On Friday, I was tired. No really I was exhausted. But I didn’t have the kids, and I felt like a hike. I took my dog, a bottle of water, and headed up the mountain. Only a quarter of a mile in, I stopped. My body felt depleted of energy, my soul seemed sapped, my mind was on overload. I thought about turning around. But instead, I forged my way up, trying to appreciate the burn in my legs, fighting the exhaustion in my mind and body. By the time I reached the top, and watched the evening fog rolling over the mountains, I felt at ease, in every possible way, and thankful.
This week has been a series of ups and downs. Just like climbing the mountain, there were times that felt strenuous and not worth it. But following through, going to the top (or in some cases, just close enough), made the week’s adventures worth the hard work.
My collaborative meeting group ended last week with a big dinner where we discussed all we had learned and how thankful we were for the opportunity to get together, become friends, and improve not only our teaching skills, but our professional development as well. This group has been amazing in every possible way, but it’s been incredibly exhausting as well. We kept ourselves on task and assigned readings and little assignments to keep every member engaged. There were times I walked in so exhausted, I believe everything that came out of my mouth sounded like nonsense. Teaching a full load, having 2 kids, arranging babysitters to meet from 7-9 in the evening was taxing at times. But the benefit, the end result, was so very worth every late night. I know I’m going to miss this group an incredible amount, but I also know that we all need a well-deserved break.
My sister’s son, Braden, had a birthday this past week as well. It was one of the most successful birthday parties I’ve ever been to. She made it simple (though, to me, it looked rather complicated) by having a bunch of kids meet at a park after school for a game of baseball. Then there was pizza and cake. I really think Braden had the absolute best time of his life. In fact, every kid seemed to be having the time of their lives. Braden was in his element, surrounded by friends and family who love him so much. He’s a pretty amazing little guy (actually, a pretty amazing BIG guy now) and it was so much fun to celebrate this new year with him.
The only problem, for me at least, is that as soon as I got into my car at 4 to drive out to the party, I almost wanted to weep from exhaustion. I couldn’t even fathom how I was going to be a good aunt, a fun parent, an involved friend, when visions of my bed and pajamas were running through my head. It had been a long day, full of grading and lecturing, but the moment I arrived at the party, my whole mood lifted. Sure, I didn’t talk to many parents and spent most of my time pushing Luke on the swings, but to see 3-6 year olds running all over the place, having so much fun, made it impossible to feel tired or even sorry for myself. And I had fun. And the pizza was good. And the cake was better. And I’m thankful for Braden.
Friday night, I though about all the grading I had to do and my serious intentions of staying home, taking a bath, and just giving myself a quiet night. But since my hike refreshed me, I let my friend Jenn convince me to go to a rugby game with her. It was a pretty big game as our town’s team was playing against a team from Scotland.
I’ve never watched a rugby game, and I don’t know the rules, and while I’ve heard that the “only rule in rugby is there are no rules,” I’m going to beg to differ. There seem to be a lot of rules, and once someone explained to me what they were, I could at least follow the game a bit more, though it still seemed to make no sense. Weird huddles, full-on violence, singing at the end: it was an experience. An experience that I enjoyed so very much. And even though the teams seem to battle it out on the field (brutally), they have such respect for each other. When the Scottish team was down a player after so many had been taken out of the game for injuries, the coach of our town’s team stepped in to play for Scotland. I love that kind of camaraderie: everyone playing to play. In the midst of bloody noses, the sound of bones crashing into each other, and injured players, my heart warmed, and I was thankful I went out.
On a side note: Though I know we speak the same language, I couldn’t understand a damn think those Scots were saying. I talked to a few of them after the game, and hell if I know what we discussed. Their accent is so thick. But it’s also incredibly sexy, so to make do with a conversation I didn’t understand, I just imagined they were telling me how much they wanted to make love to me (I mean, these were some seriously gorgeous, Scottish rugby players. Can you blame me?). It worked beautifully, and I stayed interested in our never-going-to-understand-you-conversation.
