Fertile Dream Ingredients

I had some weird dreams last night. I had just finished watching the movie Her (about a guy who falls in love with an operating system) and one of my acquaintances texted me to let me know one of the kids I take care of in Sunday School drowned in a pool right before I went to sleep.

Those were pretty fertile ingredients for a night of my subconscious growing some weird dream trees.

First I dreamt that my coworker was accusing me of something that had to do with being insensitive to her work environment. That I was ruining the efficiency of our school’s teamwork because I was being callous on purpose or something of the like. It was so vivid when I had the dream, but it ebbs as I try to write it down. At first I was confused at the accusation, frustrated because she wouldn’t listen, then I was simultaneously furious and aggrieved because she continued to accuse me in a public setting, making me out to be some kind of monster. I actually woke up crying out of frustration. It’s weird how the volume on emotions can get turned way up while in the a dreamscape. What’s funny is, my butt is so dang stubborn that I dove back into the dream so I could continue arguing my case, even though at that point it was pretty much a lucid dream so I had a sense that what was going on wasn’t real. She made some argument about how this area of my work would trickle down to affect the students negatively, which made me question myself because I’d always told myself I’d quit if that happened. My mental health and/or inability to interact with people in a healthy way starting to affect my students negatively is where I draw the line in continuing to work in the public school system. I’d go off and do some other job that doesn’t require so much human interaction.

What else is funny is that I bet the accusation she was throwing at me was unbelievably silly in reality, like I kept forgetting to say good morning to her or return her stapler and that made her too sad  to work well or something. But it made me realize I still hold self doubt about being able to teach to the whole child. As in, taking socio-emotional skills that I’m supposed to pass on to them into consideration. Educating children to be academically successful is really only half the job of being a teacher. Teaching them those other human skills is really important too. Their young brains are absorbing a sense of how to exist in the world at a rapid rate, and if you’re not careful they’ll subconsciously absorb a lot of preconceived notions, prejudices, and bad habits of handling situations.

I don’t really think I’m socio-emotionally deficient enough to be unable to pass on basic skills to my students. That would be mad dramatic. I’m pretty functional. But I think I harbor fear for my personal children, who I’m going to have to relate in a lot closer of a capacity, whenever I choose to adopt some.

The second dream I had was about school too. It was short and I don’t quite remember it, but it ended with an epiphany that was loud and clear. They say the brain is very active conducting problem solving during the night and that this is part of the reason why we have dreams, but I’ve hardly ever gotten this kind of clarity upon waking. I think most of it is usually subconscious.

In essence, I realized that even though I have absolutely zero interest in climbing the educational ladder into a leadership position, like say administration, I still have to push myself to be involved with things at a higher level than just my classroom. In the dream a retired teacher told me, “I taught for a lot of years and I got my pension, but I never really felt like I accomplished anything when it came to changing the system,” and that’s something I’m really concerned about.

Honestly, most of the time it annoys the crap out of me that I want to “make a difference.” Number one, how corny is that? But number two, that means I still have to give a crap about making sure I keep moving forward. Whatever direction forward is supposed to be.

Giving a crap takes a lot of energy.

I sometimes wish I just didn’t so I could sleepwalk my way through life. But fortunately or unfortunately,

I’m awake.

And alive.

Which are two different things by the way. A lot of people are not the former, and even more can’t say they are the latter either. Which is sobering. I think death is as sobering as it is sad. It’s crazy that the child I used to take care of is suddenly no longer there to be affected by me, if ever I am to grow into the type of person worth being affected by. The real can be quite surreal.

~LDA

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Pants On Fire

No this post isn’t about me being horny. If you thought this was the case, shame on you. Tsk, tsk.

Not really. I’d probably write a post about that to be honest. Just not today. Today’s topic is about me being really bad at lying.

Lying is a complete no go in my book. It’s against my code of conduct. I don’t believe in white lies. I think all forms of lying are destructive, even if yes, you’re just telling someone “Those jeans don’t make you look fat.”  I think there are ways of getting around not hurting people’s feelings if you’re clever enough, and I think the effort it would take to retain a zero tolerance policy for lying would be worth it.

Deception is the root of so much betrayal, pain, and miscommunication in relationships that I’m not willing to compromise on that front as a general practice. Even just a teensy bit. Because a teensy bit makes way for a tiny bit, and tiny bit for just a little, and next thing you know you’re lying every other word. Okay, maybe it’s not that much of a slippery slope but still. My point is, I don’t like lying.

That’s not to say I’ve never lied. We all do. I think humanity’s forte is lying to themselves, but that’s a whole other post altogether. I try to keep lying at an absolute minimum.

