One way I cope with stress/distress/anger/frustration/sadness is to write. Feeling crushed by every single one of these emotions the last few days, I found myself going full tilt into a short piece that is part of the longer collection, a piece I've not been fully satisfied with from the get-go. While I'm happy with one very basic idea offered in the story, I'm not at all happy with most of the other aspects of it. So I made some changes.
The first major change was to make the main character a woman rather than a man. While several of the stories within the collection are told from a man's point of view, I just wasn't feeling confident that this particular story's male pov was working. Once I had finished going through the entire story to change every he to she, every his to her, and every male character's name to the new female character's name, the fingers started flying on the keyboard. I kept a few minor details along the way, but for the most part, the story reshaped itself without me having to think too much.
The second major change was to add in another character, a son. Where the previous male main character didn't have any children, the new female main character does, just this one. Once I made this addition to the story, the details about this guy seemed to shoot from my fingers as if he actually is a real somebody. Who knows, maybe there is a young man out there who does resemble this guy. All I know at this point about him, though, is he made a decision that has caused great sadness for his mother.
I've reached the point in the story where I'm not quite sure where it's going to go. I have some ideas, but I want to mull each over before making a decision. I'll most likely write each possibility out to get a feel for how each could take shape, but for now, I'm feeling much more confident in the story. It has a much truer ring rising to the surface, I think.
After spending the last two days working on this story along with responding to student work, I feel much less stress/distress/anger/frustration/sadness. In a way, I guess I've transferred what I was feeling to the characters in the story, which is what makes writing probably the best medicine a person can take for some ills.
One thing I've learned about myself in the last nearly 48 hours, after the whole FB message opening the door to memories I'd buried a very long time ago, is I truly haven't dealt with what happened. My way of dealing with it was to bury it, pretend it didn't happen. I never told anyone about the situation. Not one single person. If I didn't acknowledge it and no one else knew what had gone down, then it didn't really happen, right?
Wrong. It happened. And it still has the power to make me feel like crap.
Yesterday, all day, piece after piece of the then revealed itself. When I was walking down the hall to spend time in the Writing Center, one particular moment surfaced. Along with the moment came the feeling I'd experienced then: fear. Before I reached the Writing Center I was doing all I could to keep myself together. And so went most of the day, me trying to keep myself together.
Since seeing the FB message, I've thought about what I should have done then. I should have reported this co-worker after the first time I heard a knock on my door at 10 pm, this co-worker suggesting we hang out. I should have reported this co-worker after attending a conference together, this co-worker showing up at my soon-to-be sister-in-law's apartment where I was staying (the co-worker was staying at the hotel) just after my soon-to-be sister-in-law left for work and I was there alone, just getting out of the shower. I heard very loud knocking on the door, so loud I was afraid to open the door. When I saw who it was, I did open the door to avoid creating a scene. I should have reported this co-worker after the comment made about a certain part of my anatomy. But I didn't.
I was 23. I was fresh out of college. I was working a job I really wanted. I was living alone in my first apartment. I thought if I ignored all of these warning signs the problem would just go away. I thought if I just did my job, went back to my apartment, did all the things I liked to do to keep myself busy, the problem would get the message and leave me alone. I was so completely naive. The problem didn't go away. The problem wouldn't leave me alone. Rather, the more I tried to dodge the problem, the more intense it became. Then, the problem tried another tactic. The problem took action to ensure my boss went after me. I became the bad guy.
Which was easy for my co-worker to do. My boss and the co-worker were married. My boss pulled me into the office and let me know in no uncertain terms I was the one on trial. I remember sitting there thinking, "This really isn't happening." I remember leaving that office in a daze. I remember the next few weeks of just going through the motions, doing what needed to be done, then returning to my apartment and finding things to keep me busy. I still had my Thoroughbred mare and had her stabled not far from my apartment, so I was at the stable every evening, riding, cleaning stalls, and feeding all the horses. The horses gave me some peace.
Work did not give me any peace. Every day was a struggle. I couldn't fight. Who was going to believe me? So I wrote up my resignation letter and turned it in. When I handed it to my boss, the smirk I received in return made me feel two inches tall. I was completely humiliated. I still feel that humiliation.
Now, after thinking back over this time in my life, I'm still finding myself shouldering the blame for what happened. I know I'm not to blame. I know this. I know it's way past time to pull the demons out and send them on their way. They've had way too much power over me for far too long, power they don't deserve.
There are moments when something will trigger my inner nasty. Today, that moment happened just after I finished eating my tuna salad sandwich and was thinking, "Hmmmmm, it's been awhile since I've had tuna. That was kind of tasty." I still had about 15 minutes before having to return to work, so I opened my laptop to see what was going on in FB world. I know, I know. Mistake number 1. I should have just enjoyed sitting with Ado, getting cream colored dog hair all over my black dress. But no. I went ahead.
I noticed I had a message waiting for me, so I clicked on the message icon. Just above the name of the person who'd sent me the message I noticed Other (2). While I check in to see what friends and family are up to, I don't normally pay much attention to the other aspects of FB, so out of curiosity, I clicked on Other (2) to see why two messages had not gone to my Inbox. Yes, you got it. Mistake number 2. I should have just let it be and ignored it like is the usual for me. But no. I went ahead.
The first message dated early February came from a person who is a friend of my parents. This person is just a hoot, but I'm not inclined to accept the friend request as I really don't want to be subjected to the, well, let's just say, questionable material that might show up. The second dated early January came from someone who over 25 years ago made my life miserable, so much so, that I quit my job (this person was a co-worker) to not have continue being miserable. Just seeing this person's name brought back all those memories and let loose my inner nasty, which was, "What the -f!? Why the -f do you think it's okay to message me after what you did, *&^%#$@!()#$?" After several more -f bombs exploding in my head, I finally read the message: "Looks like you are doing well. You have a beautiful family."
