This morning I saw two of my three children off and back to school. This seems to me like it should not be a big thing, but since my divorce started over a year ago it has been.

Things are changing and I am getting better at this. I am using new tools, coping mechanisms and things in general are finding a new equilibrium.

It is still not as easy as I envision it will be.

Sending kids back to school in this age of helicopter parenting (loaded words I know) is not easy for anyone. I’m not claiming to have a corner on the market for stress here. 🙂

My own personal stress involves single parenting two (used to be three) kids out of bed.

My third and oldest leaves for college next week. I am excited for him and in some ways it simplifies the back to school routine. In others, we are all going to miss him and all the help he provided while he was here.

I woke early around 4am with anxiety dreams about back to school themes. It was my second night in a row.

Instead of waking to the anxiety of the present back to school scenario, I was time warped back or maybe to a different universe where I was a teenager and going back to high school for my senior year. I was playing on the tennis team and trying to help a new student find his way around a bit. I had all the confidence and experience as I do now. But I also had a past problem from high school coming back to haunt me.

This is something I feel like I let go a long time ago, but maybe not as it was in my dreams…

In high school, I played on the tennis team from my freshman year through my junior year. I was not very good, but at the end of my Junior year, I grew about 6-9 inches and suddenly I had reach.

My practice and endurance and my new reach gave me something I hadn’t had before. When I tried out for the team my senior year, I was a lot better.

The team had a rule, that anyone on the team could challenge any other player for their position. I challenged the guy who was third on the team. The twins, Randy and Robby Harper that were number 1 and 2 were in an entirely different level than the rest of us.

I challenged Kevin Carraway (sp?). He was good. I won that day. Per the rules, I was supposed to now be in the 3rd position.

The tennis coach, Mr Bortolotti (sp?) been a lot of years, was a fun guy and also an English teacher. He self admittedly had a lot of demons. We all knew this because he read us his own example essay discussing his challenges with alcoholism in college as part of his English course. This along with having us study Pink Floyd’s The Wall movie and then writing about it, coupled with his own endless dark sarcastic humor filled several semesters of high school.

He was funny, but it was dark sarcasm. In his own unintentional way, he had us analyze the very mechanism that he would slowly tease us (torture some) with.

It was around the time when Dead Poet’s society with Robin Williams came out. I’m not saying Mr. Bortolotti was our Captain O’ Captain or anything, but he and one of the other English teacher’s do share some credit in shaping my writing and my enjoyment of it.
So I went from being about 7th or 8th on the team to being third on the team according to the rules.

Until Coach Bortolotti changed the rules. He decided that I would not be 3rd, but I would instead play my good friend Hank for the 6th position on the team.

I felt betrayed. I was also pissed. For many years, I felt like I should have quit on the spot when he told me that. I should have walked off and never looked back.

Instead, I played my friend Hank and intentionally threw the game. I knew it. Hank knew it. I quit in a petulant sort of way.

I was creating a poor barrier against this guy, who set rules for his team and then unilaterally changed them after years of using them.

He had always been sarcastic, unceasingly sarcastic. As a teenage boy, I thought this was model behavior for ‘funny’. I grew up watching comics like Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Chevy Chase, Dan Akroyd and more. Making sarcastic, biting, even mean jokes at the expense of others was the way funny was done in the 80’s.

I’m not saying it was right or wrong. Bortolotti did it well.

I no longer trusted the asshole.

I was out of there, and I didn’t even have to sign any moral clause contract like the character in Dazed and Confused, which would not film for a few more years.

It’s not like I was the star quarter back. I was number three for an hour on the tennis team.

For whatever reason, some of the anxiety of that stupid event back in the spring of 1990 woke me up last night.

I let that shit go a long time ago. Or so I thought.

Yes, I did. But the pattern of being lied to and then having nothing to do with people that would lie to me, that was something I continued for many years.

On many levels, it is probably a decent approach.

On this too early dark morning, as I attempted to meditate myself back to sleep, I started to think this old method was not serving me well any longer.

I had developed the expectation that if I followed the proscribed rule, I would get the proscribed result. The expectation of something from a known liar was my real mistake.

I should have just played to play and enjoy it. I was playing to achieve something.
I expected more of this authority figure, my coach and teacher and in some ways sarcastic, comedic idle or something. He let me down and I took it very personally.

I have played tennis sparingly over the years since. I still enjoy it a lot, but I also let the incident rob me of doing something I loved quite a bit.

In my corporate experience, I ran into a similar situation ten years ago when the company I worked for ended up being corrupt eight ways to Sunday. They were breaking all sorts of laws and indirectly (maybe directly) leading to the deaths of troops in Iraq.

I was betrayed and lied to again. I took it personally and turned them into the Feds.

In 2005, the US Federal government cared very little about corporations breaking the laws, even if those corporations were helping terrorists. It was another betrayal in my eyes as I was a veteran and feel a bit of a patriot as well.

The government did nothing.

I left that career and did not look back.

This morning I saw a pattern in my reactions. I forgave Mr. Bortolotti in my mind many many years ago. I forgave my old bosses and employers that dropped the ball at so many levels when I worked at Motorola and the spin off they licensed that was breaking the laws.

My reactions were not necessarily bad reactions in the time and place. But I am a different person today. I need to find a new way to handle this scenario.

