I’ve been just bouncing along here lately, and everything’s fine. Sun is shining, kids are happy, coffee is hot. Everything’ s fine.
Well, that’s the lie I was telling myself, yet here I sit on a highly recommended leave of absence (from my boss) from work.
The stress was building and I pushed it away. “Stay positive,” I told myself. “You’ve been through much, much worse. You can handle this. Just keep thinking positive thoughts and everything will work out fine. You’ll see.”
And while I am a huge believer in what you think about you bring about, this time life was too much. I could not slow down long enough to catch up with my thoughts. I thought I was slowing down, too. That’s the real kick in the pants. So I bumped along, little by little, resentments building up.
Monday, at work, I observed another teacher as part of my department chair duties. I could tell immediately the class was off. Too many kids, very low level abilities and very high behavior issues. Four were sleeping, six were talking, a few were having internet issues, some were even doing their work. I could see my coworker was exasperated and I decided it was my job to fix her problem. So I marched into the principal’s office and asked if she had a minute. As usual, she invited me in. I proceeded to unload on how we really need to get her class size down, the kids need to shape up and start being more attentive, my coworker was struggling and it was time to help her out. My principal tried to explain gently that this was out of my realm. I wasn’t having it. On and on I went and then brought up at least six other beefs I had with the school ranting about how no one was doing anything. Needless to say, her patience wore thin and eventually out. She explained that I need to look at what I can change and what I need to walk away from. She suggested that perhaps my issues were more personal in nature and really not for the good of the school. That. Set.Me. Off. It struck a nerve. So rather than take a deep breath, I burst out crying and told her she was way off base and needed to be a better job actually seeing what was going on around her. I proceeded to tell her I was going home for the day as clearly I wasn’t going to get any help from her. I stormed off, cried my eyes out and headed home.
I called my husband on the way, blubbering about how unjust the situation was, how I give my heart and soul to that place and all that ever happens is I get dumped on. My passion was gone. He’s a smart man, so he agreed with me. I begged him to let me quit right then and there. He asked me to please clam down a bit so I could drive safely and assured me we would talk when I got home.
I cried like I haven’t cried in nearly four years. My head hurt, my heart was pounding, and I was sure he’d let me quit.
I’d like to say I calmed down, took a breath and thought rationally once I got home.
But that didn’t happen. A few friends called and I unloaded on them winding myself back up again. I called in sick the next day, too. That’ll show them I thought.
I talked to my sponsor several times. She suggested I call my therapist which I ended up doing. My therapist suggested I write an apology email for my part in the whole debacle. Ugh. I hate being wrong. Why wasn’t anyone taking my side?? But because I respect my therapist and my sponsor, I did just that.
Still damaged by my bruised ego, I begrudging wrote the email.
Moments later, I got a phone call from my principal. She suggested I take the next week and a half off. I was horrified. “This is not punitive,” she assured me. “But as your friend and not as your boss, I see you slipping. You need to walk away. You’ve worked too hard the last four years to throw this all away right now.”
That evening, I went to my group therapy and highjacked the meeting so I could get this stuff out. The ladies were gracious enough to play along- in all fairness though, they could all identify in one way or another, so they weren’t really just sitting there. They did provide some great insight, suggestions and empathy.
Unwillingly, I decided to take the offer I was gifted. The first day, I took a hot bath, watched a sad movie so I could cry some more, read a little and told myself I was practicing self care. The next day, I was still licking my wounds. Playing games on my phone, napping, drinking coffee. I was avoiding the big talk with myself. Today, after cleaning out my pantry, catching up on laundry, grocery shopping for a small army, washing the vegetable crisper in my fridge, and smudging my home, I decided it was time to get real and to address the elephant in the room. (My behavior is the elephant in case you haven’t figured that out. 🙂 )
Here’s what I learned:
- Growth hurts. No matter who it’s coming from in my circle of friends, I have to trust that their perspective JUST might be a little more truthful and less tainted than mine. My principal was trying to explain to me that I cannot solve all of the problems nor should I expect to. I am the only one who placed that expectation on myself.
- I have a huge network of sober-minded people who really do love me enough to tell me the truth. Day in and day out, they hold up the mirror of Truth to me. That takes great risk on their behalf, and I am grateful.
- My coworkers are amazing. I received several different texts and emails – each one telling me I am loved, missed and appreciated. Some even went so far as to say they are glad I figured out I was over stressed before it went too far (ie. relapse into drinking). I am blessed in that regard.
- I judge myself much harsher than anyone else. All of the “I should be…” is a bunch of malarky. I told myself for weeks that I should be able to handle the stress of work, commuting, making dinner, attending meetings, paying bills, helping with the kids’ homework, running my kids to and from practice, shopping, cleaning, grading papers, feeding the dogs, keeping up with laundry, on and on. The truth is no one human could keep up with the schedule I was trying to keep. I told myself that a good mom, wife, teacher, sister, friend could/would/should do it all. That simply isn’t true.
- I am really loved by many. I have taken the people in my life for granted by being so caught up in my own stuff. Yet I have been treated with love, care, concern and dignity anyway.
- My sisters are phenomenal. All it took was me to FINALLY open up to them today. One is making a four-hour drive to come hang with me this weekend. If I knew one of them were struggling, I’d be there in a heart beat. It works both ways.
- My husband loves me deeply. He allowed me to cry, scream, bargain, fuss, sleep, bathe my way through this all the while hugging me and telling me, “We always land on our feet. Together.” (This from the guy I was ready to leave when I was tip active in my drinking.)
- I need to learn how to do some elementary things: Asking for help. Setting up boundaries. Saying no. Practicing some HONEST self- care. Drinking a cup of hot coffee on my way out the door does not constitute self-care.
- A party of one is not a party.
Three days ago, I was in a hole I had created. I was sure quitting my job was the solution. I may or may not be ready for a career change, but doing something drastic like quitting midyear is not the solution. I didn’t see any other options three days ago. I wanted to run away. Today, I know that I probably do need to look into other options over time. I also know I need to carve out alone time where I just sit and be still. Most grounded people call this meditation. I also have learned that my boss is really one of my dearest friends despite her title. She treated me with mercy and grace even though my behavior did not warrant that type of response. But she KNOWS me and I never knew that until this happened.
Today, by the grace of my Higher Power, I can see the sun in the sky again. I have hope for myself and for my future. I do not feel stuck anymore.
Ask for help.