I’ve noticed that as I go through life, I truly take so many things for granted. I’m not just talking about the big ones, like that I’ll wake up in the morning and have breakfast and people who will love and support me, but the other things, the smaller things, too. When I walk through the heavy doors of the high school where I teach, glass framed by sturdy metal, I take for granted that the people I see every day will be there every day. I assume that just as I woke up, showered, dressed and arrived, so did everyone else. I fall into the comfort of complacency and a routine established back in September. I say hello to the principal’s secretary in the main office as I sign in and continue to the back and check my mailbox. Usually, a colleague representing the math department will be using the copier and we will exchange the polite and proper pleasantries as I silently and internally curse myself for not having arrived earlier to hog the copier, which may in fact be the only one working in the building at that given moment. Mailbox checked and copier in use, I proceed through the rear door, back down the hallway I came from, to my classroom to unlock the door and prepare for the day. The little things in that litany are things that could mean more than I’ve ever imagined.
For example, a beautiful, stylish and incredibly knowledgeable English teacher had a classroom across from mine. In between periods, as we both stood by our doors to greet students and ask students to remove their hats, we would roll our eyes in commiseration at the more difficult conglomeration of students we were charged with educating. I would ask about her children and her resulting hectic weekends. The conversations were pleasant, polite, and more often than not, I’d return to my classroom smiling and laughing because she had a wicked, witty sense of humor. Indeed, she went as far as to aid my father in essentially humiliating me during parent-teacher conferences because she thought it’d be funny to see me squirm. She was a real riot.
I wanted her to like me. I wanted her to accept me because I respected her so damn much. She was the kind of woman I’d be proud to be, had even hoped to be. Balancing a social life and a career with a beautiful family, being so well-dressed and knowledgeable without being pretentious or aloof – she was a wonder to behold, and I know I was blessed and privileged to share a department, let alone a hallway, with her.
I took for granted that I’d see her on Monday when we all returned from winter break, refreshed and perhaps already eagerly anticipating spring break. I took for granted she’d be there, just as I was there.
But this wonderful woman who meant so much to her family, friends, colleagues, students, and athletes passed away this morning. Those of us left behind are devastated by the tragedy and senselessness of losing someone so young and beautiful and brilliant, and we keep repeating statements like, “But I just saw her … but I just talked to her … but I was just saying” because we took for granted she’d be there and in doing so, were woefully unprepared for the day she is not there. According to Philip Roth, that’s the real human tragedy: being unprepared for tragedy. That is what we are; unprepared to say goodbye, and unprepared for how hard her absence has already and will continue to hit us.
Rest in peace, Tara Gardner. You were loved and will always be loved, just as you will always be missed.
It is time to catch up with my life; frankly, it has been long overdue. Every single weekend in April, I have had some obligation – all enjoyable, to be sure – that consumed my only free time, so to speak. With the conclusion of this weekend’s activities, I have a moment to breathe and collect myself, smooth the wrinkles from my clothes, wipe the crumbs and debris away, and tuck bothersome strands of hair behind my ear. I have a precious few seconds to compose myself before Monday starts. It is a wonderful feeling I missed more than I believe I realized.
The first three weekends of this fourth month of the year were all about furthering my professionalism; three workshops dealing with subject matter and the future of the teaching profession. As I said, all of the workshops were useful and I loved meeting colleagues from all over the state, but this last weekend was my favorite because it was filled with love, friends, and romance, and it inspired a few daydreams to implement when I am in danger of bleeding out from boredom.
Friday night was Christine’s wedding and it was breathtaking. I genuinely believed I was witnessing some sort of fairy tale brought to life before me. Christine looked positively gorgeous and as twilight fell upon the meticulously manicured grounds of the estate, I felt all the wind rush around me and out of me, vacating my lungs like rats on a sinking ship. I know it is a crude analogy that does not really fit with the rest of the image, but I suppose that is the point, precisely what I’m going for. I feel sheepish admitting, no matter how silly or common it may be, that in that moment of Christine’s complete happiness and beauty, I succumbed to a sudden, vicious and crippling attack of loneliness. There I was, surrounded by all the things in life that should be celebrated and that make all the unfortunate events in between worth it, and I could think only of myself and only of the negative. I am not proud of it, but there it was all the same and unsure of what else to do, I cried. I cried for how pathetic I am, for how beautiful Christine was, for how happy her and James were and are and always will be, for the friends around me, for the lights and the decorations and the love and the smiles and the good food – I cried for all of it.
