A Tale of Two Drug Epidemics: The Black and White Grey Area

As a feminist, I care about two things: Who gets heard and How. As a sober person, I care enough to do something about it.

Lately, I’ve been troubled with thoughts about the opioid crisis in America. I share the deep sympathy and outrage of our populous for victims of mass addiction. Big Pharma, like the good drug kingpin it is, has carved out huge swaths territory in the heartland with its derivations of synthetic heroin. While I empathize with those struggling to claw their way out of despair, I am coming to know a much deeper emotion than empathy: anger at the disparate responses to current white death versus black death during the crack epidemic years.

I want to know how and why we are in such an uproar now, in 2018. Why haven’t we read reports about white people being incarcerated at staggering rates for drug-related crimes? Where were the documentaries about crack addiction and the road to recovery? Are we really that ignorant to the situational blindness of our biases?

I don’t even want to hear about how the political climate is to blame. I know our current administration is on a broad highway to hell, but this shit is not new. In 2017, a writer named Dahleen Glanton from the Chicago Tribune had this to say about our bullshit cultural responses to addiction:

In the 1980s, instead of pouring resources into counseling and other forms of treatment, America chose to tamp down on crime. Officials thought they could arrest their way out of the crack cocaine crisis and it would go away.¬†In the end, that approach had as much of an adverse impact on African-American families as crack did.¬†Hundreds of thousands of African-Americans across the country ended up with prison records because of minor drug violations ‚ÄĒ a legacy that continues to contribute to the decay of poor, urban communities.

I am by no means a scholar on the War on Drugs, addiction, alcoholism or any other brand of compulsive behaviors. I am, however, a white woman who recognizes her privilege when she sees it. How many times did I drive drunk and recklessly without being pulled over? Dozens. Where were the belligerent and/or violent cops when I “road dirty” on the 5 from LA to San Diego? In my rear view mirror. Why is it that I am embraced for speaking openly about¬† my struggles with alcoholism, rather than criminalized for “choosing” to act on my impulses? And let’s look at the way Whitney Houston’s death was covered: with endless loops of video showing her high off her ass, saying, “crack is whack.” The media made fun of her. People called her a crackhead. When Philip Seymour Hoffman died, they touted his genius and what a tragedy it was to lose such a legend to heroin addiction. The implicit media bias toward white people and against black people is clear: white people “struggle with addiction” while black people “choose to live this way.”

In the ’80s, the “Greed is Good” mentality drove a lot of polo-clad people to dive into the excesses of the time with some good, old-fashioned nose candy. Simultaneously, industrious people began to capitalize on the less expensive version of cocaine: crack. The cause and effect formula here makes total sense to me. Rich people could afford cocaine. If rich people got caught with said cocaine, they could also afford attorney fees. Poor people could afford less-expensive crack. If poor people got caught with said crack, they went to jail. Poor communities began to suffer greatly as crack ravaged their populations. Rich people went about their business making money while also spending it. Somewhere in this seemingly cogent formula, something stopped adding up: how is it that poor people became criminals when rich people skirted the law? Why is it that a disproportionate number of black people were being locked up for smoking and snorting the chemical equivalent for white people? The answer is as racist as it is unsurprising: people start to give a shit when white people die. Thus, this cold, hard fact remains: “Oppression is as American as apple pie” (Audre Lorde).

Addiction does not give a fuck about what your creed, denomination, sex or opinion is. All it cares about is winning. We are, as a nation, coming to believe this as a fact of life. We rally, we march, we lambaste politicians for their indifference to gun violence, environmental health and drug industry influence. Glanton observes our cultural shift with addiction:

White suburbanites are lobbying their state officials to help them solve a problem that is ruining young people’s lives. They are holding rallies on statehouse lawns, urging elected officials to treat their addicted children with dignity ‚ÄĒ something that young people addicted to crack never received.

