Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

I researched scientific and cultural information on Leap Day.  I reported to my findings to a group of coworkers (in case they were terribly interested in the history of Leap Day).  One of them looked at me puzzled and said "I don't know how you have time to remember all of these crazy facts?"  She was right...  I wonder how much more productive I would be if real stuff filled up the space where random fact is stored.  Part of me thinks I am bored, and am trying to keep my mind moving at a steady pace...

Females are encouraged to propose to males on Leap Day.  In the tradition of Leap Day in some European countries, if a man refuses he should then provide the female with enough fabric for a skirt, or with twelve pairs of gloves.  I figured if I played my cards right today, I could be set for the next season...

I was very excited about the idea of Leap Day a year ago when I realized it would occur in 2012.  I was thrilled about the idea of a bonus day!  I know that scientifically it isn't a real EXTRA day, but I like to think of it as a gimme.  Originally I was going to take the day off and do something exciting and new, but with the threat of rough weather I decided to stay at work and make the best of a normal day.

I will say I had a very interesting day! My drum lessons are going very well, and I even got a sticker for my progress (thanks Mandy!!).  I will say that from where I started until now has been TREMENDOUS progress. Won't be opening for any major bands just yet, but it's been so much fun!  I have really enjoyed learning a new skill and making a good friend.

I decided to return to graduate school.  I actually completed and submitted the application materials yesterday.  Who knows what the future will bring, and where I will end up?  I do know I would like to continue toward another graduate degree.  I have always liked learning, and I wonder if my need for the random information is a comfort because I am not in school.  The reality is that I cannot attend school forever, so I will need to find a way to remain settled with the mundane.  Life is never really boring; it just feels like it moves in slow motion at times.  I am thinking that returning to graduate school will kickstart my brain, and return me to pushing my intellect.

So, at the end of another month, on a very special year indeed, I have made some big decisions:

1. I will not be going on tour with a rock band just yet, but I am making progress. Perhaps a faculty band?

2. I will be going back to graduate school, pending any life-changing, earth-shattering events (I have almost learned to plan for them at this point).

3. I guess I am going to have to buy my own gloves...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Applied Ethics and Pedometers

This might be the strangest post for me to write.  I guess it is strange because I am not comfortable going to bed without the answers to something.  Don't get me wrong--I have very little answers to anything in my own life.  In my job, I try to have some sense of direction and a clear plan (or at least try really hard to fake it).

What does this have to do with my "15 Before 30" project? Good question.  One of my goals is to run a 10K race.  Through this journey, I have begun training and running.  I talked with the Director of Coordinated School Health Programs, and ended up developing a school-wide Walk Across Tennessee program for the students.  We had overwhelming participation on opening day; so much so that we had to postpone kickoff a few days so that we could overnight some more pedometers.

There are students that have been following my "milestone crisis" project, and have been motivated to set goals.  In addition to the walking program, I sent out a feeler for a running group.  Our thought was that even if a few were interested, a cross country team might be formed.  Well, there are 48 students that are interested in running!!!  The only problem this presents is that I am only one person... and I don't even run terribly fast.  I do love running, and I love their enthusiasm. So, I will make do with whatever I can do to make them succeed.

Now, this is where the title comes in, and where my dilemma surfaces.  When designing this program, I knew that the basic pedometers leave a lot of room for cheating.  The reality is that they measure pretty slight movements, so anyone could sit and shake the pedometers, and end up with thousands of extra steps.  I am not saying I am Mother Teresa, but I do try to live to a pretty high moral standard.  When creating the rule sheet, I talked about integrity and morality, but tried to give the students some freedom and responsibility.

I was approached by a concerned student about two hours after the first wave of pedometers had been distributed.  He told me that he ran four miles during gym class, and was pretty proud of his accomplishments (as was I!).  He went on to tell me he had witnessed a few students that were sedentary, and were shaking their pedometers to register extra steps.  He vented his frustration that he was working hard to make himself healthier (and competing for prizes), and they were not playing by the rules.  He wanted to know what could be done to make them comply, other than public defamation, and perhaps stoning? Ok, I am kidding on the last part...

