Stress and happiness

Posted: 14/09/2012 in Education, Struggle
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I woke up early this morning feeling stressed. In some ways this is an anomaly as last night at the beach I was walking up and down, and felt that happiness had returned. This made me think about stress.

But I need to backtrack. There was recent post when I said all was not well. I don’t think I could ever be truthful in saying that all is well, but I do feel a return of happiness. Last June I had a break-in. It wasn’t very nice but of course they never are. Some of the neighbours’ kids visited me, they fairly often did. It was usually a group of girls visiting the Farang but this time there was a boy. I had seen him before and he had asked me for money – so I didn’t rate him highly. The boy started looking round my small house, I didn’t like it but …. Then he started opening drawers, this made me angry and I threw them out. In retrospect he was “casing the joint”. I am guessing he saw into my bedroom and on the bed was cash – too much cash as a friend had just repaid me 16000 Baht. I guess that it was three days later that I was robbed – my next day’s teaching at Ao Taan Khuu when I would have been out all day, the kids know I teach. But I didn’t notice until two weeks later as I wasn’t in the best of health at the time and so wasn’t shopping – on the bed I also kept smaller notes for shopping. A couple of weeks later a splinter came off my wooden door where it had been forced open – the lock was minimal but I had lasted 5 and a half years on this lock.

Once I realised what had happened. I changed my security, a new padlock on the door and a padlock on the gate. And dogs. Now I had had a wonderful dog in Botswana, Tshepo. His “piece de resistance” was that he had saved a drunken neighbour friend from being robbed late one night when he was staggering home. So I went for dogs as well. A friend took me to a farm in Bo Rai, 40km away, and I came back with two two-month-old puppies. And what did they do? Bark and bark and bark – no burglars there. This introduced me to dogworld. I always knew that many Thais don’t train their dogs but this was then brought home to me. The neighbour’s dogs would wander up and down the street, and every so often – at least once a day – there would be a huge cuffaw at my gate as there would be a barking match between my two dogs and the neighbours’ dogs. There is not much traffic by my house but it is on the corner of a small track, and it is used. Every time someone used it the dogs howl. Not only was this doing my head in it was ruining meditation. I began training them but it was hard work and intensive. In the end however I decided I couldn’t train two – I never wanted two, but when I went to the farm they said one would be lonely. I was fortunate to find a friend who would take one of the dogs, and for two weeks now there has been some peace, as the dog I kept is now quiet – mostly.

At the beginning of August I went up to Bangkok – to sort my passport, visit, etc. I also bought a new motorbike helmet; I had decided to pay for more protection. When I was in the shop they laughed at me because I had no idea how to decide on a good protective helmet. Initially I was going to get one that was too loose, but then the assistant began to tell me off, took out a tape measure – 57cm, and gave me medium; my previous helmet was XXL – I now realised that had been way too loose. I was unhappy with the helmet’s fit – I liked the helmet, but they told me it would wear in. To wear it in I decided I would just wear it for going to work and beach. The ear pads pressed on my cheeks and the side of my lower temple, and it was a relief when I took it off – but I was wearing it in!! After two weeks I’d had enough, and a friend suggested I try clamping the pads to make them thinner, didn’t work but last week another friend took the pads apart and reduce the foam from 2-3cm on each ear to less than a cm on each. And it worked.

BORING! What’s this got to do with happiness, stress etc. Small potatoes, everyone deals with such trivialities. Unfortunately it was not that trivial. Once I took the pads out and stopped wearing the helmet three times a week, I realised that I had been living with my head being stressed. Once I stopped wearing the new helmet a headache grew and grew, and after several days I had a real thumper and then helmet headaches were over. But so had been most of August.

And there was another major change, I became a teacher again. For a year I had been doing voluntary part-time teaching two times a week. Then last April the Principal visited me and said she wanted to give me a contract – fill out these forms. Immediately I felt a kiss of death falling on me. At the beginning/middle of July she said the contract was in place but things would change. Increased work. Instead of two afternoons it became 2 days 10.30 -2.30 and a 3rd day 11-1.30. Today is Friday and the days I work are Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday – stress?

