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Friday, June 8, 2018

Art and Kindness

I have a good life, no, let me rephrase that, I have an amazing life!  I woke up this morning with two bubbly babies and a kind, caring, smart, and funny husband.  I walked up to town with them to take them to day care for their last day.  At day care, there are no tears upon drop off, we crawl on the floor, joke with Miss Julie or Miss Neisha or Miss Tammy and I slide out the door as they boys are zooming around the room with toys in hand.  I come back to a great house on the river and am able to sit on my back porch enjoying a cup of coffee.  I am financially secure thanks to a great job with a great staff in a great community.  I went last night to a paint 'n sip with my mother who lives two blocks from me and enjoyed laughs, drinks, and creativity with her.  I truly have a great life, however, there are times of stress and anxiety that have swelled up and are in their own way debilitating or hampering on my enjoyment of the privilege I enjoy.  So when two major celebrity suicides (among countless others that will go unreported) occur in such a small window, it makes me reflect on how mental health and taking care of oneself as well as reaching out to others who are hurting is so important and critical for all of us.

While my life is great, I have had my own battles to navigate.  As my mom lovingly puts it, I am generally a high-strung, anal-retentive perfectionist.  I have very clear and high expectations of how I believe things ought to be both small picture and large.  I have learned flexibility, but it is not always easy for me to adapt and modify how I think things should be (so I had children-the definition of change!).

Often I will put failures (perceived or real) on my own shoulders as some function of me not trying hard enough, or working long enough, or not being smart enough.  I sat in my end of year meeting just days ago with my principal trying to workshop where I went wrong with my instruction or classroom management as I had one of the most stressful years of teaching in my career.  There is a lot of Kool-aid out there that says that teachers are the variable that make all the difference in the successes or failures of students and this year I was drinking it hard-core.  She didn't want me to see my work this year as a failure or moral deficit which I appreciated her saying as I have been beating myself up over shortcomings as a mother, spouse, teacher, daughter, person for nearly a year.

I'm not well versed in the causes of depression or anxiety so I will not pretend to be any kind of expert on anyone besides myself.  Saying that, I know as a meticulous planner, I feel most vulnerable when big things or small things don't go according to plan.  When my first marriage blew up after just over a year, I let myself sink into some unhealthy choices as a way of 'having control' over a very unstable time.  Thankfully family, friends, and therapy helped me pull it back together and get back on even footing.  Going into my pregnancy and early motherhood, I had a vision of how things would look and turn out.  However, no amount of reading or preparation could get me ready for lady hormones, two babies, or how sleep deprivation affected my mood or feelings of control.  And then I  transitioned to being a working mother with a classroom of students who possessed enough personal baggage to fill a 747 kept the ground from settling.  Again, a support system (doctor, therapist, coworkers, friends, spouse, family) was what kept me pulled together and functioning on days when I didn't want to or didn't think I could.

I know it seems easy to look at the lives of others and think to ourselves they ought to have nothing to complain about or wonder how could they possible suffer mentally when it appears they have so many good things in their lives.  I have great things in my life and yet the anxiety is still there and I work to cope with and manage the stress in my life.  We are all going through a journey that fluctuates between joyous and terrible, with on-days and off ones.  It can be difficult, painful, and lonely, even when there are many folks around commenting on how wonderful they think you have it.  Take a moment to read the signs or look for the clues that someone may be hurting just a little more today than yesterday.  Maybe they need you to hear them, or maybe they need a distraction during a tough time.  Ask before assuming (remember the two ears, one mouth rule and listen twice as much as you speak) and respect what they need before offering what you think they need.  Let's take care of ourselves, each other and spread some kindness in a world that could always benefit from a little (or a lot) more.  Let's also make it clear that it is okay to not be okay and to ask for help or extend some help when and where it is needed.            

1 comment:

  1. You are so remarkable in so many ways. How each of us in our family function the way that we do with all that’s been thrown at us is inexplicable. After emotionally and psychologically botomming out in Tennessee we made the hard choice to make a transition to Missouri. Within weeks I was feeling better. Then came the call about your aunt, and the spiraling out of control began anew. But just a few days ago, knowing that our old house had sold, Megan graduated with honors, I got a commendation for my job, I was finally able to sit down with my dog with no worries. And I’m happy to say that I’ve used my experiences to help others who don’t know where to go when they are sinking or feel like they are sinking. Problem is your Aunt Becky still has to put up with me.

    From the first time I saw you I knew you were going to leave a great footprint on this world. And now you’re doing it.