Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The rack...Day #2

Day Two:  My captors dragged me back in for a second day of physical torture...I mean therapy...at 7AM.  Obviously, my unwillingness to cry during yesterday's time on the rack did not go unnoticed.  Today, my captors tailored a special torture regimen just for me.  I was greeted with a smile, but true evil often hides behind the brightest of smiles.  "So, how ya' feeling this morning, Dr. Barkley? asked the grinning technician.  "I'm sore," I said.  "Good...I mean that's to be expected," she said while chuckling.  I found no humor...she noticed.  "You're not much of a morning person are you?" she asked.  "No...I rarely say more than five words to any person before 9 AM each day," I offered.  "Well, let's see if we can't get a little pep in your step!" (insert sinister grin...)

Before I was led back to the rack, I was made to exercise...in front of other people...and in front of a floor to ceiling mirror.  I wondered, "Is this some special kind of torture to defeat me mentally?"  Why else would anyone be expected to contort himself into these godawful positions...let alone do so in front of other people...and in front of a gaggle of technicians who were obviously pretending to laugh about other things while watching me struggle and strain.  I felt like I was in one of those Hitler's Youth videos from history class; you know...the ones where young people were made to bounce around and stretch...and pretend to like it or die!  Well, I don't often pretend, and I can't say that I've ever pretended anything at 7 in the morning.  The pain and discomfort were both written in a flush of red across my face.  How do I know?  Well, that wall/mirror  was far too telling.  There I was, lying on an uncomfortably firm table, attempting to bring my knees to my chest and roll my shoulders while tucking my chin.  Yeah...that happened, and I looked like a very constipated "something," or at least that's what I saw when I peered between my knees at the big mirror.  And, there's nothing flattering about that angle.  "Don't forget to count to ten each time, honey..." she spat at me, "I'm watching."  "You and every other person in this room, lady."   She didn't laugh.

I endured three more amateur contortionist acts on the fabulously firm table, and my captor said, "That's enough. It looks like it still really hurts to move that neck."  "You don't say," I mumbled as I moved to a chair off in corner.  "Should I take off my sweater and unbutton my shirt so you can do the ultrasound stuff?"  "No...I can get to your neck just fine," she said.  But, what she was really thinking is this..."I can just pull back on your sweater, dress shirt, and undershirt to the point that I choke you the entire time I'm doing this!"  And she did...the entire time.  There's also something mildly uncomfortable about having someone choke you and squirt really cold gel on your neck.  By the time she was finished, I had been paraded in front of other captives and captors, made to stretch and look like a constipated cow on a table, a sit red...then blue...faced while being slathered in gel.  Still, I did not break.

"Take him to the room and hook him back up," the head captor said to another.  "Make sure you strap his head in well since it popped out yesterday; you know that happens from time to time when they have larger heads."  I sensed that her attempts at humiliation have been taken to a new level.  Little does she know that all Barkleys grow up understanding that they have big ole Charlie Brown heads, and her little dig did nothing but strengthen my resolve.   I'm placed back on the rack.  The 30 to 40 lbs of traction is accompanied by moist heat and electronic muscle stimulation today.  "I can handle this...who isn't comfortable having his head and neck pulled back by 40lbs of pressure while lying on a wet heating pad with electricity pulsed into his muscles...?"  In hindsight, I should have admitted that the electric pulses were a bit too high...a clear sign was my inability to stop ringing the little safety bell she placed at my waist.  I wasn't ringing it...my electrically charged muscles were making my fingers do it, and I didn't even notice.  She smiled and said, "That's funny...I guess it's up a little high.  Here, let's move that bell."  "Move the bell?  Move the bell?  How about we turn the machine down," I thought.  But I didn't say it...I just lay there on my wet heating pad with electricity pulsing into my neck muscles that were simultaneously being stretched by the rack...and I fell asleep.

"Dr. Barkley, we're all done for today.  You can sit up now," she said.  I walked out with a smile on my face...still silently wondering if I'm actually a little taller each time I leave.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Far too young for all these "old" people problems...

Well, since my medical maladies seem to be the best fodder for blog posts (and because it's been entirely too long since I actually sat down to blog), I thought I'd share my most recent venture into the medical world with y'all.

