Joy and the PTA

I wrote my “why” post about the PTA, in response to the comment that it seemed like a really joyless venture. Then I realized that in almost 2,000 words I hadn’t actually said anything about whether or not being on the PTA was totally void of joy.

So here goes.

Is the PTA a joyless venture?

My knee-jerk reaction is no, it’s not joyless. But I tried to press pause on the insistence of that thought and to probe deeper. The answer is more complicated, because anytime you do hard work that promises no, or uncertain rewards, it’s hard to determine the pleasure that work will give. And also because joy can manifest in so many distinct ways.

So what feels good about working on the PTA? It feels good to be such a big part of the school community, to know so many people on campus and to feel comfortable in a variety of settings there. It feels good to be recognized and respected for what I contribute, even if I sometimes wish there were more validation and appreciation shown for what we do.

It feels REALLY good to be an integral part of a group that is made of mostly of good friends. And I will admit, I am proud to be its leader. I think I’m doing a pretty decent job, and sometimes I’m even impressed with what I manage to accomplish. Having said that, I’m acutely aware of the many ways I can improve, and mostly I find the opportunity to hone my leaderships skills to be gratifying and even exciting. Sure I’ve led over 85 classes of students through 14 years worth of Spanish curriculum, but I’ve never led a group of adults before, at least not in any substantial or sustained way. It’s definitely a distinct and uniquely gratifying experience that I do, at many times, enjoy.

I am reading more and more about how parent leadership groups can affect real and lasting change on academic outcomes, especially in low socio-economic student populations, and I relish the chance to be on the ground floor of those efforts at my daughter’s school. I think I could be uniquely qualified, as a parent, to navigate the labyrinth that is the California public education system, since I come with so many years of experience teaching at a public school. I also know I could learn a lot and gain valuable skills, which I always appreciate.

Mostly, I’m excited for the opportunity to give back in a substantial way. I’ve lived such a privileged life, and the idea of working to help others who are less privileged, brings me immense joy.

So I guess where I’m at right now is, what I’m currently doing through the PTA is not terribly joyful. There are truly gratifying moments–and I really love seeing so much of my friends, and having reasons to communicate with them frequently–but it can also be very stressful. I think if we start working on some bigger, academically focused goals, I will find the work much more gratifying. There is also money being spent to bring more community resources into the school, and I hope we can help guide the direction those efforts take. If the school changed in positive ways over the next few years, I would feel incredible, immense joy.

So I still have to say no, the PTA is not a joyless venture. I will endeavor to make that more apparent in my writing.

 

Quality time with my best girl

Today my in-laws picked up my son from school today (for the last time in three weeks; they leave for Texas again tomorrow) and my daughter and I got to spend the afternoon alone together. It’s been a LONG time since we’ve had the chance to hang out by ourselves, without the impossible ever-tantruming 4-year-old around. He really does steal all the oxygen from the room these days; when he’s around, he is the center of every interaction.

So it was nice to focus on my daughter today. We went to the library, which had gotten a bunch of fun new books: the sequel to a graphic novel she has been reading over and over again, the second installment of a silly book series she loves, two of her favorites-recently released in Spanish, a Pokemon User’s Guide in SPANISH and some other gems. We both felt like Christmas had come early.

We came home and read quietly for 30 minutes while dinner cooked. She asked me what a couple words mean. We talked about some interesting stuff.

Then she watched TV (and ate dinner–yes, I know, I’m the worst mom EVER) while I worked out (I really needed it after a super shitty day), and when her brother came home we put ornaments on the tree (which looks amazing). Then she took a bath while I did my stretches, and finally we had some quality time doing things she wanted in her room (mostly coloring in her new alebrijes coloring book) and went to bed. It was a really nice night and I was really thankful we got to spend it together.

9:49am

9:49am. That’s when I woke up this morning. It was glorious.

Each set of grandparents had a kid and we got an impromptu date night last night. I ran some errands on my way home from dropping off our son at my parents, we ate dinner at one of our favorite spots, and then we watched The Big Sick.