Back to School on Time

So we almost made it out the door on time. Except at 7:20 when it was time to go, my youngest announced, “I need to pack my lunch now!”

Mad scramble followed. 🙂

Packing lunches are the kids responsibilities. Out of practice, I had forgotten to check to insure that she had done this the night before.

Today, my oldest daughter went to high school for the first time. I took pictures, but not including them here. Her school is just a mile down the road from my place. Her previous school was a mile up the road from my place in the opposite direction. She is the easy one.

She could walk but refuses. I find this ironic because even as a freshman she is on the varsity cross country team and is a great distance runner.

So we took her to school and wound our way through the line of cars, not too bad, but it was still most definitely a line, and saw her off. We could have dropped her off in a different direction, but she was feeling very self conscious about stepping out of the car anywhere beyond the prescribed location.

Next, I proceeded to drive across town to the new elementary school that my youngest daughter will go to this year. This is the source of my current anxiety.

The driving away from a closer school to a more distant school located in the middle of a heavy traffic pattern on one side and an endless series of short city streets with four way stops on the other… It was not a fun drive.

Abba was playing per the requirement of my daughter. Driving to school with Abba playing gives me a distinct Ground Hog’s Day feeling.

It was a little easier driving in a new car today. Not quite the same version of Ground Hog’s Day as last year.

Bonus, in that I did not see my ex-wife. She teaches at the school. This is the reason why my youngest goes to the school. Sending her there is a compromise between several bad options. I’m doing my best to run with this option and let the ‘bad’ feeling it brings up go.
Unlike last year, I do think I will be less likely to see my ex driving to this school. Last year, on those days when I would end up following her or vice versa, it was never a good feeling. It was a reminder that I just did not need.

My girlfriend Sharon recommended that I should go hiking after dropping the kids off. She mentioned it last night. I was reluctant and thinking I would not need the stress relief of a hike last night.

This morning, I was super grateful that she had germinated that idea in my head.

It was just what I needed. 

I’m typing this now from the top of Crowder’s Mountain on a rocky ledge overlooking Gastonia and Charlotte just on the edge of the horizon.

I sweated up the steps to the top. I practiced yoga on a rock at the summit. I stepped down a few levels to write a bit, and let all this shit go. 🙂

I burned off the grumpy feeling halfway up the mountain. I’m writing this to help the lesson sink in and reprogram my brain and thought patterns. I want these lessons to sink in and allow me to apply them better in this new school year.

I can let go of the things that worked for me in the past, but could be worked better in the future.

I survived the past. I did some great things with it. I am not knocking my past accomplishments.

I am looking to do better.

I always loved the concept of the After Action Review in the military. After any event, training exercise or mission, our group would get together and regardless of the rank or level, everyone would volunteer up 3 things that they thought went well, and 3 that needed improvement. It was ok to repeat or agree with other ideas that had come up earlier.

It was a good way to recognize the positives and congratulate ourselves and dig in and find ways to improve the things that could be done better.

We put a lot of brain power into this and found ways to do things smarter and not harder…

Easier more successfully might be words I would use today.

I write this to find a easier and more successful way forward.

I’m working to let my expectations of others go.

This reduces the likelihood of someone lying to me and even if they do, it reduces the likelihood of that having a negative impact on me.

I am not living without connections with people. This is not a lone wolf type of thing.

I am simply removing the expectations, while simultaneously doing what I can to show love to those around me.

A bunch of years back, maybe about a decade, I heard through the grapevine that Mr. Bortolloti had been fired from my high school. He had been accused of providing an answer to his class for some type of official exam.

In this age of zero tolerance for teachers, such a thing seems like an obvious firing offense.

I can almost hear him saying something witty and sarcastic as he shares an answer, probably an answer to the easiest most obvious question on the test as a joke. Everyone in the class probably groans because they already knew the answer. Some may even see it as his attempt to just give the class a little more confidence before taking the test.

But that one kid, the kid that was the butt of one too many jokes, that kid tells his parents.

Maybe they have heard of some of the sarcastic humor directed at their child. They are ready.

They seize their opportunity and provide the evidence that is required for the administration to do the only thing they can do, fire this teacher or force a resignation or something.

I can imagine the scenario playing out. Maybe his fellow teacher’s commiserate with him.

I can hear a donkey braying somewhere off in the distance. It is an odd sound mixed with the traffic noises backed up on I-85.

Maybe his fellow teacher’s saw this day coming a mile off. The sarcasm has run its course. He has not changed his ways to fit in with the times and maybe on purpose.

When I heard about this, I was not surprised.

Today, when I think about this, I am hopeful that he eventually found something useful in this life event. He eventually sobered up in college and found inspiration in that and a teaching moment to use with high school kids, many of whom drank a whole lot.

(Understatement)

Maybe he was able to apply his own teaching and lessons in a way to help himself put down some of his own demons on paper and get them out of his head.

I have no ill feelings to the Mr. Bortolotti of today. Even the one of too many years ago, helped me in many ways. They were not ideal lessons, but they did help a bit.

I am grateful for the memories and grateful for the lessons and grateful for the perspective it has given me.

Now it is time to dance down this mountain to Jamiroquai and make this Monday amazing!

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