About twelve or so weeks ago, I started experiencing muscle spasms in my back...not those little things that you feel from time to time when a muscle trembles and you say, "Hey...look at what my arm, finger, leg, etc is doing!"  These spasms would literally suck the breath out of my body, and all I could do was lie as still as humanly possible until they faded.  If you're a Harry Potter fan, imagine someone walking into your bedroom and performing the cruciatus curse on your very unsuspecting self.  It was so painful that I wanted to push Susan out of the bed just for moving around while I was all contorted!  One morning, (okay...more than one morning) I had to actually have her help me out of bed; on the worst day, I put a pair of her clean socks in my mouth to keep from grinding my teeth as I moved into the sitting position.

I did the chiropractic thing as well as the general practitioner thing (hoping for an ortho referral), and while I was introduced to the wonderful "I literally could NOT care less about anything" muscle relaxer state, it took nearly eight weeks for the muscles to stop spasming.  So, when I finally stopped playing what seemed like an imaginary game of freeze tag (the looks I received from the general public were pretty hilarious!), I thought things were okay.  Now, I've had a fairly sizable kidney stone (8 mm to be exact...that's a great story about a string of pearls, a very pregnant Susan, a nearly naked me, and almost enough morphine to stop my ability to breathe...but perhaps another time!), and that monster scarred me for life.  Once you experience that kind of pain, you're always, and I mean ALWAYS, aware of any type of symptom that remotely resembles it.  This cruciatus curse back pain was just like that...I'll never ignore back pain again, especially when it made me feel like Ripley from the movie Alien.

So, last week, I noticed this awful pain in my upper back that seemed to somehow be connected to my sternum and upper back at the same time.  And then...my arm started hurting and eventually went numb through my elbow on down to my last three fingers.  Of course I "WebMDed" my symptoms...who doesn't before dropping a co-pay.  Since the pain mirrored what some people feel when they're having a heart attack, naturally, I called my doctor...a day or so after it started (insert exasperated comments from my wife and mother...and coworkers).  My general practitioner was convinced that I had pulled another muscle and it was pinching a nerve.  I don't even pretend to know how that would work, but it sounded kind of stupid to me.  She sent me to physical therapy, and that's precisely where I spent two hours this afternoon.  Here's how it played out...

Of course I had to use my iPhone to map the doctor's office; I mean...I barely make it to and from work without getting lost.  On the way, I changed lanes in front of a Jacksonville police officer, and because I had way too many (seriously...dangerously close to losing my license) tickets in college, my mind went to that place of perfect paranoia.  He turned behind me on the next two streets...then he turned in at the same doctor's office...so, if I weren't already stressed enough about having to deal with a new doctor, this added stress of the PoPo following me to physical therapy wasn't helping.  When I got out, he pulled out of the parking lot and just left.  Obviously, my wife, mother, and/or coworkers ordered a police escort to the doctor...that should tell you how much I love to go.

Since the people there were exceptionally nice, I won't identify the office, but in my best Sophia Petrillo voice...Picture it...my physical therapist's office...2013...I walk through the front door, and the whole place smells like a grandma's house...a grandma who doesn't clean regularly.  I sat in an uncomfortable chair (this only helped aggravate my neck...that's a good thing, too, since I hate seeing a doctor when my symptoms have gone!) and I waited.  The wait wasn't too long; actually, it was just long enough for me to notice the little dust bunnies hanging from a really old drapery, two different types of laminate flooring in the waiting room, and an odd and mildly offensive food smell.  As I was called back, I overheard a conversation about a new chili recipe that explained the nasty food smell...note to the office worker: large cloves of garlic weren't necessary.

A nice office worker deposited me in a room and proceeded to explain to me that changes in healthcare coverage likely meant that I would be responsible for a large deductible and then 20% of each subsequent visit.  In my mind, all I heard was, "Hey...you're about to have to fork out big bucks for another doctor to tell you that you're in pain, and then they're going to expect you to keep coming back until they bleed you dry."  I smiled dryly and said, "That's fine."  She seemed put off and offered a payment plan.  Obviously my lack of excitement for the visit led her to believe that I was struggling with the deductible.  Again, I said, "That's fine, I can handle the deductible today."  She left, and, I kid you not, in walked Santa Claus.  Did y'all know that Santa was a physical therapist when he's not forcing little people to make toys for even "littler" people?  He was a nice guy...very, very thorough.  He listened to me recount my medical history for what felt like the bajillionth time, and then he got this worried look on his face.  "Let me listen to your heart and make sure this is even something I can fix!" he said...I thought, "Great...I'll die of a heart attack here in this old granny-smelling house/medical office.  No one will find my body because of the poorly made chili!"