This brought up an interesting problem.  I didn't have the answer though. I knew what I would tell my own children- that there are people in this world that will always want to cheat.  I would ask them what they wanted to get out of the program- did they want to run faster? commit to reaching a goal? was that more important than who wins a prize? (You can tell I was never a person that responded to extrinsic motivators...)

I went home to think about what speech I would give, and what action I would take.  The revised kickoff will be Tuesday, and I have until then to come up with a plan.  I talked to my father, hoping to gain some wisdom.  He deals with organizations often, and always has a story to offer when dealing with business or large groups of people.

He told me how an employee at a very large company was made to wear a pedometer to make sure he was circulating the floor during the night shift.  The pedometer would be tracked every morning.  The employee did not keep with his end of the bargain, and instead of complying with his job description, he found out there was a machine on the floor that jiggled quite a bit.  He paid an employee that worked on said machine x-dollars to wear the pedometer, so that it would register plenty of steps.  Meanwhile, he could kick his feet up and read a magazine, or even take a nap, while his employees went unattended.

Long story short: the pedometer was left on too long, one morning it looked like the man walked 40 miles in a night, and he was fired.  So, I guess my public stoning sounded about right?

I started thinking about ethics, and if I could make this a truly teachable moment.  There aren't a lot of ethics classes in schools, and I wonder why that is.  It has nothing to do with religion--we are just teaching students to make decisions based on their values or reasoning.  I, personally, think it is one of the biggest lessons we could give to these kids.  I wondered how I would approach a lesson on ethics and make it interesting to the kids.  I didn't want to lock them into a room and rant to them, and I certainly didn't want to harass the ones that are already making the right decisions.  But I did want to make sure we were all on the same page, and give the opportunity for all of them to receive the same guidance.  I have learned in my years of teaching that we can't assume the parents have taught them values and reasoning.

What did I decide?  I did decide to give a modified applied ethics lesson.  I also decided to have a public contract displayed, where students can commit to doing the right thing, and signing their names outside my door.  I don't want to be a jaded person that constantly questions people's intentions.  I want kids to have some respect of  me, and I want to be able to trust them. I refuse to live in a world where I always have to plan for the bad guy.  At the same time, I have to realize that there are people that want to get rewards without doing the work, and it is my job as a teacher (and really as an adult) to guide them into making intelligent choices.  I do that by modeling appropriate behavior, and I can also do that by discussing important issues such as these.

This made me remember the one time I got in trouble in school. It was the third grade, and I was made to stay in from recess for 15 minutes because I was talking while the teacher was out of the room.  The real story: I DID talk, but I was telling the others to be quiet while the teacher was out (and I was trying to read). And when the teacher returned and asked who talked, I could not deny that I did it.  I just wish she didn't have to make an example out of me.

I do believe that part of this project was for me to run in a race--got it.  But I can see how it has evolved to quite a life-changing experience.  There are kids that are now dealing with important life issues, are getting healthier (by the hundreds!), and are inspiring change in their community.  How many people can say that about their to-do lists?

Monday, February 20, 2012

"We've got two lives-
             one we're given, and the other one we make..."
                                                                   ~Mary Chapin Carpenter

I was driving down the road today, and I came to the realization that it's been a long time since I have fought for anything.  For a while I was fighting with SOMEONE... For a while it felt like I was fighting for my LIFE...  I've even had times when there was an internal struggle with my SELF...  I guess for being a pretty non-confrontational person, I have done a lot of fighting in all these years.

Now, I feel like I am doing all these great things, but there isn't a battle.  Maybe because I am empowered and know I can achieve anything I please, or maybe I just don't feel like I have to fight anyone.  It's not that I lose sleep because I don't have a struggle- I just realize that there isn't a push to overcome something.  I guess it can be hard when the adversity isn't there?

I wonder what is different in my life.  I know I had a divorce.  I know I've recovered from illness.  I also know that I have a much healthier self-concept.  I am fairly certain that I haven't grown to be passive, but I wonder why I am not waking up and fighting to prove the world wrong.

Perhaps it is because I really don't put a lot of thought into what people think anymore.  I appreciate the thoughts and advice of friends, but I also don't lose sleep over a negative comment.  I went to the hair salon today, and ventured to "go blonde."  Well, I fought the compulsion to dye my hair purple, but the fact that I am a teacher is all that held me back.  The old me would have thought for quite a long time about the implications of minor hair change.  The current me says "GO FOR IT!"  In fact, it wasn't long ago that I didn't even have hair of my own--who cares what color my hair is? It's HAIR...

