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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Grief…It’s a Sneaky Little Bastard

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About four weeks ago, the man I had been dating and I decided to stop seeing one another.  Not necessarily because we wanted to, but because it was what we felt we had to do.  We had been together six months, and because of forces outside of our control, it became too, well – complicated.  So, in order to protect everyone’s sanity, we parted.  Amicably, but still – we ended what we had and have moved on to another phase in our lives.  Not exactly the outcome we expected.

The relationship feels as if it hadn’t truly run its course.  Like Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, an abrupt ending to something lovely.

It is sad.  And I grieve.  Not all the time.  Not everyday.  But, that grief – it’s a sneaky little bastard.  Just when you think you have it under control – it comes and smacks you in the head.

Put the event that caused the grief in perspective.  Lost a pencil?  Don’t let it get to you!  Is it a GOLDEN pencil?  No?  Get over it!  There are more where it came from.  Take a breath.

Acknowledge the event that caused the grief.  When we have experienced a loss, we want to do anything possible to NOT think about it.  We avoid everything that might have us think about the event.  Because grief HURTS and we are hard-wired to flee from pain – physical and emotional pain.  But, by avoiding it, we never truly deal with the pain, we’ve just bottled it up – and that sneaky bastard grief can come back and slap you in the head again.

When the grief returns, feel it – then release it.  Let the grief wash over you.  Feel the pain.  Analyze what caused the flood of emotion.  Then, breathe and release it.  Release it into the  world, into the heavens, to a higher power – whatever.  Just let it go.  Give yourself the permission to feel it, then let it go.

Don’t feel guilty about releasing it.   When we experience a loss, without realizing we are even doing it, we set a “deadline” for how long we will grieve.  Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves and set a deadline WAY far away.  Then, when we start to feel better, when the grief is no longer palpable and we stop thinking about it EVERY WAKING HOUR – we feel guilty.  Guilty for not feeling the pain.  We say, “Wait a minute!  It’s only been fill in the blank number for your time!  I should still be feeling pain!”  And we begin obsessively telling ourselves over and over again to remember you are grieving.  I experienced this when my grandfather died.  I was devastated.  For several years on the anniversary of his death, I would spend the day reminding myself.  Then one year – I forgot.  Two days later, it occurred to me and I was filled with so much GUILT.  I cried for three days. I had released the grief, without even realizing it, and then punished myself for having done so.

I can’t change the fact that my relationship ended.  That is a reality.  I can’t stop the pain from coming.  But, I am going to acknowledge it – then I am going to release it.  And then realize that everything is going to be ok.

And keep that sneaky bastard – debilitating grief – from slapping me in the head.


Being Schooled by My Child

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Several friends have commented that my posts have all been terribly deep.  Well, sometimes that happens.  Particularly when my mind is particularly swirly.  So – tonight I write about something a tad bit lighter.

Monkey #3 – the girl child – is a fascinating creature.  She has SUCH a dominant personality.  She doesn’t ask…she DEMANDS.  When she doesn’t get her way, or when asked to do something she deems beneath her – beware of the wrath.  The world is her stage and we were only put here to bask in her glory.

However, she is also one of the kindest, friendliest, most compassionate people I have ever met.   I could learn much from her.

Lesson 1.  Consider everyone your friend.  Whenever The Girl Monkey tells a story about someone she knows, she always begins with “My friend, (fill in the blank), in my (class, ballet class, club, etc).  It’s not “this girl” or “someone.”  It’s always “my friend.”  I am incredibly jealous of this ability.  I am an extroverted introvert.  I am quite shy – until I get to know you.  And if I am in a situation where I don’t know anyone, I try to just melt into the background.  I have never been able to just walk into a new environment and become friends with everyone in the room.  Because of this, there are many people I know that don’t really know me – the real me.  The Girl Child, always lays it right out on the table.  “This is who I am!  Come be my friend!”

2.  Spread the joy that is you to everyone you meet.  One of my mentorees at school (I’ll call her My Part Monkey – or MPM) is in the hospital.  Her appendix ruptured.  Quite scary.  My Part Monkey doesn’t come from what anyone would consider a prosperous family.  Frequently they are without a utility – or food.  I have gone to visit her a couple of times this week to give her some loves.  Last night at tuck-in-time, The Girl Child stated that she wanted to visit MPM in the hospital.  Today, she accompanied me, bringing with her a coloring book she hadn’t used and a book that she had finished reading.  Bravely, she walked the halls of the children’s hospital, not at all scared of the very sick children around her.  When MPM saw The Girl Child, her face lit up.  Sure she was happy to see ME – but The Girl Child was the first kid – other than family – that had come to visit.

