A Note about Heartbreak

I told a friend recently that writing and being vulnerable is sometimes like having food poisoning–you know that once you puke you’ll feel better, but you also don’t want to puke. So consider this post as me having a touch of food poisoning. But also, I’m hoping this might be a survival guide for someone else.

Anytime I have my heart broken, I turn to past relationships and try to figure out how long it took for me to no longer be sad, because I just want to stop being sad. But I never do find a conclusive time span, so this time, I tried something different.

I’ve always believed that my heart never fully repairs from being broken; that little shards of my heart will always belong to men I’ve loved. As a visual exercise inspired by Mari Andrew, I realized that’s not fully true. Behold: sketches of my heart from 1991-2019:

This one wasn’t in my book, FYI.
This one took a good three years to heal.
1998-2000 was ROUGH.
This guy.
Look at who isn’t here anymore…

Every time I drew a new version of my heart, I reflected on how much of my heart truly still belonged to these people. I was actually surprised by my 2019 heart–that really, of all my relationships, there’s only two that still hold space in my heart, and that somehow my heart regenerated over the scars of the other breaks.

The other piece that struck me was how much of my heart I still had to give after every heartbreak. When I’m in the middle of it, when I can’t see more than the next tissue before the next tear falls, when I feel actual real pain despite not having any visible bruises or scratches or breaks, I forget that there is still space in my heart to love the people who are still in my corner.

And boy, did those people show up last month.

It’s time for me to get up off the mat. I have big goals for September that I’ll write about another time, maybe. But for now, I’ll just leave this here, and maybe a heartbroken someone will stumble across this someday, and draw iterations of her heart, and realize she will heal and she still has plenty of love to give.

Football, Teaching, Burnout, and Self-Care.

I’m home with bronchitis today, and let me tell you, getting four hours of uninterrupted sleep for the first time in a week has me feeling like I can do anything. Until I start coughing again, anyway.

But since I’m home and the Tessalon perles are working as they should, I thought I might as write a little bit about Andrew Luck, because not enough people are.

That was a joke, by the way.

Anyway. My favorite coverage of Andrew Luck’s retirement has been Deadspin. This piece is what made me think that Luck’s retirement decision was radical self care, and the fallout since from fans and sports pundits has appalled me, but also not surprised me.

Here’s why. We have this mythos in American culture that working hard–almost working ourselves to death–is the best thing we can do. We wear “busy” as a badge of honor. We conflate professional success with personal happiness. And I see this in my own profession.

We get movies like “Dangerous Minds” and “Freedom Writers” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” where teachers are celebrated for putting students first, for sacrificing their families and their personal lives to inspire and “save” students. We are told that the relationships we develop with students are the primary key to their learning (so I rather enjoyed this clarification on that idea).

Or we judge and shame teachers (and really, anyone who works) for taking time to get well when sick, or heal when hurt–physically or emotionally.

And then we wonder why we all burn out.

I know comparing an NFL quarterback and a public school teacher is a false analogy, and maybe if my mind was clearer I’d be able to make that analogy a bit more solid. But before I take another dose of medicine, two things.

  1. Andrew Luck did what was good for his mental and physical health, and while he’s in a privileged and moneyed position to do so, calling him soft or weak is really just jealousy that we can’t retire at will and build a completely new life.
  2. Teachers, as we start the beginning of the year, follow these steps when you are sick:
  • See a doctor if needed.
  • Write the sub plans.
  • Stay home.
  • Rest. For the love of all that is holy, rest.
  • Your students will be fine without you.
  • Read that last bullet point again.

A brief update

Have you seen this photo going around?

It came across my Instagram feed a couple of days ago and I saved it to one of my collections. And then I must have forgotten I’d saved it, because yesterday it appeared in my feed from a different account and I saved it again.

So I suppose this maxim spoke to me. Twice.

It’s a good reminder to me that I will come through on the other side of what I’m currently experiencing, and that perhaps I’ll be able to help someone else.

Yesterday as we filed out for a fire drill, a student said to me, “Ms. Rowse, I miss your six word stories!”

