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Avoidance and Stress

February 13, 2011

I don’t really know what to start with tonight.  I know I have been avoiding this space yet again, for no reason except that I am feeling overwhelmed and that is what I do when I am overwhelmed.

Avoid.

I avoid everything.  I avoid any pre-planning.  And thoughtful gestures.  I avoid conversations that really need to happen.  And laundry, as always.  (Jeff really does ALL the laundry now, and has since this summer.)  I avoid getting dressed if I can help it.

How?  Well.  I have enough to keep me busy just to meet the deadlines that loom with every dawn.  Write a test, write a study guide, correct the test, log the grades online, plan the new unit…oh, that’s right I have that night class to think about too…  But everyone has these responsibilities.  Everyone has deadlines and feels pulled and pushed all through their days.

It seems like most people become more productive the busier they get, but I kind of go into partial hibernation.  I look around my house at all of the things I would like to have done, but have no inclination to do them.  So I avoid looking in the corners or in the closets.

I think that I am worried.  I can’t put my finger on why.  There is so many things that creep into my consciousness that I push to the side.  I focus on my work, my students, my kids.  Everything else just doesn’t exist.  I don’t have time for anything else.  Do I?  Sometimes, if I am allowing myself to be honest, I know I do.  I know that I could get up from the couch and be more productive.  I could.  But I don’t.  I just let the deadlines pull me along and ignore everything else.

Even blogging.  I have been trying to post at least once a week.  I have made a commitment to doing this, so it is another thing on my “to do” list.  I don’t think I will be able to sit down and write tomorrow, and my husband is in bed.  This makes prime writing time.  I can’t concentrate on teaching “main idea” any longer today, although I really wanted to get through the chapter so I could at least plan out the homework schedule.  Maybe I can get back to that after I am done here.

Today, well, it could have been a better day.  It started out okay.  I started working this morning, which is good.  It is my productive time of day, and once I get started on something, I can keep going back to it all day.  But for some reason, after Jeff and Nicholas got home from hockey the tension in the house became thick.  The climate was so different.  So, my stomach is in knots.  I am also worried about our “family vacation.”  We always go to California to visit my parents during spring break, but this year my spring break and my children’s spring break do not match up.  Not even close.  I planned to pull them out of school so we could go during my break, but the airfare is way too expensive to go during that week.  I simply can’t go during their break.  So, I called my parents (who just want us all out there) and explained that it might be Jeff and the kids–without me.  My dad called me this morning and told me that he thinks we should just go in June.  That is a hard sell.  Who leaves Minnesota in the summer to go to the desert?  I don’t know.  Maybe we just won’t go at all.  That is the way I am leaning right now, but my kids are going to be devastated.

I am so sensitive to stress.  It really gets to me.  And the thing that stresses me out more than anything is when I can’t make everybody happy.  Hi.  My name is Meg and I am a people-pleaser.  I always have been, and I always will be.  You can tell me not to be all you want, but it won’t matter.  I will always feel bad if there is someone who I am letting down.  This whole situation has STRESS written all over it.  If we don’t go to Palm Springs, my parents will feel bad.  My kids will feel bad too.  If we do go to Palm Springs my husband will be unhappy, and it will make me unhappy to have to pretend that my husband is happy so my parents and my kids are still happy.  Do I want to go to Palm Springs?  Sure.  I miss my parents and like to spend time with them.  But, they will be home in May.  I can see them then.  But, I will miss our family vacation.  If we decide to go somewhere else on vacation, my husband will be happy, my kids will be happy, I will be happy, but my parents will feel bad that we didn’t spend time with them.  There is really no way to win this for me.  I know, this too shall pass.  But I hate it.

I am also worried about a student.  The same student who I mentioned in my last post who wrote me that disrespectful email.  She has potential.  She is smart, and could be a successful person, if it wasn’t for the gigantic chip on her shoulder.  She is very respectful in person, but in writing she is not.  She did write me a very nice email that was sincere and telling me how she is just trying her best, which is good, because it makes me want her to succeed.  But she is downright inappropriate with her written assignments.  Not at me, necessarily, but it seems like she thinks she is challenging me to say something to her.