It is my goal to broaden the conversation about addiction and alcoholism. Scientific advancements aside, the social and spiritual consequences of life on an obsessive loop won’t stop until we as a society jar ourselves awake. I am one person who found herself in the grips of a progressive disease. I choose the word disease because it encourages health practitioners and insurance companies to treat it like the health crisis it is instead of the choice it very much is not. Erasing the stigma of addiction is a noble cause, but I don’t want to die on that hill. I care more about what happens to people of color who struggle with not only addiction, but also being black in America. We hear from lots of white people who took the path of recovery. I want to see how we can apply intersectional feminism to other voices who deserve to be heard.

When it comes to addiction, it can’t be black and white. Let’s move into the crowded grey area where recovery applies to all who need it.

Photo courtesy of Billboard

Biased Cut

Now feels like the time to break with tradition: waiting the painstaking hours-minutes-seconds until the clock strikes 12AM on March 17th to blog something–

Instead, it’s 9:16PM on Thursday, March 15th.

I realize that time is but a construct and the day-counting is more like a superstition at this point than an actual measure of my recovery.

So with the grace and pre-supposition of a power greater than myself carrying me over the line, I will turn four years sober on Saturday. This anniversary means everything to me.

And nothing at all.

Year three created a new paradigm of sobriety for me. I married my favorite person. I discontinued my studies to become a teacher. I moved. I started a new cooking job. Saint Bonaventure beat UCLA despite the shadow of a 48-year heartbreak. Any one of the above entitled items, in and of itself, is life-altering (well, most of them).¬†But stats over time don’t really do it for me. I am accustomed to these types of changes. More to the point, I am comfortable with the chaos that accompanies turmoil. I know what it is for my actions to precipitate reactions in others–to my words and behaviors. I have intimate knowledge of the fallout when my ambivalence toward, say, my career, causes confusion in others and panic in myself. It’s tough stuff, but it’s kind of my wheelhouse.

Time is neither friend nor foe. I am the same person I was last year, except a lot more honest. I forgot to doubt myself.  I am at peace. It has been exactly two months since I felt the familiar pangs of extreme anxiety. My brain is neutral and my heart is full. I am still clumsy in my intimate relationships and messy in my day-to-day planning. My 2018 planner and my station at work are nothing if not a perfect reflection of a hyper-active mind.

*

The process of planning our wedding caused my husband and I stress unlike any other we’ve known. Granted, I (technically) caused this stress–I¬†did say ‘yes,’ but then, so did he–asking me to marry him and all. We signed up for it, enthusiastically.

We found ourselves a newlywed nest, but not without months of searching what seemed like every apartment in the city up for rent. I switched jobs two months later on what felt like a whim, but was really a moment of gumption. As a result, we run on opposite schedules like two tired, creaking ships passing in the night. This break in our routine surprised even me–I’m not certain what came over me. Perhaps a smidge of impulse and a little selfishness. I stopped mid-shift and swiveled my Danskos in the direction of my restaurant’s kitchen manager to switch from Front of the House to Back of the House.

I had a lot of nerve this year.

See also: I am someone’s wife. A wife and a prep cook. A former playgirl turned lush for commitment. I did something I promised myself I would never do: I followed a man’s lead. I came home that night with the overwhelming desire to tell my husband his delight and love for cooking to nourish others inspired me–enough to start all over again, again. From politicking to freelance writing to classroom teaching to oyster shucking–I am dizzy from the trip. I never imagined I’d be elbow-deep in condensed milk or grilled asparagus, yet here I am.

My work mentor (second only to my chef-husband-mentor) taught me some kitchen basics, least of all how to make a biased cut. Visions of celery, onions and jalapenos dance behind my eyes, all reminding me to cut identical sharp angles for continuity. My instinct was to scoff at the peculiarities of this new kitchen jargon, but I held my tongue. I remember all too well entering the rooms of recovery, ambling around the confusing vocabulary of hope in my beloved 12-step program. I am humbled by the temperatures and textures I have yet to learn. I have been here before. I recognize the need to know nothing in order to learn something. My recovery has taught me the precise need to know that I don’t know. Every heartening moment of growth is a direct result of ignorance terminated by experience. My higher power has protected me in more uncertain times than these. I’ve made it this far and I am in the company of some greats.

After all, I am a little biased.