Anyway, my heart checked out fine, and then he started poking around between my vertebrae.  Don't you love when a doctor pokes and asks, "Does that hurt?  Is that tender?"  It's actually kind of hard to say no when someone has his finger knuckle deep in your spine.  But, he found the spot...no THE spot.  "Is that tender?" he asked again.  "Sweet Jesus...get it out...get it out," was all I could say.  And then, he had an AH HA moment...  He made me lie down on the table so that he could pretty much spin my head around like the girl from The Exorcist...he popped a few things, jerked me all over the place, and then...he grabbed me by my head (really...just like my brother did when we were kids) and pulled quickly three times in a row.  I sat up and the pain was gone...not for good, but that immediate relief made me feel like Santa had given me a gift.  I'll spare you all the C7 T1 mumbo jumbo and the other medical jargon and just fast forward to the traction room.

I've been in traction before; in fact, my chiropractor had strapped my entire body to a table and put me in some sort of crazy traction/inversion situation.  As this tech strapped me in and prepared me for traction, though, "The Inquisition" (click it and watch...it's pretty funny!) by Mel Brooks...you know the one from History of the World, popped into my head.  I started laughing and couldn't stop.  The nice lady strapped my head in tightly, put an emergency cancel button in my left hand and placed a bell by my right hand.  "Hit the emergency button if you need to get out of this and hit the bell if you need me," she said...and then she left.  The machine began to pull my neck backward with around 30lbs of force...not too bad.  In fact, the sweet lull of the antiquated piece of equipment slowly put me to sleep.  I woke up...startled...some odd beeping noise...the emergency button on the floor...the head strap undone.  "Hell," I thought, "this thing has pulled my head too far!" (That's the kind of thing I suppose I think of when I'm roused awake quickly!)  I rang the bell, and the nice lady came back in and re-strapped me.  The machine tugged on my neck for twenty more minutes until I was sufficiently stretched.  As I walked out of the office, I chuckled again, thinking..."Hmmm, I wonder if I'm a little taller now."

So, since it didn't kill me, I suppose I'll go back the two times this week the doctor asked me to return.  And, if he needs to see me next week, I'll make sure that he has sufficient time to deliver all those presents his elves have made!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What I think every teacher should know...

