Lesson Planning Became a Lesson Planned for Me

We live and we continue to learn moment by moment, day by day, and choice by choice. These lessons we learn are not lost, not futile, if we truly learn from them by gaining experience, recognizing who we are, who we are not, and who we can be and grow. At the end of the lesson, especially if it was difficult or unexpected, we must give pause to self-reflection, acceptance, and an understanding of the importance of keeping the lesson within us always as a reminder. It has been a while since I’ve made choices that put me in a situation to learn something about myself, who I thought I was, and where I thought I was going. It’s funny how it all works, how we ready ourselves for the path we knew lay before us only to discover we’d forced ourselves, and sometimes those we love, down a path never meant for us. How did we get there? For me, I was lost and failed to recognize it.

I spent nine weeks learning a valuable lesson about myself and what I thought was best for me and what I thought was my destination. My drive to give up a lucrative career with WSU and follow a long ago dream turned out to be just the latter: a long ago dream. The dream to teach was the dream of a different mermaid, a younger, less experienced, somewhat selfish and naïve mermaid. I am not the same woman who dreamed this dream while pursuing her degrees in English. I have changed in many ways, and yet I failed to adjust the dream to the woman I am at this moment in time. Pursuing the path of a classroom educator was in actuality dreaming the dream of someone else.

Sure, my circumstances were not ideal, from my choice of school to the lack of support and preparation, plus there were additional questions I should have asked and situations I should have better recognized. For seven weeks I continued to push forward, refusing to fail while stumbling on a path not mine, squinting through the glasses of an idealist, and forcing myself to live a dream I knew in my heart no longer belonged to me. As I prayed for guidance and searched my frustrated heart, I faced myself in battle, brandishing weapons of self-doubt and torturing myself for my foolishness. Finally one morning I heard whispered in my ear, “Patience you need to find. Selfishness you need to lose. Look upon your life and see.” Clear as the church bells during weekday Mass with my sixth grade class, this whisper helped me to recognize and accept my lesson of humility.

The lesson was difficult, but needed. In my headstrong pursuit of a career change, I was blinded to many aspects, such as how this change would affect my most significant relationships, specifically my parents and husband, and the life I loved to live. Most importantly, I was blind in recognizing how the dream no longer fit the woman. The dream had become that garment we keep in our closet, the one that hangs there year after year in hopes it will one day adorn our bodies, all the while knowing we are only clinging to a memory. The dated garment will never truly fit us because we have changed and not just physically. It was time to place the garment in a donation bag to be discovered and worn by someone else.

It was then, through the brambles of my decision, I discovered a quiet trail which led me to a path I’d seen and even set a timid foot upon only to deny its journey. A path revealed to me exactly one year ago, but I was not prepared as there was still this lesson to be learned; the path patiently waited for me.

I’m at peace with the lesson because I needed to acknowledge how I’d begun to take people and circumstances for granted and how the gifts I’d been given had grown in ways I’d not even understood. I am not a classroom educator, but I am a one-on-one mentor and advocate for students. I love to write and read and allow words to fill my days, but I am not a teacher of grammar and reading comprehension, at best I use my words to help and encourage others. I am a daughter whose everyday life is filled with the friendship of her parents and not a daughter who is good with only seeing them once a week, if that, due to inflexible work schedules. I need them as much as they need me. I am a wife and best friend to a man who supports my ups and downs, but relies on my infinite ability to look for the good to keep him at balance with hope, just as I rely on his ability to not always look on the bright side to keep me in check with reality. And I love my community and draw strength from its relationships, its ever-changing inner borders, its willingness and struggle to grow in diversity, and I need desperately to be a part of it, completely. I can give much more to my community in return for what it gives to me.

The lessons we learn are vital to our inner and outer survival. I discovered the following quote in my social media feed the same day I heard those whispers in my ear:

A mistake which makes you humble is much better than an achievement that makes you arrogant  – unknown author

 Which then led me to recall this quote by C.S. Lewis: Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

 Inner and outer survival is bound in humility. Once again, lesson learned.










The Lesson

My last unfinished post was in July. I was working on a piece about my recent one-week conference with the Oral Health Kansas Dental Champions Leadership program and members of the Kansas Leadership Center. It was a somewhat stressful, slightly confusing, but incredibly inspiring week and I’d decided, after a week of digesting, possibly a bit of regurgitating of what I’d learned, to write about the transformational event.

