Goddamn Windshield Wipers. Grr.

My cryptic angry post of last night should be followed by some sort of explanatory narrative. There’s a lot of amargura flowing through my veins lately, mostly due to my work, but it’s seeping into other parts of my life as well. In order to root out this poisonous feeling, I wanted to find the cause (FCAT signal word!) of all the ire and nastiness, and I wound myself into a frenzy trying to figure out what was responsible for my current feelings.

This afternoon, I was angry with my windshield. I’ve been more or less angry for a week. I’ve looked pretty damn hard to find someone or something to place the blame on, since that seems to be the theme to my work life at the moment, and then I had a rather revelatory moment in the car this evening. The truth may be that I need to stop thinking about blame, and start thinking more about responsibility. The problem isn’t quite as clear-cut as the mechanical one with my car, but I think a lesson can be learned.

Here’s the story.

On our way to Sanibel Island, the wipers just stopped. They sat there at a 45 degree angle stuck to the windshield. We managed to get them back to their resting position, and even made it out to Sanibel in the misty drizzle that blew away later that afternoon. Thankfully, the rest of the weekend was sunny beaches, bright mornings and good food, doing their best to cleanse the less-pleasant thoughts from my head. After a fun Superbowl with BBQ at M’s apartment, I woke up to go back to school.

I didn’t want to go. There is just too much to deal with there, and more horrendous crap accumulates every day. Example: on Monday afternoon, the teachers find out at the same time as the students that there will be a three hour practice FCAT the next day. Great. Thanks for the advance warning. The teachers have been stepped on, pushed out of the way, and ignored all year, and I’m about ready to bust on someone.

But I did not. Instead, I packed up my things, took D. back to the airport that night, and dragged my very reluctant self to work on Tuesday. Administering standardized tests is never very fun, so there were about as many people suprised by my wretched mood on Tuesday afternoon as there are penguins in Miami. [NB: there are no penguins in Miami. Neither are there glassblowing studios, reputable colleges or universities, or decent grocery stores].

To top things off, the grimy filth that sifts down through the lower atmosphere every day in South Florida had settled in a crusty layer over my entire windshield making it decidedly difficult to see. I was totally and completely powerless to fix the situation: I don’t know enough about the mechanics of my car to repair it; I have not yet had the time to take it to a shop; I didn’t have any way to clean the windshield on the way home; and I had forgotten to wipe it off before I left for work in the morning. All I could do was sit there and stew at the perfectly sparkling pane of glass that stood between me and the dusty crud. Ready to scream and throw an empty coffee mug through the window, I screamed at the car, hit the steering wheel, and tried to find someone or something I could blame for the wipers’ failure.

Thinking through the possible reasons for the malfunction, I tried to figure out why I was so angry. A driving force was the fact that I was now responsible for fixing the wipers, which would be a royal pain in my ass. Then, as wheels kept on turning, I realized that while I may be responsible for the car and all of its parts, it is not my fault that they are broken. The blame lies elsewhere, if there really is any blame to be placed. Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault, or the culpability is fragmented in so many pieces, scattered in so many directions that figuring out who is at fault is futile. It’s an old car, and sometimes shit happens to old cars. It may not even be *technically* my car, but it is my responsibility, and therefore I have to shoulder the burden of taking care of it. I don’t mean to get too melodramatic about the wipers, but my contemplative little brain extrapolated the lesson to other parts of my life which have also made me rather frustrated in the past few months. It is NOT my fault that R. reads on barely a 2nd grade reading level. Unfortunately, until June it is my responsibility to see that he comes to school and at the very least sees people engaged in learning around him. I think it’s healthier for everyone to take a step back, after yelling at the windshield wipers, and figure out whose responsibility it is to fix them, instead of getting our metaphorical panties in bunch over who has to accept the blame. The subtle difference between the two, blame and responsibility, is not something that I am finely attuned to, but I’m trying. Differentiating seems to be crucial to my psychological well-being, and should also make my work environment somewhat healthier.

Of course, none of this fancy philosophizing does anything to change the fact that the garage closes at 5:00 pm, and all this week I didn’t even leave my room until 4:45, but that’s another topic for another day.


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