Moments in Teaching

One of the key reasons I wanted to become a teacher was so that I could spot those sets of eyes who light up with knowledge.  To see those students who “get it” and get excited with new awareness – what Oprah might call an “Aha” moment.  I love those moments.

This first semester of teaching at the community college level has had its definite ups and downs.  In the first days, I wondered if I had done the right thing.  Who ever knows the answer to that life question?  The learning curve has been bouncy – and some days I’ve felt that I was bounced right off of the ride.  Usually that has happened on the less prepared days, but sometimes it is a result of the personality of the class.  But then I dusted myself off, recognized that when I don’t feel fully prepared, I am going to feel very bad after class, and I kept on pushing to find that fit of preparation that would work for me.  That has been as much of the learning curve as anything else I have done.

Yesterday, I received one of those “moments”.  A student who has shown lots of promise was in class.  A young man who is not exactly traditional – a little older and more mature than the average “right out of high school” student.  Perhaps ex-military.  He had indicated the first day of class that he was headed to law school… eventually.  After class yesterday, I asked him what his goals and plans were.  He said that his plans had changed, and now he wanted to teach history.  He actually said, “I want to help.”  I was so moved that I felt the blood in my veins rush.  When I regained my composure, I assured him that I was available for letters of recommendations, and if he was headed to my alma mater (which he said he was), to let me know, and I will help as much as I can.  This is my first semester teaching.  I feel as if I’ve found my own little piece of heaven.

This is what it is all about for me.  Introducing history that engages and encourages and informs.  And finding those students who get it, who grab it, who run with it.  This is the excitement of teaching for me.

In many ways, I am grateful that I am doing this at an older age.  Had I begun the academic career as a young 20-something, I think I may have ended up being that burned out career driven academic who is pursuing her own publications with little concern about the students.  I want to inspire.  I want to see others find that niche of living that will make their lives worth something to them.   The face-to-face responses of students – be they few and far between – who love the opportunity to learn is an experience I struggle to describe.  I am purely delighted.

A red-headed beauty

Yesterday, as I sat at my computer creating my powerpoint for History-102, I overheard a noise in the dining room.  It stayed on the peripheral of my hearing for a few moments, and then occurred to me to check it out.  What was that infernal scratching.  I stood and walked into the room, and there on the outside sill of the large window was a pileated woodpecker.  The woody woodpecker type.  I have written about the two who swoop into our yard on occasion, but this was amazingly upclose and personal.

I started taking pictures with my phone, and crept slowly into the room.  By the time I got around the table and crawled close to the window, I was within one foot of him.  He just sat there while I snapped pictures and chatted with him.  Then he flew around the house to the front and perched on the windowsill there.  As I’m writing, he has shown up again, and is hopping around in my front yard, and going from tree to tree.  We have a birdhouse with little bluebirds – they are swooping this huge woodpecker in protection of their babies.  What a sight!

Roller Coaster Ride Continues

My oldest called yesterday.  He is on a trek west.  I have no idea what that means.  Just going west to see things he’s never seen before.  Of course, this is on the cusp of getting out of a 7 week residential treatment that was only supposed to last 4-6 weeks.  But out he is one week later than he was supposed to be, and on his way with his new girlfriend to see the sites.  His company continues to pay him disability which allows him the ability to travel while his ex works to support their son.  Do I sound bitter?

He called me to check in.  I haven’t asked him to check in.  I am supposing he wants me to take the call so that I can reassure everyone else that he is fine and dandy.  After I have spent many evenings discussing how to handle this situation, how to respond to him, and whether or not I should head 2 1/2 hours to his treatment center next week to participate in a family orientation.  I guess I won’t have to worry about that decision any longer.

When the call first came in, I ignored it.  I didn’t pick up the phone because I was actually amazed that he had called.  I am looking forward to getting to the point where he can no longer stun me.  Mostly I ignored the call because I had no idea what to say.  I know I’m very angry about this whole turn of events.  I know he is nowhere near the bottom of this spiral, and I don’t intend to spiral downward.  But there’s the phone call.

I returned the call.  No answer.  Until I had walked into a shoe department, and then the return call came.  This time I took it.  Walked out of the shopping center to do so, and there was his voice.  My lost 37 year old son who thinks what he is doing is of no real concern.  He has an apartment from which he will be evicted, an unpaid power bill that has resulted in the power being turned off, and furniture, including a brand spanking new washer and dryer.