I have been assigning a lot of annotation along with reflection papers to go with essays that we read.  The unit we just finished was on Vocabulary in Context.  The essay that I assigned for this unit was the State of the Union Address.  To say this student doesn’t like our president is an understatement.  The assignment was to highlight the entire speech with two different colored highlighters.  One color for what you understand, one for what you don’t understand.  I told them that they should be able to explain whatever was highlighted that they understood.  The next day in class, I put them in groups to discuss what they understood and what questions they had. It was a well received lesson.  There was no talk of politics, that wasn’t the point of the assignment.  The point was they needed to expand their vocabulary so they could understand what public servants were talking about in order to make informed choices as members of this Country.

She didn’t highlight, but she did annotate.  She wrote some very strongly opinionated things in the margins as well as some VERY inappropriate things.  She lost points because she didn’t do the assignment correctly.   When she needed to write a prediction about an essay called “Mad World,” she wrote that she thought it would be about Global Warming because I made them read Obama’s speech.  She also thought the writer of the essay (which was about a person who longed to be a Vet’s first experience putting a cat to sleep) was a “loser” because this person cried.  Annotation for me is supposed to be writing down your thinking, your questions, your connections as you are reading, so if she is thinking “loser” what am I supposed to say?  But, I feel the need to address this.  I know that once she is in college level classes professors are not going to put up with that.  But, hi!  People Pleaser Meg here!  Would rather ignore this!  REALLY!  However, I don’t want her to fail.  Not if I can help it.  Did I tell you about the knot in my stomach?  Yeah.  Ouch.

I was trying not to mention that only one of my students got an “A” on the test.  This is that third-grade level test that I gave to my college students on Thursday.  You know where they had to define what synonym and antonym meant and give examples of words with a prefix and a suffix.  Oh, and they had to use its, it’s, whose, who’s, to, two, too, there, their, they’re, your and you’re in sentences, actually it was fill in the blank with the correct spelling of the word.  I went over this TWICE in class.   Seriously, SARAH could have aced this part of the test.  GEEZ.

I feel like I need to watch a sad movie.  Let all the tears come.

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9 Comments
  1. February 13, 2011 3:57 am

    I watched that Michelle Pfeiffer movie really late last night, the one where she’s a teacher in a school and has the class full of really rough inner-city teens. Have you seen it? I kept thinking of you, all the way through it. (not that the parallels all apply or anything).

    For your family vacation…is there any way one of your options could be to go somewhere else but have your parents COME WITH you? Maybe that would be a possibility and help to move some of that stress off your shoulders.

    Hang in there, friend. We’re all here to lend a listening ear, and a virtual hug. Let this place be somewhere you come to for release and relief :)

    • February 16, 2011 2:37 pm

      Oh, my gosh! I LOVED that movie! I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters….that makes me old, doesn’t it….but it was so inspiring and awesome. I think I need to see it again. Thank you for thinking of me through it and mentioning it to me here!

      The whole PS problem is that my parents have a condo there. They also fund part of our trip. So, they are unwilling to go elsewhere. I am avoiding this right now. Surprised?

      I will take that hug, I need it! Thank you. xo

  2. February 13, 2011 4:01 am

    Dangerous Minds was the title, I just looked it up :)

  3. February 13, 2011 9:11 am

    Oh, my friend. I am a recovering people pleaser. I totally know what you mean about feeling the vibes of your family. If my mom is stressed or upset, I can practically feel myself start vibrating, like a water witching stick.

    As for the vacation issues, I really do think your parents will understand. Maybe your kids won’t be happy, but your parents are grownups and can deal with disappointment. I like Liz’s idea of meeting up somewhere else, but really, if it can’t be done – it’s okay. It’s one year. You can even talk to your parents about it and say, “let’s brainstorm over the next year and see what alternate options we can come up with…”

    Your student, oh dear! Sounds like she needs to understand the difference between fact and opinion. She’s surely not learning it if she’s watching Fox News! (Why do I assume all Obama-haters are fans of Fox News? Probably because I’ve never been proved wrong on this.) By the way, what a great exercise. You should do it every year!

