There is always something to be thankful for

Dear M,

Happy Thanksgiving in heaven, love. I have been thinking about you SO much lately- more than usual. As you know, before you moved in with me, this time of year was always difficult. I had so many bad things happen in November- filing for divorce, my grandparents passing away, my dad having a stroke, my sister getting sick- I dreaded the month and Thanksgiving went from being one of my favorite holidays to just another day. Then, it became “our” holiday. Do you remember the first time we made a turkey? I can’t think about it without laughing. We must have watched 15 youtube videos and called my mom ten times! The best part was when I made the herb butter mix and you figured out how to get it under the skin. I was crying from laughing so hard. By the second year, we had a lot more confidence, but it was still a lot of work. After that, we were pros! And then, of course, there was the annual (and very epic) turkey leg photo. How that became a tradition, I have no idea, but those pictures are some of my favorite of you.

I know I am feeling nostalgic and not remembering everything. We definitely had some pretty bad arguments, my family always added a layer of stress, and I always worried if you were drinking before and during them being here. But I think for today, I just want to remember the good memories of all of our Thanksgivings together. It is still hard to believe that you are no longer here. After you got sick and we broke up, I made my sister start hosting Thanksgiving at her house. It was just too hard to do it without you and I was too sad. But there is a world of difference between us not being together and knowing you are with your family and I am with mine and you being gone.

It breaks my heart to know that you will never have another Thanksgiving. That there will never be another turkey leg photo to add to the collection. We aren’t having a traditional dinner this year, my sister wanted to do just appetizers and desserts (which would have been right up your alley) and I am secretly glad. I feel like I would have seen a turkey leg and cried. It is pretty weird and funny that something like a turkey leg can make me think of you.

I have so much to be thankful for this year (M, you should see our niece- she is amazing and you would love the baby!) Rather than being sad today, I am going to try to smile and think about you and the happy moments we shared together on this day.

Lucky 21

Tomorrow begins my 21st year of teaching. I honestly do not know where the time went. This job is truly one of the loves of my life. I often say that it was more of a “calling” for me, because I never considered doing anything else. There have been A LOT of ups and downs throughout the years, but I love teaching as much as ever.

This is going to be a really difficult and unpredictable year. I pride myself on developing relationships with my students and it is going to be challenging to do so from behind a computer screen. I feel a lot of sadness…for the students who are missing out on a “normal” high school experience. For the kids who can’t play the sport they love or participate in the school musical. Several of my close teacher friends needed to work remotely from home, so it is depressing to think about going through a school day without seeing them, or really socializing with any of my colleagues. No more Friday night football games or happy hours or eating lunch in the teachers’ cafe or stopping in the office to chat with the secretaries. I feel like this is going to be a very isolating year. We are supposed to enter school, go directly to our classrooms, teach our classes and then go home.

On top of that, my niece is starting preschool and it is still kind of a shock every time I see a mask on her little face. It is so exciting that she is starting school, but I wish she was entering during a normal school year, so she could have recess and play and eat lunch with other kids her age.

No matter what, the show must go on and as a teacher one of the most important lessons I will teach this year is how to make the best of things. And I have a feeling I will be leaning a lot this year myself. Even on days where I might have to put in extra effort, I am going to try my hardest to be a positive influence on my new group of students. At the very minimum, they deserve that 🙂

Trying to be thankful…

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I can’t wait for 2019 to be over, especially November.  It has never been a particularly good month for me, but I always looked forward to Thanksgiving.  It became even more fun when my boyfriend moved in a few years ago.  We created a new tradition where we would prepare the turkey the night before.  I would make herb butter while he searched around inside the bird for the bag of giblets, which he seemed to always have a hard time locating.  He would then rub the butter on, making corny jokes and pretending to run after me with his disgusting hands.  We would spend the night together and the next morning, I would put the turkey in and start cooking.  My family arrived early.  Once we sat down to dinner, he would take an annual photo biting into a turkey leg.  My mom always sat next to him at the table and would always lean in to be in one of the pictures.  I have a picture of him from each year with a turkey leg.  The first Thanksgiving he ate with my family, my dad was looking all around the table for the oversized meat serving fork, only to realize my boyfriend was eating his meal with it.

When we broke up a few months ago, one of the first things I said to my sister was that I was not hosting Thanksgiving this year.  Luckily, she bought a house and so it seemed like a natural transition to move the holiday to her place.  I am just dreading it.  Everything about Thanksgiving reminds me of him.  And it is especially difficult because I keep imagining him alone.  I know that it is really his own fault that he is, but it still is really hard not to feel sad about it.

