breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

A piece of my heart

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A piece of my heart beats outside my body. He wears size 5 youth shoes, a medium shirt, and size 8 pants. He loves Pokémon and Captain Underpants. He’s obsessed with Legos and Star Wars and Marvel movies. He has a quick grin, a smart mouth, and hair that would give a chia pet a run in the craziest hair ever contest. He has blue eyes and brown hair. He’s eight, almost nine, years old. He’s sweet and frustrating and funny and smart. He’s shy and brave. He’s quirky, a little nerdy, and so full of life. He loves running, swimming, playing outside, and acting silly.

It’s been a rough year for AJ, this year of 2nd grade. He’s learned some hard lessons this year about friendship, making good choices, and responsibility. I’ve watched him, this piece of my heart, be bruised as he learns life lessons. It’s taken all of my wherewithal to let him learn these lessons, not to be the helicopter parent, not to be the parent who fixes it instead of letting him learn, not to save him failure.

His 9th birthday looms, and he decided he wants to have a party where he invites his classmates. With it being a summer birthday, I know few are likely to come. And, I’ve done my all to prepare him for the fact that no one, or very few, may show up, and I’ve watched my precious boy gather his determination and find his bravery to go to school, to pass out those invitations, and to wait, to see if anyone texts or emails me that they will come. It’s agony for me. I want nothing more than for everyone to see AJ the way I see him -smart, funny, silly, and kind.

He is impatient, he doesn’t always follow the rules at school, and my fear, even though his teachers assure me it isn’t true, is that he is “that” kid -the kid no one wants to be friends with because he’s different, my super smart son. He goes to an academy for kids who are academically gifted, which AJ is. To me, AJ is the stereotypical gifted kid. He’s afraid of failure, a perfectionist, who is easily frustrated. He almost never gets angry, but he’s quick to impatience and prone to believe the worst in himself.

God help me, he’s me.

His sister makes friends easily, knows how to navigate the social landscape. She’s gregarious and outgoing. She’s sure of herself. She’s had almost three more years in this life to learn the lessons AJ is learning. I remember going through something similar with her when she was in 3rd grade. I know AJ will learn, and I hope he will become as gregarious and outgoing as his sister, but right now, he’s unsure. He tells me he’s not brave enough, but to me, he’s more than enough, and I want, so much, for others to see it too.

Parenting, allowing pieces of your heart, to walk outside your body, knowing you cannot hide them behind bone and muscle, veins and tendons, is agony and joy, heartbreak and elation.

Yesterday, after school, AJ ran to me, gave me a huge hug, buried his face in my neck, and pulled away long enough to say, “I passed the invitations out Momma. Thank you for letting me.” I kissed his forehead and gathered him tightly in my arms, savoring, knowing moments like these are fleeting, cancer or not. He’s eight, almost nine. He won’t be able to sit in my lap, bury his face in my neck, and be held tightly much longer. He won’t want to sit in my lap, bury his face in my beck, and he held tightly much longer. These moments are precious. He is precious.

I have a son.  A smart, silly, kind, smart little boy. Brave yet uncertain, learning lessons I wish were easier to learn, yet knowing these lessons have to be learned. I have a son. I love him with ferocity and wish I could protect him from everything, yet I know I can’t. I have a son. No matter what happens to me, this piece of my heart makes our lives better, richer. I have a son, a piece of my heart living outside my body, walking this Earth.

He and his sister, they are the best parts of me.

 

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Hair of a discovery

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Yeah, I know…terrible pseudo pun for a title.

Yesterday, S had her annual dance recital. She’s been dancing since she was four, and until this year, she’s loved dancing. This year, something changed. It’s not that she hates it. It’s boring, according to her. She says it’s not fun anymore. I hate that for her because she’s a graceful, beautiful dancer. I don’t know if it’s her dance school or if it’s tween angst. Whatever it is, we have to figure it out because I’m not allowing her to quit. It’s a rule in our house -you do a school activity and an after school activity. She does theater and choir at school and dance after school one night a week. She also does art once a week, but for her, that’s not an activity -it’s her passion. She’d no sooner quit art than I’d quit teaching. It’s a dilemma. We’ll figure it out.