For the past two years, I’ve written a six word story for every school day. These stories force me to be present while teaching, as I look for possible stories to create. They force me to practice brevity and pointed language since I limit myself to six words. And they force me into a daily writing habit, even if it’s only six words.

But I started this school year in significant personal tumult, and while I wear a pretty good Happy Mask, it’s hard for me to see much joy, let alone create anything resembling quality writing.

But the photo above reminds me the tumult is temporary, and before long joy will start to break through.

Like the student, who on the first day of school walked into my classroom and said, “I wanted to take another class with you so I signed up for this one!” Or watching my editors teach a young newspaper staff how to be good reporters. Or getting grateful emails from colleagues.

Or a student who tells me she misses my six word stories.

So do I, kiddo. I promise I’ll start writing them again soon.

Mildred Pierce (1945)

Plot: Monte Beragon has been shot dead in his home, and the police pull in his wife, Mildred Pierce-Beragon for questioning. Because, you know, it’s always the spouse, right? During questioning, Mildred recounts her life story: from a stay-at-home mother who loves her children, to a single working mother, to a successful businesswoman.

Best moment: OH. MY. GOSH. That ending. I did not see that end coming. I mean, I suspected it a little, but seeing as this was 1945 I did NOT think they were going to go there. Also, the film was directed by Michael Curtiz, who is becoming my favorite director (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy), so every frame and his use of light and shadow is just *chef’s kiss*.

Worst moment: VEDA. All of her moments. Though I will say I’m adding this film to the list of resources I pull when people lament about “kids these days are the worst” or “moral decay has never been what it is now.” To those people I say, “Really? You should watch Mildred Pierce and then get back to me. I’ll wait.” Though I will say this about the writing–we’re never really given a good reason for why Veda is so awful. And maybe to a 2019 audience, we don’t need a reason; after all, Veda just reminded me of any number of teen Instagram influencers so it wasn’t a stretch for me to buy her “I’m so embarrassed that you work in the food industry” criticism of her mother as the sole reason she was so mean.

Trailer screenshot [Public domain]

Fun facts: Joan Crawford was not Curtiz’s first (or second, or third) choice for the title role, but she was really quite good. HBO did a miniseries starring Kate Winslet (the film was based on a book) so now I want to check that out.

Recommendation: See it. I see movies by myself all the time, and I’m never bothered by not having someone around to react with. But I kinda wish someone had watched this with me, because at least three times I said “WHAT?” out loud. That doesn’t happen often. Also, it held my attention, probably because so many of the characters were flat-out unlikeable and I wanted to see if that changed at all.

Anchors Aweigh (1945)

Plot: Joe Brady (Gene Kelly) and Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) have been granted four days’ leave in the wake of receiving the Silver Medal. Joe is wanting to find his portside girl Lola, and Clarence just wants to find any girl. They get delayed thanks to a six year-old who wants to join the Navy, and they meet Aunt Susie. Clarence is immediately enamored with Aunt Susie, while Joe is annoyed as he wants to see Lola. Who will Aunt Susie end up with? Will the two midshipmen ever stop calling her Aunt Susie? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Best Moment: Well, shoot, I think I have to say every time Gene Kelly dances. He’s just. so. good.

Worst Moment: Maybe the song Joe and Clarence sing about hooking up with girls that they didn’t actually hook up with? The song is a little bit yikes, but here’s where I really saw just how good a dancer Kelly is–Sinatra could not keep up, try as he might.

Fun Facts: If you’ve seen stills or clips of Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse, it’s from this film. There’s also a great scene at the Hollywood Bowl of a dozen pianists playing Franz Lizst’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2.

The film was released in between V-E day and V-J day, and as I watched, I couldn’t help but think this film was somewhat of a collective exhale of entertainment. There’s no ulterior war-supporting subtext, just singing and dancing and piano playing and falling in love.

Recommendation: It really is just nice fluffy escapist fare with some fantastic costuming (I want ALL of Aunt Susie’s dresses) and the sequence with Jerry Mouse is quite adorable. If you’re into that, see it.

Oh, and there’s Frank Sinatra singing this song, which is just a little on the nose for my life, tbh.