    Sending you a big hug as you deal with all the overwhelming things of life. You know, this is a year of huge change for you. Give yourself plenty of grace as you learn to navigate a work/home balance. It’s not easy and I think everyone struggles with it, especially when re-entering the working world.

    • February 16, 2011 2:40 pm

      So, Sam, HOW did you know exactly what the problem was? I didn’t even know! The whole work/home push/pull family/career is driving me crazy. And you are right. I am still on my sea legs. I never thought it would be easy, but GEEZ. Thank you for your kind words. xo

  4. February 14, 2011 11:21 am

    Not-yet-recovering people pleaser here, and I totally understand! (Though I could NOT put up with the pressures of teaching remedial English college classes alone; I was part of a three-teacher team for one year, and that was long enough…) If it helps with your challenging student, maybe you could make her future professors the “bad guys” — remind her that your job is to prepare her for further education and that her attitude/approach to assignments/whatever won’t fly in the long run. Maybe it could take some of the tension off your shoulders?

    Sorry about the vacation tension too. Vacation should be relief from stress, not a source of it! I hope you guys can work out a solution that makes you all feel understood and can be fun for everyone. (Italy? ::nudge nudge::)

    • February 16, 2011 2:45 pm

      Italy it is! Oh, right MONEY is an issue, isn’t it… someday my friend, someday…

      I didn’t know you taught remedial English to college students! I knew you did *something* like that, but I didn’t know you taught on the other side of the same coin that I am teaching. I think you should move HERE and teach with ME. Problem: Solved.

      Great Idea about those mean OTHER professors! I haven’t done one thing about this yet (see above: avoidance) but I think I know when I can. We shall see.

      Thanks for being a people-pleasing friend :) xo

  5. February 20, 2011 4:50 pm

    Oh Megsie– I just read this post tonight and I can only hope the most acute pain of it has passed. I understand better than you can imagine the feelings of being overwhelmed and the paralysis that causes. One thing I do want to share with you is that once, long ago, someone told me “I am not responsible for your happiness” and although, at the time, it was devastating– it turned out to be one of the most insightful, helpful, enlightened piece of information I ever received.

    You are not responsible for ANYone else’s happiness. More to the point, you CANNOT make another person happy, ever. It is not in your power. Only each of us has the power to make ourselves happy. It’s hard, I know– but you have to choose to let go of the misconception that you are responsible for your parent’s feelings, your husbands, or your kids— they own their feelings. How they respond to your actions and words is THEIRS.

    All you can do (and it’s a full time job) is focus on what makes YOU happy. When you are happy, people around you will do better. you may still attract someone who wants to play the old game with you of “you are responsible for me, make me feel better” but don’t get suckered in. They can choose to feel what they want.

    I know this sounds so flippin preachy– and I apologize for that. But honestly, the key is to focus on YOU– everything rolls out from that.

    Megsie, what makes YOU happy?

    • February 21, 2011 9:49 am

      Dearest Elizabeth,

      I suppose I cannot in good faith say YOU make me happy, can I? So I will revise. You’re comment made me infinitely happy. Of course, you are exactly right. And, on some level, I know this already. However, the cause and effect of actions and good/bad vibes makes it a dubious effort. There are certain expectations that the people who love me have, and when those expectations are not met, well there are FEELINGS to deal with and of course, I feel responsible. Especially this issue of vacation, because I am at the center of it. But, I think we are working out a good plan, and hope that my parents are okay with it. (I am sure they will be, but I want them to be…you know, HAPPY about it.)

      The tension is gone from my house, we are making plans: ROAD TRIP (ugh?). And every little thing is going to be alright.

      What makes me happy? Well, that is a post worth writing.

      Thank you so much for your much needed advice and your love that streams through my computer screen. xo

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