Each year, my sister and I attend a local craft show.  There is a woman who will personalize Christmas ornaments with names.  Each year, I bought a different one with his and my names on it.  Last year, it was two little wooden stockings hanging on a mantlepiece that said “and the stockings were hung…”.  The red and white stockings had our names written on them.  This year, I was looking at the ornaments and noticed the same ornament, but with a solitary stocking. “and the stocking was hung…”.  I wanted to get it, but my sister said it would just make me sad to see the ornament on the tree with only my name and a singular stocking.  It was just another reminder of everything I have lost this year and how alone I am now.

When I got home from the craft show, I pulled out the box with all of my Christmas ornaments in it and went through them.  I took out all of “our” ornaments, but he also had some ornaments of his own, two in particular that were from his godparents when he was a baby.  I am hoping to be able to enjoy Christmas more than Thanksgiving, so I decided to mail him the ornaments now, rather than letting them just wait for me to discover them again when I decorate the tree.  I packed them up carefully and went to the post office, where I proceeded to cry the entire time.  It was like another piece of him gone, another reminder that our relationship is permanently over.

I was not expecting a response from him.  He had messaged me a few weeks ago saying he missed me and I did not respond.  I found out his grandfather died last week and he did not tell me.  It was difficult, but I decided not to send him a sympathy card.  We truly have had no contact.  However, he did text me and it was not to say thank you.  He demanded that I never mail him anything ever again and if I find something else of his in my house to discard it.  He also accused me of knowing that he was at 90 days of sobriety and that I was purposely trying to upset him.

I talked to my therapist and told her that my intentions were not the way he interpreted them, although I can see now from his perspective how it might have been difficult to open a package from me, not knowing what it was.  I truly thought he would want those childhood mementos and I also really wanted to get it over with as far as returning them.  After thinking about it for a while, I have to admit that maybe a subconscious part of me wanted to hurt him.  I certainly would never, ever do something on purpose to tempt him to drink and I find it unfathomable that he could even consider that.  But I am still hurting SO badly and I feel like I never had the opportunity to really be able to tell him that.  I know he knows he hurt me and I know he is sorry, but I do not think he really understands the degree to which I have been affected.  I doubt he knows that when I close my eyes at night, I picture his limp body on the hospital bed, with tubes and wires all over him.  I feel so traumatized by the experience.  I really don’t think he knows that.  I think he thinks that I am heartbroken by his unfaithfulness and hurt by how his family treated me and angry about his lies and those are all true, but he cannot possibly know what it was like for me to sit in that hospital room day and night for almost a month, not knowing if he would survive, but also knowing that if he did, our lives would never be the same and our relationship was over.

Growing up with a violent alcoholic father made holidays very unpredictable and often very volatile.  I could write ten different stories about ten different horrible things my father did to ruin holidays while I was growing up.  I am sure most children of alcoholics can do that.  When I took over Thanksgiving and started hosting it at my house, it became a holiday that I could control.  It became less about stress and more about the traditions that my ex and I created to prepare the meal.  There were never any issues (my father is usually well behaved when he is a guest in someone else’s home).  My family would arrive early and leave early and he and I would watch a movie or take a nap.  It was just…nice.  I feel like I am going to see the turkey leg this year and just bawl my eyes out.  I miss him so much.  It is so, so hard to not know what or how he is doing.  He lives so close, but I feel so far apart from him now.  Our lives have moved on separately and now there are things we don’t know about each other.  His grandpa died (which I only know because my best friend is his cousin), he started a new job (someone told me he posted on Instagram), I am sure there are things I don’t know about at all.  He doesn’t know about the problem I had with a student at school.  He doesn’t know that my sister had a miscarriage last week.  He is still the first person I want to call when something happens.  I just can’t.  It just all hurts so much still.

I bought a journal on Amazon at the recommendation of my psychiatrist.  It is a gratitude journal where each night you can write three things that happened that day that you are thankful for.  I plan to start using it because it is easy to slide down into the rabbit hole of sadness and self-despair and depression and only think about the bad things.  I know I need to start recognizing the wonderful, beautiful, happy moments that have been overshadowed for so long.

So, to practice…today I am thankful for:

  1. The hysterical “30 Rock”, which I binge watched all day while grading papers
  2. My sister’s house being a five minute drive away, so I can see my niece every day
  3. Nyquil (bc I am sick and I know it will help me sleep tonight lol)

 

 

Atelophobia

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I just recently turned 40 and am currently in my 19th year of teaching.  It just struck me that I have now been an educator for almost half of my life!  I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl and every decision I made about my future was a step towards achieving that dream.  I never even considered any other career and I have never regretted it for a minute.  There have been amazing moments and really, really difficult days, but I truly have a passion for my job and consider myself so lucky to love what I do.

