So, I’m changing the focus of this blog after thinking long and hard about it. You know, my sissy and I spent Sunday together (making macrame’ leaves…we can’t show them to you…they were pretty bad 🙄) and we did a meditation together and really talked about some things. She made a point I’ve really been thinking about and couple that with what I’m learning in my mindfulness/meditation class, I’m ready for a change.
First, T said: “Kristi, you over-analyze things too much.” And…drum roll please…I do! Part of that is being bipolar and having a ___ brain (I was going to say the f-word but restrained myself 😬) that fires differently…I ruminate, worry, go over things again and again in my head while beating myself up. I’m tired of that! Plus, I studied Psychology for years and have taught it for almost 30…analyzing is what we do! So together, I am either in the past, in the future, or trying to force everything to mean something. It’s too much. And, more importantly, there’s no longer a reason to do it.
In mindfulness, you live in the present…the here and now. I’m going to be 55 this week (holy shit that sounds old 😐) and don’t want to spend the next 55 years of my life not being aware of my time now. My pets and my students and my home and my friends and my family and my colleagues and my runs and my walks and my activities…the list goes on. I want to be in each of these moments as they are happening…because I’ve come to understand it’s that moment that really matters. Or almost all that matters!
When I started this blawg, I did it for a few reasons: I wanted to have a place to work out some things which writing helps me to do. I also wanted to show that those of us with mental illness have the same problems and love and work and family stuff that everyone else does. We aren’t weirdos or curiosities. We’re people struggling in life like everyone else with one added ‘thing’.
Finally, I started this right at the beginning of the pandemic when I was stuck at home with Ed and Dottie and going a little bonkers with all the quiet. This gave me something outside of school and I love it.
But, I’m putting a lot to bed today. Like, the past. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life and screwed up so many things…and continually beating myself up over them or thinking I can make things different by typing about them isn’t what I want to do anymore. The past…it’s over. I can celebrate the good from it…make peace with the bad…and work to be mindful of my life right now.
T and I talked about ‘putting it on a shelf’…you know, like you ‘shelve’ something to think about later. But what if you put something on the shelf and let it collect dust? Why would that matter? So, I actually got a shelf and have a jar and paper. When I get upset or need to vent or need to say something that no one else needs to hear, I’m writing it down and putting it on the shelf. Literally. This visual really helps me to understand that what’s behind me is ‘there’ but no longer affecting me like it has.
I’ve written a lot about the men that have been in my life and I haven’t always been kind and that’s not fair. I have never been in a committed relationship where I didn’t love the guy more than anything at that moment and all are special to me. I have had 3 marriages and 2 serious relationships that all have given me so much…my son, laughter, love, passion. Whatever problems we had, I was just as much to blame and probably even more so a lot of the time! I never want to leave the impression that I was the victim…because I wasn’t. And I apologize if things looked that way. I could fill up a fucking football field with little pieces of paper noting my mistakes and it wouldn’t be enough.
In my class this week, we learned that we need to view mistakes as part of our learning process and to see them as getting us closer to our goals. Further, our mistakes help us to make better choices and decisions next time (Shauna Shapiro”Good Morning, I Love You”). Isn’t that a neat way to look at them?
So, from this point on my blog is going to change a bit. I’m going to write about current issues, my life TODAY, things I’m doing in my classes, outings with ma and sis, etc. And I’m excited about it. 😃
I’m mostly delighted about this though: letting go of all of this is freeing. It truly is. Forgiving myself for all of my mistakes is also needed and I think I’m almost there. You know, it sounds so silly or cliche’ but meditating and relaxing and learning to be mindful are all making me see my life so much more clearly. That I need to embrace today. Love people today. Learn something today.
So, bye bye past. You are on a shelf and I might glance at you now and then but I won’t let you control my life. I’ve learned that I’m the driver of it and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
I love you, peeps…thanks for joining me on this ride. 😍😍😍
So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have so much to be thankful for in my life. It’s also the season of buying gifts and I’ve been working my little fingers to the bone making stuff as well! However, my son has told me he doesn’t want another quilt from me even though he loves the ones I’ve made him over the years: it’s a storage issue and I understand!
Anyhoot, I was putting the idea of thankfulness and gifts together in my mind (🙄) and realized that the people and things I’m thankful for have given me lifelong gifts I cherish.
Ma has given me so much over the years that it’s hard to sort them all out. I think the biggest gift she’s given me is that of support. I actually call her my bra because no matter what, it’s there holding things up. Yes, sometimes there’s chafing, but that’s to be expected. If I said “Ma, I want to fly to the moon and plant a quilt I’ve made on a pole by the American flag” she would say “That’s a great idea…how can I help?” I’m not kidding…her support is unconditional and always there. I have taken that gift and tried to pay it forward with my son. When he wanted to quit his job at Verizon and start a photography business, he needed to live with me to save on bills in order to buy equipment he needed. I was happy to do this for him…even though there was some ‘chafing’ there too! He had lived on his own for a few years prior to this and for both of us to live together again was sometimes a challenge. (The best part was when he’d make me supper…he’s a great cook! The worst part was me seeing my basement full of dirty clothes…he’s not OCD’ish like I am 😐).
I also supported him in his move to Texas…just like ma supported me when O’s dad and I moved to Kansas for his job (O was born in Kansas). Ma visited a lot even though it was 8 hours away and we yacked everyday on the phone. Back then our phones were ‘on the wall’ so I’d sit with O sleeping in my arms while talking to her on her work line so I wouldn’t have a humungous long distance bill. Thank goodness for that…I don’t think B would have appreciated that.
I went to Texas as much as I could…at least every 12 weeks or so and I know O appreciated it (since I cleaned up the apartment and bought food) and I always loved seeing his face looking for me as I exited the airport! One day he came home and said that another guy was in the store that had moved and he hadn’t seen his parents for a couple of years. He told me how much he appreciated my effort in seeing him so much and that just made my heart sing.
And what has O taught me? Love. It’s that simple. Yes, I loved people very much before having him but the love of your child is just a another thing entirely. The minute he was put in my arms I thought: “I would kill for you, kid…I already adore you that much” and it grows everyday. Literally. It’s hard to explain how much space he takes up in my heart…but I know that no matter what ever happens in this world, the love I have for my boy lights me up from the inside out.
And my pop? He’s given me so much as well but a couple of things really stand out. First is the love of running he instilled in me. I began running in the 4th grade when pop started our local running club and have pretty much run since then. Pop has gone to EVERY single race I’ve ever run in…whether they are in town or miles away and whether they are a 5k or a marathon. I love running…it’s not a chore to me but a pleasure and I know that comes from him. When I train for marathons, pop rides his bike next to me and those are the best times I’ve spent with him. We talk and reminiscence and say things to each other we probably never would have in another situation.
But he also gave me the gift of being a good neighbor. Pop has always helped neighbors and made sure they are taken care of. He mows, scoops snow, helps unload trucks, takes food to those who can’t get out, and the list goes on. I’ve done the same in my neighborhood. I raked my leaves last Sunday and then raked 2 more neighbor’s yards. One of the old men came home while I was working on his lawn and asked why I was doing it (we’re friends…he was being sweet) since he was able too himself and I said this: “Norm, you are always helping out neighbors and I wanted you to do the same for you!” He was so thankful and it made me happy. I guess pop has shown me that helping and doing for others is a gift of enjoyment for yourself.
My sissy has given me so many gifts too but I think the most important one is that of being authentic. My sissy is who she is…she doesn’t wear masks and has the attitude of ‘take me or leave me’ like I am. I love this! She is so strong and when we were little, she was my protector. Every pic of us when we were kiddos shows her with her arm around me and even now she wants to look after me. For example, she has offered to punch various guys in the face and tell them exactly what she thinks of them…which I know would include some VERY colorful language! If I need to vent or cry or bitch or anything, she’s there to listen and do what she can for me.
