Friday, March 23, 2012

My Gnarly Head

The beef stroganoff I cried into didn't end up tasting too weird. Actually, it was turkey stroganoff, but that doesn't have a great ring to it.  I downed two bowls of the stuff with my glass of (aptly titled) Gnarly Head Zin and I'm no worse for the wear.

When I started to break up the chunks of ground turkey in the fry pan and stir in the cream of mushroom soup, I just lost my shit.  Just cried hysterical crocodile tears right there in the kitchen.  Sure, it didn't help that E couldn't find his way to my position in our argument if he had a map, or that he was standing there demanding I explain to him just why I couldn't just tell him what happened... why I was such a damn mess.  Some messes are too far gone; they can't be encapsulated into anything word-like.  Instead they come hiccuping out into the dinner you're stirring--as sloppy, blubbering hysterics.

That word bothers me, too: hysterics.  It's fraught with the notion of being crazy because you're a woman... the same accusation which added blubber to my messy outburst.  But there it is in my own writing, the perfect word for such an unmanly thing.  Irony.

The truth is, I freaked out because I've been faking it all week and I could finally let go.  I've been acting okay.  Yeah, I said two days ago I was fine.  I felt fine.  Logically, it made sense to be fine.  I think for fifteen minutes or so I believed myself.  But I've been faking it.  My lack of appetite and constant gut shenanigans should have been a clue.  Oh, have I been putting on a show.  How else was I going to get through this week of classes, baseball games, and a son with a broken finger?  Acting happy, that's how.

So much of my job as a teacher is a carefully managed show.  It's me, but it's not me-me.  I'm used to the day-to-day niceties that far exceed my standard personality boundaries.  I can put on the costume of the extroverted teacher--on a normal day--with little to no thought because it's what's right for the job. It's a familiar role and I know "Mrs. P" well enough how she'd react in most situations.  I like her, but she's braver than I am.  She's witty, and confident.  And she doesn't take as much shit.  She knows what she has to do and she does it.  It's how I talk myself up to get through a job that's insanely difficult.  Ordinarily it makes me tired to keep up the show, but it's not excruciating.

This week it was.  This week I got challenged.  I felt attacked, and it made me turn inward with a kind of hyper-focus that's not healthy.  It made me taste every painfully awkward word as I said it.  It made me catalog my past actions and tweak them to see how they could be misconstrued.  Knowing and loving the beautiful ambiguity of words--this is a curse when my imagination starts to dance across the dark possibilities of how things might be misunderstood.  I got scared.

And in the face of fear I tried even harder to be okay.  To look okay.  To be that Mrs. P who didn't show how afraid she was, and how hurt, and how frustrated with the vulnerability in a job like this.  I smiled bigger.  I stood taller.  I breathed deeper.  I made sure I was still toeing the line.

I came home from school today and collapsed.  I should have stayed in bed, because I only got up to fight.  I can barely get out a sentence without turning into this puffy-eyed snot monster.


  1. I wish we could have coffee sometime, this story, your story could very well be my own. I wish you peace.

    1. Thanks. I'm amazed by how many people share the same angst. That's why I love writing (and reading) so much. :)