  Well, it's back to school time, and I've seen Facebook explode with pictures of boys and girls on their way back to school...some kids were smiling, some were still asleep, some apparently ran from the camera, and one just stared blankly at a sad ball of clay on his new desk...I like to think he was sitting there thinking, "I spent all those years in pre-school...we did all those crafts, sang all those songs, and ate all those snacks, and this is the best that public school has to offer me!  My own boys started back to school today, and for the first time since they entered what Jack likes to call, "prison for kids," I couldn't take them on their first day...instead, Susan had the pleasure of weaving her way through the crazy first-day-of-school-drop-off-line.  You know the line...it's the one where all the experienced parents try to hide their exasperation with all the kindergarten parents who insist on parking in non-parking places...jamming the morning lines.  So, I called to talk with the boys after school:  Harrison said 5th grade is going to be awesome; Jack said all he did was write all day (can you tell which boy loves school and which one hates organized anything?).
  While my boys were navigating their first day back at Weaver Elementary, I was sitting (for far longer than I care to ever be still) through welcome back meetings at JSU.  First, there was a university meeting: somehow every employee on campus is supposed to be in one place at the same time on campus, and the meeting typically lasts less than an hour and a half.  Then, we trudged across the quad to our college meeting that lasted nearly until noon (obviously the dean should take notes from the president)...at least he knows how I feel about noon being sacred in terms of lunch (if you think I'm hard to deal with regularly...spend a few minutes with the hungry version of me.).  Our college meeting concluded with a presentation by students from Childersburg High School; they were there to tell us what they expected of us as faculty.  On one hand, I was excited to see them list the things that I think are important in student teacher interactions...basically the things I've always taught my methods students.  On the other hand, I was sort of put off by some of the surprised looks on the faces in the room.  It was as if these "things" the students were asking us to consider were way too much...You mean I'm supposed to try to relate to you?  I'm supposed to have a sense of humor?  You want me to smile...and know my subject matter?  Frankly, the looks scared me.
  For months I've been working on our accreditation documents, trying to prove to our accreditors that we know what we're doing when we prepare future teachers.  I have loads of data...more sample assessments than I care to even examine, but today I realized that while accreditation is nice (especially when your job depends on it), what really matters in education...what I think every teacher should know is this:  Our job is so much more than the subjects we teach or the methods we use.  It's more than the fun and creative...more than the boring and rote.  It's more than the clubs we sponsor and the teams we coach.  It's more than the projects we require, the experiments we demonstrate, and the assignments we grade.  In my opinion, what matters most is that each of us understands this:  At some point every year, we will encounter a student who just needs to know that s/he matters.  It's that simple.  You want them to learn from you?  Let them know they matter.
 You want them to try to ________ (you can fill in the blank with anything you've planned this year), let them know they matter.  Adults have this remarkable ability to be self centered.  Just as kids don't have to be taught to lie...we don't have to be taught to wrap ourselves in our own issues to the point that we can't even see what's going on around us.  We become so obsessed with teaching that we sometimes forget to even pay attention to the kids in the desks.
  One semester as I was teaching English language arts methods, a student asked me what I remembered most about school...we were sharing the good and bad we'd taken from public and private school.  I didn't really stop and think much about my answer, analyzing it as I have today, and I said, "I remember the relationships I had with my teachers...I don't remember all the things we did, but bits and pieces of conversations float around in my mind all the time."  I'm the product of a county school system, and I don't mind saying that I had more than my share of tenured place holders.  But, I was also fortunate to be in the presence of some of the most caring educators I know.  They were a minority in my school, but I found them, and I fed from them.  They caused me to realize that teaching would be my profession...not because I loved any one subject more than the other...in fact, some of my teachers did more to foster my hatred of a subject (cough, cough...math) than anything...but because I liked the way they made me feel.  Realizing that one person could have such an impact on other people was a pretty powerful revelation to a high school student.
  I was blessed to have a handful of people who really made me feel like I mattered when I was younger, but I was also plagued by the belief that I'd never matter to one...nothing I'd ever do would be good enough: I'd pick the wrong sport, have the wrong opinions, walk in a pretty large shadow, choose the wrong college, career, and even the wrong time to get married.  All of those things would have done me in had I not had good teachers along the way to insist that I mattered...that what I had to say in class was important...that what I wanted to do with my life was "right" because it's what I wanted to do.  Last week I sat and wondered where in the world I'd be had I not had a mother, a few family members, and teachers who told me that I mattered...that conformity was moving in the wrong direction.   What a lonely...miserable thought.  And, I bet there are more students in our classes feeling exactly that way than we think.

If my students were to flip their question and ask me today what I hope "my" students got and continue to get from my classes, I'd say, "I hope that in the conversations I had with them that they felt like they were important...that they mattered to somebody."  

  So, this wife of mine (who, by the way, loves me far more than I deserve) and I will do everything we can to raise our boys so that they know they matter.  When we say yes...when we encourage them...when we work beside them and for them...even when we have to tell them no, I hope they'll realize it's because they matter.  And, I hope that the teachers they have along the way understand just how vitally important it is for kids to know that they are more than just doers of projects, completers of tests, and fillers of desks.  If not, I'm sure I'll find a way to let them know...I was not blessed with the art of subtlety.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Finding Father's Day...

Last month as I was scrolling through status updates and posts on my Facebook newsfeed, I stumbled upon what I thought at first was just a very bitter woman's post about hating Mother's Day because she didn't have children of her own.  The more I read of her post, though, the more I realized that her real issue wasn't that she hadn't had children; instead, she was angry because she had somehow allowed society to make her feel bad because she wasn't a mother.  My first thought was, "I wonder why she just doesn't celebrate the holiday for her own mom?"  And then...I realized that things are usually not that simple.  Mother's Day makes complete sense to me because I love my mother; I love the mother my wife is to my children; and, I love all the other pseudo mothers I have had in my life.  It didn't occur to me until I started mentally prepping myself for Father's Day that because we all have unique relationships with our parents, holidays like Mother's and Father's Day are necessarily different.  To enjoy them, we have to figure out how to celebrate in our own way.  Mother's Day is easy, but I have had to find Father's Day.