She also has the biggest heart…especially when it comes to kids. She adores kids and is Gramma T to the dozens that have come into her life. Kids adore her too and she knows how to spoil any kid rotten. I don’t know if I’ve ever told her this but I love this about her…it’s her ‘soft’ side and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
I’m really thankful for my pets too…Edward and Mally (they don’t mind me using their full names 😉). All of my pets, past and present, have taught me patience, joy, affection, loyalty, enthusiasm, and most importantly: unconditional love. It doesn’t matter if I’m down, grumpy, manic, sick, or stressed, I get snuggles, cuddles, wagging tails, licks and life is just better because of that. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could do the same (especially the licks 🤭)?
And my students? Wow. I’ve had thousands of students over the 25 years I’ve been teaching at my college and they have all had an impact on me. They have taught me strength, motivation, compassion, understanding, kindness and have given me the huge family I always wanted. They are the recipients of my passion and I’m the recipient of them…each individual ‘them’ that put just one more spark in my heart. They are the best.
I could add so many other people I’m thankful for like my extended family (my nieces and nephews rock), colleagues (especially you Grand Poobah, who can be quite the ass at times which means we get along great), neighbors, friends, and the list could go on and on.
But I’m also thankful for the things in my life that I tend to take for granted: my cozy house, my Jeep, my job, the fact I always have enough food and clean water, etc. How do you even begin to count all of these blessings?
Finally, I’m thankful to all of you, my sweetie readers! You’ve supported this blog for the last couple of years and I’ve made wonderful connections with you…as well as a super great friend (Hi Susan!). Writing is an outlet for me and for you to appreciate it makes it all the more special.
So, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you…eat a lot of turkey, stuff yourself, fall asleep on the couch while you digest, and then wake up and have just one more piece of pie. K? 🦃
So, my sweetie students and I were discussing Fritz Perls today (father of Gestalt Therapy 😳) and it reminded me so much of what else I’ve been studying: mindfulness. The whole idea behind Gestalt (‘configuration’) psychology is to be more aware of yourself, to stay present, and to process things in the here and now. Further, it’s also based on the idea that our overall perception depends on the interaction between many factors, including our past experiences, current environment, thoughts, feelings, and needs. Whew. Nice lecture, huh?
Anyhoot, as we were talking about our perceptions of ourselves and how much it affects the ‘whole’ of our being, one of my students who knows me well said this to me: “Professor K, you are always so dismissive of yourself. You always put yourself down and act like less than who you really are.” Wow. This really hit me because I know what I think about myself on the inside, but had no idea that it was seeping into the outside as well. However, as I’ve been contemplating it (in the new meditation area I made in my house…complete with chakra stones and all!😲 ), I started to understand where this has come from and why it’s such a big part of the ‘whole’ that I am.
I’m talking about rejection. None of us likes rejection…right? However, some of us handle it better than others. My sissy is wonderful…truly! She is never scared to speak her mind is one of the most authentic people I know in my life. If someone doesn’t like her, she says: “Fuck them! What the hell does that mean in my life?” I love that and wish I was that strong! Instead I say: “Why the hell don’t you like me and how can I act so you will?”
You know, I’ve talked a lot on this blawg about wearing masks and taking off the mask that covered up my bipolar was so hard. Having to confront the part of me that has a mental illness was terrifying…both in terms of myself but also in terms of how others would see me. But that’s my big ‘mask’ accomplishment…that bipolar one. But what about the others?
As we all know, I’ve experienced rejection in my life, like so many of you have as well. Do I take it harder because my emotional make-up is screwed up by my bipolar brain? Am I just more sensitive? Hmmmmm.
I think this rejection started in grade school when both T and I were bullied…we both had buck teeth and mousy hair and didn’t have the coolest clothes. And this continued through high school with me. I had 2 bullies that were particularly brutal and as many secrets as I’ve shared with ma, sissy, partners, and friends, I’ve never ever told anyone what one of the bullies would call me. It still hurts that much after 35 (cough cough) years. 😔
Then we have my relationships. O’s dad was terrific and I thought our marriage was a good one and would last forever. After we divorced, I was convinced we would co-parent O and be friendly and cordial…hells bells, we’d known each other since the 3rd grade and that’s a lot of history. This didn’t happen though. In his family, after you get divorced, you get cut out of pics and the ex-spouse simply pretends like you never existed. Charming. 🙄
So, when we see each other at graduations, weddings, etc. he nods at me. Yes, I said NOD. I gave birth to his only child (who by the way is amazing beyond anything) and we were married for 13 years. And he nods at me. Hmmmm. That may be his families mode of operandi, but it sucks balls because it feels like such a rejection. Not even a ‘hello’? Jeez.
Fast forward to Hubby 3. I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately and I’ve always said how we were still besties and talked just about everyday. But I did something last week I didn’t think I’d ever do: I told him ‘goodbye’ and that I couldn’t be his friend anymore. He’s with another woman…the one who was in his life while we were still together. He says he loves me…wishes he’d never divorced me…that I made him happier than anyone…but he’s with her. Period. He made his choice and can’t have it both ways. The straw that broke my proverbial camel’s back was this: a couple of weeks ago, the ‘club’ went down to Daytona for a bike thing and he took her with them. They had a vacation while down there and he got in the ocean for the first time in his life…something I had always wanted to do with him. Throughout all of our marriage, I’d ask to go on these trips with him and he’d say no every time. But then he took her. And that opened my eyes to the fact he’s hanging on to something that’s no longer there and I don’t deserve, nor need to listen to the ‘fun’ he has with his (I want to put another word in here but I’m going to be nice 😐) girlfriend when he never did the same with me. I realized, like a curtain opening, that he doesn’t love me…he just wants me in the wings and I’m not going to do that anymore.
Then J came into my life and started cheating on me months into the relationship and continued throughout the entire 3 years we were together. If that’s not a rejection, I don’t know what is. Basically it said: “You aren’t enough for me. I don’t love you enough to be faithful. I love this woman more.” Yikes. How can you feel good about yourself in terms of how men see you when this is thrown at you again and again? Then when we ‘broke up’, he never spoke to me again…and still never has. Yes, I loved him for 3 years through some pretty bad crap not many women would have, adored and parented the heck out of his precious kids, and helped him go from a jobless vet living in his grandma’s basement to someone with his own home, money, etc. He always used to say I ‘saved him’ but he treated me like shit and then walked away without another word. Rejection to the max.
Finally, my last relationship. Yep…I thought this was it. We had so many great times and I traveled all the time to see him in another state and then had him live with me while he found a house here. He has a self-proclaimed ‘anger issue’ and when he lashed out at me a couple of times, I let it go. I wanted to make it work! Then we got Covid and Dottie died and I had 3 surgeries and he was moving and my mania was out of control due to meds and the list goes on. So, we get into an argument where he said some pretty nasty things…and I said something back that I know hurt him. He walked out and I’ve literally never seen him or talked to him again…even though he lives 1 door down from me! He completely ghosted me after knowing each other 35 years. Once again, rejection.
Being dismissed like this by these men has created a ‘habit’ of demeaning my own self…even though I really do love who I am. It’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been made to feel I’m expendable. Extraneous. So…bored with me? Have sex with other women. Tired of being with me? Move in with the (cough cough) woman (🤢) you were seeing before you walked out the door. Angry at me for losing my temper? Ghost me and never acknowledge I even existed in the first place.
Am I that easily forgotten? That easy to get over? That easy to pretend like ‘we’ never happened?
See, I don’t do that. It’s beyond me how B and I could have gone through the birth and raising of our son and spent 13 years of our lives together every day…often working side by side…and then nothing. I don’t understand how you can say you’re in love with someone while making plans to hook up with another woman at the same time. I don’t get how you say you are committed to a relationship, say some pretty terrible things, but when something is said back, it’s over. By the way, I’ve e-mailed this guy 2 times…I’m obviously blocked so I used another address. It was actually an apology about my role in the argument and I’ve never heard a thing back. It hurts but as T says, ‘fuck him!’ She’s the best!
