Sunday, November 29, 2009

More Gratitude, Less Attitude

Okay I guess I should begin with last week's trip with 35 students to Little Rock. No matter how many times I do this trip, I am still crippled with anxiety over it. I think it has something to do with the weight of being responsible for the well-being and (hopefully) good experience for so many people. I do this trip at least six times a year and for the past four or five trips I've gotten sick ON the trip. One time was a killer migraine (the 2nd one I've ever had), this past summer was a middle-of-the-night attack of a stomach bug that incapacitated me the entire next day. At the very least by Saturday morning I usually develop an intense, throbbing headache that I can feel in every bone in my face. YES I KNOW this means that I need to work on stress coping skills...but somehow even when I have other faculty or staff members along (like this time), I still feel completely drained by the whole experience. Even though I also love this trip. I love experiencing everything anew through the students' eyes. It never gets old.

Even though I'm getting old.

That's another topic...coming up later, just you wait. Yay!

The highlight of my trip was dinner, drinks and high quality conversation with Ai Lien, the delightful, multi-talented, hilarious, soulful woman behind Fear Ants. We can talk and talk and talk. She has that rare gift of being able to stay completely present with you. Know what I mean? You know she's not drifting off into other thought or looking over my shoulder to see who walks in the room or worrying about the image she's projecting....all those distractions and affectations that people adopt in order to craft a semblance of a personality but really just puts up walls between people. I'm finding more and more what a big challenge it is to be fully in the present and, even harder, find like-minded people. So it's not just refreshing, it's downright miraculous that we found each other.

Saturday I got all the students on the bus and ready to go back home, despite yet another medical emergency (I'm telling you...the students with this group have had the strangest list of ailments, nearly all requiring one complicated procedure or another) with one of my guys. D. met me in Little Rock and we drove up to visit his grandmother, who we hadn't seen since his grandfather's funeral in April. Not much to say about the visit....good homecooked southern food, hearing about every person's disease or depressing diagnosis in her life, watched three excellent Mad Men episodes on the laptop late at night....the next morning I received a very upsetting phone call. I will protect my daughter's privacy but suffice it to say that YET AGAIN, as soon as I'm lulled into a lovely, peaceful, extended period of happiness in my relationship with her she somehow manages to destroy it all to shit with one bad decision. Of course I also blame myself for giving her enough rope to hang herself. It's not HUGELY awful...but bad enough that we had to cut our weekend away early to drive directly home and deal with it. I keep telling myself over and over, "This is what teenagers do. They make mistakes. It's how they learn. It's how I learn." I think about Cesar Millan, who when he's dealing with a particularly difficult case, says, "This is good; this is good" when the dog makes its typical mistakes....meaning he can't work to solve the problem if the problem doesn't present itself.

Oh jeez...it's 1:30am and I've got a superbig day back at work tomorrow after the holiday break. This will have to be continued....but stay close - there's ruminations, pie descriptions, aging-related angst, and film reviews in the near future.

This week, as most Americans are reflecting on gratitude, I must mention how thankful I am for this space for me to spew, blabber, brag, seek help and connection, and share the random and semi-formed thoughts that occupy my brain. Thank you for reading, for commenting, for emailing, and for helping me to feel less alone out there. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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