S:  What’s going on?  M: For real?  You are calling me to ask what’s going on?  S: Yep.  Stayin’ in touch like I said I would.  M: I’m working to keep my life together.  Whatsup with you (some sarcasm and mostly anger in this response)?  S: Just going west to see some cities.  M: J, Don’t call me anymore.  I can’t do this anymore.  I don’t understand what is going on with you.  I think this is insanity to the 10th degree.  I don’t know why you wasted 7 weeks in a treatment center, spent well over $3000 for your own room and board.  I don’t know if you are supporting your son, or wishing he didn’t exist.  I don’t know if you are sending money to your ex-wife, or expecting her to do all the work to keep a roof over your son’s head and food on the table.  I don’t know anything about you.  I’m tired of being hurt and angry because of your completely self-centered life.  Don’t call me.  Call your sponsor.  I’m done.  I will have a heart attack if this continues.  Don’t call me anymore.         S: Oh, ok.

Bye.

That was it.  Bye.  Then I lost it.  Sat in the shoe department of Dillard’s and cried my eyes out.  One lady asked if it was allergies.  I responded, no, children.

I came home and walked around my house, picking up things, folding clothes, getting my table organized.  I talked a lot to me.  I’m not thrilled with sharing my pain (except on anonymous blogs), never have been.  Probably no one is, really. But there I go thinking everyone feels like I do.  So that part likely isn’t true either.

I only called one person.  My minister, who has an uncanny ability to make me feel better by focusing on things completely outside myself or my problems.   I did some good with myself — the talking, I mean.  I talked about how important many of the responses I’ve gotten here on VN are.  How many others have walked in my shoes, and cried, and then stood up to walk again.  I talked about how he is lost in his own sad world right now, and the choices he is making are those that are purely selfish because he can see no one else right now, and perhaps never has.  I talked about the fact that I could make some selfish choices too, and an important one is the ability to keep myself healthy by refusing to participate in his rather sordid life.

I also thought about how I don’t want to talk about this anymore right now.  I don’t want to open up to people to give this info to because I’m so tired of my life being centered around a son who is totally centered around himself.  Tonight I will attend my first Al-Anon meeting.  I simply couldn’t go last night.  The pain was raw, the wound was gaping, and the energy level was below negative.  Today I awake with the desire to get off this roller coaster for good.  I know it will take work and awareness to do that.  I am guessing it will have to come from support from others who have endured this type of burden.  I am ready to go there.

Must get back to positive thoughts…must…must

On Mother’s Day, I will be giving a “sermon”.  I put it into quotes because I’m not a minister, but I will be delivering the 11:40ish talk at the Greenville UU Fellowship.  On the tough love of Mothering (and fathering and grandmothering and grandfathering).  By that time, I will have made a decision about my oldest child.  Whether or not it is time to discontinue any contact or assistance.  I have been told that addicts must face the bottom of life before they can choose to raise themselves up.  He could be there for years.  Or he can choose other options.  Including not life.

I won’t pretend on this Mother’s Day that I have anything to teach anyone about being a mother.  Each relationship is singularly unique, as is each child, and each mom.  Their combined beings will impact how that relationship grows, or doesn’t, and the baggage of each person – both mother and child – cannot be discounted.  We cannot be the perfect mother we imagine is in the next house, or on the commercial, or in the movie.  We cannot be the perfect child even if we aspire to be.  And there is no reason to want that because, first, it is not reality, and second, it would set people up for such disappointment in everyone else.  Third, I have no interest in being perfect.  I don’t even like the word.  I see perfection in imperfection.

For today, I must allow the universe, as well as the ideas of several loved and respected people, to direct me in this awful pursuit and decision.  I must be open to what is good for me.  I must not forget that I am part of the equation.  One thing I have (tried to) impress on my children is that I will stand up and walk with you to the ends of the earth for growth and improvement.  But I’m done with getting down in the gutter.  There are so many mistakes to make in life, to keep making the same one is not only useless and ineffective, it is stupid.  If I go into the gutter today, it is for me and not for others.

I don’t have much hope for this child/man.  That is mostly out of protection for my own health and heart.  The hope has literally slipped away with the blood and the tears.  But that is not for me to say, that there is no hope.  I can understand I have no hope, but I can believe that others do.  Other people who know him and care for him believe he can pull out of this continuous downward spiral.  The universe can reach out to him, and offer him the ability to heal.  To work through this awful, horrible, difficult time and to reach him in a way I cannot.  I choose to believe that.

Today is the day I will decide.  And no matter what rushes of guilt or agonies of afterbirth show up to attempt to entice me to change in the coming days, I will stick with what I believe to be healthiest for me.  I cannot force him to choose health.  I can allow myself to do so, and with encouragement from others, I can stay on that path.  It will be a rocky, dark path with hidden pitfalls and sharp edges.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right path.

On Mother’s Day, my hope is that I will touch someone else struggling with their right to be a healthy mother/parent.  I will seek to help them to understand that the supreme act of love is not complete sacrifice of self.  That to reach out to our children no matter their age with love sometimes means letting them fall into the muck and stay there.  Face down in their own poor choices.   The choice to get out must be theirs.  The choice to live must be theirs.  The right to live a healthy life is also mine.  I will exercise that right.