I don’t know why I still find the need to do this, but I depend on others for much of my validation. See, I feel really good about me in terms of me. But in terms of men and relationships, I’m starting to think I’m one of these women who will be used and thrown away. It makes me wonder if any of these men ‘really’ loved me. Their words said they did…but their actions? Nope.
So back to my student: I need to quit being so dismissive of myself. Quit thinking I am ‘rubble’ that can be tossed away. That I’m not worth working for…trying for…apologizing too…or even talking too. Is it a game guys play? Hmmm. I don’t think so. I know my son doesn’t do this…I know my dad didn’t do this with ma…I know sissy’s hubby is there through good and bad. So is it me? How can I not think that? But even more frustrating, why am I convinced it’s all about ‘me’ and my short-comings? Why can’t I see outside of myself at their short-comings too?
I always call ma on my way home from school and we were talking about this. She said: “Kristi, this is their lack. Not yours. You wouldn’t do this to someone…but they would. That shows you who they are.”
And she’s right. I’ve had a couple of relationships that I ended and we’re friends. I would never ghost somebody. Ignore them. Act like they never existed. It’s cruel and simply not in me to do.
Here’s what I told ma today as we were finishing up our daily cluck fest: “You know, I don’t think I want someone else in my life. It’s too hard knowing that what they say and what they might do may not match up. It’s just too damn hard to take that risk again.” And I meant it. But that’s sad to me. To think that these men just didn’t take away themselves but took something inside of me too. The openness to believe in people and the ability to trust them when they say forever. They’ve taken away my ability to look at myself and not be so judgemental…so brutal about ‘what could I have done different?’…so willing to think it’s all me. Thanks, guys. 🙄
You know, it makes me sad to think I might be alone for the rest of my life…but you know what? It makes me even more sad to know how people can deceive you and lie to you and hurt you…and they don’t really care.
So, the Grand Poobah and I were yacking in our office today and started discussing our own personal goals of being a professor. This came about as we were comparing notes on how many students have seriously struggled this semester due to the continuing issues with the pandemic, stress, job loss, loneliness, anxiety, depression and the list goes on. When he asked me: “Why do you teach? What are your goals for what you do?” I really started thinking about this and within a couple of minutes, I had the answer. Not because I was being flip, but because these ‘unwritten’ goals have guided me throughout my 27 year career as a college instructor.
If you look up the word ‘goal’ in a dictionary (remember when these weren’t online but tomes that weighed more than a medium sized dog? 😳) here’s what you get: ‘The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.’ (Oxford Languages) What do I want to accomplish with my students? What is my desire for them? Why do I put in the effort I do for them?
First, as simple as it sounds, I want my students to learn. You would think this is a no-brainer but not necessarily. Learning isn’t memorization or meeting stringent deadlines or making sure a text is highlighted or being able to bullshit your way through an essay for a passing grade. Unfortunately, not every professor agrees with this. Throughout the years, I’ve heard things like “We need to teach these kids what it’s like to punch a time clock.” Or, “We need to force these kids to take responsibility…there are no handouts in life” (hmmmm). Or “These kids just need to listen to me for what they need to know.” Or my favorite “You don’t get second chances in life!” OK. And you are on your 8th spouse. Got it. And this list can go on ad nauseum.
Here’s the thing though: I don’t care if it takes a student 1 try or 4 tries to get an essay up to par; it’s that they learned from writing it. What good does it do to put an F on their paper, give it back to them, and then want them to move on in the class? What did they learn? Look, when I learned to crochet (which was a hellish month for both me and sissy to say the least 😐), it took me a thousand tries to know how to work the hook and create the chain and complete stitches. And even then, my projects sucked balls. If I would have stopped after the first try, what would that have gotten me? Nothing.
So why don’t we allow students to absorb the material, have multiple chances on their assignments if they aren’t getting it, and work with them until they do? My job is not to teach a student to ‘punch a time-clock’ in order for them to understand that deadlines are set in stone (many are working jobs or have families…they know deadlines). In fact, in this day and age, many jobs are more flexible than that anyway. My job is to make sure they leave my class with info that will help them in any path they choose.
This ties in to my 2nd goal – to do all I can to help a student be successful in my classes. I have a student who is around my age (shutty 🙄) and she came to me around 4 weeks into the semester and said she was going to drop and that she couldn’t ‘do’ the class. I started talking to her every morning before class and one day, this woman started crying. She’s had a very hard life in terms of all she’s experienced, but this is what she said to me that completely broke my heart: “All my life, since I can remember, my mom said I was a piece of shit and would never do good at anything.”
When she disclosed this to me, her eyes were full of tears and it made me sick to think of a mother being so wickedly cruel to their child. This student hadn’t turned in our first essay of the semester and I told her to write it. She said she couldn’t. I said: “Write it. I don’t care how long it is…how many errors might be in it…how you approach the topic. Just write.” She turned it in a couple of days later and I was gobsmacked! It was freaking excellent…and I don’t use that word lightly. Her ideas and understanding of the material was deeper than most students and her writing was impeccable. I posted her A and she came to me the next day and said this: “You didn’t have to give me an A.” And I replied: “Look, I don’t give anything and I certainly have never given a pity or mercy grade in my life. In my classes, you earn your grades and you earned this A.”
Then I did this: “I looked in her eyes and said: you are a smart, kind, outgoing woman who has the tools to be successful in anything you choose to pursue. You are not a piece of shit. Your mom was a sick woman who used her innocent daughter as an outlet for her own issues. That is not who you are. Now say it to me.” She cried and said she couldn’t. I said: “Look, Professor K is telling you to do this and you know how tough I am!” She smiled, looked down and said…in a soft voice: “I’m not a piece of shit. I am capable.” I told her to say it again while looking in my eyes and she did. In the last 11 weeks, her confidence, participation, and eagerness has done a 180° turn and she went from an F in my class to an A.
When she told me she was going to drop, I could have had that done in seconds. For piss sakes, if she wants to drop…drop her. No. Because that’s not my goal. My goal is for every student to feel like they accomplished something in my class…had a success they can build on…had a worthwhile experience. By the way, she calls me ‘Mama K’ in my office (even though she’s just a tad older!) and hugs me every. single. day. She, my sweetie peeps, is a success.
Another goal I have is to be relatable. I’ve been in higher education longer than some of you have been alive and I’m here to tell you this: some professors get off on this power trip of having students’ grades in their sweaty palms. They get off on ‘taking control’ and being the ‘only one right’ and ordering ‘quit talking…you need to listen to me.’ They get off on the power. So ooooooooo…you have power over 20 year olds. Big accomplishment.
If I had wanted power, I sure as hell wouldn’t have gone into teaching and if the only thing that validates my profession is the control I have over my students, I have deeper issues that need to be addressed.
I don’t necessarily expect my students to love me…or to even like me. But I do want to set up an atmosphere where they know they can talk to me, share their opinions, question what I’m saying, all while knowing I won’t judge them no matter what. Have you ever had someone ask for your opinion and then chastise you for it by saying ‘that’s wrong.’ What? How can MY opinion be wrong? It can’t. And neither can yours.
This is also why I share my experiences (obviously when appropriate) about having bipolar, having been sexually abused, having been divorced 3 times (cough cough), having a ma who experienced domestic violence, etc. I want students to know I’m real. I understand. I’ll accept whatever they want to tell me. I want them to see me as an ‘ally’ in their college experience…someone working alongside of them…not against them.