 

Featured image courtesy of Get Inspired Everyday

El B’s

Alcohol was the master I served for over a decade. But like most alcoholics and addicts of my type, I often take orders from other afflictions. In fact, I’ve written about that for AfterParty Magazine.

I suffer from disordered eating.

There, I said it. Let me be clear, though: I do not identify as an anorexic, nor have I ever purged as a result of binge eating. But I struggle, every day, with the obsession that I am not the size, weight or body type I am meant to be.  According to whom? That remains to be seen.

I wait about two weeks in-between “weighing sessions.” I allow that amount of time to elapse because every time I step on the scale, my heart sinks into my feet. The act itself ruins my entire day. It’s disappointing to self-report that I’ve gained another two pounds; it’s devastating to admit that I lost even more control over my weight. I never cared as much about such a small amount of El Be’s (=lbs, pounds) as I do right now. Not even when I was 16, tortured by the idea of going to Lake Mary for my sweet sixteen, forced to be bikini-clad in public. The idea that anyone other than my immediate family would see me in a bathing suit horrified me.

The first time I knew I had a problem with eating versus drinking was the first break I came home to visit my family freshman year of college. I studied at a small liberal arts college in Vermont, where I discovered the delights of Rolling Rock, 99 Apples and 10-foot glass sculptures from head shops. I mostly remember the -47 degree weather and the fact that one cannot step outside with wet hair without icicles forming. My family took notice that I gained weight, the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. It was actually the verbiage they used, saying my face looked “puffy.” That was code for fat, I thought. Looking back, i’m positive that what they saw were the first physical signs of my alcoholism. It stuck with me, despite their obvious love as evidence contrary to my negative thought processes. I spent the subsequent two weeks fasting on Yoplait and black olives. Fucking disgusting. Yet, effective–

I dropped 12 pounds in two weeks.

I came back to school expecting a huge reaction from my friends. There was none. I was bummed. More than that, I was super angry. Why had I gone to the great lengths I did in order to lose weight? Furthermore, why did I bother staving off my desire to drink in order to starve? I wanted someone to notice how much my hard work had paid off. I also wanted a goddamn potato chip. So I started working out, and I got both.

My best friend in college was my favorite person to work out with. We used to giggle uncontrollably anytime we came to the gym still wreaking of booze (amateurs.)  I take most of the credit for that one, especially after I started sweating. It was hard to take much of anything seriously by that point, but we prevailed. My modus operandi was the elliptical. I loved that I did not have to go anywhere or do anything except move in the exact same motion for an hour in order to burn precisely 650 calories. What a gift. What a coincidence, too, because that’s how many servings of pretzels/chips/crackers I would eat later. The law of averages doing its due diligence, I guess.

I categorize my second semester of freshman year as the darkest few months of my life. Well, until sophomore year when my dad died. Oh, and grad school in New York. Followed closely by the San Bernardino/San Diego days. It’s been quite the ride into the depths! More to the point, I found that no matter where I was, I felt better about my drinking when I could manipulate the intake of food I’d give myself in a given day. I decided never to count my drinks, only my calories. I saw just one snag in this plan: I got hungry after a few drinks. That meant Oreos after hours. Speaking of which, and not to get too far off track, but there was one point during my senior year of college when I went home for Thanksgiving with one of my best friends and her family. We got shit-faced with her friends going out to all her old stomping ground bars. When we got home, I felt sick. Sick, like, I hadn’t eaten more than half a bagel all day, so my body didn’t have the ability to absorb the narsty amount of alcohol I dumped into my system. Lest we forget my affinity for Oreos, I got to a point where I had to throw up. Once I did, I saw that the contents in the toilet were completely black. I ran to my friend worried I was dying. She very sweetly tried to explain to me that what I was seeing were the Oreos I ate earlier, not sudden death. I laughed out loud, but inside I felt like a complete asshole.

Two summers ago, I saw a doctor for my anxiety. My counselor was sweet and helpful, and eventually responsible for helping me turn to yoga as a physical calming method. However, my body had had enough. I was a year and a half sober, deeply immersed in my 12-step program, yet suffering from debilitating anxiety. She prescribed me a medication that, long story short, made me very sick. I won’t go into the ghastly detail it would take to describe what I went through, but let’s just say my symptoms mimicked those of food poisoning. Twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, five-month-long-food poisoning.

