Friday, March 8, 2013

What did you do?

Yesterday when my young middle school son got in the car, he was a basket of tears. He was so upset he couldn't even get the words out in any order that made sense in the English language. My older son and I sat in the car trying to calm him down enough to figure out what made him so upset and after a good ten minutes, we got the drama filled story: a kid who had been his friend suddenly announced that he was only pretending to be his friend. This boy also colored his announcement with obscenities and when my son went pressing for more answers, this kid started kicking and hitting him.

We had heard my son talk about this young boy, and he had always compared him to Loki from his favorite Thor comics - the jokester who loved to be the center of attention by creating chaos. My son has always had an appreciation for humor (as a baby, he used to tip over laughing at his brother), so I can see how this kid was an instant draw for my son. This reversal in friendship seemed so sudden, so I knew there had to be more to the story. 

And, as my kids know, being a teacher for as many years as I was, I can't pass up a teachable moment.  

I know from learning classroom management, that there is ALWAYS two sides of the story, and the truth usually lies in a homogenization of the two stories. I also learned years ago to ask the one question no one wants to answer "What did you do to create this situation?".

WHAT? This kid was picking on my poor son! He kicked him, called him names, punched him in the arm and I am asking what MY SON DID? Am I such an uncaring mother that I BLAME my son???

No, not at all. It isn't about blame, though that is what our society is good at teaching us. There is always someone to blame, but rarely is it ourselves. We are being taught to victimize ourselves. What we have been missing in our societal teachings is the art of personal responsibility. 

Years ago, I was hired to run a private school with an enrollment of 120 kids and 8 full-time teachers and 2 part-time teachers. It was one of a several sucessful schools owned by the same man. It was first time running a school, and I was book-learned, but not expereince-learned. I was also in my mid-twenties, working with teachers that had been teaching longer than I had been alive. It was very daunting. 

I jumped in with both feet though, and was doing well for the first few weeks until I had a major conflict that occured between two teachers spilled over into my office and as I tried to mediate between the two women, the one teacher turned on me and got in my face. She was yelling and screaming at me and I was so taken aback, I didn't know how to handle it. I tried to defuse it, but it escallated to the point that I had to fire her on the spot. 

I had never fired anyone before. I was so upset. It blew my confidence out of the water. I started second guessing all the decisions I was making, questioning whether I even belonged in the job at all. I felt like I was some kid trying to do a grown-ups job. 

Shortly there after, things began to unravel at my school.This is never a good thing. It wasn't long before the owner knocked on my office door. I had never met him before, but I had heard about this Danish man who was often seen, but not heard. He would float in and out of his schools, without warning, observing but rarely talking. The other school heads were afraid of him because you never knew what he was looking for. When he actually did talk with you, it rarely was positive. When I saw him outside my office door, I knew trouble was in store for me. 

My boss came in and sat down next to my desk and just stared at me for a moment. I was so flustered, I remember that I just started rambling on about the two teachers and how unprofessional they had been, and how they their actions had caused such a divide among my other teachers and how that had trickled down to the parents and the kids were now reacting badly, and ...and ...and....

The man said one sentence that made me stop talking instantly.

"And what did you do to create this situation?"

What? Me? I didn't do this, the two teachers did this? Why are you blaming me? 

I was stunned. I was going to take the blame for the other two teachers actions. I know I was supposed to be their boss, but still, I hadn't been the one who started this. I was so mad, but all I could do was look down at my hands and not say anything. I was so afraid that anything I said was going to hammer the last nails into my coffin. 

When I didn't answer, he explained his question. He said that one of the gifts that we are given is free will. While there are things that as humans we do out of instinct, the fact that we are blessed with higher reasoning skills than many of our mammal counterparts gives us the ability to make choices based on several options at any given time. Based on that gift, he said it is our responsibility to then own those choices. 

I interjected immediatly reminding him that the teacher I fired didn't give me a choice. Her actions were in direct violation of the code of conduct that she signed and I was forced me to fire her. There wasn't a choice here!

"So, you are a victim here?"
I couldn't believe that is what he was asking me! No, wait, I am not a victim, I protested. I just followed the rules...I just did my job... what else was I supposed to do? Not fire her? But what she did was totally wrong and if I hadn't have fired her, wouldn't I have been fired? This was going to come back on me, and I wasn't the one who did something wrong! I didn't have a...choice....oh crap...I am sounding like a poor-me!

I was so flustered. I felt like I was in the rock-and-a-hard-place scenerio. I was getting in trouble for what I did do, but I would have been in trouble if I hadn't done something! 

Calmly, my boss explained that the moment we don't take responsibilty for our choices, good or bad, we are allowing ourselves to become victims. Once you do that, you become powerless. He then added that no one can let someone take thier power - we give it away. 