This also brings me to compassion. I want my students to see I’ll cry with them…open up to them so they know they aren’t alone in their own struggles…empathize with issues they are dealing with…understand when they say “I just couldn’t do my assignment this week”, etc. I had a student come to me once regarding their late work and I told them they could make up what they had missed. Why? He had talked about a death in his family all while he was dealing with the loss of a job and family issues surrounding the funeral. He thanked me profusely for this opportunity and said he felt guilty for turning in late assignments. I said there should be no guilt whatsoever! That’s a lot on his plate and I wouldn’t have been able to focus on the topic of social structure either. C’mon. Why is it weak for professors to have compassion for what our students are going through?
Some professors have this policy: “NO LATE WORK NO MATTER WHAT.” Really? I kid you not but I knew a professor years ago that wouldn’t let a student make up an exam they missed because they had suffered a miscarriage that week. The prof said: “A deadline is a deadline. I break it for you, I break it for everyone.”
Are you fucking (sorry, ma 😲) kidding me? A fucking (ditto, ma 🤨) exam is more important than this woman losing her baby? I was gobsmacked and so disgusted by this (and yes, told the student to talk to our dean) I wanted to say this: “Look, Prof. You know what you just taught this student? That their pain doesn’t matter. Their loss doesn’t matter. Their life doesn’t matter. All that matters is a fucking (last one, ma 😬) date you arbitrarily put on a syllabus.” Yep. That taught them a lot.
Why can’t we all have compassion for our students? Understand that life gets in the way of due dates…assignments…studying. I remember O being sick and his school calling me at school to come pick him up. I shot off a quick e-mail to my students saying classes were cancelled and when I was running out the door, one of my colleagues said this: “Must be nice to just up and leave work because you have a kid.” And I responded with: “Look. My kid is forever and this is a job. My family will always come first.” If I had been a student, not much would have been turned in that week…O ended up getting pneumonia. So, if I would have missed a quiz, I would have been told ‘too bad’? Yes…by some profs.
Look, compassion is one of these things that you give back what you get. If I show compassion and empathy and true care for my students, I’m teaching them a lesson more important than understanding the 3 theoretical perspectives of sociology: that we have to take care of one another.
Other goals I have? I want to show my students how applicable the material is…how they can actually use it in their everyday lives. I want to be adaptable in terms of what students and classes need in any given semester. I want them to know it’s not my classroom…it’s theirs. It’s a student centered environment where they are the ones in the spotlight. It’s not the Professor K show.
It sounds like a cliche but actually, cliches are often based in truth: one bad professor can ruin a student’s college life. You think that woman who miscarried wanted to walk into another classroom after that? You think if I would have dropped that student she would have continued her studies still believing the words her mom heaped on her? You think if I played the power card and said “No…you cannot re-do that paper to pass” that student is going to be motivated? I love what I do. I take it seriously. And, I do it the way I do it because I care. Because I want students to walk out of my classes with not only the academics, but lessons in life, compassion, open mindedness, respect and a love for learning that can take them as far as they want to go.
So, we are talking about ageism in my Intro classes which has to be my favorite topic we cover. In fact, talking about age is my favorite activity ever…just below putting a hot fireplace poker in my eye. 😳
Anyhoot, here’s a question that came up today when we were talking about our life expectancy: “Would you want to know what day you were going to die?” Half of the class nodded while the other half shook their head vigorously. The ones that said yes talked about how they would get things done…travel…be with family, etc. The ones that said no stated that the anxiety of knowing this would put a damper on the rest of your life.
I’ve been thinking about this today and don’t know which I’d choose…both sides have valid arguments. One student said “If I knew when I was going to die, I’d write out a bucket list and work to cross everything off.”
Did you know the term ‘bucket list’ didn’t come about until the 2007 film with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, and did you also know I’d give my left arm to hear Morgan Freeman read to me in person. Just sayin’.
I think I might be one of the few people I know that doesn’t have a bucket list and I actually have felt bad about that…like I have no goals or aspirations. Anyhoot, according to howtoadult.com, the most commonly found items on bucket lists from around the world are:
See the Northern Lights – OK, I’m going to admit this: I had no freaking idea where these were but now that I know they’re in Iceland, the chance of me moseying up there is slim. However, my son really wants to go to Iceland even though he hates the cold to the point if it’s under 60, he bitches about it. Go figure.
Run a Marathon – DONE! I’ve run 5 marathons in my life: 2 in Chicago, the St. Louis, the Green Bay, and Disney from which I have a gold Mickey Mouse medal! Yea!
Take an African Safari – my friend travels to Africa twice a year to spend time at the By Grace Orphanage in Kayole, Kenya. She created a non-profit, Stand up for Grace, and I’ve helped her with it since it’s inception 15 years ago. Unbeknownst to ma, I am planning to go next winter. It’s in a fairly dangerous place but I want to meet these kids so badly and work to make where they live better. Ma is totally against this…she’s convinced I won’t come back for whatever reason: getting run over by a rhino, getting held up (this has happened to my friend), saying or doing something unacceptable in the area and being jailed (yes, I have a big mouth and am impulsive…but yes, my friend would be there reeling me in), and the list goes on. So ma…if you’re reading this: I’ll be fine! OK?
Write a Story – I’ve written lots of kids books that I’ve mentioned before and really want to get them published badly…this is my goal. I’m also writing a book on being bipolar…it’s something I know a tad bit about and I hope to finish it during Christmas break. If, I’m not too busy shoving ma’s roasted pecans down my gullet the entire time. 😐
Walk Along the Great Wall of China – I’m gonna be honest here but I have absolutely no desire to go to China. The wall looks amazing and the history behind it is fascinating, but seeing it on Google earth has pretty much been enough for me.
Learn to Play an Instrument – I would love to learn to play the ukulele. I know I know…it sounds silly but I love the sound of it! I first wanted one when I saw the Andy Griffith show episode where the ‘Fun Girls’ have one and are playing it for Barney in the jail. What more can I say? (Ma…remember when you said you need Christmas ideas…well…here you go…😐).
Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef – I know this would be fucking amazing and I love love love the water. However, the thought of a 22 hour plane ride makes me want to puke. Literally. Ma and pop would draw straws to see who had to sit by me on planes when the family went on vacation. The loser got to watch me puke in bags for the duration of the trip. Charmed I’m sure. 🤢
Skydiving – O has done this and he loved it! The video of him is so cute but it scared the shit out of me when he left to go do this with his dad. My favorite part of his video is when the guy filming asks if there’s anything he wants to say before jumping and he says: “I love you, Mom!” This is all while his dad was sitting by him and rolling his eyes. I love it. However, me jump out of a plane? I have as much a chance of that as dating Taron Egerton. So the answer is no way. Unless…Taron asks me to do it with him. Strapped to his chest. Hmmmm…
Own a Dog – DONE! I’ve had 7 dogs in my life: Scooter (my first mutt), Tessie (my white German Shepherd), Lizzie (another Shepherd), Squirty (my Toy Poodle I had for 3 years before B and I got divorced…he wouldn’t let me take him and I cried for weeks), Dottie (the one who will always stand out the most in my heart…I cry for her everyday and miss her so so much), Edward (my mutt who is the most loving dog ever), and Mally (who is doing so well)! I will never be without a dog; even when they’re at the groomers, I don’t know what to do with myself in the empty house!
See the Pyramids in Egypt – actually, Pop and my step-ma are going there with my sissy and her hubby in July. I can’t wait to see their pics and actually did a report on Egypt in the 6th grade which they can all use as a tour guide. I’m sure it’s very comprehensive.
Learn another Language – I took 2 years of French in high school and can say 4 things in the language: hi, yes, bye and where’s the toilet. Why would I need to learn anything else? 🙄
Ride a Venetian Gondola – I would LOVE to do this…I want to visit Italy so badly some day so this is definitely one I need to jot down on my list.
Drive across the Country – Another one I really really want to do! J and I always talked about buying an RV and spending a year traveling all across the country and I still have dreams of doing this. I guess I’ll have to with Taron now. Darn. 😏
View Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower – O has done this too (my son is very well traveled) and his pics are amazing. And, because of my fluency in French, I think I would do great in this country.