So, how important is a holiday that has historically played second fiddle to Mother's Day?  Well, any question as important as this one justifies a trip to the Internet Oracle...Wikipedia.  Apparently, Father's Day had a difficult time picking up steam as a holiday...a lot of people even thought it was just a cheap ploy to coax women into buying gifts for men.  And, how seriously are we supposed to take a holiday that was signed into historical significance by none other than himself...Mr. "I am not a crook!" Richard Nixon?  Regardless, the holiday exists, and there's nothing wrong with celebrating  fatherhood...unless you're like the lady whose Facebook post I read and you aren't a parent...and your own parents failed miserably.  Luckily for me, that's not entirely my issue to battle.

I didn't find Father's Day until about 10:00 PM tonight as I was driving my boys home from seeing a movie.  Susan is out of town for work, so I took the boys to see the new Superman movie.  On the way home, Harrison asked, "So Daddy, are you ready for the day to be all about you?"  I sort of laughed and asked him what he meant.  Jack rolled his eyes (I didn't even need to see him in the rear view mirror to know he'd done it...it was in his tone) and told Harrison that he was ruining the surprise.
"Mommy planned that for him tomorrow...you have to wait until at least midnight to say anything."  I pretended not to hear anything they were arguing about and changed the subject.  They've obviously been tasked with some sort of set of surprises for me...why ruin it?  When we got back home and settled in on the couch, Jack asked, "So what do you want to do tomorrow, Daddy?  Good dads get to pick all day!"  And...that's when I found Father's Day.  This holiday...my holiday...has nothing to do with my father and everything to do with the father I am.  My holiday is in the wife who allowed me to become a father...the wife who made sure that even though she's out of town, the boys could celebrate with me.  It's in the way she looks at me when I'm outside with both boys...just being a family.  My holiday is in the "thank you, Daddy" that I heard from each boy tonight when we bought movie tickets and then concessions.  It's in the dimples on Jack's face...especially when he's in trouble.  It's in the way Harrison pushes his fingers together when he's having a tough time explaining something.  It's in the prayer that we prayed as a family as each accepted Christ, and it's also in the fact that they're both in their rooms right now trying desperately to stay up until midnight just so they can go ahead and celebrate Father's Day.


There it is...Father's Day is so much more than just another holiday.  For some it's the memories they have of their own fathers and grandfathers, and for others it's a painful reminder of what went wrong or what never was...

It is what it is...wherever you find it.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Constipated Communicator

  I try to find humor in most every situation, but I know that lately I've been "difficult" to be around...stressed and distressed.  But, about thirty minutes ago, I realized something that actually made me laugh out loud.  There are loads of posts on the internet about the fact that "it takes all kinds" to make up this crazy world: irrational people need rational ones; obsessively neat people need slobs; planners need those who fly by their seats; the list goes on and on.  I don't know that I agree with all of that...I mean I know that everything on "The Inter Web" must be true, but I think I could do without some of the people who sport an alternative version of me.  For example, I'm a talker...talking through a situation usually gets results.  Ignoring things and keeping them bottled up only leads to stagnation!
  Communication has been on my mind a lot lately.  If I believe what I've read, there must be many types of communicators, but I think they can all be condensed into these three (and this is why I started laughing):  
1.  I'm sure everyone who reads this has heard the term "verbal diarrhea" at least once.  In fact, many of you may have suffered a bout of the verbal squirty gurtys from time to time.  If you have, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you're too self righteous to admit that you "once upon a time needed some communication Pepto Bismol," then I know you can point a finger at at least one obnoxious person who fits the description.  When a person suffers from verbal diarrhea, he/she frequently says pretty much anything that comes to his/her mind before thinking.  It's not always offensive...it's usually way more than necessary...and it almost always makes others uncomfortable. So...there's such a thing as talking, telling, saying, spouting...too much!

