Gone, daddy, gone
Remember the song “Gone, daddy, gone” by the Violent Femmes?
It is still a good song. They were also the first concert I saw by-my-own-self with friend at the Metro in Chicago in the early 1990s. Good show, if memory serves. I mean, I remember I had a lot of fun. And I don’t think I was drinking. In fact, I’m pretty damn sure I wasn’t (though I had probably smoked some pot and definitely was chainsmoking my Camel Lights throughout the Femmes’ set). I was happy then. I remember some really happy years with friends in my last years of high school.
Yesterday, I started a new endeavor — a podcast of sorts on YouTube. I’m calling it an “Essaycast” until I can think of a name less barf inducing and twee. Projects will keep me sane during this.
Connecting with you, reader, will keep me sane.
And I was so, so sad yesterday. Like why-was-I-ever-born, sad. And then I slept, woke up feeling just as awful, and went to my doctors appointments. The kid lab tech who was trying to get my blood could not get a vein and kept poking and prodding my arm (the junkie bruises are already flowering on my arm), and she was so clearly nervous and uncertain, and I just started crying. Like not weeping/bawling, but tears were coming out of my eyes and if I had to sit in that chair being poked for one more second, I was going to lose my mind. So I told her I was sorry, but I could not have my labs done today. I would have them done next week, during my last appointment. And she was so apologetic, and I assured her it wasn’t her. Because it wasn’t. I have tiny little bird veins. She was new on her job. I am having a “difficult” time right now. And I got up out of the lab chair, wiped my eyes, and went on to meet with the NP who was very nice and got me my Zolidex and a refill on all my cancer stuffs, and then I talked to my psychiatrist and got all set up with medications
I took this telehealth AS I was being injected in the abdomen.
I mean, I sometimes impress myself.
Like I was on a call while I was getting injected with a very large needle in the abdomen . . . That’s pretty metal, you gotta admit.
And everyone in my life, right now, my friends, my family, my colleagues, my doctors are being so damn supportive I can hardly stand it. Receiving love can be difficult for me because mostly I feel I do not deserve it. Intellectually, I grasp that I am deserving of love as are you, and you, and you, maybe not you, but definitely you . . . And yet it is hard for me to really embody that understanding. Know what I mean? My inclination is to isolate. I must stop that shit.
And I have isolated a lot this week, scurrying between dreadful tasks like boxing up my belongings, packing, lawyers offices, doctors appointments, UPS visits . . . I mean, divorce is a real bitch. And in between all those things, I have isolated, hunched like Gollum on hotel room beds, reading the writing of children.
Today was my on-paper “last day” at the school where I’ve been for the past six months. So fucking sad, reader. So sad. I can barely even talk about it. I wish I could bundle (most of) my kids up and take them all to Chicago with me. I fell so hard for those kids. Today my boss, who is a beautiful human being, sent me a picture of one of my students, also a beautiful human being, and there was like this angelic light around this child. And his big brown eyes were staring, inquisitively into the camera, mask up, as he held my nametag to his chest. This is the same little boy who gave me the Buddha charm a couple weeks ago. And to know you are loved and missed — , by humans you also love and miss and probably will forever, that is a God feeling. It’s almost unbearable to me.
And I can’t say too much more on this now, as I am trying to “unwind” not sob until I can’t see the computer screen (it’s a thing — seriously, I never knew I had so many tears), but I want you to know, reader, those kids are resilient. I was going over pictures and videos from my time at this school, and my God. The way they find joy with the masks. With the closures. With all the really weird and challenging things afoot in America . . . that’s God. You want to see God? Watch a middle-schooler dancing and laughing to “Stayin’ Alive” in a covid-empty classroom — you will see God. At the very least you will see the true beauty of the resilient human spirit. And that’s been one really wonderful byproduct of working with younger students: they have less “before,” so they’re not always living in this “but it’s not like before” space. We, any of us who were over the age of 18 when the pandemic hit, we have to grieve the Great Before, and we are living in the Strange After, but our children? They don’t have much Before, or much memory of Before, and we are shaping their Now which will become their Before and we might as well help contribute to an American Before that is more beautiful than our American Before was.
But I’m speaking for myself. Maybe your American Before was rad. Boats. Benjamins. Bentleys. (I was playing a game with myself just then: Things Rich Americans With Money Enjoy Starting With The Letter “B.”) Mine was pretty great, though I never had money. Even before I reconnected with a spiritual life, I always felt that the classroom was a holy space. A sacred space. A space unlike any other space outside of itself. I mean how many “spaces” in your life are designed just for you to learn? Almost none. And you have to actively seek out those that exist.
I like to geek out on things, though. Maybe you hated school, reader. That’s cool, too. I hated school, and when I went to college I discovered 1) oh, I’m actually intelligent despite what American k-12 schools of the 1980s told me and 2) I actually enjoy learning — quite a lot. And think about how sad that is? That’s still happening. There’s still a kid, like the kid I was, who is in the classroom thinking they’re stupid, feeling bored, and not knowing their full potential because we are adhering so rigidly to an educational strata established during The Industrial Revolution. Like the one in the 1900s. We are still teaching kids in 2022 as though they are kids in 1902. And despite this, God saw to it that I was able to find, in Arizona, two super-progressive schools that valued my skillset, and that trusted their teachers. Trust. Teachers. Really that easy.