A few more minutes of nastiness swirled inside my head as I stared at the message. I just couldn't fathom why this person would message me. What exactly am I supposed to do with it? Am I supposed to respond, saying, "Gee, thanks!"? Am I supposed to take the message as an olive branch? After all, it has been 25+ years. I have done well since submitting my resignation letter and leaving my first job out of college behind. It's not like I let that *&^%#$@!()#$ follow me and determine the decisions I made from that point on. If anything, I guess it could be argued the whole situation sent me on the path I was really supposed to be on.
For now, I'm just going to delete the message and go forward with life. I see no point in responding, and hopefully my not responding will be all that's needed to get my message across.
This morning the urge to ride my bike to work consumed me. Even though the temperature was 19 degrees with a real feel of single digits and even though the wind would be hitting me directly in the face as I made my way to work, the craving to ride far outweighed the comfort I would be provided through driving. It was almost like I had no control over the decision making, like someone or something had determined the choice for me before I even woke up. I was merely a puppet whose strings were being pulled by some unknown puppeteer.
So I rode. The cold numbed my thighs. The wind bit at my cheeks. My right ear hurt even though I had my hat pulled down over it.
I didn't care.
Sometimes I wonder if I don't care enough about the things I should.
Lately, my mind keeps finding its way back to a thought that occurred to me some time ago. A question, really. About love. The question surprised me as it seemed to just pop up out of nowhere. Now it won't leave me alone.
It wriggles into my thoughts in the middle of grading papers. It pokes at me when I'm reading For Whom the Bell Tolls. It interrupts a conversation I'm having with a friend. It makes me uncomfortable.
I want it to leave me alone. I just want to be left alone.
Sometimes I wonder if I don't care enough about the things I should.
I played hookey from work today. Well, technically, I didn't. I let all the proper people know I wasn't going to be in. I followed all the procedures for being sure my students knew not to show up since I wasn't going to be there. And I didn't feel one ounce of guilt for taking the day off.
Years ago, if I had to cancel class because I was sick or one of the kids was sick, I felt guilty. I'd grown up with the work ethic of you go to work. Period. No excuses. I watched my dad go to work even when he would get one of his terrible headaches that made him sick to his stomach and barely able to keep his eyes open. The only relief he got was by sitting on the floor next to his bed and laying his head against the quilt. I saw my dad get into the car during a blizzard, determined to drive to work 30 miles away, only to get stuck a half mile down the road from the house and have to hike back, upset he wasn't going to be able to make it in that day. I don't have one memory of my dad taking a day off just to take the day off.
I used to be like my dad. I used to go to work no matter what. A couple of years ago, though, after going yet another school year without using the personal days I'm allowed, and those personal days being moved over into the sick days category (which now sports enough time to take nearly an entire school year off), I decided I'm going to use the personal days whenever I feel I need a day to just sit and do nothing. Every now and then I find myself just not in the mindset I know I need to be in to really do my job well, so I use a personal day to take a breather. Yesterday, I could feel the need for a breather coming on, so I decided to cash in one of the personal days, take today off, and do nothing.
Nothing started out by having breakfast with Hubby, then taking Ado for a nice walk. Nothing then forced me to fulfill the old "Stupid Movie Monday" tradition Lovely Beautiful Daughter and I started years ago by making me watch a LMN flick. After that, nothing suggested I sit and talk with Funny Delightful Son for awhile. Not finished with me, nothing had me meet up with Funny Delightful Son for the 1 pm showing of Kingsmen (thoroughly enjoyed it). Not long after returning home from the movie, nothing shoved me back out the door to go work out with Hubby over at the university. Satisfied with my time spent on the spin cycle, the treadmill, and the stair stepper, nothing agreed I could sit and watch an episode of "Tiny House Living" (or something like that) followed by "My Big Fat Fabulous Life" (she does cry at times throughout the show, so I'm not convinced she really thinks her life is fabulous). Now, nothing is better than hanging out on the bed with Max and Ado.
I have two more personal days for the rest of the semester, and I'm definitely going to take them. I might use one for the Monday after spring break, just to stretch break one more day. I might use the other the Thursday before the endurance ride in May, just to give me one last day to prepare for my first venture into cycling nonstop for 12 hours. But who knows. I'm just thankful I have the personal days and can use them when I feel the need for a day to just sit and do nothing
This weekend was supposed to be grade papers weekend. I was going to get started early yesterday as I have quite a few papers that need attention. So what have I been doing? Avoiding anything related to work by
brewing up another batch of kombucha (the first batch was okay--a little too vinegary for me--so I'm hoping this batch works out better).
making yogurt (love knowing the only ingredients are whole milk from grass-fed cows and cultures).
simmering beef bone broth on the stove (and burning the palm of my hand by grabbing hold of the cast iron skillet used to brown the bones in the oven before transferring them to the stock pot. My little, "I'm so stupid! I'm so stupid!" dance around the kitchen as I'm holding my hand brought Hubby running and turning on the cold water at the sink for me).
making homemade granola (which smells so good as it is heating in the oven).
sweeping and mopping and dusting and laundry and dishes (yes, even cleaning house is more enticing than grading papers).
removing all the dog bombs in the yard (at least they're all frozen).
writing this post!
For reasons I can't quite figure out, there are times I just do not want to read and respond to student work.