I do love the idea of the "shuffle" button on the iPod.  I was a fan of the mixtape, which for those of you young folk out there is quite a planned ordeal.  Hours and probably even days would be spent planning and taping songs in a specific order.  Usually, these tapes were made to impress chicks...

The "shuffle" button is beautiful, because it really churns up the music library.  There are songs that haven't received play in quite a while, and they just happen to pop up every now and then.  I am not a superstitious person, but I have to wonder why certain songs are played right when I need to hear them.

If you aren't familiar with Mary Chapin Carpenter, she's an incredibly good songwriter.  I also like the fact that when I sing along in the car, I can at least pretend to harmonize with those throaty vocals (I was not born with the voice of a songbird.).  Anyway, I was driving along and the song "The Hard Way" came into play.  I remember listening to the history of the song a while back: it was a song that was written about a relationship, but has become more of a song of social activism.  I remember hearing the lines "we've got two lives- one we're given, and the other one we make..."  That really made me stop. Well, not literally, since I was driving... It did make me wonder about this whole internal discussion I was having with myself.

I think that line was perfect--I have had two lives.  The first life was given to me, and all I could do was react to it.  I felt like I didn't have a choice in anything, and was constantly on defense.  This second life has all been what I have made it.  I have intentionally made the choices that will change my life, and perhaps that is why I have found more peace.  I mean, I am the same person in theory, but I will say that I feel like a completely different Michelle.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Try to realize it's all within yourself no one else can make you change, and to see you're only very small and life flows on within you and without you.
                                                                          ~George Harrison

When I look back over this past week, I can't help but wonder why things happened.  I know it's human nature to wonder about our existence.  Reality can be scary, and we always want to find reasons for things that happen around us.

We had a student die on Wednesday in a car accident.  It was a terribly rough day for us, as we supported grieving students and staff.  I wondered about why I didn't cry through the entire day.  I figured I was just going into "chaos mode," and would let the tears flow when I got home.  The day went on, and as I lay in bed Wednesday night, I still wondered why I hadn't cried.  I was terribly sad, and memories of past losses flooded back.  Instead of letting the tears flow, I just felt numb.  It was a little scary, but I really wanted sleep. So, I surrendered.

At work Thursday, I already knew I wasn't feeling right. I had a bad headache, my eyes were acting funny, and I just felt weird.  I was also terribly absent-minded, and noticed that I was all out of sorts.  I tried to get into a routine, but it wasn't happening.  My headache got worse, and soon I ended up with a nosebleed and an intense headache.  I kept feeling like I was going to pass out.  When I got up to the board to write something, I immediately knew something was wrong.  I could "feel" my heart, and something wasn't right.  I was never so aware of what was going on, and felt spacey at the same time.  A coworker walked in and noticed I looked flushed. At that point, we decided I would check my blood pressure.  I have never had blood pressure issues, and I am normally on the low side of the blood pressure scale. Still, I knew something wasn't right.

When I got up to the front office, I knew that something was WRONG. My head was moving in slow motion, and my heart was beating funny. It felt like it was a tremendous effort to get words out.  They checked my blood pressure, and it was pretty high. I could sense this feeling that something was going to happen. I told them the ambulance call might not be a bad idea, so they called them in.  The paramedic hooked me up to a bunch of monitors, and did notice one of my heart waves was out of groove.

I decided to head over to see my doctor, so Debra drove me.  We waited to see the doctor, and she noted that I did indeed have a disruption in my heart rhythm.  I was sent to the hospital for more testing, and waited throughout the day for answers.

Long story short: I had some blood abnormalities involving the heart, as well as a concern about my circulation.  I have more testing for this next week, and I have been told to "take it easy." Yes, of course... Especially since my daughter was going to have surgery the next day? Sure...

I will say I was terribly confused that I had heart issues at all, since I have lost an incredible amount of weight, been very active and been eating healthy.  I do know that stress does amazing things to a vulnerable body, and not dealing with sadness is a recipe for disaster.