Hike the Pacific Crest Trail – hmmmm…I’ve actually always wanted to hike parts of the Appalachian trail but am up for this too. Just so I look like Reese Witherspoon did in the movie “Wild” while doing so. All I need is to take 10 years off my life, be a blonde, have a rockin’ bod, and look good while sweaty. Yep…that’ll happen.
Take an Alaskan Cruise – Yes! Ma took one years ago and loved it and the pics of what she saw are absolutely gorgeous. Plus, I hear there are a lot of single men in Alaska…who really want to move to Central Illinois 😉.
See your Favorite Band – I’ve actually seen my all time favorite singer: Elton John; it was in 1989 in Chicago and amazing and I’d love to see him again! BTW, it was the first time I smelled pot. But not the last. Don’t tell ma. Or pop. 🤨
Go Glamping – No, I’ve never heard of this but it’s glamour camping…right up my alley. In fact, I think I have a better idea: hotelamping. Staying in a luxury hotel that has a spa, pool and cabana boys at your beck and call. T…let’s do this!
Visit Stonehenge – O has also done this (crappy kid has done everything) but said this about Stonehenge: “It was a pile of rocks, ma. You aren’t missing much.” I’ll take his word for it.
Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro – OK, I had to look up where this is and saw it’s in Tanzania which I also had to look up until I realized it is in Africa. The hike is 55 miles over the course of a week and I’d actually like to do this…I love to hike!
Now, anything else I want to add to a proposed bucket list? Hmmm…white water rafting on the Colorado river, opening a plant shop, convincing my son it’s time to give me a grandbaby before I get too old to see the little fart, and singing on stage where everyone claps and cheers even though it sucked balls. I have huge aspirations…huh?
So, would I want to know when I was going to die? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t want that in my head but I do want to get some things checked off in my life. I mean face it, at the age of 54 that time frame is apparently shrinking…at least according to my young sweetie students who think 30 is old. Blech. 😳
So, one of my students and I always walk out to our cars together after my last class and today she said something no one has asked me before: “How do you take everything people put on you?” I looked at her quizzically and she went on to say this: “We are always sharing things with you and burdening you with our problems…doesn’t that get hard to deal with?” I told her that it didn’t and I was just the kind of person people open up too. But, as usual, I started thinking about this more and realized that it probably does affect me more than I let on…or that I even admit to myself.
As the Grand Poobah would attest too, teaching Psychology (and Sociology) puts you in a position of teaching topics/issues/concepts that are so personal. For example, in my Marriage and Family class (my area of expertise…I have enough experience 🙄) we talk about issues including domestic violence, child abuse with special emphasis on sexual abuse, rape, infidelity, divorce, alcoholism, mental disorders and their affect on relationships and the list goes on. Pretty heavy stuff, huh?
In my Theories of Personality class that my student is in we talk about attachment, parenting, various conceptions of personality development that can go awry, personality disorders, theories that explore our neurosis, Horney’s Tyrrany of the Shoulds, the Inferiority Complex (Adler), our Shadow archetype (Jung), anxiety and defense mechanisms (S. and A. Freud), identity formation (Erikson), issues relating to freedom (Fromm), love (Fromm), conformity, social belonging, narcissism, psychopathy, real self vs. ideal self (Horney and Rogers), self-esteem, self-worth, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-image and you get the point. ALL of these topics can bring things up in students and even though it sounds absolutely horrible to admit, tears are sometimes shed.
Today we talked about Humanistic theories and discussed Roger’s belief in phenomenology and how it’s OUR perceptions, based on OUR experiences, that need to be the focus of attention. We live in our own bubbles based on things we have gone though which skews perceptions…but those perceptions, though maybe not rational, are real and need to be validated. After all, they’re ours.
So one of my students is a recovering heroin addict who spent 6 years in prison and has been clean since. She lost custody and contact with her first 2 children because of this but has another little girl she’s raising with her partner. The little girl has special needs and acts out uncontrollably at times. She’s in the process of being evaluated, etc. but it’s really hard for my student to handle. When we started talking about how our experiences shape our perceptions, she started crying and said this: “I’m a horrible mom. I get so impatient and so frustrated and I’m giving her these experiences that are going to screw her up. Maybe I’m just not meant to be a mom.”
This broke my heart. This woman is one of the kindest, smartest, and most motivated person I know and she works and tries with her daughter so hard. But, she makes mistakes. She yells and gets upset and cries and is now beating herself up over these times her daughter is taking in. After she calmed down I asked her this: “Name a perfect parent.” She couldn’t. I said: “Name a parent who is 9.9/10.” and she said YOU and I started laughing. WHAT? I told her that you could write every single mistake I made with O on the huge walls of our lecture hall and would still need room for more. I even called O on speaker and asked him to rate my parenting…he said he would probably give me around a 7.5-8. So, in other words, I have degrees in Psych and Family Studies, have worked with ages from 2- 70, have certifications out the wazoo…and I’m a C parent 😳.
She started laughing and we talked about how we are all going to ‘give’ our kids negative experiences because we’re human…they’re human…and when you have 2 imperfect humans interacting, there’s gonna be issues. But that’s OK. It’s normal!
Throughout the same class, students have also talked about lack of self-worth stemming from an assault, growing up in an abusive home where there was never any acceptance or positive interaction, feeling inferior to everyone else, confronting their ‘shadows’ and things they have done that they regret, etc. And I listen, validate, comfort, and sometimes advise if I think it’s appropriate.
And you know, in all of my 28 years of teaching at the college level, I have NEVER once talked about domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, alcoholism in families, or anything else without a handful of students in each class talking about their own experiences or coming to my office to share with me. It breaks my heart. So much. And it’s hard to not bring that home and have it haunt me. I just want to take these young people and wrap them all up in a blanket and schlep them off to a bubbled island where they won’t ever hurt again.
But I have my own issues too. Ever heard of ‘Imposter Syndrome’? This is when you feel like a fraud in what you do…that you really aren’t good enough for the position. I feel like this a lot! Here I am…someone who did shitty in high school…standing in front of future lawyers and counselors and executives and teaching them for a grade that will be on their transcript forever. Sometimes I think I should be in one of the seats…not out in front.
And today? We’re talking about DV in class and I always get choked up. How can I not when ma suffered 28 years at the hands of a batterer? And then we listen to a 911 call placed by a little girl, 7, who’s reaching out for help while her step-father beats her mom in the background. This resounds with me. I used to hear R beat mom when I was in bed. The fear and paralysis and sounds and powerlessness are still there in my head. The first time I heard it I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was the most awful night in my life and growing up in a home with that throughout my teen years has affected me. So when I hear the call, I can understand the girl’s anguish. (And yes, I called 911, my grandparents, my sissy, etc. and we all tried to help ma as much as we possibly could but ultimately, it’s the victim that has to take the help 😔).
When I lecture about sexual abuse, how can I not think of the 2 years I was abused by my psychologist? How can that wound not be re-opened every single semester in multiple classes? Then, when my sweetie students start to share their stories with me, it crushes me.
I never get through my lecture on divorce without choking up to where I sometimes need to take a breather. I hated my parents divorce…it was so hard on sissy and I, and I swore my kid would NEVER ever experience the break-up of their family. Yet he did and I remember his pain. His tears. His shouts. His haunted eyes. And I beat myself up again and again for that.
When we talk about mental illness and it’s stigmatization and how hard it is to live with, I get angry. Why is there still so much shame associated with illnesses no one wants or deserves or asks for? And then when my students message me and tell me they experience depression or anxiety but can’t ask for help because they’re scared people will look at them differently, I cry…because they’re right. You are looked at differently.
