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Month: January 2020

Better than Before

The girl had received bad news for the umpteenth time in the last few months. Her sobs of despair reverberated down the hall as she asked the powers that be, “What’s the point?”

“You’re the point!“ The cosmos answered in the form of a lanky young man charged with keeping order the school. “People like you are the point, “ he repeated. “Don’t you know that you all make us better?“

I smiled as I leaned my head towards the doorway to listen from my classroom. I was on standby for hugs and comfort, but my young coworker was already working his magic. And, as he elaborated on the ways our students make us better, I thought about how Thing1 and Thing2 have done that for me every day over the last 19 years.

Just before Thing1 was born, I still didn’t have a handle on my bipolar disorder. My depressive episodes sporadically threatened jobs, and manic phases spurred spending sprees and other self-destructive behavior.

But then Thing1 happened, and I knew I had to be better.

“Every day I go home after work and think about how to be better,“ my coworker said to the girl who was now listening quietly. “You do that for all of us.“

I thought of all the ways I have tried to be better for Thing1 and Thing2 over the years. I thought of the therapy I’ve sought and the examples I’ve tried to set.

Then I thought of all the ways our students spur me to be more organized, to learn more, to be better for them. It made me smile as I thought of how no matter what we will ever do for our own kids or for the ones we take care of during the day, we will always owe them far more for every day making us a little bit better than we were the day before.

Nothing At All

The nature of a residential school means that students are constantly being admitted and discharged. Some weeks, like this one, discharging students are leaving with diplomas and optimism. It’s much more sweet than bitter, but saying goodbye to three much loved kids made for a different kind of drama this week.

It’s Saturday, and I’m a vegetable. Thing1 is home from college with his significant other. They’re in the kitchen making dinner for all of us while the Big Guy and I baste in the heat from the wood stove as we binge-watch Portlandia. Thing2 pokes his head out of his room every few minutes to relay Princess Jane’s latest antics.

There are so many things I should be doing besides sitting on the couch right now, but some how, this little bit of nothing, this evening of being conscious of not working, of just being, feels like everything.

Believe in Them

Sometimes it seems easier to believe in them,

To see their sparks needing to be fanned and fed,

Than it is to do the work that feeds my own,

But when the prodding turns the embers into flames,

Their white hot divine makes plain that when I believe in them,

I believe in me.

On My Terms

If Jim-Bob is the quintessential man about the house, Jane is the consummate warrior princess. She adventures and explores, living life on her terms, She watches over her subjects, and like a good warrior-princess, she imparts important life lessons to them.

The other day, for example, we went for a walk around the yard to take advantage of some sun before the snow. She darted up to my ankles for a scratch on the head and then trotted ahead of me to scout our path. I had my camera with me, and she obliged when I patted the trunk of a tree to coax her up to it for a better photo. I head-scratched and snapped until I got the perfect pic, but then I overstepped.

Forgetting that a warrior princess can take care of herself, I coaxed her down hoping to carry her into the house. The weather was getting ready to turn bad, and I want it all the animals inside and safe. Jane hopped down and trotted over to my hand, rubbing her head this way and that, and then I scooped her up.

She never scratches when you pick her up, but she squirms in a way that tells you she’s just not comfortable being that close to anyone. She squirmed until she was sitting on my shoulder and, from her perch, jumped down and began running towards the house door. I followed and then motioned toward the house. She came willingly, leading her subjects, Jim-Bob the orange tabby and Katy-the-Wonder-Dog.

It was a reminder that, instead of trying to impose my will, all I needed to do was ask in the first place and she would be willing to listen. It’s a lesson I constantly try to reiterate to my kids and students – respect others’ boundaries, but it was nice of Jane to provide a little object lesson and review it with me.

Little grey warrior princesses can be pretty smart.

A Little Night Mania

It’s 2 am and Jim-Bob is trying to decide if his lumpy human will be still long enough for him to pad a nice tummy wallow to sleep on . I’ve tossed, turned, shut off my screen and turned it back on half a dozen times since I first crawled into bed for some desperately needed sleep two hours ago. I know he thinks I’m about to fly right out of the room.

In my head, I’ve been flying for hours.

For hours I’ve been playing with the possibilities in my head. How hard would it be to do two master’s at the same time? I’ll finish the drawings for both books this weekend. I can finish this assignment , design that database and then check another online illustration course. Ooh, that story would be great as an animated cartoon.

For most of the last few weeks, I’ve been still, seeking sleep whenever possible. Depression wraps me up like a wet carpet, and I’ve been a good human to sleep on.

But living with bipolar is like living with a volcano. It rumbles in the darkness until it’s time to explode and let the steam and fire out. Sometime heat is power. It drives me out of bed into my office to write and read and paint. It also, however, can become a wild fire easily out of control, coaxing me to take on more commitments than I handle in a lifetime, spending on things no one ever needs, and torching anything in its vicinity.

So even though the screen is off, Jim-Bob knows my tapping hand is a sure sign the mania is still burning, ready to send this lumpy lady back into space, and he decide to stay put until the fire cools.

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