Friday, we were up bright and early, and Carly had her adenoids removed and tubes in both ears.  This relatively-routine surgery ended up being pretty big when they realized how big her adenoids really were. So, she came home sore, confused and cranky. I had a feeling her recovery was going to be lengthy... I was wrong.

This morning she was up bouncing around the house. She hasn't requested pain medication all day, and has been extremely content.  I wish I had that resilient spirit. :-)

I practiced the drums today, and I do love playing!  I went out to a local music store to talk with the owner as well.  I had such a wonderful time talking about music.  We chatted about drum technique, George Harrison's son Dhani's resemblance on the front of a magazine cover, and about jamming together in the next few days.  There are other well-played musicians involved.  I am terrified...

I was talking to a friend tonight about life. I guess this kind of summed up everything of the past week--losing someone who was important to so many, facing terrifying medical challenges, and dealing with surgery of a small child.  That's a lot of life changes in a few short days.  I looked over the course of the past few months, and how my life has changed dramatically just because I made the conscious decision to LIVE life, and live with intention.  I wanted to LIVE and enjoy the world around me instead of just existing.  I will tell you- it has made a tremendous difference!  I may not understand all that happens around me, and why, but I do know that I am making the very best of all the moments around me.  For that, I am very grateful.

All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much.
                                                                        ~George Harrison... again :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Valentine's Day

I know I need to get back to normal posts about my project, but I thought I would write one more about my life.  In reality, my life is a big part of the project.  This journey is one of transformation, so all aspects of my being must be considered... Man, I have been sitting in academic/clinical conferences all day. :-)

Today I went to Nashville to attend the Traumatic Brain Injury conference.  Yes, that is the most romantic activity possible for a Valentine's Day...  I was a little skeptical about what I might encounter at this event, but I will say that it was an incredible day.  I talked with some very important people in the world of neuropsychology, rehabilitative medicine, and education.  I spoke with agencies that offered services, and with people that had been survivors of traumatic brain injuries.

I guess I was a little apprehensive about the whole ordeal because I hadn't really talked much about the effects of my brain injury.  I went back to work and have pushed on like everything was normal.  It was strange that today was the day I was able to confront it all--on the stereotypical day of sappiness, love, and shallow ooey-gooeyness.  I couldn't have asked for a more supportive environment.

I talked with a pediatric nurse about her experiences from a clinical setting.  I wanted to hear others' experiences before I spoke.  It was fascinating to hear how many people work in a setting that provides care to those with TBIs, and they themselves were survivors as well.  I was touched at how many people came to this event to learn more about such a devastating injury.

When I finally did tell my story, I remember feeling guilty.  There were actually a wide range of emotions: I felt angry that I had waited so long to really talk about this, frustrated when I figured out how many times the medical community had failed me, sad that this experience even happened, and then foolish when I looked around and saw I was one of the very few that made it through a decent recovery with very little visible effects.  I guess that is when I did get angry again, because it is frustrating to not have a scar or wound for people to see that I am still struggling at times.

Ok, that sounds childish...  But it made sense to a man I spoke with--he is in a wheelchair.  He coordinates services for independent living, and told me he has a friend that has a TBI.  I talked pretty openly with him about my experience, and how I feel it is hard to be out of a wheelchair and off a cane at times, because everyone looks at me and thinks I am 100% back to normal.  I know I can do my job and handle life, but there are still effects of the injury. And they are FRUSTRATING.  I am miserable at times when I can't remember silly things, my organization is out of whack, and I say the strangest things.  I guess I am trying to figure out who I am again, and being on tons of seizure and pain meds can confuse a body.  The hardest part is that everyone looks at me, sees how incredibly great I look after surviving all that mess, and tells me how lucky I am.  Lucky?  Yes, I am terribly fortunate that I am no longer in a wheelchair.  I am even fortunate that I no longer use a foot brace or a cane.  And it is amazing that I can even run!  But it is a challenge to deal with the organizational and memory issues, and to keep this "secret" from the rest of the world.  As you can imagine, the frustration causes mood swings.

Tears pooled in my eyes as I told him all of this.  I didn't know this man, but I was about to gush my life story-- ready or not.  He nodded as he listened, then reached out and hugged me.  It was a hug I had needed for a LONG time, and it was well overdue.

