Time for another break

I traveled to Siberia once. I went backpacking in the mountains there, and while my surroundings seemed very familiar in some ways (creeks and conifers and distant crags) to places I have been in the States, I was a long day’s hike from town, plus a long day’s ride in a marshrutki from any town where somebody understood my language. And then, I was on an entirely different continent from home. It gave me the chills when I thought about it too much.

Last night I dreamed about Siberia again. In the way of dreams everything was slightly scrambled and different, but I knew where I was. I stood on a train platform in the country, looking out at a mountain meadow in summer. There were wildflowers and tall grasses, and beyond the meadow was a band of conifers. Beyond that was more meadow sloping up to more trees and mountains. The open country continued beyond my visual horizon. I wanted to explore it, but I felt cold and a little afraid, because the wilderness in front of me was larger and more remote than anything I had ever experienced before. If I stepped into that meadow, I knew, I would be lost.

It is not like me to be afraid of starting a hike. I am comfortable with and without trails. But I was in an odd mood when I woke up today. Sitting by my baseboard heater and looking up directions to the school I was substituting at, I wanted so badly to curl up with my pillows and a blanket and to hide in that burrow of warmth and ignore the outside world. I didn’t want to venture out into an unknown classroom full of kids to see how I measured up.

But that was my job, so I stepped out the door. I got through my day, and by the time lunch was over my groggy morning unease had mostly passed. Now I am home again, and everything around me is safe and familiar: the apartment walls, the baseboard heater, the laundry pile, the parking lot outside, my dusty sedan. And yet, when I think about where I am in the broader sense, I still feel a little chill, because this still feels like the wilderness. Not a rocks and trees wild, but a wilderness of uncertain employment prospects, financial difficulties, and absent best friends. Some days, it is hard to shake off this other fear of walking forward without a trail. I have to trust that I am reading the landscape well and am not simply wandering lost.

I trust my feet, and I trust that I can find my way. I think it is time to take a break from this blog again for a while. Maybe for good, maybe not. But right now I have some hills to climb.

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Sunday evening

If you asked me right now how I am doing, socially, in my post-divorce life, I would tell you that things are improving. I don’t have close friends, but I do have a range of people I do things with most weeks, and I can bring up an activity to them and they will reply, “Sure! I’m up for that.” When we meet up and chat I really enjoy myself most of the time. It’s a lot like that thing called ‘friendship,’ and I am grateful to be building these connections. It is an ongoing process.

I continue to feel sad and a little panicked after the presidential election. I became more involved in political issues after J came out as transgender, so maybe part of this feeling is a reflection of that. But then I see Facebook and listen to NPR and hear the way so many people are feeling scared right now, and I am reminded that these are not normal times. I don’t understand the people in my family who voted for Trump. I love them, but I don’t know how they could follow all those things he said and did and not be disturbed. My own fear blurs between sources as I sit down at the computer to try and fix the problem with my thesis’s statistical analysis. I don’t think I can do this. I don’t want to do this anymore. I also don’t know how to pull the plug.

Time for bed and a fresh start tomorrow.

 

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November 2016

My personal life has been a wilderness of difficult experiences for the last few years, and when I woke up earlier this week and realized our nation had elected Donald Trump as its president, I felt much of the same resignation I have felt on previous occasions. It’s a feeling of, ‘Okay, let’s shoulder this pain and carry it to the next goalpost.’ And internally I keep hoping that when I reach the next goal, that accomplishment will be enough, and I will be able to drop the pain for good and get back to the business of just living and enjoying life. Of course I realize: I have to find the good in life now, enjoy it now. I do, but I don’t feel light anymore. I am heavy and tired.

Because people I know are going to be less safe now. Because a lot of people I don’t know are going to be less safe now.

Because the people in charge of my country don’t care about vetting knowledge and have little respect for science or journalism, and that lack of respect will affect everything from our schools to the environment.

Because women and single parents and those of us scraping by are going to have a harder time of it (the tax policy proposed by the new administration will supposedly raise taxes for about half of the single parent population, even while the wealthiest Americans, who are exponentially wealthier now than in past decades, will pay significantly less to help support the services and infrastructure we all need).

I’m trying to find ways in my personal life to be more of an activist and to support the causes that are important to me. But I’ve lived in red states for more than half a decade, and it is possible to put in a lot of effort and to still feel like your causes are getting run over by a semi-truck.

Nevertheless– What else is there to do? Nothing, except to shoulder the load and move on.

