When Love Goes Sideways
Updated: Jan 26
The school district where I work has put forth a new training initiative over the past couple of years, focused on the Science of Reading. Although I have spent most of my adult life teaching students, there were aspects of how the human brain learns to read that I had never encountered...not in a teacher certification program, nor a graduate program. I loved the freedom that I felt to use curricula and materials that met standards, and taught students in a way that I felt would be most engaging for them. I still love all of those old lessons, but can't ignore this new learning.
An avid reader as an adult, I have nevertheless had major epiphanies as I learned more and more about the brain on words! (For a brief overview, check out this link: www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/letrs-program-teacher-training). One of the simple yet impactful teachings of LETRS is the mental model. Briefly summarized, the mental model suggests that as we read, the brain's working memory and long-term memory are interacting in complex ways with the words, sentences, and meanings behind words. This model answers so many questions for me, namely why multiple people can read the same text, but take away entirely different meanings from it. Our past visceral experiences, as well as our experiences with words, allow each one of us to interpret text in a way that is wholly unique to us.
Never was this more apparent to me than when I picked up the 2016 novel, It Ends With Us, by Colleen Hoover, at the airport on my way to a vacation. A survivor of long-term domestic abuse, I have penned a memoir for which I am seeking a publisher, so I naturally connected to the subject matter. I have never before been so powerfully affected by a novel as I was this one. It captures so truthfully the actuality of domestic violence that approximates my own experience...a deep love and soulful connection that turns south at unpredictable and surprising points during the relationship. I felt validated, that there likely so many others out there who, like me, stayed in a relationship to try to get back to those blissfully beautiful moments. It is so difficult to explain this to someone who hasn't had a similar experience.
I styled this photo to feature both books in the series, along with a clock, because I know well the games
your mind plays with time as you try to rationalize an abusive relationship.
My body literally shook with fear as I read this exchange on page 185:
"I'm instantly not laughing anymore. I'm on the floor, my hand pressed against the corner of my eye.
In a matter of one second, Ryle's arm came out of nowhere and slammed against me, knocking me backward. There was enough force behind it to throw me off balance. When I lost my footing, I hit my face on one of the cabinet door handles as I came down.
And then I feel the weight. Heaviness follows and it presses down on every part of me. So much gravity, pushing down on my emotions. Everthing shatters.
My tears, my heart, my laughter, my soul. Shattered like the broken glass, raining down around me."
I had to bury my head into the blanket I had carried aboard and feign sleep as I tried to process these words, while reminding myself that I was no longer in danger. I won't give too much away, but suffice it to say I love the heroine, Lucy, and her internal and external dialogues, and for Colleen Hoover's bravery at putting this difficult topic on the map of popular culture reading lists. There is hope and there is healing. There is a way out.