LivingNighttimeDaydream WakeUp.

And so I’m shedding another skin.

This one was dark but warm sleepy blue like grandfather’s cardigan, and it kept me from the cold.

It kept me sleeping.

I was in a fallow state along with trees in this strangest of South Texas winters.

There was actual snowfall here in Laredo.



I disappeared.

A strange side effect of my ADHD medication is the intense state of hyper-focus it puts me in, and as an educator, I still mark the time the way children do – by the seasons, by the state-mandated school year calendar. It was through this that I saw my rebirth as a focused teacher; every school year was a different fixation, a specific and laser-like focus on one area of teaching. This year was all about my classroom.

I had a vision for my classroom, and the way I wanted to tailor every last bit of towards learner-centered, small group instruction, instead of the shackles of the front and center lecturing teacher.

It began my second week back. I began pulling twelve-hour days, going in at 6 AM and signing out by 6:45 – 6:50 PM. It left me drained, exhausted, and not wanting to go out for anything or anyone – except, on occasion, when my best friend would coax me out. Even then, half of my mind still yearned for home.

My focus was such that I’m just now coming out of it. I actually have the mental energy to write again.

Waking up is always a strange instinctual, mechanical business, though, isn’t it?

That strange segue from the dream state to waking life. Knowing that your mind was somewhere else for some amount of time – that past a gray-misted haze of a memory – as the present comes into slow and clear focus.

I’ve never been more acutely aware of my evolution as a human being since my depression and ADHD diagnosis and being on consistent and effective (for me) medication.

I’ve always loved learning – about myself, about the world – and now I’m getting a crash course in the education of myself as person in more control of his life than he’s ever been, as well as the world of mental illness.

I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning.

I know that I will continue evolving.

What a strange adventure this is, being human.

Dispatches From the World of Depression: I am a Foolish Man Blessed with Wonderful Women in my Life – The Healing Virtues of Mothers, Daughters, and Magical Blankets. 

And I’m up and alive and blessed by the sun.

It’s funny the things you get when you ask.

I’ve personally never had a problem with asking.

I was the baby of the family, so asking for things becomes par for the course. In a family of four siblings, it’s a way to ensure that you get your proper share of whatever choice goodies are proffered. As part of the process of asking, you learn to develop and utilize your charm. 

I’m the type of person who will go into any shop or store and ask for freebies or samples – more so when I was off my meds. I’m the type of person who will go to the movies, and if I don’t like what I’m watching, will walk out of the theater and go ask for a rain check – and I’ll get it. And I always find it surprising that many people find my behavior outrageous, that they would never ever ask for anything like that.

I think it’s outrageous to not try to get what you want, or to sit there in a darkened theater and suffer through two hours of your life that you will never get back,  watching a movie that’s horribly made.

That’s the type of person I am. Those are the things that I do. In a heartbeat.

But when it comes to me being sick, I’ve found that I have a very hard time asking for help. My mouth transmutes from flesh, muscle, cartilage, and bone to lead.

So, Friday night, when I was in the middle of my depressive episode, I knew I needed help, I knew I needed something. 

I was lying on the couch we have in our music room/study feeling leaden-limbed, and I called out to my mother, who was in the den watching TV and coloring the color books she uses for relaxation. And I felt bad, because she was by herself. She came over. I apologized. I explained to her how I felt. She said she understood.

You see, when I’m in that depressive state where I can’t move, I feel such oppressive guilt. I don’t want my mom to think that I’m ignoring her. I feel like I’m failing as a son, a forty-two year old man, a human being – despite everything I do, and I need to hear that it’s okay, to allay some of that guilt. 

My mom did that. She told me what I think anybody who’s struggled with depression wants to hear from a loved one: that it’s alright, get your rest, take as much time as you need. 

So I asked if she could bring me a banana and some walnuts because I hadn’t eaten anything that day. She did.

I ate a little, then lay there a while. 