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Thoughts on Divorce and Dating

I think I’m about as ready to date again as I’ll ever be. I have no dating prospects at the moment and I don’t know when that will change, but I’m not in a hurry; to hurry would be probably the biggest mistake I could make right now. I remember talking to my neighbor (the one a few doors down from me when I lived on Little Crazy Street) in the early days of my separation, and she said when she and her first husband divorced, she found somebody else as fast as she could. While I miss being part of a couple, I think it’s important to look hard around at myself, at my life, and the people around me as I deal with this change in circumstances. I need the freedom to move slowly as I choose my future direction.

I have been more actively spending time on OKCupid lately, and have sent messages to a few potentially interesting guys. I don’t have the problem the internet tells me a lot of girls have, with too many guys sending me messages. On the other hand, most of the messages I have received are not creepy (the opposite of what most girls seem to experience). I’ve only messaged back and forth with one person so far– a guy who lives in a town three or four hours away from where I live. He initiated contact, and he sounded interesting (single dad and hiking fan) but we live too far away for dating to make sense. I’ve gotten a few messages from other people I have not responded to for one reason or another (hints of homophobia in their profile or other deal-breakers). I have also sent messages to several people who have not responded to me. Maybe I’m not pretty/fashionable enough? I’m in possession of a kid and therefore unappealing? I don’t know, but I’m not upset. Online dating may or may not lead anywhere, but it has certainly made me think about what I want in a potential partner. The algorithm OKCupid uses to determine whether you are a good “match” with somebody is laughable, but the shared quiz question feature is really enlightening and useful.

These are the things I am looking for in a potential partner:

  • Likes kids (duh) and animals, specifically dogs (bonus if they have dogs or kids and seem to be responsibly and contentedly caring for either/both already — I sometimes wonder about the 35-40 year-old guys who have no responsibilities to speak of but say they would “consider” having kids. J was willing to consider the idea herself, but she was incredibly immature when it came to accepting the reality of parental responsibilities when it landed in her lap).
  • Likes hiking and makes physical activity / getting outside a priority in life (and is generally fit — though for me fit does not have to mean especially photogenic. I like the nerdy and quirky looking dudes, usually).
  • Is not very (or at all) religious or conservative. Conservatism these days is so often tied in with with racism, xenophobia, and anti-LGBT sentiments. My kid has a transgender parent and I am not religious. Those are pretty definitive features of my personal landscape.
  • Is not a cheater. This may seem like something you wouldn’t be able to discern from a dating site, and maybe it isn’t, but in the quiz questions on OKCupid some guys freely admit they have had relationships with married people, or admit they think it is okay to cuddle / sleep in a bed with somebody of the gender they are attracted to who is not their partner.
  • Doesn’t do drugs or smoke, and is not a big drinker.
  • At this point I am also not willing to date anybody who has some big unusual thing they are dealing with. While I was once willing to embrace the idea of having a transgender spouse, I’m not ready to date a transgender person again. And I veer away from even the nicest-sounding guy who says he has an issue like PTSD, even if it is well-managed. It may be… But I don’t want those kinds of complications in my life in addition to everything else. Not right now. Maybe not ever.

There are other things that are not as important: I personally dislike watching sports and listening to rap or r&b. I don’t feel comfortable around guns. I don’t like clubbing or motorcycles or ATVs. I do like NPR and audio books and musicals. I will never be an adrenaline junky (I would willingly go rock climbing, but I will likely never consider myself a “rock climber,” opting quite happily to watch the more difficult stuff from below). I think softball and baseball are the most boring sports to play, ever.

So, that’s out there. At least as an idea, anyway, and I am glad that I know what is important to me. I still struggle with my sadness about J and wonder when my feelings surrounding her will be less raw. I miss the adventures we had together. I miss the friendship we had. I feel so angry she threw so many valuable things away, even while I can also (more often) feel calm about her decision. Last week we had to go to a meeting and sign some paperwork concerning Little Man, and afterwards, because it was the middle of the day and the kiddo was still at daycare, we sat at a diner together and shared some french fries and onion rings. It was almost like being friends again. Then this weekend, when we were planning to go to a Halloween event together with our kid (one that involved a 40 minute drive), J was unwilling to carpool with me at first, because it was with me. Those little things sting, because strangers and acquaintances carpool together when they are going to participate in events together. So often, J treats strangers and acquaintances with more kindness than she treats me. She has blown off plans we’ve made so many times this last year. It’s a little better now, but not entirely, and I’m tired of it. I know she is struggling. She has told me she wants to draw a line between the past and the present, because she still is grieving over what we once had. I get that. I understand wanting to behave appropriately to our new roles. But I continue to see and realize how careless she is towards me in her actions, and it is both disappointing and something I have to protect myself from. When I don’t think of her as a friend, her actions sting less. When I begin to think we are acting something like friends again, her carelessness really hurts. The best way to deal with J is to think of her as a child — Somebody who causes hurt because she is immature and doesn’t know how to behave better. Thinking of her that way helps me shrug off the sting and look toward the future, my future, rather than back at our shared past.