Soon after I started the contract she asked me if I would teach an English Camp – the whole school learning English with all the teachers helping. On the day it turned out to be years 1-3 doing a wordsearch in the morning, and 4-5 doing a horrific wordsearch in the afternoon, no sweat? At home I hit the roof. English Camp? How can I organise work with the other English teacher when he can’t speak English? How can I get the other teachers to work with me when I haven’t trained them and shown them the material? How can I plan 6 classes for 6 hours? Nightmare!!! So I let rip in a really aggressive email. What kind of decision was this!!! By the time the English camp had come along, I had written my resignation letter. I didn’t want this kind of stress, I was retired. On the day I was absolutely shattered after a weekend of stress so I kind of went through the wordsearches in automaton status. The next weekend I wrote an apology to the Principal, she was not used to such aggression. I then met with her and in broken Thai explained the “communication” problem, she apologised and things have been back on track. I suspect she didn’t understand my email completely, perhaps that was for the better.

Here’s a laugh for those who know me. She had asked me to teach English to pre-schoolers. Me, pre-schoolers! Over my last 20 years I only dealt with exam groups. And the pre-school started awfully. I went into the class on my own, and it was a disaster. I would never have tried to teach pre-school English kids, let alone Thais in broken Thai. I was furious, had an awful night, and took the next day off. My point was made although I felt guilty, so the next week’s trip to Bangkok (planned before the contract) was cut short – missing only one day of school – rather than the week. But the pre-schoolers are turning into a plus, and I am enjoying it. The little girls are cute and I am total putty. They sing, and I was given a British Council learn English CD with singing. And yes, I sing. It is tiring but I enjoy it. Now the Thai teacher is always there. The kids like the “lessons” but I have very limited control, and without her there would be problems. But good fun.

This week I was asked to write exams for the end of the month. Exams 30%, classwork 70%, and the kids must pass 50%. I had heard about this 50% pass mark in Thailand. Absolutely crazy! There are some kids who literally cannot write their English names, and I have to give them 50%. I’m not writing a test again, I’m not wasting my time like that. Judging by the way the Principal tells me to fill in my timesheets, she has no problem with lieing so when I lie about the marks I don’t expect an issue. But I don’t like lieing to the kids so I have worked on a system where they are given a true mark and the Principal is given the marks adjusted so they pass. I woke up this morning thinking about this system, I have had to implement a classwork system at the end of a term rather than the beginning – not fair on the kids.

So we are back to the stress and happiness. I am happy again and learnt that I had been clinging to a lifestyle. This time my lifestyle was the lifestyle I had developed in retirement, the blogging, meditation, etc. The thing was my learning had stopped. My next serious work was Mandtao, but my last Mandtao blog was May 6. My other blogs were political and health – no development or learning. So the teaching came along at the right time, well I wish it was spiritual teaching but in truth I cannot see that happening. Maybe Billnext. But I reacted to the teaching because I was attached to my retired lifestyle. Having said that I wasn’t meditating so things were going to go wrong.

Well my meditation is not back like it was, but my hour meditations were connected with learning. Now that I am working not learning meditating for an hour is hard. I have got to increase the chi work, the teaching really takes it out of me. 3 days part-time and I am now done. OK those 3 days also include good swimming so I am physically tired as well as teaching tired at the end of it. The teaching has taken its toll on my neighbourhood teaching as Friday morning I am too tired to learn so Friday morning’s teach/learn has stopped. I am doing a bit of reading and there is the occasional blog like this, but retirement learning blogs are on the backburner. I getup early still not with the light because if that is the case I am really tired by the end of my teaching day. 7.00 am works. Cuddle the dog. Housework and prepare my food. Chi Gung and meditation. School, swimming, restaurant and bed 3 days a week. The other days recovering!!! And preparing. New lifestyle and I’m happy.

Stress – well that is the rough with the smooth. If you force yourself into doing something there is stress. So maybe I don’t sleep so well, I still have school. Stress it has to happen in daily life. Or when you are working with people – Principals students. I don’t see stress changing this lifestyle but I am old and tired and I don’t want to be an actuarial statistic.

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