We didn’t stay long.  MPM was tired, and The Girl Child had to get to ballet rehearsal.  But, as we were preparing to leave, The Girl Child announced that she wanted to come back tomorrow.  And this time stay longer.

When asked why she wanted to go back, she simply replied, “Because she is my friend.”

And that’s what friends do…


There are times when The Girl Child tries my patience.

There are times when I am tempted to put The Girl Child outside to be raised by wolves.

There are times when I want to call my mother and apologize for everything I did as a girl – usually as The Girl Child is loudly expressing her displeasure at a request made to her.

Then, there are times when I look at The Girl Child and think, how I wish I was more like her.

Then again, maybe one of her in the world is plenty.

Change. It’s a four letter word. (Don’t question me on my math!)

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In this, my 15th year of teaching, I have a particularly challenging class.  Oh, yeah, they are sweet enough.  No one is violent or overtly disrespectful.  Academically they are ok.  They are just particularly talkative and active.  Of course, it doesn’t help that there are 32 of them.  Seriously outnumbered!  But, really – it’s only 2 more than last year.  And I’ve had talkative classes before.  So, why is this year so different?

Today, as I was going to pick up my class from lunch, I muttered, “Ugh.  I really don’t want to go pick them up.”  A friend of mine was in the breakroom and she said, “You’ve had a hard time shaking that this year.  Maybe it’s time for something new.”

My first thought was, “Huh, you may be right.  I mean this has been a good run.  Maybe it is time.”

And then the panic set in.

My brain started screaming, “NNNNNOOOOOOOO!!!!  You can’t find something else!  You have kids!  They need insurance and braces and music lessons and ballet lessons and a HOUSE TO LIVE IN and food and and and and and!!!!  Besides, what on Earth would you do?”

I had the same feelings in the last few years of my marriage.  Even when we knew it really was over, we didn’t want to pull the plug, because of the fear of relearning how to live or lives.

Change.  It’s a freakin’ four letter word.

Nothing can strike fear in our hearts faster than the word CHANGE.  As humans, we are creatures of habit.  Routine makes us feel comfort.  With routine comes complacency.  And ultimately, even though we know we aren’t happy in this existence, we are TERRIFIED to try anything else.  Because it is DIFFERENT!!!  And that is SCARY!!!!

But, in order to grow we have to change.  We have to try new things.  And yes, they can be hard.  But without change we stagnate.

One of my favorite musicals is Wicked.  At the end of the first act, right before intermission, is this wonderful scene where Elphaba literally learns to fly and breaks free of expectations – and sings the gorgeous “Defying Gravity.”  It is a powerful moment.  The lyrics are moving.  She is learning to shake off her doubt and FLY!  In it she sings, “It’s too late for second guessing, too late to go back to sleep.  It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap.”  And then she, well, FLIES into her uncertain future.

Gutsy move.  How easy it would be to just climb off the broom and say, “Hey, life isn’t all that bad!  I’m sure I can get used to it.  Yes, I know a part of me is dying – but, it will be alright.  Really.  I’ll be fine.”

Fear of change can be paralyzing.  Fear of “what if” can root us into place.  We manage to second guess ourselves without even seeing what will happen.  It is a hell of a lot easier to say, “Sure, I hate this, but better to hate what I know than to fail at the next thing!”

I can imagine it is a whole lot like bungee jumping (which, by the way, I have never done – because I am terrified of falling).  You stand there, on the edge, strapped in, ready to go, the countdown begins, and you…hesitate.  What if the cord doesn’t catch?!?  What if I plunge to my death?!?  What if the bungee snaps me back into the bridge and I break my neck?!?  What if…what if…what if?!?!?

At this point, you have two choices.  The first is to let your fear – this fear of change – take over and win and you step off the ledge and go about your little life – always knowing that you were afraid to take that step.

Or you can take a deep breath and JUMP!  With any luck, the cord does as it should and you bounce back up.  And if it breaks, and you careen to the canyon below – at least you had one hell of a ride on the way down.

Now that I am standing on the precipice, bungee cords strapped to my ankles, it is time to decide whether I am going to give in to the fear of change and quietly back off the ledge OR if I am going to throw myself off and pray that the cord catches me.

I still don’t know which I’m going to do.  But, I do think I could use one hell of a ride.