Then my mom comes back in. In her hands she’s holding a charcoal gray blanket. I have never seen this blanket before in my life. She covers me with it. And I’m amazed because this has to be the most comfortable-feeling blanket I’ve ever felt. My mom didn’t make a fuss. She left quickly. I was near tears. I thanked her.

I laid there, wrapping myself up in the soft comfort of the blanket, and somehow, I found myself texting my ex-girlfriend’s eldest daughter, who I helped raise since she was twelve. She had texted me earlier, and it occurred to me that I never responded. 

But in the middle of texting her I had a thought, and something compelled me, so I asked. I asked the eighteen year old girl who I helped raise if she could stop by my house and give me a hug. Her mother struggles with depression as well, so she understands. 

I fully prepared myself for her to say no. She’s a teenager. I’m no longer with her mother. I waited, not very hopeful.

She texted back yes.

My leaden heart jumped slightly. Then I slipped back into a stupor. 

The doorbell rang. There was a knock at the door. 

She came. 

My mom, surprised and happy to see her, let her in. I heard her talking. I heard hellos being said, but there seemed to be more voices. Then to my surprise, she brought her younger sister with her.

Four and a half years I did my best to raise these girls. I gave them my heart unconditionally. They still have it. I have no other children. These are my daughters.

And when I needed, my daughters came. They sat beside me a while, they gave me hugs, and they let me hug them back. Then they stayed a while. They were themselves, being dorks and children and sisters – the eldest threw the youngest the finger behind my back, but I knew so I called her out, and we all just laughed. They sat a while longer, then they left.

I felt loved. I felt alive. I felt the lead in my limbs lightened.

They came, because I needed help.

And they enveloped me in their love.

For a moment we were a family again.

For a moment I had my daughters again – most probably the only children I’ll ever have.

And their love, and their energy, and their youth lifted me up a bit.

And for me, that bit was enough. 

You Are Not Alone: Death Rebirth Rest Change Nature Cycles Depression and the Christ child – or A Nativity Story for Non-Natives. 

“And the sleepiness kicks back in, this time more from sadness, the lethargy from my exhaustion from work is there, too. This very paragraph is where I’ve started writing, because I wanted to try and accurately describe how it feels, what I’m going through right now.

I simultaneously want to cry and fall asleep.

My eyes are closing while tears collect around the corners of my eyes.

And the feeling of falling away into the deep blue state of oblivion comes back strong.

This sucks

I have to put my phone down now eyes can’t stay open.”

I wrote this yesterday, when I was grieving after receiving the news that another dear, sweet, older coworker had passed away from a heart attack. 

Yes, another. 

About two weeks ago this evening I attended the memorial service that was held for a coworker, s kind, sweet, positive older woman, who finally succumbed to her six-year battle with cancer, leaving her husband – another coworker at our elementary school – and three children here on this plane of existence. 

It was hard going to the service. 

You see, lately I’ve been having a problem with funerals or memorial services for the deceased since my father lost his battle to liver and gall-bladder cancer. 

I’m getting drowsy again. I wonder, is this my depression, wanting me to shut down and go to sleep because it’s too much to process – especially when my body is already recovering from the physical exhaustion of working too many hours at my campus? Is it just the physical exhaustion? Or is it a combination of both?

Depression is funny that way. Even medicated, it’s hard to tell where the depression ends and you begin.

Can’t keep my eyes open anymore.

Time to sleep.

My mom woke me. 

I think ten-fifteen minutes have passed.

Right now I’m in the study/Music room in The Last Homely House, listening to a mix of modern throwback Christmas music by Pearl Jam, Sufjan Stevens, Dave Matthews and other Alternative, Indie, and singer-songwriter, along with some Beth Orton.

The study is filled with the clean gleam of gentle, natural sunlight, a sharp contrast to the midnight blue dark of my bedroom yesterday.

The grief has left for the most part, the lethargy has departed as well. Now it’s mostly a cozy church mouse sleepiness I’ve been feeling.

I got up at seven and did my Christmas shopping. I was done by 9:30 a.m. 

So, slowly but surely, my forced bed rest is helping my energy to come back. 

I live my life by the schedule of my sleep now.

