What's in a word?
A lot, apparently.
About eight or nine years ago, I was feeling very down and I couldn't put my finger quite on why. After all, I had a successful teaching career, just over 25 years-all at the same school. I was well-liked and respected by my students, parents, colleagues, and administrators. In 2003, my then-partner of thirteen years and I bought a house after moving three times in the two years before buying it, and twice more in the ten years before that. With this purchase, my commute just dropped from about an hour to about thirty-five minutes. We eventually married, the first time it was legal in California. One would think I was excited about the prospects of where my life was headed. Yet, I wasn't.
And I didn't know why I wasn't happy. But, I figured I'd figure it out. Or my life would eventually straighten itself out, so to speak.
I began to attribute my mood to my career; having been at the same school all those years, teaching in the same community. I tried to justify it by believing each year is a different experience as it is a different group of students, and maybe a grade change or two along the way to teach different material, but it boils down to the same thing, but a different package. I tried to blame the commute, because at one point early in my career, I lived close enough I could walk to/from school if I had to, and I often walked home for the exercise, and years later the farthest commute I had was just over an hour each way. Maybe I was just burning out after all this time.
But, something else felt off...
I finally came to the conclusion I needed to seek professional help to figure out what I was feeling. And maybe confirm what I was subconsciously suspecting; I was depressed. But, over what? So, I made an appointment.
Then my ex wanted out. Ironically, he told me the week before my intake with the therapist. When the therapist noted I was married based on the form I'd filled out only a week before, I had to reply, "Not any more." I then explained that just that week, my husband emailed me(!) stating he no longer loved me as a husband but only as a friend after nearly sixteen years together, the last 22 months legally married.
I was devastated, until I talked to a close mutual friend about him. And suddenly, the cloud lifted. The more I talked about him and the problems we had faced, the more the veil was lifted. He was the problem, or rather, the relationship was. I wasn't happy in the relationship yet wasn't able, or willing, to face the truth. The more I faced the truth about him, the happier I was that he was out of my life.
I moved on, contemplating the changes in my life, the possibility of a new relationship. I became a blogger and a published author. I met a few men, explored new sides of me, and of my life.
I now find myself in a similar state of mind as before. I am not happy. Perhaps it is the few men I've met who've left me disappointed in relationships. Perhaps, it's the ongoing struggle teachers are having in being taken seriously about the state of public education in the US. Perhaps it's the fact I've been in the same profession and location for all this time. Perhaps it's the fact I'm getting older in a community that suffers from serious ageism. Perhaps it's the continued battle of internalized homophobia I feel when I see negative news articles about my people. Probably it is a combination of all of the above.
I asked my current therapist (the original one went out on a medical leave) about a diagnosis for an insurance form. I was thinking she'd say depression. She said she struggled with just the right one but did not feel comfortable with an official diagnosis of clinical depression according to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, I didn't fit the very specific criteria. I forget what she settled on. General Anxiety Disorder, I think.
The morning after, it came to me.
I'm not depressed, I am disillusioned.
Once I realized I am disillusioned, I felt a bit better. It made more sense to me. Maybe I'm too much of a hopeless romantic for the gay male community. Maybe I am expecting people to respect teachers like they used to. Maybe I'm expecting to fit into a community I don't necessarily belong in.
I'm not sure how to treat disillusionment. I know disillusions come from having expectations and then being disappointed that they don't work out time after time. It's natural to become disillusioned over dating and relationships when they continuously don't work out. Maybe I had higher hopes than I thought. Maybe I wanted a relationship more than I gave lip-service to not wanting one. So, I should lower my expectations.
But, to what?
The field of education is changing; the students of today are far different than their parents or grandparents were. No one blames the firefighters when the drug lab blows up the house; no one blames law enforcement when their house or store is burgled. Yet, everyone blames teachers when education programs fail. [I could write a whole separate series of posts on this, but there are so many other good blogs on this very topic. If you are interested in the topic, please search for the name Diane Ravitch.] I'm not sure how to treat this disillusionment.
The gay male community is very ageist. I can't stop getting older. I can't stop other men from wanting younger men. I can only be myself. And let that be enough. I'm not sure how to approach this. Is this even a disillusionment? Or simply a reality I am learning to face, yet not take personally?
Maybe I just need to let go of any and all expectations. Or else I might end up a bitter old bachelor. But, if I give up my expectations, have I given up hope? Hope of a different world? Hope of a better world? Hope of a happier me?
I once learned that expectations are planned disappointments. Yet, don't we come with a kind of expectation, however small, into every situation? Isn't it difficult not to?
I realize this is all my attitude and I make my world my own.
And, maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something...but what?
Maybe to just let go and trust in the moment...
Maybe to just let go and trust in the moment...