I dropped 25 pounds in two months. I didn’t have 25 pounds to lose.

Once my symptoms let up, I had been on my medication for about six months. I felt so much better mentally. And eventually, I got my physical strength back. The one symptom I hadn’t anticipated remaining was the deathly fear I had of gaining all that weight back. So I began restricting. Multiple friends messaged me on social media, asking if I was okay after they saw a picture of myself I had posted. This made me feel exposed, guilty. Especially considering that the friends who said something were not in any way dramatic or critical, just worried. I felt embarrassed and stripped of justification. The medicine no longer caused me to lose weight. My doctor noticed, too. She confronted me about how much weight I kept losing. I told her what I was eating with about as much honesty as when I told my doctor in Los Angeles how much I drank–

The Limit Does Not Exist.

Another, little-known fact: my fiance is a cook at a swanky restaurant. When he moved home from NYC, he was taken aback by my appearance. If I’m being honest with myself, he had been concerned a few months prior. I chose to deflect then, but I couldn’t exactly swat away the truth with him standing in front of me, mano y mano. He expressed to me that there was deep irony in him dedicating his life to loving food, with a girlfriend who chose not to eat any. He was upset and worried. I came clean about how deep my obsession went, but I don’t think that allowed the worry to lessen. So I made it a point to eat every single meal he created. After a few months, I gained back nearly every pound I lost. I was at once proud and horrified.

It’s amazing. Amazing how the brain can convince you that you don’t need food, or love, or honesty. There is way more to this story than what I’ve disclosed here. But that’s because it’s an ongoing issue. I know there are people reading this–particularly women–who know exactly what I’m talking about. Those of us in recovery from anything know that there is almost always a long road to walk in order to heal. I am not sure what my road will look like, but I don’t want to know right now. If I knew what early sobriety would have required of me, I’m not sure I would have followed through with the journey. Thank God for blissful ignorance.

And thank God for writing.

xx

O.K.

The one (and quite possibly only)¬†person who constitutes¬†my “readership” pointed out tonight that I haven’t posted anything on here for awhile. I guess I didn’t have much to say.

That right there was a lie, right out of the gate.  The truth is, I made the executive decision to STFU.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “You don’t write because you want to say something,” (I always do); you write because you’ve got to say something (I do, either way).” So you can imagine the confusion my predisposition to constantly run my mouth causes me. It pains me to not interject myself in others’ conversations. I always feel compelled to constantly bring something to the table, verbally. At times I feel what I’m saying is very important when it’s actually very pretentious. But by shutting it for the summer, I learned a thing or two about shutting it even more strategically.

very important and very pretentious.png

And what I’ve¬†got to say to you tonight is “okay.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten in trouble at work already for not just saying, “okay” while being instructed (That’s another lie; ¬†I’ve gotten in trouble four separate times in the past month and a half [with two different bosses] for “defending myself” during a busy shift). I waitress almost full-time now, in addition to tutoring a beautiful young girl in third grade. I’d argue these are the best two jobs I’ve ever had. I’m not sure against whom I would be arguing this, other than my former self. A shattered ego has a way of resetting my perspective on all things, including (and most especially) jobs.

I don’t know what it is about being told what to do, but I’m not very good at it. To clarify, I’ve never been insubordinate at work on any job, at any time.¬†I’d like to thank my former friend, alcohol, for helping me fake that scam of workforce submissiveness. Sure, I didn’t talk back to bosses, but I sure talked a lot of ish behind their backs. And of course, I drank my work blues away to some oblivion not even a “forever deleted” email could reach. It’s safe to say that alcohol had the opposite effect on my behavior that it would on your run-of-the-mill drunk; that is to say, it made me behave better (not worse) than I would on my own, unimpaired. However, at my new job I’ve had to face the fact that I can be a bit of a smart ass, hot head and overall know-it-all.

