Category Archives: top quartile

stress fracture

This is looooong, but I think it’s what I have been building up to. It eventually turns to topics of forgiveness and self-worth. Two days later, I am still holding the line.

Lemme start by saying I do not, to my knowledge, have a stress fracture. It’s just a phrase that is attracting my curiosity today. Like breaking point. Buckling under pressure.

I was thinking about earthquakes and volcanos and how we keep our ears  to the ground, monitoring the shifts and spasms. How building codes in vulnerable areas act as bulwarks. (I  just looked up bulwark to check my usage… it lives in my brain as “something that defends, maybe related to water”. I was on point though I pictured it as something on shore but it’s the side of a ship. Either way, def a word that sounds like it means!)

Thinking about that moment when everything changes. The limits of prediction. The hurricane cuts its own line.

Thinking about hindsight (a wonderful concept and I was going to say wonderful word but now that I think about it, I imagine it’s related to behind and now I am thinking about craning my head to look at my butt and now I’m picturing butts with eyes so just no. Some digressions should not be followed.)

Thinking about butt eyes and how we don’t know the line between before and after until there’s been a lot of after. How much after? Like when I quit smoking (see what I did there? butts?)  I had tried to quit before. I could not know that 11/11/2001 would be the sticking day. I’m not sure when I knew the line would hold. I do know that if I had a cigarette today, there’s a high chance I’d slide back to it. Just one. Just one more.

So maybe I am thinking about befores and afters. With tragedies it’s horrifically clear. May 24, 2022. Uvalde, TX will never be the same.

I’m thinking about Big T trauma and little t trauma. The bones we break when falling out of a swing and the ones we didn’t know were at the breaking point until after the fact. Stress fractures. How the slightest jostle can sever whatever tenuous bonds were still holding the pieces together.

I’m thinking about the limits of analogies and wondering why I take refuge in them instead of speaking plainly.

Our brain follows different rules than bones. Our thoughts are not hurricanes even though our thoughts spin and shred up and down the Saffir-Simpson scale.

I am trying to resist digressing into a blah blah about how trite and ridiculous this all is. I want to minimize. This has all been lived and said before. Nothing new here. But I promised not to apologize for taking up a wee bit of online space for writing. It somehow helps me find my footing.

OK let’s say the brain is a house. Some houses are sturdy enough to hold up in almost any setting. Going back to bulwarks. Some are more site specific. And maybe some are just one busted pipe after another and you can’t even catch your breath long enough to decide if you need to rebuild somewhere else.

I want today to be a breaking point. To be a before and after. What I’m looking for is not as clear as stopping smoking and it’s sure as hell more difficult. I cannot simply quit being me. Wherever we go, there we are.

But I can’t keep on as things are. No, that’s a lie. I can keep on, as folks do. Which is why I am thinking about stress fractures.

Maybe in a year, or five or twenty I will be able to say, yes–something shifted on May 31, 2022. Because I do know what needs to change. I need to forgive myself for real and perceived failures so I can move forward. I need to stop looking for evidence everyday to prove that I continue to fail. And–the hardest of all patterns to break–I need to uncouple my sense of worth from my perceptions of competence. Just thinking about doing this makes me queasy, shortens my breath, releases the tears.

Am I able to say I have done the best I could, given the knowledge I had and my personal capacity? I am supposed to say yes. That’s what the professionals say. We cannot hate ourselves into change.

I do not know why I cling to self-recrimination.* It’s almost a form of grandiosity. Why would I hold myself to different standards than others? Knowing that we are fallible is Human Studies 101.

I might not be ready to say I’ve tried my best. Wasting hours playing Freecell (and now every iteration of Wordle I can find) is *not* trying my best. The list of all the things I could have done, should have done, wished I had done is long.

Maybe I can start by acknowledging that I have always approached each day with good intentions, with the desire to have a positive or at least not negative impact on those around and beyond me. I can even go farther out on the limb by recognizing that I do have a strong work ethic, even though it doesn’t always fire on demand. But I guess that’s a sneaky way of reconnecting worth and competence.

So, really, what I need to do is forgive myself and allow for the possibility that I have worth, just as I am, right now. I don’t know if I can do it. Maybe today won’t be the day it sticks. But claiming and voicing it as a goal, for real this time, is actually a big step.

*Re: where the core beliefs and self-recrimination come from. . . I grew up in a loving, supportive, awesome home with great parents who never made me feel like I was defined by my performance, used withering words or anything like that. I don’t think I had an inordinate amount of terrible experiences with peers, teachers, etc. Sure, definitely some ouch moments, but nothing horrible enough to account for my core beliefs. Maybe I just started off with some vulnerabilities that predisposed me to cognitive distortions and disproportionate reactions to the normal slings and arrows of being a human which then snowballed. And then I unintentionally made choices that deepened the rut.

Ms. Harper’s Dunes

Went on a very long walk in the Indiana Dunes. This place always bring me back to high school biology. Hopeful, futureful days.

Rapid ecological progression.  From forest to sand in a short span of space. 0 to 60 vps (vegetation per step).

sand dune with trees sloping to a beach with gentle waves.
The Indiana Dunes and Lake Michigan

If I could have a do-over,  biologist would be at the top of the career list. But I’m not sure I am organized and disciplined enough to be a scientist. (I’m not sure why I think those are key requirements.)

For my teaching degree, I chose elementary education over high school because I wanted to keep my fingers in all subjects. Everything is connected. Maybe too connected. My popcorn brain compelled some kids and confounded others. 

My guiding light was Ms. Harper, my freshman and then AP Bio teacher. She kept the life in biology. Organized loads of experiments, brought us into the minds of scientists, gave us the big picture which made it easier to fill in and remember the details. Her assignments helped me break through as a writer. I knew about the power of content area writing long before my M.Ed.

And she brought us to the Dunes, adding texture and wonder to what had simply been the big beach just outside of Chicago we visited once a year. Those trips had been about sandbars, sunburns and corn dogs. Eyes on the water, not the ecological marvel behind us.

photo of informational of a poster that provides an overview of ecological progression
From a poster at the Dunes Visitor Center. Here’s a National Park Service Video: https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/plantsuccession.htm

I hope all kids have a few Ms. Harpers. School can be a miserable slog, more so for some types of brains and personalities than others. I didn’t know know about neurodiversity. Just thought I was a lazy kid not living up to her potential while at the same time being quick to challenge teachers. (I owe some apologies though PITA kids are part of the job description.).

Ms. Harper and a few other teachers somehow made me feel whole as a student, like I belonged with the “smart” kids even though I could never get my work done on time and my writing was an overambitious mess. They were nimble, patient, and rewarded curiosity.

water with a thin layer of ice with  faint heart pattern in front of a bank with brown grass and bare trees
see the heart?

I tried to emulate those qualities as a teacher but always felt like I came up short. Ugh the teaching part of my professional life is tender territory. I am tempted to write about why I was no good. That I knew content more than I knew kids.  Sucked at making cute bulliten boards.  Struggled to turn my daily attendance in on time

But when I force myself to take a break from the “wah wah wah I failed” song, I remember teaching moments that would have made Ms. Harper (and Ms. Shelton, Ms. Tarta, Mr. Viktora…) proud.

Well, this is not at all the direction I thought I would go. Taking a hike in the Dunes gets the brain moving I guess. I know I’ll keep returning to my lives as a student and a teacher as I move towards healing by 50. Also, go Kenwood Broncos.

a tree stump almost in the shape of a heart surrounded by dead leaves.
♥♥♥♥