On a funny note, I had a random conversation with another agency coordinator.  It went like this:

Him: "You look like someone familiar."

Me: "Did I work with you at some time?"

Him: "No... Let me think..."

Me: "Did I go to school with you?"

Him: "No... still thinking..... I got it! Snow White!!"

Me: "You just might be the coolest man on this earth."

So, I agreed to eat lunch with him, in a somewhat-random series of events.  Because I guess that is how things work at a brain injury conference...

At the end of the event, I realized that this conference was incredibly helpful to me in my profession.  It also healed a part of me that I didn't realize was hurting.  I have been working on loving and accepting myself as I am, but I haven't really dealt with that period in my life.  I guess it is because I feel guilty with even feeling bad about it, because I am lucky and came out from it relatively unscathed.

Now I see that there was a lot about the whole brain injury ordeal that I didn't know.  There was a lot that apparently the doctors didn't know.  That helped me tremendously because I was able to forgive many people that made mistakes in the whole situation.  A whole lot of healing went on in that room.

"The more I know, the less I understand..."

I was in an absolutely wonderful mood on the way home tonight.  I had dinner with excellent company, and was able to relax a bit.  So, it was not typical for me to cue up my favorite breakup song, especially on Valentine's Day...

I have always loved Don Henley's Heart of the Matter, and many that know me will say that my one pet peeve in life is the radio mix of the song (it is a miserable butchering of a nearly-perfect piece of music).  I happened to listen to the song from the perspective of life--not just from a breakup.  I wonder how many people have actually sat down and thought about the song, not just as a sad breakup and "feelings" song, and more about one where we are evaluating life, forgiving, and learning to pick up the pieces, grow up and move on.

There is a lot of forgiveness that needs to take place in everyone's lives.  And the more we find out about things, the less we understand.  This is very true in the whole situation--in every situation. All the things I thought I'd figured out, I had to learn again.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Letter of Recommendation

This week I wrote my first letter of recommendation for a college... EVER.

I have been teaching for five years, but typically deal with students that are not in very competitive studies after high school.  When I did teach high school, it was in the special education setting--those students were thrilled they got to the point of GRADUATING high school.  They had goals, but it was such an unfair battle for them to even get their diploma.  Being competitive for college would have been a whole other battle they weren't willing to fight.  But that gets me on another soapbox...

Back to the letter...  I agreed to write the letter, and was very enthusiastic about recommending the student for any scholarship or programs the school had to offer.  There was no question about her abilities--I wondered why I had such a hard time coming up with the words.

Anyone that has known me for more than a few minutes has found I rarely have a hard time coming up with something to say.  I always have a thought or opinion, and I am not afraid to share it.  I will gladly sing this student's praises, but I had to start thinking about why I couldn't write the letter.

I pulled out a file of all of my letters of recommendation from the past.  I have a folder where I have them stored away from normal viewing.  I was hoping to find a pattern in the letters, and some ideas about what colleges would want to hear.  After all, I had been accepted to a variety of schools and was given scholarships--these letters must have done something?
I will say that I must have only glanced at these letters in the past.  Or maybe I really didn't understand their meaning while I was young.  Really, I think I didn't want to hear someone say wonderful things about me.  I didn't want them to say all these great things to colleges, hoping to impress them.  I have never been a person that worries about impressing those around her.  I have always marched to my own beat, and I have always been satisfied with that.

That is where my struggle ended.  I realized that my problem was that I did not want to list all of the wonderful things this student did solely for the hopes of impressing someone.  I was already impressed by this student, but wanted to write the letter so my real feelings would come across.  I didn't want the letter to feel fake, or to look like a form letter of regurgitated compliments.

So, I told stories about her compassion and honesty.  I pointed out how dedicated she is to helping students with disabilities.  How she has a sense of humor that eases those around her.  How her motivation will never let her down.

I hope she reads the letter.  I hope the schools pay attention when they read it as well.  I wrote the letter "To Whom It May Concern" as if I was talking to her.  I think that's the way a letter of recommendation should be.  Anyone can make a random list of qualities that someone might fit.  I hope it makes more of an impact when I explain all the ways she has made an impact on my life.