And all it took for me to drop the submissive/perfect employee act was a good, solid Italian family — one much more Italian than mine. My bosses (boss family, legit) are really really really good at their jobs. The restaurant is run like a big, bold Sicilian ship. Turns out, they know A LOT more about serving than I do. True to form, my deficit in serving skills is precisely why I never stuck with a serving job for more than a couple of months.¬†I hate being 1. bad at / 2. not good at / 3. not the best at – things. Any and all things. When I don’t know what I’m doing, my ego feels exposed. I assume everyone around me can see that the Empress Wears No Clothes. In my humble(d) opinion, there is literally nothing worse for an addict/alcoholic who despises being called out in front of an empty audience. The biggest P.O.S. that is The Center of the Universe.

Charmed, I’m sure.

Up until last week, my mother and I have sustained the same argument every day for a year straight. Want to guess who had to be “right” in those arguments? Who had to have the last word? Who thoroughly “researched” her position before defending it? Who never just said, “okay?”

Me. The answer is me.

I don’t know how or why, but I was finally able to hear her message:¬†“Just say ‘uh huh,’ even when you don’t agree with me.” What a heinous proposition. But for some reason, I actually¬†heard her. I mean,¬†really took it all in. My need to say everything BUT “okay” or “uh huh” is what has been getting me stuck with her¬†and with my bosses.

My point here is, I had to shut up in order to shut up more. Know what I mean, Jelly Bean?

(Just say okay).

xo

Grief #10

It feels important that I write something today. It might not be, but that’s never stopped me before. It’s the 10th Father’s Day where my dad has been conspicuously absent from my life. I guess after a decade, I thought it would be easier. Anyone who grieves can testify that it is not and may never be.

From 2006-2014, Grief wasted me. More accurately, I wasted myself while Grief watched. Ever the unwanted guest, I never felt prepared when it came to visit. It’s not like I’d make it petit fours or anything, but an RSVP would have been nice. One minute I’m at a party, soaking up attention without scruples faster than my bloodstream can absorb the whiskey I’ve annihilated; the next minute, I’m sobbing on a street corner to a food truck vendor about how sad I am my dad can’t be in my life. For years, I burrowed myself in that safe nook Grief created for me. And then, I couldn’t find my way out. I locked myself in a bomb shelter of self-pity¬†ostensibly to heal myself. When I finally emerged, everyone and everything had healed and changed¬†but me.

Twenty-seven months sober, this Father’s Day has been one of my most difficult. I’ve taken the Saint Francis prayer literally, seeking to comfort rather than to be comforted. So far, it’s only helped a few minutes at a time, in-between phone calls. Nevertheless, I’m glad it’s an option.

I find it shocking that I don’t want to numb my feelings. I just don’t want them to be there. I miss my dad a lot. The woman who helped me get sober lost her father at a younger age than I did. My ride or die best friend lost her dad the same age I lost mine. What strikes me most about these friendships is that we never knew these facts about ourselves until after we got close. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Grief the credit it deserves for inviting these beautiful women into my life.

I don’t think I would have stayed drunk as long as I did if I hadn’t had Grief’s shadow to hide behind. Or maybe I would have been drunker for longer. Who knows? My addiction¬†shelter could have easily held me¬†twice or three times as long as it did. My “happy” drinking may have resulted in a bigger onslaught of consequences than my “sad” drinking did. Any good alcoholic has an armament of resentments and reasons to keep breaking their own hearts. Mine were just effective enough to hold me until the pain I created outpaced my Grief.

What’s cool about turning 30 this month is that many of my friends are starting to make their own families. My newsfeeds are filled with pictures of my contemporaries in newfound fatherhood, including my family members. That makes me much happier than it did when I was still stewing in my own self-absorption. I am grateful that there is a chance to see fatherhood from this new angle. I’m even more grateful that I am not home alone drinking, pretending that it doesn’t still hurt.

