Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Elephant in the Room
So I finally get the saying, "the elephant in the room." I know that this idiom is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have made a choice. They are choosing to concern themselves with irrelevant issues rather than deal with the looming big one. And when I say "they," I mean "me."
Humor me for a minute while I explain how I noticed this elephant. Yesterday was the first day for teachers to be back at SWIC -- we had a divisional meeting (which I was slightly late to -- a whole other story!), a department meeting, a union meeting, etc. You get the idea -- lots of meetings. I am actually excited for the semester to start: all summer I have been focused on the fact that I have breast cancer and dealing with the doctor appointments that go along with that (not counting the feeling bad days). Since school ended in May, I have had two surgeries (something I had never experienced before this summer). I've experienced a serious infection that happens to only 1% of surgery patients. I've got toxic chemicals going through my body now (OK, maybe that first round of chemo has exited my system by now!) -- and this is coming from someone who usually doesn't take an aspirin. My skin is breaking out everywhere -- seriously, my scalp (my scalp, people!) has pimply-like things on it! And I have a complete hysterectomy scheduled for Dec 20, just as the Fall semester ends. So you can see why I am anxious to get back to the one thing that I love doing -- teaching (OK, and writing a dissertation!)
Back to the elephant. In my department meeting yesterday -- and I must add that I work with the most fabulous people -- I ended up sitting near a colleague who just had a baby (baby was with her!) and another who is pregnant. And that's when the elephant creeped into the scene. While the meeting was in progress, I was sitting there thinking, "Oh my god. I have cancer. I -- Dianna -- have cancer. I won't ever have a baby. Ever. How can these people go on and have a meeting -- like everything is normal and right with the world -- while I am having a major life changing experience?" So for the the rest of the meeting, I felt like I was sitting there with my pal, the elephant (breast cancer). They were talking about important department business and I was thinking about the things the elephant represented: getting IV's in my arm, freaking out over anesthesia before each of the surgeries, being wheeled into operating rooms, reading year old magazines in waiting rooms, being told that I needed chemo when I didn't think I needed it. Well, you get the idea. Somehow that damn elephant was making me have this internal "needy" crisis. And like the definition of the idiom suggests, I think that I haven't always dealt with the "looming big one" -- the elephant/ breast cancer. I keep getting hung up on the small, more irrelevant issues -- stressing out about my skin, hair, etc.
And that's about it. I made it through the meeting but I think I am going have to truly really deal with that elephant or it's going to be hard to teach and interact with folks. And I am not sure what I mean when I say I need to do this. Not everything in my life is about breast cancer but I think about it a lot. And I mean a lot. That's why teaching is good for me. I put 200% of myself into helping students develop their voices as writers. I think the elephant will fade to the background a bit more if I concentrate on teaching -- and the dissertation.
In dissertation news, though, I got my hands on a $5 copy of an old NCTE publication -- A Long Way Together: A Personal View of NCTE's First Sixty-Seven Years -- this memoir has some fantastic comments about how first-year writing was taught in the early 1900's, including some comments on some early "themed" courses (on the politics of WWI).
See -- just talking about this book, I can see the elephant moving a little further back behind the crowd in my head!