Ever since I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and I discovered that lack of sleep really does cause a lot of damage for anyone with a mental illness – especially an untreated mental illness – I get as much sleep as I possibly can. And somehow, I knew this. As I grew older, it became harder and harder for me to be fully functional on five hours or less of sleep. My ex-girlfriend saw this firsthand. I became very emotional, very negative. I would joke that being in that state would make me suicidal – but that wasn’t far from the truth. I just wanted to drop everything and go to bed. I was a person who needed eight hours – seven minimum. 

Now I’m a teacher. I have to be on campus by 7:30. My daily commute is thirty minutes. But I like getting to work early, even knocking out a kettlebell workout real quick. And I also like to make time to eat a good sit down breakfast, and watch a little CNN. So in order to do all that, I need to be up by 4. I try to be in bed by eight pm.

Regular weekend nights out no longer exist for me, even just staying up late reading, or watching TV – those are pleasures I can simply no longer indulge in.

But sleep, glorious, languid descents into the deepest, darkest caverns of Oblivion – a darkness so complete, I rarely remember my dreams – that is a pleasure I now long for daily. 

It’s funny, but I had to change the person I was to save the person I could be, the person I’m supposed to be. And there’s still more changing I need to do.

But the sedentary, junk-food-eating, unfocused night-owl is dead.

Because all that I did and was doing to myself was making me miserable physically and mentally. I was like a smoker with lung cancer, a diabetic who kept eating sugary sweets. I was doing everything that would exacerbate my depression and ADHD.

So that part of me – which seemed like such an integral part of me, like it was tied to my identity – had to die.

I had to do two things which terrified the fuck out of me:

Die and Change.

Death and Change.

I see that now, those two phases are essential to the cycle of life, to the cycle of your evolution as a human.

And it requires rest and recovery. That’s what I’m doing – that’s what I’ve been doing ever since my father and my old life died. That’s why I barely go out. That’s why I sleep. That’s why I spoil myself. A part of me knows another change, another phase of my life is about to begin, and this one involves me finally doing continuous exercise and ends with me quitting the regular drinking, until I don’t drink at all. So instinctively my body is resting. I’m like a field in the winter, laying fallow. 

We have to change, we have to die, we have to let go of all the things we make ourselves feel we need that help define our identity but are toxic to us.

We die either way at the end.

The question is how do you want to go?

As your true, whole, happy self?

Or as a sickly, angry, used shadow of yourself?

These recent deaths are terrible. They are terrible in different ways. One family saw it coming, so there was time to prepare despite hope, but a sixty-year-year-old man has lost his life partner for good, and he will have to raise his teenage girls and older son on his own. The other family lost their matriarch suddenly, quickly – and cruelly – right before Christmas. Things will never be the same.

They won’t. And it’s terrible. But there is always hope that families can get past that void.

Five years ago, my mother, myself, and my siblings could not imagine a world without our father. But living here, in the same house – even after I practically moved in with my ex-girlfriend, I knew something was going to happen. I knew something was wrong. So I set my mind to abandoning the life I had built with my ex, moving back in with my parents, and waiting for the time when he would get so sick, he’d need constant tending to. I set my mind so hard to it, I became fatalistic – And that triggered the worst depressive episode I’d gone through.

Bad judgement, lack of communication, lack of compromise – that’s what killed my relationship. Then her discovering an emotional relationship I had begun with a very unprofessional ex-assistant principal is what cut us off for good.

Our relationship died. Who we were died, but it took me killing it to see that I had mental health issues that needed diagnosing and treating.

My life has been a constant shedding of skins that I never expected to shed and that I truly thought were me.

My mother, my whole family has. We’ve had to adjust to the changes. And we move on, our lives now tinged with the memory of my father’s death. 

Death and Change. 

Nothing is permanent. 

The only thing that can be permanent is your understanding and acceptance of that one truth: nothing is permanent.

Who you are.

What you have.

The material and immaterial things that you think define you – they can, and probably will, change in an instant. We just don’t know when.

Life is change.

