My Head Derailed Today

(forgot to run spell check, and then changed some wording)

My head derailed today sometime between sleep and tennis. Don’t laugh. It’s quite serious especially since I have heads all over the house from previous times of ill proportionate forgetfulness. None of them fit any longer, as I’ve gained knowledge since then. My brain is like a computer, always on top of things until there’s a blip in the connection, and all hell breaks loose.  My heads are Smart heads made by Apple. I am currently at IOS 2.

Not a great student in grade school (since I didn’t attend nursery school or kindergarten, but went straight into first), I’ve kind of had to wing it through life.  In my case, add a sister who was a child prodigy.  She, who had the experience of kindergarten, skipped second grade, and 7th grade, thereby graduating high school when she was 15. Against my parent’s wishes, who were in agreement that she should take a year off for her friends to catch up with her, she went off to college anyway, thereby graduating at age 19, before she had a driver’s license, or the right to vote. College life for her was hard socially, as 18 year old guys wouldn’t talk to a 15 year old girl who was smarter than they, and let them know it. She hid behind her books and double majored in Philosophy and Music. I doubt she had much joy in the college experience, other than living away from home, and getting involved in an Episcopal Church choir near campus.

Imagine going to the same school as your sister, not knowing how to stand in line, or be quiet when you wanted to have the last say, and then being compared to her all the way through 6th grade.  That was me. In the public school system in the 50s and 60s, no one was held back for any learning issues. No one was ever diagnosed, to my knowledge, for problems like ADHD. The worst disease back then was Polio, and every class had a child in braces or walking with crutches.  Instead, if you had trouble in school, you were labeled a daydreamer, retarded or incorrigible.  I remember my 2nd grade teacher begging the school system to hold me back one year, but to no avail.  That also was the year a friend of mine was kidnapped, and my mother suffered her first heart attack. Trauma, trauma, trauma.

My 3rd grade teacher dressed all in black and told her students she was a witch, and if we didn’t behave, she’d cast a spell on us.  I believed her. I believed her so much I was afraid to participate in anything. I was labeled retarded and shy.

Fourth grade was okay. I hung out with guys, roller skating after school and climbing trees to prove that I was one with them.  They were all labeled troublemakers, and we sat in the back row in class, shooting spitballs at girls. Math was the only subject that gave me sincere and serious perplexy, but I’d been failing school since 1st grade, so I had already stopped trying. Working with tutors didn’t help much either.  What did it matter if a number was odd, or even? How would that get me through life? Surprisingly, much later, in my 20s, when I tried to take a real estate exam, I failed Math because I didn’t know how many gallons of paint to buy for a room measuring 8 feet by 12. Who cared? If I bought too much paint, I’d return it to the store. If I bought too little, I go back and buy more. F for the answer, and F for effort.

In fifth grade another trauma occurred. Mrs. Berman, the only Jewish teacher in our school, was diagnosed 1 month into the school year with brain cancer. We had a lot of subs that year, and the incontinuity actually helped me, allowing me to slip between the cracks. At home, my mother had another heart attack, and my father stepped off a curb and was hit by a taxi. Two broken arms. Triple trauma. Back then, there were no counselors to help students in need. Parents coped the best they could, raising their children on their own. School never interfered.

Sixth grade was the best year ever. We had a male teacher who was a bibliophile, and ended each day by reading from books for at least half an hour before we took off for home.  He took us on amazing field trips (Bethlehem Steel where we each got a nickel pressed in plastic, Pepsi-Cola, where we got free drinks, Stieff Jewelers, where we got pewter spoon pins, and Channel 2 TV station). We also studied science, and harvested eggs under an incubator until chickens were born. I took one home, named him Charley, rose with his cawing at dawn, and gave him away a few weeks later to the gardener, who ate him for dinner. Also, John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, was assassinated. This news was relayed to us through the school’s intercom system, and students were dismissed early, then school was closed on the day of his funeral.  Sixth grade ended a horrible six years of struggling to learn, and began a whole new chapter in my life.  The world of girls versus boys, white ankle socks versus panty hose, and a nice, all girls private school, just for “me” was introduced.

