Growing up, my stepfather moved us around a lot, so I went to a lot of different schools. But, inexplicably, we would move back to this one town periodically — maybe to re-group for the next move — and I would return to a private church school filled with people I’d known since I was little. I always loved returning. It felt like home, and it meant I didn’t have to go through that awkward “new girl” thing.
The school was basically set up so that we students taught ourselves. Does anyone remember the ACE system? PACES? The way our school was set up is that all the students in the school sat at a “cubicle”. After testing, we’d be given our PACE’s, which were basically little work books. We’d read our lesson and complete any assigned work. If we had any questions, we had a little Texas Flag or a little United States Flag that we would put in a hole at the top of our desk, thus indicating to the supervisor or voluntary school monitors that we needed help or we needed to go grade our work. Once given permission, we’d take our workbook (PACE) to an island in the middle of the room, find the answer key for our particular book, grade it, and returned to our desk. If I’m remembering correctly, we usually had 5 or 6 subjects each, so you’d basically perform this same routine for each subject. Frankly, I loved the system. You moved at your own pace, and there was never any reason to get bored. I flew through some subjects. English, English Literature, History, Bible….Some things came blessedly easy for me. But some things did not, and as a freshman in high school, my nemesis was algebra.
What an unholy, brain-freezing concept this was to me! X = Y – Z(A) * B/56….What the hell!? Who gets to decide what X equals? Is that a paying job somewhere? And why can’t he just give the stupid answer? Why all the mystery and games? I was baffled.
I mentioned a million posts back that I went to that private school with some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, so I was reluctant to let anyone know that while most of my friends were wading through calculus and trigonometry, I was struggling with a subject that, let’s face it, is just one tiny step up from learning our times tables. It blew.
I read and re-read those stupid workbooks, struggling to make sense of what was going on here, but my brain was completely uncooperative. It took very little time for me to decide that this was stupid, I was never going to get it, and my next step was to figure out how to get out of having to know it. Yes. I was a very optimistic person about solving my own problems.
The thing is, you don’t get to graduate from high school without algebra. Forget geometry, or trig, or calculus! And I didn’t want to be “the stupid one” at school. I was getting my butt kicked by this subject, and it was really starting to wear on me.
Enter, Mr. S. Mr. S was the supervisor over our entire school, and I was his and his wife’s baby-sitter. I’d had Mr. S explain this Algebraic Hell to me a few times at school, but I was embarrassed to have the other geniuses that sat around me to know I was struggling with something they had probably passed as kindergartners, so I’d quickly say I understood him, figuring I’d just figure it out by myself — alone — later on. Turns out, that would be a trait in myself that has caused me a lot more work than was probably necessary.
One evening, I was working on my homework at Mr. S’s house while he and his wife prepared to go out for the evening. I don’t remember if I asked for help or he just noticed I was struggling. My guess is that he just noticed I was struggling, because I didn’t want him to think I was a moron, either.
He told me something that has stuck with me all of my life, and many, many times I’ve reflected back to that moment when I realized something very, very true about myself.
He said, “Cathie, why do you make everything so complicated? If you take each step and focus on just that one step, before you know it, all the steps are done, and you have your answer! Don’t try to just jump to the end, skipping as many of the steps as you can. You don’t save time that way! You’ll come up with the wrong answer, and you’ll end up having to do it all over again.”
Then, he sat down and began explaining, in detail, each step of my algebra problems, and a light went off in my head. Suddenly, everything fell in place, and the logic was perfect. I love logic, and it is still surprising to me that out of all the subjects in the world, the one subject that simply is pure logic would be so hard for me. Without exaggeration, algebra became my very best subject, and I was able to apply that lesson to almost every aspect of my life from then on out.
Maybe the worst thing about going through my separation is that emotions aren’t dependable, yet they have this super-human strength to really belt us in the face. You can take a cheater + a co-dependent and still equal all sorts of different scenarios. Some women/men will stay even if they know without a doubt they won’t really ever be happy. Some of them flipped the offender off as they exit the door, and then fall apart in their cars. (That one would be me…). Some of them can walk away, adjust quickly, and seem to recover in minutes. It is all such a slippery, unpredictable mess and my very soul hates unpredictable, slippery messes. I want an algebraic logic to my life, and this whole situation hasn’t been easy for me to negotiate because I have freaking no clue how I myself am going to react next. I feel like my own personality is playing this game with me, and I’m kicking my own ass. The upside is, I’ll emerge the victor either way. The downside is that, I don’t have a Mr. S around to make the light switch in my brain flip on.