Saturday was Liz’s bridal shower. It was held at an adorable place called Café Paris in Metuchen. I went to the shower straight from the hotel where I stayed at for Christine’s wedding, so I looked less than spectacular, especially since I had fallen asleep without washing my face. Mascara caked inside my eyelids and as a result, my eyes were bloodshot. I can only imagine what kind of first impression I made. I would be more horrified but since I knew the people I was sitting with, it could have been worse. Lauren, Lindsay and Christina are all happily in love, and Meghan is planning her wedding. I slung back mimosas. Tim and Liz are two of the greatest people I have ever had the privilege, honor, and blessing of meeting. Both – Tim in particular – shaped me into the woman I am today. They introduced me to an amazing organization and collection of people that taught and inspired and supported me more so than I ever deserved. Tim and Liz getting married is evidence that sometimes, good things do happen to good people and that love is alive and well. It makes me happy and it makes me cry.
Today, during mass, the priest blessed a couple who had been married for 60 years. I turned to my little brother and smiled. I wonder if he thinks it’s weird that I’ve never brought anyone home to meet Mom and Dad. I wonder if what he wonders even matters. I wonder if the blessing was a sign from God that it is going to happen for me one day, or if it was just a coincidence that I was surrounded by marriage all weekend. I wonder if this all stems from that hormonal time of the month, a beer or two too many, watching “When Harry Met Sally” alone in an empty hotel room after the wedding, or because my next novel idea is about an engagement that is wrecked irreparably. Do I want to wreck it because I am bitter, lonely and resentful, or because I honestly think the plot is entertaining?
I worry that I am a broken record; I know this is not my first blog entry of this nature and I am can confidently guarantee it will not be the last. Is that a bad thing? Am I throwing another spontaneous pity party? Am I sticking to what I know because it’s comfortable?
I need to start living – meeting new people, experiencing new things.
“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another.”
– James Matthew Barrie
This week’s way to blast my blubber was to use time wisely; if there are only 30 minutes free in your daily schedule, use it to pack a nutritious lunch and to closely watch what you eat, rather than try to squeeze in a workout. I usually stick to that rule, but this week, I worked harder to make sure I did not go over my daily calorie limit. As a result, I lost three pounds this week. My confidence is bolstered and my determination has more than doubled. So please ignore the fact that I am currently contradictorily snacking on some Funyuns.
My colleague, Jill Ocone, is such an inspiration. She is truly following her passion, regardless of cost. She stopped living to work, stopped being consumed by work at home. There is no reason why I cannot do the same.
Sometimes, when I am running in the morning, I try very, very hard to find the moon in the sky. I make myself dizzy by searching in spinning circles, neck bent uncomfortably backwards, and though there are plenty of stars to go around, I cannot find the moon.
Sometimes, when I am running in the morning, it is so frigid that my iPod’s battery is completely drained after about 20 minutes. I do not usually get rattled on my morning walk and jog, but with no contemporary music to drown them out, I become aware of the creepiest sounds. The wind makes the branches of the trees creak and groan. A few American flags snap in wavelengths. A dry, crunchy leaf scuttles across the barren pavement – the perfect horror movie soundtrack and every now and again, I snap my neck this way and that in a futile attempt to determine the cause of some noisy disturbance in the blackness around me. Was the snapping of a twig merely evidence of movement by some furry, cuddly woodland creature, or something more sinister, if, in fact, it even existed at all?
I think I need to indulge in writing some fan fiction again; it can inspire something of literary merit. Many borrow characters and plot lines and images to create a foundation for something new. Currently, I am thinking of “True Blood;” I know vampires are passé, but I keep having this recurring image of a beautiful but battered young woman with a bruised and broken body and beaten face. She is sitting in the front pew of an old and tiny church, at the end. She has been crying, sitting and staring straight ahead with dead, vacant eyes for presumably hours. Then, a devastatingly handsome man – or monster? Or a creature? – suddenly appears, standing in the carpeted aisle beside her. He looks concerned and seems genuine, but her response is icy cold: “You don’t belong here.”
