Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cooling the Lava

I think of my emotions as hot lava or magma--they're intense (I use the word "brilliant" in my own mind), they can wrap up the people around me before they know what's hit them, and my emotions can be slow moving or fast and dangerous. Whatever descriptors might fit, they are always right. under. the surface.

These lava emotions can be a great strength for me, especially with children who generally appreciate enthusiasm. I tend to have a harder time with adults because the conversations are more sensitive and adults are expected to contain themselves (or that's what I'm told, anyway). So I was very, very proud of myself for being the voice of reason earlier this week.

I had my first class with my education cohort this Wednesday. ADHD-wise, I did excellently. I had no problem staying seated or listening for 2 hours at a time (well... ok, I started feeling antsy after 90 minutes but I was still able to concentrate). I was able to keep my comments and questions focused and relevant. I felt like an adult student.

During the break, I was chatting with 2 of my classmates while getting some of my online work set-up on my laptop. I sat between them while they talked about an upcoming vacation in Mexico. The woman on my right was very worried for our new friend because "Mexicans are crazy." Without warning, she launched into a frenzied diatribe because "I hate illegals. We should just round them up, take them somewhere, and kill them all."

There are many, many things wrong with what she expressed. The immediate leap between the citizens of Mexico and illegal immigrants in the US, the extermination of any group of people, the insulting phrase regarding Mexicans, saying something so extreme to people you've just met...

My usual instinct when confronted with bigotry is to ask, "Have you lost your ever-lovin' mind???" It's also what I actually do because these people have lost their ever-lovin' minds and there isn't any other way to put it.

But this was the beginning of a 2 year stint with my classmates. We were just told "you'll be like family by the end of this program." I can't start that kind of relationship off with a row, even if the woman is a nutso. Plus there are only 7 other people in the group--I can't avoid working with her.

So I took a deep breath. Without thinking about it, I kept my eyes on my laptop and very calmly said, "That sounds pretty prejudiced." Not the most elegant rebuff but there it was: "you're not going to spew your hatred all over me for the next 2 years and in return I won't scorch your sorry butt like the vicious volcano the other crazies have to experience" neatly wrapped into 4 words.

She sputtered out a lame excuse, to which I replied, "Hm." I've been honing that 'hm' since I saw an excellent teacher/professor/mentor use it to quell 20 teenagers 5 years ago. Thankfully it worked for me. Everyone participating calmed down and I'd gotten my point across without shouting or spewing back (or beating anyone senseless).

For once, my emotions stayed calm; impulse and reaction did not rule the day.

1 comment:

  1. 3 things...

    1) "hmmm" is the best phrase invention EVER. we use it with our kids ALL the time -- especially when they are upset/angry and emotionally vomiting all over us.

    2) lava is great. hedgehog, one of my students, is obsessed with lava. he talks about it all the time, he plays with it on the playground, he draws it in pictures, and he writes about it in writer's workshop. he kind of reminds me of raymond, but with both types of adhd, if that makes sense.

    3) i love you. i just got the book you sent and you are so sweet and i wanted to call you tonite to tell you but then i started doing other stuff and now here i am, getting ready for bed, so i figure i will tell you here and then call/text you tomorrow -- or hopefully sometime this week! <3 you are so the best.