Last Thursday was the last day I taught at the community college for a little over a week. Yes, it is officially spring break for those students. I felt so happy and light when I left campus, and then I came home and looked at the stack of work I have to do while on spring break, and since the university is still in session (and going strong), I still have to work my entire spring break. But, it’s like this every year, and I’ve figured out to be grateful for the extra time I do have to grade. And, quite frankly, with gas prices as high as they are right now, I’m also grateful for driving less this week.
Readers’ Group Movie Night
Every once in a while, when a movie comes out from a book my readers’ group has read, we try to organize a night when we can all get together to see the film. Friday night we did just this. The movie: Jane Eyre. Since we had done a meeting last summer to Bronte vs. Bronte, seeing the film seemed obvious. But seeing it together made it fun.
I started the night out by walking over to my neighbor Andy’s house to make sure he didn’t flake on the movie (also a readers’ group member). We wound up chatting for a bit, drinking a glass of wine, and then riding our bikes downtown. My bike is still getting fixed, so Andy’s neighbor kindly lent me his. However, he’s much taller than me, and though I did ride is successfully, it was rather difficult at times (especially stopping when I had to jump off the seat as my feet wouldn’t touch the ground), but I haven’t ridden a bike in almost a year, and the feeling of being on a bike again was one that brought back so many old memories. Plus, it’s such a freeing experience. I love the wind flowing through my hair and the freedom to ride between lanes. I’m thankful for that bike ride.
We got to the movie, met the other readers’ group members, and settled down to watch Jane Eyre. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed. The film lacked transitions and I really think you must have read the book to understand what was going on. I also thought the dialogue was incredibly cheesy. But, our entire group was split, and there were several of us who loved the film.
After the film, some of us went to Mary Kay’s house, another RG member, who lives close to downtown. We sat around, drank wine, ate cheese and crackers, and all talked. While we get together to discuss books, and while I work with many of them, and even more importantly, consider them friends, even dear friends, we’re all so busy, we rarely see each other except for when we meet to discuss a book. Watching the film and meeting to discuss it was wonderful and I’m thankful we all figured out a time to get together. I’m thankful to have spent some extra time with all these friends.
After the film, Andy and I hopped back on our bikes and headed to a local wine bar that has a great lounge area with a DJ every Friday night. I love this wine bar and their lounge area is intimate and really, just great. Andy and I drank some more wine and ran into some other friends. It was a great last-minute decision to go. It was great to catch up with other friends. In general, it was just a fantastic way to extend our evening out even further.
Then Andy and I were back on our bikes, riding home. I returned his neighbor’s bike and we sat around and all drank a beer together.
I stayed up way later than I had anticipated, but what a wonderful night I had. I’m thankful for it all.
I’m just going to say it: Easter is my least favorite holiday. I hate dying eggs, I hate hiding eggs, I’m not a huge fan of ham, and in general having to buy big Easter baskets for my kids filled with chocolate and candy kills me.
So this year, I cut back on a lot. We didn’t dye any eggs, and instead I bought 10 plastic eggs that Maddie filled up with 3 jelly beans each and then she hid them (she was so happy to do this for Luke). Neither kid received one Easter basket from me (or, ahem, the Easter Bunny). Luke woke up and gathered the plastic eggs Maddie had hidden, and he enjoyed every second of it.
The rest of the day was spent just hanging out with family, eating together (yes, and I actually did enjoy this year’s ham), and letting the kids collect empty easter eggs all day long.
It was one of the simplest Easters I can recall having. And it was wonderful because I figured out how to make it fun and simple and somehow meaningful (and not comprised of candy). The only thing we all really indulged in was talking. OK, and I totally indulged in banana cream pie, but only because it’s my favorite and I never eat it, and I just couldn’t stop myself from gorging.
(But damn you banana cream pie. I ate so much, I felt ill the entire rest of the night. So worth it though.)
Monday morning, yesterday, I woke up cranky. Really cranky. And I have no real reason to explain this crankiness. Nothing is bothering me; nothing is going wrong in my life right now. But still, I was cranky. And the thing is, I’m never really cranky, so I don’t know exactly what to do with this feeling.
I thought by the time I got to school, my mood would improve. But it didn’t. Not at all. Instead, my student irritated me and I felt even more on edge. So as soon as I left campus, I changed my clothes, grabbed my neighbor Andy and my dog, and headed up a local mountain for a hike. With both my kids gone for the night, I had all the time in the world, but even that didn’t ease my mood. However, laughing and walking up the mountain helped change my mood almost immediately. I realized that because I hadn’t hiked or really gotten outside on Sunday like I usually do was probably part of the reason I felt so irritated. And because we didn’t even start our hike until 5:30p.m., it was chilly and the fog was rolling in. I love hiking in the fog. I love not being able to see the view from the top, just dense, moist clouds that surround me.