My father died of natural causes. Today I am reminded that there are people mourning for loved ones whose death came prematurely, with no justification. Though this post focuses on Grief concerning a man central to my life, it is dedicated to the LGBTQIA community of Central Florida. Your loss will not go unnoticed. When Grief comes–and it will–just know that it won’t stay.

xo

 

 

 

The Worst Four-Letter “Word”

Ahhh, the great paradoxes in life. Smart women meet Sexism, Smart Black Men and Women meet Racism, Everyone on the Planet meets Trumpism. All the various permutations of the “isms” creep up in everyone’s life, much to our dismay. It seems like any word ending in ism almost always has a negative connotation. And for the past two years, I’ve heard people cite their own alcoholic brand of isms hundreds of thousands of times. I hear well-meaning AAers discuss isms in their thinking as though emotions and thoughts and fears are all independent diagnoses. My internal dry-heave mechanism activates itself every time I hear that shitty, four-letter combination. “I took away the drink, I’m still an alcoholic. Because MAN those isms.”

Gaaaaaaaag.

I don’t like cliches. This is not to say I’m innocent of using them, I just think it’s a poor-man’s conversational trap door. “I have nothing original to say, so I’ll take a normal, human neurosis and slap ‘ism’ on the end of it.” All disgust aside, I think I understand the sentiment. As is our way, alcoholics tend to be self-absorbed. Our fear of say, public speaking, amounts to an enormous flurry of speculation about what others think of us.We might as well be leading a press conference at the Rose Garden. Forget about the thing we actually need to speak about; the immediate need is to analyze how and why the audience thinks we are blubbering, bullshitting fools. Like right now.

I don’t believe alcoholics are special people. I know special people who happen to be alcoholics. I think we are humans with a magnificent affinity for overwrought thinking…and alcohol. I agree that a program for continuous sobriety–any program that works–is necessary. But I don’t agree that we are superhuman or subhuman. We just need to be reminded that “the wolf is always at the door,” so to speak. I hate to feel apart from humankind, just like anyone else would. There is nothing special–or more accurately, unique–about that fear.

Because I want. To fit. In.

-Patrick Bateman, American Psycho

I guess what I’m alleging here is that addicts and alcoholics are way more normal than we think. There are times when I feel like such a weirdo for having the thoughts that I do. But I’ve noticed that the longer I am sober, the more willing I become to share those outlandish thoughts with my non-alcoholic friends. On any given day, one of my closest “normie” friends texts me comments about her bowel movements. I mean, this is the nature of of friendship, true. But it also shows me that my thinking isn’t so crazy, especially when we talk about serious things. She has insecurities and irrational resentments, just like I do. The only difference is, if I don’t work through the hidden complexities, I am wired to take it out on a drink. And there will most certainly be consequences if I do. Dire ones.

I’ve learned to block the isms. Audibly, mentally, figuratively. I keep in mind what I taught my kids to do. When they get rowdy, I tell them to “take a chill pill” (not to be confused with Xanax). Silently, they put out one hand, grab an invisible glass of water and slosh down their invisible chill pill. Miming this never fails to amuse them (or me). They can’t very well walk around thinking their problems are The Most Important Problems of Ever.

Leave that to the alcoholics.

xo

 

 

 

The Boomerang Nebula

The Boomerang Nebula is purported to be the coldest place in space. Science says so, anyway. It’s all relative in my mind–I could name about 300 galaxies in my own soul right now that would give this place a run for its money. According to mine and Carl Sagan’s calculations, we are all made of stardust. Einstein chimes in to further complicate the matter by proving¬†everything is relative.

‚ÄúThe nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Carl Sagan, Cosmos

I introduced the Boomerang Nebula to my eighth grade class this week. “Located 5,000 light-years away, this young planetary nebula has a morbid creator: a dying star at its center.” The kids didn’t catch the solemnity in my voice when I said this. Nor did they piece together the enormity of this reality. I explained to them that stars are at their brightest when they are dying. After nebulae are¬†done expanding and exploding, they’ve fulfilled their duty of¬†blowing our minds.

I heard one chuckle. Someone murmured, “oh cool.”

I should give you some back story to my star sadness here. Things have been a bit rough at school. This week was the first time I applied my newly-acquired, more complex teacher school skills to the classroom. Eighth grade responded the fastest and in the most positive way. It’s fair to say that all my classes responded well. That is, until the nebulae exploded Friday.