I came across the letter from my high school English teacher.  She wrote a two-page letter of recommendation in which she detailed very specific instances of how I impressed her with my motivation, dedication, compassion, and ability to lead.  She talked about my writing abilities, my insatiable desire to read, and my sense of humor.  You could tell that she sat down and thought about who she was writing about.  The letter was incredibly personal, and was very touching to read now.

I hope this student will pull out this letter in ten years or so, take a good read, and realize what an important part she has played in my education career.  I do believe I also need to make an appointment to speak with my English teacher.  I believe that visit is long overdue.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Handle With Care

"Been beat up and battered round
Been sent up, and I've been shot down"

You may wonder what this story has to do with daffodils...

It started eleven years ago.  I was in college, and thought I had the world figured out.  I was an independent creature, and thought I had the country by its collar.  I had my destiny mapped out, and decided that I wasn't settling for anything less than what would be perfect.

An unfortunate event changed all of that.  I replayed the event thousands of times in my mind, and every time I thought of something I could do differently.  I think every victim of a sexual attack thinks of ways she can be less vulnerable.  If only I had dressed differently, talked differently, worked at a different job... You name it, and I thought of things that could have been different.  The reality is that I had zero control over what happened that night.  It was the first time in my life that I had no control over a situation, and it was beyond terrifying.

For quite a while, I was trapped inside a shell.  I shut myself off from the world, and thought if only I changed everything about myself--maybe then everyone would LEAVE ME ALONE!!  It was winter at the time, and my world was cold, dark and isolated.  I was beyond miserable.  I saw therapists that told me how to deal with my problems. I read books that were supposed to heal me, and I thought if I believed in a god, that everything would magically become alright.

"I've been fobbed off, and Ive been fooled
I've been robbed and ridiculed"

It's funny how I hadn't heard this song in forever, and it played on my random shuffle today.  This morning I jumped out of bed before the sun came up, threw on some clothes, grabbed my coffee and camera, and headed out the door.  I was hell-bent on capturing a few hundred pictures before sunrise, and today would be the day.  I am not certain what made me abandon my comfortable bed, what made me turn to trucker coffee for a refill, or what made me drive for hours and through hundreds of songs before I found the perfect shots.  As I passed a field, I pulled over the car and grabbed the camera.  I flung open the car door, and these lines were echoing out the door.
I was at the field where I had journeyed eleven years ago.  I remember the day like it was yesterday, and wish I could find the pictures.  I was traveling home, and to be honest I hadn't been out of the house in months.  I was curled up with my own misery, and there wasn't room for healing.  I was paralyzed in fear and loneliness, and I was certain that no one or nothing could understand.  By random chance, I had been driving down the road and passed a field.  For some reason the daffodils were blooming incredibly early, and there were thousands!  Luckily I had my old 35mm camera in the passenger seat, and I pulled over to take a few photos.  There was an old woman out in the field, and she was digging up bulbs in the center.  I remember the way her long gray hair was blowing in the wind, and I couldn't help but snap at least a dozen pictures of her.  The clouds were fluffy, the breeze was sweet, and for a brief moment I forgot my own pain.

Then she screamed at me.  Apparently she didn't want evidence.  She didn't belong on the land, and had in fact been stealing someone's daffodils.  She was rather disturbed that I was taking her photograph, and began waving her shovel about.  I remember that I snatched up a handful of daffodils, threw them in the car, and drove away as I yelled my apologies.

"I've been uptight and made a mess
But I'll clean it up myself, I guess"

I'd like to say that the next eleven years were perfect.  I'd like to say that I abandoned all feelings of insecurity, and put full faith in men again.  Well, even in humanity again.  The reality is that my life had many highs and lows in the past eleven years.  I will honestly say that I became the most uptight and withdrawn person in the world, then swung the pendulum to the most relaxed and uninhibited.  There was a lot of healing that had to happen.  There was a lot of forgiveness that had to happen.  I realized today that it was more about forgiving myself.  Society is tough on women--we tell them that they are ultimately responsible for what happens.  Even if a woman works a full-time job while going to school, returns from work, closes the door to her room and goes to bed, she is supposed to be a welcome target for a sexual predator.  And when an attack occurs, her life is scrutinized.  She is made to think that something she did made this happen.  It took me eleven years to realize that men that attack have control issues--there was nothing I could do to prevent the attack.  It will most certainly taint every relationship I have for the rest of my life.

