In memory of my grandfather, Robert “Bob” —-. I’m Danielle, his first grandchild out of six (almost seven). While he was obviously a great husband to my grandma Cathy, a great father to Steve, Pam and Andrew, a great brother to Ralph and Jack, and a great dog father to Gucci, I can say with all certainty that he was always destined to be called “Grandpa” to all of us grandkids, myself, Taylor, Kaitlyn, LeeAnn, Joseph, Jaxon, and Wyatt on the way.
In general, the one thing we will all remember my grandpa for was how he never ran out of words. That man could TALK. For how much he did talk, he clearly should have become a preacher. He would’ve made a darn good one, too. Talk about “love your job and never work a day in your life.” He loved church and he loved talking. No one was safe from a conversation with him if you were blessed to be in the vicinity. I was going to say ‘room’ but his gift of gab was not restricted to four walls. When Steve, Pam and Andrew were younger, Grandpa would take them fishing every year. He would fish some, and he’d also make new friends on the pier. But how could you not talk to him? So kind, so friendly, so positive. I remember any time we went out to eat he would talk the server’s ear off. Let’s also not forget the casino bus month after month – banished to the back of the bus so he could talk to everyone else and not distract the bus driver with his nonstop questions. Plus he’d almost always be one of the last ones on the bus at the quick stops because he’d be catching up with everyone in the store and wouldn’t get his snacks or food until most were already back on the bus. I can only imagine how many people there are in this world whose days he brightened when they needed it most with his genuine, kind conversations. How many people he met in all his years of truck driving for Albertsons and AAFES who were held hostage to his endless questions, but would almost always walk away feeling some kind of appreciation for being noticed. As much as sometimes his questioning felt like too much, I always remembered that he wouldn’t ask if he didn’t care, and immediately I just felt loved.
Well, here we are. I am officially done with every part of the 2020-2021 school year. At the end of last summer, I had every doubt that I could make it through this school year in general without a full on mental breakdown. Every day challenged me in a new way, and forced me to look at my own life, thoughts, behavior, personal expectations, self-doubt. I learned who’s really on my team, and who wears two faces better than I thought they did. Most importantly, I learned that I can make it through anything.
It’s crazy how your own mind can work against you, convincing you with every fiber of your being that you are not worth the love and appreciation other people have to give; that you are not great at what you do no matter how many people tell you otherwise; that everyone would be better off when you’re not around.
Being a teacher this year has been one of the hardest experiences I have ever had to push myself through. I have written a bit on here about my journey being a 7th grade English teacher this year, amidst virtual learning, then hybrid learning, and now still hybrid but really like 80% face-to-face and 20% virtual.
Every part of this year has been so difficult. Let’s break it down.
The worst thing about masks when you’re astute, aware, intuitive to emotions others are experiencing –
Eyes are a window to the soul, they say. You give yourself away when your Eyes don’t tell the same story as your words. Squint, wink, blink, raise eyebrows.
So when I tell you how I’ve been feeling lately, you hide your worry from your voice, under your mask, but I see it in your eyes. I know you want to ask, I know you want to cry, you care, you’re concerned – how could I ever think I wanted to die? You stay strong, but I feel your emotion inside all because of your soft, sad eyes.
The mask makes them pop, I can’t help but notice. I feel worse knowing you’re worried; you have enough on your plate and now – oh wait – here’s one more thing.
Your eyes gave away what you tried to hide. The worst thing about masks is your eyes are magnified. I can see right through them, you’re terrified – I’m sorry I’ve become a burden.
I have to repeat these words to myself on a daily basis recently.
I’ve been posting a lot of poems lately. Not every single one I’ve written, but a good chunk of them. It’s annoying because I want to save them and try and publish a poetry chapbook of my own, but I think there’s power in sharing an emotional struggle to ensure that no one ever truly feels alone in the battle with their own mental health. I feel that when we try harder to hide it from everyone, it’s when we feel the most alone and that we are a burden to those who love us.
I’ve uttered those words to my therapist a few times. “I feel like I’m becoming a burden.” It’s the anxiety/depression talking, I know. She’ll ask in response, “Who told you that you’ve become a burden?” and I have to admit that nobody has said it, that’s just how it feels. It’s crazy what a sick brain can convince you of.
On the outside she looks like she’s barely trying.
On the inside she feels like she’s slowly dying.
When would someone see the signs of a broken girl who’s running out of time?
Her mind – a hive of soul-killing ideas that she’s unworthy, unlovable, unwanted, undeniably unnecessary to anyone.
Check on your friends who smile through pain. Check on your friends who work hard to maintain some semblance that everything’s always okay come rain, come sun, come cloudy day –
for the face they wear is but a mask glue-filled cracks waiting for someone to finally ask “be honest, please, are you okay?” so they can admit “it’s all a display; i’m so damn tired of being awake, desperately looking to finally escape.”