Life is impermanence. 

Life is a work in progress that you truly never get to complete. 

To some reading this, the news might terrify the hell out of you, but that’s not my intention. That’s not my takeaway.

The takeaway is: know this, so you can live the life you want, your way, for yourself, without having to answer to anyone. 

Life is precious.

And it’s yours, to do with what you will.

And for those who may be depressed during this season, please understand, it’s all about perspective. 

This day is not supposed to be about gifts, how many and how much.

This is day is not supposed to be about family – even when it’s good – because most of us know that’s a lie, that family are the first, and sadly sometimes, the only ones who truly hurt, abandon, and betray us.

Today, well, this evening, marks the occasion where a working-class man decided to have the back of a Woman he loved who had a child who was not his own. This couple was on the run and the only shelter they could find for themselves and this child was a poorly manger, a shelter for animals. Shepards, some Wise Men, an angel. A strange collection all, strangers all, who were all probably laughed at, but who stopped, and made their way to see a child, to see life, despite it’s cruel miseries.

The story of this occasion does not exemplify an ideal of being satisfied living in a world of material excess. Far from it – the materially rich in this story were represented by an insecure, jealous king who decided to murder all the male babies he could find in fear of the rise of this one particular child.

No. This is a story of looking down at your feet, at looking up over your head, at looking into the mirror, and seeing an imperfect survivor living an imperfect life on the run the best way you can manage – and saying, “I’m alive. This is now and I’m alive.”

So, yeah, there’s death, there’s change, but there’s also rest, and recovery. The tree drops it leaves and grays, then splays out in a thousand shades of undulating emerald a season later.

It’s about rest and seasons and time, and simply being. 

Amidst all the sexy, shiny, glossy screens telling you, showing you:




You have fulfilled their purpose in this manufactured illusion of “gotta have gotta buy!” and perverted inversion of an ancient tale that taught an important lesson and you have forgotten THE most important thing:

YOU are the gift.

The Last Jedi and My Improptu Tour of Pleasures.

I drove up to San Antonio this morning to see The Last Jedi. 

I wasn’t planning on seeing it today. 

I was planning on saving it for next Saturday, the first Saturday of my two-week Christmas break, as a Beginning-of-Break treat.

I save certain science fiction/fantasy action adventure films for the IMAX 3D screen at the Santikos Palladium movie theater across I10 from Six Flags Fiesta Texas. I have to budget them out, because it’s a pricey ticket. I wasn’t a fan of 3D cinema before, but since taking my ex-girlfriend there to see Ridley Scott’s Prometheus back when it premiered, and I saw it done right on a proper screen, I was sold.

Then all the hype came out about The Last Jedi, the positive praise, the urgings to see it before all those idiots who have made spoiling surprises just so they can “Be In The Know” and hold that feeling priority over some people’s love of surprise. 

But I’ll save my thoughts and choice words on the Gotta-Know-First-And-Blurt-Spoiler-Obsessed and their ilk for another blog. But all the hype made me decide to scrounge up enough cash for the ticket.

It was, of course, fantastic, giving this life-long fan of Star Wars everything I wanted in a Star Wars film in a way I wasn’t expecting – and I loved it.

There were so many laugh out loud and cheer- or applause-worthy moments, I was surprised and a little disappointed when the rest of the crowd was silent. Such was the majestic awesomeness of Rian Johnson’s vision, that I didn’t care, and I did my own golf-clapping, laughing, and toned-down cheers.

Afterwards, already in a state of positive euphoria, I stopped at ULTA Beauty Supply to pick up my grooming and skin care products, a cologne. 

I started using men’s skin care products almost a year to day, after my friend Elsa did my make-up for my role as Egeus in a local theater production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A small part of using the products was it’s obvious benefits, but a major part of the ritual was my physically applying them to my face. 

In better times, my ex-girlfriend would often spontaneously stroke my face, the top of my head, to continual delight and pleasure. Her shows of affection made me feel so loved, so special. I had known for a while that I was a person who needed a lot of physical contact. 