“Gone, daddy, gone,” and also not at all.
Arizona was transformative for me.
I was scared to come here. I had many preconceived notions about you, Arizona, and you basically shattered damn near every perception (not you, Republicans of Arizona & Kristen Sinema) I had of you. God found me two wonderful jobs, and God placed me in two wonderful communities. I was just getting to know Tucson when I had to jet.
And, reader, I have to jet.
See, I moved to Arizona for my ex. I left a lot when I left the midwest. I was thirty-eight. I left behind a whole entire life. I took a risk. I will continue taking risks in my life if they are risks taken in love and good faith. And even though my marriage is over, I still moved to Arizona for love. And then, in Arizona, I found more love than I could have ever possibly dreamed. Arizona, I had no expectations of you and you exceeded my expectations (not you, Northern Arizona Healthcare, not you Northern Arizona Radiology). You raised my expectations — particularly of myself. And, in the end, you brought me back to myself and I was gifted one year of healing in the Tucson sun, which is a special kind of sun. You have to spend some time in it to know. And I will always be sad that I won’t get to know the many treasures of Tucson, though through my work, I was able to know a few. And I leave as a friend to this city because it was a damn good friend to me.
A good work community, a few good friends, these are good things, but when one is heartbroken, trying to heal in body and mind from various calamities and traumas, one needs more. True confession: I’ve come to be grossed out by this specific rhetorical use of “one.” Sounds condescending. Anyway, Tucson, you’re beautiful but I have some necessary healing, rebuilding, and reconnecting to do and for that, I’m going to need to rally my troops, and most of those troops are in Chicagoland.
And I will rebuild. I will heal. And I will reconnect with myself, with others. Frankly, I’m quite looking forward to it. But I warn you, Chicagoland, I’m coming back a little banged up. And also quite different than when I left. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s more than just “I don’t drink now,” I feel like something essential opened in me. And I would never want to go back now to who I was in my American Before.
When I left the Midwest, I left because I was in love and because I wanted to know a new life with the person with whom I was in love. A lot of people, I’ve found in the past 8 years, end up in Arizona-by-way-of-failed marriage. Some stay, and some go. I will be in the latter group.
And I’m just trusting my gut, my intuition, which has never led me astray. Because even though my marriage failed, I got to have the most amazing experiences. I got to know some of the coolest, most fascinating, weird-in-the-best-way people I’ve ever known. (Some day, I would love to tell the story about the time a teacher left a dead deer in the back of his car while parked in the school and a kid saw it and everyone started freaking out, but I would want to check with that guy — still a friend of mine — first.) In the desert I’ve met artists, rebels, poets, magicians, musicians, and real-deal revolutionaries . . . I’m serious. And those kids. Those kids. I know I am not “done” with teaching children, I just don’t know what that will look like going forward. I know I cannot, with my current health needs, handle the frenetic schedule of an American public school teacher right now. Too old. Too sick. And I am so sorry for it because this is a fight I wanna fight, and so I’ll just figure out new ways to help. And pray for teachers. I’m not kidding. On your fucking knees, folks. Pray for teachers. And then stand up, turn around, get on your knees facing the other way and beg God to be soft on those kids. And if you have voted consistently for blocking bills that fund schools, pray until your knees hurt. And if you’re a politician who has bullied schools, who has blocked legislation to help children in public schools, you better stay on your knees til they bleed.
Anyway, yesterday was brutally hard. And in the evening, evenings being truly the most dreadful time of my day, I pieced together my sad little video essay, and I intend to continue experimenting with the form. This evening, I fussed with UPS and money (I hate dealing with money but right now, sadly, I have to deal with it and it is gross) and ate a goat cheese, fig, and arugula pizza. Not the whole thing, though I did confess to my doctor today that I’ve been eating poorly and exercising none since my ex left. You know what helps a former malcontent Gen X teen who is grown and feeling teenaged in their grief over a relationship? 90s music. Jane’s Addiction. Dinosaur Jr. L7. Hole. That sort of rough 90s indie stuff that had the real sensitive lyrics paired with scratch-rock voices and guitar . . . Good stuff.
This is a song I’ve been obsessed with lately. Reminds me of my youth, my now, and I lay here like a Jon Cusak movie, staring at Comfort Inn ceilings, listening to this over and over again:
Good night. I’m off to take my elephant tranquilizers in yet another desperate attempt to sleep. I’ve cried at various points in the last few weeks, like a baby, simply because I’m underslept and it makes everything feel so much worse.
Go listen to some music. It’s Friday night, you can stay up late.
The alcoholic in me is like “You know what always made ya pass out good . . .?” And yet no. Eppur non si muove
I guess I just wanna be safe more than I want to sleep.
And so my sobriety is immovable.
Eppur non si mouve.
The last unit I taught at the school in Tucson
was on Galileo. One day me and the kids were just chanting
Eppur si mouve! In our darling best Italian. And it was so much fun.
I learned some things, too.
Eppur si mouve. Eppur si mouve.
Be good, hooligans.