Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Big Therapy Project, Week Five: Walking a Tightrope

I was gonna take a blog break for the privacy, but that felt too isolating and plus I need the creative outlet. I guess I just have to trust you to know I won’t always be as bleak as these weeks are.

The big challenge lately is the way that the Big Therapy Project has been making my work life tricky. As of right now, I haven’t been assigned a grade next year because the principal has some hesitations about me. It’s my first full school year as a teacher and she doesn’t feel like I’m progressing as quickly as I should in some areas and thinks (as will come as a surprise to exactly no one who reads this blog) that I can be too defensive sometimes. I wish I were learning quicker and I’m not defensive about my defensiveness, but it’s kind of hard going in every morning, knowing that I might have to let the place go.

It’s a hard job in a tough school, there may be someplace more hospitable and less triggering, where I could learn and grow faster, and now that I’m breaking myself of the habit of trying to prove that I’m a good person through sacrifice (now that I know I’m not a masochist) I don’t need to do the hardest job. I don’t like feeling that I’ve failed there, or that the next mistake might be the one to make her feel like I don’t belong. I’m really sad about all of my failures as a teacher, but also about how much time and energy it takes and how many of my actual talents aren’t usable there.

Life just feels like it’s so much about loss and futility and shame at work, and the Big Therapy Project, the one awesome thing that I am unequivocally accomplishing right now, is making the tightrope I’m walking at work a little harder. On one hand, a new sense of autonomy and groundedness is emerging, but on the other having The Bad Thing story so close to the surface often makes me want to scream at everybody to get away from me—I don’t, but I know I can often come across as anxious, and yes, defensive.

One of the major things I’m confronting about The Bad Thing is that it wasn’t my fault. All these years, I’ve been telling myself I chose my rapist, I’ve been beating myself up for the illusion that I somehow could have protected myself from what happened. But whether I was drunk or drugged, I was in no position to consent, and I didn’t. I lost my autonomy in that moment and I’ve long wanted to make sure that never happen again, giving me an inflated sense of everyday humiliations, a need to protect some imagined dignity. As I really come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t a choice, a new sense of being indignant marked IT WASN’T MY FAULT is starting to come out.

But the thing is, teaching means being held responsible for ALL KINDS of things that aren’t my fault: the child who has nine brothers and sisters and is so starved for attention that he disrupts or leaves class and often feels like he might eat me alive, the overworked special ed teacher who snaps at the grade team because her caseload is so overwhelming, the autistic child whose parents refuse to get him services, the child who is just now entering school in third grade and can’t read at all, all of those issues, along with the general awfulness of poverty violence and inequality, are things I can’t change, and they are all things that will effect my evaluations—that’s how the system is set up right now—fewer and fewer resources and more and more strict ways to judge teachers.

So the whole defensiveness thing kind of feels like a catch 22. I want to take responsibility for the things I can change and tell people to fuck off about the rest. I think that’s ultimately how I’ll be able to forgive myself if I end up getting let go. I made mistakes in a hard job, I did my best, but ultimately I can’t control if I’m a fit.

Anyway, in the course of feeling like I have to fight people off, (A character flaw that I’ve always had and which the Bad Thing exacerbated) I’ve had bouts of being very fearful and angry toward men, especially if they seem to be attracted to me. I asked the therapist about this and she said that it would probably get worse before it gets better.

My point is that two of the things I’ve found the most meaning in, my job and my body adventures, are kind of out of reach as sources for fulfillment for a while, and the work of the Big Therapy Project is slow and painstaking. Each appointment, (every two week) I tell the Bad Thing story again, sink a little deeper into it each time, and I can feel it leaving my body little by little. I take a lot of comfort in writing to/with my teenage self—I always sleep soundly afterwards and sometimes I wake up feeling like I’ve just done yoga, even though I didn’t.

I’m accomplishing something I’ve wanted to do for 20 years, but right now it’s hard to see the good sometimes. About eleven years ago, I quit smoking, and this is a very similar feeling—I stayed a way from people a lot because I was afraid I would yell at them, I felt sad all the time, I took a little too much comfort in sugar. I felt separated from the good parts of my personality for years. This is an even more loving thing than quitting smoking, I just hope it doesn’t do too much damage to my life in the process.

The therapist said to list all of the ways that loss relates to my current situation and to the Bad Thing, but every time I think about that list, I feel how big it is and I don’t know where I even could start listing. I feel blinded by it. I lost 20 years of feeling safe with men; maybe I’ll never get to feel that. I may be losing my job and all the things I love about it. I’ve lost so much of my life with Sweetie and I really don’t know which parts are okay to keep. I’ve lost so many friends from adventures gone wrong. It seems like I gave myself faith in the Mystery Family just so I could lose that faith. Dating has a necessary component of loss that I can’t handle right now, so thank goodness I’ve let that go.

How I’m dealing with it is that I’m doing my best. I’m chanting every day, taking long walks, eating lots of produce, hanging out with cute neighbor friends. Church and brunch afterwards have become my big social occasions. For all the loss, I’m free of the feeling that I’m slipping through the cracks—turning my attention to my teenage self is what I’ve been trying to convince myself to do all these years, and now I have. Sometimes it means staying home from something fun because I’m grumpy or panicky, but it also means taking responsibility for myself and settling into my own skin like I never have before. I’m doing my best. I hope I can see myself shining on the other side of it before too long.

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