Tuesday, October 29, 2013

a little better and a little sooner

I'm a big fan of the idea that everything that's meant to be will be. The right pieces will always fall into place, and the right things will always happen when they're supposed to happen. But you can't stay miserable while you're waiting for the end result. And you can't stay stagnant, but you can't just go through the motions. You can't live your life clinging so tightly to one hope that you forget to really live. It's no good. It's too hard. It's just wrong.

Sometimes you just have to trust God, and trust life, and trust yourself.

I learned those things a while ago, but I didn't realize how strongly I felt about them until today. I didn't know how very much I was taking them to heart. It's like it suddenly made more sense to me when I was sharing that insight with someone else who needed it.

Funny how trying to help other people sometimes turns the lens on ourselves. I've found that to be true as of late. I find myself handing out advice to others that I hope will keep them from going down the same rocky roads I traveled. Because maybe it doesn't have to be so hard for everyone.

So here's to learning to listen to ourselves a little better and a little sooner, so that maybe life can be a little easier. Because who couldn't use that?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tales From Middle School: We Laugh Because We Must

Ah, the middle school experience.

I thought I was done with it. I was pretty sure I'd done my time. Those two years at WAMS should have been the end of my sentence.

Rite of Passage: check.

Then I took a job working with an afterschool program at the local middle school. And I find myself in a position to watch other kids go through that right of passage.

I've only mentioned the job once, but it actually makes up a large part of my day-to-day. It's definitely an experience. I get to see kids at the beginnings of their selves. I get to watch them make decisions about the people they want to be. I get to see them think things through and grow in maturity. And I also get to see them in the moments where what's left of their innocence shines through in some of great ways.

Of course, it's not always great. Some days they make me crazy. Some days the behavior can be overwhelming and confusing. Some days we have to laugh because it's the only way to deal. You'll hear about those, trust me. Because even if I have to change names, I plan to document some of my experiences here. Because some of my stories are absolute gems of the "you can't make this stuff up" variety.

So I'm starting that today. But instead of jumping into the challenging stuff, I'm gonna talk about the good from today. There were a few hiccups with the kids, but the good was stronger than the bad, and I laughed more than I sighed.

Today I found myself really impressed by one of the boys.

We went outside so the kids could play soccer. One team was arguing over who was going to play goalie because no one wanted to. Finally I asked the other teacher to think of a number between 1 and 6 (the number of players we had on the team) and I counted off the kids. The kid whose number matched the one the other teacher was thinking of did not want to be goalie. He complained about not wanting to "just stand there."

Then I heard another kid say, "Hey Matt, I'll be goalie. It's cool." I was skeptical. Some of the kids get lazy and don't like to participate. I asked him, "Why? Because you want to "just stand there"?

And he said, "No, because Matt's mom wants to watch him play."

I was taken aback in the best way. I had forgotten that Matt's mother was standing nearby to watch the game, but Juan saw that she was there. He understood how much it would mean not only for Matt's mom to get to watch her son play, but also for Matt to play for his mom.

I hate to say it, but I don't always see that kind of thing. That kind of consideration and caring, and yes, self-sacrifice, because that's kind of a big deal for a bunch of kids who had just spent 5 minutes arguing about who was going to play that position. It made me happy. It was one of those things that makes you forget all of the bad stuff. And since then I've been bragging about him to anyone who would listen.

And just as a bonus, a cute interaction:

Jose: Ow. My head hurts.
Me: Did you hit the soccer ball with your head?
Jose: Yes.
Me: Dennis did that earlier, he didn't hurt his head. Does Dennis have a harder head than you?
Jose: I don't know.
Me: Hey Dennis, do you have a harder head than Jose?
Dennis (who has a really cute, Spanish accent that makes "yes" sound more like "jes"): Um, yes, it got stronger because my mom dropped me twice.

I don't know if that's very cute to you, but I think it's absolutely adorable. I dunno, maybe I'm just a little bias and a little attached. Some of these kids I just can't help but like.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Phobias and Superstitions (aka hang-ups)

I learned a long time ago that we are only born with two fears: the fear of falling from high places, and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear we have is learned.