It’s the dance recital that brought about a bittersweet, embarrassing, maybe a little horrifying, hair discovery, though. S’s hair, her curly, never been straight in her life hair, had to be in a low bun for recital. It’s not our first dance recital hair and make up rodeo, though. We have a system, or more aptly, I have a plan of attack for her hair -wash it with conditioner, spray it with leave in conditioner, comb it with a wide tooth comb, pull it into a ponytail, grab part of a cut-up sock, roll her hair around the sock, anchor it with bobby pins, spray with hairspray, hope it stays.

It usually does.

Usually.

I haven’t needed the dance recital hair bag since we moved, and yesterday, about three hours before recital, it dawned on me that I had no clue where I put the bag. I looked in my travel bag. Nope. I looked in the baskets under my sink. Nope. I asked S if she knew where it was. Yeah right…Nope. I went back into my bathroom and pulled the make up train cases from underneath the sink. I opened the first one and came to a screeching stop in my hunt for S’s dance recital hair bag.

I found my own. My baggie. My quart sized freezer bag where, as my hair fell out from chemo and I found it, I quietly stored it. Collected it.

I kept my hair.

Gross. Why would you do that?

I needed to hang onto a bit of me. I needed some control because I had none from the moment cancer became my life.

I remember when my hair first began falling out. Nothing really prepares you for it to happen. The first chunk came out in October 2015 after school as I sat at my desk during tutorials. I absent mindedly brushed my hand through my hair and came away holding a chunk. One of my students saw it, saw me, and made it better by reminding me I could have any color of hair I wanted. I threw that chunk in the trash, convinced, for some asinine reason, I wouldn’t lose all my hair.

It came out in chunks after that, and if I could, I kept it, my hair. I stuffed it into that baggie. Some days, I sobbed over the hair in that bag. I hated my precancer hair. It was thin, unhealthy, fly away, damaged by products, dry. But, it was mine. When the day came when I finally had the courage to ask A to shave it off, he cut what was left off before shaving my head. He put that hair into the baggie, too.

I have no secrets from him, even when I think I do.

Yesterday, that baggie sucker-punched me. It reminded me of the one thing I feared as I underwent chemo -hair loss is one undeniable sign of a cancer patient, and dammit, I didn’t and don’t want to be known as just a cancer patient. I didn’t want the pitying stare we’re guilty of giving cancer patients, I didn’t want to see the relief in people’s eyes that it’s me with cancer and not them (and therefore by the grace of God go you because once upon a time, I did that as well), and I didn’t want the questions.

I wanted to be me. So, I saved part of me.

I zipped up the train case with the baggie still in it, and I slid it back into the cabinet. My fingers lingered on it for a moment. I lingered for a moment. Then, I rose, stared at myself in the mirror. I’m not that woman anymore, the one who squirreled away her hair. I’m harder, bitter. I’m kinder, grateful.

Then, I opened the side drawer of my bathroom counter and found S’s dance recital hair bag, yelled for her to put on a tank top, grab her comb, and get into my bathroom for hair and make up.

Life goes on.

family, life, teaching, Uncategorized

It’s been a strange day

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The end of the school year is in sight. My school district has seven days left, counting today. Our seniors are almost done and are wrapping up their high school careers. Our underclassmen are finishing cumulative projects and preparing to advance to the next grade level. There are awards ceremonies, student recognition ceremonies, last concerts, graduation rehearsal, and final exams.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Top 10 luncheon where the school district invites the Top 10 seniors in class rank from each high school campus, their principals, their parents, and each senior selects an influential teacher to attend with them. I attended with an amazing young woman, 3rd in her class, who is one of the smartest, kindest students I’ve known in 17 years of teaching. Her senior class, the Class of 2017, is one of the most compassionate classes I’ve taught. Yesterday, I had the honor to present three of my seniors with scholarships at the senior awards ceremony. I will deeply miss this senior class, and graduation will be joyous and sad.

As the campus Teacher of the Year, I have the honor of sitting on the stage with the class sponsors, the principals, school board members, and the interim superintendent. Watching each of them walk the stage will be bittersweet -excitement as they move to the next stage of their lives, sadness knowing I will not see them walking the halls of our high school next year. They will join me as alumnus of this school when the school year ends and graduation commences.

