This is kind of the first time in my life that I have felt I don’t have time for myself. People in the past have told me something like stay focused on you. This is the first time I have ever felt I knew what they were talking about. It also feels like the first time when boundaries have really felt important. I think that is what I am so grumpy about. Boundaries are important because they are not being respected by someone I believe should respect them, and then I have to set them, and actually it makes me really mad. I have, in the past, been very aware that I was doing things because I chose to do them. Whatever the outcome, what I was doing was my choice to do or not do. The actions were mine. So I have at times been very involved in the lives of other people, and I have felt that was my choice. I am doing this thing that might be of benefit to someone else because I want to do it and because it has meaning for me. C’s role in my life is like that. I chose her. I chose all the difficulties and work and worry involved in that.
I am a little bit less clear about the Boy, because I didn’t consciously choose him or invite him. He showed up, and I had to decide what to do about it fairly quickly without a lot of information. I don’t actually know what benefit I am bringing to him or what the problems he is struggling with are, and I feel more ambivalently about him. I think it is probably more painful to me, because he chose me. C didn’t choose me. She accepted, but she didn’t choose me. C couldn’t choose me. She wouldn’t have been able to do that. But it saves me grappling with that pain. She routinely pushes me away, and that saves me pain.
On Sunday, I went to meet C. The matron was not very happy about this—speaking of boundaries, I pushed hers. I repeatedly do that, because I want what I want. I want to help C, and I think I know what she needs, and I can’t let anyone stand in my way. So I am probably triggering her something fierce. Anyway, she relented, as she kind of has to, and I got there earlier than I expected to. It was pouring down rain, and the girls were in their classrooms, studying. After a while, I thought of meeting the matron. Although she might be a loose cannon, and I am sure I piss her off, I kind of like her. Also, I had ruffled her feathers, so I thought of going to smooth them down. I walked the little bit to her house: she lives just next to the girls’ hostel.
She saw me and said, “I hope you didn’t meet C.”
“No, they are studying now.” Not exactly happy to see me. I said I had gotten there early, and we are after all both math teachers. It might be nice to talk about something besides C.
There was kind of an awkward silence. She asked if I wanted tea. I told her no twice—I was given coffee anyway. I asked her about the curriculum review we had both been doing at our respective schools. So we talked after that, more naturally. Interestingly, she said before I had come, her toddler had been crying. The toddler was all smiles now. I didn’t say, but I thought, “Because her mom is happy now.”
After a while, some of the other teachers came over—I guess, for dinner. I could smell cooking when I came in. One of them I sort of know—I don’t know why. I have talked to him before. He started talking to me about C eventually. He said they could tell I really care about C. The other parents don’t come very often, but they see me very frequently. And he also said that he can tell from talking to C that she feels cared about.
I didn’t really know how to respond to that. I don’t think I responded that authentically. Anyway, I left soon after that. But it stayed with me, because after C sits with me for a while and usually either ignores me or pushes me away, and then gets angry at some point, and then hugs me goodbye, I don’t really know what happens. When I saw her in the hostel, I had spies and they told me, but I have lost my spies so I don’t really know.
When I saw her uncle, he said her friends were saying C had not been talking to anyone—just yes or no. But that might have been because of the boil, and all the shame around the boil and about her body. The week before, the Friend had said C was always playing. I wouldn’t be able to tell what kind of playing—it’s a part-y kind of thing to do.
It made me think something. There is this boy I mentioned in one of my classes. I have taught him for two years now, and he has problems with anger, which this week I have been thinking are about a perception of being under threat. Anyway, there was this thing about not wearing his full school uniform (missing those white sleeves most of the younger boys hate). When he started wearing them, there was this change in him, like maybe I can be a good boy. Maybe I can be liked. Maybe I can make somebody happy instead of perpetually disappointing and angering people. It was very noticeable as a change in him. In the classroom, he took on a fearful, wounded look at times that was quite different, quite vulnerable. So I knew something was going on inside him, and he was also happy. I mean, I have not really ever actually seen him happy. He is serious or he is angry. Not happy.
I come to the classroom and I can see he had this feeling inside that we have when someone special has appeared on the scene, like, “Oh, God has arrived.” Well, maybe not quite that, but something equally intense—what your puppy feels when you get home. My person is here. It’s a great feeling.
Then the teacher made the comment about C feeling cared about, and I started to think C felt that last year. I thought that joyfulness was her personality, but that feeling was my person is here. Someone cares about me, I am special to someone, and my person is here. I don’t have any idea what she was like before I met her, because I saw only the “teachers are here mask” or I didn’t notice her. But the person I saw once I had established a connection with her, this person who was bursting with life, that was because of me. I did that to her. The joy is part of her personality, but I brought it out. And I didn’t know that was possible. I didn’t know I could change someone’s life that way.