Now I am not only frustrated, but I am utterly confused and on the border of losing my cool. I lay out this scenerio in my attempt to prove him wrong:

"So I am driving down the street on my way to work, and some guy runs a red light and slams into my car. How did I do something to create that situation? He ran the red light, not me!"

His answer was simple: I CHOSE to go that way to work. I CHOSE to leave my house at a certain time, and CHOSE to drive a certain speed that made it so I was in that place, at that time when the man ran the red light and hit me. I could have CHOOSEN to stay home that day, or to have gone 5 miles an hour faster or to have made a left turn down a side road. The choices I made brought me to that place at that time and I own those choices.

My head was swimming. So he is saying that I am responsible for this man hitting my car?

No, but the moment you accept YOUR side of the equation, then you don't lose your power to the other person. If you walk around all the time saying that this person did that TO ME and that person did that TO ME, then suddenly, it becomes that you have no control over your life at all. You are just a series of random events, which is simply not true. So in this situation with your teachers, what did you do to create this situation?

I had to sit back and think about this one for a moment. What did I do? Did I create the situation? No, the two arguing teachers did. Well, but, I called them into my office and tried to mediate. That was the right thing to do though. Okay, and I got involved in the arguement and then I allowed the teacher to brate me. And then I made the choice to fire her. 

I explained my reasoning to the man, and he nodded his head, then said that I had forgotten something. He added that I need to take it to the simplest thing first, the simplest thing I did to create the outcome. 

I was puzzled because I thought I had. Isn't brining the teachers into my office to talk about it what started the whole thing? I could have waited until after school, but I didn't think that it could wait that long. 

No, even further back than that, he prompted me. He said you created this situation when you made the choice to take this job. The moment you were offered the position, you had two choices: to say yes or to say no. You CHOSE to say yes. So in that choice, you created the situation that you are the boss and sometimes, you will have to make hard decisions like this. And the moment you forget that, you have lost your power and will no longer be able to do this job effectively because you will always see yourself as the victim of other people's choices. 

It took me weeks to let this sink in, and even years and years afterwards, I have to rethink this. I have never been a good math student, and to me, this goes back to taking a number to it's least common denominator. In practice, it is a very good lesson though. Learning to take personal responsibility, good or bad, gives you the ability to feel like you have control even when you think you don't. It helps you wrap your brain around the tough choices we sometimes have to make and gives us strength when we feel we have had our choices taken away. Never are we in a situation where we don't have some responsibility we can take in a situation. And knowing that, being able to break it down make us strong. It doesn't mean the other person is without blame, it doesn't mean that there aren't consequences that need to occur, but realizing that we are governed by our ability to make choices means we can stop giving our power to others. 

For my son, who, by the way, knew this talk was coming, he was able to break it down to take responsibility in this situation with this bully. He said that he made the choice to engage in verbal insults with the boy. He also made the choice to not tell a teacher when things started to get out of hand. Going even further back, he had made the choice to be friends with this boy. While this last thing seems like a good thing, that is one of the keys to this process. Instead of looking for what the "good" or "bad" choices are, it is just taking an inventory of all the choices made that helps remove the feeling of powerlessness in a situation. Chosing to become someone's friend is not a bad choice per se, but the fact that HE made that CHOICE then led into a personal relationship that for whatever reason went south. It isn't good or bad - it just is. And my son owns it. While none of us are okay with what the end result is, he is okay with and takes responsibility for any choices he made. 

And while he is still mad and hurt at this child's actions, he is no longer walking around like he is the victim of this child's bullying. It is not about taking blame, but for accepting responsibility. He has the power to deal with it and hopefully end it with the help of his teachers. And his teachers aren't looking at him as a victim either, as the first thing he said when he spoke to his teacher was 

"I understand what my responsibility in this situation was. Now, let's make it stop."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Been a while...

It's been a bit since I last posted something here. Not much has changed, except maybe my motivation. 

Ugh, motivation. What I am seriously lacking as of late. defines motivation as "the act or an instance of motivating, or providing with a reason to act in a certain way" and "the state or condition of being motivated".  As of late, my motivation seems to come in fits and starts, with one day I am motivated to do something and push myself to do it, while the next day, I just want to curl up in bed and sleep.  It is a constant battle to motivate myself and not let the exhaustion overwhelm me.

Some people may look at me and think, "What are you whining about? You're a stay-at-home Mom. You're just lazy! You have all the time in the world when your kids are at school to get things done, you just choose not to." 

Actually, the sheer aggravation I have at not getting things done should be enough to push that motivation into the red zone, but those feelings are in direct competition with the overwhelm of knowing how much I have to do and how much time I need to catch up with myself. 

