School started this week. For the past three years, I’ve missed the first day of school, so in a way I was excited this year that my life has settled down enough that I could do something normal, like go to work without being paralyzed with grief, or wondering if my son was dead, or rushing off to a radiation appointment. I was ready, right? Positive. Cheerful. Thinking about new projects. Ready to see my pals. But when I got into the auditorium on the first teacher day, all my excitement drained away.
First off, when I looked around and it was like a flashback from twenty-three years ago when I first entered the same auditorium as a student teacher. I remembered looking at women pushing fifty sporting new dye jobs and geometric patterned skirts and thinking, “Lord, don’t let that happen to me.” And while I don’t dye my hair, or wear primary colors or chiffon, I realized I have become one of those women teachers who are making fans out of handouts and rolling my eyes at the new teachers rolling out their Pinterest bulletin boards. I sat and listened to two days of educational presentations and realized new ideas are just old ones dressed up in new clothes. I went into my classroom and colleagues came to me whining and complaining about a schedule that didn’t meet their needs. I acquiesced to their wishes. Even if it puts thirty rowdy nine year olds in my room at one time, it’s way easier to agree, than to argue about what’s best for kids. I came home in tears, feeling drained and trapped.
Hours later I was still crying. And I wondered if maybe I was going through a mid-life crises. Do women have those? I mean I don’t want a convertible or a trophy wife, but I also don’t know if I can handle all the stupid shit. All the discussions of hallway rules, and auditorium rules and bathroom rules and math scores and reading programs. I’m so tired of acting like these things are important. Where else in the entire world do people line up in single file to get to a destination, except for elementary school? And dealing with the emotions of a building were half the women are having babies and the other half, hot flashes is intense. I know I’ve been through a lot in my life, but I wondered if this might be the breaking point. Kids hadn’t even stepped in the building and I was already dreading the year. To cheer myself up, I went into my backyard and sat on my swing and watched the hummingbirds in the rose garden.
Last week, the kids and I went on whirlwind tour of college campuses on the East Coast. One day we went to the beach and took a ride on the Wonder Wheel. The Wonder Wheel is a eccentric Ferris wheel, which means that some of the cars are built on tracks that swing up and down as the wheel rotates. Imagine that, swinging 150 feet in the air with the skyline of Manhattan on one side, the Jersey shoreline on the other. I told the kids that when I retire I am moving to the beach. Darian thought that was a good idea. Shayne didn’t respond; he was still not completely responding to his meds and spent most of the trip, lost in his own head.
So I was sitting on my swing, thinking about all this and knowing retirement is not an option, when Shayne came out and joined me. We just found out that his kidneys are being damaged from the antipsychotic drugs. The drugs are fighting one war and staging another. No wonder, little petty things about school are under my skin, I am watching my kid die a little every day. Shayne turned to me and said, “Thanks, mom.” I said, “For what, bud?” And he waved his arm around, indicating the yard, “For all this, thanks.” I smiled and put my hand on top of his. So I guess I’m not really having a mid-life crises. I just forgot that this journey is about breathing and enjoying every moment. No matter where I am.