I'm not afraid of those two things. In fact, while I'm sure I did fear those things at one point in time, I have no recollection of it. I did, however, pick up some phobias somewhere along the way.

I use the term "phobia" because by definition, it suits my issues best.

pho·bi·a  n.
1. A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.

Key words higlighted.
I know better! I really do. I know how stupid some of my fears are, but I'm inclined to believe that there are some childhood scares you never fully get over. Years later and the memory alone of a few particular episodes of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" can give me the heebie jeebies. Seriously, chills run up my spine. And I know I can't be the only one!
So you have these childhood fears you can never quite shake and they follow you into adulthood to mix with a special batch of inhibitions developed a little later on in life. This usually leaves you with a decent amount of irrationalities. Nothing crippling, nothing you actually couldn't beat, just stuff that sneaks up on you every now and then.

Which would be an okay place to be. And is where I imagine most people are. And it's pretty much where I am. Except that I also have this nice little collection of superstitious beliefs that I observe that are either rooted in or exacerbated by my obsessive compulsive tendencies. I think that might make things worse.

I don't take them seriously, but I definitely observe them. Isn't that weird? To "observe" fears? Honestly, I more so feel that I just have a bunch of neurosis. By defintion, I have phobias, but that word tends to carry a lot more weight. I like to call them "hang-ups."

I thought I'd share.

1. I don't like having my feet exposed to whatever may be lurking under the bed even though I know there's nothing there. If I have to turn off all the lights before I'm in bed, I have a very small window of time to cross the room before slight panic and the adrenaline that enables me to harness all the power of an Olympic jumper kicks in. Oh, and my feet can't hang over the bed in the dark, either.

2. I knock on wood. ALL THE TIME. Whether I say something that I don't want to happen, or just think it. I feel the need to fix it by knocking on wood. This helps to keep all kinds of bad things from happening. Like if someone says, "Is so-and-so still alive?" and they are, you KNOCK ON WOOD. It will save their life. Then you yell at whoever just tried to kill them for being so insensitive.

3. I don't step on cracks in the sidewalk for fear or affecting my mother's back. And I've never been quite sure whether that applies to just the cracks that form in the sidewalk over time, or also the cracks that separate one cement block from the next, so I avoid both. And if I accidentally step on one, I knock on wood.

4. I don't look at mirrors in the dark. In fact, I hurry out of rooms with large mirrors (like the bathroom) as quickly as I can as soon as I turn off the light. Bloody Mary? No, thanks. I also don't keep exposed mirrors in my bedroom and always make sure my hand mirror is turned down before I sleep. There's a lot of lore that comes with mirrors that I don't really believe in, but am still aware of. Seriously, a while back I stayed with my friend's in-laws for about a minute and there was a HUGE mirror in the room. Very pretty in the day, I'm sure, but I needed a nap. I chose to ignore it. I was really tired.

5. I always throw salt over my left shoulder if I spill the salt. Even if I'm picking up the shaker because someone else knocked it over and neglected to pick it up. Because there's a chance that I could have spilled some of the salt while picking it up. Then I'm pretty sure that would be on me.

6. Hollywood ghost children scare me. I love scary movies and I would even love someday to go on a ghost tour in the South, but ghost children in movies and shows freak me out. I love "Doctor Who", but there's a two-part episode that I have a love/hate relationship with simply because it has a scary ghost child. One of those AYAOTD? episodes that freaks me out? Ghost child. 'Nuff said.

So those are my hang ups. I mean, I still don't walk under ladders or open umbrellas in the house, and I'm not saying I've never felt uneasy in certain real-world situations, but those are the only "big" phobias and superstitions I'm really aware of and observe.

The funny thing is that I'm actually one of those people who tends to think that nothing bad can happen to them. It's not the best way to be, but I always feel kind of stubbornly secure. I'll do certain things and go certain places and take certain risks without thinking twice. But even as I'm typing this now, I have this urge to knock on wood and I will knock on wood because I feel like I'm tempting fate or God or something even though I know that's not the way things work.

I just have these things that stop me up for a minute.

We all have them, even if ours aren't the same. And if you can't relate to mine, then you could at least laugh at mine. And then imagine that maybe someone could laugh at yours. And if you have a fear that's laughable, then that's not really something you need to worry about, is it?