So I guess I take on other’s burdens because they need me too. They need someone to share with and talk too and learn from…something I didn’t have in school. They come to me because I’m open about things I’ve gone through…they know about ma (she has actually spoken to some of my classes), me having bipolar, me having been abused, etc. I share with them because they need to know there are people behind these statistics…text chapters…articles. When I say to them: “I understand” they know it’s true. Look, they’re there for me everyday…the huge family I never had and they let me live out my passion to teach and make me feel like I might be making a bit of a difference in their lives. I get back so much more than I give to them so if another student ever asks me why I take so much on, here’s what I’m going to say: “Because I love you all.” It’s as easy as that.
So, I don’t know if God allows computers in heaven and I’m really not sure how’ll you’ll read this letter but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.
I grew up watching you on the MTM show and wanted to be you so badly. Not only did you have this amazing apartment (where you even got to sleep on a pull-out bed…how cool was that? 😲) but good friends that were your neighbors. You were beautiful, funny, smart, empathic and loved to eat salads like I did. And you know…besides the beautiful, funny and smart parts, I’m very much like you were then.
Every show that I watched up until yours started airing was about a family…you know, the dad who went to work everyday, the mom who wore heels to vacuum in, and the darling little angels whose worse problem was getting lobbed in the nose by a football. Then you came on the scene: this unmarried woman who lived alone, had a successful career and embraced singlehood and all that it entailed. Wow. What a new concept to me.
It’s funny to re-watch these shows now because the sexism in the workplace is horrendous. Lou looking at your butt when you walk out the door…you making $50 less than the man who had your exact job but had a family to support…the men in the newsroom calling you honey and asking for coffee even though you were an associate producer. It’s hard to remember that this was normal for the 70’s and sometimes I have to wonder how much it’s really changed. We’re still making coffee…often being talked to condescendly…and have to keep doing better and better to prove that we are the woman for the job. I remember when I met a neighbor after moving into my house. He asked what I did and I told him I worked at the college in town; then he asked what department I was a secretary in. Now granted this guy was about a billion years old, but even so it shows that we still have work to do. 🙄
I took you as a strong feminist and until I started reading more about you and realized how much our views on women mesh. You weren’t a big fan of Gloria Steinem, huh? In your last TV interview, when asked about why you didn’t relate to her well, you said this: “I believed that women—and I still do—have a very major role to play as mothers. It’s very necessary for mothers to be involved with their children. And that’s not what Gloria Steinem was saying. Gloria was saying oh, you can have everything, and you owe it to yourself to have a career. And I didn’t really believe in that, so that was a little difficult for me.”
When I read that, I actually shouted AMEN! When I was growing up amidst the women’s movement, I thought I had 2 choices: have a family or have a career. Gloria chose her career and after having an illegal abortion in 1957, said she needed to prove herself and make her life count. It was as if she couldn’t see any way to do both but you did.
Why is being a mom often seen as second to being a career woman? “Oh…you’re a mom…so you just stay at home?” Uh, yeah…I did. And no matter how much I’ve achieved on a personal level, it doesn’t mean jack shit next to the fact I raised an amazing young man who is doing such wonderful things.
We’ve gone from saying “You can’t have it all!” to “You can have it all!” but is this true? Christine Hassler wrote this in the Huffington Post in 2011: “…not only are we supposed to have it all but do it all at 100 percent: the career, relationship, children/family all while looking good, doing good and being good.”
Really? That’s having it all? Hmmmm…I think that might be having too much. After all, how can you give 100% to 5 different things? How is that possible, and why don’t men need to do the same? An article in Psychology Today says this: “It’s true that many husbands are more willing to pitch in today, but things are far from equal. Taking care of the home is still squarely on the shoulders of wives, despite the fact that many are working. Some studies suggest that women have almost three times the workload of their husbands. Interestingly, these proportions stay about the same, regardless of whether a wife has a full-time job, and whether or not her husband is currently working.”
Yeesh. Three times the workload? So let’s see: we have being a wife/partner, being a mom, having a career, looking good (which is a requisite for women in our society today), and being good which is also still a societal expectation. And then we wonder why the hell women are twice as likely to be on anti-depressants and more likely to be on anti-anxiety meds than men. Some of this is due to biology…thank you, estrogen. But like the APA says, there are life factors as well: unequal power and status, work overload, and being the victim of abuse.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Can you have it all?” but what your opening song says: “You’re gonna MAKE it after all.” And to me, making it means being who and what you want to be. That’s part of what feminism is to me: having a choice in creating the life you want instead of having to follow a preordained path.
You didn’t have a partner or family on the show, but you were happy. Fulfilled. Had fun experiences. You did have it all…a full, satisfying life you were living on your own terms, despite what our culture said at the time.
And in your ‘real’ life? I know you suffered with diabetes beginning in 1969 after having a miscarriage, and that this disease almost blinded you as you got older. You had a benign brain tumor in 2011 and were very open about being a recovering alcoholic. And worse of all…you lost your only son after he suffered an accidental gunshot wound at the age of 24. I can’t even begin to imagine what pain that brought to your life. Bless your heart. 🧡
You see, that’s what I love so much about the ‘real’ you..and not just the TV you. You stood up for your own beliefs. You fought battles and talked about them…were open about them…didn’t shy away from answering the hard questions about them. So really, in that regard, you were the MTM on TV…someone living an authentic life and being exactly who you wanted to be. How refreshing…and how rare.
Anyhoot, I admired you as a kid and I still admire you as an adult. Watching your show not only gives me some really great decorating ideas (like when you antiqued a piece of furniture by hitting it with a chain 🤨), but shows me that being single doesn’t have to be seen as a flaw. I don’t need to feel less than because I’m alone; actually, you’ve taught me that I’m really not alone after all: I have an awesome family, friends at school, my students, my neighbors, my pets…I’m really blessed! You showed me I can have a full, happy life with ‘just’ me at home. Being single isn’t a curse…it’s an opportunity. What a great lesson that is.
Finally, you taught me that voicing views different from others is a privilege we should all take more advantage of, instead of this ‘herd’ mentality. I can be loved…liked…and me at the same time. Confidence isn’t conceit and having a sense of self-worth isn’t selfish. It’s simply strong.
So thank you for the lessons growing up…and the lessons I’m still learning now. You know, I can picture you having coffee with Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou while trading stories about anything and everything that comes to mind. Perhaps you’ll let me join you someday. If so, I’d be honored.
So, I left my Theories of Personality class crying yesterday and when I was traipsing through the library to get to my office, my friend asked me if I was OK and here’s what I said: “I’ve been teaching college for 28 years at 3 institutions and this was the best class in my life!” And I meant it. It gave me chills and the warmest feeling in my heart. Damn I love my students! 😃
Anyhoot, we are talking about Erich Fromm and discussed the “Art of Loving” and while doing so, we reviewed the 4 elements Dr. Fromm said were necessary for true love:
Care – the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.
Responsibility – the voluntary act (not obligation) to be ready to respond to the psychic needs of the other person.
Respect – (literally means ‘to look at’) ability to see a person as they are and to be aware and accepting of their growth. Seeing the person as a unique person who is NOT an object for use.
Knowledge – the knowing of a person on a deep, intimate level in which you can ‘see’ when they are hurt, angry, upset, etc. even in the face of their denial.
Each of these is difficult to define and can differ depending on the people involved and their circumstances. Seen in these terms, love is hard work, but it is also the most rewarding kind of work. Do you agree? I sure as fuck (ma? Are you there? 😬) do!
Dr. Fromm also goes on to state: Love is an art and has to be practiced like any other art; it requires discipline, concentration, patience, and a supreme concern to master the art. Those are some pretty hard things to do, aren’t they?
Well, my students started discussing this and they had such insight and examples from their own lives and relationships. And of course, I had a few tidbits to share as well.
