When A. and I first went vegan, he read an animal rights book in which the author talked about what to do when coming across dead animals — such as in the street or on the sidewalk. The author — who, I can’t remember — argued that if one is truly to embrace the principles of animal rights, one should be a bit more observant of dead animals in our culture, and he used the example of dead babies (I think): if we saw a dead baby in the middle of the road or on the sidewalk, would we just step over it or drive on by without giving it a second thought? And since part of animal rights is affording all creatures the respect they are due, doesn’t that mean not stepping over dead animals or driving on by them on the road (within reason)? My answer has been yes, it does.
And so a couple of years ago, when I saw a dead dog in the road, I stopped and used a plastic bag I had in the back of my car to pick her up and place her in the bushes on the side of the road, and then called animal control to come get her. And today, walking back from a yummy lunch at Le Peep (baked apple oatmeal, wheat toast & black coffee) to pick up W. from school, when I saw a small wren belly-up on Peoria Street, I scooped her up and placed her in the flower beds of one of the condo complexes on Madison. But, no, that’s not entirely accurate. I saw the bird and walked past her for a whole block before I realized what I’d done & turned around to fix my mistake.
Lesson: There is no shame in turning back to do the right thing, even if you didn’t do it the first time around.
When I arrived at the school after righting my bird wrongs, I had a chance to talk to W.’s teacher. I knew there have been some problems in the classroom, but I was surprised to hear why. The way the learning center works is that he has an hour with each teacher: one hour of math and science, one of language arts. And in both classes, he’s finishing an hour’s worth of work in about five minutes — and completely grasping the concepts almost immediately, which is definitely a good thing. The problem: he gets bored and starts causing trouble. His teachers pointed out he probably belongs with the eighth or ninth grade classes — what the hell is with my children?!?! — but that those kids would likely eat him alive (gee, ya think?) and they cautioned against radical acceleration (I agree; one kid graduating from high school at 14 is enough for me).
The short-term solution is to accelerate him within the classroom, give him that eighth and ninth grade work while everyone else is working on sixth and seventh grade stuff. They suggested he can also work on his novel (he’s participating in NaNoWriMo through 826Chicago) or take on a “leadership” role in the classroom, since one of his strengths is the ability to analyze problems quickly and efficiently and then explain what needs to be done to other students. And I suppose that works for the moment, but everyone is concerned about the long-term issues: How do you get such a kid to work well with people who don’t process things as quickly? How can you make “regular” work challenging when it’s really, well, not? How do you slow down a brain (and is it even a good idea to try)? And the biggest problem of all: since my own educational experience was exactly the same, from the minute I entered kindergarten until my last class of graduate school, how on Earth am I going to help him get through this?
Realization: W. is facing problems I’ve grappled with my entire life, which means I have the opportunity to be a really good mom to him as he struggles to do the right things.
III. (No) Booze
Lately I’m reminded of how I felt when I was diagnosed with my tumor: once I learned a foreign object was invading my brain, there was no turning back. I was consistently and constantly aware that things would never be the same. Whether they operated, whether I needed radiation, whether the tumor turned out to be benign or malignant, I would always be the woman with a brain tumor and it didn’t really matter whether I used past or present tense when mentioning that fact. (Actually, I still find that impossible to comprehend, since it’s such an incomprehensible thing…) And with this whole alcoholism thing… it’s rough. There are moments I forget and I go on with my life as though everything is exactly the same as it was two months ago or six months ago or this time last year. But every time I remember that, once again, things will never be the same, I feel as though someone sucker punched me.
I think there are probably two sides to the process of acceptance and surrender: the admission that life sucks (you’re powerless + things are unmanageable) but then there is also a (perhaps reluctant) embrace of the facts: this is who I am (an alcoholic) and that’s not ever going to change, even if I forget about it for 20 minutes while I’m making muffins or half an hour when I’m playing Tetris on my commute or during a 24-hour period in which I think it’s okay to skip a meeting or two.
Today, I was planning my schedule for the next few months. Traditionally, I’ve plugged my classes in, then my work schedule, then my spare time. This time around, my priorities have shifted: the first thing that went in were my meetings — not that I am refusing work or classes because of them (there are enough at this point that I really like that I have several options every day), but I am considering them first. And the funny thing is that I did it without really even thinking — which I happen to consider pretty cool, especially taking into account that the past ten days or so have been entirely intolerable, which might lead a lot of other people to chuck all this program crap and go back out to the bars. (Being the eternal perfectionist, my solution is to run more forcefully into the flames, and so I’m stepping up “my program” in measurable ways…)
Acceptance: I know what needs to be done (based on who I am), even if at any given moment, all that abounds is confusion, hopelessness, despair, frustration, and anger.