I’ve decided that I officially have an alter ego, her name is ParaNorma or Norma for short. This name stems from my paranoid nature the feeling that I’m constantly doing something wrong or that someone is mad/hates/out to get me. I don’t feel like this constantly, and for the most part I’m not really paranoid, but when I get into a lather it’s generally a doozy. My mind goes on some endless loop of how I’m so wrong. Lately, I’ve been able to feel Norma creeping up on me and I try to keep her at bay but that hasn’t always been the case.
My tendency is blame me first, ask questions later. I carry around this guilt that would give even the strongest man an hunchback from the weight of it. I often am asked if I’m Catholic or am told I “sound” Jewish–you the old joke about the _____ guilt. Mine is an asian guilt for not conforming/being wrong and a being a tremendous bother of some sort or another. At least that’s what my asian mother always implied–sometimes said outright–about me and to me. I didn’t realize how much I was doing this until I started teaching and fretting about my students. “I don’t understand why…” or “How come they don’t get…?” immediately followed by “What am I doing wrong? How can I fix this?” One of my colleagues finally had enough of my fretting and anxiety and very kindly said to me, “It’s not you, it’s the students. You’ve done all you could and they just have to…” Whatever the situation at the time might be. Her words had an impact and forced me to shift my thinking. I didn’t believe what she said to be true all the time but it did knock me off my usual self-deprecating and self-blaming tracks enough that I could see what she was saying. What she was saying is that I don’t need to take responsibility for everything that happens or doesn’t happen in the classroom. The students really needed to step it up and I needed to step it down, facilitate but not hand hold as much as I do.
Old habits die hard and so when I went back to teaching there was a whole different set of things to fret about, mostly corporate and colleague issues, less the students, oddly enough. When my friend, who also works there but knew me from before, texted me one day (yes, I was carrying on about wishing I didn’t speak my Truth to a certain person one day), “By the way, you are the most paranoid person I know:)” ParaNorma was “born” and I decided that I needed to get some control over her. You know, that backseat driver who is in the moment mildly abrasive yet completely corrosive over time. Someone you put up with because they are never “that” bad until you can’t stand them anymore. We joke about Norma and I try to manage her. It’s going to take some doing. I felt her lingering while I was trying to put a lesson plan together for tomorrow’s class. What she needs is a real Fight Club kind of ass-kicking. Right now, I’ll go back to the lesson plan and kindly ignore her. I really do have better things to deal with and more pressing items, for that matter. For example, the 7th ring of Hell: dealing with my children’s homework. Never a dull moment what with my boys and Norma lurking about.