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Thoughts on Subbing

Some observations after 5 (?) weeks of substitute teaching:

– The paras shield you from the hardest tasks and give you the easiest students to work with. Don’t get too cocky and think you have this special education stuff down, because you might not. Also, love the paras. They’ve got your back and want you to succeed.

– The difficult days will make you question your decision to start this teaching gig. You will wonder if you made a mistake when you signed up for the ABCTE program (the alternate route to teacher certification — And a program I just signed up for, hey!).

– Sometimes the second day subbing with the same kid(s) is easier than the first day, even if the kids are just as (or more) sassy than the day before. Take comfort in this! Knowing what to expect makes a difference.

– The bar is pretty low when it comes to teacher expectations for a substitute. You may feel like you didn’t do a great job, but if you made an effort to do what the teacher asked, left decent sub notes, and generally acted like a responsible adult, you WILL be put on preferred substitute lists. Really truly. I just got asked back by a teacher I subbed for earlier this week, and in my notes from that last job I had to tell her that one of her study groups had a mini-revolt when I was working with them.

– Being a parent makes teaching SOOO much easier. I may not have 20+ kids going wild in my house on a daily basis, but I know what it’s like to deal with a toddler’s alternating stormy and sunshiny moods. In a lot of ways, teaching is just an extension of parenting, and once you’ve experienced a certain number of bad behaviors / tantrums, a lot of stuff will just bounce right off you. Wear that thick parenting skin you’ve developed with pride (and be thankful for it!).

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Thursday

Sometimes subbing is rough: The kids don’t want to behave, and I leave school feeling like I spent all day telling people who aren’t paying attention to me to be quiet. That this narrative is a common one is a little comforting, because I know other subs have also experienced hair-pulling, chaotic class days, and quite a few of them seem to go on to be regular teachers and enjoy what they do.

Whew!

My evening felt kind of off, probably partly as a result of the work day. I am hoping tomorrow is better. I’m working special ed in the morning and it’s with *small* groups of students, and that sounds much nicer than today. I have often enjoyed the small group work I’ve done thus far, and even when the kids are frustrating, it is just so much easier when there are not 20+ of them.

Time for bed… Lovely bed. I get my toddler back tomorrow evening from my ex as well, and I am really looking forward to hanging out and cuddling with him again. 2 is such a simple age in so many ways. I love that my kiddo’s worst concerns seem to be about playing trains and whether there is something in the fridge he wants but can’t get at.

 

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Sunday Poetry in the City

Poem alert, y’all. (Just a warning in case you either like or avoid such writings.)

A local poetry group was meeting this Sunday at a library near me and I decided on a whim to join them. I think the last time I wrote any poems was a decade ago. As a result I was nervous, but the group was enjoyable and supportive. The guy sitting next to me turned out to be a single dad and he said he identified with what I wrote. (I *sort of* wish I had the opportunity to talk to him more. Maybe I could have, if I was a little bolder…. aaaannnd a little more certain of what I want.)

P.S. This is good, this ‘getting out’ concept. Also, this is what I wrote (thank you poetry group for the  improvement suggestions and the title):

 

 

We Alternate Weekends

 

Yesterday I found myself unexpectedly free

in the middest part of the mid-afternoon.

I turned in my work badge and started the drive home

and because it was something I needed to do, really,

I pulled into the manicured park with the meandering path,

got out of my car,

and began to jog.

I didn’t want to be out there,

but the only way to begin to want it

is to start.

 

That evening I met some ladies at a restaurant

for a Mom’s Night Out.

I didn’t have the toddler this weekend

so it made sense to go.

I didn’t want to;

they were strangers, mostly.

Spending the money was hard to justify,

and the couch was calling me.

But I went

and talked

and laughed with some new people

about kids and co-sleeping,

working and single-parenting.

 

This morning I woke up late

(by which I mean 8am,

which is like saying you slept in all morning

when you’re a parent,

though this morning I was not a parent)

and that was strange in itself.

I put on my tennies and went out to the trails

and walked

and walked,

harder and harder up a hill of bleached grass and weeds.

On the ridgeline I started running,

not quickly,

but lumberingly,

like an airplane at the start of the runway

before it picks up speed.

The sky was a low, grey ceiling

and the hills fanned away in all directions.

I wanted to scatter over all the possible routes,

to shake off this persistent restlessness.

Instead I slowed back to a walk

as the trail passed a small clump of sagebrush.

The sky spat rain.

I zipped my fleece jacket

and my feet fell

one after another on the sandy path.

After a lifetime of watching my feet land in front of me

this is what I do,

this physical moving forward.

 

I didn’t want this for myself,

but (the single parents out there know)

the only way to begin to want it

is to start.

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