I’m Trying Hard to Take It Back*

Yesterday was a no art day. I went to book club. I was tired. I think I might be getting sick, which would probably mess up the weekend’s plans. I’m holding out hope at this point. We’ll see. I did grade a little bit yesterday, but mostly I read a bunch of stuff online about our stupid president and his belief that arming teachers is the best way to solve the school shooting issue.

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If someone told me I had to carry a gun to do my job, I’d quit. If someone told me that someone else on campus was carrying a gun, a teacher or a coach, to apparently protect us, I’d quit. I wouldn’t trust the idiot who thought that was a good idea. The idiots who believe more guns solve the gun control issue can come teach. They can come work the monstrous hours we work, deal with the crazy behaviors and rules and testing we deal with, they can do the parent meetings and the staff meetings and the professional development and the reading of this book in your free time so we can not discuss it later and the grading and accountability and all that shit. They can look at their paycheck and see how they feel about being highly educated and highly disrespected by their own society. They can stress over the weekend and late into the night about lesson plans, kids with suicidal tendencies, and principals with crazy agendas. They can do all that.

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Oh wait. They can’t. Or they won’t. There are so many things wrong with this solution, I can’t stop banging my head on my desk over it. It’s bad enough that I have to consider my life over those of my students (because we would protect them). I did not choose that as part of my job. I did not join the military, the police force, or even the fire department. I do not fight in wars, I do not train in artillery, I do not shoot at targets. I chose to teach kids to think and grow. I chose to do something positive in society. I did not choose to carry a gun. I will not choose to carry a gun.

Sigh. So today is my last day with my current counselor…I started seeing her in 2013 because something really shitty and awful and devastating happened and it was beyond me. She has calmly and rationally pulled me down off whatever sky-high branch I flew to and helped me remold the pieces of my brain that broke back then so that they are mostly functioning. They’re not perfect…they never will be…they won’t even be that cool Japanese Kintsugi, where they mend broken pots with gold. They are stitched together with my drawings and my quilts and held with a few hands in place. The joining places do feel fragile at times, even now, but I think I’m OK. She tried to graduate me out of counseling a year ago, and I wasn’t ready. It feels like if I stop going that some massive horrible thing will happen again and I will fall to pieces again. I’m really paranoid about that. And when I tell her that, she nods her head and walks me through my achievements of the last 4 1/2 years and I say OK, I get it, I hear you, I’m not ready.

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Someday this will be a quilt. I’m not ready for that yet.

But I guess I’m ready to stop going to counseling. Because I know if more shit hits the fan (and it inevitably will…it’s just a matter of how and when, because that’s what it was last time…a how and when and out of the blue with no warning is not apparently a good thing for me), I will maybe freak out and maybe not and if I do, I know where to go. I know how to get there. I did it last time. I realized my head was broken and I went to get it fixed. I didn’t think it was fixable at the time, but it turns out I mend. I’m not the same person any more. But I am still me. I’m better at some things now and worse at others. I can’t see colors in the dark very well any more. I’ve got some major baggage that I don’t seem to be able to shed. I guess it’s enough to know it’s there and to manage it when it tumbles down on top of me.

So tonight? Tonight I will say goodbye to my counselor and hope I never need to see her again (strange relationship that)…and I will come home and hopefully sort some fabrics and start ironing them together, and this thing that’s pretending to be the beginnings of a cold will give up and move on, and the president and all his gun-toting cronies will disappear in some sort of a meteor crater that also sucks up all the automatic weapons and other stupid shit but doesn’t hurt any innocent people or children. Wait. That one is probably pretty unrealistic.

*Fun. We Are Young

This Sad Dark Room

Strange question today. Counselor asked if she had met me a year ago, would she be counseling the same person? No. You wouldn’t. She asked about stress, if the school and kid stresses would have been the same? Well, the college and financial aid stress is new and heinous, but otherwise, yes, they would be the same…at least similar. Would I have the same attitudes? Was I crying all the time? No. Hardly ever. PMS occasionally. Not like this. This is horrible. Endless. Awful.

I think I confuse her. She says that I don’t let things control me, that I change the things that are bothering me or I at least act against them or on them or something. I don’t just sit there and let it control me. So why? Why am I letting this grief control me?

This is where I go back to that magical step…I don’t think ‘let’ is the appropriate word. I don’t seem to be able to get the upper hand on this. I argue with myself all the time about it…tell myself that reality was different than what I thought and I need to get over it, to move on, and I just can’t seem to drag that stupid-ass part of my brain up and out. It’s just mired, lost, sinking…depressed.