Then, life happened. While in San Antonio, visiting her brother who’d been placed in Hospice care, my mother fell and broke her left femur and left shoulder. While she is in relatively good health and active, she is 80 years old. Needless to say, I left for San Antonio those first few days of August to be with my parents as my mother underwent surgery, was moved to a specialty hospital for three weeks of rehabilitation and to keep my father company and busy. I drove to and from San Antonio alone, came back briefly to Wichita to begin the transition in my department with the new dental residents, and returned to San Antonio with my brother to take the long drive, now made longer as we broke up the 12-hour jaunt into two days, stopping every two hours to get my mother out of the car to walk . During this time of commuting and arranging, I also contacted a friend of the family to being renovations to make my parents bathroom handicap accessible, filled out paperwork for a home grant for said renovations, tried to keep up with work through email and phone, and held on desperately to my mind.

Luckily, my brother and sister were able to help, my brother coming down from Kansas City and taking the long drive to Texas to bring mom and dad home, and my sister and brother-in-law arriving from Illinois and stepping in the last week of August so my husband and I could keep the vacation we’d planned months ago. So, by Labor Day I’d settled into the “catch up” groove at work, continued to check on my parents on a daily basis, and finally turned off the auto-pilot. It was at that moment, the moment I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, I realized that while I’d been in survival mode the past five weeks, I had learned much about myself and my life. Much.

I learned that I can’t always go it alone. I’m one to take a situation and take charge (I get this from my mother) and not want anyone else to intervene. I call this my “I Got This” mode. I discovered I’d been lying to myself. I didn’t “have” this. I needed help. And when I was too stubborn to ask for it, it came all on its own, much like Christmas even though the Grinch had removed all the wrappings.

.It came in the hundreds of offers by email, phone and Facebook to help. It came in unsuspecting envelopes from friends and family who knew the commute, the living arrangements in San Antonio and the unexpected medical costs would be a burden. It came with family members offering up their homes en route, cooking meals for my brief stays, texting me during the drive to make sure I was okay. It came with my family in San Antonio, who were carrying the anxiety and grief of knowing their father was spending his last days with them, and yet, coming to our rescue, offering us a place to stay, a ride when we needed it, a visit to the hospital to encourage my mother.  It came with the arrival of my siblings, both from long distances and both carrying patience and concern, not just for my parents but for me. It came from my supervisors at the university who told me to go and take care of my family and not worry about work, and it came from my staff who stepped up and did their very best to ensure I did not return to any messes or issues, and proved to me they could carry the torch in my absence. And it came in the morning walks I had with my father, the walks to relieve the stress from our bodies and minds, the walks to talk about the familiar (sports, family, food), the walks to remind us of normalcy. And it came from my mother, fighting to heal, forcing herself out of the hospital bed to take tenuous steps with her quad-walker to show me she was going to go home, not to worry, she would be fine and that I would not have to carry her burden, the burden of being the one to take charge, at least, not for long.

Those two months, well, I could write a book about those two months, but what has stayed with me, what has lingered in my mind, what I think about at night before I fall asleep, is how I’d been lying to myself. I’ve been never fully in charge. Which meant  my mother, our rock, the one we rely upon to lead and carry us, well, she was never fully in charge, either. How did I not see this? From one who always says that one does not succeed alone, but needs the support of others, how had I failed to recognize that in those moments, those “I got this” moments, it was “We got this.” Because, even when we step up and do take the lead in a situation, whether we realize it or not, we are taking everything we’ve learned from others, everything familiar and comforting from others, everything we rely on from others to take the initial action. When people think, “I can’t really help, but I can call or text or send a message on Facebook, or send a card, or take charge of “my own situation” or open my doors, send over a meal, lead a prayer at church, whatever it is they decide to do is part of the charge. It is part of the “got this.”

So, if you are reading this and were part of my “Got this” in August in September, I apologize it’s so late, but thank you. I couldn’t have made it through those few months without you. Wait, WE couldn’t have made it through those few months without each other. Thank you, not just for what you did but for what you continue to do and for what you taught me. I promise, this is a lesson I will never forget.