This being the case, when my best friend Marcy put me in the position to have to pretend I was auditing a class when really I just wanted to compare my undergrad schooling to what was considered to be a master’s class, I froze. I was the one who had asked to tag along in the first place, but I didn’t realize she’d spin the auditing angle rather than just flat out saying I wanted to visit once. I mean, I understand why she did it. University isn’t free, so it’d be kind of pretentious for me to ask to sit in on the class with zero potential to benefit the college in the long run. It wasn’t even a big deal. I mean define auditing. Technically, I was auditing, right? I was scoping out what grad school looked like, so in some unbelievably unlikely universe I’d fall in love with the program and shell out thousands of dollars to go back to school and learn things I can easily learn through experience and personal research.

So the reason for my temporary existence in that course (with a ridiculously small class size of four students) wasn’t a complete ruse.  It wasn’t a flat out lie. I should’ve been able to gel with it, right?

Wrong. The alarm bells of my hypersensitive conscience were going “Wee-oo, wee-oo! Get out of there, you heathen! Don’t compromise your morals!”

And as super reasonable and not over the top as that reaction was, it was kind of late for that. Class was about to begin when this bomb was dropped on me nonchalantly.

Oh, by the way, I told my prof you’re auditing,” Marcy said.

Wait, say what? said my conscience.

“What does that encompass exactly?” said my mouth.

She mumbled something along the lines of “Ya know, like you’re interested in the university and are trying out the class.”

Wait, wha? But there’s no possibility of me actually going here. One, it’s really far from where I’m currently living, and two, I have no interest in “furthering my higher education” at the current time. So basically I’m gonna have to lie my way through this.

“Uh…”

And of course lickety split quick after that dawned on me, some ladies who had come in to judge the merit of the class came over to start questioning the students. Naturally they assumed I was a student, and the class, being so unbelievably small, of course my turn came to be questioned. When I say I exhibited my highest derp potential, I mean it. I was next level idiot in this moment in my life. Because I couldn’t even bring myself to say I was auditing when they assumed I was a full time student that Marcy had to do it for me.

“She’s auditing,” she explained after I stumbled over my words for about five seconds straight.

“Ohhh, I see. What’s your interest in this course? What are you currently doing in education?”

“Um, I’m a teacher too.

“Oh, okay. That’s great! Where do you teach?”

At this point I awkwardly looked over at Marcy like: Help me! What do I do? Should I tell the truth that I live hundred of miles away? But then she’ll realize the unlikeliness of me truly auditing this class. I mean it’s possible I guess. Maybe I intend on moving…But that’s not actually true! What if she asks me directly?! I’m not gonna say yes. Wee-oo! wee-oo!

I kid you not. I took so long to answer that Marcy had to verbally nudge me, “Tell her,” she said encouragingly.

It was like I was a little kid looking to her mother for reassurance that it was okay to talk to a stranger.

“Uh, I teach in Pala.”

“Ohhh, okay. Where is that?”

“Um, yeah. Not a lot of people have heard of it.”

“So where exactly?”

I then repeated the city name as if that cleared things up. I wasn’t going to answer her question for hope I wouldn’t have to reveal how far I actually was, but everyone was staring at me like I was an idiot. Which I definitely was being. I’m sure at this point they were wondering if I was actually a teacher. This chick’s too dumb to teach…

“In Florida,” I caved.

“Ohh, okay. So you’re visiting from far away.”

Yes, yes! That’s it! At last, the truth! Yes, I’m only visiting! I’m sorry for being an imposter!

Of course, outwardly, I only nodded my head. I kept looking between Marcy and these ladies throughout the conversation. I’m sure it must have looked like she was my pimp or something. I was desperately glancing at her for permission and approval, my own mind having abandoned me.

Luckily they turned the subject toward Marcy after a few questions about my classroom (probably in an attempt to verify I was actually a teacher). That was definitely one of my more embarrassing experiences. My logic on expertly dodging subjects had failed me. I’m usually pretty good at that.

Moral of the story: Never ask me to lie on the spot. I may act like an idiot, and you may want to disown me as someone you know.

 

~LDA

Knowing That You Know

I’ve been on this weird journey of learning how to interact with others on a meaningful level.

At first, I thought it was a problem of not knowing how to trust people.Which wasn’t wrong,since the reason I’ve never really had close relationships with people outside my family is because from a young age I didn’t trust humans to be genuine enough to be bothered with. The vast majority of people are busy putting on masks, worn with the simple goal of not feeling silly for being naked in a world full of masqueraders.

Being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings in this world is like being caught with your pants down. 

“GASP. You actually say what you think and express genuine committed emotion for others? What do you think this is?! A burlesque show?”