Why is it we work so so hard at other ‘love’ relationships in our lives, but when intimate, partner relationships get tough, we walk away? It’s almost like relationships are expendable nowadays. Not ‘happy’? Go find someone else. Not ‘getting along right now?’ Go find someone else. ‘Arguing?’ Go find someone else. I mean really…isn’t it easier just to jump on an app and find another person to be with? It’s a hell of a lot easier than working…trying…being patient. Right?
Heh? SO…when O was a little guy and he was sick and cranky and I was ‘unhappy’, I should have walked away? When he was a teenager and we argued about various things, I should have walked away? When he comes over and starts yapping about religion where his views are different than mine (vastly different 🙄) I should walk away?
Of course not! Duh! I love my son. Unconditionally. I have always cared for him (and it’s hard for him to understand why I still have the need to care for him even at 28). I feel a responsibility towards him and respect the amazing man he has grown into. Finally, I’ve learned to understand him…know him. And I reap those rewards everyday.
But, if these things happen in an intimate relationship, we don’t feel the need to put in the work to solve them. What does walking away do? It changes the situation, but not the people. And it’s the people who are important.
My students and I went on to talking about whether or not you need to love yourself to love others, or to have others love you. Our consensus: Oh yea!
Look, I don’t always like me…in fact, there have been times that I’ve hated what I’ve said or done. But I still love me. We all have too. We come into this world alone…with our own little souls. And we’ll leave alone…with our own little souls. When it gets right down to it, we ultimately have to depend on ourselves. People come and go. Ma and Pop will leave this earth someday (even though I have forbade them both to NOT too 😳) and it will crush me to pieces. I know it will. My son has forged a new life and I’m a part of it, but not the central piece of it that I used to be. My sissy has her own life and beautiful grandbabies to be with and take care of. In other words, people in our lives change roles…leave us…pass away…and fundamentally speaking, we have ourselves in the end.
If love is an art…a discipline…a concept to be learned and practiced like Fromm says, then can’t we do that in terms of loving ourselves even more? Can’t we learn to care for ourselves more? Carve out more time to do what makes us happy? Allow ourselves to try things that will help us grow? Take the time to explore the creative side we all have?
And what about responsibility? Don’t I need to face what is happening in my life at any given time…with kindness? Don’t I have a responsibility to myself to be the best person I can be…to myself and to others?
Respect? I think this is the piece that really grew in myself after the breakdown I experienced. I was this ‘thing’. This object. This ‘something’ that I felt had no value…no purpose…no hope. So I attempted suicide. So I cut myself. So I didn’t eat. So I didn’t shower. So I just ‘didn’t.’ Why wasn’t I still seeing ME in the midst of all that was happening? Luckily, I started too. I’m ME. Kristi. A person that deserves to be seen and loved. By others…and by me.
Further, I’m learning more and more about myself as I purposely focus on that. I’m learning I’m not a bad person because I have fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar. I’m not a failure because I’ve been married 3 times (shutty 🙄). And, I’m not a horrible person because I make mistakes.
In other words? I’ve learned to treat myself like I treat others. It’s a process. A journey. It’s not selfish or narcissistic or boastful. It’s loving yet another person in my life who happens to be me.
You know, being dumped as many freaking times as I’ve been has always made me feel less than. That happened yet again a few weeks ago…being ghosted after a year of being together and after 35 years of knowing each other. That hurt. Bad. But are the dumps all my fault? Have they happened because I’m just a bad person? Nope. I’ve come to realize that the blame doesn’t rest solely on me. It rests on both people…in the context they are living in…with the baggage they carry…with the issues they have.
I do believe what Dr. Fromm says: Love is an art and has to be practiced and nurtured in order to grow. I know I can do this…I have for all of the people I love in my life, including me. If I ever find someone (🤨 ) that will see things the same, then that will be fucking fabulous (sorry again, ma). But, after class yesterday I also learned this: if I don’t, that’s ok too. Because love is in my life so much with my family and friends and students and neighbors. And…maybe most importantly of all…because it’s in me.
So, I am not a girly girl. At all. In fact, from the time I can remember, I was a tomboy and would revel in getting dirty and sweaty and stinky whenever I could. And that still holds true…even at the young age of 54 (shutty 🙄).
Anyhoot, why am I thinking about this? The other day, sissy called me and said I just had to go to this online shop to get some of their nail wraps because she had a few sets and they are adorbs. So within 5 minutes, I had an account on the site, ordered 4 sets, and signed up for their mailers. I’m not easily influenced at all.
The box came a few days later and was packed so cute with the nail wraps, some tools and other goodies, and I was so excited just looking at them. But then I tried them and luckily, T prepared me for this: “Kristi, these aren’t as easy to use as I thought but I learned some tips and you’ll catch on quickly.” She was right…I caught on after re-reading her messages a dozen times, watching countless YouTube videos, and just winging parts of it I couldn’t figure out. Now mind you, these are nail wraps…not a NASA project. I got a practice set with my order and went through those in 5 minutes…those fuckers are sticky.
After ruining another set, I finally got them on and I felt so WEIRD! I couldn’t stop looking at my hands and was mesmerized by my nails. I was scared to do dishes…type…take out the garbage…and really, just move my hands in any way fearing they would come off. In fact, I was so distracted I don’t remember much about that week save for my flowered nails. If anything else big happened in the world, give me a shout.
It was a relief when the first one fell off…which I’m sure didn’t happen by me constantly picking at them. It was like I could live again…enjoy the scenery and not make my hands the focal point of my life. I think the Grand Poobah was relieved too…he was sick of me saying “Look at my nails!” to him every 5 minutes during our office hours 😳.
This reminds me of when T and I first started experimenting with make-up. This was the early 80’s and cosmetics were kinda icky back then. Foundations came in 3 colors: orange, orangier, and orangiest while lipsticks were slimy and came off if you blew your nose and a tissue touched your lips. Eyeshadows were blue and green (which I loved!) and you had to have a swipe of blush right on your cheekbones without any blending. The first time T got all made up, I thought she was gorgeous! Her skin was the color of an Oompa Loompa and she couldn’t smile for fear of either cracking her foundation or showing the schmears of lipstick on her teeth, but by golly, she was a knock out and I was mesmerized. I couldn’t wait until I could try it myself!
So I started experimenting and to this day…all these years later…I’m still as much of a novice now as I was then. I’ve worn foundation 3 times in my life and as God is my witness, I will never wear it again. I can color match, blend, powder, and rub and still have a line on my jaw that shows where my skin ends and my make-up begins. And eyes? I LOVE the look of eyeliner that curls out from the lid. I’ve tried to do this more times than I care to count and there is no way on this great green earth I will ever get the hang of it.
My hair is the same way. I love messing with it and try to curl it and make it look ‘cute’, but I know I don’t always succeed. As it gets longer, I get more and more bewildered by buns and upsweeps and braids so I usually just get some cut off and then cry and say I’m going to grow it again. It’s a comforting cycle to be in and a pattern I never intend to break.
And clothes? I can count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve worn a dress these past 30 years and 3 of those were at weddings. Mine in particular. I think I once wore a dress to a graduation until I found out that running shorts under your robe feels better, and the other was to a funeral because my black pants had dog hair on them at the time. The chances of me wearing another one soon is about a billion to one.
I can’t walk in a dress…or sit in one…and since they require shoes other than Birkenstocks (which is all I wear now 😐) or my ASICS, I’m screwed in being able to walk. I have never truly figured out high heels. EVERY time I have ever bought any they have either been too big so that I walk out of them or too small so that I get huge blisters on my heel. And before you ask, they always fit perfectly in the store. Go figure.
My outfit of choice? Cargo shorts, t-shirt, Birkies, lip gloss and a smear of mascara. That’s about all you get with me. Charming…right? And colors? I am NOT a pastel type of woman. I am a gray, black, white, and dark green type that has to wear a belt anytime I have on pants or shorts with belt loops. O makes fun of me: “Ma, you don’t need to tuck in a wear a belt all the time.” Ummmm…yes you do. If there are belt loops, I’m going to use them. And, the only time you’ll see me untucked is if I’ve had a big lunch or am a bit gassy from spicy food 🤢.