Wonder where I’m going to land…

Scars are inevitable – but they can fade if we know how to properly treat them.

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About five weeks ago, during dismissal at school,  I fell and badly skinned my knee.  Just stepped off the curb, and BAM! right down on my knee!  When it happened I immediately thought, “DAMN! That’s gonna leave one nasty scar!”  It took FOREVER for it to heal.  Just as I thought it was looking better, it would look ugly again.  I was right, it is a nasty scar.  And since it is on my knee, it is a DAILY visual reminder of the fall.  When others see it (which is quite easy to do) I hear, “What did you do to your knee?  Is that from the fall?  It looks so bad!”  I must hear it 10 times a day – and I have to recount the story again and again.  Oh sure, there are things I could do to make it fade.  Vitamin E Oil, Mederma, Time.  But I’d much prefer a QUICK FIX so I don’t have to be reminded of it.

In contrast,  about six years ago I had a mole removed from my lower back.  No biggie, I’d had them removed before.  But, the biopsy came back as pre-cancerous and the borders weren’t clear.  So, more had to be removed.  A year later, I go in for my check up and the doctor find it has re-pigmented, and had to be removed – again.  And once again, it was pre-cancerous and MORE had to be removed.  I am now the proud owner of a two-inch scar on my lower back.  The thing is, I can’t see it.  No matter how hard I try.  I know it is there, but there is no VISUAL reminder.  Occasionally, someone will see it and ask how it happened and I have to recount the story.  But, it’s not often.  So, I don’t have to be reminded of it – or of the scare of the situation.  Yet, I don’t ever have the feeling that I need to do something to diminish the scar…out of sight, out of mind…

But, not all scars are physical.  Some are hidden deep inside.  The emotional scars.  Ones left by people, experiences, and the worst – those left by ourselves.

Relationships (romantic, family, co-worker, friends) leave scars on our heart as well as on our psyche.  It is inevitable.  But how we chose to deal with those scars is vital.

The instinct is to obsessively pick at it.  We dwell on the “injury.”  We play the “WHY ME?!?” game.  We keep thinking about how deep the scar will be.  We think it will speed up the healing.  The faster we get rid of the scab – then VOILA! no more problem.

But as we all know, that can actually DEEPEN the scar.  We removed its protective barrier before it was ready. We had not left enough time for the WOUND to heal. Ironically, this continues the vicious cycle of continued obsession and picking.  We become even MORE cautious of the next experience – afraid of further scarring.  We become scared of being scarred even further.

Either that, or we want the quick fix.  We want the wound to heal NOW!!!! But, this is equally destructive.  Again, we haven’t allowed the time for the wound to organically heal.

So, how do we accomplish that?

First of all, we have to stop picking at it.  Continuing to pick at the wound (in this case, obsessively dwelling on the wrongs that were committed to you) will only keep the injury in your forebrain.  It becomes impossible to let it heal.

Secondly, we must acknowledge the fact that it is natural to think about it.  It is human nature for us to analyze what happened to cause the “injury.”  It is NOT natural to continue to rehash it.  What’s done is done. At some point in time we have to realize that the injury occurred and we can not go back in time and make it not have happened.  Release it.  Tell yourself there is nothing you can do to make it NOT to have happened.  That keeps the injury from making the scar even DEEPER. Learn from what happened.  I know I am much more cautious stepping off the curb after my fall!  I am going to be even more cautious about opening up my heart.

Thirdly, we have to allow the wound to heal.  We have to give it TIME.  We become tired of feeling lonely.  We begin to CRAVE human companionship.  We convince ourselves that the wounds are all healed and LOOK!  the scars aren’t as bad as I thought!  So, HEY!  Here’s a thought!  Let’s move into a NEW relationship!  So, we rip off the band-aid and say “Let’s go!”  However, frequently all that manages to do is to open the wound back up.  This causes you to flip back into clean up mode.   The wound wasn’t fully healed.

I think the biggest thing though, is that we can’t be scared of being scarred in the next situation.  Oh, sure,  it may happen.  The next situation may not turn out the way you wanted.  You may have another misstep and land smack on your knee.  But on the other hand, you also might successfully step off the curb.

Scars – both physical and emotional – are going to happen.  It’s all a part of life.  But with time, and the right kind of “medicine,” we can make them smaller – and if we are lucky, we can even make them inperceptable to the human eye.

Failure. It is real or all in our heads?

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Recent events in my life have caused me to think a lot about the concepts if success and failure.  As in – what, exactly, makes something a success and what makes it a failure?

