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March 13, 2005


There are certain times in our lives that make us sit back and try to catch our breath, moments of razor sharp clarity when everything comes into focus, when the path behind us and the path before us merge neatly at our feet and we find ourselves reaching both ways to see just how far our arms will stretch.

I've had several of those moments, a few of them in the past few weeks, and I'm finding myself almost dizzy off the fumes of the kinetic energy my life has been generating lately. Can you feel the heat?

Now, I'm a great one for reflection. Not that I make great reflections, just that I find myself reflecting more often than most, or at least that is my perception. My philosophy is that reflection is necessary for growth. If we never look back to see where we have come, especially when we come to the crux of a decision, how can we appreciate the journey up to that point and make the next step?

I think that is why, so often, people become shackled by doubt, unable to move forward. If only they would realize that not being able to move for the fear of making a mistake is the biggest mistake they can make.

For example, I spent years in a marriage that was slowly killing me because I couldn't see past the immediate threat of my situation. I had no perspective and I just could not trust myself to make a smart decision. I had been told for years that I was useless, stupid, and that I needed to be taken care of or I wouldn't be able to tie my own shoes.

Whenever I was faced with making a choice and tried to draw on my history for strength, I looked back and found that, somehow, most of my memories of a happier life, of positive experiences, were nonexistant, as if they had been erased. I looked forward and saw absolutely nothing. A wall. No hope, no path, no choice. It wasn't that I was holding myself back from moving forward, it was that I didn't even know which way was forward.

It wasn't until I was able to get through the worst of it and get a little distance away from the x that I began seeing my situation for what it was. I saw my children changing for the better away from him. I felt, for the first time in over a decade, what it was like to do something for myself when I took a poetry class. For God's sake, I changed a tire all by myself!

Ok, that may seem weird but it helped me gain some perspective and that was all I needed to make a decision and move past the wall, to find my path.

As I sat at the TOTY luncheon last Friday, I had one of those moments, one of those amazing synchronous moments when my past met my future and I embraced both. I was listening to my mom talk to my principal, hoping that she wouldn't say anything that would embarass me too much, and I began thinking about where I had been just a few years before. I had been there before, at that country club, but under very different circumstances. In the late 90's, I was painting murals in half-million dollar houses, putting my heart into others' homes so that I could feed my family. I painted whatever they asked, even if I didn't think it was the best for the house, because it was all I could do. I also donated a floorcloth to an auction that was held in the very ballroom I was sitting in but I was not allowed to attend the auction. I was a back door, servant's entrance person.

Friday, though, I pulled up through the main gate in my new car, dressed in a snazzy suit and heels, and walked up the front stairs and through the front door into the slate tiled rotunda where I was greeted with smiles of recognition and congratulations. School board members shook my hand, including one that comes to our school once a week to read to our kids who said she was so happy for me. The Superintendant met my mother and chatted with us for a few minutes. I saw the panel that interviewed me and several greeted me by name. While we were waiting for lunch to be announced, a strange calm came over me, a sensation that I hadn't felt for a long time, a sense of belonging in that very place at that very moment. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire function, from the buffet line to recieving my plaque to applauding the winner. When I looked across the room adn saw my sons 4th grade teacher, though, it hit me. THere, at table 12, sat my past, the one person in that room (other than my mother and myself, of course) that knew where I had come from. More than that, though, she was one of the ones that put me where I was right then. I spent the rest of the luncheon waiting to talk to her.

During the picture taking at the end, I made my way across the room toward Mrs. B, not even knowing how to start the conversation. She saw me and took a double take, not sure where she knew me from. I quickly said who I was, Joseph's mom, and her face did the most amazing thing. She smiled and looked at me with such wonder and she said "I didn't even recognize you. You look amazing."

For a moment, I wondered what she meant, totally forgetting what I was going to say to her. I mean, the last time she saw me was 3 years ago, when Joseph was still in her class and I was volunteering to help the kids in her class write stories. Renmembering that helped me remember what it was that I wanted to tell her, why I had sought her out and I took a deep breath, took a hold of her hands and thanked her.

I don't know if she knew it before then, but she was the one that got me interested in teaching. I saw what she did with her kids and I knew that she made a difference. That was the year I began substituting and, on every available day I had, I was in her classroom helping her class. I remember that as the best year my son had in a long time. He told me at the end of the year that, no matter how hard the work was in that class, he would have done anything Mrs. B asked him to because he knew she loved him. I knew at that moment that I wanted to teach. I asked her about it and she encouraged me ... it was just what I needed to get me started.

So I thanked her for putting me at the TOTY luncheon and hugged her tightly. She was emotional, as she always was, and we both ended up crying as we hugged. She asked about the kids, if they were happy. I told her they were. I asked about some of the kids from that class, one in particular. Ricky was a kid that my son just loved, not because he looked up to him and thought he was cool but because Joseph saw a poor, sweet, troubled kid underneath the tough exterior. He was shot twice in 4th grade, once in the arm and once in the thigh, and he came to school every day in the same oversized Dickies and white t-shirt. He smelled of gasoline. He never had a snack. Joseph took it upon himself to try to help Ricky that year and every once in a while, he asks me if I think Ricky turned out ok. Well, I found out Ricky is in a home now. He is probably better off away from his neighborhood. I told Mrs. B I would let Joseph know but I don't know how to tell him yet.

After a tearful, and hopeful, goodbye, we were ready to leave. I gathered up my booty and headed out with Mom. After dropping her off, I headed across town to get the plates for my car and took my time coming back home. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm, and there I was, looking good, in my new car, still buzzing from the afternoon. I drove through a few neighborhoods I used to work in, some of the fancy subdivisions that I was amazed to even be let into.

As I drove, I felt the shackles that held me back before fall away. On reflection, I realized I can stretch just as far as I want to.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Prosemonkey published on March 13, 2005 8:05 PM.

in situ was the previous entry in this blog.

Perspective... is the next entry in this blog.

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