In reality everyone is jealous of anyone who dares exist in such a way. They wish they would be so bold. Absolutely long for a moment in which they could shed the mask and feel the sunshine of an honest existence on their pallid faces. But they’re too busy protecting themselves from pain, and as long as they do, they will never feel such warmth. Just like in the business world, opportunities are created and not found in the realm of love and relationship. As long as you’re unwilling to risk harm to yourself, chances are, you will only receive as much shadowed, flimsy and lukewarm affection as you give.

There are instances in which one is blessed to receive the open devotion of another without even trying. For example with a parent, or as is depicted over and over again in romance or the very rare friendship-focused films. And so a lot of people choose to wait around for such miracles in which they won’t have to take off their mask to get what they want. Or at least get to wait until it’s safe to take the risk.

Myself included. 

I was really good at the intellectual side of honest living.

After becoming very quickly emotionally jaded, I decided I couldn’t stand myself if I were to transform into a completely tepid person, the very thing I held most contempt and anger for in the world, so I devised a plan in which I would be truthful but safe. I donned a Phantom of the Opera half-disguise, if you will. I’d unleash my logical and intellectual honesty on the world, while still shielding my fragile emotions. 

Those I would hide away. After all, only a fool would remove their beating heart from the safety of the rib cage in a world swarming with vultures. Sure, there are a few idiots wandering around willing to trade pieces. It was not an impossibility to find someone as equally as daring, but why risk it? I’d be more likely to have the life clawed from my bloody hand.

I lived like that for a long time. Miserable, but safe. 

But because I still had half my face revealed, I’d damned myself to a lonely, bitter life. I’d never find comfort in the massive groupthink that poses as genuinely thoughtful expression, or the sweet nothings of a mutually agreed upon lukewarm love arrangement.

It was only because I was blessed enough to have run into one of those gems walking around disguised as idiots, that I pulled myself out of the muck of such a dour life. It took an egregious amount of time, but I learned that it was worth trusting people, even if it doomed you to a lot of pain over your lifetime. 

So it wasn’t untrue. Part of the problem was my trust in others.

But even after getting over that hump, there was still a lot wrong. It wasn’t enough. Even though I had made a decision to start trusting people again, even when no tangible reason for trust is presented, I was still having a lot of trouble putting that into practice and connecting. 

Why was it I still found myself hesitating even though I had made a serious decision to open my heart again?

It took a long time to realize, but it was because I still didn’t trust myself. If just a moment ago in the timeline of my life I had been so steeped in bad decisions to close off my heart, what made me think I was pure enough or had the strength enough to become a person worthy of trust myself? Just like that? Was my decision really enough? Was all it took just a stable resolve?

I’m great at stability. Once I commit to something you can count on it, so I kept telling myself over and over that it was enough. But deep down, I still felt disgusting. Icky. Absolutely unworthy of returning to the loving and open state of being we’re all born in.

I felt unregenerate.

So although my resolve was perhaps admirable, and even solid enough to swear by, I was still crippled by the guilt of my past life. And this manifested itself as hesitation. Even though I was completely willing to share any and all, I felt like I shouldn’t. Not in fear of getting hurt, but in fear of being sniffed out as unsure of myself emotionally. 

I didn’t trust myself to know how to love, even if I knew for sure who I loved. I hadn’t walked the road of emotionality in a long time. Whether it was people I cared for deeply or people I’d just met that I knew were in need of some love, it was extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around what love looked like.

No, that’s not true.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know what it looked like. I knew very well. I just didn’t know if mine was enough, if it would measure up. I still felt tainted. 

These days I’ve reached a point where I know. I know that I know it’s enough. Or at the very least I’ll die trying, and that’ll just have to be enough because there won’t be anything else left to give and that’s all I can do. I’ve finally gotten enough out of my head to take better action, to start banishing the hesitation.

I’m still not that great at it though.

I’m still figuring out how to love people. Especially those who start out as strangers who I have to let in while still maintaining boundaries. I think that’s what I’m worst at going about at this point. Half of the reason is just because I’m a crappy conversationalist. I’m still not that out of my head, so I miss opportunities, with strangers and loved ones alike. Although I’m perceptive in some ways, I’m still pretty dense in a lot of ways.

But I’m working on it.

And out of this will come more stories of my cringe-worthy social existence,

so lucky you.

~LDA

My Quiet Life of Desperation

Sometimes I question whether I’m missing some piece of mental machinery every human is supposed to have.  Some essential brain cog of empathy or social deftness that would enable me to understand other people’s actions, or more importantly, my own.

