.  I’ve accepted the fact that he wants to be with me and with that acceptance it feels like a giant weight has been lifted.

Additionally, my relationships with my kids has never been better.  While I wish I could see them every day, I do get them for 5 days a week so I know I am lucky.  When they are with me there’s not a lot of emotional breakdowns.  There’s the age appropriate ones of course, but no more of the tantrums and fits where I would contemplate calling a priest for an exorcism.  Without all of the hostility and toxic air that Mike and I would spew around the house, they are thriving and I love having this daily reminder that I did the right thing even though it was incredibly hard.

But now, in the absence of these major life instances to worry about, I actually feel a loss.   One might think that now that I have these things worked out, it’s time to reflect on other items that may have been plaguing me but that I’ve brushed aside.  Yes, this is probably true, but I feel like it’s more than that.  It’s almost as if I’m scared of happiness.  That I look at myself being content and happy and immediately begin to wait for the other shoe to drop.  I begin to worry about not being worried about something so I find something to worry about (the ever present vicious cycle). I think that’s why lately I have been so focused and seemingly unhappy in my career.

For me, the Sunday scaries seem to be a thing of the past…because now they begin on Friday night.  I spend my entire weekend with the idea and unhappiness of going back to work on Monday looming in my mind.  AND. I. HATE. IT. I find new causes and excitements each day.  I get excited about buying in bulk and reducing my plastic usage.  I get excited about making muffins with a new recipe.  I even get excited about starting a new book.  But I can’t get excited about going to work.

Don’t get me wrong, when I get there it really isn’t that bad.  I love my students.  I love feeling like I’m making a difference, at least in the life of one child but ever since I switched schools my enthusiasm for teaching at all has gone lower and lower with each passing day.  Yes, I always felt stressed about teaching and my job…but in a way that everyone does.  This year is different.  I feel like an outsider in this school, locked away in my own little corner, almost as if no one expects me to stay so no one makes the effort.  Everything seems so competitive, almost as if you can only do well if you are doing better than someone else.  It’s completely exhausting.

At Collington I was never really a favorite.  I did my job and I did it well and for that I fell under the radar (not extremely motived to do everything in the school, but also not drowning).  I knew the families and they knew me.  And I had people.  There’s something about working in a school in an atmosphere like that one.  You need people.  You are not going to make it without people.  You band together because you know they get it.  I don’t have people at my new school and that makes it rather lonely.  That, topped with a complete lack of any praise EVER makes it a hard environment to work in day in a day out.

So I stress.  And I stew.  And I worry.  I deliberate.  I panic…literally.  And then I tell myself every single morning as I walk out that door that if it gets to be too much, I can quit.  Or I quietly remind myself that I only have a certain amount of days left of this year and next year is sure to be better.  And these two things seem to be all that is getting me through.

I don’t know why I allow myself to be consumed with the stress of this job ALL THE TIME.  I have to stop.  I spend roughly 7.5 hours there each day. That translates to 35.5 hours at work.  That’s it.  Barely a blip on the 168 hours that are in a week.  And yet I spend the rest of those hours worried about work!  And the saddest part of all?  I’m a 37 year old woman and I keep worrying about if I’m doing a good job.  That’s it. No one tells me I’m not.  But no one tells me I am.

This is ridiculous. I have to be more present in the moment with my kids.  I have to focus more on the good things than stress that is ever present.  I have to stop letting 35.5 hours dictate the rest of my time.

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On Teaching…sigh.

I’ve really struggled with writing this post.  There are so many things I want to say about this and I have no idea how to even organize my thoughts.

This year has been one of great turmoil for me.  I’ve done so many things that I thought I couldn’t do, from leaving a toxic marriage to cutting ties with toxic people.  I even changed schools, moving from the only public city school I’ve know to a new school on the other side of town.  While the other stuff has been hard, this may be the decision I struggled most with, and the one I am still the most unsure about.

I wanted to leave my old school because it was a hard environment to work in.  Cattiness among co-workers, kids running rampant in the hall, a lot of protocol but no actual plans, a lack of communication between everyone, and a severe lack of under-appreciation made for a very hostile work environment.  When I switched schools I thought things would be better.  I thought I would like my job more.  I thought I would find the love of teaching that I lost somewhere along the way.

I didn’t.

