100 days, administration, bully, feminist, Jackson Browne, Merle Haggard, middle school, power struggle, special education, Stevie Wonder, teaching, The Grateful Dead, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, tug of war, women's march
I woke up early this morning thinking about Tug of War. Yes, the game with two teams of people, sometimes person against person, where the objective is to pull the rope from a ribboned center to a team’s specific side. Then you win.
Tug of War is interesting. Perhaps you sign up for it on Field Day, or it’s the way to award a winner, like arm wrestling. Fairly barbaric and out of date, I presume. I’ve seen it in movies done on a muddy field, which with deep consideration, feels pretty dirty. No pun intended.
Now, I am one to always take on a challenge–any challenge–and meet it face on. I’m not shy. But I usually allow for three options. Perhaps I, one, find a way to break down the said challenge. Maybe I, two, feel it’s not a challenge I want to be a part of, and choose to walk away. Or maybe, thirdly, I fight the challenge with all I have, refusing to give up an inch of rope.
Believe it or not, I’m not that competitive, with the exception of trivia and karaoke. In most day-to-day situations, not so much. But when I am confronted with a challenge, or questioned on my abilities as an educator, employee, or well, a human, then the gauntlet is thrown, and I know I will do whatever is in my power to hold my ground. I may not pull so hard to knock the opposition over, but I can become mule stubborn, and will hold on for dear life.
I was once told at the boarding school in which I taught in Connecticut 15 years ago that we were a microcosm for the real world. Our school’s 78 student population reflected that of our national society. Drugs and crime in the school were dealt with like they would be in the outside world. And I agreed. Students should be held responsible for negative behaviors and actions, as we all should. We don’t get passes.
With Trump in power the past 100 plus days, and all that has been happening at my current school, well, my current school been, in fact, a microcosm of the real world. It’s taken all of the all out of me. There are no tears to wring from this stone. And like the current Trump administration, my school is an unsolicited contest to see who holds out the longest–teachers or administration. We’ve made ground. In fact, as a school, we’ve pulled the administration over the metaphorical white line, but for whatever reason, they keep going, digging in and pulling harder, knocking some of our team back and forth like rag dolls. No one seems to cry foul at the fact that they have double faulted over said white line. But we don’t resist. We fight. We hang on!
And so I continue to live my life. I walked in the January Women’s March with my sign on the rainiest of days San Francisco has seen this apocalyptic winter. I was ready to pull that rope away from Trump, keep it at least center. I continue to hold on for dear life, knowing what I have to lose if I don’t succeed: the rights of women, education (especially for students with special needs), the economy, the climate, our international reputation…our own sanity. I could keep going. And so I stay engaged, muscles flexed, knowing that I may not win, but I refuse to let go or give in.
But I also remember a scene from Revenge of the Nerds. Yeah, you read that right. It’s the big Greek Games, and the pocket-protecting Tri Lambs were trying to outwit the brawny Alpha Betas. The latter’s multiple football players were the Goliath to the Lambs’ David. And like a skillfully thought out chess move, on the count of three, the Tri Lambs let go. With grins. The Alpha Betas looked like confused ogres, rolling on the ground, not knowing what hit them. The Tri Lambs knew that their fight was futile and if they had to lose, did they have to be the brunt of the joke, too? Nope.
So as I woke up this morning, focusing on how to let go at the appropriate moment, to no longer resist the fight but instead acknowledge that the fight wasn’t worth it, I finally exhaled. Seriously, it’s time someone else captured the rope. If we are just fighting over the fight to fight? Well no thanks. It’s time to let the fuck go.
I no longer fight to hold my ground. I already hold my ground.
I no longer fight be exhausted. I am exhausted.
I no longer fight sink to their level. Because pulling harder is sinking to their level.
I no longer fight to be dragged through the mud just to be dragged through the mud.
I no longer fight to humiliate the other side. This is truly not my goal.
I’ve been raised to never back away from a challenge, to stand my ground, to make a difference. However, when the challenge is one of political nature, where there isn’t a winner, but instead just a loser, well, there’s perhaps a way to save face and bow out gracefully. Call a truce. Hold up those hands. If the opposing team is ill-prepared for such a move and falls on their ass because they are ready to fight to the end despite already faulting over that double white line, well, who then looks foolish?
All I know, is if I say my say, put my actions to the words I put forward, and can sleep at the end of the night, I am fine. And so today, for the first time in my own history, I let go. And while the satisfaction as we all know is not in the other side being caught unawares on their asses, well, perhaps I revel a little. But on the flip side, after carefully considering my students first, my coworkers second, and myself third, ultimately, I let someone else win. Because you know what? Power struggles are only fights for power. Not for substance, or what is right, or what is wrong. Just plain old power.
My best friend had “Hug o’ War” on a poster in her childhood bedroom. Shel Silverstein wrote:
I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.
By letting go, we are all winners. My students because they are just kids. My department because we want what’s best for kids, and we will do this intrinsically, whether administration strong-arms their agenda or not. Our administration, because they won a small battle that remains irrelevant because they have already double faulted that white line. Just look at the amount of energy that went into this fight. For what?
And so for the first night in many years, not only can I sleep well tonight, I can also feel fine with my decision. No regrets. Just letting go. It’s not a tactic I intend to use frequently–maybe not even for a second time ever in my life moving forward. But you know what? Letting the fuck go feels so fucking good.
If I could only feel the same about society from my current microcosm. But that’s life. And for the Nation’s struggle, that, I won’t ever let go.
The list of songs tonight are as usual, random, from my music collection. They have never been played on this blog before. I dare you to look up their lyrics, because good God, someone knows the struggle of my microcosm. And while I might let go of some things, the bigger fight will always play on. It’s not about winning, but instead, standing your ground. And even though I let go, my ground doesn’t move.
Sky Blue and Black–Jackson Browne
That’s the News–Merle Haggard
Ramble on Rose–The Grateful Dead
Too Good to be True–Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
She’s a Bad Mamma Jamma–Stevie Wonder