Counseling was a giant weepfest. I guess there is some catharsis in that. But no resolution. She doesn’t have the magical step, apparently. I think if she did, she would give it to me. She asked me to name one thing I was grateful for at that moment in time, and right then, at the end of a long week, with things hanging over my head like guillotine blades, I struggled to find something that wasn’t an absence of something bad (I don’t have cancer…I’m grateful for that)…something that was actually a glass-half-full instead of just feeling empty.

In this conversation I had the other day with a self-professed Myers Briggs expert, she made me think about how I think…metacognition in teacher speak. I’ve said this before, that I wish I could get far enough out of my head so that I could get past this, but maybe this is part of why my artist brain is so good at what it intuitively does…I spend So Much time in my head with the art–drawing and interpreting and observing–that it’s almost impossible to get out when the brain is tying itself up in knots. When I am working on a big project that is taking up huge parts of my brain power, processing through images and compositions and colors, no one, including me, questions my interior focus. It’s what I’m meant to do. It’s how I function. The reason I was thinking of all this was because the Earth Stories quilts are shipping this weekend, and I had to iron, dehair, and label them…so while I was ironing, I thought again about using ink on the quilt…

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And I did. And no, it’s not in the catalog. I’m OK with that. It’s not a lot. It’s just enough. If I had been in a different mindset back in August/September, I would have handled the last stages of this quilt completely differently…there are things I would have done that would have extended the finish time by a month probably, inking and embroidery and maybe even beads, but I just couldn’t. I associate this quilt with the worst of my depression, with the three weeks of shock and the craziness after that. I did NOT want to spend more time with it then. So I found mistakes and problems when I was cleaning it up today…I fixed a few of them…but then I made more mistakes when I was trying to get it cleaned up…I actually ended up ripping out stitches in the background by accident in two different places. LAME. So I had to fix those.

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My bad. Not focusing enough. Not wanting to think too hard about this quilt and all it represents to me right now. It took me about three hours tonight to deal with the two quilts because of screw ups like that, but also because I had it all wrapped up and then remembered I needed to pack the small quilt with it…and then realized I was supposed to put labels on both of them. So I unwrapped and rewrapped about three times. Just inefficient and stupid.

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It’s so frustrating to be working with my brain when it’s this disconnected. But I remember the high level of focus I had when I was drawing this thing…it took over 22 hours of my Spring Break last year to draw it, and I had to literally rip it out of my head. I was never without that image in my head, building and rebuilding parts of it, revising the composition until it made sense. Same with picking the fabrics. So deep into the crevices that I am carrying the image in the front of my mind at all times, whether I’m in the classroom, at the gym, or out to dinner. It’s always there, niggling, engaging the deeper, intuitive parts of my brain into making it work.

And I don’t think any of that is bad. That is how I work. That is what makes me good at what I do. It’s also what makes it so freakin’ hard to get my brain OUT of shit like this, shit I can’t explain, shit that makes no sense, shit that makes me question my entire existence and future and past and every fucking thing. Shit that makes my sleep interrupted (even more than before). Shit that makes me cry at the drop of a hat, the drop of a word, the hint of any tiny bit of sad, stress, overwhelming emotion.

I can’t really expect my brain to treat this problem any differently than it does an artistic problem.

So. I guess we are working on that. I feel like the part of my brain that has the answer, the next step, the magical pill for the cure…it’s hiding around a corner…I come chasing through the hallway, racing after it, and it slips into a doorway that locks behind it, and I end up banging on the door, screaming until my throat is sore and my voice ragged, and I can hear its breathing, quiet and hidden, but it won’t answer, it won’t come out. It’s huddled in the corner, head on its arms, covering its eyes, hands covering its ears so it doesn’t have to listen to me. It’s processing.

I don’t know what the solution is.

Girlchild was playing like a beast last night for the time she was on the field…

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It seems strange to think that she will have back surgery in about 6 weeks, but there we are. She was back to normal today, helping in the kitchen, telling me it’s OK when I explained why I didn’t think the NYC trip could happen, that I just don’t have enough of a financial cushion for that, that we could reevaluate in summer, but that the money stuff just isn’t good at the moment. She said, “It’s OK, mommy. I understand.” And I told her I understood that it didn’t seem fair because her brother had three trips, but that I didn’t pay for all of it and my finances were better then, and now they’re just messed up, and I was really really sorry. Proof I guess that she is growing up, that she’s becoming the amazingly understanding adult I know she will end up being…probably too understanding.

Anyway. I spent all evening in my head telling my brain how stupid it was being. Not a good thing. Tomorrow I will try to erase some of that bad hinky stuff with a hike, and then hopefully I will get the next big chunk of financial aid hell done with and move on to something that feeds my soul or art brain or whatever that might bring me out and let me wander freely on the planet, instead of being kept in this sad dark room.