After lunch, ¬†my sixth grade class filed into the room more quietly than usual. I prepared the SMART board for our lesson on heredity. Almost immediately, two students raised their hands to ask if they could talk to me in the hallway, it will only take a minute. Keep in mind that one of these students recently got our class “MVP” award for most improved in science, not to mention the “Peacemaker” award for the month of April. In the hallway, they explained to me with hushed tones that they learned in a previous class they should confront someone when they feel disrespected. Their teacher told them to confront whomever made them feel bad in any way. One kid expounded on this, saying he has issues with anger management and he needed me to know he didn’t like it when I called him out on talking. He doesn’t like getting blamed when he isn’t¬†always the only one talking (note: he is always the one talking). I felt myself getting defensive, but I responded by saying I appreciate the way they approached me so maturely. I told them I was proud of them for having the courage to tell me how they felt. I listened more than I spoke. But when I did chime in, I explained that it’s my duty as their teacher to be consistent in how I uphold consequences when students break the rules. They shook their heads in agreement and we returned to the class.

As I walked in, every student looked up silently at me. There was an eerie feeling to the room. I sat down to scroll to our next lesson. I opened my mouth to speak and a student’s hand shot up. “Ms. Lucy, we have something to say to you…as a unit.” I told them to go for it, having no context for what they were about to say. For the next 30 minutes, each student, one by one, stood up to air their grievances. The class had choreographed a teacher roast, ostensibly to manage their anger. This was a “planned group confrontation.” Comments included how “disrespected” they all felt by me. How “wrong” it was when I shared a stat about women–African American women in particular–suffering from heart disease at a disproportionate rate than the rest of the population. How much they “hate” when I “talk about David Bowie.” That my class and their art class are “the worst classes we have.”

This was not a group confrontation–this was a mutiny.

I managed to keep my shit together for the duration of class. At about 5 til 2pm, I set them up with a reading, put a student leader in charge, and excused myself to “make copies.” I rushed to the bathroom downstairs to cry in private with what little dignity I had left. I wiped my eyes and returned to the room to dismiss the kids. I locked the door behind the last one to leave. After about 2 minutes, the kids came rushing back, banging on the door. They knew they had fucked up. I didn’t answer. My last period class came in and they could tell something was wrong. So amidst our chats about DNA replication, we discussed some strategies as a group for how to not take things personally. We decided to make this a “life lessons” class period. I did my best not to go into too many details about what just happened, but news travels fast in a small school.

Friday hurt. Friday hurt real bad.

So I did the next best thing I could think to do. I met a newcomer, new best friend, for coffee at the ‘bucks. She told me her story, and I listened. We went together to a speaker meeting afterward. One alcoholic talking to another–that is the glue that binds us. More accurately, when we share our joys and woes, we act as fundamental elements that work together with cohesion. I taught something along those lines about surface tension. Because science.

I felt like shit yesterday, but I didn’t drink. I didn’t want to. But I could see why I would have in the past. Instead, I exercised a recovery muscle by¬†listening to someone else. That halted the neurotransmitter shit show bonanza in my head, at least for the night.

The first thing I did when I finished breakfast this morning was meditate. Then I called a lady from the program. Then I got a 95% on my teacher school test. Then I remembered the most important lesson I’ve taught that sixth grade class thus far:


The Hater Ratio – 4:1 – which postulates:

For every one amazing person, there will be 4 haters who will try to bring you down. If you don’t have haters, you’re doing something wrong. ¬†Pay them no mind.


After many reflections filled with staring out into space, I came up with a lesson plan for Monday. I will have the students read the Saint Francis Prayer. The Objective: To identify effective ways to love one another. They will spend their 50-minute class period writing and re-writing this prayer. I will smile, but I will not speak. I’ll let Franny do the talking.

Saint Francis Prayer

Then I will tell myself this, over and over again:

“So, the next time you are having a bad day, try this:¬†close your eyes, take a deep breath, and contemplate the chain of events that connects your body and mind to a place billions of lightyears away, deep in the distant reaches of¬†space and time. Recall that massive stars, many times larger than our sun, spent millions of years¬†turning¬†energy into matter, creating the atoms that make up part of you, the Earth, and everyone you have ever known and¬†loved.”¬†

x0.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia