Saturday, July 28, 2012
The fact that there are multiple parts to this madness is completely ridiculous. However, it’s the reality and this whole thing has made me question “is this even worth it?” Of course it is. The pain of not pursuing school is far worse than the drama that has ensued over the past month. Harold Washington has my application and high school transcripts on file which is excellent news. I’m told that I need to go to Orientation and take the placement test. Orientation is no big deal but the placement test?! No thank you. Standardized tests have never been a strong point for me. Scary images of my SAT scores dance around my mind. I fight them off with a cookie. Registration ends Aug 20 which is when classes start. I find that the soonest I can get in to Orientation is Aug 11. This leaves no time for a placement test. I email an advisor that a co-worker recommended and in nearly all caps he says GO NOW! Do NOT wait til the 11th! Ummm.. I was under the impression that I needed to make an appointment. I go the school on Monday and talk to administration. They tell me that there is an orientation at 2pm and to just walk in. This means missing my math class at PCOM which is detrimental to my learning the material. I leave and take a walk, stopping at Starbucks for tea. I mull all this over and decide to go to the orientation. I take my homework to PCOM and drop it in my teacher’s mailbox. I later see that I forgot to include part of the assignment. “A” for effort right?” I’m scared that I may need to bring along proof of residence being I don‘t have an IL drivers license. I go back to Harold Washington and ask a man at an information desk. He tells me that I first need an appointment to go to orientation. I nearly rip is his face off. Why does everyone have a different story?! I try to keep composed as I told him what the woman said this morning. He instructs me to get back in the line at administration to be sure. When I’m back in line I’m thinking I won’t even have time to go home if I’m supposed to. Turns out I don’t need proof of residence to attend and yes I can just walk in.
Orientation only takes an hour.
A few days later I have to miss my cranio sacral class to take the placement exam. I go over the study material as best as I can while trying to learn this new math material from the Monday I missed. Jeff reminds me to just be where I am. I want to believe that I can do that. Part of me likes that idea but the part of me that is anxiety ridden and petrified of judgment is taking over.
The night before the test, I can’t sleep. Dana is out of town and the cats are pawing at my door all night. My mind is racing and shows no sign of stopping. I’m supposed to meet up with Jeff for lunch after the test as he has to work the rest of the day. I have no idea how long it’s going to take.
I get to the testing room early with about five other people. I watch as one of the proctors snaps at the girl in front of me for trying to enter the room. Apparently we all have to play a game of “20 Questions” before entering.
Before coming to the school I checked to make sure the graphing calculator that Jeff is letting me borrow is ok to use on the test. The website said yes. The man standing in front of me, handing me paperwork says no and hands me a basic calculator to use. Again, with the miscommunication!!
We’re given strict instructions to turn off our cell phones, use the restroom now as we won’t be able to once we start the test, and if we need anything we’re to raise our hand and wait for someone to come.
I am shown to a computer and am told how to get started. The math section is first. Of course it is. The first few problems are easy. The test gets harder and harder with each correct answer, measuring the extent of your knowledge. I keep going, scribbling on my scratch paper, solving equation after equation. I notice after a while that this is taking a long time and the problems aren’t progressively getting harder. It’s all about the same and to me, it feels challenging. Decimals, word problems, basic geometry and algebra show up. I feel ridiculous for not remembering how to approach some of the problems. “Do your best. Do your best. Do your best.” I repeat to myself. Nothing is calming down the anxiety that I’m going to be stuck at an 8th grade math level forever.
That being said, who cares? I don’t want to be a mathematician. English is my thing. Not soon enough am I progressing on to the English section. It’s mostly reading comprehension with a little bit of vocabulary. I feel my eyes are going to start bleeding once I’m two essays in. There are so many dull, dry, words that I have to remember so I can answer questions about them. Essay after article after essay pass and I keep hoping that the next one will be the last one as I have to write my own essay after this Q and A extravaganza.
I shift around in my seat. I stare at the clock. I’ve already been here over two hours! I take my glass off put my face in my hands trying to slowly take in deep breaths. I remind myself that this won’t last forever. I get back to it and turns out, the essay I’m on is the last one. Thank God.
The computer magically lets the proctors (there are five of them) know I’m finished. A woman brings over an essay I am to analyze and paper to write on then tells me to write an essay answering one of two questions on another sheet of paper she hands me.
