Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Mike's Superpower

Mike has a superpower. I hate it.

I was brought up to follow directions. Even when they aren't particularly good for me, I tend to follow directions. Sounds good, right? It's an admirable trait that threatened spankings as a child made for a better adult, right?


I realized how dangerous this trait was when I was a cute teenager on my own beginning to date. It was not easy but I began to say no, just a little bit. After college, I moved to New Jersey, just outside New York City where protecting yourself was difficult even without this trap of doing whatever every Tom, Dick, and Harry told me to do. It was there that I began to get angry, to fight back. I am certain that if I hadn't, I wouldn't be here now.

I still struggle. When people catch me unawares, I almost automatically submit.

"Hey, will you stay up all night at the lock-in with a hundred sweaty teenagers this Friday night?"

"Sure. What time should I be there?" is my automatic response if I don't plan an answer ahead of time.  

I practice saying no. I manage to put myself out of range of the questioners, avoiding the PTSA leaders stalking me at school functions. I've practiced saying, "I'm sorry. I've got a packed schedule right now. I'm very busy volunteering in other places." And then I can talk for fifteen minutes straight on what I'm currently signed up to do.

I'm going to practice a little more right here.

Right now, I'm working on Citizenship in the Community with a dozen Boy Scouts. So far, I've spent three hours sitting with noisy argumentative boys and at least as many hours in preparation. If you need to know how to play the game of Sorry or Texas hold 'em poker with a Citizenship in the Community theme, I can tell you. On Wednesdays, I tutor students in Language Arts. I like that one. Cancel everything else and I'd still enjoy sitting down with these students. I routinely edit for two or more writers as they bring me their work. I generally like that part too, except when they say they need it by Friday and I'll be losing sleep to get it done. I'm also a part of a letter-writing campaign with an Indivisibles group that isn't even in my district. Oh, I belong with this group because they are my community, but it's hard to be effective outside my district. Still, I'm writing letters to the editor and managing templates so other writers have a place to start from when they sit down at the page. This is getting harder because it's a different kind of writing entirely. I have to get my facts straight. I have to write reasonable responses to crazy governmental actions. It's exhausting and I'm not sure how much longer I can do it.

There are a handful of people I would say 'yes' to for nearly anything, but I still practice that phrase, 'I'll check my calendar' so I don't get caught up the way I did the year after my son left the elementary school and I ended up working with two classes to write and bind 87 unique books, one by each child, and me.

So, I practice saying no.

But Mike has an in. Next week, I'm helping him run the VanDeGraff generator at the elementary school science fair. Why? Because he said he was going. In fact, he's going to two elementary schools this spring and I'm going to be there with him, hair on fire, fingers tingling. To his credit, he didn't even ask me to help, but I volunteered before he ended his story of how the second school contacted him. I hate getting zapped. I really do.

Mike has a special power, though. When I am about to go to sleep, he makes suggestions. All it takes is a comment on his part and there I go, doing exactly what I am told.

"You're going to stay up too late watching the news tonight, aren't you, and then you'll wake up at four in the morning." He said this last night. He was chatty, commiserating with me. I know it was commentary, a joke between him and, well, him. I've asked him before to tell me I'm going to sleep until I'm done, but he has a wild hair now and then and says it anyway. I don't think it's funny. At that hour, I'm tired. I'm suggestive. I most often, despite my best interests, do exactly what he believes is simply a joke. But it's just not funny.

This morning, I woke at 3:59am.

I'm not kidding. I was less than a minute early.

Thank you for listening, jb

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