Today started out as a normal, end of the year day. I woke up later than I wanted to, but it’s the end of the year, and I wasn’t going to be late…I just woke up later than I planned. Since I knew I didn’t have anything extra on my plate today at school, I threw on minimal makeup, a pair of black pants, a black and gray linen blend shirt, and a black cardigan. Appropriate attire for the end of the year, especially an end of the year which involves packing up my entire room.

Everything was totally normal until 8:15 am when our principal’s secretary came down to my classroom. She held a note for me with a message to call our district’s communication coordinator ASAP, which to me was strange because I knew I would see her tonight at the school board meeting. See, two weeks ago, all the campus Teachers of the Year were honored at a school board meeting. Then, the Friday after the board meeting, I was surprised by the interim superintendent and our communication’s director during my second period class -They came to announce that I had been named Secondary Teacher of the Year for my district. I’m still shocked by it. All the campus Teachers of the Year are invited to apply as our district Teacher of the Year, which I did with no expectation of being selected by the committee who then selects a district Teacher of the Year for elementary and another one for secondary. Tonight, the district Elementary Teacher of the Year and I will be presented to the school board.

I called our communications coordinator, who is lovely, engaging, and savvy, and when she answered, she wasted no time.

“Channel 8 wants to come interview you and do a story about you,” she told me.

Once I picked my jaw off the ground, I squeaked out, “But whyyyyyyyyyyyy?” I sounded much like the teenagers I teach.

She explained to me that last week when one of the local media outlets was at the district office for something, and she mentioned that one of the district Teachers of the Year (me) was campus Teacher of the Year at the same school she (me) graduated from, and the year she (me) graduated, her mom (my mom) was Teacher of the Year at that campus (because my mom made me go to the high school she taught at, and no, it was not an awful experience for me). On top of that, she (me) had two former students teaching in the district who are campus Teachers of the Year this year as well. This morning, the news outlet called our communications coordinator and told her they want to do a story about me and my mom sharing Teacher of the Year 20 years apart for the same campus because it’s a unique human interest story.

Long story short, the news outlet came to my campus this morning, filmed me teaching, talked to one of my students, interviewed me, and then went to the school my mom teaches at now and interviewed her. If everything goes to plan, it’s going to air tonight at 6 pm.

 

I honestly felt like the most inarticulate, silly, person ever as they interviewed me, and to be honest, I’m really worried about what they’re going to air. I don’t want to look stupid, and I’m afraid I came off as stupid.

So, I guess in a few hours, I’ll see what they put together. Hopefully, it’s better than I expect. The communications coordinator assures me that I did well and so did my mom, but still.

It’s just been a really, REALLY, strange day.

 

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

A collision with cancer

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I’ve damaged relationship with some friends lately, people I’ve known two…five…ten…seventeen years.

How?

Politics.

My politics are too aggressive. My viewpoint is too harsh. My animosity towards the healthcare situation is too strong. One friend told me she liked me better before cancer.

Me too. Sort of. Me too.

There’s a lot of WTH to process in that statement.

Before cancer, I kept my politics to myself or family and close friends. Long, long before cancer, my mother would leave a room if my father and I were watching the news together and Reagan, Bush, or Clinton, or Ann Richards or Bush Jr were on the news in some way -she didn’t like mediating our politics because I was a Republican and my father, a Democrat. Long before cancer, I realized I disagreed with much of the GOP platform, and I realized my politics were shifting moderate, democratic. Long before cancer, I minored in political science, found myself fascinated with constitutional law, toyed with the idea of law school. Before cancer, I voiced my opinions, but I did it quietly, in a roundabout way because I’m a people pleaser. I don’t enjoy when I upset or hurt people. Then…cancer.

When I was diagnosed, one of the only sighs of relief I took was knowing the ACA protected me from being dropped by my insurance company and prohibited annual and lifetime limits or caps. I knew my treatments and surgeries would be covered- I would not run afoul of an annual limit or test the reaches of a lifetime limit. Then…Trump, the GOP.

The AHCA, a bill so despicable, Congress exempted themselves from it and opened the door to annual and lifetime limits, even on employer provided insurance. Again.

When the House passed the AHCA, a friend with a lifelong autoimmune disease texted me that she felt nauseous, afraid of what might happen, especially since she’s in the throes of a flare right now. I called her instead of texting. We talked for nearly an hour, both of us terrified of what lies ahead for our health, our families, if this atrocious bill becomes law in any shape of the House form.

