Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Black Hole

Sometimes I'm too much in my head. And I mean the one on my shoulders, not that other one. 

The other day I popped out to the store for some odds and ends. On my way out, I saw a young couple, about twentysomething, if even that old. They weren't being obnoxious with their displays of affection, yet I felt nauseated. Not because they were holding hands, not because he kissed her good-bye, not because they were straight.

But because I didn't want someone hanging all over me. I felt overwhelmed because of what they were doing.

Also, I recently went out to a gay bar to do some research for a setting in another novel brewing in my head. Plus, I wanted needed to get out of the house, I'll kill two birds, I thought. And maybe, deep down, I was hoping to make some new gay friends. All in all, I did have a pleasant evening out taking some notes for this new novel, getting out of the house, chatting with a couple of guys and beginning to climb out of the black hole of despair I'd been falling in.

I'd mentioned in other recent posts that I'd run into some old, dear friends who asked me if I was seeing anyone. I immediately responded, "No, and I don't want to, either." 

And it has been driving me crazy trying to figure out why. Why did I not want some nice handsome man kissing me goodbye? Why did I not want his arms around me, holding me, telling me he wanted to be with me? Why did I want to be alone?

In trying to understand myself, I've talked about my compartments; being newly single, being middle aged, being a man, being gay, being a teacher, being a new author, being a homeowner and pet-parent. I've talked about how I try to de-compartmentalize myself and about when and where my compartments merge.

I've tried focusing individually on my various compartments, particularly the gay part of me, by venturing back into the community only to find I may not belong to it anymore. I've tried to overcome being a poor lonely homeowner by trying to find a roommate to help with expenses, but with no success. I've shared the frustrations and commitment of being a pet parent to two sweet and loving but aging pets (and I've recently learned that a certain someone is planning on moving out of state, leaving the full responsibility of their care completely on me). I've tried taking on other jobs at school for additional income only to drive myself insane by losing what free personal time I can make, which then limits the time I can write new stories and promote my current one. I've discussed my frustrations with my current teaching assignment and what a challenging class I have, perhaps the most difficult one I've had in my entire thirty year career. So difficult in fact, I would walk out tomorrow. But, that would mean the little ones had won! I've vented about the current politics surrounding public education and how teaching is no longer fun and creative, but sheer drudgery. So much so, I've thought about retiring at the end of this school year, but I would only receive half of my base pay and I'm barely making ends meet now. (There is the theory of "leap and the net will appear" but that is another post for another day.)

And I've discussed my fears around dating; fears of being hurt again, being rejected, of not being good enough. Plus, the idea of getting to know someone else while I'm getting reacquainted with myself is very daunting.

I often sit and ask myself, "Which of the different factors affect me the most?" Immediately, without thinking I answer with, "My job."

How do my difficult class and the politics around education affect my feelings about my household responsibilities, my dog and cat and my desire not to date? 

Actually, it turns out, it has quite a lot to do with it all.

Sometimes when you ask questions, you get answers; sometimes from yourself, and sometimes from outside sources. And as I found out, the answer made a lot of sense. The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article on job stress and levels of happiness in the personal lives of several workers.

The article pointed out the obvious, that as jobs become more demanding and less stable, people have less time to devote to their friends, their families and to finding leisure time which then increases stress. The reporter focused on one person who commutes to work from his home in Missouri to his new assignment in Texas, albeit with the same company. He barely sees his family and has no time to maintain his house. So, his house was literally falling apart, and his family scarcely knew him anymore.

The article went on to point out that people with a lot of job stress have less time for civic involvement, or any other leisure activity, all of which can reduce stress.

So, how does this relate to me? I'm single, have no family to support save my dog and cat, I should be living a carefree, happy-go-lucky life. But, I'm not.

I've detailed my day-to-day schedule, so we know time is a problem with all the other activities that come along with teaching. I can either stay at work for another 2 hours to grade papers and plan lessons, or come home and do it more comfortably after feeding my kids and giving them some love, and then get to work after having a small glass of wine and getting in looser clothes and playing soothing music. Either way, I still have a 45 minute commute home to add to the day.

Perhaps it's the continuous attacks on public education and how teachers are to blame for the profession's ills. After all, we have tenure, we can't be fired, we only work from 8-3, we have summers off, we play with kids all day and the general attitude of the public is, those who can, do; those who can't, teach. And public education has NEVER been an historical priority in this country. After all, it is not formally addressed in the US Constitution, nor in the founding documents of the states. It was the proverbial buck that got passed along until it fell into the hands of the individual counties or cities. Compensatory education didn't come into being until the last century

Los Angeles recently had a municipal election for mayor and two school board seats. What was very interesting and, in my humble opinion, quite distressing, was that several out-of-state interests funded some of the candidates for the school board who spouted reform. These 'reform driven interests' aren't even based in Los Angeles, let alone California! The Florida reformer the district hired lasted only a year, before she packed it in.  These were candidates who wanted to fire bad teachers solely based on the students' test scores. These were candidates with no educational psychology or educational sociology training who wanted to tell us how to teach, candidates who had never set foot in a classroom after graduation (if they even graduated)! 

The Federal programs "No Child Left Behind" (or it's your own behind) and the "Race to the Top" (after the dangling carrot) have added more pressure to produce children who can simply fill in bubbles on tests, but do they understand what they have been taught at an all too frenetic pace just to meet testing schedules? Can they even think for themselves?

So, this general negative mood I'm in is all related to my work. The Los Angeles Times said so. At least I know where it's coming from.

And that I'm not alone.

And that I'm normal.

And that I have less than forty days to the end of the year.
And that, somehow, I will be stronger in the end.

Whenever that will be.

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