Some weird things have been going on in my life, and I’m just not sure how I feel about it. First, I received the mystery book package in January. Which I loved, but it didn’t have a sender, just a nice note.
Then last week, I got in the car to take Maddie to school and noticed a CD in my driver’s side car door pocket. I keep a few CDs in there (and some receipts, and a pen, and a few other things as well), but it was such a colorful CD I instantly reached for it. It was the newest Broken Social Scene album, “Forgiveness Rock Record.”
Which I hadn’t bought. Nor remember borrowing. I sent out a text to all the friends I could think of whom also like this band (it’s kind of an obscure band) asking if I had borrowed it from them. They all replied “no.” I’ve wanted this CD for a while now, and even a few weeks ago, I watched some videos of the band from when they played at this years Coachella music festival, and I even thought to myself, “I HAVE to go buy that CD.” The CD wasn’t sealed, and there wasn’t a note. I reasoned that perhaps someone could have dropped it off in my car, but then I also thought how did it get into my car side door pocket.
Then I had a memory. I remember a week or so before I had gotten into the car and sat on a CD on my driver’s side seat, and in my mind’s-eye I can see the bright colors of the CD. I was in a rush, so I took the CD and hastily shoved it in my driver’s side car pocket. So maybe someone did put the CD in my car, throwing it through the crack in my window (I always leave my windows open a bit).
I put out a message on facebook, but no one responded that he/she had left me the CD. In the end, I shrugged it off, and have been listening non-stop to the CD, hoping I don’t have early on-set Alzheimer’s and did borrow it from someone and don’t remember or slept-walked to the record store and bought it in my pajamas. Neither are very likely though (mostly because if I borrowed this CD, a CD I’ve wanted for so long, why would I not have put it right into my CD player?? And also because if I stole it, I’m sure I would have woken up in jail.)
Then today, I walked to my car after teaching, and in my driver’s side car mirror was this beautiful flower:
It’s not really a flower, so much as part of a bush, and I thought it must have fallen from a tree and how beautifully, and perfectly really, it had landed. But then I looked up and there were no trees around. And then I walked around the parking lot and there weren’t any of these flowers anywhere in the vicinity. And then I thought maybe someone placed it there.
And then I just started thinking how weird all this is. And it could just be conjuncture on my part, and it seems pretty egotistical to think that someone is leaving/sending me stuff. And the flower could have been a student just passing by, and the CD could have been something I did borrow and just don’t remember from whom (though this seems like a stretch). Or all three could be from totally different people.
I’m just kind of weirded out and I don’t know what to make of it. I’m both flattered and scared.
But mostly, I’m just confused. I don’t think I like mysteries one bit.
The community college finally ended this past Monday, and I was so thankful to be giving a final and ending my days of teaching in the morning. So on Monday, as I walked to my classroom, I was practically skipping. I felt like I had scaled a huge mountain this semester, full of tiring and endless work, and now I was at the top.
I got to the classroom, collected essays, and students started writing their final. I sat down to do some of my own grading. Then Student F (as in failing) came up to talk to me.
Student F has been a complete pain in my ass all semester. He started the class a week late (and it’s a 9-week accelerated class), but had some lengthy excuse for missing the first week. I believed him and set aside time to go over the syllabus with him and what he had missed the first week (a lot!). From that point on, he missed class often, didn’t turn in assignments, and pretty much showed up when an essay was due. But he always sent me long emails about why he’s not making it: his car broke down, his computer crashed, he’s sick, etc.. Finally last week, he sent me another long email about how worried he was about his grade, about possibly failing. He had a bunch of excuses and told me if he doesn’t pass my class, his parents are going to cut him off, and so could I please just consider passing him with a “C.” To which I replied, curtly, not to insult me (the whole “give me a C” thing), that I was over his excuses, and that he just needed to show up to the final with his last essay.