2.  If there's such a thing as discourse diarrhea, then it seems only logical that there also be such a thing as someone who is linguistically regular.  This person is someone who typically obeys the conventions of conversation.  He/she can easily participate in most situations, knows just what to say, and usually doesn't make anyone around him/her uncomfortable.  A person who obviously has a healthy dose of Verbal Fiber One daily, tends to be a careful listener...a thinker even.  He/she works well in a group and tends to become the leader because he/she can temper the verbose villain.  In fact, a person who is verbally regular even knows how to handle the third type of communicator.

3.  So...if a person can have verbal diarrhea or be linguistically regular, then there also must be such a thing as the "Constipated Communicator."  You know this person...he/she looks, well...looks constipated:  uncomfortable, bloated mouth, anxious...mouth opens...something wants to come out...nothing!  And, sometimes, the constipation is self inflicted.  Don't get all modest on me here, either...you know what it's like to hold something in because it's the socially appropriate thing to do...you only pay for it later.  If someone with verbal diarrhea needs communication Pepto then the constipated communicator likely needs a language laxative.

While there's certainly some humor in the junk up above, I laughed the most when I thought about a situation I'm dealing with.  Imagine a room with verbal diarrhea, communication constipation, and some linguistically regular folks all just sitting around supposedly making things happen.  I realized a little while earlier that in this situation...this time (because I've been them all), I'm one of the regular ones.  And, even though I get really frustrated with the onslaught of the verbal diarrhea, what frustrates me the most is all the crotchety, constipated communicators sitting around either intentionally holding things in or frustrated because they want to "unload" but they just can't make it happen.  Constipated Communicators are impeding progress...I think it would be appropriate to say (crude...but appropriate), "Enough...it's time to poop or get off the pot!"  I've got stuff I need to do...I have plans I need to make...I have things I need to change.  

the end...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Who saves Superman?

  When I was little, all I ever wanted to do was fix things or make them better. It was pretty simple then:  if my friends were upset, I tried to make them smile or laugh.  If someone made them angry, I'd see what I could do to fix it for them.  I mean...what else was I supposed to do when a situation was intense...I always thought the quickest way to make things less awkward was to try to fix them.  Fast forward a few decades, and here I am...still a fixer.  My insane desire to please everyone has been tempered...but not by much.  So...there it is...

My name is Jordan, and I am a fixer.

  If you're not quite sure what  fixer is, let me see if I can paint a picture for you.  A fixer is a lot like Superman...or at least that's what he sees when he closes his eyes.  He walks around all day like Clark Kent, pretending to be an ordinary person.  But, as hard as he might try, he just can't avoid the things that need to be fixed...the people who need to be saved.  They're everywhere.  They can be as simple as computers that need to be configured (Who has time to wait for IT to come over?), and they can be as difficult as a friend's marriage falling apart.  In either case, he dons his cape (I do not, however, imagine myself in tights.) and tries to save the day.  Most of the time, he's successful; crises are averted; and the world keeps turning.
  Here's the part of that little fantasy that no one ever shows us in the movies:  If Superman is always off saving everyone else, then who saves Superman?  Who fixes his problems?  Wait...that's right...he's not supposed to have problems.  He's Superman, so he ignores his own needs and just keeps saying, "Sure, I can help."  If he's lucky, though, he's married to a woman (and not Lois...she was always more trouble than she was worth in my opinion.) who will force him to face reality, and he's made enough good friends in his life who will do the same.  Maybe, just maybe, he gets to the point to where he can be honest with himself and write about it.  It can't be easy saving Superman.  If he really is the Man of Steel...you know, faster than a speeding bullet and all...he's bound to be a real pain in the rear and hard headed to the nth degree!
  One day, though, his health will get just a little questionable...nothing too serious...just enough to make him worry. First his blood pressure will be just a little too high...And maybe his eye will feel like it's going to fall out of his head, or maybe he'll want to scoop it out with a spoon because it hurts so bad!  In the middle of all of the crap surrounding him, he'll look at his wife one night, and she'll ask, "Did you ever think getting older would be this hard?"  At first it will seem like a comical question because, obviously, he is not old! But the longer he thinks about it, the more agitated he'll get.  He...Superman...will feel betrayed.  No one, and I mean no one, ever told him that life would be like this.
  No one told Superman that when he got older, his kids would drive him nuts and it would be harder to find a minute alone with his wife than it would be to get an auto insurance quote.  No one told him that he'd have to watch friends lose spouses and parents to terminal illnesses...watch his friends lose jobs...watch his friends' marriages spiral out of control.  No one told him that he might let his job consume him from time to time...that his desire to "do the right thing" would seem counter intuitive to some of his coworkers. No one told him that a large majority of the adult population refuses to play by the rules and expects to be treated better than they treat others.
  And...maybe that's a good thing.  If someone had told him all of those things, he might have said, "To hell with it all," and become an alcoholic stoner by age 10.  Instead, he just grows up doing his Superman thing...then one day, he realizes that he is utterly exhausted.  He admits that he's tired, and he realizes two very important things:  Just like no one told him about all the crappy things that were going to happen to him,  no one ever told him that he'd grow up and have friends who would feel like family, and no one certainly ever told him that he'd have a wife who would love him so deeply.
  So, who saves Superman?  My guess is whoever he lets do the job.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Life's about choices...right?