So, what does this have to do with daffodils?  Beyond the fact that the early bloom brought me out of my funk and back into the world, I have always envisioned daffodils as such a strong and hearty flower.  They require the cold, hard ground to grow into beautiful blooms.  They overcome incredible adversity just to survive, and yet they THRIVE!  We marvel at these first signs of spring, and I remember thinking eleven years ago how incredible it was that they were ready to thrive in the dead of winter.  I think, at that time, my soul was ready to thrive again.  I was ready to join the land of the living. I was an incredibly tough, strong and capable woman, but I knew that I would also always be delicate, and need to be handled with care.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

On Pain...

"Given the choice between experiencing pain and nothing, I would choose pain."
                                                                                                                      ~William Faulkner

I have had to think long and hard about this post.  Not because I don't have anything to write on the topic of pain, but because I have always been taught to suck it up and walk it off.  I am an emotionally-intense person, but one thing I was never supposed to do is let someone see me hurting. I once walked on a broken foot (broken in seven different places) for a week before seeing the doctor.

As you can imagine, the experience of the past three years has been eye-opening.  I dealt with more physical and emotional pain than at times I could bear.  People would tell me that it was all just making me stronger.  I wanted to punch them in their faces.

Pain is an interesting sensation.  It is always a warning--that something is causing us distress or torture.  I remember watching an episode of the BBC Sherlock series, and remarking at the limp that Dr. Watson produced.  It all came from psychosomatic feelings he hadn't dealt with.  I thought that it was foolish, but part of me knows that such a thing can be very real.  Over the past few years, I attributed much of my physical pain to an emotional wound that needed time to heal.

I know being physically attacked is never a field day.  Being emotionally injured during that time was a second blow.  Add to that the vulnerability and lack of security that goes with not working, and I was a mess.  I remember at my worst I was on Percocet 10's four times a day, with tramadol buffers.  I was on valium, muscle relaxers, and tons of seizure meds.  I honestly don't remember much of a year of my life.  I wonder now if I would have survived if I was really aware of all that was happening.  I remember talking to a therapist that told me the mind only lets you deal with so much of a trauma or memory at a time.  I think the medicine and my mind did a good job of keeping me from losing my sanity.

In summer of 2011, all of the medicines stopped.  I decided that I was going to overcome everything now that I was starting a new teaching job.  My mobility had improved significantly, and I knew my emotional health was looking great.  I thought I could take on the world!!

What I forgot was that I would have pain the rest of my life.  It was a reality I had to accept.  I could pretend that I was a magical creature that found a cure, but that would be deceiving myself.  It always drives me crazy when parents deny their child has a disability.  Now I understand it--I was trying to mourn the fact that I would not have that "normal" life everyone else had.  I was shortchanged, and I tried to prove something to myself by going cold turkey.

By September, I can remember showing up to my doctor in misery.  I hadn't slept in weeks, and I honestly could barely move.  The hardest part about the pain is that no one could see it.  I didn't have a broken leg or a black eye.  And I pretended like everything was normal so no one at my new job would learn my secrets.

The doctor wondered why on earth I had gone off the medications.  I told her I was out to prove something, and had failed miserably.  So, we started back on some light stuff, knowing that was going to make me a functioning human being.  I liked the sound of "functioning."

I got back into running, and have really enjoyed my experiences.  With the help of my trainer, Jesse, I have been able to make incredible progress!  I will not lie- I have been in terrible pain every day.  I have two leg surgeries coming up, but I really want to make good progress before I am side-lined.  

I will admit to something though: sometimes feeling pain is all that makes me feel alive.  I know it sounds completely strange, but it is when I feel the results of a run that I feel most alive.  Maybe it is because I went through a few years where I felt NOTHING.  Maybe because I know in a few years I will not be able to feel this pain again.  I don't want to sound like a freak, but it is when I am sore and hurting that I feel the most alive.  I guess that is because I know I have pushed my body to do something it couldn't do, and may never do again.

I look back at the times where I was numb to the world, and look to the future and the scariness it holds. I think to myself, if given the choice, I would most definitely choose to feel the pain.