It was so, so nice to sleep in this morning. I haven’t been able to sleep past 8am in ages, so almost 10am felt AMAZING.

The only thing I really wanted to do today was get the Christmas tree. I’ve actually been really excited that Thanksgiving is early this year so we have more time with our Christmas decorations, but it’s pouring so I guess no tree today. Boo. Maybe I’ll get one, destroy the backseat of the car bringing it home, and let it dry out in the garage, because if I don’t get it today, I probably won’t be able to until next weekend.

I can’t believe our week off is over. On the one hand, it feels like I haven’t been at work in AGES (which feels nice), on the other hand, I’m really not ready to go back. I still have some work to do before my grades are ready for the Wednesday deadline, and I didn’t do anything to plan for the next four weeks. I wanted to have a rough plan for all my classes and instead I’m barely ready for tomorrow. Blerg.

At least there are only four weeks until our next break!

Okay, let’s do this thing.

Go see Coco

We saw Coco on Wednesday. It was f*cking fantastic.

I can’t tell you how excited I am that a huge studio like Disney/Pixar spent years, and hundreds of millions of dollars making a movie that celebrates another culture so respectfully and thoughtfully. I’m even more excited that they made a movie about a culture and holiday that I teach. Coco will definitely be a part of my curriculum every year.

If you see one kids’ movie during the holidays, let it be Coco. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Here are some awesome reviews by Mexican-American and Latino critics. If these don’t convince you to see Coco, I’m not sure what will.

Uninspired

I’m feeling uninspired. To write here. To make the calendars. To design the ornament. But all these things have to get done.

Sometimes when you push through the periods that lack inspiration, you create something incredible. Many times what you produce is pretty blah. I guess either way it’s all about getting it done.

That’s what I’m trying to do right now, just get it done. I had a lot to accomplish during this break, and the three days of childcare were WAY more intense than I expected, and took way more out of me, so I got a lot less done those evenings than I planned to do. Now I need to make up for it, whether I’m inspired or not.

Calendar Time

It’s that time of year again, when I go through all the pictures from the last 12 months and make a new calendar.

It’s actually kind of perfect that I always end up doing it Thanksgiving weekend, because it’s a great reminder of what I’m most thankful for…

I’ll be lost in my photo archives for the next few days.

More thoughts on the follow up

{So… this ended up being a doozy…in both length and content. Before I start, I want to clarify a couple things about the situation referenced in the follow up post (which is discussed again in this post: 1) My friend was not mad at me for writing that post. Well, I don’t actually know how she felt about it beyond our mutual friend telling me she was sad and hurt, but I believe that was more about my committing to disengaging from the friendship than for writing about her/our friendship. I think I might have been more hurt to learn she read that post than she was to read it, but as I said, she never mentioned my blog or her thoughts on the post, so I have no real idea. 2) The reason I asked my friends to stop reading my blog was because it was actually having the opposite of the intended affect. Instead of helping them understand me better, it seemed to make them more confused. They thought I was too negative and didn’t understand why I was putting so much of myself out into the world in that way. Instead of bring us closer, it drove us apart. That is why I asked them to stop reading it. It’s not like I was writing things I specifically didn’t want them to read, or that I was writing about them. I just felt that their reading my blog was hurting our friendship instead of helping it, and asked them not to read because of that. 3) If our relationship had not disintegrated, and my friend mentioned she still read my blog sometimes, I would be surprised but not incredibly upset. It would seem weird to me, but if she brought it up casually, and mentioned she read it now and again, I wouldn’t be incensed.}

So, without further ado, let’s officially begin this 2000 word bad boy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about anon’s comment on my follow up post. It definitely got me thinking. I’m still thinking, in fact. And as I tend to do, I’m going to write as I think. First there is this:

However, a couple things to consider, as you reflect on all of this, I don’t agree with your rules regarding friendship and reading your blog. Your language suggests a deep violation of intimacy, as though she entered your home and read your diary when your back was turned. She did not do this; you posted something about your friendship with her publicly. You put your thoughts and feelings into the world. These words are no longer just yours, and you cannot control their dissemination (or rather, you chose not control its dissemination) or anyone’s reaction to it. Your posts are usually much more self reflective than this, so I am surprised. You publicly wrote about your friendship with her, presumably without her knowledge or permission. It’s difficult for me to see her reading your blog in the light you are painting it.