Ok. I outline, brainstorm and do a quick rough draft before writing the actual essay. All of this reminds me of being in fifth grade and learning all of this. My teacher, Mrs. Fowler told me that I need to elaborate more when I’m answering questions and writing essays. I never forgot that.
I write and write. My handwriting is big as it sometimes gets when I’m trying to write legibly. I was told that if I needed more paper, just raise my hand. I had one paragraph left to go and not enough room. I raised my hand.
“Yes?” a tall skinny effeminate guy traipses over to me.
“I need more paper please.” I say softly.
He looks me over then glances at what I’ve written. “I hope you’re finishing up soon.”
“I am.” I firmly state thinking “just get the damn paper asshole!”
“Ok. Because this is an essay, not a dissertation.”
“I know.” I say in my most saccharine southern tone.
He delivers the paper and I finish before racing out of that Godforsaken room and out into the bright sunshine. It feels so good to move my limbs, to take big deep breaths…
I don’t lose it until Jeff and I exit Intelligentsia shortly after I pop in to find him. I told him what the proctor said to me. That statement was the snapping point. The tears came despite my best effort at keeping them in. Jeff pulled me into him hugging me tightly telling me how proud he was of me for even doing it. We’re against one of the walls of the Cultural Center. I’m so angry. I’m angry at PCOM for delivering their incorrect information. Angry at my younger self for not learning how to take these stupid exams, and angry at that idiot and his comment.
When I’m all cried out, we go get sushi. I feel like my brain won’t hold anything else. I see Jeff’s face and I’m trying to make myself be present, reminding myself that it’s all over but I can’t seem to.
We leave lunch and he heads to work. I…have to get some math tutoring. Oh yes. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse in the sense of school work, I have no idea how to do this week’s homework being I missed class and all.
Phranque, one of my teachers from last term offered to help. I met him at Argo Tea down the street from Intelligentsia.
“Whatcha got?” he asks after I sit down with my tea and fill him in about my morning.
I pull out my book and show him the chapter we’re working on. “I know how to solve the equations but I don’t know how to set them up.” I explain.
Word problems have never been a strong point. Phranque quietly looks over the examples. I stare out the window until his voice grabs my attention.
“Ok. Easy enough. Read number one out loud.”
I glance at the book as he holds it up for me to read the tiny print, then back at him. I take in a deep breath and read the first sentence. Tears are threatening. I attempt the first word of the second sentence and stop.
“Are you going to cry?” he asks.
I nod and the tears come again.
“I’m so tired.” I whisper.
He’s expressionless and motionless, still holding the book.
“Ok, let’s look at it this way…” he begins.
Two and a half hours later, he’s late for another tutoring session he’s doing with some students on acupuncture points and I am heading to Wicker Park, still a little uneasy about this homework.
I stop into Mojo Spa in Wicker Park. I want a treat for making it through this hideous day. I love this little place. The woman who owns it hand makes all of her soaps, scrubs and lotions. I pick out a coconut one and leave. I notice the clouds are getting dark. I know I should take the bus as I don’t have an umbrella and my feet are starting to hurt but it feels so good to be outside. More often than not I find that the sky only threatens to open up, rarely following through.
My phone rings and it’s Dana. We chat for a few minutes before she has to go meet up with a friend. I walk down Damen and over to Augusta because it’s prettier and quieter than Chicago Ave. Thunder claps overhead and I pick up my pace. I can see Western which means I’m close as fat rain drops start to fall pelting my head and shoulders. At first it’s just a few raindrops, but as I cross Western an ocean of rain dumps onto my exposed body. By the time I make it home I soaked all the way through to my undies.