Life's about choices...or at least that's what I always say.  I can't tell you how many times I've used that line with students in my office who are trying to choose a major, trying to talk through potential jobs, and sometimes even trying to explain away a crazy decision that ended in a "less than desirable" grade.  But, it's not just some "stock" quote I use with students.  It's true...right?  Life really is about choices.  I mean...we're not just agents of some master plan...right?  We do have free will.  Well, at least that's what I believe.  My life has been a series of choices...some I made...some made by others.

I've struggled with this entry for two weeks or so now, trying to find the right words...find the best way to say how I'm feeling without being vicious.   Vicious is easy,and it actually feels like "something."  Introspective and forgiving are actions, too...they just feel like something else entirely!

Two weeks ago, I stood in front of one of the toughest decisions I think I've ever had to make: be honest about my feelings or continue clinging to a hope that things might change.  And, if you've ever been faced with giving up hope, you know what a gut wrenching feeling it can be.  It's scary; it's unsettling; it's more than uncomfortable; but, I'm told that somewhere on the other side, it can also be liberating.  We live in a "feel good" world where we are told that everyone can be whatever they dream to be...that we can "name it and claim it."  Telling someone to give up hope, especially when the someone is yourself, seems counter intuitive...at least it does for me.  Giving up hope feels like quitting, and, well..."We don't do that."  (Ask my boys...they'll tell you quickly that we don't quit.)  I guess that's partly why this has all been so hard.

I suppose, though, that there comes a time in everyone's life when he must take inventory of all that constitutes who he is...everything from whom he's married; how he raises his children; where he works; whom his friends are; to all the other types of relationships he seeks and attempts to maintain.  He stares into the mirror and decides...does he self care and choose to cut things from his life as though they were lifeless appendages, or does he continue pumping energy into defunct relationships.  If I were tending a garden, the choice would be obvious:  I'd cut off the dead parts to allow nutrients and energy to be used appropriately.  If I were back in my classroom, I'd easily stop doing whatever it was that wasn't working.  And, if I were at work, I'd release the person who was no longer effective.

Severing ties (loose as they may be) with someone in your personal life feels just a bit harder.  I think we often feel compelled to hold out hope that a relationship can be repaired...that the other person will come around and see how much we are worth.  We don't want to give up...to quit, or at least I can say that's true about me.  It's not something to be taken lightly.  After all, there are some things that can't be taken back.  And, I believe that if I'm willing to say that "I'm done," I should make sure I mean it.  Life's about choices...and if I choose to end a relationship, then I have to live with the consequences.  Right?

Ultimately, I realized a few things that made my decision make sense.  First, I believe the worst thing a person can do to another is to make him feel as though he's insignificant...that he doesn't matter.  You may say that taking a life would be worse, but at least there's some finality in that.  There's rarely finality in living with the thought that you don't matter.  Second, I believe it is possible for a person to lie so often that the lies become his reality.  Convincing that person that his reality is false is nearly impossible.  And third, sometimes people just don't deserve the time and energy it takes to have a relationship.  

So, since life's about choices, I chose to do the healthy thing and move on.  I chose to be thankful for the wife I have...the boys I have...the friends I have...the life I have...instead of dwelling on what never was and what certainly was never going to be. As I understand it, now I have another choice to make...to forgive. Forgiveness is not forgetting.  It's working through feelings and letting go of the anger.  It's actually not about the other person...it's about me.

That one, though, is going to take some time.