Another friend asked me why I’m really all that worried since, “your cancer is gone.” My head exploded. Then, I corrected her, told her I am no evidence of disease, and all that means is right now. When I see Dr. O on June 20th for my next 5 month check up, I’ll know my future five month fate. We live check up to check up, scan to scan, test to test, us cancer patients. I’ll either gain a five month reprieve or take part in another conversation regarding cancer I hoped I’d never have.

It’s funny, and by funny, I mean not funny at all, but when I was diagnosed, when I was quiet about my politics, when I soldiered on with a fake smile and an “I’m fine,” lie, I had all the support.

Then, I spoke up to my friends about the protections of the ACA. I used clinical evidence from the ASCO and from the annual SABC conference. I used personal evidence. I used nonpartisan evidence from CBO. I condemned those who voted for Trump for what millions of people with preexisting and life threatening conditions are now enduring, the fear of what happens next, as if having a medical (or mental or physical) condition isn’t enough worry and stress. I begged friends and family to understand from where my fear came.

My condemnation was too much, I guess. So now, I’m left to wonder is it me who is in the wrong. Do I regret the stance I’ve taken, the choices I’ve made?

A little, actually.

I’m a people pleaser. I hate causing drama -I’ll enjoy a bowl of popcorn as I watch it if it doesn’t involve me, though. I don’t want to be disliked. I’m choosy when it comes to friends, and I’m grateful for my small squad of framily because not a one if those friends I trust like family have been anything but loving and supportive. It’s the bigger circle that’s shrunk, and I am saddened by that because I am choosy and thought I chose well. But, then again, I’ve been blindsided and backstabbed more than once before. Maybe my judgement isn’t the best, but the reason why is the best: I believe the best in most people, especially those I know personally. I give second, third, fifth, twentieth chances.

I know the adage, you can’t please all the people all the time. I understand that. What I don’t understand is how you can support me through cancer, cancer treatment, and cancer surgeries but then be offended and disappear when I call out politics and political games when those directly affect my life and the lives of those I love. What would you do? Remain silent? Put on a fake smile and an “I’m ok” lie?

Been there. Done that. I did it to protect my friends and family because I figured no one really needed to hear how bad I felt from chemo, whatever reaction I was having to Perjeta, how tired and overwhelmed and terrified I was (and still am). My parents, my in laws, my husband all knew. They lived it with me. Sometimes, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about cancer and treatments and surgeries and prognosis. Besides, it was made pretty clear to me that people expected me to breeze through as though it was nothing because it’s breast cancer. It’s treatable. It’s easy.

WTH?

Now, I know the people who expected that of me were fools, but worse, so was I.  I allowed that expectation take hold in me. I couldn’t let anyone down. If I did, I was a disappointment, and that’s one thing I cannot abide, being a disappointment.

I’ve said and done some pretty stupid things. I’ve hurt people without meaning to do so. I am sorry for that.

I’m not sorry, though, that cancer made me more likely to speak up than remain silent. I have so much to lose if I remain silent. I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but I won’t stop calling out those in power who are trying to undo eight years of healthcare progress. My life literally depends on it, and you know what?

Yours might too.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

15 years

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4:00 PM

May 18, 2002

I do.

15 years ago today, I married A…my high school sweetheart, my college sweetheart. My sweetheart, much to his chagrin (and others), sometimes. I fell in love with A when I was 18. I didn’t know what that kind of love was. I was a teenager. A high schooler.

I was stupid.

He loved me anyway.

We’ve been together for 21 years. There’s been drama (again, high schoolers are stupid sometimes, and we were no exception). There’s been graduations, jobs, miscarriages, births, cars, houses, surgeries.

There’s been cancer.

I’ve spent a good chunk of the last two weeks buried in a lying loop of depression. I’m going to die. The cancer will kill me. This is my fault. I deserved cancer. If I were a better person, this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I were thinner, healthier. A deserves better than me. I’m better now…I started breaking the loop last week, and for now, I’m ok. I’m staving off check up anxiety and scanxiety. I see my radiation oncologist next week for my six month check up with him. I see Dr. O on June 20th.

The scans, the appointments, the test. They never end. I lurch from one to another to another. That’s the life of a cancer patient. Cross your fingers. Hope your scan is clean. Hope your numbers are good. Hope you hear “See you in six months,” and it actually be true.

