I’m not sure what happened to September. Or August. Or July, for that matter.
Between the Groundhog Day-esque nature of COVID-era living and the magnitude of the work required to teach both remotely and in-person, the days have both been endless and indistinguishable: walk, work, cry, workout, work, sleep, repeat. During the tearful moments, I would tell myself, “You just need to make it to fall break.”
And I made it.
Thanks to being raised by a counselor-mom, I’m pretty good about boundaries in my personal life. But I struggle (i.e. completely suck) at them when it comes to work. And this year, with so much of my job intruding into my evenings and weekends with the never-ending needs of the kids, I’ve been even worse about drawing hard lines. But as my mental health plummeted and my anxiety sky-rocketed, I knew how important it was for me to truly step away.
I spent the first Saturday of the break grading the tests that came in overnight, posting answer keys to the assessment, creating and posting retests and answering questions. Then, I logged off and closed every single work-related window on my computer. Within an hour, I realized I forgot to disable notifications on my phone when, in rapid succession, I get the following messages:
“Mrs. Arends – I need to talk to you.”
“I want to… How do I do this?”
“Can you please answer me?”
I turned off notifications and went for a trail run where I talked myself out of responding to the message thread (and secretly wondering how long it would be by the time I decided to respond).
The next day, my husband, the pups and I packed up and went to stay at a cabin in North Georgia for a few days. Despite the rain and the pain (more on that soon), it was glorious. My big morning commute was to the hot tub, where I enjoyed the sounds of the rain on the metal roof and indulgently read one of several books that I brought. After a real hike on the first day, we were relegated to exploring the local roads on subsequent days because of the downpours. We both remembered staying in that area before, so we enjoyed searching for the cabin we stayed in previously (we never found it, but that didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the hunt). The dogs were awesome and got to enjoy lots of time off-leash just being dogs, exploring and sniffing.
And even though we had great WI-FI, even though my husband had to spend the majority of one day working and even though I was feeling anxious about work, I never checked my work messages until we returned back home yesterday:)
From January to July, I was doing so well with my career-change goals. I decided what I wanted to do, I committed significant time each week to study, I worked to silence the “You can’t do this” voice and I even navigated changes to my plan based on the fallout from COVID.
And then July happened.
It’s now been almost 10 weeks since I’ve done any coding or studied any math for my new career. There are a variety of factors, some more prevalent than others on any given day: available time, available brain-power and motivation. Even though this has been an agreed-upon plan, whenever my husband mentions something about this being my last year in the classroom, I get angry. Angry, because I again feel stuck.
I know that my mindset right now is the biggest thing keeping me stuck. It’s a story I’m telling myself and I even wonder if my current lack of motivation is my passive-aggressive subconscious way of recruiting evidence to support my narrative.
I’m scared to log in to the websites I was using to teach myself (I can’t even remember the name of the program I was last using right now; how on earth can I expect to remember how to write a for-loop???). I’m worried that if I don’t balance the demands of the school year with time off-computer that I won’t make it until May. But most of all, I’m afraid to try at this new thing and fail.
But I fired fear as my life coach when my first husband walked out of the door.
Growth is messy. Learning is non-linear. Change is scary.
And none of that means impossible.
The Dawning Realization
For the last three years, my lady-parts have hated me. There are a variety of reasons (I feel like with every ultrasound I have, another malady has been invited to the party). Basically, I’m just waiting for menopause to turn the lights off and send all of those uninvited guests away.
Most months, it’s hardly noticeable apart from a miserable 24 hours or so.
But some months, it flares, swelling my midsection until it’s hard to breath and turning my pelvis into some twisted art exhibit where screws repeatedly tighten metal cables strung across in random patterns.
And with this being my fall break, guess what kind of month it is:(
But I’m not going to whine about the pain.
I’m going to talk about how amazing my husband is and by extension, what I realized about my ex.
As a child-free married couple who has been very busy these past several weeks, we both went into this week with certain expectations about couple-time. When the flare-up began to build on the day we left, I grew increasingly frustrated and in denial (“I’m fine,” I kept insisting, as if I could speak it into existence). But my husband never got upset or disappointed (and he only had to scan my face to call BS on my “fine”). His only reaction has been concern for me. He clearly put my physical comfort above his desires.
It made me reflect back on a time in my early 20s when I had shingles in a very unfortunate location. My then-husband was attentive and nurturing, taking me to doctor’s appointments and fetching the ice and medication when I needed them. Yet, even though on the surface he was loving, he still clearly put his desires above my physical comfort. Which, in retrospect, was how he was in all areas – a great exterior hiding a rather dark and secret interior. Blech.
With all of the uncertainty in the world right now, I am beyond grateful that my first husband chose to leave. He is definitely not the one I want by my side when things are hard. In contrast, I now feel like my husband and I are a team. Even when one of us is struggling, we are strong together.