This is what happens when life gets out of control. People who work outside the home know the scenerio quite well - your boss comes and gives you an project and a deadline to get it done. You have co-workers that you have helped with their projects before, but when you ask them for help, they remind you that they have their own work to do, and if you couldn't have handled the job, you shouldn't have accepted it. So now you know that this you're going to do 99% of the work. But you also have other jobs that need to get done. So, you try to get both things done at once. Then, your boss's boss comes and asks you to do another favor, because your reputation of being a reliable person is known around the office. So now, you have your original job, plus your boss's project, then this new project. Sure, you can do it! You are a go-getter! You like to do things for people to make them happy. Not a problem at all. 

Then, your car breaks down. You don't plan for this. You've done everything you thought you were supposed to to make sure your car was in working order - you had the oil changed, you have the brakes done, you even make sure you keep on top of those tire rotations. But suddenly - poof - no car. And no way of getting to work. 

You call and ask some of the people you work with to give you a lift, but they can't because you don't really live on their way into work and they have so much to do, they can't be late themselves. Oh, and the mechanic tells you that it will be several days before the part comes in and so sorry for the inconvenience. 

You think that you will be okay, since you've been doing okay until then, juggling all the balls in the air so perfectly. But it just takes that one dropped ball to set the whole thing off balance. Now you are dropping balls left and right. You go chasing after the balls, but every time you go to pick one up, it just ends up bouncing off your foot. They are slippery, bouncy little buggers. 

You finally get them all picked up, and you realize that you have forgotten how to juggle. 

You get back to work, and realize that no matter what you do, you can't seem to catch up. Deadlines approach, people get angry, and you know you are working so hard, but it just isn't hard enough. You throw the balls up in the air, hoping magically, you remember how to juggle, but all that happens in the balls come smashing down on your head. 

So, you just stop.

You don't move. 

You just stop doing. 

The work doesn't stop coming, but you just stop doing it. 

There isn't enough motivation anymore for you to keep getting bashed on the head.

This is what happened to me. Though it wasn't my car, but my own body. It decided to stop working the way it was supposed to. Although I was diagnosed almost 14 years ago, last year, the autoimmune disease I battle with, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (simply described as the body seeing the thyroid gland as an invading entity that needs to be destroyed), decided to get the make juggling all the balls impossible for me. 

I can't say that I have had great treatment for my Hashi's (as it is nicknamed) all these years, but it was at least somewhat managed. I could function. I could get out of bed in the morning and get things done. At one time, I was told I was actually a gifted educator. But then little things I should have seen as warning signs I didn't see, like my hair become more brittle again, my weight increasing even though my diet and exercise hadn't changed, my thoughts getting harder to formulate and my sleep becoming less and less restful. These were subtle things that I didn't notice until one day, my heart rate went through the roof and I landed in the ER. From then on, it's been one battle after another to get things regulated. And my "car" has spent more time with doctors than I have since I was pregnant.

Why now? I have my theories, but in reality, no one ever knows with things like this. With Hashi's, you can swing from a hypo to a hyper state, back and forth without warning. There can be dietary causes, environmental causes, drug interactions, and the list goes on and on and on. 

I think a lot had to do with a surgery on one of my hands to deal with a near amputation I suffered in my teens from a freak accident. For what ever reason, the surgery sent my body into a tail spin. The medication I take to help regulate my Hashi's stopped working correctly, and the stress on my body to heal from such an extensive surgery only compounded things.   

So, here I am, almost 10 months after the surgery, and I can't seem to get the figurative car out of park. I look around me and I see half-finished projects, partially folded baskets of laundry, dishes piled in the sink, floors that need to be mopped, papers that need to be shredded, children that need my attention and a husband who longs to have a conversation that I don't fall asleep during. 

I have a new MD, one who looks at the whole person versus just one blood test (there are SEVERAL that need to be done, but this is something I have learned recently in my desperate need to find something to change the current status quo). I am on better medication to help my body to figure out what it needs to be doing.

And I look at all of these things like I am looking outside myself. I want to yell and scream at that person who just stands there, grasping at some level of motivation but not finding any. I tell myself all the time that I am not letting this malfunction in my body's programming to take away who I am, but right now, I am waving the white flag. I know it's a process, that there are no quick fixes, no band-aids (despite what uneducated people try to spew) and even when my body starts doing what it is supposed to, there is going to be a lot of changes that need to happen.

Which comes back to the whole thing that started this blog post: motivation.
So even when things get back in balance, where do I find the ability to juggle those balls again? I know I need to start small, with just one or two, but even that seems hard to imagine right now. 

If you have read this, then you realize that I at least found motivation to do one thing:
I wrote a new post. 

For more information on Hashimoto's, visit Hypothyroid Mom at and Thyroid Site at