I’m waiting on the day when it isn’t true…if my body developed cancer once, it can do it again, no matter what I do.

I’ve had a lot of unwelcome and unwanted advice from people on social media lately. Have you tried juicing? You should juice. It’ll help your body be less acidic. Acid causes cancer. Did you know acid causes cancer? 

I’m so sick of the food police. Do you really think I don’t know some of this, or do you assume I don’t care? Here’s the deal-I know this stuff, but I like donuts, and if my cancer comes back because of donuts, well…hell, it was probably going to come back anyway.

Tonight, as A and I celebrate 15 years of marriage, I’m not going to worry about food…or cancer. Not tonight. Cancer steals so much of my life, and I allow it. So…not tonight, cancer. Not tonight.

The 15th wedding anniversary is traditionally gifted with crystal. I spent too much time yesterday wracking my brain for ideas with crystal that weren’t cut crystal photo frames or things for an office desk. At 2:30 yesterday afternoon, it hit me -geodes, A likes geodes and polished stones. So, off I went to our local metaphysical store (yes, seriously).

I bought him an uncut geode for him to crack, to see the treasure inside. I bought clear quartz for all purpose healing; amethyst, my birthstone, for stress relief, anxiety relief, and protection; rose quartz to soothe and encourage love and harmony; citrine for healing, prosperity, abundance, and protection; black tourmaline for protection; carnelian for inspiration and perseverance; adventurine for true love, lasting relationships, and luck. I bought a set of crystals for him and a set for me. I don’t know that I believe in the metaphysical association with crystals, but I like the symbolism. After all, it’s our crystal anniversary. We could do with some healing, stress relief, protection, harmony, prosperity, perseverance, and luck.

True love and lasting relationships, though…there, we’re good. I’ve never loved anyone but him. He’s my better half, the missing piece to my soul. He’s my best friend.

He’s my lobster.

When I met A, I knew he was a good kid, but the man he became? That man is phenomenal. I really don’t deserve him. He chose me, and not a day goes by where I’m not thankful for his choice. I’m difficult on my best day. He laughs it off and tells me he’s the man he is because of me, that I brought him out of his shell, encouraged him to see things differently, helped him find joy.

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t care. I care about our fifteen years, two kids who are our hearts living outside our bodies, jobs we like, a home we love, three cats who exasperate us, family and friends who support us.

There have been plenty of times where A could have walked, and no one would have blamed him, but that’s not who he is. He sees things through. He makes things better.

He makes me better.

I may not live to see the “big” anniversaries, the silver, the gold. That’s not okay. Yet, I have the crystal with him, and that? That’s one thing cancer can’t take.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, teaching, Uncategorized

A Friday Full of Failure

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An experimental third-person limited series of vignettes about my Friday.

Part 1 -The first failure

It’s 12:30 am, early Friday morning. L can’t sleep again. She lies in bed, reading on her iPad -a sci-fi book, part of a series that catches her imagination. She knows she needs sleep, but her brain will not shut down despite her attempts to relax. She knows she has to be at work in six or so hours. Fleetingly, she thinks about putting in for a substitute, but it’s Friday, and subs are a precious commodity on Fridays. She doesn’t feel right putting in for a sub. She’s not sick. Her kids are not sick. She just can’t sleep. Plenty of people struggle with insomnia and go to work exhausted. It won’t be the first time L’s gone to work after having slept less than six hours. It is what it is. People count on her.

L turns her attention back to the book she’s reading -to have something to focus on besides her fear of dying, fear of cancer, fear of fragility and mortality.

Sometime, in the wee hours of the morning, she drifts into dreams.

Part 2 -The second failure

It’s 6:01 am, Friday morning. The screeching noise from beside her pulls L from sleep. She hits her alarm clock. It takes effort not to burst into tears. The last time she saw the clock, it was 4 am. She thinks she slept some from 2:00 am to 4 am -a fitful sleep, but she thinks she rested a little. She’s not sure about 4 am-6 am. If she slept, it doesn’t feel like it. A tells her to get up. It’s Friday. S has choir practice every Friday morning, and her ride will be there soon. She wishes she had given in and put in for a sub. She knows she won’t be on her “A game” today. She knows she’ll be lucky to be on her “F game.” She goes to dress. As part of her morning routine, a part she knows does her no good, she steps on the scale. The number staring back at her makes her cry. In her head, she hears the words of Dr. O’s nurse practitioner, “We’ve had patients no evidence of disease for ten or more years who gain ten or fifteen pounds and their cancer comes back. You need to watch your weight.” She feels shame because she’s gained ten pounds. She feels fear because her brain tells her the cancer will return and when it does, it’ll be all her fault. She feels anger because her head is being such a scumbag right now. It’s been like that for days now.

