DP810052My version of hell is God tells me He needs to talk to me in His office next week.

Maybe a month, but I think a week would be bad enough.

That day He calls me into His office and folds His hands.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi.”  He looks at me hard.  “What can I say?  I’m very disappointed.”

I think this is all God does, sit around and wait for me to fuck up.

To help me work this nonsense out, or perhaps just in the course of human events, I have heard, “I’m very disappointed,” from various people in positions of power, so I know it makes my heart beat out of my chest and my head explode with nonsense that won’t settle for days.

Years of having my family and friends and therapists be not disappointed in me, I don’t know if any of that has helped.

My students doing thing that I have no idea how to respond to.  I agonize about what to do, and am terrified that other people will show up in my classroom to say, “I’m very disappointed.”  All I could say is, “Me, too.”

Zero percent of my teacher education was about getting the attention of people who don’t want to pay attention to you, and another zero percent was about persuading people who don’t want to do what you want them to do to do it anyway.  Yet this has been (depending on the school and the class) from 10-100% of my job.

I had two encouraging conversations with colleagues.  Neither one of them said they were disappointed.  They let me talk, and they walked me back into the kids’ shoes, and said, “Could you do this?”  Yes, I could do that, I said, and I actually meant it.  Back up and do a bunch of community building.  Okay, I said, okay.  I know I’m frazzled, and much as I hate to ask for help, maybe this job is so hard it requires multiple minds.

I brought in wrapping paper and some gift bags to cut up, and one of my students applied herself diligently to decorating my classroom door with snowflakes and a snowman and a tree.

At the end of the day, I was going back over it with tape to protect it, and a kid I didn’t even know said, “Can I help you with that?” and I let him help and chatted with him about the football team.

I read some more Pema Chodron, and that reminded me I was not suffering because of external circumstances, I would be suffering wherever I was, I was just doing it more theatrically at this job.  Maybe that actually makes it clearer and easier to work with.  I don’t care, because it sucks anyway, it’s just a theory.

I went to the bathroom and texted my parents and waited for them to text something back that would make me feel okay again and luckily one of them was available to do so and did.

The stapler was jammed.  I gave it to a student and he happily dug the bad staples out and then properly stapled my copies.

I had the kids write about their frustrations and put their papers all on the wall, no matter what they had written.

On the way to school I get my coffee from the to-go window at this beautiful little corner restaurant, and people are always sitting there at tables eating breakfast and drinking coffee and pouring cream into it, like their lives are always civilized and they never get yelled at or ignored or crawl around on floors picking up other people’s trash, instead, other people make their food for them.


The last hour of Friday I did exactly what the colleagues suggested.

I was on the bus and this woman started muttering about how someone had almost knocked down her daughter, and kept looking at her but wouldn’t talk to her, and you should be glad her daughter was there to keep her calm, keep me calm, baby, keep me calm, this is how people get shot.  I can’t believe you won’t look at me.  Try to knock my baby down.  And don’t even say nothing.  I’m gonna stay calm cause I don’t want to go to jail today.  And she counted to ten.

She’s the second person on New York City public transit to actually scare me.  Happily she kept her temper and got off the bus peacefully.  I had no idea if I was the person she was talking about.  I realized I had been angry so much lately, her crazy dialogue sounded a lot like mine.  Don’t say anything.  Just don’t say anything.

I have forgotten every time I am supposed to serve at church this month.  i think everyone is secretly annoyed.  They must be secretive because there is no one else to help.  And it is church.  I have been shown how to set up all the church props for church, but I forget things, and when I am told how things should be lined up, I think I am not nearly OCD enough for this.

I am much better about just showing up, cold, and reading the lessons if there is no one to do it, and helping the priest blessing things and serving the wine and saying, “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,” even saying “salvation,” from whatever is in the way, the rock has water in it somehow.

Image: “Moses Striking the Rock,” detail, Luca Giordano, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

3 thoughts on “Rock

  1. Elizabeth, we are so much alike, and my heart goes out to you. Teaching is a teeter-totter of rewarding and unrewarding moments. I want you to know that Jesus loves you and God is not disappointed in you. I pray that the truth of these words will be meaningful to you. There is a song by Steven Curtis Chapman called “Be Still and Know.” The last stanza has helped me so much.

  2. It looks so easy on TV. Not just teaching, adulting.No one told me anything … and that osmosis thing never really worked for me. For whatever it’s worth, I have always deeply admired what you do.As well as your discipline to write, on top of it all.
    Pax Christi

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