I hate today.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
My second term at PCOM is coming to a close. I am grateful for the upcoming break from classes. I have already registered for fall classes, I’m passing my algebra class and have received such kind remarks on my ability to do massage that it almost brings tears to my eyes. Everything has been smooth sailing. Or so I thought. I overheard some girls in my math class talking about how even when we finish the associates of applied science here at PCOM we will still need to go to a community college or something to “get the rest of the credits” so entry into the masters program will be admitted. This was not my understanding upon applying to PCOM. I wouldn’t be here if that were the case. I was told that the associates would get me into the masters program. I was also told that the program would transfer to other acupuncture schools. This is also partially untrue. Some schools take it but most want an associates degree at least from an institution that is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Now what? Did I just “waste” 6 months here doing something that isn’t going to get me to where I’m trying to get to? Being a massage therapist isn’t something I want to pursue full time. I want the knowledge and yes I’ve enjoyed myself very much. I do love the school, the teachers and the people that go there but I’m not here to make friends, not here for my health (well…) and I’m certainly not trying to waste any time. I’m not getting any younger or any richer by being in school. I want to be an acupuncturist…yesterday! I talked to a woman in administration about this after that class. It’s true. PCOM doesn’t accept it’s own AAS program. Something about accreditation…but again, this was the deal. I was told they could offer this program and I could get into the masters program with it. It doesn’t make any sense as to why they won’t take it. “You can get your massage certificate.” The administrator told me. “that way you can work and then go to Harold Washington to get the rest of the credits.” “I’m already employed!” I snapped. “I was told one thing when I started and you’re telling me I’m pretty much back where I started! I’m angry no one bothered to mention this!” She glosses over my snippiness and says that she’ll help me get the classes I need to get into the masters program. I don’t believe anything. For the next week I research schools across the western part of the U.S. trying to find a masters program that will take the AAS. There are two that I’ve found. One in CA and one in CO. I’m not sure I want to stay though and finish. I certainly don’t want to sink anymore money into this if it’s not going to go anywhere. After much hemming and hawing I decide to see if Harold Washington has my application and transcripts on hand being I applied there this time last year before Ruth rang me up to say that I could enroll in the AAS at PCOM. Whew. They have everything. I just need to attend orientation and take a placement test. I also need to switch over my financial aid stuff. One tiny detail though. Classes start in August, not September like PCOM. I still want to finish my term at PCOM before withdrawing. I’m going to have to rush this Harold Washington business. Not to mention I’m still doing my job and commuting 3 hours a day. I’d also like to see Jeff and get some kind of sleep. I feel a giant shitstorm brewing…
Every week I count down to Fridays. Not only because I get to spend most of the day with Jeff but because my day starts with craniosacral therapy class at 9am. I don’t work on Fridays, so after a long week, I get to come into class and sink into the fascinating lectures my teacher, Rich delivers to us. Not only do we get to practice the techniques he shows us, but we receive the treatment as well from each other. It’s the most gentle, relaxing form of massage therapy I’ve ever experienced. It’s designed to help with a host of issues such as scoliosis, TMJ, chronic fatigue syndrome, emotional disorders…the list is endless. Rich practices in Evanston, not far from where I work. After a few weeks of class, I made an appointment to see him. Since that first appointment I’ve been going every Tuesday. I am still looking for something to calm down my incessant anxiety and chronic PMS. Sure, acupuncture has helped a lot and I’m grateful for that, but being that CST deals with the release of emotions, I thought I’d give that a try. Going into this, I had no idea what an emotional release would look like. For me, I’ve discovered it’s a whole lot of laughing. It’s spontaneous and I have no control over it. I don’t even know what triggers it half the time. Mostly, the laughter turns into tears. When I do experience a memory of some sort, I see it playing on a screen in my mind. I’ve seen myself as a child at church, playing the handbells. I’ve seen myself as a first grader singing “My Country Tis of Thee” with my class, and I’ve seen an image of my mother, one that I can only imagine I had as a very very young child. It’s brief, and just her face. She’s beaming and moving toward me as if she’s going to pick me up. She’s wearing something yellow and her hair is styled, feathered back off her face. Some unpleasant things have also happened as a result of doing this to each other in class. I say unpleasant but it’s neither or good or bad, just…maybe uncomfortable is the better word for it. Anyway. One of my favorite classmates worked on me and as I felt her hands envelope parts of my torso I began to relax. Then the memory flared up. It’s one that shall remain nameless but causes such extreme guilt and shame that my eyes flew open as a result. Slowly, I began to relax again, closing my eyes, then the memory came up again. This time