She roughly wipes the tears away and jams the heels of her hands into her eyes. “You’re just exhausted,” L tells herself. Maybe she’ll rest this weekend. It’s a busy one, but maybe she can rest more. She steps off the scale and puts a smile on her face as A walks into the bathroom. The fake smile doesn’t fool him. He stands beside her. A critical gleam in his eyes doesn’t quite mask the concern reflecting deep from them. “You have got to sleep. You have got to stop staying up all hours. You need to take a shower at 9:30, be in bed by 10:00, and asleep by 10:30. You need to get your sleeping habits back on track. Part of being healthy means getting enough sleep.”

She stares at A. She wants to scream at him that she needed him to be sympathetic, to hug and hold her, to lend her some of his strength. She didn’t need his cool logic, but that’s what she got. She mumbles that she’s leaving to go to work. She gives hugs to S and AJ, takes her medicine -tamoxifen, Claritin, biotin, Flonase, and gets into her car, starts it, pathetically grateful for the classical music station when the radio comes on because it’s playing a piano piece by Mozart, soothing.

Part 3 -The third failure

For the first time in a long time, walking into work, a place she loves, feels heavy -a burden she doesn’t know if she can carry this morning. Most of her students, her juniors, will not be in class this morning -they’re out taking the APUSH exam. Her first class is Seminar, and they had their exam Thursday afternoon. She knows the seniors and sophomores who show up are going to be tired, ornery. They’ve had a long, disrupted week of AP and state testing.

She unlocks her door, turns on the lights, turns on her coffee maker. The bell rings; students trickle in. She turns on her computer and yawns. The warning bell rings. A few more students trickle in. She tells the students in her room that she’ll be right back as she grabs her coffee cup, it needs washing, and walks to the office.

In the office, L washes her coffee cup. It’s one of her favorites with a black cat that sits with a look in its face with the phrase “You’ve got to be kitten me.” It’s prophetic this morning, not that she knows that yet. She washes her cup, says hello to a substitute teacher she knows well, goes to the ice chest, and puts a few cubes in her coffee cup -she prefers her coffee warm instead of taste bud melting hot. One of the academic counselors comes in and comments, “I heard there was a lot of sleeping in the Seminar exam yesterday.”

L stares at the counselor. Her face flushes red. Her heart sinks. She says, “Oh?” and the counselor nods her head. L walks out of the office, angry, hurt, and runs into a Seminar student she knows and trusts. She asks the student, a junior, if she saw students sleeping. The girls nods. “I’m sorry, Mrs. V. I wasn’t one of them.”

Part 4 -the fourth failure

L fights tears as she walks back to her classroom. She sees her department chair and tells her what just happened and childishly says, “I just want to go home.” L’s department chair squeezes her shoulder.

Standing outside her classroom, L takes a few deep breaths. She knows she’s on the verge of tears. She’s an angry crier, an exhausted crier. She’s exhausted. She’s angry. It’s not professional to cry in front of students, she reminds herself and opens her classroom door. She makes it a few steps inside the room, but she stops. She looks at the very few faces in her room, and the anger bubbles out in quiet condemnation, “You slept? One of the counselors just told me there was a lot of sleeping. You slept?” Students avert their eyes. Some flush an embarrassed red. A few questioning glances dart back and forth, seeking silent answers from unspoken questions. Here and there someone nods, admissions of guilt.

Angry tears flood her eyes, and try as she might, she can’t stop them. “You didn’t try. The only thing I ask is that you try, and you didn’t try. Some of you didn’t even show up.” Tears from anger, from exhaustion roll down her cheek. She’s embarrassed. “We worked so hard,” she whispered. “You didn’t even try.”