At the end of our hike, my mood significantly lifted, Andy and I were both hungry, so we ordered Thai food, settled in his house, and Andy, his neighbor, and I all ate and drank some wine, told stories, laughed, and listened to Wilco’s album, “Yankee, Hotel, Foxtrot.” I left feeling completely back to normal. I’m thankful I figured out that all I need to feel better is to be outside, eat good food, and surround myself with friends.
It’s no secret that I love my therapist and I especially love how he constantly challenges me. Every time I see him, I feel like I’ve grown and become a better version of myself. But sometimes, I have a hard time articulating exactly what it is I’m trying to accomplish. Then this morning, I was responding to an email from a friend, and I was just writing, and in the middle I wrote this:
“A year ago I started going to therapy. I have no deep hidden problems; I’m no more damaged than the person sitting next to me at any given moment (and actually, perhaps a lot less damaged). I’m not suffering from depression, I am not bi-polar, I have no suicidal tendencies. But something was seriously broken in my life and I couldn’t figure out what it was. And when I saw my therapist and told him about my most recent life-failure of marrying matt, he asked me how it was that I could marry someone when I hid, literally hid, from him our entire engagement. In discussing this event, I realized I had completely divorced my feelings (gut level instincts, ones that led to hiding) from my thinking (i.e. this is a good thing. I’m 31. I should be married). Then I realized I had not been feeling anything at all for many years. Partly this is because I had Maddie young, had to get my shit together–finish school, get a job, pay my bills, work hard, hard, hard, pay off debt, etc.–and that’s all good. And necessary. But somehow for about a decade, I had stopped following my instincts and become completely encompassed in my analytical mind. Anyway, seeing this disconnect and all that had manifested from it, caused me to pause. And change. And experiment. Now, I try to stay out of my analytical mind as much as I can. Now I’m enamored in my feelings. How does my gut feel is almost all I’m concerned about.
I used to hike and do yoga because it was good for my body, healthy, toning. Now, I just want to feel my body. I want to–literally-roll in the mud. Lie against a tree. Stop and stare at a bird. I don’t rush. I used to have dinners all the time and invite friends over to cook and talk and catch up on life. Now, I still have the dinners and invite friends, but I find myself wanting to almost make love to my friends–metaphorically, of course. To dive into their bodies and connect on some different, deeper level. Before, I hated my breasts. Now, I love them. Oh, I know that they are not ideal, far from it. I will never make it onto the cover of playboy, and I guess, technically I could have a boob job (and I often tease that i will), but I gave life to two kids, and though they definitely show that, I love that about my body. If someone has a problem with them, I understand, really I do. But it doesn’t make me love them less. I’ve always read for pleasure but now I read to be one with words and sentences. To take a word and put it on my wall. Or write it on my body with a pen.”
The funny thing is that what I wrote, casually and without really thinking every much, was not really connected at all to what the email was about. Well, loosely connected. It was for certain a digression and it did–somewhat–have to do with a bigger argument I was making (not about therapy, rather about photographs and images) , but the words just flowed. And then I hit send.
And then a few minutes later, I thought about this email I had sent and how odd it was that I included all this extra information. But then it just kind of hit me. In some way, in a way I’m actually discussing in my email, I had left my analytical mind and had traveled into how I felt. This is what therapy has taught me the most. That I was able to articulate a change in myself through a casual, seemingly meaningless email message made the lesson seem even more important. I feel like I just stumbled across the greatest change I’ve made in my life. I’ve figured something HUGE out, and I’m so thankful for that.
Sharing an Inspiration
This afternoon, after grading, I went to my favorite coffees hop to catch up on some grading, and as soon as I walked in I ran into the son of a my former mentor. My mentor was an instructor at the university that I worked with for two years while I was a grad student, studying his teaching style, grading for him, and even teaching some of his classes. The reason I initially began working for him was because he was battling a terrible form of cancer, but within days of taking the job, it no longer seemed like a job. Rather it seemed like the greatest experience in my life, a time to learn from one of the greatest minds I’ve ever known. To learn from the best. Tp be critiqued by the best. he taught me more about life than I think he even did about teaching. sadly, he passed away years ago. But his teaching lives on in all those he mentored, me included.
His son was in college in Texas for the majority of the time I worked with his father, and we only met a few times. Since his father’s passing, I’ve run into him a handful of times, and we always say hello and I ask about his mother and just generally express pleasantries.
But today when I ran into him, I sat down and we started chatting–about what he’s been doing with his life (now that he’s been out of college for a while) how his mother is, etc–and then I just started sharing how much his father meant to me and how much of what I teach today I learned from him. I mean, I almost couldn’t stop talking.
But then, suddenly, I stopped. Had I gone too far? Was I bringing up painful memories of his dad?
His comments to me assured me that I hadn’t. He seemed so pleased to know his father’s legacy lives on in so many of us. He’s trying to figure out still how to live without his father, and I’m trying to figure out still how to teach without my mentor, but we both expressed gratitude for what he bestowed upon us both.
It was a great conversation. I’m thankful for the chance I had to express my feelings. I’m glad I told him how much his father meant to me, how much he changed not only how I teach and what I teach, but how I look at life.