It’s absolutely true that once I publish something on my blog, I choose not to control its dissemination. I agree with that 100%. And by sharing my blog with my friends at one point, I relinquished an expectation that it would ever really be private from them. If its purpose was to express myself outside of that friendship, they would never have known about it in the first place. And it’s not like my friend went out looking for it without my knowledge, which would be a very different thing indeed. (See #3 above.)

So why did I feel so betrayed that my friend was reading my blog? I guess because she didn’t tell me. That seems like a betrayal to me. I suppose it could be argued that once words are published publicly, one cannot expect to control who reads them and to what end. At the same time, it feels disingenuous, if you are truly friends with someone, to read their words, especially when you know that they expect you to not read their words (because in the past the reading of those words caused misunderstanding and hurt in the friendship), and never mention it. That does feel like a betrayal to me.

I’m trying hard to figure out exactly why though. I guess it’s the secrecy. And the intention. It seems that if you are unwilling to share that you are reading the blog, you aren’t reading it in the service of that friendship. If you are reading your friend’s blog, but not telling him or her, your motives cannot be to help. Actually, that’s not true. I can see a friend reading another friend’s blog without telling him or her, to better understand and support that friend. But if reading the blog DOES NOT lead to an enhanced ability to support, but instead coincides with a distancing of that friendship, then I don’t think that secretly reading a friend’s blog aligns with the actions of true friend. In that case if feels like a betrayal of trust. Especially if that friend was once very close, and that friendship involved a high level of trust (the case in this situation).

Perhaps that is my hurt twisting my perception of the situation. I don’t know. I’m trying to imagine a similar scenario in which I am not involved, to see how I would judge the actions of both people, and it still feels like a betrayal to me for one friend to read another’s blog and not mention it. But maybe I can’t properly distance myself from the situation to look at a parallel scenario impartially.

I’m curious what other people think.

I do know that PART of why I was so hurt by my friend reading my blog without telling me is knowing she was doing that, while also not sharing things with me that she shared with our mutual friends, that she was privy to my life without sharing anything about her own. Anon has some interesting thoughts on that as well.

Maybe your definition and understanding of friendship and group situations is different than hers. Friendships are also fluid and sometimes I feel more comfortable talking to one person about a topic than another. I don’t think I owe telling anyone a confidence because I have shared it with a mutual friend. It’s not something I would apologize for. In fact, I’d be ticked off if someone expected me to actually say sorry about that (“A classic sorry, not sorry about the whole not telling me things that she told our friends.”).

This definitely got me thinking.

The truth is, I did come to some form of acceptance about my friend not sharing with me what she shared with our mutual friends. I worked really, really hard to get there. I had to work really hard because the truth is it hurt to see that my friendship with this woman had changed in a way that it hadn’t with our mutual friends. But I could, in my hurt, upset way, accept it. I recognized that she was creating the boundaries she needed, even if I couldn’t understand why she needed to set them. I tried hard to set my own boundaries, and I will admit that involved distancing my friend, as a form of self-protection.

And we remained friends for another couple of years. But when it happened again, and as I realized there was more and more that hadn’t been shared with me, I realized that the whole situation made me feel like shit. As I stated in my original post, I resorted to dredging up old hurts between us to explain why I was no longer a person of confidence for her, and reliving those past mistakes made me feel bad about myself. Also, knowing that I was the only one of the three of us who wasn’t being told things made it hard for me to interact with the group as a whole, and eventually I just couldn’t stomach the constant reminders that I was now different.

As anon, asked, can’t it be that you grew too far apart, but neither of you grew apart from the mutual friends? Yes. I suppose, if someone asked me that without context I would say yes, that is okay. But I guess in this specific scenario, it didn’t feel okay. And I suppose some women would be okay participating in a group friendship knowing the other women had a closer, more intimate bond. To be fair, I think I’d be okay joining a group and being the more distant member. I guess what I couldn’t handle was knowing that we had all once been equally close, and now I was the only one who was not.

