The summer had been too eventful. I felt like I was on the verge of cracking like thin ice. First Damon, my nine-year-old’s appendix ruptured and he came near to death. I never left his side. After complications he recovered more quickly than I did-emotionally. Soon after he could travel my three children and I moved to Austin for the summer so I could attend The University of Texas where I was studying for a master’s degree in education. No small feat. No small stress either.
Since my school district wouldn’t permit me to miss the first day of orientation for teachers in August I had to return the day after my classes ended. I was gaining a masters to be a better educator. Didn’t that count for something, I wondered. Always one to follow directions or dictates we packed up and drove the four hours home and I showed-up for work Monday morning more than a little frazzled.
The entire staff of the high school where I worked was assembled in the planetarium. We were given our “marching orders” for the upcoming school year. One announcement cracked my thin ice. “This year all teachers must be on campus at 7:30 AM – no later.”
I began to lose the emotional control that I’d kept all summer. I became short-winded. I felt tears in my eyes. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by showing emotion in front of all my colleagues.
Children could not be left at their campuses before school started. What was I going to do? My dear friend, sitting next to me, asked the question on my behalf so loudly everyone heard her, “What are the teachers who are mothers of school children to do?” The answer came back loud and clear, “That’s not our concern.”
I was holding back tears, anger, and frustration. We were dismissed for a short break.
I quickly ran across the hall to the restroom. I could sense that I was about to lose whatever composure I still had. I was hurt, yes; because no regard was given for all that I was struggling with or had been through. The people who made the rules I had to live with spoke not one word of concern to me that morning. I was angry too. This was one more situation that I would somehow have to live with. And then I realized it was time for me to go back to the staff meeting. As I walked back the hall was empty except for someone walking towards me. The light coming through the windows behind him prevented me from realizing it was my principal until he was a few feet away. He came directly towards me, squared off in front of me and all my emotions of the previous three months broke lose. Tears flowed then I began to sob. Uncontrollably. He tried to speak. I was crying so hard that he knew I couldn’t hear him. Never had I been so hysterical, at least not since childhood. I wasn’t embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated. I was vulnerable.
According to Brené Brown, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” At that moment, and I shall never forget it, I really didn’t care how I looked or what he thought of me. I was unashamedly open with all of my feelings. What had happened was unfair. I was the one caught in an impossible situation, as women so often are. We put our children first and yet our job is necessary to take care of our children. In my case this time it ended well. Finally he simply said, “Don’t worry. We will work something out.”
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~ Dr. Brené Brown
If you’d care to share a time when you were vulnerable we’d like very much to hear from you.
Gail holds a degree from Lamar University in Speech and a Master’s from the University of Texas. She was an educator in regular and special education for twenty years, finishing her professional career as a Braille teacher. She is a Certified Professional Coach with Fowler International Academy. She married Sam after raising three children as a single mother. In 2007 She founded SMORE for Women. SMORE is a nonprofit association whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, & Empowered. Her stories have been published in several Christian books and magazines. Her book, Living Learning Loving, published in July 2015, is available for purchase on CreateSpace, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble online.