Instead I realized how broken the system really is, at least in Baltimore City Public Schools, and how tired I really am of it.  Of all of it.

Simply put, I don’t know if teaching is for me anymore. I’m 37 and I’m tired of feeling this way every single day. I’m tired of counting down the days and always living for Friday.  I’m tired of just making it through…or simply thinking “If I can just get through (this week, this day, testing, staff meeting, observation, etc.) everything will be ok.”

I’m tired of having people breathing down my throat when 5 year olds can’t read, telling me to take my planning time to give more intervention.  Give more repetition.  Give more homework.  Work harder. Drill…drill…drill.  THEY. ARE. FIVE.  Let them rest.  Let them play.  Give them the opportunities to learn, but let them find their own way.  Max left Kindergarten hardly reading anything and now in third grade he is on a fifth grade reading level.  And it has nothing to do with me.  At 5 he simply wasn’t ready.  At 6 he was.  And because I didn’t push him and didn’t freak out and because his teacher was awesome and did the same thing he loves school and he loves to read.  Yes, by all means, if students need services and testing please get them early on.  But sometimes kids just need TIME and that’s Ok.

I’m tired of all academics all the time.  In grad school we learn that kids need play.  Studies all over the world show us that kids need play.  Do we do it?  NO.  Do you know why kids don’t know how to play anymore?  Or why they don’t know how to talk to another student?  Or why the only way they know how to play is to fight?  Because we don’t get time to teach them otherwise.  We need to teach them how to socialize, solve problems, work out different situations, be a friend, play games, how to be kind and respectful to every, explore, pretend, etc. and in kindergarten these days we are so focused on academics that the important stuff like socialization and problem solving get pushed under the rug.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the contributors to rising school violence.

Do you want to know why kids these days don’t respect their teachers?  Because a lot of times, their parents don’t.  To parents I’m seen as a babysitter or a necessary evil.  I usually have great relationships with my parents, but I know I’ve had some that I’m sure think that I work for them. I’ve had parents bust into my classroom yelling at me, yelling at other students, disrupting the universe and then people wonder why the kid doesn’t listen to their teacher.  Out of the 7 teachers Max has had, I’ve liked two of them and “strongly disliked” the rest.  Could he tell you which ones I didn’t like?  No.  Did I always stick up for my kid?  Yes.  Was I ever disrespectful to one of his teachers? No.  And you know what?  He never has been either.

I’m tired of giant class sizes.  30 kindergarteners with one teacher is too many, and I’ve seen classes with so many more than that.  You want me to have everyone reading on grade level?  You want everyone proficient in math?  But you also want to give me so many kids that I don’t have time to effectively work with each student…so my scores go down, my raise goes down, my “effectiveness” goes down, and somehow it’s all my fault.  Doesn’t quite seem fair to me.

I’m tired of not having time for my own kids because I am too busy testing, grading, lesson planning, collecting data, filling out reports, filling out referrals, staying for meetings, joining committees, plus taking classes to stay certified as well as earn a raise.  Along with that I’m tired of having less money for my own family because I’m spending it on my classroom.  No one brought snack?  I’ll provide it.  No one brings schools supplies?  I’ll provide it.  I need a housekeeping and blocks center, but there’s no toys and equipment.  I need cords to run the smart board, but there are no extras in the building.  My poor kids are constantly looking for toys I’ve taken into the classroom simply because I couldn’t afford to run out and buy another thing.

Lastly, but mostly, I’m tired of feeling completely unappreciated.  Administration…I’m coming for you.  For the love of God…say THANK YOU.  Tell me I’m doing a good job.  Find one good thing to say about me and my classroom.  And say it to ME!  I’m not expecting this every single day, but every once in a while can’t hurt.  Oh…so you don’t think I’m doing a good job?  Tell me constructively and help me make it better.  The same way I am supposed to do these things with my students.

I love my students, each and every year, even the tough ones (sometimes they are actually my favorite ones), but I’m so tired of faking enthusiasm every single day.  I read a post somewhere the other day that said “Kids deserve an excited adult”.  Maybe they do, but I don’t think that’s me anymore.  I’m doing this because I’m good at it, I have great benefits, and my pay really isn’t that bad.  But my drive is gone.  My optimism is gone.  My excitement is gone.

But in all seriousness I don’t know what else I’d do.  I just wish I had time to be able to figure it out.

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