Regardless,  even though by the time I graduated high school at age 18, close to the bottom of my class, I was learning, and writing creatively, and able to somewhat greet the wide world of Life on the outside. After much dithering, I elected to attend a junior college and learn a skill (secretarial) versus studying a major. Or, in my slide by the seat of my pants vernacular, it was 2 year’s versus 4. I of course opted for 2. Other than high school, where I had many nurturing teachers and small classes for out of the box learners like me, I’d been able to survive anyway, enjoying only the social side of school, occasionally making my parents proud with my written accolades and good grades in English.

I shouldn’t be so sentimental about my heads, but I like to remind myself of where I started, and how far I’ve come. They’ve taken me many places I never expected to go, to  jobs I loved and excelled at, books I’ve published, contests I’ve won, and jobs I’ve hated, running from them as though my pants were on fire. The smarts for all those things came from one of my many derailed heads, and I don’t want to forget how I’ve arrived at where I’ve arrived.

They all still look exactly like me, perky, smiling, hair combed, and skin, wrinkle free. While it’s kind of disconcerting to see me looking back at me from an armchair, stair banister, trunk of my car, pillow on a bed, and shelf in the fridge, where I sometimes place my cell phone in a moment of clear insanity, I can no longer say “Thank God my head’s attached, otherwise, I’d be running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” No, unlike the rest of the world, I won’t pass the buck and blame someone else. It is I, a lifelong multi tasker, who is to blame. The longer I am unemployed, the faster I lose my sense of being. Jobs give people a sense of purpose, and it’s my belief that jobs are man’s given right to have one. Without, one feels ghostlike, biding time aimlessly, and, of course, quite broke.

I know exactly the date when my head first derailed. December 9, 2013 was the day I was relieved of my administrative assistant job at a local Jesuit university where I’d worked for 2.5 years.  Though I’d tried to make the job a good fit, nothing helped. Sleepless nights, extreme weight loss, extreme stress, and lots of balls being dropped spelled “termination.” I was, and I wasn’t prepared. I saw it coming, the great ax, but I refused to admit I couldn’t set things right. All 12 of my bosses told me different things, and my newest supervisor accused me of lawsuit worthy half-truths. Even though it wasn’t humanly possible for one person to do as much as I was required in a 40 hour work week, I was desperate to comply, and felt very alone in my failure. It was worse than failing in school. It was failing in life, which meant, to me, giving up on living.   Though I couldn’t see the writing on the wall, I did hear the chalk spelling out the words. My boss wanted me to quit.  My head began its derailment, listing left and wobbling to the right.The less sleep I got, the more I became not of sound mind or thought, and began to believe suicide was my only out.

At tennis, this week, I’ve played really well without a head. So far, 5 games in 3 days, while not atop my shoulders, no one noticed anything unusual except the fact that I wore pearls. The addition of jewelry worked, as per Oprah’s advice, because wearing a necklace focuses the eyes on just that, and keeps people from staring at other faults. A derailed head was blessedly not the main topic. In fact, during lunch, I was offered a job in the tennis café, which I accepted.

So what should I do about all my derailed heads?  I could donate them as Halloween costumes. I could get really creepy and litter my former office with them. Or, I could sell them on the Black Market, like kidneys and livers, and see if I make any money that way.

Nowadays I’ve begun a dog care provider business and am my own boss and supervisor.  I gave up the cafe job to focus full time on pet sitting.  Through the School of Hard Knocks, of which I’m a graduate and earned an A for everything, plus an A for effort, still, coming down here to write this Blog, I had to turn it into three trips. One, to grab a diet soda. Two, to find my iPad and turn on Pandora.  And three, to attach my newly upgraded IOS 8, minus the bugs, to my head, as I’d left the other one in the TV room for my dog to use as a pillow.



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