Oh, I look at ads and social media and see these gorgeous women with the poreless faces and perfect makeup tottering around on 6″ heels while wearing skin tight dresses that show off their ass and I think ‘if only.’ Then, I start to think how I would break my ankle, split my dress while sitting down, and fuck with my make-up so much people would start to stare. So…no red carpet walk for me.
A couple of years ago, ma said I should never ever pierce my nose so I pierced my nose. It was like this ‘feminine’ thing for me and I couldn’t stop messing with it. I stared at my nose for significant stretches of time and whenever I twirled it around or wiggled it to make sure it was in place, it looked like I was picking boogies. Every family member would say this to me countless times: “Kristi, quit playing with your nose.” I think they were relieved when I snagged the damn thing taking off my shirt and never got it re-pierced.
It’s funny because I love being a ma and a daughter and a sissy and a sometimes girlfriend or wife, but I hate being too girly. I have nighties I’ve worn but prefer boxers and tank tops. I’ve bought fancy schmancy undies with lace but prefer my good old cotton Hanes. I’ve bought purses with little buckles and sparkles but prefer shoving my credit card in my back pocket. I’ve bought dangly earrings but prefer the studs I got in high school from my first serious boyfriend.
But, it’s me. Tomboyish me who loves to paint and dig in the yard and wash my car in the drive and mow my lawn and pull up carpet and use my new nail gun and ooo and ahhh over power tools at Harbor Freight and run in the rain and ride motorcycles when I can get my hands on one and get muddy with Eddie when we walk around the neighborhood. And frankly, doing all of this with nail wraps and make-up just doesn’t seem right to me. So that’s my excuse for being so unadorned…and I’m sticking to it.
So, I love Jim Henson and always have. He was such a creative genius and I truly believe the world is a better place because of him; I came across this quote the other day and wanted to take a closer look-see at it because it resonated with me so much:
“Most people, and particularly kids, don’t realize that they are in control of their lives, and they’re the ones that are going to make the decisions, and they they’re the ones that are going to make it one way or the other. Usually, adolescence is a time when kids feel that the world is doing it to them and that they are the victim in all of this. Somewhere in here, you have to learn that you’re not the victim. But instead you’re the one who’s doing it. That moment is sometimes a long, slow realization, or sometimes, it’s turning on a light switch. All of a sudden you realize that you are the person who has control of your life.”
See, I started a class a couple weeks ago on mindfulness and meditation. These are things I’ve heard of before but to be honest here’s what I pictured: a balding man wearing robes and beads and chanting to himself. Yes, I know how cliche that is, but I truly didn’t know anything about this subject. Anyhoo, even after a couple of weeks I’m learning so much about how to stay calm and see things that are happening in a much different way.
I figured that mindfulness and meditation are used to only stay calm and feel good but oh boy…I was wrong (as usual 🙄). The book we are using in our class is “Good Morning, I Love You” by Shauna Shapiro and I take pages and pages of notes while reading each chapter…I may need more paper by the end of the class. Here’s what she says that resonates with me so much (paraphrased): We hold ourselves to unrealistic standards of perfection and judge ourselves harshly when we fall short. When we do this, we are assuming that perfection is possible and logically, we know it’s not. But, Dr. Shapiro makes it very clear that TRANSFORMATION is possible…that we can learn and change and grow throughout our lives.
So mindfulness, according to Dr. Shapiro, is paying attention in the moment (and meditation is one avenue we can use to do that). IN THE MOMENT. According to studies, our minds wander 47% of the time which means…get ready for it…we’re not in the present for 1/2 of our lives. HALF of our lives. That’s seemed crazy high to me, but as I’ve really been consciously focusing on the present, I know this statistic is right.
I can’t believe how much I berate myself for things I’ve done or said in the past, or I’m worrying about what I’m going to say or do in the future. While we are in the past, Dr. Shapiro says that we are often practicing 3 things: judgment, impatience, and frustration. As I think back, I do this all of the time and hold myself up to higher standards (perfection!) than any other person in my life. I forgive people for what they do or say…but forgiving myself is a completely different story. Why can we treat others with kindness and mercy, but not ourselves?
Also, Dr. Shapiro talks about how we all feel bad about ourselves. Maybe the degrees of this differ but most of us beat ourselves up and feel shame about who we are. The problem? She teaches us that shame literally shuts down parts of the brain that promote growth and learning…it robs the brain of energy that’s needed for the growth and change we’re seeking. So, instead of growing, I’m robbing myself of any chance of transforming my life in a positive way.
Dr. Shapiro goes on to say how she really struggled with practicing mindfulness while at a retreat in Thailand until a monk said this to her: “What you practice grows stronger.”
Wow. You know how some things hit you when you read them? This gobsmacked me. Think about it: if we’re always worrying or ruminating or judging ourselves or berating ourselves, those ‘habits’ are going to grow stronger to where we actually create pathways in the brain. Pathways that we walk down again and again.
Luckily, Dr. Shapiro reminds us about the neuroplasticity of the brain and how we can grow GREAT things and create new pathways with practice. Remember, what you practice grows stronger. The key? To practice ‘us’ with kindness. Kindness towards ourselves which is the essential part of mindfulness.
Finally, she talks about a block we have in terms of growth: “I don’t deserve to get better” and also reminds of this: “You are not just your past actions.” Read this again if you need too because it’s the end of the punishment we put ourselves through for things we can’t change. Isn’t that a relief?
I’ve been so much more conscious about my thoughts these past couple of weeks and am really trying to focus on the present instead of the past. Last night I let the dogs out and they were playing around in the yard. Bill’s house is a couple away and I get a bit upset when I see it and think back on our relationship. But, when I felt myself doing that, I stopped the thoughts and watched my dogs play in the yard. I felt the cool breeze against my skin, and listened to the sound of the night crickets, and smiling at the fun Ed and Mally were having, and how lucky I am to have this little piece of the earth. I wasn’t stressed about getting them inside and getting ready for bed or drying the dishes that were draining in the sink, etc. I was in the here and the now and took so much pleasure in what was going on around me.
Another example was after school today. I went to the grocery store and my normal mode of operandi is to rush as quickly as I can through it and get the hell out. Today? I started wandering around the produce and saw some strawberries that looked yummy. I took time to look at all the flower bouquets and smelled the roses (literally 😐). I saw one of my students and she said: “Professor K! It’s you!” And we hugged and laughed because I had just taught her class. I decided to buy a bouquet and after I checked out, I found her in an aisle and gave it to her…the look on her face was priceless and made my heart swell. Here’s the thing: I usually see grocery shopping as a chore to get through while I’m planning on the next thing to do. Today I saw it as what I AM doing and actually taking in what was happening in every moment. I came out of the store happy and content. That, my sweetie peeps, is a first.
Finally, I’m also learning from Dr. Shapiro and my Professor that mindfulness creates a space between what’s coming at you and how you respond. To take advantage of that space, you need to be in the present and cognitive of what’s happening. You aren’t simply REACTING but are consciously choosing a response.
Example? Today an older woman (she was about 1000 years old but no, it wasn’t ma 🤨) swung around the corner of my block so widely that she was thisclose to hitting me and I was thisclose to yelling and getting really upset, But, I stopped myself. I took a deep breath, told myself that I wasn’t hit, and went back to listening to my audio book as I was watching the sun come up higher in the sky. The drive to school was peaceful…I wasn’t all riled up.
The moral of the story to all of this? Mindfulness won’t change what happens in your life…but what it will do is change our relationship to what is happening. We go from reactors to responders and from slogging through life in the past to appreciating and finding joy in the present. Signing up for this class was one of the best things I’ve done lately and I can’t wait to keep learning and growing in this practice.