This weeks story
I think it is ironic most days, that I actually own a website where I can write and post anything that I wish. It is ironic because It is a potentially very public platform for something I hold quite private. I mean, I love to write personal notes or even stories to people, but having it be public is a different beast than an individual note, card or text. I think that the reason that I can write something and allow it to be read by multiple people at all, stems from one moment in high school.
Some background first:
I was a bit of a mess as for that last year of high school. I’ll say it all started when my mother and father had gone to visit friends in Xenia Ohio for a weekend. It was memorable for several reasons. One, my parents rarely went anywhere – we were dairy farmers, so you don’t get to leave, as cows always need fed and milked. Two, Xenia was the location of one of the largest most powerful tornados ever to hit the state of Ohio just several years prior and we were curious to have eyes on the changes to the town.
Three, our world changed forever that weekend. While staying in their friends home, my Mom had what they thought was a stroke. After a night of fun, games and conversations, they went to the guest bedroom and she later awoke and could not speak or move properly. They called an ambulance and took her for medical attention. I don’t recall them being gone for any longer than they had scheduled to be away, so she must have recovered in the hospital fairly quickly to be sent home. The directive was that she was to see her local doctors as soon as possible once back at our house. It shook my Mom for that to have occurred. She had felt embarrassed to have had it happen in someone’s home when all was to have been a joyous time. It also scared her – that her always reliable body – had failed her without reason. The reason came not too long and several tests later when they diagnosed her with a mass in her brain. They then cut open her skull to look and see what type of mass it was. It was not a hard definable mass that they could cut out, it was a soft tumor that grew onto her brain and they could not really take more than a sample out as to do otherwise would have caused more brain damage than what the tumor was already doing.
So, all of this was going on, and I guess that I handled all of those emotions of what was happening better some days than others. I’m sure that I was way more sullen some days than I thought I was showing. It’s funny how when you shut down your emotions thinking that it will hide them from view, it instead acts more like a billboard stating there’s a problem.
Back to that one memorable day. I was in an advanced math class and instead of my normal rapt attention, was lost in the fearful thoughts of not knowing what was going to happen with Mom. Towards the end of the class, the teacher, irritated with my non-engagement in a problem, asked if I was ok and could I join the rest in paying attention. I honestly don’t exactly recall what my reply was, but I was feeling so fragile at that moment that having someone direct any attention at me was more than I could handle. I stood up and said no I wasn’t fine and asked if I could please be excused as I started to cry and headed for the door. Not a known cryer, she nodded approval and I left for the restroom. Problem was, I was in near full bawling mode and knew that I couldn’t regain composure by the start of next class as the bell was about to ring for change just a few minutes after I left. Never one to just ditch a class, I decided to reach my upcoming English class early and ask to be excused until I could get it together once again. She said sure, take what you need, she would be reading stories to the class that we had all been writing recently. We had been directed to write short stories. I think it was maybe a mythology unit that we were studying and we were all to create mythological creatures of our own.
So, I made my way back to the girls bathroom trying to make myself invisible to everyone now flooding the halls in the change of classes. I cried out of frustration, fear and now embarrassment that I had had a public breakdown. My face was red, my eyes puffy, my nose running and while the cold water I was using to try to calm these manifestations, felt good and calming, it did little to hide the obvious results of a really good cry.
When I could again breath in a normal rhythm and felt I wouldn’t relapse and loose composure if someone looked or spoke to me, I ploddingly made it to the English class. I had missed most of the class by then and was relieved that she just let me get to my desk without a word or reference to my sad state or length of delay in showing up. She merely continued reading the current story.
My relief was short lived as the very next story she began was mine. First of all, I had hoped my story wouldn’t have been read at all – even if she didn’t tell the class what stories were by whom, I still felt that my horror of having it read aloud would give me away. The thing of it was, it may have been the first real creative writing story that I ever did and I found that it was fun. For me, it was like making mud pies and structures as a kid, as long as no one was critiquing your creation, you could make anything and just enjoy the process.
So there I was, just fresh from crying my eyes out, feeling I had maybe dodged too much humiliation of self exposure and now all of a sudden, I was again feeling exposed as she was starting to read my story. If I could have made myself disappear, I absolutely would have. I’m sure I must have looked up and given her a “Please No, please don’t do it” look, but in her ever confident, melodic reading voice, she read.
I remember initially thinking that this was perhaps a betrayal or assault to purposefully now bring attention to me (even if it was only she and I who knew it was my story) when I was already beaten down for the day. But, beneath the panic of the moment, I felt her support, her purposeful act of holding onto my story until I was in the room to hear it read. Her allowing me to absorb bits of appreciation and plant that seed that stories can be shared and the world doesn’t stop when you do so even when you feel it might.
It was also a lesson on how hiding your fears gives them power, while shining a light on them gives you power.
So, if you like that I write a note, story or blog to share every now and then, you just might want to send a thank you to my English teacher turned advisor, friend and pal. She doesn’t grade my output any longer -although my sentence structures, punctuation and grammar probably make her wish she could – she does still fully support me in sharing some stories.
Acknowledgement: my memories of this time period may differ from others around for those same times. We all see the world from our own lens and this was mine alone.