What I really liked the best about the ACE program was that it taught me something more valuable than the schoolwork. It taught me how to teach myself. I’m always in the process of learning something new. I love to learn. I’ve held several kinds of positions in my life such as paralegal, book-keeper, human resources, network administrator, help-desk manager, IT, and a slew of other kinds of jobs. And every time I would begin a new “career”, I’d study, study, study so I would know as much as I could about my position. Hence, at 44 years old, I have this confidence in my ability to learn anything. Now that I’m dealing with circumstances that don’t follow any kind of logic to me, added to my fluctuating emotions, I’m frustrated with myself. And to make the experience really super exciting, I’m not a patient person either! I want this crap over with, and I want it right now! Yeah. I can be a lot of fun.
I tend to have way more patience for other people than I do myself, and one of the things I’ve been struggling with these last few weeks is with the question “why”. It isn’t the usual question…”Why did he do this?”. It the question, “Why am I doing this?” You’d think that since we inhabit these brains, we’d have a clearer picture of why we do what we do more so than anyone else, but I’m beginning to doubt it.
I’ve spent the last few weeks reading every single thing I could find about the emotional side of breaking up. I’m probably an hour away from being certified as a therapist. And you know what I’ve learned about myself? I’m a control-freak that doesn’t accept reality easily. I always think I can change anything, and even when it is clear as day that I’m going to fail, I’ll try anyways. I don’t know, but that feels a bit like a pride problem. Great.
What a bummer.
The truth…The logic in all of this creepy, painful mess is kind of the same as the algebra lecture Mr. S gave me. Stop skipping steps. You aren’t going to save yourself any time (or pain), and you are going to come up with the wrong answers. If you don’t really live in the process, it will become like a bone that wasn’t set properly. Yes, you’ll probably be able to use it, but it will always have a little ache to it and sometimes it just will never work properly again unless it is re-broken and set again.
I don’t want to have to “re-break” a wound that I didn’t allow to heal correctly. I’ve read a million other women’s stories on different sites, so I don’t feel quite as embarrassed about my different, pathetically weak reactions to thing. (Except, I’m still pretty mortified about the Drunk Dialing Incident). But one think that is perfectly logical to me is that if God wanted to get me to really look at the areas in myself that needed to be addressed, this was the perfect way to get that accomplished. Just read all the posts since this started, and you’ll see how many different, somewhat alarming, lessons I’ve learned about who I really am.
While all of this has sucked the big one, though, I’ve also learned some things about myself that I can like, too. I was always a little fearful that I needed someone to take care of me…that I would always be dependent on someone else. Not true. I not only can support myself, but I can do it in a very rough part of town, and hold my own. I bought a tool kit, and I can now use every single thing in it. I replaced my own door-knob. Laugh if you want, but that is a pretty big accomplishment for me. I’ve learned that it is bad for the oil light to come on in your car, and then I learned how to check the oil and add the appropriate amount. I’m learning that I like living single. Who knew? I never have done that before! I think I like myself more these days than I did before. And it is based completely on my own opinion..not anyone else’s. Yes. My emotions are all over the place these days, but my reactions a bit more controlled. And I guess the thing I’m learning that I value the most is that even in the midst of all of this, I’m still able to learn something from it.
I’m okay. Feeling quieter, but in a good way.
Even when the occasional, overwhelming tears erupt, they are not the despairing kind that feel like death… They are more the sad homage to a life I really loved once, and while it is gone, it deserved the appreciation it is given. If I hadn’t been so content in the life, it wouldn’t have mattered as much that it was over. So, I’m giving myself a bit of a break that it seems to be taking FREAKING FOREVER to be completely, 100% happy and content again.
I will say this, though. After reading a ton of people’s thoughts, feelings, etc., about their own divorce fiasco’s, I was struck by the sheer number of these women that were still very much caught in that painful time years and years later. I don’t have any judgments against any person living in their own hell, but someone just please shoot me right in the head if 5 years from now, I’m still talking about this!!!!!