Websters dictionary defines a failure as “a failing to perform a duty or expected action” or “a lack of success” or “a falling short” or “one that has failed.”

Huh. Interesting.  An ACTION can be a failure – but so can a PERSON.  That’s a heavy word.  No one likes to think of THEMSELVES as a failure.  It is a soul crushing belief.  It has multiple implications on future success.  If one thinks of themself as a failure, they will begin to think that it is no point to try again, because THEY will continue to fail.  NOT that they failed to achieve the expected outcome.

So, the question is,  am I a failure if the expected outcome has fallen short?

Well, then what about success?  Can something that fell short of the expected outcome be considered a success?

Webster’s defines a success as “favorable or desired outcome” or “a person who is successful.” The antonym of FAILURE.

Sounds like it’s not possible for a failure to be a success.

We are taught that we learn from our mistakes.  That analyzing what we have done wrong will help us to do things differently in the future.  Differently – NOT better.

I tell my students that all the time.  Particularly in Math.  When they have solved a problem incorrectly, I have them go back and analyze where they went wrong.  Was it that they didn’t understand the process and got it completely screwed up?  Or did they make a SSSM?  A Simple, Stupid, Sloppy Mistake.  Like getting a multiplication fact wrong.  However, sometimes, they can’t find the problem.  Sometimes I have to show it to them.  Sometimes, I have to teach the skill over again because they didn’t “get it” the first time.  Sometimes they continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over again – either the SSSMs or the great big wrong process issues.

The purpose of having them do this is so that HOPEFULLY they will apply that knowledge on the next assignment and stop making the same mistake – thus turning a failure into a success.

But, unlike Math, life doesn’t always have right answer.  Sometimes what we think the expected outcome SHOULD be isn’t how it turns out.  Does that make us a failure?  Better yet, can we be a success when the ACTION failed to reach the expected outcome?

I think we can.  It’s all about rearranging your thoughts.

It’s all about deciding to give yourself the permission to make mistakes.

It’s all about learning from those mistakes to avoid making them again.

It’s all about paying attention to the Simple, Stupid, Sloppy Mistakes.

It’s all about forgiving ourselves for not meeting the expected outcome and instead asking ourselves if instead the expected outcome was unrealistic.

It’s all about believing that WE are a success even in the outcome wasn’t.


If only it were that easy…

Why me? Why now?

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I know what you are thinking.

You are thinking, “What? Another random, faceless person posting on their mundane lives?  Why?  Don’t they have any REAL friends they can share with?  Why her?  Why now?”

Such a very good question.

Oh.  You wanted an answer.

Ok.  I hate to say it, but I don’t really have a good one.  Well, not really.  Except that, my mind – my rather twisted, swirlly, jumbled, cluttered, questioning mind – ALWAYS has something to say.  And well, sometimes I just have to get it out to someone else besides myself.  Because when I start talking to myself, it only confirms people’s perception that I am insane.

A little about my crazy little life…

I am a single mother of three – also known as The Three Monkeys.

Monkey #1 – a 12-year-old boy in the 7th grade.  Loves origami, dinosaurs –  origami dinosaurs.  Was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2008 at the ripe old age of 8.

Monkey #2 – a 10 year-old-boy in the 5th grade.  Is obsessed with all things Pokemon.  (Please!  Mommy can’t listen to another thing about Pokemon!) Smart as a whip.  My little huggy monster.

Monkey #3 – the lone girl – 8 going on 18.  In the 3rd grade.  A social butterfly.  A drama queen.  My mother says she is my payback for being just like her when I was a kid.  (I still question her memory of my behavior.  I swear I wasn’t THAT BAD!)

During the day, I teach 4th grade (Monkeys 2 & 3 go to the same school).  This is my 15th year at the same school.  I question every day why I am going back.  And at some point every day, at least one of my students reminds me…

I live 1.7 miles from my mother – which is extremely convenient, but also a little too close for comfort.  Don’t anyone tell her, but there is no way I could live without her.  She is a tremendous asset in my life.  She picks up the kids from school.  She gets homework done.  She ferries the Prima Ballerina Drama Queen to her dance classes.  She shops for The Monkeys.  She is also one of the biggest frustrations in my life.

So – to answer the question at hand.  Why me?  Why now?

I have stuff to say.  Period.

Welcome to my world.   Welcome to my mind.  Welcome to my random musings from my mind about my world.

Enjoy the twists and turns.  Hopefully you can keep track without a road map.  I know I have a hard time doing so…