I first wrote that sentence with, I was the only one who had been deemed unworthy, which shows that I’m not yet far enough away from the hurt of this situation to really see it as just, “we grew apart.” I clearly believe that my friend’s refusal to share with me is a rejection. I obviously believe that she chose not to share things with me because of WHO I AM and WHAT I’VE DONE.

Is there any rejection that hurts so much, as the rejection by a person who once cared for you? A person who truly knows you, and still pushes you away? That is a really, really hard thing.

And I think THAT is why the blog reading feels like a betrayal, because what if she stopped confiding in me BECAUSE of what I wrote on my blog? What if she judged me for my inner-most thoughts and feelings, which were shared here in an uncensored way (or at least a way I would not have shared with her), and found me lacking?

It’s not the first time people have pushed me away because of what I’ve written on this blog. Once it even happened with a friend I had MET through blogging. The thing that had originally brought us together — my writing — ultimately ended up pushing us apart. And it wasn’t that my thoughts, and therefore my writing, took some dark turn. It just that eventually I became too much for her.

And I guess that is ultimately what hurts so much about this situation. It feels like yet another piece of irrefutable evidence that I am TOO MUCH. That I feel too much, and express too much, that I am simply too much, and eventually everyone has to leave me, because they all determine one day, that they just can’t anymore.

Well, I guess I ended up where I needed to go with this. I guess I got my revelation.

This hurts so much because it is yet another situation in which people who know me in real life, and read my blog, push me away. Another example of people who know me, and read my words, and decide, based on my writing, that they can’t be close to me.

I suppose if that is what’s at the bottom of all this, I can’t possibly see the situation for what it really is. Unfortunately my friend is not the type who will be able to give me a clear, honest explanation for her own actions, so I guess I’ll end up never knowing what really drove her away. This will be yet another friendship that ended for reasons I can only invent for myself. And those inventions will almost certainly support what I already believe about myself, which will in turn shape my understanding of all future friendships.

In which I will always, and forever be found lacking. Lacking, and yet too much.

A follow up

I never followed up on it, because it seemed like I should wait a while to put it out there, but I ended up distancing myself from that friendship I wrote about not long ago. Actually, my blog ended up doing the hard work for me.

Oh yeah, this is one of those posts.

One of those posts where I write about how my blog imploded a small part of my life, and I wondered yet again why I keep writing.

It turns out my friend, the one from the post, had been reading my blog. So she read that whole post about how our friendship was making me feel. You can guess how that went down.

But you’re probably asking yourself, Why did she know about your blog in the first place!? That’s a good question.

I actually told my friends about my blog. The first one, the one I started a long time ago, when I was really struggling with my failures to get pregnant, and then my ectopic pregnancy. I was desperate for those close to me to understand what I was going through, and to offer support. I was naive enough then to think if my friends read my blog they would get what I was going through and know how to help me.

That wasn’t exactly what happened. (Looking back on it, I can’t believe I hoped it would happen that way. What a fool I was. I have a lot of regret about sharing my blog with them.)

I won’t write out what actually happened because the truth is, I can’t really remember anymore, at least not accurately. I only remember flashes, small bright points of pain that I incorporated into my understanding of myself and other people. A constellation of hurt that shaped the way I have walked through the world for the rest of my life.

In the end I asked my friends to not read my blog anymore. One friend had already stopped, because she recognized that it was affecting our relationship negatively and she wanted to salvage what was left. I am forever grateful to that friend for honestly sharing her concerns, and then distancing herself from a part of me she didn’t have to engage with.

{I was able, after the hurt had faded, to take my friend’s concerns to heart, and her advice has actually shaped how I present myself here to this day. I ended up telling her that after this recent blog drama. I hope she appreciates that sometimes words reach a person, it just takes a while. I know I learned that myself at that time.}

My other friend hadn’t actually been reading my blog much, so I didn’t really worry that she would keep doing it. (Ha! Was I wrong!) And I was pretty sure my third friend never read it, and never has since then – the last thing she wants to be a part of is someone else’s drama. I didn’t really think about them reading it much after that.

