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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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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Drowning on Dry Land

It’s 8:37 and I’ve officially sat down for the first time today (if you don’t count the commute to and from work, which I don’t).  After leaving the house at 7:00 am and returning home at 4:30 I proceeded to all the mom things I do every day: make dinner, pack lunches, play, read, check folders, baths and showers, bed time, etc. etc. etc.

And now, at 8:37, after working a full day with East Baltimore 3rd graders, and coming home to my second (and most important full time job), I’m finally sitting down.

What am I doing, you ask?  Surely, I must be watching TV.  Or cuddled up with my favorite book.  Or simply going to bed early because I’m so freaking tired.

No.  Not any of those.

I’m working again.  Back to job number one.  Though I’m now in my pajamas, sitting on the couch, the work is still piling up.

Tonight’s agenda:

  • grading 60 math packets,
  • inputting the grades of 60 math packets (10 worksheets x 60 kids = 600 grades)
  • writing a letter to parents about our Fall Festival
  • creating a team meeting agenda
  • creating this week’s math quiz (which will later need to be graded)
  • creating a new seating chart because the green and red groups cannot seem to stop talking.  EVER.

And so on and so on and so on. And that’s just one day.  There will be a different agenda tomorrow.

I’m tired.  And beat.  And literally over it.  No matter how much work I do during the day, I’m never done.  I never get the glimpse of being caught up.  And it’s not the stupid stuff like bulletin boards and birthday charts.  Yes, those things matter, but only to a small extent.  The stuff I’m talking about are the non-negotiables: things that are expected of me in this line of work and I have no choice if I complete them or not.

This is my 7th year.  You’d think my now I would have figured out the trick.  I’m tenured.  And seasoned.  And experienced.  But I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.  I still haven’t learned how to get everything done.  I still haven’t figured out how to NOT spend a million dollars a year on classroom supplies.  I still haven’t figured out how to actually ENJOY my job on a daily basis.  Smile…yes.  Be present…yes.  Enjoy…no.

Maybe one day soon I’ll figure it out.  Maybe this is the year I learn how to stay afloat.

And as I reach down to pick up the first piece of grading, Charlie wakes up and beings throwing things out of her crib and talking loudly.

It’s going to be a long night.

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We’ll all float on Ok.

I don’t seem to know who I am anymore.

Not so long ago I felt like I had it all figured out.  I’m a mom.  I’m a runner.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a friend.  Things were going well.  I had a wonderful new daughter, two amazing boys, and a fantastic support system of friends and family.  I literally had no complaints and was perfectly content any happy.

And then I broke…again.

This wasn’t like the first time I felt that I had broke, when my dad had died.  When that happened I feel apart all at once so it was almost easier to out myself back together.  The pieces were right there and easier to find, not scattered over space and time.

I wish I could say I knew the exact moment that it happened, but really it was a series of events that started small, each one separately almost microscopic in size, but together crumbled my world into a million pieces.

I cut back on my running and dropped out of the NYC marathon.

An old friend came back into my life just when I thought I was finally over our past.

I lost a person in my life who I thought was a good friend.

The separation began…and ended…and began…and changed so much that I don’t even know where we are at this point.

Most recently I’ve done things I probably shouldn’t have.  I’ve eaten things I probably shouldn’t have.  I’ve stopped running altogether.  With each passing day, the numbers on the scale keep inching closer to where I said I never wanted to be again.  And the worst part of it all is that I just don’t seem to care.  Not about being a bad person, or losing certain people from my life, or even losing everything I worked for.  None of it.

I feel like I’m on the roundabout on the playground spinning more and more out of control each day.  The sad part is that I know I’m the one that’s pushing it to go faster and faster.  I am in complete and utter control of this and I can’t seem to jump off and just stop. Because I know that when I do I’m going to break even more from the impact.  I know that I’m really going to have to work to find all the pieces and put myself back together again.  Not only in the “now” but in the past too.  The task seems daunting and so impossible that 99% of the time I don’t even have the desire to try.

But then, out of the blue, today happened.  The 1%.  The one glimmer of hope I had been hoping for.

We’re driving to the park and the library and all three kids are squeezed into the back seat.  Charlotte is singing along to Modest Mouse playing in the background while Oliver and Max argued about how many sheep are in an adjoining field.  The sun was shining in the blue sky as wispy clouds float by, my hand out the window rising and falling in the warm air.  I finally felt it.  What I had been longing to feel for so long lately.  A sense of peace and contentment.   A sense of placement.

This is where I was supposed to be.  Maybe not forever, but at least for right now.

And with that tiny feeling of hope, I know that pretty soon I’ll have enough courage to make the leap off the roundabout.  And maybe, just maybe, my feet will actually hit the ground and I’ll be able to pick myself up and begin to collect all the pieces.

Until we meet again…

“You shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. Every so often, everyone needs to give themselves a big ol’ bear hug and treat themselves to some TLC.” ~Sean Covey

I feel like this every year, at least once, but especially around this time.  The crushing feeling of being overwhelmed by the shear force of life.  I’d like to think that it’s simply because of crunch time at work.  I’d like to think it’s just because of the amount of money needed to sustain a family through the holidays.  I’d like to think it’s the looming deadline of baby 3 approaching quicker than I can prepare.  I’d like to think that it’s the idea of endings and beginnings coming in a few short weeks.

I’d like to think it’s just one of these things.  But in reality it’s all of them…happening at the exact same time.

I tend to have problems feeling overwhelmed.  I can’t even go to places like Target during busy times because I immediately just want to shut down and get completely exhausted at the thought.  I wish I handled stress better.  I wish in the almost 34 years I have been alive, I would understand what to do in these situations, before they even get overwhelming.

I feel like I’ve lost my way.  I’ve been yelling way too much, trying to escape way too much, instead of getting to the root of why I feel this way and actually doing something about it.   I haven’t been that nice to my family. I’ve haven’t been that nice to my friends.  I haven’t been that nice to myself.  I simply haven’t been the person that I want to be, the person I know I can be.

I’m caught up, once again, with the feelings of inadequacy, longing, and simply “keeping up” with those around me instead of living my life in the simple way, with the simple moments that I crave so much.

It’s time to take a break, from all the competition, the Facebook syndromes, the constant need to be the best.  It’s time to refocus on the important things.  As I tell my students, I need to “worry about me” instead of constantly worrying about what is going on around me.

I need to stop thinking that if I’m not constantly “connected” that I am going to miss something important.  It’s because I’m so overly connected that I actually AM missing the important things that are going on all around me.

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