It’s not like her to be cruel, especially not to him, so he deflects her verbal barb with an easy smile and explains, as he has done many times before, that vampires not being able to enter churches in actually a myth, and he’s about to begin a long-winded explanation when she cuts him off.
Misunderstood, she nearly snarls to clarify that she knows damn well that he can be there, but she does not want him there. She has wounded him and it shows all over his face.
“I’m not the one who beat the shit out of you. Why are you so pissed at me?” Though her body language is coming through loud and clear that she wants to be left the fuck alone, he sits beside her. Begrudgingly, she moves for him.
And I want her to unravel – tell him EVERYTHING. Her boyfriend, a bartender who is slowly but surely developing a drinking problem, got loaded and hit her. It has never happened before and she believes her boyfriend is really and truly sorry, but everything is different now and that is sad and scary. She was trying to help him, to be loving and supportive and all the good things, but she still got rocked. In her moment of weakness, she is bitter and vengeful and hateful. It is unlike her, and it makes him nervous. He is not easily rattled and his change in demeanor is not lost on her, though her demeanor is changing as well. She asks him if he’s all right, seamlessly slipping back into old habits and tired behavior.
He laughs without much humor and says that he’s fine, that she shouldn’t give a damn if he’s fine or not, and that maybe she should be more vicious and guarded, like it might not be such a bad thing. She nods and wipes her eyes. Silence falls over them and he feels as if he needs to break it, so he asks her how long she’s been there.
She shrugs and says nothing.
He suggests they leave and go somewhere else.
“Because, honestly, you’re just sitting and stewing in your misery and that solves nothing- it only begets more misery.”
“What could we do?”
It’s an innocent question, but the answers that immediately spring to his mind are not. He takes a second to compose himself because he doesn’t want to scare her; she is good and pure and that is what he likes – loves? – about her. He has to protect it; he has to keep it safe. “Where have you always wanted to go, but have never been?” “France,” she answers without hesitation, like she’s simply been waiting to be asked that very question.
“… if you’d only asked me.”
“If I don’t ask you, would you ever think of asking me?”
I am always surprised (whether it is pleasant or not has yet to be determined) by which blog posts garner the most attention and end up receiving the largest amount of views. The last entry I posted was personal and somewhat pessimistic, kind of made me seem shallow and pitiful, and has more views than the short story I wrote. A wonderfully caring colleague sent me a Facebook message absolutely dripping with sympathy and a classmate whom I have not seen nor spoken to in years, left an encouraging, empathetic and appreciated comment on my blog. These things surprise me.
I guess it’s like that part in the movie “The Breakfast Club,” where Basket Case Allison dumps all her baggage – literally and metaphorically – on the couch, thereby inviting everyone into her problems. So it’s unreasonable then for her to be angry when people comment, offer advice, and so on and so forth. It’s just that I honestly was not looking for pity, sympathy, or attention – I was just purging thoughts, just writing. It is a fine line between my private self and public self and balancing how I see myself against how others do. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do and that’s how I am, take it or leave it.
I have a deplorable habit of being interested in men whom I cannot have – the distance keeps me safe from rejection, and it keeps me romantically tragic.
I need to start reading Stephen King again.
When it’s rainy, I want to stay in my bed, curled beneath the covers.
The roses in my classroom are dying.
Why am I always so negative?
A radio station contacted me back! It is run by a high school in Atlantic City. It will most likely have an incredibly small audience, but it will be more of an audience than I have now.
My second royalty check came for the month of December: $23. 22; one print book and nine Ebooks.
The Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library forwarded my information to the larger – and frankly, better – Toms River branch. I am hopeful.
Yesterday, I ventured to Brooklyn with a friend to attend a bridal shower. It was wonderfully trendy and beautifully artsy. The music completed the atmosphere perfectly and I never wanted to leave. I made plans to travel to Paris, fell in love with love all over again, and yearned to be more creative and artsy in everything I do. It was an awesome shower.