She turns, grabs the door knob, and steps outside her room. She needs to compose herself. She knows better than to let something get to her like this. She’s just so tired and so worn out. She sits down, leans against the wall, covers her face with her hands. Her shoulders shake. A few more tears slip. A voice, “Hey, are you ok?” L says she’s fine. The teacher -choir director now- former student of hers once upon a time, sits down beside her. “Mrs. V, what happened?”

She says she’s just tired. It’s been a long, stressful week, and she’s upset knowing some students didn’t even try on the exam. Her former student, colleague now, sits beside her and just listens. Then, she goes inside the classroom while L goes to wash her face.

She sees her department chair and tell her that she just needs to go home to sleep. She can’t face the rest of the day. She’s too tired, too overwrought. Her department chair hugs her and tells her not to worry, she’ll get it worked out. “Go home and rest,” another colleague and friend tells her. “We’ve got this. I’m sorry for whatever is going on. Don’t give here a second thought,” another says. “I’m going to nag you to rest,” says the one who told her to go home and rest. L smiles at this, a watery, sad smile. She goes home.

Part 5 -the last failure on Friday

Exhaustion wins. Friends will cover her second period class. There’s a sub who can cover fourth. So, she goes home, and she sleeps. Finally.

But…

She fails on this Friday.

She fails herself. She fails her colleagues. She fails her students. She fails her administration.

She fails on this Friday.

She fails to be strong. She fails to be confident. She fails to be humble. She fails to be grateful.

She fails on this Friday.

She fails.

But, she will get up. Failing means trying. And all she asks of anyone, including herself, is that they try.

So, she’ll try again.

She’ll fail again.

And so the cycle goes.

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

When good is never enough

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I hit my limit at 7:32 pm tonight. A and S sat in the living room watching Survivor. AJ kept coming in the master bedroom where I tried to relax, find my center after reading post after post on Twitter and Facebook celebrating the GOP has enough votes to pass AHCA. My anxiety spiked.

I fled.

I grabbed my car keys, shoved my feet into some flip flops, and I fled into the woods. That’s the great thing about my part of Dallas County -we still have wooded, forest like areas. I fled into one with well worn footpaths, where runners looking for solitude trot along, where rabbits stare suspiciously, where alone means alone. Alone with yourself, your thoughts, your fears.

Your truth.

I’m never enough. That’s my truth. As I walked the paths tonight, staying clear of jogging teenagers and happy dog walkers, that’s the thought which went through my mind -continuously.

Insidiously.

If I were a better teacher, my students wouldn’t still struggle with concepts we’ve worked on since September. If I were a better wife, A and I wouldn’t struggle with our budget because I spend too much. If I were a better mother, AJ wouldn’t get in so much trouble at school. If I were a healthier person, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten cancer. After all, healthy people lead good lives and don’t get sick.

Growing up, I never felt like I was good enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough.

Middle age, I still don’t feel like I’m good enough. Smart enough. Pretty doesn’t even factor in anymore. My self esteem is another thing cancer put paid. I like the way my hair grew back, but that’s it. My skin is dull, my face aged. I look like my dad’s mom minus the wrinkles. My body is scarred. The tattoos only hide so much, only make up for so much, only bolster so much.

In his Academy Awards speech for Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew  McConaughey said one of the things he needs everyday is someone to chase -his hero, himself in ten years. He said he knows he’ll never catch his hero, but it gives him something to chase. A dream. A what-might-be. A wish.

I think ahead, myself in ten years. 49 years old. Mother to a 21 year old and an 18 year old. Aunt of a 27 year old. 25 year wedding anniversary. 30 year high school reunion (not that I went to the 10 or 20). A dream. A wish.

My luck tends to suck.

I don’t see myself surviving to chase myself in ten years. Right now, I’m just existing again, and right now, I don’t care that I’m just existing.

My social currency is spent right now, my mind space crowded. I need quiet, time to regroup. Gather myself.

Find myself.

I’ll be ok. I always am. I just need some time to gather, to regroup, to let go the stress the end of the school year brings. Feeling never enough isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gives you something to chase -yourself. You’ll never catch yourself unless you give up, and I might be many things, but I’m not a quitter, not when it matters. I’m not a hero, don’t want to be. That’s not the idea for me to chase.

I chase myself because I matter…even when I’m at my worst. I matter.