Back to the day of the final: he comes to my desk and says, “I left my binder outside with my essay in it. Can I go get it?”
“Sure,” I say.
He leaves, comes back in empty-handed, and says, “I actually think it’s in the library. Can I take the exam and then go get it.”
“Sure,” I say, “you have until 11:45, when the final’s over, to get me your essay.”
He takes the exam. He takes a long time. He finishes. He leaves for the library. Guess what? Five minutes later, he comes back and says, “It’s not in the library. I’m going to have to email it to you later.”
“Nope,” I say, “You have until 11:45 to get me your essay. Otherwise I won’t accept it.”
It’s 11:15. He asks if I’m serious. I nod yes. He then proceeds to have a complete meltdown and starts screaming at me in front of the 3 students left taking the final:
“You’re such a bitch. You’re a bitch. You’re ruining my life. You don’t even care about me. I was in the E.R. twice this week and you don’t even care. You’re such a bitch…” blah, blah, blah.
The poor students left taking the final were so caught off guard. And I just stayed super calm and said:
“Student F. Leave my classroom. You have no one to blame but yourself. And you’re right, I don’t care. Get out now.”
He replied, “I’m going to talk to your principle.”
I said, “We don’t have a principle, but why don’t you go complain to my Chair.” And I told him how to get there.
Twenty minutes later, he came back into the classroom, and said, “Your boss said I have until Friday to turn in my essay.”
I said, “Get out of my classroom, Student F.”
So I went to check with my Chair, and of course he didn’t say that, and I explained the incident, and he is going to fail, but now I have to write a detailed incident report, which just means more work from me, and I left with my Chair’s warning to “lock my doors” at home.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Just when I thought I had scaled this great mountain and everything was done–I mean I was skipping to class– Student F sends me straight back down. And while I was calm throughout the whole event, I just felt exhausted afterward.
So I took a mental health day at the university and called it a day.
I’ve been dating. I know. Like actually going on dates with men. And it’s fun. And I like getting to know different people. And I like talking and I love hearing their stories (and note: none of the weird mystery gifts from above are from these men).
But damn if it isn’t so confusing sometimes. Just when I think something is completely uncomplicated, a little complication arises. A kink. A moment of pause. Because it’s hard for me to give my heart to someone and be vulnerable, and it’s even more difficult to decide who to give my heart to–even if it’s just a little piece of my heart, a tiny piece really. I’m not ready for a full-blown relationship, but I have to give trust at some point. I have to be vulnerable.
Because an old friend of mine, Greg, once told me I was a man-eater. And I think this was in jest, but this week he said, “Courtney, you just need a strong man who will say NO to you.” And he’s correct. All this dating has helped me figure out what I do like in a man: someone who’s honest, kind, funny, not a serial killer, etc…all the usual things. But I also like men who are a bit eccentric. Men with a sense of style (and not a specific style). Someone who doesn’t care about wealth. Someone who likes to have fun. Someone who’s a bit artsy. Someone who will read with me. Someone who doesn’t judge. Someone who likes to take hikes. And dammit, someone who is a strong man, someone who will put me in my place (and not in an abusive way, obviously.).
But Greg also said this week to me, “I just call it like I see it Courtney. [You’re like:] No need to get up gentlemen, I’m just passing through.”
And the thing is, I kind of think he’s right (and also funny). Because I am afraid of getting hurt so it has been easier–and it is easier–to just stay for a bit, to kind of pass through. How safe. How unobtrusive. How easy.
But the real challenge now, I think, is how to stay. How to be vulnerable. How to find the right person to do this with. How to trust. How to give my heart out a little at a time. But also how to be smart about it.
Finally, last Friday on my hike after I reached the top, I came back down. The sun was setting behind the mountain. My head felt clear. I felt a moment of perfection. A brief moment where suddenly everything in the world, in my life, made sense.
And then the moment was gone.
How confusing this all is. This game of love. This game of life.
But how very worth the climb.