I let it. I tried to breathe deeper and remind myself that I am 30, I am in Chicago, this is a classroom. It isn’t Atlanta. The images wouldn’t go away. The idea of vomiting came to my mind. I wanted to physically release whatever this was. I kept breathing though. My classmate had no idea anything was going on in my head. My body made no indications that such hideousness was happening. In fact, she felt my fascia releasing, my muscles letting go of tension and was excited about it. When she was done I practically slid off the table. I found myself forcing a smile, and trying to figure out how I was going to be able to give her a treatment. I knew all the motions but wasn’t present enough to really feel what her body was doing. I did it anyway, hoping I wasn’t negatively affecting her. I didn’t seem to be. Class ended and when I stepped outside my eyes were assaulted by bright sunshine and my ears felt like bleeding from all the noise of lunchtime in the Loop. I was on my way to meet Jeff. At his place I still felt out of it. We were going to see a movie but all I wanted to do was stare at a wall and or cry. Going outside seemed like the worst idea ever. By the next day I was still feeling like this. I emailed Rich and he wrote me back saying I had a partial release and he’d work the rest of it out on Tuesday. By the end of the our session on Tuesday, I was back to normal. There was a lot of crying, and a lot of shaking of my limbs but the storm passed and since then, the feelings and memories that came up that day haven’t returned. For me the most challenging part of this work is staying present. Not only when I’m being worked on but when I am working on other people. I am finding that I have a tendency to take on other people’s stuff. I absorb their energy and find that little aches or pains they have manifest in my own body. I have done this my whole life. Mostly without realizing it. I believe this is why I slept more during the beginning of my career as a stylist than I have ever slept in my life. I had no idea where my client ended and I began. Multiply that by 10 ( the approximate amount of clients I would see in a day) then multiply it again by 5 (the amount of days I worked each week) and it’s no wonder I developed a compulsive eating disorder and a lil bit of narcolepsy. Sometimes during my sessions with Rich he would feel more of my muscles releasing than I would. Sometimes I’d find myself laughing or crying and having no idea why. At other times I’d have no idea what I was feeling because I’d be talking so much to him. One time Rob came up. I was practically waiting for that knowing I have that experience trapped inside of me somewhere. It took weeks but he came up only once. During that session, Rich had a hand right beneath my lowest ribs and another one on my back. (underneath me being I am always face up on the massage table.) His hands were there but I felt a pulling on my chest. It was like having tiny little strings that extended from my shoulders to my heart. These strings were pulling my shoulders inward and tightening around my heart. I observed that for a while then a picture played across my mind. It’s Rob and in me in his parent’s back yard. He’s telling met that he likes being outside with me. I am laughing then the scene changes and it’s April 20th. He’s wearing a light blue t-shirt. He’s about to leave and I’m angry that he’s in such a rush but I‘m trying not to show it. He tells me he had fun cooking with me the night before and that he’ll have to make key lime pie for me. He says “I love you.” I see myself look at him, knowing I should, and I return the “I love you.” The scene changes again and I’m in the Jeep with him. This is most confusing as this part didn’t actually happen. I am behind him in the passengers seat. I know that we’re in the grass and not on the road. The Jeep is still upright and all I am focusing on is the blue of his sleeve on his right arm. Everything feels calm even though I know it’s not quite right. The images stop there. Rich dialogues me through all of this, asking me to describe what’s happening not only because of what he’s feeling but my torso is shaking. I see this part that holds this entire experience of my life as a creamy marble. It’s not as big as it used to be and it lives in my chest. I am surprised as to how clearly I “see” this little part. He’s asked me to put it away for now as I need to go about my day. I see a small version of myself (a very young version) placing the marble on a shelf. She’s fixated on it. When I tell this to Rich he again, talks me through walking away from it knowing I can come back at anytime. Since that session those images have not come back to my mind. It’s not that I believe they’ve disappeared, it’s just that I seem to have found a new way of letting them be. I haven’t had anymore releases in class which I’m kind of grateful for. I have a hard enough time allowing myself to let it happen when it’s just Rich and me. I’m not used to letting my emotions out. I’m not used to experiencing them. I am however quite adept at masking them, at pushing them away and pretending they don’t exist. When doing bodywork on people this can’t happen. I have to deal with my own stuff as it comes up so if and when a client is triggered, I don’t get triggered too. I actually have to learn what it’s like to inhabit my body, allow myself to get curious as to what’s going on. I have to remain present and take each moment as it comes. This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn yet. I still have no idea how to let go and just be. This class though, one Friday at a time is getting me just a little bit closer to that wonderful space. That space where I can just be exactly who I am and know that all is well.