On Friday, my principal came to see me personally to tell me I was nominated for a very prestigious award.  I was so in shock, so honored, so flattered, so overwhelmed.  But, I didn’t want to tell anyone, even though the majority of my best friends are teachers at my same school.  I was almost embarrassed and didn’t want to seem like I was bragging.  I called my mom (who acted like I won an Academy Award- she was so excited) and she told me I was being silly not to share the good news with my friends.  I am also not the type to shout good (or bad) news from the mountaintop.  I did end up sending a group text and they all congratulated me, which was very sweet.

I have felt like a failure a lot in my personal life, from my dysfunctional childhood to my strained relationship with my dad to my struggles with anxiety to my marriage and subsequent divorce, I feel like I suck at life sometimes.  The one area where I have always succeeded and felt confident is in my career.  I have won other local teaching awards and I know I am respected in my school.  But honestly, underneath all the excitement of this amazing nomination, there was a thought in the back of my mind..”why me?”…”I don’t deserve that”…”I won’t win that”.  I know I work hard and I care SO much about teaching, but I still felt…undeserving.

I wrote a blog around the time of my 40th birthday where I reflected on my fear that no one would come to my birthday party (which of course they all did).  I shared that fear with my sister and she said to me, “you do nice things for everyone else and are so thoughtful and generous, why do you think no one wants to do that for you?” and it is because I felt…undeserving. Why would anyone want to celebrate ME? I don’t have really low self-esteem, but I think there is some aspect of my childhood that is tucked deep into my brain that makes me feel like I am not good enough.  I guess that is common for children of alcoholics.  Maybe my 12 year old self felt like if I was good enough maybe my dad wouldn’t drink?

I am very excited and honored about this nomination and I am going to really try to push those negative feelings away and focus on being happy about it, because deep down under those thoughts of not being good enough, I KNOW I am a good teacher who truly cares about her students.

 

The year of firsts…

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Having a baby niece has been amazing for so many reasons.  These past few five months have been some of the best of my life.  I am so lucky to live so close to her and to be such a big part of her growing up.  It has been so fun to see all of her “firsts”, especially holidays.  In an alcoholic family, holidays can be dreadful and stressful.  I have definitely experienced my fair share of ruined holidays.  I jokingly said to someone the other day that I feel like my niece is the reward for having such a dysfunctional family.  She is just so sweet and innocent and happy.  And she makes my sister and my mother and me SO happy.  Tonight was her first Halloween and my mom made her costume.  I know this was such a wonderful experience for my mom- to make something special for her granddaughter.  It may seem silly that we all dressed up and made such a big deal about a baby going trick-or-treating that isn’t even able to eat candy yet, but it was just another of so many sweet memories with her.  I usually do not look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas the same way other people do- I mean I still really like the holidays, but since they involve my family, they are usually stressful.  But this year feels really exciting and special and it is nice to actually be looking forward to the next few months!!

November

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I had a difficult time sleeping a few nights ago and as I lay awake in bed (ALL night), I thought about the month of November.  I have a love/hate relationship with the month.  I love it because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and as a teacher, there are a lot of days “off” in November, so it is an easy month.  The air is crisp enough to leave the windows open during the day and yet chilly enough to snuggle under blankets at night.  It is still light out early in the morning when I leave for work and stays bright enough to walk my dog in the evening.

But November has a dark side for me.  Several years ago, I had a HORRIBLE November…it was the month I filed for divorce, that I lost my grandparents, that my sister had a health emergency.  All of these things happening at the same time was completely overwhelming.  In a way, I was so numb…my divorce was incredibly painful and very drawn out.  My beloved grandmother passed away and within about a month, my grandfather followed.  There was just so much trauma that I almost had to separate myself from it.  I feel like I prepare myself at the end of every October to be ready for November…for the flood of emotions and memories to hit me.

Things in my life could not be more different now than they were that November six years ago.  First and foremost, my family has way less drama due to my father becoming sober.  I can truly look forward to the holidays coming up in a way that I was never able to just a couple short years ago.  My parents are getting along and my mom seems more content. My sister is in a relationship and has a challenging, fulfilling job.  I have a wonderful boyfriend who is caring and supportive and successful and my divorce is hardly even a passing thought these days.  I can think about my amazing grandparents and all that they taught me without becoming teary-eyed.  And yet, there is still that dull anxiety that November brings.  I just hope that as years continue to pass that the negative memories associated with this month get replaced by new, happier ones!