Tag Archives: excuses

Should vs. Is

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How something “should” be contrasts wildly with how it “is.”

This is a central struggle in terms of acceptance and also action. I have to accept how things are, which means I must let go of how I think they should be. Also, though–until I accept how things are, I can’t take action to potentially make things more the way I would like for them to be. My path right now is to seek the middle; the narrow tight rope where I can balance between the extremes; in this case, the extremes of Should and Is/Are.

The Should:

should be able to come home from work, change into comfortable clothes, and then work in my studio for a few hours. I should be able to make at least a little bit of progress on my own work each day, even if I went to my day job that day. The reality, the is/are is that I come home from work, sit exhausted at my computer for up to an hour, then make dinner, start drinking wine, and go to bed in pain and worn out.

I really want the Should. That is what I feel I deserve and what I feel I want and what I feel I must have. I. Must. Have. As long as I cling to that, as long as I draw a line in the sand and tearfully, furiously demand it, the current Is/Are is where I will remain trapped. As long as I am trapped in the Is/Are, the angrier I will be that I can’t have the Should. 

It seems so easy, right? Ease up on the Should. Don’t let it go and free fall into the current Is/Are, but stop being so rigid about it. Explore the myriad of (stupid, not what I want, irritating, lesser) options that exist given the facts.

Fact: I get home from work progressively more exhausted as the week wears on. So, if the rest of the weekdays were playing cards, I can turn the Thursday card face down right now–there is no way I will have the energy to work creatively on Thursday. Often, I don’t have the energy to so much as fix more of a dinner than something frozen I can put in the oven and collect when the timer instructs me to do so. Thursday’s child with EDS, then, is not going to sew or draw.

Looking at Monday, though, there is a chance that most or much or often I *will* have the energy to spend a little time on my own projects. Monday, then, needs to be protected. I don’t have to leave as early for work because I see the Shrink at 9:00 am, and my last class is done at 3:20. If there’s going to be a chance for me to have some creative me-time, then on Sunday I should be making a dinner (or prepping food for the crock pot, or enlisting another household member’s help to prep) that will become leftovers for Monday  so that my shot at that time isn’t eaten up by the task of meal preparation.

See? That edges me back onto the tightrope again, balancing a little less precariously.

There will be Mondays when I had to work late and I can’t come home to create. There will be Mondays when I don’t feel good even though I had a shorter day and fixed dinner ahead of time. But at least SOME Mondays will be days where I can find the time to take care of my creative needs.

Tuesday shows that potential by maybe 20% less than Monday–but there is still a sliver of hope. That means that instead of dinner Monday being leftovers from Sunday, it should be a crock pot recipe that also covers Tuesday. IF I get an hour of time in my studio on Monday, that means Tuesday may only find a half hour; but the possibility is still there.

Wednesday I teach until nearly 5:00. There definitely won’t be any leftovers. Ideally, then, I would fix a dinner on Wednesday that is both easy and plentiful, to last into Thursday when I am completely fried.

Things I will have to limit:

On Monday, no booze until bedtime. Limited computer

Tuesday, the same, but maybe a bit more computer.

Wednesday–some computer, hot bath, booze.

Thursday: Whatever it takes to get through. Bath, booze, early bedtime, minimal dinner.

Even knowing that accepting certain realities will allow me to get closer to including things I want in my life, I feel resistant, which is the pull of the Should. I resent having to plan my life like this, losing some spontaneity in terms of when I will choose to work creatively, having to plan around pain and exhaustion. Yet, I can resent, dislike, rail against, resist what Is/Are all I want and I will change nothing and lose precious energy doing so. In writing, it seems a very small step to do what I have listed above, but emotionally it feels more like leaping a canyon. Except, if I look hard enough, there is probably a bridge that will allow me to cross the canyon one step at a time. That’s going to be the only way to the other side.

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Some Rules

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As my semester ends, I find myself feeling wise and generous and a tad smarmy. That and a hard cider in my hand mean that I’m feeling like offering you some advice, should you find yourself a college student.

1. No, I did not flunk you. You, actually, had all the control over whether or not that happened to you, and if you did, after much effort on my part to intervene,  manage to fail my class it is a self-inflicted wound. I do not possess the power to “flunk” you out of hand–you actually have ALL the power over that event.

2. “Not flunking” does not equal “Getting an A.” Grades of “A” are earned in my class. A “C” or better is passing. It is my goal for you to pass my class. That “excellence” has been downgraded to “okay” is a regrettable state of affairs, and I stand fully armored and prepared to take excellence back and return it to at least the status of “pretty good.”

3. If it pleases you to snap at me in class or to behave defiantly or argumentatively  in front of an audience, don’t let me interfere with your pathology. Understand though–while it will not affect the fair-mindedness with which I interact with or grade you,  it *will* affect two very important things: Your standing among your fellow students, and The amount of my vast reservoir of “Instructor Discretion” that will be made available to you.

4. What is this “Discretion” business? An instructor has a certain amount of discretion in decision-making. This occurs in the realm of whether or not to make exceptions to stated policies and rules (as laid out in my exhaustive, tested-by-many-before-you, syllabus) based on extenuating circumstances. No exceptions are made for students who are rude, defiant, aggressive or disrespectful. Enjoy your sass, but if you do, accept your consequences.

5. You are not special.

6. No, really, you’re not. Neither am I. We are two players engaged in a dictated activity, and I am the one who makes the rules. Since I am a benevolent dictator, I have not only written the rules down in painstaking detail (your Syllabus), I have spent the first class period reading and discussing and illustrating said syllabus to you. I want you to know the rules so that you can win the game and pass my class.

7. This is special for the ladies. I am thoroughly unimpressed that you have reproduced. I, too, have reproduced. Three times! Having a child is not a handicap or a Free Pass. I don’t care that you had to pick the child up, stay home with the child, take the child to soccer and then to the pizza place and then frozen yogurt. This is a responsibility that you have CHOSEN. It has, actually, nothing to do with whether or not you turned your assignments in on time or came in late or Dog help us all, brought the child to class with you. There is no “reproduction exception” in my grading scale. Get your shit together and take responsibility for your choices, because I happen to be a strong advocate of choice, and you acting like you can’t do your homework due to your uterus is cramping my argument that you are actually a fully capable person and ovaries don’t make you a lesser person.

8. Timing is everything. An email a few days before class saying, “I am going to have to miss class this week because my child has step throat/a field trip/diarrhea, can I arrange to make up the lesson?”  or, “I am in the university band/Typing Club/Choir and we are performing on X date” goes a lot further than jumping into my personal space five minutes before class to shriek that you cannot do whatever I am asking because: Other Thing and then demanding I capitulate to you, or showing up the next week expecting that I will have carefully prepared a special packet of makeup work and notes for you because you are special. The answer to, “Did I miss anything?” is always yes, but I was only obligated to teach it once.

9. Please communicate. Students who communicate with their instructors and let them know if there are issues allow the instructor the opportunity to help them. I am not holding your success hostage, I want to participate in it, but once you’ve failed to turn in a pivotal assignment for which there are clear consequences, there’s nothing I can do to help you. If, at the beginning, you had let me know that you were “adjusting to college after life on the street” or “battling an eating disorder” or “unable to shake the flu for six weeks” then, because I am human and do this because I care, I will do what I can to help.

10. College is a baby model of reality. I would be doing you a grave disservice if I didn’t give you clear expectations and then enact the consequences previously detailed. I like you enough to be willing to tell you the truth and believe that you can succeed. It’s up to you if you hear it or not.