Now that I’m single, I’m not ashamed to admit that I miss it terribly. So my nightly skin care regimen became an essential component of my self-care ritual, and gave me a good excuse to give myself the physical contact I craved.

So it was a nice treat to stock up on all the “essentials.”

By this time, I was starving. And I wanted to enjoy something delicious and comforting that wasn’t available back in Laredo. 

In Martin Brest’s 1992 film, Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino plays a blind war veteran who, along with Chris O’Donnell, visits New York, and embarks on a series of adventures and fine experiences. In the film he refers to it as a “tour of pleasures.”

I’ve since taken up that phrase to refer to my day trips to San Antonio or my weekend concert-goin trips to Austin.

At this point on my Tour of Pleasures, having eaten nothing but a couple of bananas and some Starbucks on the road after a two hour drive and a movie that was over two hours long, then shopping st ULTA, I was starving. I wanted to find something delicious to eat. 

Then I remembered Maggiano’s Little Italy. 

It’s a higher end chain – better than Johnny Carino’s (which I love) and Olive Garden (which I hate). But it was in the same sprawling shopping/entertainment center as the Palladium and ULTA. 

I entered, approached the lady in the front, and asked for any available table or small booth. She told me that it would be a thirty to forty-five minute wait, but if I wanted to, there was space at the bar area. I jumped at that, and I was lucky enough to find a small nook in a small, secluded corner of the bar.

There was one young girl running the area, but I really didn’t care. I sat there, reading articles off of my Flipboard app and doing some writing.

By the time I got her attention, it was a little while longer till she brought me bread and oil and a glass of water. Before she was off again, I ordered. I wanted to enjoy a glass of red, but I wanted to something different. She recommended a pinot noir (Paul Giamatti’s voice from Sideways, echoing in my mind about pinot) and brought me a sample. It was complex enough and not too dry so I went ahead and ordered the nine ounce serving along with their version of the ultimate comfort food, “Mom’s Homemade Lasagna.”

The pinot and lasagna in the warm setting of Maggiano’s was the perfect counterpoint to the forty-three degree temperature and gray, miserable rain outside; me reading articles off of my phone, writing my Daily Meditation, and just taking breaks to eat, breath, close my eyes and enjoy being right inside the moment.

Just breathing. 

Just being in the moment.

I smiled.

The whole time, walking in my winter gear, waiting and wading amidst all the pre-Christmas shopping throngs, lines, and traffic. At times, beautiful women and pretty girls would look at me and smile. I looked them right in the eye, smiled back and went on my way.

Smiled, that’s what I was doing, mostly the entire time, smiling because I was happy. 

Happy to be swimming among humanity, to be free and untethered, on my own time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

Just happy to be.

To be.

Purely, simply happy. 

No phantom limb pain.

I smiled, happy, content, and not caring or worrying about, not  giving a single thought to who I was or wasn’t with.

I was with me.

I was present.

I was in the moment.

Simply enjoying being.

Being me.


I close my eyes and for a moment I picture the box …

My mind wanders.

My eyes open.

It’s been three years since I bought you the ring. It was perfect, remember? Like nothing no one had seen before. It was vintage. And it was you. And it felt so right.

Three years since I proposed, and I still can’t sort out the sounds of the beating of my heart you saying yes us laughing the sounds of our kisses the slowing then speeding up of our bodies our breathing as we make love.

The speeding up and slowing down of time.

The image of a wooden box …

Your house is fixed up finally. It finally becomes our house. I have my home. 

We fill it with the things that are Us. We don’t live like the Boring Rest.

We are a family. The four of us. You, me, the girls. We are glued, bonded permanently by love and arguments and lessons learned and taught and tears and laughter and talking and weekend night Netflix binges and lazy Saturday morning pancakes, Nutella French toast sandwiches topped with fresh strawberries. 

I hold my breath a second. Something hurts. I picture the box again.

The image goes away because we go to concerts, check in to hotels, wander strange cities travel have adventures laugh.

We have our jobs. Our workaday lives. We text each other throughout the day. Just hellos I miss yous silly memes that make us laugh – remember that time?

But that box …

We come home. You make dinner it’s amazing as always. The night winds down showers and everybody to bed and phones away as the girls grumble damp-haired and fresh from showers in soft PJs as they hand them over kiss us goodnight hugs and they close the door behind us.

We cuddle up to each other, saying as we always do – that this our favorite part of the day. Our bodies melding into one comfylump bedbeast. I breathe in the smell of your hair.

We take our medication together.

We’re healed.

The dark times behind us.

The feeling empty cold stomach alone in the same room, the old rituals frozen meaningless.

You’ve forgiven me, forgiven the things I did, the betrayal when I was hurt and mad and lost, the excuses, the attacks, the justifications.

I tried so hard to build a cocoon of safety around you, around us, nothing no one  will ever hurt you ever.

Until I did.

Until I tore it all down.

Until I lost.

Lost you. 

Lost my home.

Lost everything. 

Until my depression showed me just what kind of person I could be when everything became too much the lies of the secret lives I led.

And I loved you.

I love you.

I will always love you. 

And you love me. But we can never put back together what I tore down. And all the past three years have been our dissolution, our separation. And all I have are the what if pasts and revisionist memories of an alternate reality life. The old dry cattle bone shade wood skeleton houses built in the minds of the guilty and the regretful. Built so they can be haunted.

We loved each other. 

Love each other.

And I thought love … I thought love …

Love could not save us.

This is not a movie.

This is not a Broadway musical or a fairy tale.

Our love was not stronger than our mental illnesses. We became our poison. 

And now, three years later, I know two things with certainty:

I cannot see you again, because it will destroy me, because I see how our scars have scabbed, they scabbed very differently, and we will never be at peace.

And I still love you. 

I will always love you.

What cruelty.

What a cruel, fucking joke.

Three years. 

When will it go away?

Does it ever go away?

Am I stupid for voicing this thought out loud? Am I naïve? Am I a fool for not knowing something everyone else does?

Still I live on, I breathe, I walk.

I exist.

I live my life I laugh my laugh.

But in the quiet and alone, in the brief pauses between heartbeats, in the passing shimmer of a shooting star, a thought escapes. 

How to close what remains open?

Where do I put all this when it comes creeping out and still brings me to tears?

I have this box, you see.

It’s made of wood.

Upon it’s surface a delicate filigreed, swirling pattern is carved. 

It’s not a real, this box.

It looks like one my brother gave me. But this box is in my mind. I place those feelings in there.

Usually they escape. Sometimes I purposely take them out.

They’re so heavy. My heart the sick weight of a collapsing star.

Every day I drag it an inch further away from my heart. 

One day they’ll stay in there, those feelings.

One day they won’t come out.

Maybe one day I’ll stop sensing them pulsating within.

And then maybe one day, I don’t know when, maybe one day the box will disappear completely. 

And I’m terrified of that day.

lost among the shifting walls of your defenses, i know there is nothing i can do.

broken dancer

Often, I wonder why.

Inside my mind, amidst the vacant, dark back alley pauses between the brick-solid building thoughts that loom up out of the fog take up more immediate concerns – like my mother, my student’s needs, the thousand deadlines I’m days late on – I look, down deep into the gloom, hoping to catch a glimpse of the whys, and the twists and turns.

The Riddle of You exhausts me.

And then the next brick-and-mortar building of a thought emerges out of the fog reminding me of something more pressing and more present that must be attended to and merely a ghost of the puzzle of you remains, only to slowly fade away, like a MISSING flyer torn loose from its stapling on a wooden post, swirling away into the dimly lit downtown nights of my subconscious.

I cannot reason out your rhythms, your ebb and flow. And all I can conclude is that you simply do not know.

Do you know?

Are you at all aware?

I’ve seen you sometimes, so lost in the shifting dune landscapes of your mind, the quick channel changing as one thought emerges, only to flee as the next thought intrudes, with no way for you to hit the pause button.

The choices you make at the times you make them formed from a lifetime that had only the decayed bones of a structure.

And you needed structure. Badly.

The choices you make and the way you make them still, I cannot understand.

There are walls to you.

Surrounding you, around you, within you and without you, all about you.

Artfully constructed with a Do Not Approach sign on the front, and a Why Won’t You Come In? question graffiti tagged on the back. Arranged in such a way, with locks and tumblers and cogs that shift and shape, some formed from pure animal instinct, out of reflex, some that you have crafted due to bitter experience. More signs that sound proudly, “I am not my illness,” while others read, “You cannot touch that, I have an illness.”

You have built a puzzle that cannot be solved, a labyrinth with no clear center or exit.

Such skillfully constructed traps of logic and sympathy and pure animal reaction. I often think you do not know, you’re not aware.

I have a mind made for studying.

Did you know that?

I didn’t either.

Not till you.

Not till after.

And two years after our world ended, two years I’ve been medicated, two years I’ve been clear.

I have studied your walls, as they shift and seal, grow and change, and I know I cannot get past them.

Some days I forget this.

On those days I am hopeful, because I see the Promise of You as you should have been, as you could be – functional and happy. And it makes me hopeful that we might still have a chance, a chance at being a couple, at forming a family again, a chance that there might be a happy ending for us.

Other days I remember.

Those days, I see the Other You. The you without rules who exists in a timeless world.

“Have you taken your meds?” I ask, and you just shrug lightly and smile like you simply forgot to add softener to the wash. And “no” is all you respond.

Your shrugs destroy me.

Maybe that is why I cannot move those days.

Maybe that’s why I cannot get out of bed.

Maybe that’s why I have disappeared.

Because now I know.

After all this time, after all this hoping, after all the attempts, all the fights to try and fit – I know. There is no life for us.

There will never be a life for us.

There is no future. Your walls are too high, now. I know I did not put them there. Those walls were raised high by the hurts other men made, other choices.

But my betrayal fortified them.

I know now that I truly cannot help you.

I cannot save you.

I cannot untie all the strands and knots, the jumbled cords.

I cannot break through those walls.

I am no longer the Mender of Broken Dolls.

I cannot pick up your pieces anymore, put them back together.

Only you can do that.

I love you, and I always will, but I must leave this gray, formless place where I’m at. My father’s death changed all that, remember? I must move forward. I must move on. I have others I need to tend to. I have places I must be. The Road calls.

I can only hope that you can fix yourself.

I hope you realize what I’ve always known – that you have the power within you to break the spell that’s holding you back. Your own spell that you yourself cast, long ago, with the magic power of child who needed protection.

But now you must reverse it, you must look deep inside, and like an archaeologist you must dig down and dig deep and unearth each relic of pain that you have buried. You must dig them out, face them, inspect them, name it for what it was, remove its power over you, then place it in a box and file it away. It won’t be easy, and it will take time, but it will be worth it. And then I hope you find the You Who Should Be. I hope you’ll start off on down the Road, journeying far behind me, but moving, healthy, happy.


I hope that happens.

I truly do.


for l.

Dispatches From Teaching on the BorderLands.

She sits at my banana table and she’s talking to me, during my conference period, her tennis looking like puffy pink and white marshmallows at the ends of skinny little legs as she swings them back and forth.

Her eyes are puffy, too.

The dark bags under her wide expressive eyes puff and darken more when she talks about what’s troubling her.

She tells me about needing to lock herself up in her room to get some space, some peace, to escape a while from the responsibility of caring for her younger sister – who’s around five.

I find this out because she mentions going to her room and locking the door a few times during our conference and I notice that every time she does so, her voice breaks up a bit, so I tell her that I noticed and I ask her why.

She says she feels stressed a lot of the time at home because she’s usually put in charge of watching her baby sister.

She tells me there’s only two things that make her feel better: When she locks herself in her room, and when she goes outside and runs. She tells me she runs a lot.

She tells me she doesn’t really eat lately. I gently ask if there’s food at home and if meals are made regularly and she says yes. She does not look neglected nor does she exhibit outward signs of any kind of abuse, so I don’t push the issue.

She got a 54 on a bullshit Reading CBA. She’s not a 54 student, so when I asked her why her grade was so low, she started to explain, but she began tearing up, out of embarrassment, and of fear that I was going to be disappointed in her. It was then I knew, so I asked her, and she told me.

She’s a small, wiry little thing. When she talks about the things that upset her the most, she hunches over the table, bowing her elbows out, her small, birdlike hands palms flat against the surface as she presses down, hard. It’s a physical manifestation of her literally trying to keep herself together, her emotions under control.

She is one of my students.

This is a little girl. 

A 5th grader. 

This is her life.

And compared with some of the other students I’ve taught over the years, her life is not that bad.

This is normal teaching at an At-Risk school along the Texas/Mexico border – along the entire U.S./Mexico border.

The label says it all.

Due to the low economic status and the poor infrastructure, these children have the deck set against them. Our job as teachers and educators at these At-Risk schools is to even the odds. Pick up their English language skills, so their speaking, reading, and writing skills are on par with native language speakers. We’re here to rid them of the shame and embarrassment of not speaking well, and replace that with confidence and pride.

She is incredibly verbal. She is sweet and always very helpful. Once she came up to me, gently placed her hand on my shoulder and told me that if I ever needed help with anything, to let her know, and she’d take care of it. I thanked her. 

She communicates and expresses herself well, and it’s obvious she has a high emotional intelligence IQ as well as a lot of good, common sense. Unfortunately that’s often the result of too much responsibility being placed on one person. They are forced to mature faster. 

In our Mexican culture, it’s still usually the females.

I tell her that I understand. I tell her that’s she’s a great student, a good person, and a wonderful young girl. I tell her that I understand it’s not very fair, the burdens placed on us. I share the G rated version of my story, that I had to take care of my father when he was sick, even though I was the youngest – and I make a point to make her laugh because I emphasize the fact that I don’t look very young.

The curse of being the Responsible One. Adults and older siblings all around, but if you’re the responsible one, your cup gets filled first, and keeps getting filled. This a common occurrence. More common than it should be. I’ve known quite a bit who’re in the same boat.

I tell her the cold, hard truth. You can’t talk about rainbows and sunshine to a child who’s lived mostly in cloudy skies and rainy days. They know how life works. They’re not blind sheep. I tell her that her struggle does make her unique, that it makes her stronger. I tell her that’s why she needs to focus on her studies, get the best grades she can from now till senior year, so she can grow up, graduate, and move away, so she can be free of her obligations and live just for herself. To keep her head down and barrel through.

I ask her if she likes writing or if she’s ever journaled. She says she used to – and write songs as well. I told her that was great because that’s what I used to do, too.

I ask her aside from being in her room, or jogging, what else does she like to do. She says she loves to paint, she loves creating structures and decorating them. I told her that was fantastic, because I’m planning to incorporate those kind of activities in Centers when we start next week.

She brightened up. I told her if she ever needs, she can always come in to class the first 10-15 minutes and write, to just let all that anxiety out. She smiles and thanks me. She looks relieved so I ask her if our talk helped and if she feels better. She beams and says yes.

I tell her to go back to P.E.

I inform my assistant principal. She tells me to call the mom and set up a meeting. I say sure, but I ask if she could be present to give the meeting the sense of importance it needs. She agrees. 

I was fine the rest of the workday. When I got home, it hit me, a pricked balloon, I just sagged, came undone. I barely had the energy to take a shower. I always say, When it comes to teaching, if you come home at the end of the day fresh-faced and full of energy, you’re doing it wrong. These things stay with you. 

Teaching these kids means making sure they’re in a good frame of mind, that they’re not upset because mom and boyfriend fought. I have to make my classroom a safe space, where we can all forget our problems and lose ourselves to the joy and the mental exhaustion of learning, where we can all be better than who we were yesterday. 

It is a challenge. 

That is no lie. But it is worth the fight everyday. And to me, that’s the whole point.

I took this picture that night, to show how worn out it got me.