Stripes

DP225316I finally went to physical therapy.  It didn’t seem it hurt enough, or it was important enough, to think about, but every time I reach for my laptop, grasp it, pull it up, it hurts.  Usually in the morning my forearms are stiff and sore.  My arms and elbows have hurt, on and off, for seven months.  I hoped they would get better on their own.  

The doctor puts gel on a metal pad and rubs it around on my elbow, around and around, putting sound waves through it to soften it.  She massages my arms and feels around, she tells me she can tell that it is hurt, that it hurts, this touches me.

I spent part of the Maundy Thursday service thinking about how this was all bullshit and I should start knocking things over and telling people that, you know, like Jesus in the temple, except not at all.  I had felt awful all week, sensitive to slights, and if there was a Jesus or Christ or goodness figure of some kind, why people were mean to me, why was I losing my job, a hard job I had worked hard to be good at, why did I not get into grad school, did I not get either of those residencies.

The priest asked me if I would carry the cross at the end of the service, and I said, sure, although I had immediately before this been told by my doctor not to carry things.

But it was a cross.  I had agreed to help.  I wanted to help.  I didn’t want to be hurt.  I didn’t want to cause a problem.  I don’t know.  I said sure, and when I was holding the cross, it was heavy, and I thought, I should not be doing this, but instead I held it in front of the side altar, led the procession out into the garden, and, carrying it back to its home, proceeded to knock it against the ceiling at least twice.

I sat through a meeting with union reps discussing how observations worked, teachers offering advice, and I knew it hadn’t mattered what I had done, how smart I had tried to be, I had lost that game, ineffective, ineffective, ineffective.  Either I am a failure, or the whole world was not under my control, and much of the time I’d rather believe the former than the latter.

I’d also like to continue to believe that being an inner city public school teacher makes me worthy of something, I’m not sure what.

One of the other acolytes at the Maundy Thursday service sneaked back and started turning lights on and off, I could only imagine the priest was silently infuriated.  She had carefully set the lighting.  It made me laugh, though, as did the insistent tapping during Good Friday, when someone must have been hammering across the street, but it made me think maybe Jesus was knocking on the side door because he didn’t know how to get in and we were all too busy being solemn to answer the door.

Kissing the cross always helps me, it is so awful, even children looking at our sculpture of a man being tortured to death and treating it reverently.  People hurt me, situations hurt me, I have been ignored and insulted, and my first impulse is to pretend it didn’t matter to me, but it did.  Suffering deserves reverence, not scorn.  Vulnerability deserves honor.  If we don’t respect our own suffering and honor it, it spreads and spreads.

The doctor put tape on my arms, to pull and hold the little muscle pieces so they would soften.  “I won’t put on too much,” she said, “since you’re going to a party this weekend.”  “Oh, it’s fine,” I said.  I think the stripes are cute, bionic woman, new accessories, also, it’s not really spring, they will be covered a while longer.

Image: Mummy bandage from Tutankhamen’s embalming cache, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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5 thoughts on “Stripes”

  1. Liz, I don’t know your school or situation or any of that, but I will say I have been “victim” of and cried over negative evaluations before and they are not at all what they pretend to be. For one thing, if you are an ambitious teacher–wanting the best and all wonderful things for your students, which are extremely difficult challenges some of us create for ourselves–you will not only fail daily in your attempts (as anyone trying to do truly great things does!) but others with simpler expectations will just not be able to understand what you are doing. In addition you can have observers who are biased in a million different ways, often not very thoughtful about their own philosophies or self-interest, who take cover via “objective” eval rubrics. You probably know all this on some level. It is hard to clear one’s head and heart from such assaults, but if you love teaching you will become better at it every year and be valued and appreciated in the right school, or if you decide a different path is better for you, you will find that, but either way you will look back at all this and know what’s true. Spring is coming.

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