Eventually I kind of forgot they had ever read it at all.

{But when I changed spaces and moved here, I did take down the forwarding address rather quickly, partly because I didn’t want any occasional visitors clicking here after a lengthy stay away. Was that because of them? At the time I didn’t think so, but now I wonder.}

Anyway, my friend must have been a frequent visitor, or she just happened to be at my old blog at the right time, because she made her way to this one. And I guess she kept reading. And I guess she didn’t stop.

{This is actually the thing I most want to ask her, if she was reading my blog all these years. I just can’t fathom her doing that and never telling me. And when our mutual friend tried to tell me that it was only her I’d asked to stop reading my blog, and wouldn’t believe me when I assured her I had asked them ALL not to read it, that was my defense: would a real friend who felt it was okay to read my blog NEVER mention it, or one thing I had written on it, for YEARS?! I don’t believe she would. I am certain she knew she wasn’t supposed to read it, and kept doing so anyway.}

And all that time, while she was reading my blog, and privy to my inner-most thoughts and feelings, she distanced herself from me, sharing less and less, and eventually not sharing anything at all.

The level of betrayal is staggering.

When I found out (through our mutual friend of course – she briefly got caught in the middle), I was furious. And hurt. So, so deeply hurt. Knowing she had been reading my blog, that she had been granting herself access to my life while denying me access to her own, while specifically withholding important information from me, but sharing it with our two mutual friends, hurt me in ways few things have hurt me. I was gutted.

It took me days to sit down and write her an email about it.

Her response was short and to the point. A classic sorry, not sorry about the whole not telling me things that she told our friends. She regretted that I no longer felt comfortable in the group, knowing I was not welcome in the closer, more intimate subgroup, but she said she understood. She also said that she hoped we could salvage something of our friendship in the future.

She never once mentioned reading my blog. She refused to even acknowledge to me that she’d done it.

I agonized over my response for days. In the end I went with the most non-committal reply: sure, maybe some day we can salvage something. I guess it was my feeble attempt to not burn bridges, except it felt like someone else had already taken a torch to any bridge that might have still existed between us.

And then it was over. My friends still have each other, and probably rarely realize that I’m no longer there. They already had their own thing without me, so I imagine it’s not that hard to keep having it.

I, on the other hand, lost that group. I still talk with my other friends–I try much harder now to stay in contact, mostly to make sure they realize how much I appreciate that they haven’t deserted me–and I’m super careful to NEVER bring up the woman I’m no longer speaking too, but it’s hard. We were a group, the four of us together. Always. It’s awkward pretending she never existed, that her absence isn’t a gaping hole in what’s left of my relationships with my other friends.

So yeah, that happened. And it’s made me re-examine a lot about my life, especially why I write here. My friend, the one who stopped reading my blog of her own accord, mentioned again that she doesn’t understand why people (specifically I) blog. And I recognize her confusion. Why put myself out there in ways that can come back and bite me in the ass? It’s a fair question, one I’ve been asking myself more since all this happened.

I’m still not really sure how I feel about the whole thing. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I’ve gleaned the moral of the story. Perhaps there is no moral. Perhaps the whole thing is just a bump on the road of my life and my writing. Just another thing that happened to me, in conjunction with this space.

One good thing did come out of the whole ordeal: When I started this space I made the promise to myself that I would never write a post that I didn’t want someone in my real life to read. Or rather, I would never write a post that I would regret having written if someone I didn’t expect to read it laid eyes on it one day. When I do write about topics that involve other people, I try hard to make it about myself and not about them. I still stand by that post, and I don’t regret putting those thoughts and feelings out there. Writing that helped me understand how the situation made me feel, and the comments you all left clarified the direction I intended to take (and I would have, if my friend hadn’t read the post and veered my path sharply). In the end I don’t regret anything I wrote here, or how I present myself in this space, despite the consequences. And that is a significant thing. At least I have that.