 

It’s like this.  I’m confronted with a situation any ordinary person would see as easy to deal with and my mind runs a million miles a minute trying to put the pieces of this great social puzzle together in order to come up with the appropriate response.  My heart’s tearing me one way, telling me to run, run as fast I can, and my mind’s gently coaxing me in the opposite direction saying I should stay and fight the panic.

 

“We can do this,” my brain whispers.  “It’s just a couple variables plugged into some great social algorithm we have yet to discover.  Just crack the code, crack the code…”

 

I want to choose to fight, but more often than not it’s flight that I choose after a couple of feeble jabs.

 

It’s not that I’m some big social pariah or even that one could tell I’m having a hard time dealing with the occasional social situation, but it’s clear as day to me of course.  I’ll feel like I’m in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where the driver’s ed. teacher, Mrs. Puff, tries to teach Spongebob to drive through a simple obstacle course.  There’s always someone in my brain screaming “Floor it! FLOOR it!”  

 

It’s frustrating.

 

Luckily my socio-emotional car wrecks don’t end in any physical casualties that heal by the very next t.v. episode.  But I still have to deal with emotional wreckage.

 

No.

I’m being dramatic. 

 

Wreckage is too strong a word for it.  It’s not as if I slap people and insult their mothers every time I feel socially gangly and awkward. 

 

I might just give a one word response to an essay-like question or offer a cold one-handed wave rather than a warm two-armed hug.  Just little things.  But these little things can make a big difference when it comes to relationships, and I feel at a loss when I have to deal with the after-effects with no sane explanation for my actions.

 

I mean, what do I say?

 

“Sorry, I was having a mini-emotional breakdown, but I’m better now.  We still good?”

 

Maybe I’m still just being dramatic and even the average ‘Normal Guy’ has these breaks in reason, but I wouldn’t know.  I’ve never considered myself “normal.” 

 

~LDA

An Entity with Hands

A while ago I meandered into one of my favorite Italian restaurants to pick up an eggplant Parmesan sub I’d ordered over the phone.

I’d hustled in, looking down, already searching for my wallet in the bottomless pit that is my backpack, when an unexpectedly friendly greeting reached my ears.

“Welcome!”

Not a “Welcome, how may I take your order?” or a “Hi, would you like to try our new Stromboli?” But a genuine hello that resonated with agreeableness. 

I actually had to look up from my rummaging to greet the person at the counter correctly.

“Uh, thanks.”  I was quite taken aback.

Usually it was routine to mutter a barely intelligible “Hey, here for pick up,” but this time it seemed that I would actually have to muster up some semblance of congeniality.

(Spoiler: I suck at unexpected human interaction.)

“Hello, how are you doing today?” the twenty something year-old behind the counter asked me smiling.  Again, with the authenticity dripping from his voice.  His face made it seem like he actually expected a genuine reply.  Not a dismissive “Good, I’m here to pick up my sub,” but an actual description of my state of well being. 

Whoa.  This guy’s almost making me believe he really cares even though I don’t know him from Adam, I thought to myself.  Is this a trick?  Did someone tell him how inept I am at social interaction so he could see for himself or something? 

I squinted my eyes,

“Uh, goo~d,” I said, drawing the word out as I looked around for hidden cameras.

“Great to hear!  What can I do for you today?” he replied still smiling.

The rest of the exchange was fairly normal after that but I was struck by how sad it was that I was so shocked by someone taking the time to look me in the eye when they spoke.  So much of the service industry is so mechanic and geared toward efficiency that genuine social interaction surprised me more than it should have.  It seriously confused me that had I chosen to actually give him a couple details about my day, I’m almost positive he would have engaged me in real conversation.

How sad is that? 

I’m so used to the go-go-go nature of life that the fact that a cashier didn’t only view me as an entity with hands who happened to hold a credit card, was nearly Earth shattering.  In that moment, I almost preferred he view me as a number, just customer number 486, rather than an actual person.  It made me uncomfortable that I was expected to rouse myself out of my habitual stupor to interact with the world in front of me.

This hits me as a tragedy.

We so often wander around zombie-like in our predetermined routine that we’re startled and almost troubled when a drop of humanity ripples the still pool of everyday life.

After that encounter with the peppy cashier and realizing how ashamed I was at having turned into a walking dead, I try to stir myself out of my own daze by trying to startle others with unexpected interaction.

You know, just little things.

Beating the door greeter to a friendly hello.  Asking a waiter how their day is going.  These small plot twists go a long way.

I find these simple things help make at least a little piece of the world a little more awake. 

Have you ever had an encounter that made you suddenly realize something was wrong with how you were viewing the world?  Feel free to tell me in the comments.  🙂

~LDA