The last couple of weeks have been – challenging.
Starting a school year is always like pushing a VERY big rock up a hill. While teachers are trying to handle the “chores” – setting up gradebooks, learning new names, checking out books, training kids procedures, setting up the room, getting technology to work, etc. – administrations everywhere are rolling out the new “big thing that will fix the public education system this year” and adding duties upon duties. It’s normal. After a while, you learn shortcuts to help you deal. For instance, a heck of a lot of learning can happen before you have a working online gradebook set up.
First week of school was actually about to go into the books as the best first week of my career – until a week ago today. The reason I have some time this morning to write is that I’m waiting for an appointment to get a triple root canal – no, that is not the challenging part. I was supposed to get this procedure last Thursday. Took that day off, too. While in the waiting room, I got an email about an emergency staff meeting after school. When I replied that I was off campus and asked about that was going on, I was told that a teacher from our feeder middle school had died that morning. Many of our staff knew her, and many of our students also knew and loved her. And her child attended our high school. A huge loss for our community.
But what the secretary didn’t know, was that she was also my friend. Or more accurately, we used to be friends. We had not been close outside of work, but I liked her a lot. When I got busy making my new life, we lost touch. She was almost 10 years my junior, so this was very unexpected news.
I broke down right there in the waiting room. I tried to suck it up and follow through, but when the endodontist explained the procedure, I couldn’t do it. I just wanted to get back to school.
This entire week has been difficult for me. I’m in a full blown grief cycle. This was the second coworker/friend who had conversations with me about getting healthy and died before she got a chance to take care of herself. The sadness and anger I felt were expected, but there was something else that was nagging at me. Took a few days for me to remember – she asked me for help a couple years ago. I wanted to, but I was not certified yet and she had some knee and back issues that I didn’t know how to work around at the time. Even though I know it may not be a rational thought, I’m also angry with myself that I didn’t do more. Hindsight right? But I feel like an impostor. So many people think I’ve got it all together, but I don’t. I say I want to help people, but I didn’t help my friend. I know intellectually that my decision back then did not cause her death last week, but I’m going to have to deal with that guilt and shame none the less. I can already anticipate the comments trying to make me feel better, but only time will help quiet the “what if” noises in my head.
What does this have to do with being mentally tough? You probably expect me to talk about how I worked through all of these challenges, yada-yada-yada. Yeah, I did. But that’s not the direction I’m headed.
To be mentally tough, you learn to say “no”. “No I won’t do that extra duty at school.” “No I can’t do that meeting because I have to be at the gym.” “No thanks, I don’t want a cookie.” “No, the laundry is not more important than my workout.” I’ve gotten pretty tough to fend off breaks in discipline. I’ve learned to draw a line and stand my ground. But I also wasn’t available to help a friend and now I’m mourning her and wondering “what if”.
However, I’ve worked through a lot my own grief, which is nothing compared to what her loved ones are bearing. Nothing. I feel shallow for even mentioning it in comparison. Writing about it just now means I’m coming to terms with it. I’m starting to feel just sad again – which means I’m moving forward.
Even without the horrible news, learning to be mentally tough and living that way rubs some people the wrong way. It challenges the expectations people have of how women are supposed to be. No one has a problem with me being tough, as long as I’m being ‘nice’ or ‘compliant’. Yeah, well, about that – nice, compliant, and tough don’t always mix well. I’ve been told countless times how I’m supposed to behave, think and feel – usually by strangers making comments on the page or by someone who is frustrated that I’m not handling a situation the way they think I should. I know I am difficult, stubborn, inflexible, and opinionated. But all of that helps me say “NO – I will NOT do that” in a profession that will suck you dry. Because I’m difficult, stubborn, inflexible, and opinionated, I can easily manage a room packed with teenagers. There is no question who is in control in that situation.
But because I’m difficult, stubborn, inflexible, and opinionated, I also need to remind myself to let my guard down sometimes and listen. If a person has a good point, I’ll accept it and adapt. But to be honest, my personality was formed a long time ago. When I was younger, I used to care what people thought. Now, after all this training and menopause, it’s time for the world to accept me and learn how to deal with ME. (No news to hubby here.) I am flawed – yes. I am open to continued personal growth – yes. But damn it – I’ve accomplished a lot with what I’ve got to work with and in many ways, I really don’t give a flying turd about what most people think I should do/be because they are speaking from a place that has nothing to do with me. I think we tend to react to things from the “how does this affect ME” place.
I have tapped into an inner power that works for me most of the time and I plan to continue to use it.
This is my journey. My path. I’m walking it.
The training I’m doing now doesn’t help. I’m becoming more aggressive. I believe the really heavy lifting that feels impossible until that moment it happens – well it’s changing my body chemistry and world view. I’m bruised. I’m scraped. I’m stressed. I’m tired. I have to eat a ton to recover so I’m running out of prepped food during the week – when I don’t have time to prep food. Ugh.
So I should amend it…
This is my journey. My path. I’m walking it. Bite me.
Just took the happy pill I need for the procedure that is commencing in 40 min. Hubby has to drive me there. Breathe…relax…enjoy the triple root canal…